Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The "Wave".

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but it's just been one of those weeks at work. The big push has been finishing up our new line of Metro bikes...and as of today, specs and graphics are about 99% complete. I'm really excited about these hip, urban commuter type bikes; it's going to be fun to see what people think about them. We also have some fun stuff on tap for our cruiser bikes...I know not many people who read this blog are much interested in cruisers, but these are going to offer up something pretty different. So many cruiser companies (including Haro with our Del Sol line) have tried to emulate Electra bikes...and we came to the conclusion that we just can't compete with them. Electra does some pretty damn nice cruisers with loads of personality...and our new cruisers will have a whole different personality. No, I can't go into details at this point, but I can say they have been fun to work on and I can't wait to see some samples.

But enough about work. Let's talk about the "wave". You know the's that little hand gesture you make to other cyclists you pass on the road (or trail). Sometimes it's in the form of a full-blown wave and accompanied with a friendly "good morning" (or afternoon). Or it could be in the form of a one-finger (and hopefully not the middle finger pointed straight up) off the bars wave. Sometimes it's just a simple head nod. I mean, all of us cyclists are a family so we're supposed to acknowledge our brethren on two wheels in some fashion, right?

Motorcyclists, much like cyclists, are a tight-knit family. When you pass another motorcycle, whether it's coming the other way at you or you are passing in the same direction, you wave. Yes, there is sometimes the silly sportbike vs. Harley snobbery where someone on a sporty won't wave to a Harley rider and vice versa, but that's pretty rare. It's just what you give the "wave" to your fellow rider. You're family, after all. I have actually found myself getting bummed if too many riders pass by me and don't return the wave to me.

I've noticed recently that when I'm on my bicycle, the "wave" is becoming somewhat of a lost art. I don't know, maybe I'm just growing more sensitive to it, but it really seems like fewer and fewer cyclists do it. Are these newbs that haven't gotten then memo yet? Just this past weekend, I did 2 fairly long rides and saw lots of other cyclists. Some of the riders I encountered were just plain in the zone or something and didn't even look my way. OK, if you're into your moment, so be it. But the most puzzling folks I came across are the ones (and there were several) who I'd wave to, and they would simply just stare at me as I passed and not return the wave. This behavior seriously had me wondering if I had perhaps forgotten to put clothing on and was riding along naked or something.

I notice the same behavior on the trail when I ride MTB, too. The past few rides I have done, the hikers and horse people have been much friendlier than many of the other cyclists I'd encounter on the trail. The vast majority of the cyclists would just ride by without any acknowledgement at all. Often times, as a result of this lack of communication from some cyclists, trail etiquette suffers. I can't tell you how many times I've been climbing up a steep, technical section of trail only to have someone bomb towards me and expect me to yield the trail to them, without saying a word. What's up with that? Isn't the rider riding up the hill supposed to have the right of way?

Am I alone or do any of you also experience this and feel the same way? Does it seem like some cyclists you see on the road and/or trail just aren't aren't as friendly as they used to be? As cyclists, we truly are a lot like family. We're a tight community bonded together by rubber, metal, open roads, a penchant for pain, and a love for the great outdoors. Just as you wave to the neighbors on the street you live on, isn't it simply a nice gesture to acknowledge the other members of your community who share the same passion as you do? I do.

Regardless, I can rant and bitch about this all day long, but I won't give up in protest. I'll continue to give the "wave" and acknowledge other cyclists I see in my travels. If they wave back, that will make me feel good; validated even. If they don't, no worries. I'll just take satisfaction in knowing that I really wasn't waving at them anyhow. I was merely waving at their bicycles.

Now go ride your bike (and wave at the other riders you see, would ya?).

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A car-free state of mind.

I got the latest issue of Adventure Cycling in the mail at work last week; as someone who really, really wants to start doing some bike touring one of these days, I read this magazine immediately from front cover to back page.

