Thursday, October 23, 2008

ODDE is history

The first annual Interbike On Dirt Demo East is officially in the history books. Held October 21st and 22nd at Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI, this event was about as far on the East Coast as you could possibly get.

I have to admit that given the fact that this was the inaugural event and the list of suppliers attending was a bit on the short side as compared to its sister event held during Interbike Las Vegas, I really didn't didn't know what to expect from ODDE.

There was only one way to find out, so Tim "Masi Guy" Jackson, James Ayres (our Eastern Regional Sales Manager, and I made the trip out there. Luckily, we didn't have to drive the rig out East like we originally thought we were going to have to do...we were fortunate to secure the services of rig driver extraordinaire, Shannon Troglia. Shannon's a former BMX pro who makes his living driving and setting up for events like this, so it was so nice to have another crew member who was familiar with the drill.

We had a fairly early wake-up call for the first day since we had bikes to unload and get the pit area all set up for the dealers who would (hopefully) be flocking to the event. The event started at 9am...and unlike the On Dirt Demo held in Las Vegas, there were not the busloads of people salivating liked caged tigers waiting to bust through the gates to get to the bikes they wanted to demo. But nonetheless, even though the event got off to a slow start, the crowds started to build by about 10am or so...and pretty soon we were shuffling bikes in and out of the booth.

Day One wasn't complete chaos like the Las Vegas On Dirt Demo never fails to be, but it was just busy enough to keep us on our toes and never really let us sit down. Our new Beasley 650B bikes were a HUGE hit...they seemed to go out as fast as they came in. Everyone seemed to really love them; getting the positive feedback on a bike we've worked really hard on to get right was really rewarding.

Day Two wasn't quite as pleasant. It was really cold (like 45 degrees...and by my candy-ass California standards, that's COLD!) and it drizzled on and off all day. Needless to say, we didn't get a ton of traffic through the event so we really didn't send out all that many demos. There was a couple of guys from Upstate NY who braved the weather and took out Beasley SS bikes; when they brought the bikes back, they commented about how much fun the bikes were and headed off to ride more bikes. A few hours later, these guys made a point to come back and tell us that they were awarding the Beasley bikes they rode "Best in Show"...they said they were the best bikes they rode at the event. So that alone made standing in the cold, wet booth all worthwhile!

The biggest difference I noticed with the East Coast crowd as compared to the Las Vegas event is all the dealers seemed much more focused on what they want to accomplish. Most all of the dealers we spoke to had some sort of an agenda. Some weren't happy with one of their current brands, so they were exploring their options. Some were already Haro dealers who wanted to try what they just put on their preseason orders. Some wanted to meet their respective sales reps to see the line. There seemed to much less of the "joyriding" you often get at the Las Vegas event.

It goes without saying that the venue at Roger Williams Park was beautiful! The park is huge with lots of greenery, lakes, and gardens. The demo trail loop was short, but really fun. Having a shorter loop like this one was nice since it kept the bikes flowing in and out of our booth nicely.

I'm hoping more suppliers support ODDE next year. I'm sure many took on a "wait and see" approach where they'll wait to hear some feedback on the first event before committing to it next year. Everyone from Haro that attended felt like we got good value out of the event, so we'll likely be back next year.

I'm also hoping that Interbike will possibly consider moving the event to an earlier date so we can be a little more guaranteed of better weather. The second day of the event was poorly attended; I think the crappy weather played a big role in that.

Overall, I was really impressed with ODDE and I'm glad Haro could be a part of it. We'd like to extend a big "thank you" to all of the folks at Interbike for all of your hard work! (And I'd like to personally thank you for the really cool special ODDE/Interbike wool jersey made by none other than the great Earth, Wind, and Rider!)

Happy trails, ya'll...

(Below are some pictures taken from around the venue at Roger Williams Park)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heartland Love

It's not all that often that people take the time to review a comfort bike, so I was nonetheless intrigued when my co-worker Tim "Masi Guy" Jackson, forwarded me a review that somebody wrote about their Haro Heartland Express LE.

