Category Archives: Columns

Life in a Bike Store

Slavery

Slavery is an ugly smear on this countries soul. Slavery sucks period. Being related to the formerly oppressed, this is my view. I guess over time, most groups have been some other groups bitch. A gentleman came into the store and the conversation went from the rolling attributes of a 29 inch wheel to African Americans not being allowed to marry. The bike shop turned into the barber shop within a few short minutes. This gentleman tried to come at me about my knowledge of black history. Dude, I’m not entertaining that shit. In the bike shop, I answer questions about the sport to the best of my abilities. I love to learn about the different people we have come through our doors, but dude, I ain’t touching that. I don’t talk shit about the holocaust or the goings-on’s in the middle east either. I can, but politics are touchy subjects and touchy subjects can turn a pleasant visit into a pointless envoy between two peoples that were cool, but now dislike one another. Also bad for sales…Whatever repressed shit you have going doesn’t involve me.

Grimy Hands After Closing

Certain unfortunate circumstances come with any trade. If you’re a cop there’s a chance you could get shot, if you’re a bartender there’s a chance you could become an alcoholic and if you’re a professional athlete you could be penniless long before the pressure in your urethra dips from a “force of nature” to “farce of nature”. I work in the sales part of the store. I smile pretty, provide my wisdom’s and try to streamline a consumers needs. I work with machinery in the form of bicycles, hence the title of this piece. Grimy shit comes with the territory. During the hours of my shift, I don’t care as it is expected. I try to avoid an overly icky bike. People have a little respect. Wipe that shit off. Road grime is to be expected, but cobwebs and god knows what else? Ick!

After my shift is done and my sights refocus to family and beer. Keep it simple and hoppy. I don’t want any grime. Customers trickle in at all times. Before we open, after we close, probably on the days we are closed as well. I been that guy that gets to a store right as they are closing and the asshole points to the closed sign. That’s a real dick move, but hours are hours. Because of that guy, I open the door and explain that we are closed. If someone needs a quick fix and looks pathetic enough, I soil my hands. Again, I’ve had that same pathetic look. The price is dirty hands after hours. Just a peeve I guess.

Made in America

I love to hear people ask me where a bike is manufactured. Its an asshole question honestly. We both know that more than half the shit in this country is not of this country. Check your portfolios. Like the results your company is delivering to you? If they produce anything, guess where it’s being made? What’s better is when they follow that asshole question with pulling up information off their Samsung. I play along. I like games…

So a bike is made in a country that we bombed the shit out of. Is their revenge, a challenging shift in its Tiagra line? We raped and pillaged did other ill stuff in another country. Is their revenge a boss that’s not machined right? Americans make shitty stuff too. Wherever the hell a product is made, as long as there’s pride in it and at 50mph the thing doesn’t disintegrate between my legs, keep cranking em out. Any company worth their weight in carbon warranty their stuff. Any shop that values their customers will do everything in their power to make their experience as pleasant as humanly possible, which means selling quality product.

Life In A Bike Shop

Boy Meets Girl Bike

It’s rare when I see it happen, but I always feel as though that kids going to be alright. A boy that finds a bike that captures his eye. Apart from what other people might think, he finds a bike that speaks to him. I guess we’re sorta like a no-kill shelter but for bikes. All of our babies are house-broken with up to date immunization records. We are not a bike mill. For some choosing a bike is a matter of utility, others a union that may last a lifetime and still others that purchase according to the planetary alignments. 

I also like the progressive parents that allow their children to go with their guts. If you have parents that have your back, you almost have everything you need short of a few bucks for pot. 

Side Note: If your little girl loves pink, so be it. Get her a pink bike. There aren’t too many grown women walking around in princess gowns. Let them be the princess they are. Just make sure they still know who the king and queen/ king and king/queen and queen are. 

I Remember When…

People come in the store all the time and share stories about their workhorses. Bikes older than me and apparently in better shape. “I remember when…..” is a common line. People tend to think that cycling is in some sort of weird vortex where technology shant enter. The Atari 2600 was rad and innovative 30 years ago, but shit happens. Technologies change. I love to show these individuals our personal data base called, “the internet”. 