Within the first few pages of this issue, there was a little story that caught my eye: "Carless in the Cowboy State". The subheading boldly declared, "Wyoming initiates unprecedented vehicle ban". Huh? Really?!? This sounds cool! So I read on. The article goes on to discuss that all motor vehicles will be banned from all streets and roads in the state of Wyoming for the entire week of July 16-22. The measure, which won support from both Wyoming Senate and house representatives, was designed to encourage both residents and tourists to use alternative means of transportation to get around. The article stated that Lance Armstrong is rumored to be planning a group ride across the state in support of the measure.

Wow! What a victory for cycling advocates! Perhaps this measure would serve as a model for others. If people are forced to abandon their cars for just one week, then maybe, just maybe a few people would find that riding their bike or walking to work would actually be enjoyable and would continue their car-free commute after July 22nd. Imagine the possibilities!

The article closed with a web address to a website where you could get more information: Of course I had to check this out.

OK, well if you clicked on the link before reading any more of my post, hopefully you got as good of a laugh as I did. Instead of a glorious website rich with details of such an unprecedented step towards encouraging citizens to use alternative means of transportation, I was greeted with a big, bold headline that read, "Welcome fellow gullible cyclists".

Much to my dismay, it was all a hoax. Actually, it was a belated April Fool's joke. I felt so robbed. As I thought about all the possibilities that could have come of a measure such as this...well, if it was actually true, that is.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I began to think about the Wyoming measure from all angles. As a cyclist, I would gladly be forced to ditch the car and ride my bike to work. Like they say, you can't rape the willing. But what about the rest of the population? How would they react? Would they be open to finding other ways to get to work and actuallly embrace using them?

It's sort of like when your parents forced you to take piano lessons when you were 10. When you're forced to do something, it's often human nature to resist it. So as much as I thought that the Wyoming measure was as cool as hell (well, again, if it was actually true), it dawned on me that alternative means of transportation can't be forced onto people. Sure, it might persuade some people to change the way they commute and run errands, but it runs the risk of turning so many more away.

So at a time when gas prices are at an all-time high and our air and environment is more polluted than it ever has been, what is the carrot that needs to be dangled in front of people to get them to leave their cars at home? As we learned at the National Bicycle Summit, there are many measures in place (and not hoaxes I swear...I was there!) that will reward and encourage people to start using differents means to commute.

My hope as a budding advocate (who still has a lot to learn) and as a cyclist is that people will adopt cycling as a means of transportation without being forced to do so. If folks are forced into it, rush hour will have more bar-banging than a AA Pro main at an ABA BMX national.

I just realized that I just got off on a tangent, taking a stance against an April Fool's joke. Well, I hope like me, you at least got a good chuckle out of it.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Back to reality.

OK, I've finally simmered down a little bit after last night's post losing debacle. Amazing what a night of good sleep will do for you.

Sea Otter is always a great event in spite of the weather which is usually guaranteed to be cold, windy, and raining. This year was no exception; we experienced all of the above however all I can say is it was yards better than last year's weather where it pissed down rain just about the whole time.

For the Haro crew, the event was a real success since we sent out quite a few demo bikes and people were super stoked on them. Of course the Mary 29ers were the hit of the party; I even got an e-mail from a guy today who ran out and bought a Mary SS this morning based on his test ride. I love stuff like that. Marketing can be such an intangible art form, it's always nice to hear when its successful and drives someone into their local shop to buy a bike.

None of us ended up racing the singlespeed class liked we had planned. I got sick earlier in the week, so combined with not feeling too hot and the nearly $70 entry fee to race (What are the Sea Otter organizers thinking?!?), I just wasn't into it. Masiguy sprained his thumb in a pre-ride trip over the bars (imagine that!!!). And our product guys Wayne and Pat weren't really up to racing, either. So we all stayed in the booth and watched it rain...and rain...and rain.

