Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Chat With Longmont's Long Mont Velo Bike Shop [Part 2]

As with part one of this chat, part two is also lengthy. In it we talk about a variety of things, including crashing on bicycles and plans for Long Mont Velo... as well as why they chose to split "Longmont" into "Long Mont." If you missed part 1, you can find it by clicking here. Then feel free to continue on here, or you can start reading from part two, if you are so inclined.
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G.E.: Paul, I know you've had a few bike related accidents, but you continue to ride. Do you think bike accidents should keep people from getting back out and riding, assuming that they aren't physically injured/incapable of doing so?

Paul:  I guess my comment to that would be if you fall off a horse, you get right back on it.

Trudee: You're the worst example, Paul.

Paul: But, it's... it's just part of your life. Everybody asks me... It's not an uncommon question... people ask me that question, but... Why live your life in a bubble? I would rather be killed in an accident than lay around in misery.

Trudee: Are you talking about your injuries from commuting or from racing?

Paul: Well, my most horrible ones are from... well... I guess it was really a mixture. It was really a mixture of both. Frankly, I don't think it really matters. You could go right out here and trip and fall on the concrete and break your head open. I just don't believe in living your life in a bubble.
Trudee: I think there's a tipping point, too. In my second year, I crashed a lot, and I think part of it was inexperience and inexperience riding in a group, you know?

Paul: That's a lot of it.

Trudee: I wasn't a very strong rider.

Paul: Not knowing how to descend.

Trudee: Yeah.

Paul: Hitting your brakes into a corner where there's a lot of gravel.

Trudee: Yeah.

Paul: Do you remember that? That was out at Sunshine [Canyon].

Trudee: Yeah. I slid down Sunshine.

G.E.: Oh my gosh!

Trudee: One time I was riding by myself and I hit a bump, and I just went flying.

Paul: Yeah, it happens.

Trudee: I just didn't have a good handle on... Two times I crashed riding with a group, but I didn't hit a wheel. The guy in front of me hit the one in front of him and then...

G.E.: It dominoed?

Trudee: Yeah.

Paul: [laughing] And you rode over the guys back... twice.

Trudee: I trusted the guy I was behind, I just didn't trust the one up ahead, and so now I've learned to accommodate for that.

Paul: [To Sam] Did you have to answer all these question?

Sam: No.

Paul: I think you need to get in on these questions.

G.E.: Feel free to speak, Sam.

Paul: I want to hear your stuff too, Sam.

Sam: I... one time... I used to work off of 17th and Hover and I was commuting back and forth from way out from where we lived. And, at Hover right there, there's no bike lane, so I was riding the sidewalk on the opposite side. A dude pulls up - it was right there at that Safeway parking lot - he pulls up and stops. And I'm like, okay, we see each other. I keep going and he pulls up and, bam! I hit him. Just head over heels onto his hood, and I'm like sitting on the ground and he calls out, "Are you okay?" and I say, "Yeah, I'm alright," and so he just took off.

Trudee: [gasps] He just left?

Sam: Luckily it was a Saturn and it was made of plastic, so...

Trudee: But still...

Paul: Yeah, but your head isn't made of plastic.

Sam: I was wearing my helmet. I just crunched under and onto his hood. He was like... in two seconds he was out of there.

Paul: Yeah, because he didn't want you to... That's basically hit and run.

Sam: Yeah.

Paul: [Looks at G.E. for her stories of injury]

G.E.: I really don't fall over. I mean, when I've been out... Really, this is why I don't use clip pedals because the only time it happens is when I'm using them. I'm naturally klutzy anyway so when I'm clipped in, I forget that I'm clipped in and then I'm like mahhhh. But, one time I was out.... I was riding to Boulder and I hit that first signal where you come off the Diagonal [highway]... what is it? I think it's 30th? I was trying to turn around, so I crossed and then turned to come back this direction and as I was turning it was like the bike started teetering and I was like, 'I know there's nothing I can do," and so I just fell over. This guy was turning in the opposite direction and he yells out his window, "Are you alright?"

Paul: [laughing]

G.E.: I was like, 'Yeah, I'm alright,' but you know, my whole side was scraped up and bruised.

Paul: Yeah. Your ego is bruised.

G.E.: I just kept saying, 'I'm fine,' and I just wanted to keep going. Okay, Paul, enough about me. One of your more recent injuries kept you off the bike for awhile. How did you deal with not riding and did it make riding again more enjoyable?

Paul: Um, I was chomping at the bit the day after. I was pretty insane that week.

Trudee: He doesn't deal with that very well.

G.E.: So, has it made it more enjoyable now to ride, or is it just...

Paul: Yeah, yeah. It's just getting back to my normal routine again.

Trudee: Yeah, but for him it's like a mental release. It is. He gets stir crazy.

Paul: Yeah.

Trudee: Yeah. Even after a day or two of not riding it's like his skin is crawling.

Paul: It literally feels like my skin is crawling.

G.E.: So what are you going to do when you can't ride when you're running the new shop full time?

Paul: Um.

G.E.: You're going to find a way to ride, one way or another? 

Paul: I'll find a way... I'll find a way. Even if it's on a trainer.

G.E.: Let's see... Have your bike mishaps taught you anything about yourself or riding that you might not have learned otherwise?

Paul: That I'm not immortal.

G.E.: [laughing] You didn't know that?

Trudee: You thought you were.

Paul: [laughing] I sold my soul to the devil years ago. I think it's been refunded.

G.E.: [laughs] Do either of you have a favorite local ride or area to ride, or do you have a favorite organized ride or race?

Trudee: My favorite ride around Longmont is up Nelson and down St. Vrain. It is easy to get to from our house and it's challenging. I swear, there is always a headwind up Nelson! Otherwise, all of the mountains I have conquered with Paul are my favorites, and we have so many more on our bucket list.

Paul: My favorite local area is Boulder County in general - and I have ridden in a lot of places. My favorite climb is Flagstaff...

Trudee: Which is why we got married there!

Paul: My favorite daily route is to Jamestown. It's a quick up and back from our house - two hours, easy [G.E.'s note: Paul's definition of "easy" is certainly not my definition]. My favorite non local ride would be Palomar Mountain or Mount Baldy, both in southern California. Many people have suffered on those hills... a lot of suffering.

Trudee: [laughs] Me.

Paul: Yes, I meant that. These spots are my favorite because of the suffering on those hills - the relentless climbs. My favorite organized ride is RAC (The Ride Across California).

Trudee: Paul volunteered for 10 years in San Diego and will have to skip this year because we are opening the bike shop. Great, now we're both sniffling [thinking about missing the ride].

Paul: It is an annual, week long ride - 600 miles - from Arizona to the San Diego coast that's sponsored by a San Diego YMCA for sixth graders. Of course they have to train for it.

Trudee: Paul was the sole mechanic for about 120 riders every year and they camp along the way.

G.E.: Sounds... fun... and a little torturous. [laughs] Okay, so, Paul, I know you've done so in the past, but today, if you could go completely car free and realistically get where you needed to via bike, walking, or public transportation, would you do it?

Paul: Yeah, I would. I'd have to invest in some real, appropriate cold weather clothing. I think I'm pretty warm up to above 20-25 degrees [Fahrenheit], but after that it's like, "Uh, no man, I'm not..."

G.E.: I feel like that's kind of my threshold too, I think. It's when I get cranky about being out because your face, and your like...

Paul: [nods] Even the balaclavas and stuff... it just cuts right through ya. But, if it's sunny out... if it's cloudy and 25...

G.E.: It's different than 25 and sunny.

Paul: Exactly. Yeah.

Trudee: But, you're going to ride to the bike shop every day, right?

Paul: I will ride to the bike shop every day. I hardly even drive anymore.

G.E.: Trudee, what about you? 

Trudee: Can I do transportation?

G.E.: Would you, if you could realistically make it happen?

Trudee: Yeah. Yeah, I think I could. The only thing is like friends and family... and the real thing, I worry about a solution for the dogs.

G.E.: You need my solution! The bike trailer. 

Trudee: Can you do it?

G.E.: I don't know. We haven't actually tried. Sam fixed it so I can haul... I don't think I can take both of them because it's too much weight and there's not enough room, but I think I could take one at a time. 

Paul: I gotta tell you, I had a bike trailer for my dog because she was old and she had a lot of health issues...the trailer was 60 pounds and she was an 82 pound Pit Bull, and I had an old Specialized, steel frame, with down tube shifters. There was a lot of steep, short hills, and it put a lot of strain on... because... well, I had it hooked up to the skewers so it came through, but it bent the shit out of it.

G.E.: I know. Part of me is like, I need one of the box bikes...where I can just have them in the front and see what they're doing.

Trudee: Yeah.

Paul: I'm actually going to try to get them.

G.E.: [squeals with delight] Are you really?! Yay!!

