Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ebikes and Chainsaws - IMBA World Summit Days 3

Trail building made awesome.  This thing even had cupholders.
As I mentioned previously, I am in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for the IMBA World Summit. Part of the fun of the conference is visiting the vendor expo. There, I learned that some of my favorite cycling and outdoors companies are located in Steamboat Springs, including Honey Stinger and Big Agnes.

I'm kinda tired, so you'll have to make up your own clever joke about Honey Stinger dropping Lance as their spokesman. Something like "Honey Stinger Waffles Now With EPO" or how they dropped him like a sprinter on the climbs. 

Oh, so that was his secret.
I love their new Kiwi Strawberry organic gels though.  As for Big Agnes, their Chair One is on my wishlist. 
Place butt here
But my favorite company in Steamboat Springs is Moots, a builder of handmade titanium bikes. This is their "trail maintenance bike." 

My next commuter bike
Forget trailbuilding, Moots should market this as an Armageddon bike.  Are you kidding me?  The 29 x 3 Surly wheel/tire combo will roll over zombies with ease.  And the chainsaw, well, it's a chainsaw.

Me, I'd like to use this as a commuter.  Forget about those jerseys that say "Three Feet Please," this bike says I AM PACKING A FUCKING CHAINSAW.  Bet I'd get my three feet.

Speaking of "Three Feet Please" jerseys, I wish they would go away.  They remind me of those "baby on board" signs that people used to put in their car's rear window.  Were these really effective?  "Well, I was going to t-bone you at the next intersection, but since you've got a baby on board, I'll just sideswipe you and move on."  No, they just proclaimed to the world that "I am special and I am entitled to be treated specially." 

"What's that say?  Let me pull in a little closer so I can read it."
Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of safe passing distance, and making it the law.  In fact, three feet is too close - it should be more in some situations.  As my friend Dean suggested, driver's ed should include the students standing on the side of a two-lane road while a cement truck passes at 45 MPH. Three feet still seem safe?

But the jersey has to stop.  First of all, in order to be effective, the driver has to read the jersey.  Do you really want the cement truck driver to devote his attention to reading the message on your back while he's passing you at 45 MPH on a two-lane road?

Second, cyclists look silly enough already, without attempting to imitate traffic signs.  Why not add an orange cone for a helmet?

But most fundamentally, giving instructions on to strangers (in ALL CAPS, no less) is obnoxious and pointless.  It actually may do more harm than good.  People take an instruction to do one thing as an invitation to do the opposite.  There's an entire internet meme based upon this proposition.

"I do what I want" via the Chive
But I digest.

And among the bike demo fleets, there was a small, forlorn ebike demo truck.  The topic of ebikes caused quite a stir at this conference.  Advocates for ebikes said that it would make mountain biking accessible to the elderly and disabled. That's nice and if it were true, I'd say that it sounds good, but we know the reality.  The elderly and disabled won't be the primary purchaser of ebikes.  Who will buy them?  Those with more money than mountain biking skills or sense and underdeveloped skills and fitness.  Sounds like a recipe to destroy the trails to me.  I say, not on my trails.  If you want to ride a motorcycle, do it on a motocross track.  What do you think?

Except it's a motorcycle
Anyhow, day three of the IMBA World Summit started with a presentation by Ride Oregon.  The presenters explained to us that biking is awesome and Oregon is an awesome place to do it.  Can't argue with that.

My day continued with a seminar on how to use and gather data relative to trail use to help make decisions as an organization.

Bicycle Data

Bicycle Data
Next was a presentation on the importance of branding.  It's important to communicate your organization's brand.  And if you do so successfully, you can get some real commitment from your market.

Because nothing says "I am an individual" like a market-researched corporate logo, appropriately placed.
I should stress that I sat in these seminars despite the presence of awesome mountain bike runs mere minutes away.  Pretty sure I should get an award. Some would say my priorities are out of whack.  But I was learning and despite two days of seminars, I still wanted to hear more.

Bike shoes in a hotel conference room.  Let me out!!!!
 But soon it was time to ride bikes.

So, I rode the gondola up to the top of the downhill run.  I had a friend with me:

Yep, that's a Yeti SB95 Carbon. 

Trail view from the gondola
At the bottom, I met up with Chip from Southwest KyMBA and Ben from Appalachia Outdoor Adventures

Great guys, both in the IMBA Great Lakes region.

Next, it was time to listen to Bike Snob NYC.  Meeting Bike Snob NYC and sitting in on his reflections on cycling was my favorite part of the day.  Well, maybe except for the downhill runs.  He is seriously funny and had our whole group in stitches. 

 He's one of my blogging heroes, so I fanboyed up and asked him to sign copies of his books.  My favorite is "the Enlightened Cyclist."  Buy it, if you don't already own it.  It's a great read.

Jeremy from Clinton River MBA and Brindley from Mid Michigan MBA were entertained

When it got dark, it was time for a night ride.  But when we got there, it was pouring rain.  So, we had a beer in the ski lodge instead.  Not quite the same, but still, not bad.