We did manage to get a couple of nice rides in. The race course at Laguna Seca is truly epic from a scenery's just so beautiful. The rolling green hills peppered with oak trees just seem to go on forever. In certain areas of Fort Ord (aka Laguna Seca), there are hundreds of sheep grazing...between the green hills, the sheep, and cold cloudy weather, I thought I was in Ireland or something. Not that I have been to Ireland to know what it looks like, but I've seen pictures.

It wouldn't be Sea Otter without a ton of vendors and cycling-related stuff to see. I spent a bunch of money at Sheila Moon's booth...she does super kick-ass women's cycling gear. I've heard of her line but never had the chance to actually try it on...WOW, what nice clothing she does. You can bet I'll post some sort of review on her clothing here in the not-so-distant future. I also made a point to go check out the new line of hip urban bikes by Swobo. OK, it may sound as if I'm plugging the competition but that's alright. I'm not afraid to call a spade a spade and the new Swobo bikes are pretty awesome. Sky did a killer job with them. Damn, if I had half the product management skills she has, I'd be happy.

So that, my friends, is a Sea Otter wrap. At least until next year!

Happy trails!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sea Otter Pics

Well, I had a nice little Sea Otter report going until I managed to do something to completely wipe the whole post off this little screen. (No..."recover post" didn't work).

Now I'm too pissed off to write it all over again, so I'm just going to post some random photos I took from the event.

Monday, April 9, 2007

We're off the see the Otter!

Yes, it's that time of the year again...Sea Otter! Must mean it's Springtime. The truck and trailer are loaded chock full of Haro and Masi demo bikes, and we're shoving off tomorrow morning first thing. If you're at the event, please stop by and say "hi", register to win a frame (we've got frame drawings Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), or better yet, demo one of our fine bikes.

Look for the Haro crew (along with Masiguy) on the startline of Saturday's Sport Singlespeed won't be able to miss us. We'll be on the cool, baby blue Haro Mary SS 29ers that look something like this:

Happy trails, ya'll!

Friday, April 6, 2007

What's in a name?

A funny thing happens when you start a blog. Not only do you find yourself doing a lot more writing, but you find yourself doing a lot more reading, too. And usually that reading is in the form of other blogs as the stack of yet-to-be-read magazines and books on my coffee table will attest to.

One of the blogs I have found myself visiting recently is the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog. It's got a ton of great marketing-related articles on it by a slew of marketing guru contributors from a variety of industries. In fact, Tim "Masi Guy" Jackson is lucky enough to be a contributor, which is how I found out about this gem of a blog.

The other night, I read a pretty interesting post that really had zero to do with bikes or the cycling industry, but it still managed to hold my attention for longer than 34 seconds. The post was entitled "Store Brands Give National Brands a Run for the Money" and it discussed how many retailers are having great success with their own house or "private label" brands up against the big national name brands. Once considered inferior quality, many private label brands are positioned as high quality, upscale products and consumers are quickly gaining acceptance for them.

This post really got me thinking about society's obsession with brand names. I mean, it's just a name, right? Just a little logo? Or is it? And of course, cyclists are not immune to this obsession. In fact, we are the worst. We are completely obsessed by the lure of that brand name on their stems, bars, saddles, and everything else that can be bolted or stuck to a bicycle in some fashion.

Believe me, there was a time where I was as obsessed by bike part brands as I was by designer jeans back when I was 12 years old. Before I started working in the cycling industry, whenever I purchased a new bike, one of the first things I did was start making a list of which cool aftermarket parts I wanted to buy because lord knows I just couldn't leave the stock bike manufacturer branded parts on the bike. What would people think? I would surely get laughed right off the trail! Images of blue ano CNC'd cranks and yellow powdercoated stems danced in my head, eventually dancing their way onto my bike much to the chagrin of my wallet.

