Friday, June 24, 2011

Yes I have an addiction to bike kits.

The beginning of June is always reserved for a week long trip down through the southeastern territory. This year I was taking 7 days for work and the family was taking 7 days to go visit Mickey at Disney. Seemed like a fair trade, worth noting that growing up, I was more Bugs Bunny and Gumby than Mickey and Pluto so as you could guess I wasn't heart broken for not visiting the Magic Kingdom.

June marks the end of Q2, the bicycle retail selling season is well underway, and the consumers are either bringing in their bikes for tune-ups, thinking about buying their first road bike or second bike for some other segment of the sport. My interest in meeting the buyers/retailers is to receive product feedback, train any newly hired summertime help and make a excuse to get the owner out on a ride to talk business...stretch the legs a bit on the bike. At least the leg part is for me since I'd be logging 2k+ miles over the course of seven days in the Honda Element.

My first trip was to see Barry and Jan of Bikes Unltd-Williamsburg, VA. This account is one of my oldest in the territory and Barry and Jan have quite a historic collection of celeste bikes in their garage to prove it. On their floor- 2011 Sempre Veloce, one of Peloton Magazines top Italian picks for this year.

Like many long-term, faithful Bianchi dealers, the Pinella Boron XL is their favorite frame. This is Barry's personal bike, tipping the scales about 15.5 lbs with SRAM Red and DT Swiss wheels. That's crazy light for a 2002 steel bike. 2002 was also a good year for Bianchi sponsored, Team Coast with Alex Zulle claiming the ultimate prize at the Tour de Suisse aboard the EV4.

The supposed originator of compact gearing, French parts manufacturer Stronglight. I never get tired of seeing this crank on bikes. Clean lines and this reminds me of the Caramba Double Barrel cranks of yesteryear.

The other interesting feature on the bike are a pair of limited edition DT Swiss wheels that Barry snagged from QBP. Yes those are gold plated spokes, pimpin'.

More weight saving parts. This time at the brakes.

I love to see bike builds this one one. Not I don't appreciate the latest whiz bang aerospace/F1 goodies on two wheels but a touch of class and aesthetics needs to be taken into consideration once and while when building up a bike. Nice job Barry!

From southern VA I was off to eastern NC, popped into a few prospective shops to see what this side of the state has going on and then bolted northwest to Winston-Salem, NC to hook up with the crew at Mock Orange Bikes.

Once at the shop, we covered how the season has panned out for them and lightly talked about the direction the brand is taking for 2012. I got there near the close of biz so after all the formalities of work had been covered, Jay and I kit'd up and rolled out for a hot lap around W-S. Jay is one of the few Pro 1/2 guys I've ridden with who know how to do a socially paced ride.

Jay and the MOB guys have been excited with the direction the brand has taken with our Sempre and Infinito platforms. They also do an excellent job fitting the bike to the cyclist. Also having a great service and personable staff equals a victory for the brand, consumer and the shop.

In the morning, it was training time. Zach, manager at MOB, does some coaching for local racers and caught wind that I was doing my first crit 2 weeks after this, it was time for me to red-line it that morning.

I'm 6'5" and Zach is about 2 inches shorter than me. Needless to say, I can't remember the last time I sat behind the wheel of someone that tall. Now I know how other riders feel behind me, haha! Zach is giving some love to our Sempre this season too.[click here for more]

From there, I was off to Charlotte, NC to grab a high five from Gene and Carolina Bicycle Company and Bart at Queen City Bicycles. Both shops are doing well this year due to shop participation at the local short track mountain bike series and the Weekly Worlds road races. Getting your name out there in the cycling community is priceless.

With Greenville, SC on the list as my next stop, I grabbed a hotel outside of G-Vegas to save a few bucks and put me within riding distance of the only women's specific retailer in the region, Pedal Chic.

I kitted up in the morning and spun my way north into the city of Greenville to meet up with Robin of Pedal Chic. She was taking me on a tour of the Swamp Rabbit Trail (local tow-path multi-use trail) and a section of their group road ride route.

The morning was crisp and clear as we discussed the 2011 season and what's in store for PC for 2012 . One thing that Robin enjoys doing is putting on events that surround the business. Fashion shows, maintenance clinics, and the occasional 'how-to fit a sports bra' seminar have been keeping her a very busy retailer. Love that Infinito Robin is on as well!

The coast of South Carolina has Bluffton Bicycle Shop giving Bianchi some new coverage. After the 4 hour drive to see Dan of BBS, I was greeted by a brilliant yet classic looking Imola.

This bike has been one of my top 5 selling bikes for the territory. This is due to a buying shift of the $1000-$1300 consumer. After proper explanation from a shop that stocks and loves steel bikes, the cyclist realizes they'll have a more pleasurable ride experience on a steel bike frame versus an aluminum. And the visual this bike puts off is very classic and draws many an eye from other classic bicycle fans and Bianchi owners on any disease ride, bike tour, etc.

