Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bianchi Dealer southeast tour, Nov 2010.

I can see why marketing professionals have multiple people contributing to a company blog in order to keep the info current. This isn't a 'company blog' per say, rather one that reflects my job which happens to be Bianchi-centric. My New Year's resolution, keep this darn thing current.

This was my last swing through the south and my goal was more than shaking hands and kissing babies. It was to see all the beautiful 2011 goods in action, on the floor. Yes these are the same bikes I showed at Interbike but when you're having a love affair with what you sell, a single encounter won't do.

With the E packed and gassed up, I made a bee-line to the state of Tennessee, Knoxville to be exact.

First leg of the trip; PA to Kodak, TN. Kodak is east of Knoxville and I found a super deal at a Comfort Inn & Suites hotel. Even though I was wiped out from the cannonball run to TN, I was still looking forward to tomorrow's visit with Chris at Biketopia.

In the land where NASCAR is king and so is cheap, light beer, it was refreshing to spot this rig on the way to Biketopia. I'm a huge fan of autocrossing and this driver and their 3 series BMW looked like they were heading home, the morning, after a weekend of run-offs.

Biketopia has a very impressive Bianchi Bicycle display. Also good selection of apparel/softgoods, accessories, and a personal favorite of mine, the B4P 1885 road bike. Having a dedicated merchandise display really sets the tone for the brand and says volumes with regards to the credibility that Biketopia gives to Bianchi Bicycles. Nice work Chris.

Here are a couple of Ultegra 6700 Infinitos. Dealers have had great success with this viral bike since it's 2010 model year introduction. Backed by steady stream of online, media coverage and global magazine tests, dealers who aren't 'carbon road bike based shops' are experiencing sales of the Infinito. Nice! Chris is supporting this model and the pro-tour geometry of the Sempre. Having both the Infinito and the Sempre is a good move for retailers. The customer is then able to test ride both bikes and experience the difference in their geometries.

One of the unique things about this 125 year old Italian bike brand is the passion that it's owners and dealers have for the color and the bikes. As I roll through my territory, I encounter Bianchi Bicycle dealers who end up collecting or at least have an older, classic bike lingering around the shop. This bike is a 90's Campione built with Campy Avanti and a Mirage derailleur at the rear. This bike looks like it was keep in a humidity controlled room and spoken to sweetly every night before going to bed. Ok, maybe not that far, but it is near showroom condition.

No rust at the welds and sticker priced at $400. If I only had my wallet...

Back section.

8 speed. Oh how things were simple back then. You can still swap out the guts at the Ergos for a 9 speed should you run into a Chorus 9 speed build kit at your next swap meet.

Chris has some mechanical skills too. He used to be an automotive mechanic by trade. I have yet to visit a bike shop with a tool box this nice.

After my visit with Biketopia, I swung in to the local Publix grocery store to stock up on rations for the week long trip though the southeast. I usually get bags of apples, bananas, granola, choco soy milk drink boxes, etc to graze on while I rack up the miles. When I lefted the Publix, I noticed a small skatepark, so naturally I had to snoop around and take a phew photos. I marked this spot on the GPS so next time through, I'll try to get in a little bike session as long as the park rules aren't of the typical narrow minded sort towards bike use.

I pointed the Element westward and made my way to Nashville, TN; home of Gran Fondo Cycles. I was meeting the shop's owner, Lynn Greer, for our fall road ride through the countryside. A little business, a little pleasure while pedaling, we traveled across the roads, west of the city. Lynn was riding his Bianchi Pinella, built with SRAM Force, atop a set of Fulcrum Racing 1 wheels.