Saturday Turnarounds And Other Childhood Fables

Generally there is no busier a day in the bike shop than Saturday. Think you’re getting that bottom bracket overhaul, brake bleed and wheel true today? Not without beer. Really good beer. If I can twist the top off, you’re not getting your shit til Tuesday. 

We try to accommodate our customers. No body in the bike shop business could refute this. I mean, we aren’t selling infant formula, pacemakers or Schaefers. If you don’t have a bike, you’ll live. Same goes for formula, but if you screw with a man’s beer the consequences could be fatal. Same can be said for pacemakers. Saturday’s are generally reserved for quick turns and sales. Time draining operations are reserved for quieter times. 

Smart customers bring offerings. Food is cool as is beer. Dead food that is. No livestock please. We never get virgins either. This makes a few of us sad. We are a first world shop of course. We don’t do trade-ins and don’t barter in virgins. We survived pretty well steering clear of that sort of business. Virginity was cool, but carbon is better.

Medic!

It’s hard enough trying to convince a new consumer of the value of upgrading from Shimano Tiagra to Shimano 105 and beyond. I can explain the weight differences between the components, the shift quality and the addition of an extra gear or two, but for most; it comes down to cost. The monies saved are rarely thought about when the road pitches up to 15% and you find yourself a gear or two short. Don’t walk darling. Tough it out!

A guy came in the shop bleeding from several different wounds. He was the victim of a paceline gone wrong. He was 20 miles out from home when he went down and still managed to get himself onto our sales floor open wounds and all. Like a true roadie he came to us to get stuff for his next ride. I bandaged his wounds between sips of my coffee. Adrenaline is a fucker post trauma. My goal was to tend to his wounds. That was my human side. The sales guy side of me wanted him the fuck out of the store. Promoting cycling as a healthier alternative to sitting on the couch drinking beer and watching athletes can get a little tricky when a guy still in his lycra is bleeding out right in front of you.

Used Bike Purchase:

That’s a tricky one. Just because the price was right and the decals were still in tact, doesn’t mean that the bike is right for you. I know you like the color and the tales of valor that came with the package, but that doesn’t equate a decent fit for you. It is however my job to make it work for you the best I can. I am not a technical fitter. I don’t ask you about your favorite Redford film or your favorite sexual position. There are algorithms for everything, so I’m sure that information could be helpful to a true fit specialist. I eyeball it, watch you pedal, ask about what you want to get in your experience, health problems and make tweaks based off that information. I prefer free weights and encyclopedia’s as well.

Dude

We do repairs. We sell stuff, fix stuff and occasionally ride. Not as much as we would like, but baby needs a new pair of shoes and banks tend not to give a shit about your Strava rankings.

I love X-Files. Bikes that either come in with ghastly issues and the owner having no idea how a flesh eating disease affixed itself to his rear derailleur. Rusty chains are neat too. “Yeah, I think its going to take a little more than a few spritzes of Wet Lube to reincarnate that chain. Store your bike in the creek, expect a few complications. Take that baby to service!

I also like the gal who thinks that she only needs air in her tires and I see at least 5 reasons why riding that machine would be detrimental to the health and safety to not only herself, but others. If I were in the mortuary services business, I wouldn’t have a problem telling them that their bike was A-OK, but I pride myself on people enjoying their ride outside of a hearse. That tire holding air would be a very bad thing at this stage. All I can do is provide them with my opinions and hope that they heed them.

Life in A Bike Shop

Life in a bike shop isn’t always pretty, but have you looked around lately? The world is going bat shit or at least returning to the ways of old. Brutality back in the days of Sodom involved hearing your side of the story and then killing you anyway.

We may not have your perfect bike, but I can guarantee you that we will not sever your head. It’s not written into our general policy mind you, but we are pretty good about not participating in that sort of activity. I can’t necessarily say the same of our competitors. I’m not saying that beheading is part of their sales strategy, but then I can’t unequivocally say that it isn’t.

