You won’t find it on the array of channels offered by your local cable company. If you’re a regular reader or follow me on twitter/facebook you know I spend a fair amount of time on my bike, much of it riding solo. It’s not that I’m anti-social or don’t like riding with others, it just works out that way. It’s hard to find a group of riding buddies that ride at exactly the same pace as you do and have exactly the same training needs or goals. Even when I ride with a group, we often ride at apart for a portion of the ride. The larger the group, the more likely it is that I’ll find someone who rides at my pace, or reasonably close to it. That’s one of the reasons I like organized rides. Other reasons include seeing friends I don’t get to ride with very often, meeting new friends and getting the opportunity to check out the gear other cyclists use. The last reason is pretty important because there are many options for cyclists and limited local channels where you can find gear. This isn’t a knock on the local bike shop (I’m a huge fan), it’s simply a matter of economics. The shops can really only afford to stock items that most people will buy, which limits the number of specialty items they can carry.
The internet has created the channel for these specialty items. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine how a product will work on your bike by just looking at a picture. Sure, Youtube videos have enhanced the ability of the makers of specialty items to demonstrate their wares, but there’s never a substitute for being able to see the product up close or, better yet, see it being used on the road by a cyclist. That’s where a large organized ride provides vendors and riders to experience these specialty products first hand. There’s lots of time to check stuff out as you’re riding in a group for miles and miles and miles. Sure, the scenery is nice, but after a while, your mind wanders and that’s when I use this time to see what gear others are using. Here’s a couple of things I saw on the Austin Cycle Camp / Bicycle Sportshop Resolution Ride a few days ago.
It should no secret that I like unique and somewhat outlandish jerseys, after all, many of my cycling friends find me wearing a jersey that looks like something from the movie Close Encounters of the 3rd kind. But that’s exactly the point. Unless you’re part of a team, why wear the same jersey or kit everyone else has? It’s important to me that my jersey is easily visible and that it stands out. I ran into my twitter friend Tim and he was sporting his Test Dummy jersey. I love this jersey. I can also relate to the sense of humor that resulted in him getting this jersey. We both recently experienced crashes that required a visit to the emergency room. However, this jersey is probably more appropriate for my youngest son, who’s got preprinted forms at the local ER.
On the ride I spent a fair amount of time riding behind a bike I’d never seen before. While many bikes look alike to most folks, I’ve come to appreciate their subtle differences and this one caught my eye. It was a Velovie Vitesse and I’d never seen one of these before. I asked the rider about their bike and she described it as a Cervelo competitor. I’ve always thought Cervelo bikes were cool, but some of that probably had to do with the fact that their designer’s name, Gerard Vroomen, just makes them sound fast. Anyway, I checked out Velovie and found out that they only sell their bikes online. In fact, they have a rather interesting program where you can purchase a previously owned Velovie at a discounted price to make it more reasonable to try one of their bikes. These bikes are all less than 2 years old and are often bikes that other Velovie owners have traded in for different Velovie models. I like this concept because it’s a smart business decision. It allows the company to build up brand loyalty and differentiate themselves. It works because the rider I spoke with was very passionate about how much she liked her ride. Although it sounds French, Velovie is a US company based in Arizona.
On the way back from Andice, I rode with a group of riders for a few miles until they dropped me. I like to ride fast, but this group kicked it into another gear about 5 miles in and I decided I wasn’t willing to hurt myself to hang with them. It’s always a bit unnerving to ride in a tight bunch at speed when we’re 3 or 4 abreast. One thing I’d noticed on the way out was that the group tended to decelerate rapidly at the base of every climb. If you’re not paying attention, this can be a disaster because invariably, someone will clip a wheel and all of a sudden it’s mass carnage. Sure enough, this happened just after we passed FM 3405 on our way back. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Shortly thereafter I passed a rider who had one of these mirrors that was apparently part of his handlebars. I slowed to ask him about it and he told me it was The Italian Road Bike Mirror. What’s cool about this mirror is that its barely larger than your bar end and doesn’t get in the way. Yet it provides you critical visibility to what’s in your blind spot on that side of the bike. This is crucial when there’s a crash in the group you’re riding with because you won’t have time to turn around to see if you have room to go left or right. That’s why you often see a bunch of riders go down in a race after one of them falls. The results are never pretty. I really like this product and will probably get one. I thought I’d wait until I need some new bar tape because you have to wrap your bar tape around the mirror to fasten it to your handlebars. Very cool!
I think if I owned a local bike shop, I’d give riders an opportunity to suggest products they liked on a ride that I sponsored. What a great opportunity to find out what my prospective customers would buy.
Have you found an cool gear on any of your rides that you’d like to share? Let me know.