Thursday, May 21, 2015

End of the trail

I have decided to cease normal business operations at Hiawatha Cyclery at the end of May, and then tie up loose ends and sell off remaining inventory and other assets during the month of June before the shop disappears for good.

I'm sure that some casual observers will speculate about why this is happening (and I'll be annoyed and/or bemused by the rumors I hear). To tell the truth, I can't identify one singular reason. Lots of life and business events have pushed me in this direction over the past few years, and now it just seems like the right time for me to move onto the next phase of my career, whatever that may be. The neighborhood bike shop business is difficult - don't let anybody tell you different. I've kept HC going almost a decade, even when a sane person would have quit. I'm a bit sad to be giving up my old dream, not to mention a job that I have loved, and I'm extremely proud of the high level of service we provided to our customers over those years. But I'm hopeful and excited for the future and have no regrets.

I want to extend a "thank you" to people who have worked at HC over the years. Kevin helped me get it rolling, and has been a friend and confidant for many years now. Mark started coming in as a customer early on, and convinced me that I should hire him, which is a decision I've never regretted. He is a truly great friend, a master mechanic, and keen observer of the human condition. We also had Bill and Billy and Andy and Weasel pitching in here and there.

I have been fortunate to call many of my customers friends. In fact, my main friend group are people who first were HC customers. Some of them, I will still see regularly, some I will bump into from time to time, but some I may never see again. I will miss all the regulars who came to trust us with their bikes, and rode past other shops to get to HC (and put up with our odd hours) because they felt that we were the only shop who understood their needs. That's the hardest part of this thing: feeling that I'm letting down people who've come to depend on me. But I'm getting over that, too. There are plenty of good shops in town.

We will still be around for a few weeks, so please feel free to stop in and say hello (or goodbye). I will still keep my hiawathacyclery@gmail email if you want to contact me for friendly or business reasons. I may still even keep this blog going.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Used bikes UPDATED

Here is a basically new-condition XS Surly Troll. Previous owner reports that she rode it only 30 miles at the most. Upgrades and modifications include robin egg blue powdercoat, Thomson setback seatpost, Brooks Flyer saddle, Schwalbe Fat Frank tires, SKS fenders, and Civia rack with swanky bamboo top. $899

54 cm Surly Cross-check. The bike is fairly well used, but condition is good. Recently this was converted to a Shimano Alfine 8sp internal gear hub drivetrain with Jtek bar-end shifter. The Alfine parts are fairly new. Includes basic rack and fenders. $799

49 cm LeMond Poprad. Excellent low-miles condition except for the top tube has some scuffs, probably from riding on the back of a car where the wind made the brake cable rub on the paint. $499

56 cm Civia Hyland frameset. Basically new. This bike was bought for the parts, and the frame became an orphan. This has the Rohloff OEM dropout. $199

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ice Cream Truckin' Lake Michigan

A couple weeks ago, my family and I made a quick weekend trip to my ancestral homeland in northern Michigan. I rode my Ice Cream Truck along the Lake Michigan shoreline, which was a mix of sand, rocks, standing water, mud, and brush. During the ride, I shot the footage, edited, and spliced the entirety of this video all on my phone. So easy.

When you ride a fat tire bike a lot in a non-Winter setting, as I do, you get a lot of uninformed commentary from people you encounter. Other bike people, who aren't fat bike savvy, love to point out that the fat tires must be slow, or extra hard to pedal uphill. Morgan Taylor writes in an article about his 6 months riding the ICT, "[I] was convinced that fat bikes were so far outside the realm of acceptable mountain bikes that I chose to write them off." After my six months on the ICT, I like to think that my bike rides uphill better than a road bike rides over rocks and sand. As my friend Guitar Ted wrote recently, "Fat tires don't make you slow- They set you free." You don't have to confine yourself to roads or maintained trails - you just go off in the woods, or on the beach, or wherever you want, and ride. And if you have decent tires, and muscular legs, like I do, you can haul ass on the road and make all the fair weather riders think you have superhuman ability.

So here's a deal. Surlybikes has some overstock on the ICT Ops, in all sizes from XS to XXL, and they've reduced the price to get these things out the door. Regular price is $2450. With the current pricing, while it lasts, I'll sell you one for $2000 plus tax.

Earlier today, I added a front rack to mine. Summer bike-camping trips carrying way too much gear will be easy now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Taking the long way

Last Saturday, I showed up at 9am for a group ride I have been leading in my neighborhood. Because of poor advertising on my part and conflicts for some of the regulars, nobody showed up. I considered that I could go home for some rest and/or coffee, but I decided to get out and explore a bit.

I rode along this picturesque drainage ditch at Crosby Farm. Afterward, I snaked through the familiar trails that I often ride when I have a few extra minutes on my way to work.

I "dipped" my wheels in the river a few times when getting around deadfalls and other obstacles.

I continued along the river, even over the rocky bank. I lowered my tire pressure, and it was easy. I thought about what a roadie acquaintance said to me a few days earlier as I outrolled him down a hill and then kept pace with him on my ICT: "I bet it doesn't go up hills very fast". He was obviously trying to disparage my "fad bike", but whatever. Truth be told, I'm not that fast up hills on any bike. But any bike that can save me a few seconds up a hill wouldn't have a chance with sand and river rocks, so there is that.

The rocks got bigger, but I was careful to pick my line through the boulders.

I took the water route here, and got wet feet. Those underwater rocks are slippery.

I didn't have time to ride into this intriguing tunnel.