Kids

“I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” Children are also the cornerstone’s of any bike shop. They don’t have the cash, but they have access to those that do.

There was a little boy in the store today running his mouth. He wasn’t being bratty or obscene, homeboy just had a lot to say. After his dad who was clearly tiring of his mouth was ready to check out, they came up to me. I was impressed that “Busta Rhymes” hadn’t taken a noticeable breath since stepping up to the counter. His dad remarked that he was talking a lot and then asked him not so discreetly if he had taken his meds today. To my surprise his answer was yes. The little boy had then said that without them he gets crazy. I stepped into their conversation. Being an aging father and avid recreational cyclist allows me the luxury of adding my 2 cents to all of life’s situations. Sorta like the old drunks that hung out on my stoop in San Francisco with all the answers in the world save for how they could get the fuck up from in front of my doorstep. I don’t just pee wherever. That would also distinguish me. I told that little boy that he was not crazy and not to let anyone say that to him. If the words from an aging recreational cyclist ever were to stick, I hope those would. At the Montclair Bikery we care

Charter Fishing

Closing sales can be a sticky proposition. You don’t want to be aggressive and you don’t want to be passive. Present the customer with the information that she or he seeks and then watch them walk out the door a better informed consumer into the next bike shop. This is the circle of life in a bike shop. This also happens in our favor. Again, the circle of life.

Tough customers can be equated to marlins. You cast your line with a healthy piece of mackerel on it and wait for a nibble. At the Bikery my bait is Specialized, Trek, Felt and Pinnarello. Less messy than mackerel, but every once in awhile, I think I would have better results with fish. The tough customer typically see’s the bike that he likes and then wants to be reaffirmed of his findings.

“I need a bike to get around town on. Tell me more about the Tarmac.”

I don’t lie to customers or not purposely. I’m not selling snake oil. You don’t believe me…Take a ride on it and then not believe me. Your superior intelligence is validated while my beer continues to chill in the fridge. Seems like a win-win to me. I love the customer that takes out 3 similar bikes. Make an informed choice. I am technically letting the fish run. While my line starts to heat up I cool it off with my coffee that has long cooled over this fight for a sale. I then lock the line and start reeling.

“So that’s a heck of a bike. Am I right? Lance Armstrong himself wind and field tested that hybrid. The information he derived from that bike helped him sorta win 7 Tour De France titles. What do you think it’ll do for you tooling around your neighborhood?”

That pitch worked a whole lot better before his intimate interview with Oprah. The common American has no idea who Alberto Contador is, so I just can’t switch out stars. No one’s buying shit off of Tejay van Garderen’s name. Great racer, no star power.

Price haggling is always fun. “So what’s your profit on this bike? Can’t we make something work for the both of us?” Easy answer is, “no”. Park the Range Rover around the corner before fighting me over a $500 bike. The consumer, like the marlin fights for its way of life. Then comes the heavy lifting. Strap on the harness, crack open a Miller and start pulling.

“The price stands on this particular bike. You want a decent bike, pay a decent price. That’s literally what it comes down too.”

Marlins are renown for their athleticism when it comes down to not wanting to be eaten, mounted or held up for an unauthorized selfie with a fat guy. The consumer is no different. Maybe I should start sweetening the deal with a little smoked mackerel. Whatever it takes…

InSufferableFest

Not every overly challenging ride involves climbing 10,000 ft in the space of 10 miles, with a sticking brake and a wicked case of the crabs.

Holding on for dear life in a pack in order to move up the boards in Strava drive some. I like beer. I ride on the rivets nowadays in order to get to the liquor store before it closes. I can make up ground pretty quickly through traffic when the spirit and the specials at The Bottle King move me. It is only truly a sufferfest if the doors close right in front of me. I can be inconsolable during these moments.

Some rides are so sorry that midway through you just turn the computer off. Sometimes it’s just better to forget.