Paul: Yeah. I'm looking at... there's a company in Denmark that I have all of their information, so I'm going to try. You can actually put a whole human up front and ride.

G.E.: I like the ones that you can change the configuration. You could have kids, or you could have groceries, or whatever. 

Paul: Yeah, yeah. This one you can buy the accessories or change things. I think next year we'll probably try and do that.

Trudee: That's my goal. Next year.

G.E.: That would be awesome! I want one badly! I think versus the trailer, in some ways it would be easier because... even without the dogs, the trailer is a lot and it's always that jerky motion of back and forth with the trailer.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I just... I wouldn't use a bike that you love to pull the trailer or that you can't replace.

Trudee: But, then I worry about, what if the dogs see a squirrel or something?

Paul: Well, you can have closure over the box.

G.E.: If you could have any bike in the world... dream bike... what would it be?

Trudee: I love my bike.

Paul: I would say that the frame I just ordered...

Trudee: My dream bike is a bike I can ride with my dogs.

Paul: I bought a Specialissima.

Sam: Oh, really? So, are you gonna build it up?

Paul: Yeah.

G.E.: I think I'm okay being slow.

Paul: I think that's where I get mentally.... like, if I had to ride a cruiser, I think I should be going like 25 miles per hour and not 3 miles per hour.

G.E.: Wait, I thought you were going to do cruiser rides at the shop. How are you ever going to do that? 
Trudee: But, I have to say, he is doing better with the women [the women's group ride]. He'll say he's going to sweep the back and then a few seconds later he's right next to me so I have to tell him to go back.

Paul: Well, you know, I ride up and then I go back. It'll be okay. I just have to ride a lot beforehand.

G.E.: You two recently got married. You're still starting relatively new cohabitation together and you've decided to open the bike shop. How did that come about and have you both lost your minds? 

Paul: [laughs] Yeah.

Trudee: My theory in life is go big or go home.

Paul: My theory in life is... uh... oh my god. [laughs]

Trudee: Whenever Paul is stressed or we bite off more than we can chew, I'm like go big or go home.

Paul: I think... when we moved out here... I had intentions of doing custom built frames, but that didn't pan out. When I was injured and going nuts... it started out like, well, let's just see where it goes and it just ended up going forward.

Trudee: But, the nice thing is that it's ours. You know, we didn't borrow money from friends or family, so it's ours together. And, we're complementary to each other.

Paul: And... there was a point where Trudee had a stern talking to with me because I was just mentally...

Trudee: He got stressed and so he just didn't do anything.

Paul: I just shut down. Mentally, I just shut down. We had signed a lease at that point, we had bought the bikes, and I was just like, I don't know if I can do this. Frankly, I still don't know if I can do it, but... I mean, really, I'm just winging this. But, what's interesting is that I didn't realize how well connected we are in the community. People may not know me personally, or they may or may not know my name, but they've heard of what we're doing. We haven't spent tons on advertising or anything, but it's nice to know that people are already looking forward to us opening up.

G.E.: It's nice that the word of mouth advertising has been a little more organic.

Paul: Yeah. My whole thing about this shop is, yeah, I want to make money to stay open, but we're not looking to get rich off of it. But, I'm really trying to drive the community to the heart of cycling, and if you're not into cycling, come in. Let's just talk and be part of the community as opposed to, 'Oh, what can I sell you.'  I... I'm just not a high pressure salesperson. If you wanna buy something, great! If you don't, eh [shrugs].

Trudee: But, yeah, it is growing organically. Erin, she rides with the ladies, she's... her kid is getting the dollar thing.

G.E.: What's 'the dollar thing?'

Paul: Oh yeah. So we're hooked up with the Boulder Valley... St. Vrain Valley School District. It's called a Trip Tracker. So, a kid commutes to school, walks, or takes the bus to school, they get a dollar for that journey.  Then, they can go to a participating vendor, or retail store and exchange the dollar for goods, and then they reimburse the retailer for fifty percent of it. You know, it's a loss, but I'd rather encourage people to bike or walk, and there's a limit per purchase. So, like, Ziggi's on 11th is part of it, and I think they have a $10 limit. But, I think it encourages kids, and it's elementary and junior high school kids, but not the high school. We're doing Pink Pedals too... Lauren Greenfield, she's a big advocate, and we're going to do a little bit with Bicycle Longmont. Oh, and Pati and Annette [two local friends/cyclists] want to do something for the homeless. They started a program where they're trying to find bikes, make sure that they're rideable and safe, and then they give them to the homeless people. They wanted to be able to give - I think it's through H.O.P.E.?

G.E.: That would make sense because they do a lot of outreach in the community. [Note: I have confirmed since that the program is in fact through H.O.P.E.]

Paul: So, basically what I'm going to do is donate time to inspect the bikes.

Trudee: The challenge for us is to be able to grow in the community and still be profitable.

Paul: Yeah. There's going to be a point where we have to say no. But, you know, Len's going to be working at the shop, and we have a part time kid we're going to hire, and we'll need to hire a mechanic. We're going to have to play it by ear. I think... from the response so far, I'm going to have to have somebody.

G.E.: And, I'm around... virtually all day, so if you just need someone to watch the place for a bit, I am available.

Paul: You know, I had friends in San Diego. Friends that weren't as genuine as the friends I have here. I don't think I've ever had...[trails off]

Trudee: I volunteer Sam for everything. If Paul gets something heavy, I'm like, "Oh, Sam can help with that."

G.E.: He will too.

Trudee: [Points at Sam] Not Trudee... Sam. [laughs]

G.E.: Seriously. I mean, he's not home during the week, but I am if you just need a body there to watch things or whatever while you run out.  

Paul: But, it's things like that. Back in San Diego I would never... Oh yeah, right, like someone's going to.... like you're just doing it to be nice...right. But, I honestly believe that I could actually, really count on a lot of people. Which is funny. It's just weird.

G.E.: But that's nice.

Paul: It is. But, I think it kind of goes back to the whole community thing. People, at least generally, are decent here. I have that distrust, but I'm learning.

G.E.: I understand that. I think I have a bit of city mentality still attached to me. I get paranoid about things not being locked or someone looking at me funny...or... I have a major paranoia about doors sometimes. 

Sam: Yeah. I'll lock the doors and she'll go back to check and make sure they're locked.

G.E.: I do! He'll lock it and I have to go back because I don't trust that he actually locked it properly - or at all.

Trudee: Yeah, Paul will say, "People just say that they'll help you, but they don't really mean it." And I'll say, "Yeah, they do mean it." So, he's learning.

G.E.: I get it. That's why I keep saying it. Whatever you need. If I am capable of doing it, I'm there. Okay, so how will your shop be different or similar to other local options?

Trudee: We want to be different. We don't want to be an elite, snobby, men's oriented bike shop.

Paul: Yeah, but I think what irritates me, even now when I go into bike shops, and I'm not gonna name... I mean, Cenna's is really great. I know him, but there's other shops I'll go into and I don't really feel like they want to help you. They are just there. I think when someone comes into your bike shop, you have to know what they ultimately want to do. Even if it's just that they're looking for a light.

Trudee: But, there's some people who want help fast, and some who just want to browse. To be open...[trails off]

G.E.: Well, we're probably the worst because we'll go into bike shops and know very well that we're there for no good reason other than to just look through stuff. 

Trudee: But, that's okay, you know? For me, you know, we want to have fifty percent of the floor for women. Women's bikes, women's apparel. We don't want to just have minimal selection.

Paul: You know, we're going to have to expand as we go with that, but we've got a good selection of every size range for women and men. There is a point though where you say I'd like to have this in the shop, but I don't know if we can afford it right now.

Trudee: And, we don't know what's going to sell yet.

Paul: But, we want to try to... you know, it may not work, but we want to try to do cruiser night, and...

Trudee: Yoga on Mondays.

Paul: We've already got somebody arranged. I don't think... I don't know if anyone else really does that. And, we're going to do a movie night.

Trudee: Bike movies!

Paul: We're probably going to lose our asses on it, but it's just part of it. We want to establish that though - that relationship so people feel comfortable to come and talk to you.

Trudee: We want to do some game nights. We have no idea what we're doing with this, but...

Paul: We're going to have a book library. Coffee.

Trudee: Kind of make it a hang out. Just casual, friendly.

Paul: I want people to come by, and want to come by - not just to buy stuff, but to come by and just talk.

Trudee: And, our art.

Paul: Yeah, the art... Yeah, [looks at G.E.] Where are you with that art anyway?

G.E.: Uh, we can talk about that later [laughing]

Paul: Where are you on that?

Sam: It's changed.

G.E.: We'll get into that later [knows she's been slacking severely when it comes to painting lately]. What services will you be offering at the shop?

Paul: Tune-ups, very full-service. Full retail. Bike fix...

Trudee: Road, mountain, cross, BMX

Paul: The mountain bikes... I mean, I'm not a huge mountain biker...