After a night in the Bluffton area, I rolled out to ATL to see Edgemont at the Outback Bikes location in Little 5 Points.

L5P is sort of an artsy, hipster district and to say that they do well with the Bianchi steel bikes is an understatement. In fact, any Bianchi they put on the floor sells well for them as their customer base for the brand spans from the commuter on a Torino , a 5'4" female looking for her first road bike, on up to the Infinito Ultegra which has sold well for them in the celeste livery. Edgemont does a fantastic job educating the consumer about the bike for their specific needs as well as the history of the brand...should you care to hear about that.

After reviewing a bit of the goods for the 2012 season with Edgy, assisting customers and putting together a glorious parts and accessories order on the iPad, I pointed the Element northwest and drove towards Nashville, TN.

This week of traveling was anchored by the Harpeth Bicycle Club's, Harpeth River Ride. I planned on assisting Gran Fondo Cycles at the ride's Bike Expo on Friday evening and Saturday, after the actual Harpeth ride. (Saturday morning was chamois time with some of Gran Fondo's club members.)

On the way to Nashville, I stopped at an all you can eat Sushi restaurant near Murfreeboro and lets just say...they lost money on me. After loosening the belt a couple of notches I drove to the hotel.

On the way to Brentwood, TN I passed the Bonnaroo Music Festival. I should have known something was going on by the number of cars I passed on the highway, pulled over with guys 'watering the bushes' while nervously turning their heads looking for the cops. I would have like to have caught the Arcade Fire performance but alas, duty calls.

The next morning, we put the plan into motion at GFC; get the box truck and load up the goods for the bike expo.

Me driving the box truck. Let's just say I was not enjoying watching the temperature gauge bounce up and down like my daughter on a pogo stick. Luckily the truck made it the next two days of use.

Vida Greer of Gran Fondo Cycles fame working the table at the Harpeth River Ride bike expo. Friday afternoon was when the participants picked up their event packets. Along with that, they purchased last minute items; tires, insulated water bottles, etc. We had some Bianchi Bicylces on display for those looking for the latest from us.

A three pack of GFC finer selling bikes. Infinito, Vigorelli and the Sempre Ultegra.

Another Infinito and our limited edition Nero Oltre build with Campy Record 11. The Oltre received the most drooling over the two day event.

The actual ride kicked off at 7am sharp and the organizers highly recommended you be at the start at 6:45am. I knew that would be a struggle to hit that time window so I did the best I could to get ready and leave the hotel by 7am.

I popped into the bike expo tent at Gran Fondo's table and picked up my wrist band for the ride. With no breakfast, I knew I'd be eating it on the bike instead. Vida took me out the back of the route as to avoid the congestion of the starting riders and see some of the finer points of Tennessee's roads without a cluster of recreational cyclists in front of me.

After delivering me to the first rest stop, Vida matched me up with some of the shop's club riders; mostly guys 10 years older than me on custom bikes twice as much as mine and looking pretty fit. I knew then it would be a good ride that morning.

A fellow unknown Bianchi rider, yes I had to park my bike next to theirs. Custom built celeste Sempre with Ultegra and Ksyrium SR wheels.

The rest stops were well stocked and assisted by the Harpeth Bike Club members. It was blazing hot by 9:30am and they had a garden sprinkler going in the parking lot at the second rest stop. Let's just say that if you add a sprinkler to a hot day with grown adults on bikes, they'll turn into little kids real fast. The sprinkler felt great as I skimmed the edge of it as we left the rest stop.

Nashville has some beautiful roads and as I've mentioned before, are very similar to the roads in south central Pennsylvania; rolling, lot's of agriculture, and rural. We averaged just a tick over 19mph for the duration of the 100k which felt good considering the intensity of the heat. I knew my radiator was ready to boil over when I broke out in chills and goosebumps with 2k to go to the finish. A great ride with great company!

Back at the bike expo, I stopped by to check in with the GFC crew and then headed back to the hotel to shower and later return to work the expo booth the rest of the day. The hotel was a mile down the road; an easy trip by bike.

You don't see many Pico Crono bikes let alone at a club event. This one is probably one of 8 in the entire US market. This would make Jim Stevenson proud.

I love this build done by Gran Fondo Cycles. 2011 Infinito decked out with SRAM Red-black edition and Mavic Ksyrium SR wheels. This bike started it's life as an Infinito 105 and was stripped of it's stock components in favor of lighter, greater, faster, more!

Another great trip does down in the books and I've added another kit to my collection. This one is from Barry of Bikes Unlimited in Williamsburg, VA and made through Hincapie Sportswear's shop custom program. Barry is a fan of the celeste so the pantone 333 for our color graces the logos on this kit. I love mi sum Hincapie Custom. Their fabric and fit feel so good and they use a monster truck size YKK zipper that never quits!
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