By the time I got to work after 3 hours of riding, I was in such a good mood. Any bike can take me on adventures, but this one seems especially good at it.

Later that evening, I was able to get out for a ride with my 9yo on her Straggler. She's a strong rider. 
I think I need a faster bike to keep up with her.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Long term relationship

If you've known me in the context of bicycling for any length of time, you probably noticed that I don't tend to practice long-term monogamy with my bicycles. I generally alternate between three and five bikes, and I seldom keep any of them in the stable for longer than 6 months. There's always a reason to try something new, to gain some (usually theoretical) advantage for a certain type of riding.

But last October, I bought one of the (then) brand new Surly Ice Cream Truck framesets, and built it to suit my tastes. Around the time I started riding my ICT, I sold off my other bikes, including a Moonlander, Disc Trucker, ECR, and a hot-rodded Torker Graduate (poor man's Straggler). At the time I sold them, I told myself that I'd eventually replace them with something. But in 6 months of riding only the ICT, my desire for another bike is near zero. Here is a photo from today's commute, by the way:

This contraption isn't going to appeal to weight weenies or anybody hung up on the idea that skinny tires roll better, BUT THOSE PEOPLE ARE MISTAKEN. This beast rolls and rolls and then it hits the bumps in the road and it keeps rolling. I've ridden pavement and gravel and dirt and mud and ice and snow and rocks and curbs and railroads and corporate landscaping, and it handles it all even with my mediocre riding skills. I've been doing a neighborhood group ride, and last week we rode 17 miles including the High Bridge (uphill direction) and some hills in West Saint Paul in just over an hour. I don't normally advocate riding that fast, but it's nice to know that it can be done if necessary. Remember that I'm about 50 pounds overweight and I've never been particularly athletic, so you can probably go faster, not that you should care.

The other thing that keeps me from getting another bike is that the fat tires have spoiled me. I get to test ride a lot of different bikes, and one thing that stands out is that normal tires ride really harshly. The 3", 4", and 5" plus-size and fat tires make the road feel as if it's paved with marshmallows. Marshmallows that magically have excellent traction and low rolling resistance, of course.

Granted, I don't do road racing, brevets, and I seldom ride manicured singletrack. If you do those things, maybe a different type of bike will work better for you. I just ride everywhere and try to find adventure along the way. For me, the ICT is totally sensible.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Surly Coupon expires in a week

You have about a week left until the $150 Surly coupon expires at the end of March. We will also give you 10% of the purchase price of the bike back in store credit, which you'll need for accessories and what not. These combined offers result in $300 or more in savings on most Surly complete bike models. In addition, there are several closeouts and recent price reductions on certain models that make some of these bikes into true bargains.

You don't even really need to print the coupon and bring it in, unless you want to. I'll take care of that detail so you don't have to worry about it.

After March 31, this deal ends, and you'll have to pay full price. Don't miss out!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I'm fat and that's probably not changing anytime soon

We just got back from Frostbike, which is QBP's winter mixer dealer event. If you don't know, QBP is the parent company of Surly Bikes and some other fine bike brands. QBP also serves as a distributor for lots of other brands of components and accessories.

We always go to the Surly bike booth first. Our insider info proved correct: Surly didn't unveil any new products or variants of old products at Frostbike this year. But they did tell us that they have some overstock on last year's Pugsley (XS, S, and XL only) and "trail" bikes like the Karate Monkey, Krampus, Krampus Ops, and Instigator, and they've reduced prices accordingly, in some cases to unbelievably low levels. Right now you can buy an Instigator frame AND they are throwing in some free 26" Rabbit Hole rims and 26x2.75" Dirt Wizard tires for $599. They also knocked about $750 off the price of a complete Instigator to $1899, which is quite a deal for the fork and components alone. I'm not sure this is the bike for just anybody, but if you're the kind of person who rides hard and breaks stuff, then maybe this is the deal for you. I forgot to ask if these deals can be combined with the $150 Superfan coupon, but I'm guessing we could work that out for you.

You can find "spy photos" and other info about new products at Frostbike on the internet, so I'm not going to add to that noise. Instead I'd like to mention a mixed "vibe" I picked up. On the one hand, there were the accessory and component companies. Some of them were late to the party with fat-bike parts and accessories, and now they're enthusiastically on the bandwagon, making some stuff that definitely appeals to a fat bike guy like me. I saw several new(ish) tires, rims, hubs, and cranks for fat bikes. There's a fat bike compatible child seat from Thule (planning to get one for my youngest kid), and lots of fat bike compatible car racks now. On the other hand, there were some folks from more established fat bike entities who seemed genuinely surprised when I told them that we are seeing good sales on fat bikes this year. Honestly, we have shifted the focus of HC to fat and plus-sized tire bikes (though we are more than comfortable with selling and repairing other bike styles too, of course). In some larger shops, fat bikes may seem like an oddity among dozens of more conventional bicycles, and if the sales staff isn't enthusiastic about fat bikes, not many will buy them. Personally, in my little bubble here at HC, I see a lot of growth potential for fat bike sales. The bikes are simply too much fun, and too practical. I'm not referring to the racer/athlete end of the market, but the casual offroad and winter rider who will be much more confident on a fat bike than on a more conventional bike. At HC, we ride and love our fat bikes, and we'll probably try to talk you into buying one (or at least something "plus-sized"*).

*Speaking of plus-sized wheels and tires, I have something to say about that, too. Look for that in a near-future post.