G.E.: That's why you have Sam around.

Paul: [looks at Sam] Yeah, I'm thinking maybe you can help me when we get going because... I mean, we ordered mountain bikes, but it's just - you now, what would you want to bring into a shop? But, maybe we can talk a little bit.

Sam: Yeah.

Paul: I mean, I'll need a little - some guidance with that. But, you know, I established with Dirt Labs, so you need a fork overhaul? Now I can...

G.E.: Send 'em that way?

Sam: I heard they're going to open here [in Longmont].

Paul: Yeah, yeah. So, he said, you know, just remove the fork, do what you need to with the bike, send the fork over to us and we'll have it done the next day and get it back to you.

Trudee: And, we're going to do The Pros Closet trade-in.

Paul: Yeah, we're hooked up with them.

Trudee: And then, hopefully...

G.E.: That's a really great program, actually.

Trudee: And hopefully for our own kids bikes we can do some kind of trade up.

Sam: The Pros Closet is really interesting... their whole business plan. I've watched them grow from that [trails off]... I've been buying stuff from them forever - they actually know me by name now. There's always some stupid part that I need and they have it.

G.E.: [laughs] Yeah, I'll go in to pick up something for Sam and they're like, "Oh, it's Sam, okay."

Sam: Right.

G.E.: I always know, whatever it was, it was the cheapest thing. Sam's a thrifty guy. 

Paul: [to Sam] Did you get that frame from them?

Sam: The one that I'm riding right now? Yeah.

Trudee: I sold one of my bikes with them because I didn't know what to do with it, and...

Paul: Yeah, she had a really nice Merckx. Really nice. If it had just been a little bit bigger I would've kept it for myself.

Trudee: Yeah, it was just too big for me.

Sam: I'm always like, if it had been a little bit smaller... All the bikes we've had.

Paul: Yeah, that Merckx was a nice bike.

G.E.: Speaking of ... which brands do you plan to carry?

Paul: Well, Bianchi is the primary, or main tier. Then we have KHS and Free Agent. For clothing, we're looking at Panache, SheBeest, Pearl Izumi, Louis Garneau - they are the main clothing. Blackburn, Giro helmets, Bell helmets...and then Topeak.

Trudee: And, again, we're trying to figure out the market.

Paul: Shimano will be the main [for components]. Eventually... I mean, if we get big enough, I'll probably carry some Reynolds wheels.

Trudee:  It's a tough market though because there are so many brands! There's a million brands and everyone... sometimes, you know... I have a Giordona kit that I like and then I have another one that I hate.

G.E.: Right.

Trudee: So, it makes it hard. And then, you know, I want to have Brooks saddles, but then Paul said in the shop he worked in they didn't sell very often.

G.E.: Well, and I think that's the thing... even with selling women's clothing... if you don't have the people coming in to buy it, then...

Trudee: It's such a catch-22.

G.E.: And then women are like, 'But, I can't buy it anywhere...'

Trudee: Right. So we decided a lot of the stuff we're going to carry and kind of sit on, but just to kind of help us figure it out. And then, for women and commuters to carry stuff...

G.E.: Like panniers and baskets...

Paul: Yep, we have panniers. We're going to try this company, it's called Koki & Vaude from Germany, and we're going to get the little saddle bags from Koki. Then Vaude would be like hydration packs... and then, we're thinking about winter.

G.E.: But you have a little time to prepare for winter sales, right?

Trudee: Well, and the goal is to be flexible, too, right? So, we can learn, and grow... and adjust.

Paul: And then some of the companies are just really tough to deal with. Some, I've sent multiple applications and then they just don't respond.

G.E.: That's got to be frustrating.

Trudee: It's a tough part of the industry.

Paul: I spend... just hours contacting these people...

Trudee: And, they're just flaky and don't respond.

Paul: It just pisses me off to the point where I feel like, you know, I don't need you. But then I'll think, well, you know, I have to carry things that people want.

G.E.: You'd think companies would want to get their product out there, but...

Trudee: Right.

Paul: You know, and then there's like SheBeest... they've revamped their whole line. To me, call me what you want, but I think it's one of the best looking lines out there. Just the way they've designed it. It's just pretty.

Trudee: We don't think we're wrong with going with SheBeest because there are shops back in San Diego that are going with them too.

At this point, Paul gets up to grab a drink and asks if anyone needs anything. Admittedly, I've had them sitting for quite awhile now. He asks Trudee if she'd like some tea and asks both me and Sam if there's anything we need. He runs down a list of things we might want and after we've refused everything makes a joke about marijuana. He laughs, and I laugh, responding that I keep forgetting that it's legal here in Colorado now.

Sam: [smiles] It's legal... only when driving, right? [Sarcastically] Everyone... get in your car and light it up. [Note: We see a lot of this - people getting in their cars and smoking. You can smell it emanating from vehicles which is quite disturbing. And, just as a personal disclaimer, while I did support the passage of legalization and don't have a problem with people smoking, I do not personally use and it absolutely scares me senseless to see people driving impaired - in whatever form that comes.]

Trudee: Isn't that terrifying? That's what I didn't like about it is the whole driving impairment idea.

Sam: Constantly. I'm going to work and...

Trudee: You can smell it.

Paul: Yeah, I'll go riding by and it's like, oh, yeah, there's someone smoking out.

G.E.: Okay, I suppose we should get this back on topic, but it is upsetting to see people that are clearly under the influence - especially when I'm on a bike. I know we've kind of talked about this, but what type of rider will the shop be aimed at bringing in?

Paul: I mean, yeah, all types of riders - road, mountain, BMX, commuter. Personally, I'd rather be the women's cycling shop, and new - beginner - riders.

G.E.: You've kind of touched on this also, but just to be clear... If someone were to happen into the shop looking for a brand that you don't have a relationship with will you be open to local suggestions? 

Paul: Absolutely.

Trudee: And that's the hard part of opening is that we have to figure out that balance.

Paul: And, you know, if I don't carry it, I will absolutely send someone right to the shop that does carry it. I don't have a problem with that.

Trudee: But, we also want to figure out what people want, what the community wants and what works.

Paul: You, you just can't carry everything.

G.E.: No, I wouldn't expect that anyone would think that. 

Paul: Sometimes though people just don't know that there's these smaller companies out there and they may very well make a better or more usable product than something that is better known. Sometimes people are willing to spend a little more, to, you know...  But, if it's something I can't get or I don't carry, I don't have a problem telling someone to go to another spot. If it's something I can get, and you may just have to wait a little bit, I can order it, or I can direct someone to that other location.

G.E.:  What about other stuff in the shop? Anything other than bikes or accessories that you plan to carry?

Trudee: Yes! We have knickknacks that will be available.

G.E.: Knickknacks?

Trudee: Have you heard this story?

G.E.: No. 

Trudee: Paul says, "We are not a knickknack store, Trudee!"

Paul: Yep. That's pretty much what I said... but, then I kind of warmed up to it.

Trudee: Because I have more of the female perspective...

Paul: Well, in the beginning you weren't really offering your perspective, so when you said "knickknacks," I thought, knickknacks?

G.E.: So, when you say knickknacks you mean small things for bikes, or...

Paul: Bike related type...

G.E.: So, stuff for the house?

Paul: Yeah... coffee cups, little bags... like, little entry rugs...

Trudee: And then I got little gift bags with bikes stamped on those. Little cards so you can grab a [present]...

Paul: But, that's the whole thing... from a woman's perspective... I would've... if I was going to buy something for Sam, I'd just give him the derailleur - just hand it to him in the box. But that's a guy... I really just didn't think about it. But, some women - or men - will come in and think, 'Oh this is cute, let me get it for so-and-so's birthday.' And, then it's like this nice little gift. It's a little different perspective.

G.E.: That's cool. I like that.

Trudee: And then the art...

Paul: The art.

G.E.: I think that's so awesome that you're going to put up art - support local artists.

Paul: [Points off to a corner of the room] Did you see that...

Trudee: Oh, my sister-in-law, she made this for me... and she's doing a bunch. I sent her a picture of my bike, and she... [hands G.E. the glass art].

G.E.: Oh wow... that is so cool!
Glass Art interpretation of Trudee's road bike
Trudee: So, she's going to do glass art. And, she's a teacher, so it's an outlet for her. And then, someone had a little bike charm, so we'll have that - like little jewelry. We're going to get some other art from some other [clears throat and stares at G.E.] local artists.

Paul: Do you know Stephanie Hol[trails off]... she lives just down the...what's that art community... that was just out?

G.E.: Oh! The East Boulder County Artists.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah, so she's part of that and she's going to put it out to other people that may have interest. It doesn't necessarily have to be bike related, but I'd like to see... you know.

Trudee: But, even for you [looks at G.E.]... just the happy places that we ride.

Paul: Like those pictures you...