I ride with every level of rider. A’s to C’s with varying results. On terrain better suited to me I can suck wheels, give horrible pulls and eventually get shot out the back. No worse feeling than to know that 21mph will only allow you access to no-mans-land. Too fast for the B’s and too slow for the A’s. No-Man’s-Land sucks. You went too deep, too early and your date left with the captain of the chess club. Yeah it feels that bad.

So the last group ride I was on involved all levels. I was the sweeper (aka Waste Management). If I drifted back to see you, I wasn’t inquiring about your passion for Dutch porn, I was keeping you company and providing a wheel to suck. Take that wheel in deep. I love to see riders bust their asses to keep pace or at least not fall off into the abyss. So long as I see the effort, I can table my own desires. The problem lies when C-Rida (no relation to Flo-Rida) gets dropped by the C’s. A new class now exists on the road. This new species has yet to be categorized. I stay with him. I choose to use the rollers as a pump track. Absolutely no aggression in my pedal stroke. Shit! No pedal stroke. I turned around to see that I had dropped him without a stroke. I wish I were bragging. This ride had started out wonderfully on the flats, disintegrated on the hills and become insufferable on the descents. I turned the Garmin off. I deleted about 40 miles with a fair amount of climbing with it. At that point the stats did not matter, only the agony and the knowledge of the fact that to get home, there was still more agony to be had.

In the end the ride was done (Yogi Berra influenced). I hope that the rider builds on the fitness that was gained and comes to the next gunfight with at the very least a butter knife.

Treat ‘em Right

If your local grocer is fresh out of liquid nitrogen, there’s no better way to ice your balls post ride. Your heart rate decreases fairly rapidly if you aren’t one that washes down a rack of ribs with a pint of lard and your muscles bounce back from fatigue in hours. Your balls–or Middle Earth for you sci-fi lovers–take days before they ready to be subjected to carrying the load of your body while contained in a lycra casing. You want terrorists to reveal secrets? Have them don a pair of bib shorts with no chamois cream and let them ride for a couple of hours. Fuck That! I know I’d squeal before the first mile.

Chamois Butt’r with menthol is my go-to choice during the summer. It feels like 100′s of black people blowing Newport smoke on my genitals. Its true. I don’t think the company can use that as a testimonial. Change it up by referencing people of other nationalities as well. Yeah…That would work.

One tube per season should do you. Be liberal, yet conservative. Remember, Middle-Earth is at stake.

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Still The Best Medicine

I woke up Sunday morning feeling a little better than shit, but not by much. I had a ride to co-lead. It’s a job. I’m back to lying on my back for cash. Brings me back to my old messenger days. Much like a prostitute, I put on my tightest clothes and went out to make money for daddy. In return I believe daddy gave me 40%, told me I was his top bitch and promised to only put his Sidi’s in my ass on Tuesday’s.

My ride was 45-50 miles to someplace in Jersey. Doesn’t matter because I didn’t want to go anyway. At 5:00am I heard rain and rejoiced that the ride might be cancelled. At 6:00 the rain stopped. At 7:00 I began swearing and lubing up my thighs. Friction is real. I loaded up my gear, coughed up some phlegm and headed to the start of the ride. North Jersey ain’t Iowa. You can’t go too far without climbing. I sucked it up and upshifted the rise going into Eagle Rock. My legs were defiant in their refusal to work. My head agreed. My heart is usually the matriarch of any effort, regardless of height of climb or speed of descent. The heart like grandma gets shit done. Not today. I coughed up more phlegm and kept turning the pedals. The weather threatened to rain again. I was not happy. I figured that I’d ridden feeling worse. Cold medicines only mask the symptoms. If I didn’t die in the saddle, the mere action of generating energy would begin to cure and not mask my cold. The weather cooperated by allowing me to sweat and for my heart to reconsider it’s decision to sit this one out. 30 miles in I felt the pangs of the cold still very much present. I upshifted to increase my cadence. Concentrate on the pedal stroke as opposed to my lungs being a housing tenement for phlegm. Expel more phlegm. All of that heavy breathing continued to bring the gross stuff out of my lungs. Beats an expectorant any day.

pre-ride

Cycling has always been a cure-all for me. Be the journey from one state to another, through the woods or merely around the block. It not only clears the lungs, but the mind. Problems tend to get left behind. They’re always waiting for me when I get back, but for a few hours the only issue worth confronting involve forward motion, avoiding tree’s and playing a personal favorite of mine called, “Car Door Dodge”. I feel as though I’m the focal point in a Zoetrope with the countryside as my frames. The fluidity of motion in a greater sense keeps the universe healthy. I have noticed over the years a correlation to my own health. Life is motion. Cycling is motion which in turn is life.