More soon.  Till then, be brave!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

IMBA World Summit Day 2

I have the best wife ever.  She didn't even blink when I said I wanted to go to the IMBA World Summit to hang out with other bike nuts, because she knew I'd love it.  She knew I'd learn about building trails and building a successful MTB organization, effective fundraising and advocacy, and that I'd make new friends.  Oh yeah, and there's some epic riding here, if you're into that sort of thing.  Oh, and a great beer sponsor.  Oh, and awesome demo bikes from Moots, Pivot, Niner, Yeti, Specialized, Trek, and SRAM.

So my kids started school the day I left and she just handled it.  She also checked me in for my flight online and drove me to the airport.  Best.  Wife.  Ever.  And she can probably kick your wife's ass.  Just saying. 

So, here I am on day two of the conference.  It's billed as "a day for chapters."  I experienced a strange new feeling as I walked into the lobby of the Steamboat Grand: I was excited to sit in a hotel conference room for a whole day. 

The day started with bacon and eggs.  Good start.
Every hotel ballroom in America
While we ate, we listened to a presentation from a marketing firm about drawing in members and the strength of IMBA's brand.  The main takeaway for me is that the best way to build membership is for organizations like COMBO to be a friend of the mountain bikers and trail users in Ohio.  That means fighting for them, sharing information with them, community building, and providing great trails.  Got all of that?  Okay, get to work. 

My day continued with a breakout session on effective fundraising.  Fundraising is serious business and raising money is not accidental.  An idea, with seed money, can become a plan.  Money follows those plans. 

Marjo Curgus explains how to obtain philanthropic foundation funding
The next session was an industry panel on fundraising.  SRAM explained its huge sponsorship of IMBA, which allowed things like the salaried regional directors.  SRAM is doing good work globally too.

David Zimberoff, SRAM's VP of Marketing and IMBA Board Member highlight's SRAM's charitable funding.
I had a chance to talk to David as we walked to the hotel.  I hope I conveyed how thrilled I am with SRAM's support of IMBA.

Trek and Specialized explained their respective local programs too.  Trek's game-changer program pairs local IMBA chapters with nearby Trek retailers who are willing to support us.  Similarly, Specialized's Community Grants Program funnels funding for bike programs through local dealers.  Seriously, are you writing this down?   New Belium also supports bicycle advocacy, mainly through the Tour de Fat. They only do this where they directly distribute beer though.  Good news!  Ohio is on that list!  Let's get Tour de Fat to Columbus!  You listening Consider Biking and Yay Bikes!?

Also, Peter Berrige from Clif Bar was there, explaining the grants/events process and how to get sponsors involved.  It was great to be able to thank Peter in person for the Clif/IMBA grant that COMBO got for signage at Alum Creek.  Clif is a great partner for COMBO and hopefully will continue to be so in the future.

Thanks Peter and thanks Clif!
Anyhow, after the sessions, I had a couple of choices: (1) have lunch; (2) go pick up swag and see the latest merchandise from some awesome bike and outdoors vendors; or (3) go ride some demo bikes downhill on ski slopes.  Which would you choose?  Yeah, me too.

Representing in Patrol T-shirt!
On my continuing saga to find chamois butter, I asked a real nice guy from Tennessee that I met at the conference if I could borrow some "ass cream."  But with his southern accent, he misunderstood me and bought me a cup of "ice cream" instead.

I used it anyhow.  It was cooling, but sorta sticky.  I may use ice cream again tomorrow, but next time, I'll use straight vanilla.  The pecans kinda hurt when it melted.

Maybe this could even spark a new idea for Jeni's Ice Cream?  Spandex mint?  Sweaty Caramel?  The possibilities are endless.  Plus, Jeni's already sponsors a race team.  I see a partnership in the making . . .

Anyhow, my ride for the first downhill run was a Niner Rip RDO.

I was a little nervous, because I haven't done a whole lot of "real" downhill, but with this bike under me, I felt pretty confident.

I rode down the "beginner" trail as fast as I could, which is still pretty slow, and headed out for the next meeting of the day, the Chapter Summit.

Before the Chapter Summit, I got a chance to walk and talk with Mike Van Able, IMBA's Executive Director and Andy Williamson, our Regional Director.  I was able to tell Mike about COMBO's trails and our plans for the future.  I explained that we are a club in a metro area of 1.4 million and that our trails see over 30,000 laps per year.  Simply put, we're making mountain biking available for central Ohio.  And I explained that we are on the cusp of growth.  If we can add a real destination trail in Central Ohio, we can boost membership and ridership and really put our organization on the map.  We're also planning timely projects like a skills park and connective trails to local bike paths.  Mike was genuinely interested and supportive.  I also told him how much we like Andy and how he's already helped in many ways.

Mike and Andy addressed us at the Chapter Summit.

Mike addresses the chapter delegates
Andy dropping science on us
It was great to hear IMBA's plans for developing its business model and it was awesome to be able to provide input.  Ultimately, IMBA asked us, working in small groups, to address our biggest concerns for IMBA to tackle this year.  We also brainstormed ways to meet the gaps in IMBA's fundraising.