Trudee: Yeah, Paul loved them [Note: I was asked to take some photos of Longs Peak for the shop]. We like the red barn one.

G.E.: [laughs] I keep telling people, 'I'm not a photographer... stop asking me to take photos ...' having a camera does not make a person a photographer.

Paul: You did a good job.

Trudee: Yeah. It goes with the theme... why we're here... something that makes you happy when you're riding.

G.E.: So, where can locals or visitors find the shop?

Trudee: We're at the corner of 11th and Francis Street. We wanted it to be in a bike friendly location. Downtown and the mall are too hard to park and run in, or bring your bike by.

G.E.: I'm just happy it's so close to me.... selfish one that I am. [smiles] And the name of the shop?

Trudee: Long Mont Velo Bike Shop

G.E.: Why did you separate "Longmont" into "Long" "Mont?" Why make it two words?

Paul: Well, you know... Velo is French for bicycle. And, Longmont is named after Longs Peak, [Which was named by Major Long - Supposedly the first to spot the mountain peak on a U.S. expedition through the Rocky Mountains]... and "mont" is French for mountain. So, we just thought we'd make it a little more French and separate Longmont into Long Mont.

G.E.: So, the million dollar question: When will you be open?

Trudee: Well...

Paul: I don't know... late, late May. 

Trudee: You think? By May 21?

Paul: Gonna try.

G.E.: So, in time for summer?

Paul: It will be before June. It will... It will be before June.

Trudee: You sure?

Paul: Mm hmm.

Trudee: In our lease we said April 15.

Paul: No, in March - March 15. But, there have been delays with everything. It's nothing to do with us... it's just... It's what stresses me out. There's a lot tied up in this.

Trudee: We're vested now... and we're late.

G.E.: How about shop hours?

Trudee: Well, we have them on the website, but we may try out being open 7 days a week this summer since we're getting such a late start... we'll see. But, we don't want to go crazy and end up divorced either.

G.E.: No, Definitely not. That would be bad.  

Trudee: So, Monday, and Wednesday-Saturday we'll open 10a-6p, Sunday 11a-4p, and we'll be closed on Tuesdays.
Toward the end of our chat, Trudee pulled out a bunch of catalogs for us to peruse. Everything from different clothing and bike accessories to the knickknacks we'd been talking about earlier in the afternoon were on display. These two are really excited to start this new adventure, and it's more than apparent that they want to have items that represent the community and what we - as locals - would like to see in the shop.

I also got a clear picture that they want this to be a hang out and that they want anyone to feel comfortable to come in and ask questions. Having seen the exterior of the shop space in person, it isn't the largest retail location, but they have big plans, hopes and dreams, and they are ready to listen to thoughts from customers. A bit surprisingly to me, they even have the intention of carrying plus sizes in cycling clothing - something that is so rare to find in any bike shop. I have high hopes for these two and Long Mont Velo. I hope the community continues to support them and that it's all that they've planned and more. If you're local or traveling through the area, stop in and see them. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Chat With Longmont's Long Mont Velo Bike Shop [Part 1]

Preface:  Even if you are a reader who isn't local, I think the interview with Paul and Trudee of our local, soon-to-be-open bike shop is worth a read. There's truthfully more information about their riding stories than the shop itself (though there will be information about the shop as well). These two are an adorable and entertaining couple and I am honored that they took some time out of their super busy schedules to sit down with me and Sam to chat about what is coming for them with the new shop, as well as their thoughts on bicycles and riding. We've had this interview in the works for some time and I am excited to be able to share a little bit about them, their riding, and Long Mont Velo. The interview was a very casual conversation, and I kept it that way here in the hopes that their style comes across to others. 

Fair warning: This is a long post - so long, that it will be split into two parts because it's rather lengthy even sectioned off, but there's good stuff all the way through and potentially, I think, a little tidbit for just about anyone.
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Sam and I are sitting in Paul and Trudee's house on a gloomy spring afternoon at their dining table chatting about life. Sam has known the couple for awhile now through a local ride group, but I've only personally become acquainted with the duo over the last year or so.

Paul has just returned from picking up sandwiches for the four of us and we sit munching, laughing about various topics. These two are a riot to be around. Not only do they both enjoy riding bikes, but they are full of energy, laughter, and stories of all kinds.

Paul, is best described as a frenetic fellow. His energy is unending and it's challenging to keep him sitting still for any length of time. He is filter-less in his words which is something I rarely find in people today. He is simply the sort who says what is on his mind. Trudee is the calmer of the two, but will also share her thoughts and ideas. She is entirely full of life, but her demeanor is simply calmer than Paul's. She is a happy, fun individual who has lots of stories of her own and occasionally chimes in, adding details that Paul has left out of tales. The two of them combined will make for a festive afternoon.

We finish eating and figure it's time to get down to business. I have a long list of questions, so we know it's time to get started. To give a bit of background, Trudee and Paul are married (still considered newlyweds, really) and have been in the process of opening a local bike shop. Because we don't have many bike shops in town, and even fewer that are good sources of supplies or information, I thought it would be nice to sit down with them and find out what they hope to have happen with their new shop, their history with bicycles, and overall thoughts on cycling in the area and across the U.S.
G.E.:  At what age did you first start riding a bike?

Trudee: I was a late bloomer, a scaredy cat. I remember my cousins giving me rides on the back of their bikes or handlebars because I couldn't ride a bike. I think I was in 3rd or 4th grade when my grandpa finally taught me in front of his house in L.A. He ran behind me and let go and I crashed into a parked car.

Paul: I think I was riding a bike before I was walking. [laughs] Okay, maybe I was two.

G.E.:  Do you remember your first bike experience?

Paul: Yep, my grandfather taught me how to ride a bike. He put me on a bike with no training wheels and put his foot on my ass and gave me a push... Let's just say it didn't end well. It was a white bike with an orange plastic saddle. Never rode with training wheels. That's one way to learn real quick. It was a good day.

G.E.:  Have you ridden continuously since your first bike ride, or did you take a break?

Trudee: No. I rode a mountain bike for transportation in college, but that's about it. I don't think I ever even pumped up the tires!

Paul:  I took many breaks, but I have always had a bike, even if I didn't ride. I remember always having a bike in the garage. It's always been something I liked but after doing marathons I wanted something else in my life. I maintain riding by being selfish and sacrificing other things in my life.

Trudee: Don't say that!

Paul: Why? It's true. I am selfish with my time.

G.E.: [laughs] Sometimes we have to be selfish with our time. So, Trudee, what gave you the push to return to riding?

Trudee:  After six surgeries on my left knee, including three ACL's, my surgeon said I should give up karate and start cycling. It took me a couple more years to heed that advice. Cycling was intimidating: What to wear, how to change a flat, what to carry in the saddle bag, what route to ride, cars, etc.

G.E.: What type(s) of riding do you participate in?

Paul: I have participated in road, racing and transportation.

Trudee: And, Paul has a cross bike.

Paul: I think I like transportation riding the most. There is something about being on the bike, a sense of freedom, belonging to the planet. I don't know. It's hard to explain.

Trudee: As a footnote, Paul rode 10 years for transportation without a car while living in San Diego, too. Road cycling is my favorite because it's like therapy and meditation for me. Most days I start out a ride with my mind racing with thoughts and somewhere on the way I let it go and focus on breathing and pedaling.

G.E.: How many bikes do you own? Do you have a current and/or past favorite?

Trudee:  Four. My first Trek road bike, my custom Zinn road bike, a cross bike from eBay and an old mountain bike. My favorite is my custom Zinn because it fits me. It has 650c wheels and custom 155mm length cranks. All of my other bikes are too big for me - I can barely touch the ground, I have major toe overlap, my lower back hurts.

Paul:  I now own one track bike, one custom Holland, one Fondriest, one Langster single speed, one Torelli, and a cross bike. The most I have owned is in the neighborhood of 65 bikes. Old Italian, old steel frames, Colnago's, Schwinn, Look. My current favorite is the Holland. My past favorite is probably my Look KG381 - one of the first carbon bikes out on the road... I liked the feel of it... It was very fun. If I could own one again, it would probably be that bike.

G.E.: I had a Torelli... I loved that bike! I felt so fast - It was just too big for me. So, what's the fastest color bike?

Paul: Umm, I like white. Classy, streamlined. White bikes are cool.

Trudee: That's so boring! My bike is neon green, so that is the fastest color. Bikes should not be boring!

G.E.: Why is cycling important to you?

Paul: History [laughs]. The mental aspect of it. It keeps me mentally clean in the head. The health aspect of it. It brings a lot of enjoyment to people.

Trudee: Cycling helped me find myself. I spent a fortune on different diets - Weight Watchers, low sugar, Paleo... and exercises - cross fit, karate, DVD's, gadgets. I had a series of injuries and years of physical therapy - traditional, dry needling, muscle activation, Rolfing. I also had a series of bad relationships and some mental therapy. After I started cycling, I stopped dieting, stopped the get-fit-quick exercises, stopped the physical/mental therapy and found an amazing husband!