The Greatest Battle For Second Happens in July

What the tour has meant to me over the last several years has been, “Which rider has what it takes to take second?” The last time the tour winner just eeked one out was Cadel Evan’s win in 2011. It took Andy Schlecks overwhelming show of weakness in the time trial to keep him from celebrating on the Champs. Celebrating from the can upon learning of Alberto Contador being stripped of the title lacks the panache of doing so in Paris, unless of course he was on the can in Paris when he became the defacto winner. Paris just makes everything more special.

Winning the tour in court is like not winning the tour at all.

Chris Froome dominated early in 2013 making the last week almost unwatchable. Nairo Quintana saved the tour for me. The year prior to that, the drama came from two teammates in Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome being on the same page, but reading different editions of the same book.

Contador and Armstrong dominated tours prior. When they rode, The fight was always for second. Its not those two riders faults that the drugs combined with their gift was far better than the other riders drugs and similar gifts.

As much as every fan loves their team to dominate, legacies tend to take away the anticipation of seeing something different. Beyond any allegiance that I have to a team, I want to see a great match. If a team I support dominates another team, I don’t enjoy it as much as seeing both teams trying to dig just a little deeper than their rivals. I want to sit on the edge of my seat and sweat it out. That’s sport.

This tour is at this point no different. Unless Vincenzo Nibali crashes out, or we get a good old fashioned (but not old enough) blood test that shows that his awesome form isn’t really his, the race is already determined. I’ve followed him since the days of him carrying Ivan Basso’s, drugs and believe him to be clean.

If the directors weren’t so busy targeting races other than the greatest race on the planet, we could actually get a really good show. I can’t imagine in any other sport, teams shelving their best players or players using the a championship as a tuneup for another lesser race. I want Quintana, Wiggins, Millar, Gilbert, Boonen, Cancellara,Betancur (Columbian dude). Seems like cycling on that level would call for giants of the sport. I’ll always be enthralled with the desire that it takes to punish yourself like that, regardless of who lines up, but if the product could be better and I can see that; I have an issue as should most fans.

Life In a Bike Shop

I see all kinds of bikes pass through the hallowed doors of The Bikery in Montclair. Everything from state of the art bikes better suited for riding grand tours than the streets of NJ, to bikes that have no monetary value, but the owners have been to hell and back on them. I love a good story before I send the customers down to our service department where I’m sure the story gets repeated again with maybe an added embellishment. Not only do I sell bikes, but am like the other people on the sales staff the unofficial greeters. Sorta like the old guy in the Home Depot that’s just happy to be something with his remaining years besides waiting for that old triple bypass to finally fail.

I don’t just value cycling as a way to ramp up the speed, put on hot pants and talk bullshit about the European pro circuit . That’s just one minor piece of the whole 2 wheeled puzzle. I like bikes. For the last 25 year’s of my life they have fed me, got me laid, kept me in shape and gave me a reason to shave my legs and blow snot rockets. You just can’t get that type of love from playing squash.

A guy came into the shop with his bike for repair. I saw him and thought nothing of him. There was nothing remarkable about him. Your average Joe. Just another guy in between beers. I looked at what he was holding and walked outside to get a better look. This guy had a US Postal Team Edition Trek 5200. The bike that delivered Lance Armstrong to the mountaintop of nothingness. The bike that helped guys feel a little less gay about shaving their legs up to their balls. Some guys go for the entire mane, but for me….Its just not that serious. The guy was having it tuned up to give to his son. I told the kid just how lucky he was. To him the US Postal Team is no more important than the actual US Postal system. To his dad and I, US Postal was the shit. Seeing Lance destroy his rivals and then miraculously do it again the next day? It almost seems to good to be true. That team was as much a part of the 90′s as was steroid use in foosball. For cycling in general in this country that team is owed a debt and that bike was part the reason. I don’t know if the other staff members quite understood the importance of that bike on their current existences, but I couldn’t not appreciate in part what that bike has meant for me.

