Only One Burger
By Maynard Hershon
Every Labor Day, The Hub Cyclery in Cotati, California, holds a ride for its customer friends. Aaron Brown, an engineering student here at Chico State, lived in Cotati and worked at The Hub. He goes home every year for the Labor Day ride and picnic. He invited me to join the crowd this year.
Aaron told me the ride would maintain a civilized pace, that a lot of people would be there, and that I'd like a bunch of them. Right, right, right.
I learned that The Hub organized two rides every week, a Saturday ride much like the Labor Day one, and a weekday evening ride intended to give new road cyclists a group-ride experience at sub-athletic speeds.
While the Labor Day Ride was not super-slow, it regrouped four or five times in the 45 miles we spent with it. Each regrouping stop lasted long enough so that no one should have been left behind. All that met with my smiling approval.
A few hours later, we reassembled in a park for the picnic and volleyball. A fine time, as they say, was had by all, at least everyone I saw there. I regret that I stalled at one burger but found room for a cupcake AND a slice of apple pie. Should've had two burgers and one dessert.
Perhaps days like the one described above are common where you live. If they are - if you enjoy such glorious days on and off the bike with your cycling pals - please do not take those days for granted.
Some places, the local club promotes rides and picnics and parties for members and friends. I have not been so lucky with clubs. More often, clubs I've known have promoted opportunities for a few people to feel strong and fast, and many people to feel that they should take up other sports.
Clubs are another column, though. This one's about shops: If you are very lucky, you may enjoy rides, picnics and parties courtesy of your local bike shop, a socially-minded store like The Hub in Cotati, California.
Please show your appreciation to that shop by doing all the business you can with them. Please.
I know you TRY to be loyal. And I know there are occasional problems.
Strains on your loyalty.
Perhaps you want a Klein; Your shop sells Cannondales. Or perhaps you can buy such-and-such a bike from an internet source cheaper, maybe much cheaper. Or perhaps another shop has a "Euro-hip" reputation; You want to buy a Colnago or Fondriest and feel you'd get better service from them.
Please... Slow down and think about what you're doing.
Remember the good times you've experienced, the good people you've met, because your shop goes beyond just doing business, beyond merely providing adequate or fine customer service.
Many shops, good, square-dealin' shops, never extend themselves to provide social opportunities for their customers. Can't blame them. Your car store doesn't do it, Circuit City doesn't do it; No one points a finger at THEM. Perfectly good, even great, bike shops don't bother.
If they sell bikes and parts at fair prices; if they fix bikes so they stay fixed and charge fair rates to do it; if they open six or seven days every week for their customers' convenience, that's all they have to do.
Hey, that's all most retail stores do, and most retail stores have far larger profit margins than bike shops. Very few bicycle retailers are getting rich.
A few bike shops, stores like The Hub, go beyond mere competent retailing. They reach out into their customers' lives and provide chances to meet people, to make new friends...to form community. Community.
That's a magic word. Cycling is fine, I guess, as an individual sport. You can ride alone or with a friend or two. You can tour alone or with a friend or spouse. You can do anything in cycling alone, and maybe you'll like it fine.
I would not. I like riding with people. And frankly, as busy as people are today, with jobs and kids and soccer games, putting together group rides is hard. It's a lot of phone calls and email exchanges. It's not being able to reconcile one buddy's schedule with another's. It's work.
When a shop takes care of it for you, that's a huge benefit, a greater benefit, to my mind, than a Klein offers compared to a Cannondale. No contest.
At The Hub's ride, I saw road racers and tourists and cyclo-crossers and mountain bikers, all kinds of riders. I sensed nothing but comradeship among them. That inclusion comes from the top down, from the ride leaders to the riders. On Labor Day, it came from Chaz and Claire at The Hub.
If you have a Chaz and Claire in your town, a Hub Cyclery in your town, please support them in any way you can. Wear their store jersey, buy the bikes they sell, tell your friends about them and their business. You can wear any jersey, ride any brand of bike, buy tubes in any old shop...
But what would you do on Labor Day without Chaz and Claire?