G.E.: You two ride together pretty regularly, correct? What is that like?

Trudee: Yes, we do.

Paul: [Nods]

Trudee:  Paul rides along on some of my ladies group rides and we do rides with just the two of us. We are very different riders. Paul is a city mouse. He cycled for over 20 years in San Diego traffic, he doesn't drink much water, he never eats on the bike, and he pushes himself hard on almost every ride. I am a country mouse. I pick routes that have less traffic, I drink water and sports drinks, I bonk if I don't eat on the bike, and I like to putz along [G.E.'s note: As someone who has been on a ride with Trudee, I will say that she is not actually a "putzer" in my experience].

Paul: I really do enjoy our rides together. I don't think Trudee thinks I do, but I enjoy being out there with her.

Trudee: It was a learning process. When we were dating he was super nice and would make sure I was right there, and...

Paul: Yeah, but then you were yelling at me for looking back at you, so I stopped doing it. So, I just put my head down now and go.

Trudee: But, when we got married there's no more wheel to draft off of at all.

Paul: I just want to state, for the record, that she whines a lot.

G.E.: [laughing]

Trudee: And what about the Palomar Mountain thing? No food. No water. I bonked riding up Palomar after following his lead, eating breakfast at 8 a.m., then nothing in between but water for a 2 p.m. ride that took 3 hours... no snack, no gel, nothing. Then, he lost me in the desert, [looks at Paul] right?

Paul: Yeah, because you didn't go where you were supposed to go.

Trudee: No, no. He gave me these detailed directions to go to this landing place with a flag...

Paul: There was a windsock, and...

Trudee: If you don't want me to go to the windsock, then you wouldn't give me all these detailed directions on how to get there.

Paul: So, she just kept on going and went to the final station.

Trudee: You told me how to get there.

Paul: So, I thought she had... 'cause people do crazy things in the heat of the desert... people get off their bike and start walking, they just do crazy things. She doesn't realize that.

Trudee: I'm with like 150 people.

Paul: She doesn't realize... no, we weren't. We were way ahead - fifteen to twenty miles ahead of everybody...

Trudee: And, we have Navy Seal guy...

Paul: We were way ahead of everyone and the Navy Seal guy told me to go up and there was a camping ground because we weren't going to stop. We were way ahead of the schedule. Okay, so I went along and she was like, "Oh, I can't keep up. Just go." So, I did. And, so, I gave her directions to meet me at the intersection.

Trudee: No...

Paul: At this white intersection...

Trudee: He said that as an option, but then he continued his story and he gave me directions to get all the way to the end.

Paul: I told her...

Trudee: You gave me directions to the end.

G.E.: So, you went to the end.

Trudee: Yeah.

Paul: Yeah, we won't really know because she was all dehydrated and crazy that day. So, I end up going all the way back, looking for her... All I can think is it's the first trip, first major trip we've taken together... all I can think of is having to explain to her parents that she'd gotten killed in the middle of the desert. That's all I could think of. So, I roll in to the, uh...

Trudee: I was waiting...

Paul: To the camping ground and she was sitting there in the corner and I was livid. I was livid!

Trudee: I waited where he told me to wait.

Paul: Oh, I was so pissed. I don't think I've ever been so pissed in my entire life!

Trudee: So, another thing we learned is that I was responsible for my own food. So, if I'm hungry I have to tell him. So, we've done that a couple of times since then and I'll say, "I need to eat!"

Paul: It's a good idea because I don't like eating.

Trudee: I need food. So, one time we just had to stop to have a bar, and another time we had to stop to get a bar because he doesn't eat on the bike.

G.E.: So, he just doesn't think about it?

Paul: No, no I don't.

Trudee: So, that's helped. But, now we have a good system where I ride my pace, I ignore him. He rides up and back and up and back, and I just kind of do [trails off]... You know, it works.

Paul: It's fine. It works.

Trudee: So, we ride together and then he leaves and...

Paul: I like hills. I'm the climber. You're pretty good on the flats. You lose a little bit on the hills, but you're pretty good. It's my recovery ride when I ride with her. [laughs]

G.E.: [laughing] It's like when Sam says, "Oh, Paul says his legs are hurting," before a ride and I'll say, "Oh, so you have a chance of keeping up?"

Paul: I have to punish him for the last time he kicked my ass.

G.E.: I know. Sam did tell me about it.

Paul: I was so pissed off. I was totally brooding about that all day long.

Trudee: Well, and Paul was on a different bike, too.

Sam: That's what I said. He was on his cross bike, so I took advantage.

Paul: It's like, you started up Nelson hill and I, I'm doing okay...

Sam: You were breathing...

Paul: Aghhhhhh.

G.E.: He's like, "I knew when I could hear Paul breathing that I could..." [laughing]

Sam: He... he was trying to do that thing where he comes up to try to get ahead of you and he's breathing hard, so I'm like, yeah...

Paul: You knew it! [laughing]

Sam: I knew it was over then.

Paul: I was like, dammit! I was so pissed off. [laughing] You don't know how pissed off I was.

Trudee: Yeah, but he doesn't feel bad when he drops you!

Sam: But, that's just Paul.

Trudee: I know it.

G.E.: Sam has accepted that it's just Paul, I think. 

Trudee: That's how it is when I ride with him.

Sam: It's like one out of every ten times... and I'll just get ya. [laughing] It's that tenth time, and I'm fine with that.

Trudee: One time I did pass him because he was waiting for me, and then like ten seconds later he caught me and I [mock breathing heavily] was like, "Oh, I'm tired," and he said, "Don't do that if you can't hold it."

Paul: [laughing] If you're going to do that then you've gotta build on it. What was that anyway? That was funny.... We were out riding one day [trails off]...

G.E.: We've had a couple of those where I will take off and Sam will say, "Wait, what happened?"

Paul: Yeah, I know. Exactly!

G.E.: He's like, "What are you doing?"

Paul: That's my thing... if you can't hold it...

G.E.: And then he'll catch me and I'm like, "Okay, I can't do this anymore." I'm dying. [laughing]

Sam: You know, when someone is behind you...

Paul: That's what makes cycling so fun, especially when you can ride with friends. When I was late 20s, early 30s probably, I was racing for Sparkletts and stuff... it was... it's just a different atmosphere. I would rather ride with Sam any day of the week.

G.E.: Aww.

Paul: But, you know, it's fun. It's just fun. I enjoy being out there with a friend.

Trudee: For women, nine times out of ten, they smile when they wave or ride by, and I get so happy.

Paul: I just enjoy riding with Sam. It's fun... Alright. Enough sappy stuff.
The guys race the Haystack Time Trial in 2015.
G.E.: Okay. Actually, that's a great lead in to my next question. Sometimes you ride with Sam. What is that like... and don't feel like you need to say anything nice. [laughing] I guess you already did though. [smiles] You guys did the Haystack Time Trial together last year also, but that wasn't your first. How did it compare to others? 

Paul: That was a good day. I would say that the misery of the rain was almost as bad as today [Note: it was pretty rainy that day, and even hailed, as it did the day of the Haystack TT].

Sam: Yeah.

Paul: That was... that was really horrible.

Sam: It was kind of... discombobulated, but it came out...

Paul: It kind of goes back to... Sam and I ride together, so I know his nuances, and he knows mine.

Sam: I'll just fall in.

Paul: You know my... I have a... I have crazy lines.

Sam: And, I'll just follow.

Paul: Yeah. I like all the guys we rode with, but I just don't ride with them as often. I like riding with Sam, and yeah, I'd do a time trial again.

Sam: The time trial was fun.

G.E.: [To Trudee] Would you do a time trial?

Trudee: Oh, geez. No!

Paul: If I had a custom tandem, I would do one with Trudee.

Trudee: Yeah, and then I'd be yelling at him. [laughs]

Paul: No. I would be yelling at you. [smiles] The one thing about time trials is that if you go out too fast and hard, you'll never make it.

Sam: It went well... because, you said what to do. It wasn't very long [the sprints]... like 30 seconds or something, and then back off. You just have to hold out for that 30 seconds. I feel it when I do it normally riding, it's like I'm quitting. Every once in awhile there's that spot over in Lyons and I lose it right there and you pass me. Every time, right there.

Paul: Oh! Up on Apple Valley?

Sam: Yeah. I just don't hold it, and I don't know... it's quitting.

Paul: No, it's not quitting. There's just some hills... and, that's not really a hill, but it's psychologically it's a bitch.

Sam: You can't back off.

Paul: There are hills that just... just kill me man, and I'm like it's 3% and I'm like, oh my god this is going to...

G.E.: Sometimes those are worse than the steep ones. 

Paul: It's so mental.