Once I started to work in the cycling industry, that obsession began to fade rapidly. No, maxed out credit cards were not to blame; education was the culprit that killed that sick obsession. I quickly learned that many of the cool parts I lusted over were not made by some bike geek in his garage or in some slick factory here in the USA, but they were made in Taiwan instead. And in addition to this, I learned that many of the manufacturers of these aftermarket parts were all having their parts made in the same factory, by the same manufacturer. At first, I felt a little cheated since clever marketing of some of these factories led me to believe these products were made a little closer to home, but once you figure out that "everyone's doing it", those feelings fade fast.

Yes, there was a day when many of those high-end aftermarket parts were made here and some still are, but the lure of inexpensive labor, less environmental restrictions, and good quality has shifted most of this production overseas. It's just the way that it is. And having been in this industry for several years now, you see just how homogenized that process really is. It's really interesting to walk through a factory in Taiwan and see who's getting their parts made there. In some cases, the products are identical; only the logo changes. In other cases, there might be a minor tweak like a different handlebar sweep or bend that sets one brand's bar apart from another before the logo is applied.

Obviously, there are aftermarket parts which are truly unique. But many are not...only the names (logos) have changed. So what is in a name? This is where I'd love to read some comments from you, my dear readers, on why you choose the aftermarket products you do. Why do you pull the bar and/or stem off your bike that says "Haro" or "Specialized" or "Felt" on it and replace it with something that has a certain brand name on it, but may not be any lighter, better fit, better performing, or better quality than the part (or parts) you just took off? Why do you choose a certain name brand over another? Do you do diligent research, ask your bike shop, or query your riding buddies? Does a particular brand's marketing efforts entice you?

So tell me...what is in a name?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It's a man's world?

When I first started working at Haro about 6 years ago, the job I was originally hired for was Inside Sales Rep; this entailed mainly taking inbound calls from our dealers who had questions or wanted to place an order for bikes. One of my "fondest" memories from one of my first days on the job was a phone call from a dealer (who will remain nameless simply because I can't remember which one it was) that went something like this:

Me: "Good morning, Haro Bicycles, this is Jill speaking."
Dealer: "Ummmm...hello....uh...yeah, I'd like to speak to one of the guys, please." (referring to my male Inside Sales Rep Co-workers)
Me: "Well, they're both on their lines right now. Is there something I can help you with?"
Dealer: "No, I have a technical question."
Me: "Great, I can help you with that."
Dealer: "No, I'd really feel more comfortable talking to one of the guys."

I was really beginning to get curious about what the hell he wanted to ask these guys that he couldn't ask me. I mean, does it sting when he pees and he's not sure what to do? Is he not sure what the little vent hole in the front of his boxers/tightie whities is for? Or maybe his girlfriend just sprung the "L" word on him and he needed male guidance? I found it hard to believe he had a bike-related question that I couldn't provide an answer for. Not that I know it all, but if I don't know the answer, chances are I can find the answer somewhere.

Quickly realizing that this conversation was going nowhere very quickly while also noting none of my male co-workers were available to talk to this guy, I gave it one last effort.

Me: "OK, the guys are both on their lines, so you have a choice. I can put you on hold until one of them is off the phone, or you can try to ask me whatever technical question you have. I just might have an answer for you."
Dealer: "Fine. I need to know what derailleur hanger a 2001 Extreme bike takes."

Huh? You're kidding, right? Well, obviously that's not what I said to the dealer, amused at the fact that he didn't think a GIRL could handle figuring out what hanger he needed. Without skipping a beat, I looked at my tech sheet hanging on the wall nearby and give him the part number and price. Even though I think he was clearly astonished at the fact that I, a GIRL, even knew what a derailleur hanger was, he placed an order for one.

Believe it or not, that's not the only conversation like that I have had during the eight years I have been working in the cycling industry. Yes, this industry (like the sport of cycling itself) is male dominated. I'm pretty sure men working in our industry outnumber women by about 7 to 1. With those odds most people think that it's a great way for us gals to get a date (trust me, it's really not), but in reality, the fact that we are female presents a very unique set of issues (note that I did not say problems!).

