Friday, June 27, 2008

$4 / gallon

I suspect the most common question that people in the bike industry get these days would be something along the lines of "bet this $4 gas is great for your business, isn't it?". On the surface, it might look like it but I am not so sure. Bikes are still typically a discretionary purchase. Most people don't "need" a bicycle like they need food. Since most folks have already succumbed to the urban sprawl, and moved 20+ miles from their chosen place of employment, most don't consider commuting a viable option. So $4 a gallon it is, thank you sir may I have another. There goes another $25-$30 out the tail pipe a week and there goes your discretionary, aka bike, funds. And even if your job is on solid ground, the constant background noise about the economy circling the drain works its way into your conscience even if it is just by osmosis.

What we have noticed is increased repairs and accessories. People that bought bikes in the last decade, and let them become garage ornaments, are dragging out the remains to have them rehabilitated. The margins are pretty good on this stuff but it can still be relatively small dollars when compared to full bike sales. Of course, bike parts are getting more and more expensive and it seems like tire/tube prices are tied directly to the price a a barrel of light sweet crude for September delivery (not really sure what that means but it apparently hits a new high on a daily basis now).

There has been the slightest hint of an increase in bike trips but it has mainly been folks who already used a bike for recreation ,which doesn't help the bike shop bottom line to any large degree. We have talked about the tipping point and wondered where it will be........$5 a gallon, $6 a gallon or the $7 they talked about on the radio this morning. What will it take to get more people using bikes for "work" as opposed to "play. Stay tuned, we may be finding out soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The 24 hours of Burn

This year marked the 8th year of the Source Burn 24 hour race which was held just north of Statesville, in Wilkesboro, NC. Since it is so close, we have a good local turn out for the event. The Dark Mountain trails work out nicely for the race and the big field, by the lake, is a great place for set up shop. The last couple of years, we have taken a herd of Goats and let them graze in the field. It has been a nice way to get a little local exposure. There seems to be growing interest in the custom frames and folks like something unique.

This year, Darrell rode his single speed Mountain Goat Route 29 in the solo category and completed 18 laps. Other FoFFB (friends of First Flight Bikes) were Ross, David, Paul, James, Clyde and Carl. They raced in various categories and had a great time. Matt, Sean and Wes hung out for the whole event and supported Darrell, David and Ross. I took the boys up after the shop closed to hang out for a couple of hours and ride the Over Mountain Victory Trail (nice berms!). Last year, Wes crewed for Darrell, Matt and Ross, who all rode solo (Matt and Ross single speed, Darrell geared). In 2005, Ross, Matt and Wes teamed up with Bob to do the 4 man single speed team.
It was good to see that Darrell upped his lap total even though he switched from a geared bike to a single speed bike. I bet Darrell will claim that he upped his mileage by training harder and riding more but I like to think it was Mountain Goat! (Gotta be the shoes)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bike racing

I've never been horribly athletic so most competitive sports are not my cup o' tea. I threw discus, a some shop put, in high school but that was about it for actual scored competition. That may be part of the reason the bike riding has always appealed to me. I enjoy riding and can keep up a reasonable pace but have never felt compelled to "race" a bike. With kids, it is tough to find time to ride, let alone train. Fortunately, the boys (Sam 10 and Seth 13) are getting to the age that they can ride along reasonably well. Seth has even gotten to the point that he is probably faster than the old man. When we ride, he can pull away on the open runs but I catch back up on the technical sections (at least for right now).

Neal, who helps us with the Cackalacky Cup, puts on a fantastic summer series of mountain bike races, including a couple of kids categories. With Seth getting a little bit faster, I thought the race series might interest him. I checked the calendar and the race at the Fisher Farm trail was June 11. Fisher Farm is a great local trail that isn't terribly technical and,even more importantly, isn't on the other side of Charlotte (important when registration is @ 5:00 on a week night). We decide to give it a shot and wnet down the Sunday before to ride the trail and check it out. Mark Sullivan, trail boss @ Fisher Farm, was felling a decent sized tree so we stopped to spectate and then help. After the sixth cut or so, the tree was down and we were on our way again.

Wednesday evening came and we headed out to the trail. Seth got all signed up for the 8-13 year olds race which ended up being only one lap. To break up the start, Neal added in a long climb through a grassy field before going into the woods. The entry to the trail is a really quick downhill section so this strung out the field to reduce the carnage. The kids group had 5 racers in it and Seth was first tot he summit of the grassy knoll. There weren't a whole lot of places to pass so I had warned him about letting some of the older, faster riders by. Unfortunately, when one of them called the pass, another kid snuck by Seth along with the expert rider and beat him to the finish by a couple of bike lengths. The kid who beat him was named Anakin (insert, Luke......I am your father joke here).

Anyway, Seth was riding an old school Jamis Diablo with a 1" steerer tube and rigid fork! Looks like it might be time for a little upgrading. Wes had a pair of SPD compatible shoes so we'll start there. Couple other races this summer on the North side of Charlotte so maybe we'll give it a go. Might even see if we could get anyway interested from the Boy Scouts!