Sam: There's a lot of that here. That subtle, 3% for like ten miles.

G.E.: So, Trudee, is there anything female-specific that has ever hindered you from riding or wanting to ride?

Trudee: There are definitely different challenges being a female cyclist. The biggest for me was being uncomfortable "down there." I found that bike shops just try to sell you a new saddle. I tried a Terry saddle and it was too soft for me. I felt like I was sliding with every pedal stroke. Paul changed my positioning on the bike by lowering my handlebars...a lot of times, women ride with their bars higher...lowering the handlebars helped take weight off of the problem area. He also told me to change my position while I ride - to stand up now and then. I have also learned that there is a big difference in the feel of a chamois.

G.E.: What do you view as the biggest obstacle/s to getting more females on bikes?

Trudee: I think it's just hard to start; it's scary. Cycling is an intimidating sport to learn. Everything about it is scary. How do I ride with traffic, how do I signal, how do I turn, I can't use clip in pedals, what do I wear - I don't want to look like a sausage in spandex, I'm cold, I'm hot - my back hurts, my girl parts hurt, I don't know how to change a flat, I don't know routes to ride, I don't know what to carry in the saddle bag. I also think women aren't always good about thinking about "me," about making time to do something for themselves.
Trudee on a group ride leading the Velodames
G.E.: [To Trudee] You helped start and currently lead a road-ride group for women-only as part of a larger local riding group. What prompted that decision and will you continue these rides in 2016?

Trudee: I think group riding can be intimidating for some women. I used to get a stomachache before every group ride. I also get stressed if I don't know the route, the mileage, the elevation changes, and I get stressed turning left. So, with the women's rides, I try to do familiar routes - nothing fancy - with more right turns. I think five riders may have shown up the first ride and three were my friends for support. The group ebbs and flows with 1-12 riders per ride. It's just as fun for me to ride with one person as it is 10. I am doing the rides again this year and I hope to add a friendly beginner ride - 10-12 miles per hour - after I finish my MBA... with all my new free time. The best part is getting the women out. We stay for a beer or wine after - For some it's their only night out from kids.

G.E.: Do you have a favorite brand or piece of riding clothing, or a piece of bike technology that you can't live without?

Trudee: Clothing has been a hard learning experience for me. I tried to be thrifty and I have many things I got on sale that I hate - they're unflattering and/or uncomfortable. I have Giordana bibs that I love. They have a longer leg and cover my tummy. I also have a new pair of Giordana bibs that I bought for a Christmas treat for 50% off online that I hate. I have worn them twice and got saddle sores both times!

Paul: Yeah. I like shoes.

Trudee: He does. He really likes shoes. [Paul pulls out a catalog to show us his favorites]. I don't know if there's anything for me.

Paul: You like your Garmin.

Trudee: Yeah, I do. I do like my Garmin. Just personally, for me. I like to see that I'm improving.

G.E.: Okay. Fair enough. We talked a little bit about transportation riding earlier, but have either of you had the opportunity to ride here in Longmont for transportation?

Paul: No, not really.

G.E.:  Do you think there's anything that could improve our local roadways for cyclists. You do use local roadways to get out to back roads to do sport cycling, so have you observed anything that could be improved?

Paul: I think more detailed mapping would be good.

G.E.: Like, online mapping?

Paul: Well, online mapping, but also handout maps, and I know they're working on that. Uh...

G.E.: Oh! The city bike map?

Paul: Yeah. And... I think they need to establish better bike routes.

G.E.: That's true.

Paul: I know that they're working on it though. It's a work in progress.

G.E.: It always is - for everyone, everywhere, I think. Do you think anything different, Trudee?

Trudee: No, you know, I feel like they're making progress, but you know, I'd like to see the bike routes go ALL the way through... like Francis [Street]. You can't just stop randomly.

Paul: That's what I mean.

G.E.: Well, and then it stops before we turn to head to our house, but I can look out the kitchen window and I see them, the cyclists. They're still riding through even though there's no bike lane, so some feel like they have to go up on the sidewalk, or, you know [trails off].

Paul: Yeah.

Trudee: Yes. And, the road is wide enough to go to at least 11th.

G.E.: Right.

Trudee: And then there's that gap. We haven't lived here when the greenways were all open [The greenways have been closed or partially closed preventing full-city passage since September 2013 due to flooding.]

Paul: I think that's the gapping that we see - it makes it frustrating.

Trudee: So, we hope that helps when the greenway is back open again, so that people can get through town again.

G.E.: That would be nice - to have passage through the city again on the greenway. So, what do you view as the main obstacle to getting more people out riding a bike both for transportation and for sport?

Paul: I personally think it's safety. I think it's people's fear of cycling with cars. I think that's the main part.

Trudee: Yeah. I think Colorado is tough, you know, especially with the weather. And then, there's that guy that cycles every day down highway 287. I personally have stuff. You know, I have stuff that I would have to carry with me, and I think that's sometimes what prevents people from riding.

Sam: I've seen that guy - riding down 287. He's out there every day... rain, snow, doesn't seem to matter.

G.E.: Sam has shared several times about seeing the commuter riding down the highway. I have serious respect for someone who rides every day, and especially such a distance, in all sorts of weather. Do you view Longmont and the surrounding areas as safe places to ride? 

Paul: I think in general people are really fairly courteous with cyclists.

Trudee: Yes, definitely.

G.E.: You haven't read enough of my blog posts obviously [laughs].

Paul:  Well, I've also experienced worse. I've biked in a major city with the fifth largest population in the United States. So, yeah, coming from that...

G.E.: In comparison.. Yeah...

Paul: It's nothing by comparison. You're always going to come across those a-holes that, you know, drive too close because they don't like cyclists on "their roads;" but yeah, for the most part, I think it's fairly safe. Especially, if you rode on some of these roads that we ride on in San Diego, you would definitely be hit. Yeah. There's no doubt about it. If you don't have a bike lane to go on, you know you're going to get hit riding there. I just did it anyway. I also got hit a lot. Thirteen times to be exact.

Trudee: Yeah. We think Longmont and Boulder County are generally quite a bit safer. I notice a difference depending on where I'm riding even locally.

Paul: But, it really is one of the cycling meccas for the world.

Trudee: Pretty much... you're always going to encounter jerks out there.

Paul: And, that's to be said about everything in life. There's always going to be assholes.

G.E.: What is the best experience or encounter you've had with a motorist while out riding? Is there anything that sticks out in your mind as a good experience?

Paul: Yeah, actually. Um, I was... the time... a few years back, I had punctured both lungs and broke eight ribs and broke my collar bone. The guy - one of the motorists - saw me go flying across two lanes and he got out and he held my hand and sat with me. Yeah. It was very, very... it was comforting because I couldn't breathe - I was gurgling, blood...

G.E.: Do you know if he was a cyclist?

Paul: I don't know...

G.E.: I'm just curious... always curious.

Paul: I... He could've just driven around and left me laying there in the middle of the street. So, that was a good experience.

Trudee: I've had motorists stop to make sure I'm okay. The only thing is that sometimes they've left because I said I was okay and I really wasn't okay. So, like, for me as a cyclist, I'm not leaving you. Like, at all.

G.E.: That's a good point. Somebody falls over. You don't really know because it's almost our instinctual response to say, 'Oh yeah, I'm all right.'

Trudee:  But I definitely notice the drivers - when they give you room, or they wave.

Paul: Definitely. You can spot the cyclists. They'll swing way out.

Trudee: Yes. I love that. It makes me feel safer.

G.E.: And then, what would be the worst experience, if any, that you've had with a motorist?

Paul: Uh, do you really want to know that?

G.E.: Yeah, I do.

Paul: Ahh... Going to work, commuting to work one morning, there was a guy with his daughter on the street in his car and he yelled out a derogatory term at me and we almost came to blows. I bit my tongue, but...

Trudee: Did you catch him?

Paul: Yeah. It was right at the stop light. I said to him, "Excuse me?" and he called me the name again and the poor girl with him was just mortified. You could see she was [trails off]... and I almost couldn't hold myself back, but I did...Yeah...I did say, "Why don't you step out of your car?"

G.E.: How about you, Trudee?

Trudee: Well, so, I'm not very confrontational like Paul, but if I'm mad or something, sometimes I'll be [fake yelling] 'Are you kidding me?' but I don't fight with them. People do say things out their windows though sometimes or rev their engine, or, you know... refuse to give you any room. A lot of people cut me off turning. They'll speed up, cut me off, and I have to slam on my brakes.

Paul: I don't necessarily think it's malicious... uh...

G.E.: It's unawareness...

Paul: It's unawareness because they don't realize how fast you're going. I think there are people that do it just to piss you off, but I think... I try to feel... that it's not a malicious thing every time.

G.E.: [To Sam] Like the guys on 9th that tried to run us off the road? I went to the police station, but they really didn't do anything. 