Probably the biggest challenge we face is because we are female, many men don't see us as a credible source of information; especially if the information they need relates to anything technical. Most of us women who have made the decision to make careers out of working in the cycling industry have had to work so much harder than men to prove that we know what we're talking about. We have had to swallow our pride and ask more questions about stuff we don't know about even if to 99% of the guys, it's seen as a "stupid question" that "everyone" knows the answer to. And once we start gathering this precious knowledge, we really need to make a concerted effort to retain it. We have had to study bike spec harder. We have had to make many, many mistakes in effort to become knowledgeable in our field while onlooking guys roll their eyes and mutter something to the effect of "Chicks...". It's often a daunting task to constantly need to prove yourself to your co-workers, superiors, potential employers, and customers.

When I get the chance to swap stories like this with some of my "sisters" working in the industry, we have all had similar struggles, but we wouldn't change it for the world. Nor would we jump ship for any other line of work. Amidst all the funny stories, most of which all have common threads to some degree, there is one observation I have made but it seems like it's rarely vocalized...and that's the fact that none of us want to or expect to be treated any differently than our male co-workers. We've actually grown pretty accustomed to being treated like "just one of the guys"...and the funny thing is for the most part, we really like it. It lets us know that we are somehow on an equal playing field.

So as I sit here an polish off a nice glass of red wine, the purpose of this post is to do nothing but raise a figurative glass to all the women who make a living from this crazy bike industry. Just like any epic bike ride, the trail is often really, really rough, but the scenery, the thrill, and the camaraderie along the way is what great memories are made of, and keep us coming back for more.

So's to us!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Hidden Gems

I just love hidden gems. You know the type...those little things you discover right under your nose you wished you had found long ago. For me, hidden gems usually come in the form of a great restaurant or an eclectic store...but today, the hidden gem I found came in the form of a trail.

The first clues of these hidden gem trails were given to me by a couple of guys I stopped to talk to on the trail a couple of weeks ago while I was out riding my Masi CXR cross bike out at Lake Hodges. These guys talked about this marathon ride they do where they start at Lake Hodges and ride around it, then they head east and ride through the San Pasqual Valley and back, and then turn off onto a nearby paved street (Highland Valley Road) and hit a trail aptly called the Highland Valley Trail, and then back to the car at Hodges.

I knew that the San Pasqual Valley Trail existed, but had never heard of the Highland Valley Trail. So today, since the weather was nice (like 80 degrees), I decided to just make a morning out of exploring these trails aboard my trusty pink Haro Sonix VL120.

I started with the Hodges Lake Trail, which I've done a million times. After I completed that out-and-back trail, I turned east and headed out on the San Pasqual Trail. I'd ridden out just a few miles on this trail before, but never all the way to the end...which was 10 miles out past the San Diego Wild Animal Park. This really turned out to be really fun; flat in the beginning, but it gave way to some grunty climbs and nice downhill singletrack sections. This valley is ripe with agriculture; you pass through dairys (yes, smelly, but still cool), orange orchards, and vegetable fields. One of the greatest things is I really didn't see a soul.

View from San Pasqual Trail looking east; it's small, but the SD Wild Animal Park is in the distance.

Another view looking east. Note the pond in the foreground; I might have to bring a pole back here and try for a big catfish.

View of San Pasqual Valley from the Raptor Ridge Viewpoint.

After ridng the San Pasqual Trail all the way to the end, I turned off onto Highland Valley Road on the way back and went to find the Highland Valley Trail. It was right where I was told I'd find it, and boy, was I eer glad I found it! Although not very long (probably 2 or 4 miles), it was super fun! Lots of rolling singletrack nestled among oak trees; the trail just flowed like water. And again...didn't see a soul on it. Here are three different views from the trail:

When it was all said and done, I rode nearly 40 miles and was out for about 4 hours (hey, I didn't claim to set any speed records!). Needless to say, I'm pretty whooped; 40 miles off-road is a LONG ride. But you gotta love the hidden gems!