The roads around Nashville are far from stellar, in fact these roads reveal why Lynn and the Gran Fondo crew do so well with selling our steel bikes like the Pinella (out of production now but Lynn stocked up on a handful when the news broke we weren't importing any more of them from Italy.), the Vigorelli and Imola. You can buy a 'carbon' road bike with Shimano 105 components from another brand for almost the cost of the Vigorelli but once this 'carbon' bike is ridden on the less than perfect roads of Nashville, the Reynolds steel frame wins the hearts of cyclists time after time. The reason I'm putting the word carbon, in quotes is because typically the grade of carbon you get in a $1600 carbon Shimano 105 bike is so low of a grade, there's more substrate used in the frame. This level of substrate has to be used in the manufacturing process of the frame; than your more expensive levels of carbon grade frames would have. The substrate is the resin so essentially, you're riding a bike that is more 'plastic', than carbon. Taking my rep hat off, my test ride is on the steel tubing, not the plastic bike in this price range.

Gran Fondo Cycles is still doing a great job with the Infinito and has added the Sempre to their offerings for the 2011 season. No photos were taken on our ride as the wind was requiring both hands on the bars. Next time.

After Nashville, I made a stop in Huntsville, AL and met my Uncle and cousin for lunch. This part of my family I haven't seen in 10 years; since my wedding. Yes, I celebrated my 10 year wedding anniversary this November. Congrats babe!

My uncle was my father figure growing up. He used to take me BMX racing with my cousin (mid photo) and bought me my first road bike in 1988; a very bike supporting guy!

Lunch in AL, then off to Columbus, GA for a visit with Incognito Bikes. Above is a screen shot from my iPhone as I left for GA. I love looking at maps, seeing where I am, where I started and reflecting on the miles between. I'm also blessed that I get to travel (almost) the east coast with my job; meeting different shops, talking and product training with various retailers and seeing how great this country is. More people need to close their mouths, open their minds and front doors to their homes and travel by car. I'm not against flying, but flying is so stressful, at least for me it is. I'm more exhausted taking 3 days and hoping flights and rental cars than pounding out 2200 miles in 7 days in the Element. But hey, that's just me.

I arrived at James shop- Incognito, late. Umm, can you say change in time zones, ooooh yeah, that. Sorry man. I was able to hang in the shop for a bit before getting grabbing a calzone and a pint with James.

Columbus, GA is a cool little town and Incognito sits in with other niche local business along Broadway. And like most urban shopping districts, a sandwich sign is a must. James put one together to promote Bianchi Bicycles outside his shop.

And just so you have the pronunciation it!

Incognito is focused on commuting and urban bikes. James has a pretty heavy fixed freestyle following too. The showroom has an awesome gallery feel to it. Relying on his artistic background, James has done all the decor and display work himself. I love seeing the bikes displayed like artwork and I'm sure Eduardo Bianchi agree.

The next morning, I was off to Mableton, GA to see the crew at Silver Comet Depot or SCD Cycles for short. Arno the shop's owner, always has something new to show me when I get there. In this case, Eric the assistant manager was available and proudly showed me a custom built, Infinito with SRAM Rival.

This is the photo wall at SCD Cycles. Tuscany region? Maybe, just pretend, ok?

Ah, celeste carbon water bottle cages.

I really like the red housing on this bike. In person, you can see how it not only pulls the red off the rims but also the letter 'I' in Infinito is red too. I'm seeing more and more Infinito frame sets built with SRAM; maybe this is a subtle hint?

I love their location, right next to the Silver Comet trail, so there's always a buzz of people on bikes when I'm down visiting.

I started running late and had to do a hit and run at both Outback Bikes Atlanta locations. Peter the owner was at their Hamilton Mills location and Edgy- at the Little 5 Points store. Some how I managed to bend time, have a stellar meeting with Peter and pop in and see Edgemont at L5P store. If you've ever driven around the ATL beltway, you know what I'm talking about.

At the Little 5 Points location, I was able to finally see the 2011 Bianchi Campione on display. This bike is a terrific option for Bianchi Bicylce fans who are past the fixed gear era or looking for a bike to add to their collection; keep their Pista but need gears for a commute to work or running errands around town. With it's down tube shifters and gold leaf paint job, it's oozing classic Bianchi style. I love the fact that I can lust for a $799 bike like the Campione as well as a $10k bike like the Oltre. Maybe it's the bike geek in me and the fact that I embrace all forms of cycling; just like Outback Bikes!