Sam: Yeah. The worst part was the guys in the car were laughing about it as they nearly ran us off. They were pushing her and there was no where to go but off the road.

Trudee: I'm a screamer and I think it helps. I don't scream at them, but I do a little "ah" scream and when I've had people with their windows down, they do hear it and they've totally reacted. You're right, sometimes it's not malicious, but sometimes, I think that's saved my life.... being a screamer.

G.E.: It can get a little crazy sometimes. Do you ride through the winter months, and if so, do you have any tips for dealing with weather that is less than ideal?

Trudee: Yeah.

Paul: Get a fat tire bike. It will make your life a lot easier.

G.E.: Yes, see Paul and Trudee at Long Mont Velo. [giggles]

Paul: And, you know, just dress warm. It's all about just being out and not so much about the speed you're going.

G.E.: Just accept that it's going to take longer to get where you're going?

Paul/Trudee: [In unison] Yeah.

Paul: You're not going to be able to hammer like you do in the summer time.

Trudee: I feel like Paul's getting safer with older age.

Paul: I am.

Trudee: Sometimes it's icy and I'm like, yyeaahh... I don't know. I worry about him being incapacitated if he falls.

Paul: I'm not worried about that.

G.E.: You should be worried about that!

Paul: I'm more worried about the pain because I know it's going to get worse as we get older.

Trudee: And after not working from August to December...

Paul: Well, that was actually short compared to my last time. I was out for a year.

Trudee: But, mentally, financially... it wasn't good.

G.E.: Sounds... not great. So, what are your current bike-related goals?

Trudee: [Looks at Paul] Do I have current bike related goals?

Paul: I don't know... do you? I think you're going to do some triathlons this year, right?

Trudee: Well, I'm not going to run though.

Paul: No, but you could do one of those... what do they call them? Aquathons? Duathlon? They're a duathlon but it's like bike, swim, bike.

Trudee: Yeah, I'd like to do that. I can do bike, swim. And then... yeah, I want to get over that 19 miles per hour speed. Just train to beat that.

Paul: You were there last year, so... Me? Personally, nothing. Just get the bike shop open.

G.E.: That's going to be enough, I'm sure.

Paul: Yeah, I mean, I need to ride... I need to ride, but I don't think I'm going to do any races this year. Maybe next year. I'd like to do more time trials next year, but I need to get a TT bike though.


That's where we'll leave off for this portion of the interview, but Paul and Trudee had a lot more to share. I should be able to have the second portion of our chat up within the next couple of days (hopefully sooner). 

Part 2 is now up and can be found by clicking here. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

It's Not Really About Helmets

Each time I write about helmets, I think it will be my last post, but it seems to be a matter that continues to pop up in various situations and I find myself typing again about a topic that can not only be controversial, but is one that I would often prefer not to bring up at all. Just recently though, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with friends and soon-to-be-open local bike shop owners for an interview (I'm still filtering through pages of notes and audio, but I'm excited to post about all of that soon) and the matter of helmets came up in conversation.

As we neared the end of our interview, Paul looked over and said, "You know, it really upset me that day you rode Sam over here and you weren't wearing your helmet." Paul and Sam had been preparing to go out for a ride and I had meandered over to their house to drop Sam off for no real reason other than to be out for a few minutes. Riding over, Sam had commented that Paul would likely be worked up that I wasn't wearing a helmet. It's not the first time this subject has come up when Paul has spotted me somewhere in town without a helmet (which, I will admit, has happened on multiple occasions), but I laughed it off as I usually do and attempted to move on.

Paul continued though, "So, what is it you have against helmets?" In the moment I replied briefly, "I don't have anything against helmets, and I do wear them sometimes. More often when it's a ride around town though, I simply forget to put one on."
*Image found here
We continued to talk a bit about the matter and then moved on to other topics. The reality is, however, there is something a bit more that goes on in my mind when it comes to helmets. What I said in reply was the truth for me - when I'm riding around town, I do often forget as I'm leaving to grab a helmet, so I wasn't trying to get out of anything. I am well aware that a fall could happen at any time and that there is always the possibility of an injury when this happens, but I trust myself and am willing to take whatever minimal risk there is for me to ride helmet-less. In my estimation, there is also the possibility that I could trip crossing the street while walking and get injured, or that getting in a motorized vehicle could result in injury or death.

Some may view my lack of helmet as risky behavior and others would argue that it isn't. Obviously, to date it has worked out fine for me, which is not to say by any means that I believe nothing could ever happen that results in injury or worse, but simply that I have not had problems or injuries due to my choices.

Sometimes my decision is conscious. If the roads are slick outside, I will likely put a helmet on my head. Not because I think it will save me in the event that I'm struck by a motorist, but I find that the odds of slipping under my own power are more likely in these situations. I'm also more likely to put on a helmet when it's dark out - simply because I cannot see the roads as well, and I am more likely to hit debris in the road.

If I'm going out on a long ride, I'm also more likely to strap on my helmet, but those rides seem to be more of an unconscious decision. For some reason if I'm geared up in padded shorts and such, the helmet seems to be an auto-response. If I'm just riding a mile to the grocery store, it just hasn't been a habit I've developed.

The more important issue for me with helmets though has little to do with my personal choice to wear or not wear a helmet, nor anyone else's decision to don a helmet or not. What concerns me more is the level of fear that resides in so many people about riding a bicycle at all and what the topic of helmets can mean in these situations.

For example, let's say I was someone who was considering starting to ride a bike. I've been looking at bikes and trying to figure out if my distance to work (or school, or wherever) is doable by bike. I have seen other people in spandex out riding on local roadways and have noticed that cars seem to travel very close to cyclists. I'm not sure I am comfortable with being so close to motorized traffic while on a bicycle. I also have just read about someone who was hit by a car while on a bicycle last week. When I went to my bike shop, the salesperson told me my first purchase should be a helmet for my safety. I don't like the look or weight of the helmets I've tried on, but I don't want to get hurt while I'm out riding either.

This may not be the exact scenario for every person who is looking to ride, but ask anyone who is considering riding or who has tried briefly and given up what is keeping them from getting on a bike and their reason(s) are frequently to do with fear of injury or death. Certainly, this has been my experience in talking with people.

Driving in a motorized vehicle isn't exactly the safest thing we can do. There are accidents every single day, yet most people continue to get in their cars on a daily basis. During my recent trip to Georgia, there were highway signs announcing the number of crash fatalities overhead to everyone on the road. Not exactly the most comforting thought as the number increased from one day to the next. However, there is social and community support for driving, so we continue to get in our vehicles and drive. No one thinks we are "crazy" for getting in a car to go to work, the grocery store, or wherever our day takes us. We know there's risk of injury or death while driving, but it doesn't stop us from racking up the miles on our cars.

Cycling simply does not have the same community or numbers that help encourage people to continue to use their bicycles for errands, commuting, and so on. Looking up the statistics for the US or Canada, it's easy to see that riding a bike is still very unpopular with the majority of the population. Some cities have better numbers than others, but there isn't the infrastructure to support mass bike riding in North America. So, our community often tells us that we are absolutely nuts to be out on two wheels, risking life and limb. It doesn't help that when a person gets out on the road with motorized traffic it can be highly intimidating, particularly to someone new to riding, and when there isn't reinforced support from community to ride, it's easy to understand why numbers are so low.
*Image found here
When there's already a high level of concern or fear and it is being reinforced by the notion that wearing a helmet is a necessity for personal safety, I believe it creates an environment of fear-mongering and potentially puts a new rider off from riding at all. I'm not at all saying that our friend is trying to encourage fear among riders by any means, but I find that when someone is told repeatedly that a helmet is a necessity for safety, it can cause the individual to have additional or increased anxiety about getting on the road with his/her bicycle.

There are advocates of the Mary Poppins effect who believe that if one is in every day clothes, specifically a skirt or dress, cars are more aware of the rider and collision is less likely. There are also studies of actual impacts and the statistics of head trauma and brain damage after a crash and research that investigates whether wearing a helmet makes the rider safer.

I am not trying to debate the merits of wearing a helmet though. In a no-to-low speed situation (such as tipping over, slipping on a slick surface, and so on) a helmet could very well keep a person's head from injury if there is impact with a hard surface. It may also offer protection in a higher speed impact crash with a motorized vehicle. There are tons of places to find statistics and research being done on whether helmets are actually protecting the rider or not, but again, that isn't really the focus today.

My attempt is not to debate whether or not one should wear a helmet as there are plenty of places for that discussion and research; however, I do think telling a person s/he will be injured if s/he chooses not to wear a helmet is a bit irresponsible and more importantly it may be a factor keeping someone who doesn't ride a bike from getting on one.
*Image found here
Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage non-riders to simply get out and ride, however they are comfortable? Promoting safety and awareness is reasonable when the time is appropriate, and there may be individuals who need this reminder right off the bat (young children, accident prone individuals, unsteady riders, etc), but allowing an individual to see how enjoyable and free the experience can feel seems like a better way to promote riding a bike - at least to me.