The post came from a blog simply called "Jon's Bicycle Blog" I would assume the owner of the Heartland Express LE is named Jon. Jon's relationship with his Heartland Express LE started when he decided he needed what he described as a "Florida Bike": a bike he could do decent mileage on, was zippy, and was comfortable. Based on his love for his Masi Gran Corsa, Jon decided to check out what Haro had to offer (for those of you who don't know, Haro and Masi are "sister" brands...we share the same ownership and same building). After doing his research, Jon headed to one of our dealers called The Energy Conservatory where he purchased his Heartland Express LE.

Jon goes on to describe his first ride about his Heartland. He set out for a quick 10-mile ride without any water, tools, or tubes. As he headed down the Pinellas County Trail, he soon discovered that he was doing more than just cruising along on his new comfort hybrid, we was flying along at 20 mph. As he continued along at his brisk clip, thoughts about being "deceived" by his perception of his Masi road bike entered his head. Never in his wildest dreams did he think he'd be able to pedal so smoothly, quickly, and comfortably on a comfort bike. He pedaled onward until he realized that it would be getting dark soon, so he reluctantly turned around and pedaled home, basking in the "I love my new bike" glow.

At the time he wrote the review, Jon had put on over 500 miles on his Heartland Express LE. In his own words, Jon says, "And I still love the bike. 500+ miles later, it’s my weapon of choice here in Dunedin. It’s not comparable to the Masi, but that’s not its purpose. I can roll out, do 20 miles, and roll home, or roll into work and back. Or just pick up groceries, or toss a tent in the saddlebags and head out to camp".

I couldn't have said it better myself.

It's great to hear feedback this good about a bike that we put a lot of effort in "getting right". Since the comfort category represents a large chunk of Haro's business, we really wanted to make sure the new Heartland series was spot on. We looked at lots of different comfort bikes and examined what other manufacturers were doing right and what they were doing wrong. We looked for ways to improve the common comfort bike. In fact, we even went as far as purchasing a very popular comfort hybrid that one of our competitors makes just so we could analyze how it rode. The brand will remain nameless, but underneath the flashy looks and big brand name was a bike that had such poor handling, it's a wonder anyone buys them.

Once we had done all of our homework, product managers Pat Crosby and Wayne Doran set off to make what we feel are the best darn comfort bikes on the market. Here are just a few of the things that make Heartlands superior:
  • We steepened up the head angle so the rider wouldn't feel the dreadful "wheel flop" our competitor's bike had.
  • We got the seat angle's just slack enough to be easy on your back, but not so slack to where you can't pedal efficiently. The super-slack seat angles that some of our competitors use that put your feet too far in front of you just isn't efficient. Once you start to pedal up any sort of an incline, you'll see why.

  • We welded the seat stays higher up on the seat tube; this provides a better platform to mount racks and child carriers. We noticed many of our competitor's bikes welded their stays too low on the seat tube, making rack mounting difficult or impossible.

  • We added extra water bottle cage mounting holes: 2 pairs on both the standard and step-thru frames. Having an extra mount is nice if you want to mount an extra bottle for longer rides, lighting system, or a tire pump.

  • We use sealed bottom brackets and cassette rear hubs for longer life and less maintenance.

  • We use nice tall bars to put you in a comfortable, upright riding position.

  • And above all, we use the most comfortable seats and grips we can find.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop there. I guess one of the points I'm trying to make is we're not all that surprised that Jon loves his Heartland Express...a whole lot of "love" went into making those bikes.

So Jon, if you happen to read this...thanks for the kind words and taking the time to write up a nice review of your Heartland Express LE. And for the record, the Haro MTB and Asphalt line does have a Tim Jackson...that would be me. I just don't blog as much as I used to. But who knows...that just might change here real soon.

Happy trails, ya'll...

Jon's Heartland Express LE