From ATL, it was then over to Greenville, SC. I love Greenville for several reasons. One reason is the city is growing their cycling infrastructure in the city more every year, great restaurants, home of George Hincapie and Hincapie Sportswear (killer cycling apparel) and now, a female specific cycling shop-- Pedal Chic.

My visit to Pedal Chic was during the early planning stages so I haven't any photos from my trip. You'll need to visit the link above for photos of their December ribbon cutting ceremony.

This photo is looking south on Main Street Greenville. That's the Liberty Bridge in the background, surrounded by Reedy River Falls Park. There is a multi-use trail down there that runs right behind Pedal Chic. Robin, the shop's owner, should see great traffic from it's users.

This photo is taken looking north on Main Street. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is in the left half of the photo, intersecting the bridge; just wonderful scenery.

Adding to the beauty of the Greenville landscape and the lifestyle of health and exercise, Pedal Chic is proudly stocking Bianchi Bicycles for their female clients. Aside from the Dama Bianca (woman in white) line of bicycles, our stock steel road bikes are available down to 46cm frame size; a perfect fit for a cyclist who may not want a Dama version. I can't wait to visit Pedal Chic after they receive their first batch of Bianchi Bicycles.

My next city was Charlotte, NC; home to Southpark Cycles (soon to be renamed Queen City Bikes and relocated) and Carolina Bicycle Company. I can't wait to see QCB new digs after the turn of the calendar.

Carolina Bicycle Company has been representing the brand with our carbon road bikes. This year at CBC, you'll find the Infinito, both Ultegra 6700 and 105 versions.

I like the fork mount displays for their Bianchi Infinitos. Putting a bike up at eye level allows the customer an intimate view of the bike as opposed to straining your neck overhead near a stacked rack or bending over and looking downward. Gene and the guys at CBC are sitting good for the season to come with our carbon goodness.

My final dealer visit for the week was in Winston-Salem, NC. Mock Orange Bikes to be exact. Aside from face time with the MOB crew, I was hoping for a bike ride as well. My legs were feeling impatient from a week of driving and wanted to stretch out and spin a bit.

With the shop and a ride on my mind, I grabbed a quick bit to eat for lunch at 6th & Vine Cafe'. I highly recommend their Hummus Wrap for lunch. Incredible!

On the way out, this caught my eye as I was glancing through their wall of wine. Last bottle....and I should have bought it.

Once I arrived at MOB, I noticed a lot of grinning from Zach, Charles, Jay and Brad. Turns out, the FedEx-man dropped off a 4 pack of 2011 Sempre 105 bikes. Zach and I grabbed the wrenches and started building.

After my Sempre was together, Jay recommended that we go for a ride. Yes! I kitted up and hopped on Zach's cyclocross bike. (We're both 6'5"- easy bike share.) Jay and I rolled down Reynolda Road to Krankies Coffee. They have an Airstream trailer for their drive through espresso customers; in this case, a bike through. With a shot in hand we rolled off to Jay's favorite spot he uses for a quick cx bike workout- Salem Lake.

Salem Lake is situated east of the city; a little riding on the road, a little riding on the multi-use path, we hit the lake an hour before the sun went down. Salem Lake is mostly double track, twisty and fast. The bike session felt great. And I came away from the ride with a couple of new experiences.

First, the 90 minutes I spent on the bike was done shifting a SRAM Force groupo. I've ridden a Rival bike at our sales meeting back in 2008, but the Force kit was a huge leap in performance from the aluminum Rival groupo. Second notable thing were the carbon tubular Dura-Ace wheels with cx tires by Dugast. I've ridden 50mm carbon tubular wheels on the road but not on a cyclo-cross bike. We're talking crazy traction and steering like a road bike.

After the ride, we reviewed all the eye candy for their upcoming 2011 season and then went out for a pizza and a pint. Every visit here, I'm amazed by the hand build bike displays they have at Mock Orange Bikes. From stock bikes to custom builds, they have a headlock on the local bike market.

Two thousand miles and seven days later, I was back home. This was a great wrap up for the year and can't wait to jump into 2011.

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