Also, there was beer.

Then it was time to ride bikes some more.

I grabbed a bike from SRAM's fleet for this ride.  Although the frame is the Kona Satori, SRAM doesn't make bikes, just parts, so all the parts were different than what would have some from Kona. 

This bike had a 140M travel Rockshox Pike, a RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir Rear Shock, SRAM Roam 50 wheels, and a dropper post.

This bike is causing problems for me.  It's causing problems, because I am in love.  I will have a bike like this in the near future.  I even spoke with SRAM's mechanic to get a list of exactly how he built this bike.  Mmmmm, bike.

This time, I rode the blue "intermediate" trails.  I may have actually said "woo-hoo" at some point during this run.  Too much fun!  Rode with my new friend Matt from North Carolina.  He was willing to wait for me as I tenderfooted down the trail.

More later.  Go be brave!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

IMBA World Summit Day 1

I spent yesterday at the first day of the IMBA World Summit in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  For those of you who don't know, COMBO (Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization) has been around for over 20 years.  But this year, for the first time, we voted to become a chapter of IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association). I think it was a great move - IMBA brings us a wealth of resources for trail building, organizational support, advocacy, and education.  And, IMBA helps save us some of the administrative costs of running a member-based organization.

Now, before I go further, I have to note that this is my blog - not COMBO's - and anything I say here is my opinion alone.

Anyway, this year for IMBA's Summit, there are many opportunities for learning, clinics, presentations, and programming, aimed directly at chapters.  The gods were smiling on me, because COMBO nominated me, and the Board approved, sending me as COMBO's sole chapter member to the Summit.

My trip began, as all trips do, with a walk through the lavish, international Port Columbus Airport.  I won't go into detail, but let's summarize by saying that I was the last passenger on the plane, out of breath from running to the gate, with my shoes and my ziploc bag of toothpaste and contact solution still in my hand.

 As a side note, I chose to do the trip with only hand luggage.  This means that I couldn't carry a liquid over 4.3 ounces or whatever.  Unfortunately, the only chamois cream I have is in an 8-ounce tube.  For those who don't know, chamois cream is a salve that you slather on your groinal area to prevent chafing from bike seats.  What would you do?  Forgo chamois cream and risk a tender diaper zone or go through the hassle of baggage claim?  Me, I just lathered up with four days' worth of cream and left the rest at home.

I nearly slid right off the plane seat
Still, I reached Denver successfully and hurried for my next connecting flight to Steamboat Springs.  But when I got there, I learned we were in for a bit of a wait; the plane was delayed on the runway because of "maintenance issues."  Inspires confidence, doesn't it? 

The downtime was bumming me out, because it meant I was missing some of the pre-conference festivities like a tour of the Moots factory and demo bike riding.  But, it turned out well, because I got to talk to some really interesting people who were on the same flight.

First, I met a group of people from the Lexington area Kentucky (in the same IMBA region as COMBO) who are trying to convert an old limestone mine into the world's first underground mountain bike trail and playground.  Awesome - I hope this happens for them.  Tom Tyler visited Ray's in Cleveland for inspiration - I hope Ray can hook up with them to help!  Check out louisvillemegacavern.com

Andy Williamson (our IMBA Regional Director) planting the IMBA flag.
I also met a guy named "Bob" who said he was a IMBA board member.  Turns out he is the Board Chairman.  Anyway, when I mentioned that I was with COMBO, he said "you guys have a really good reputation."  I think I may have blushed a little.  Awesome.

Bob Winston
I also met an Ohio ex-pat named Brandy who owns a chain of specialized bike shops in Arizona.  I'm officially jealous.

Ultimately, the plane took off, and I really enjoyed the scenery.

But, by the time I arrived, I had a tough choice to make: should I do a tour of the Moots factory, or ride mountain bikes?  What would you choose?  Yeah, me too.

I did not bring a bike, but there was a fleet of demo bikes from various manufacturers, so I borrowed a Moots Rogue YBB.

This is an awesome bike.  A 27.5 "hardtail" with a little suspension built into the rear seat stays.

I can't say enough good things about this bike.  It was responsive and light.  Plus, Moots is a local (as in the same damn town) company and they are great folks, as far as I can tell. If I didn't already have eleventy-twelve bikes of my own, Moots would be the next purchase.  Hell, they might be anyway.

Rode the Emerald Mountain Trails.  Again, can't recommend them more highly.  Awesome.  In fact, I felt sorry that the trails were subject to my sorry skills.

 The trails were beautiful.  They looked like this:

Lots of fun uphill and down.

Anyhow, after riding, it was time for the IMBA chapter reception.  We took the ski gondolas up to the top of the mountain, where we got to mix with IMBA chapters from around the country and eat finger foods.  It was amazing to hear what other chapters are doing.  You know how some trips change your perspective on life?  This trip is changing my perspective on managing mountain biking.

Beer by New Belgium.  Awesome.  Great beer, great company.  An obvious beer pairing for this post.

More tomorrow.  Go be brave!