While I understand that for many people the discussion of helmet use comes from a good place of wanting to protect others from injury, I continually question whether this conversation is good for the overall encouragement of a community of people riding bikes. I want to see more people out riding because I think that will have a much larger impact on cycling as a whole. It has the potential to change the way roads are used, to provide better infrastructure (and/or physically separated paths), and to change the way communities view riding a bike as a whole. We may still need or want the use of helmets, but I don't think pushing helmets is necessarily the best way to get others to ride.

I am curious what others think about the way the cycling community as a whole views and promotes helmet use or any safety equipment for that matter? When someone is new to riding, do you insist that s/he wear a helmet right off the bat, or do you let the person feel their way through? Do you inadvertently (or even intentionally) scare people new to riding with stories of those who have been injured in order to encourage the use of a helmet? Whatever your thoughts, I'd be interested to hear from you.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Catching-Up Mix

I cannot believe that May is already here. On one hand, I've longingly waited for this month to arrive through winter and early spring, but on the other it seems as though the first portion of the year has flown by. I am grateful that even though we are still receiving occasional snow, it's not sticking to the roadways for long and before I know it, the temperatures will be so high I'll be wishing for a respite from the heat.

This week is shaping up to be a busy one, so I thought I'd do a quick update on happenings and hopefully I'll have the opportunity in between to write the post I'd wanted to type this week for next.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to southern Georgia (which I'd noted in a prior post). The reason for the trip was that my father was in the ICU there. He and I have a complicated history, but we didn't speak at all for about 15 years and I hadn't seen him in person until this visit for nearly 20 years. I had debated about whether or not to go, but my step mother felt strongly that he likely wouldn't make it home as he was extremely frail and suffering from numerous issues that wouldn't be resolved. Since she is a retired nurse, I figured she knew what she was saying and booked a flight the following day.
I don't have many photos of me and dad together - This one is probably from around 1993.
Initially, I thought I'd go into the hospital, see him for a couple of hours and then spend my days roaming the area, checking in occasionally as needed. I even thought maybe I'd have the opportunity to ride a bike while there, but I had no way of knowing what would happen, nor the emotions I'd feel as I stood by his side.

During my four days there, we had the opportunity to talk quite a bit. I ended up staying in his room every day, all day. It was a wonderful chance that not everyone gets in life to say the things that needed to be said and for both of us to find some peace. The day that I had to leave, I knew in my heart it was the last time I would see him. Leaving his side was probably one of the most painful and emotional things I've experienced in quite some time. I cried the entire three and a half hours back to the airport in Atlanta, but I knew he was receiving the best care possible and tried to hold on to hope that I would be able to make another trip to see him soon.

This past Saturday afternoon, almost exactly a week to the minute of my departure, dad passed away peacefully in the hospital. It's been difficult to come to terms with everything and not have regrets about the time that was lost. I am so grateful though that we had the opportunity to clear the air and know that we both loved each other regardless of the things that took place in the past.

I bring this up only to remind anyone who reads here that it's so important to forgive and move on. I know that there are things that happen that seem (and often are) unforgivable, but there are few that should keep us from the ones we love. I know for me, I needed time, but I am also aware that I drug things out longer than I should have and I missed out on valuable moments because there was a small part of me that couldn't let go of the past. If you've been at odds with family or friends, I hope that you'll use this as an opportunity to make amends and tell them that you love them.

On a more bike-centered note, while we've been living through a couple of spring snow storms, Sam has been building up a second hand mountain bike for me. I've been a bit leery of mountain biking over the years, but this one actually seems to fit decently. The frame that was picked up a couple of years ago was a bit large, and this one seems to have much better stand over, so I'm looking forward to trying it out soon (other than up and down the block).

I suspect most of its use will be on dirt roads and the like, but who knows what may come from it? I plan to be able to share more about it in the coming weeks and months.

For locals, I am also looking forward to a new bike shop opening up in town. Longmont isn't exactly overflowing with choices when it comes to bike shops, and we are very excited to see that the new LBS should be opening (knock on wood - as they've had several delays with construction and permits) around the middle of May.

If you're interested in learning about what they'll be carrying, you can find more at Long Mont Velo's website. I'm also hoping to do an interview with the owners soon (they've understandably had a very hectic schedule), so hopefully we can get a little more information about what they hope to achieve with the shop.

Hopefully, you are enjoying lots of bikey goodness with spring upon us. I'd love to hear about your adventures this spring, so feel free to share them. If you completed (or tried to complete) April's 30-days of biking challenge, I'd love to hear how that went as well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Big Picture

With April being the official 30-days of riding month, I was excited to get started with a ride - regardless of how short - every day this month. Things got off to a nice start, but then quickly went awry. A few days into April, I came down with what I believed to be a cold. Each day, however, I found myself getting slightly sicker and more tired. By about the fifth day of my presumed cold, I was in bed, trying to figure out who had put such a horrible hex on me.
One of the early days of 30 days of riding this year
And so, my 30 days of riding was only a few days in when I had to call the mission off. Being unable to functionally walk more than a few feet, my body was in no shape to pedal anywhere. I hoped it was only a few day setback, but I soon discovered that this flu was not going away quickly. Days quickly turned into a week and then even extended beyond; and then, as if to make matters worse, a family emergency arose, necessitating a trip to Georgia for the better part of a week. Before I knew it, here we are nearly at the end of April.

For some reason, a story from a few years ago popped into my head when I thought about the goal of 30 days of riding this year and the obstacles that sometimes present themselves.

When I went back to college eight years ago, I knew I wanted to major in art, but I had no idea what I wanted to do within the vast possibilities of that broad subject matter. Like any major, there were basics that had to be taken before advanced coursework was chosen, so I tried to figure out what made sense as I plodded my way through the stuff that had to be done, regardless of my final decision.

One of these early classes was a drawing class. Having never really drawn (other than more of what I'd term doodling as a child), I had more anxiety about this class than I can possibly convey. Tears were a part of every single class. I would shake uncontrollably most days because I couldn't get over my fear of knowing that I had no clue what I was doing, and I was terrified by the reality that I was surrounded by people nearly half my age who had been drawing their entire lives and were quite proficient at it. I often wondered what I was doing in this class at all and had many days and weeks that I considered dropping out entirely.

There was a part of me though that was interested in drawing. Much as I feared the subject, it was something I wanted to conquer. I knew I only had to pass one drawing class, but the thought of getting through weekly assignments and class drawings seemed insurmountable at the time.

I can recall one particular day during which I was having a supreme meltdown. The professor had been so concerned that she pulled me out into the hall to have a chat.  Her words to me were, "You're not going to get through this class crying for 5 hours a week." Of course I knew that, but I couldn't figure out how to make it stop - the anxiety, the fear, the self-doubt - it was all wreaking havoc internally and the only release seemed to be in the form of tears.

As if having the teacher pull me out of class wasn't mortifying enough, she then returned with me to my drawing table to see what it was that was causing me so much grief. Our subject matter was set up in the middle of the room and the students sat in a square around it, each drawing the subject from different angles. I had attempted to start the drawing, but I felt as though I just didn't know where to go. I was overwhelmed. As much as the instructor would tell all of us to simply draw what we see, I believed I couldn't see enough to really put anything on paper.

As the professor and I sat chatting, attempting to work through my problems, she finally said to me, "It's not that you don't see enough, you actually see too much. Stop focusing on all the small details and intricacies and look at the whole; the big angles. You see all of it just fine - too well, really - but you're obsessing about details that are unimportant for a quick sketch."

Somehow it seemed to help that another person believed I could get through the class and that this person understood that I could actually see what I believed I couldn't. I ended up excelling in the course, and by the end my drawings were being used as examples of what to do. Quite the turn around for someone who believed she couldn't draw. If I'm honest though, even to this day, I have moments when I regress and struggle to strip things down to their most basic form. I still want to be sure to incorporate every little detail and can get lost in those details instead of focusing on the bigger picture. Sometimes this is a strength, but for other occasions it can be a severe detriment.

This personality quirk is easily relatable to many situations in life. I can find myself lost in the mire and then don't see the possibilities over the long haul; or vice versa when I find myself wanting to achieve some sort of large goal but then fail to plan or work up to bigger events over time, rather than just going out and completing it. I realize that just because I wasn't able to complete the 30 days of riding challenge, it doesn't mean that there cannot be other goals along the way, nor that I couldn't do 30 days of riding some other month.

Sometimes, I just have to remind myself that I have to look at the big picture and not focus on the little details that are easy to get caught up in if I'm not careful. Are you biking the 30-days of riding challenge? How have things gone for you? Have you found obstacles along the way or have you been able to push through thus far?