Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Time Management

The season is rapidly approaching its half way point and with it comes low resting pulse rates, increased metabolisms, irate drivers, and a tan so defined it is laughable to the uninitiated. As July gets underway, the miles continue to climb and our passion for the bike and the time we spend in its presence is reaching a feverish crescendo. The cycling lifestyle is everywhere around us and, at times, all encompassing. Not only are there hours dedicated to riding and racing and talking about the sport, but with the Tour beaming worldwide we now dedicate even more of our already scarce time to cycling. With all of this time spent deep in the cycling mindset, our loved ones and friends can arrive at only one conclusion: cyclists are nuts!

Well, we agree wholeheartedly, we are a passionate bunch and to some that passion can easily be mistaken for an obsession. I mean, who in their right mind says "no" to the second piece of cake? And, yes, we know lycra ("spandex") is funny to everyone but us. With the time we spend riding our bikes, talking about bikes, preparing our bikes, or shaving our legs we could easily dig into something more substantial like solving world hunger or at the very least finishing that bathroom renovation.

Here in its simplest form is our excuse: cycling makes for a healthy body and mind (as well as alienation of those who are not indoctrinated). our friends and family, our jobs, and all the non-cycling outlets that make up our busy lives: thank you for your understanding and your patience. Thank you for affording us the additional hours to fit our 10 pounds of passion into our 5 pound days. Your investment in us insures you get us at our very best.

July is a tough month for us, trust us when we say that we miss you too and we look forward to reconnecting. August will be a quiet month, we promise.

September on the other hand...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Laguna Cyclery

Few things complement each other as well as bikes and coffee. The crew at Laguna Cyclery have mastered this concept. However, don't show up expecting to enjoy a "mocha frappa whippeo" while bumming some Wi-Fi. Quite the contrary. Laguna Bikes is the kind of bike shop with decades of nostalgia decorating the walls and a passionate, knowledgeable, friendly staff.

More and more, the bicycle retail experience feels cookie-cutter and sterile-- a bit like a Crate and Barrel with bikes and the smell of rubber. The creative and individual shop style has been replaced with fancy counter tops and gallons of white paint. There was a time not too long ago when shops separated themselves from their competition by putting a professional foot forward presenting themselves with a streamlined appearance and miles and miles of slatwall. Somewhere between 1993 and 1999, this became the look everyone strived for and now, there's a backlash that has given the shops of yore a warmth and charm that sets them apart from the crowds.

Laguna Cyclery rests a few steps from the Pacific ocean. The golden glare of the midday sun taunts those from places east, as the sobering realization takes hold that Laguna Beach's weather is ideal for cycling 12 months a year.

When I step out of the hot western sun and into the doors of the shop, the initial sensation was that I had been whisked thousands of miles away, into a remote dry goods shop in Vermont. The charm of Laguna Cyclery's aged wood, exposed and lofty attic, and plank-covered walls give the shop the feeling of an old-world barn, a classic simplicity one would find in New England. And a feeling that is just as warm as the golden sun.

When visiting shops there is no formula that equates to bicycle retail greatness, so I look for shops that motivate me, stir memories from my cycling journey, and enlighten me to see the sport from new aspects and vantage points. In bike shops, often a great experience for me is driven by the attitude of the staff, the decorations on the wall, or the bikes and products they choose to sell.

To a cyclist, Laguna Cyclery holds hidden gems everywhere. Dig into the nooks and crannies and there before you resides a treasure trove of machines and gear from days of old, stuff that you have ridden, wished you could have ridden, or items currently residing on your "if I only had a few extra bucks" list. Look more closely and you are sure to find at least one, "I never should have sold that" item. This shop is passion from floor to ceiling, adorning the attic and atop benches. When you visit, do yourself a favor and allot ample time to take in the entire experience and completely absorb the shop's subtleties.

There is a clear PRO influence at Laguna. Their main frame lines represent the best of the best: Pinerello, Colnago, Willer, Cervelo, and Time. If you stroll through their blog, you see a smattering of each marquee built in various forms and price points...some SRAM, some Shimano (even a Di2 kit way ahead of the Shimano production schedule). When in the shop, however, the team's love for Campagnolo is undeniable.

There is no question, the gear inside the shop is top-notch and qualifies Laguna Cyclery as a PRO shop, but stopping there would only scratch the surface and highlight the superficial aspects of the shop. Need to know a great riding route? Advice on selecting a training tire? Need an opinion on SRAM vs. Shimano? The crew here has it and they will take the time needed to make sure your riding experience is better when you exit the shop than when you entered it. The entire staff in the shop is passionate about our sport and as friendly as they are approachable.

Laguna Cyclery's products are not limited to exclusive high-end kits. Laguna offers bikes at price points that suit everyone from beginner to PRO. Beyond pricing, what Laguna does so well is treat each rider, no matter the experience or budget, like a fellow cyclist. It's this approach to cycling that separates great shops from good ones and builds a wicked local riding scene that endures. Laguna has been around since 1971 and, without question, has helped shape the area's cycling scene.

I mentioned at the start of this post that I don't employ a formulaic approach when highlighting shops; however, there is one business formula that I have seen deliver success time and time again: Foster the love for cycling in all of your customers. This formula is simple and basic, but crazy when considering how often it's overlooked.

Drop by Laguna Cyclery, bring your sunscreen, and your passion for bikes. Look deep inside the shop and talk to the staff. If you are a local to the shop, drop by and buy a tube, introduce yourself, and see what the excitement is all about. If you're lucky, maybe they'll offer you an espresso while you take in the sights.

Laguna Cyclery
240 Thalia Street
Laguna Beach, CA

The photos featured in this post were shot in February 2009 just prior to a massive renovation but, rest assured, the passion and the feel of the shop remain firmly in place.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Red Kite Prayer

When Radio Freddy first asked me to contribute to Belgium Knee Warmers, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his blog. It was interesting, but I wasn’t sure I had anything to add. I kept reading and eventually I saw an opportunity to contribute to what was becoming a conversation between him and the fledgling readership.

As I kept writing, I began to find my rhythm, seeing opportunities to write about topics and in ways I hadn’t for other publications. The feedback from the readership wasn’t always positive, but it was always enthusiastic and its immediacy drove me in ways I never expected. Indeed, I got more than a few reader suggestions along the way and I made notes. Who knows what I may write down the road?

But that road will be unfolding at a new URL. The time and opportunity have come to step up my efforts. Beginning today (right now, as a matter of fact) you’ll find my new posts at Red Kite Prayer. There you can find an explanation of the phrase, finally learn my identity and background and get a taste of things to come.

BKW isn’t going away; you’ll continue to see the content we compiled here. I’ve invited Radio Freddy and each of the contributors you’ve seen here to continue sharing their work with you at Red Kite Prayer.

It’s been a great ride with you. Stay tuned.