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C-Rider Dopes In Hopes Of Becoming B-Rider

C-Rider Dopes In Hopes Of Becoming B-Rider

The world of competitive recreational cycling is fierce. On every Sunday in every state in the country you can see the rivalries play out. Traffic light drag races, 3% grade climbs that go on for thousands of feet and the empty stretches of road where reputations are won, lost and reflected upon at the 7-11.

Cheating in the professional ranks has been well documented. The reasoning for all was to play ball or find another job like Chinese food delivery guy. Lance Armstrong was not going to be the guy to deliver your beef and broccoli, though as a career move, maybe he should have. Doping was an accepted way of life amongst the sports greatest athletes.

With technology, fashion and beer great, results trickle down. Every chic item that goes down the runways of New York, Paris and Paterson, NJ eventually find their ways into the Wal-Marts of the world, available to the average consumer. With beer in the US for decades, if you asked what was on tap, the tender would say, “Beer”. With the advent of smaller breweries came choice. My grandpa would die if he wasn’t already dead, if saw everything that has been done to beer today.

Why should the advancements in cyling be any different? The same bikes that you see the pros ride are totally available to you, if you have 12 grand to lay down. If so, come in the Montclair Bikery (http://www.montclairbikery.com/) and tell them Kenny sent ya. The drugs that the pros use aren’t exclusive to them either. More and more the drugs have been finding their way into the bodies of the cyclists that won’t see the tops of Ventoux, but the atop the likes of climbs like Francisco Ave in Little Ferry, NJ.

Louis Dempsey (Clifton,NJ) was a fledgling cyclist that had been attracted to the sport because of it’s power, beauty and rampant use and acceptance of performance enhancing drugs. Like most cyclists Dempsey hadn’t ridden a bike since childhood.

“20 years ago, I used to wrestle in high school. I hadn’t done much since, but I figured that, that was a pretty good fitness base to build off of.”

He wasn’t sure if the sport was for him, so he decided to enter the sport with a Pinarello Dogma with a full Sora grupo. After joining a local ride it was apparent that no matter how many times he listened to Survivors spirited, “Eye of The Tiger” that it was impossible to keep up. No amount of oatmeal, Hammer Gel or organic brown rice balls dipped in almond butter could help. A B-Rider pulled him aside one ride after noticing his desire to pull himself inside out to keep in contact with the peloton when the speeds reached the mid teens. “I was beside myself. I wanted to reach the next level. I had been riding for 2 weeks with nothing to show for it”. Dempsey claimed the other cyclist then offered him HGH (Human Growth Hormones) and claimed that if he wanted to be a true B-Level Rider that he was going to have to make the sacrifice. “After the load period, I began to notice results. 17-18 mph on -1% grades. I was addicted to the power. Not only was I keeping up, but I was pulling the group down the road. There’s a lot of prestige in pulling into the parking lot of the Quickcheck first”.

The governing body for competitive recreational cyclist, STRAVA saw that Dempsey was ascending the ranks at an unnatural pace and intervened. Dempsey blood was tested and he was found to be on PED’s. Not only was be banned from uploading his stats for 3 weeks, but he was also stripped of his KOM on Broad St, Clifton,NJ and Upper Mountain Road in Montclair,NJ.

“Was is it worth it? I’ve lost everything. For 3 weeks, I was on top of the world. Untouchable. I thought about what next season may hold. Maybe the Tri Boro ride in NY. I made a mistake. I want to prove to the world, that I can ride clean. I want to inspire other C-Riders with aspirations of glory to do it the right way. Maybe I can reach someone.”

-Kenny Mac