Community Events: January Recap

It’s a new year and our stores have already been busy in their local communities – riding, racing and volunteering. With over 100 stores all across the country, we’ve got quite a few events and people to highlight from January, so read on below to see a sample of what they were up to last month. Remember to check out our local store pages for regularly scheduled Spin Doctor clinics & group rides.

Katrina crossing the finish line in first place ©Steve Anderson

To start this month’s recap, we thought we’d start by highlighting the new World Champion at our Newark, DE store! Katrina Dowidchuk, one of our store associates, won the Womens 40-44 division race at the Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, KY. We recently caught up with Katrina to hear more about the race, her training, and her advice for those thinking about racing cross. To read more, click here!

While we’re talking racing, we want to congratulate Jon Chambers, a bike builder (on the left above) from our Allentown, PA store.  In the picture above, he’s holding trophies for the winning the PA Track BAR (or “Best all around”) stagiaire category and PA Track BAR Masters title. Jon also received 2 Silvers and a Bronze at Track Nationals this year, and won the 30-34 age group all around (you can tell he’s fast by the blurry photo – he can’t even hold still long enough for a camera!)

Sticking with our racing theme, a few of the associates from our Chandler, AZ store headed out to Fontana to race the Winter Series Downhill and Super D events.  Here’s a shot of one of our tents set up as base camp at the race – Dennis from the Chandler store took 2nd in his Super D class (with a crash) and 27th in pro Downhill!

Performance Bicycle made the news in Texas, as Jeff, from our North Austin, TX store, and Shelly, from our South Austin store, were on the local Austin Live morning show talking trainers and indoor training.  What do you think – Jeff’s got a future in TV if he ever gives up his bike gig!

Our Castleton, IN store was involved in a community event in Indianapolis, where they helped Brooksource with a team-building event where their employees built bikes for kids impacted by incarceration, in partnership with the U.S. Dream Academy. Our store manager, Tom, plus Jimmy and Brian, from our store team, helped supervise the build process and also donated a helmet for each of the kids who received bikes.

The Brooksource bike builders all had a great time and, considering the teams building each bike numbered about 6, they were surprisingly efficient at building! Our team completed the final bike safety checks just as the last helmet was being fitted.

Our guys helped build 13 bikes on site, had two pre-built, and got each kid fitted with their new helmets. The kids from the US Dream Academy were all surprised with their new bikes, and the build teams were just as thrilled to be able to present each kid with their new bike and helmet!

Associates from our Philadelphia, PA store participated in their local MLK Day of Service at Neighborhood Bike Works, a neighborhood bike co-op. Along with other volunteers, our 3 person team worked on projects to  renovate and organize the space.  They had a blast working with each other outside of their usual work environment, all while helping out a deserving non-profit.

Dennis and Adrian from our Chandler, AZ store, along with Adam from our Scottsdale store, broke out their work gloves last month to help Park Rangers with some trail-building on the South Mountain National Trail near Phoenix.

It always feels good to help out on trails that you love to ride, plus they got to work on a sweet rock garden (we’re a sucker for rock gardens).

Here’s a picture from our Pittsburgh, PA store last month as they hosted their local Major Taylor Club (Major Taylor was one of the first American cycling champions, on the track and in 6 day races). All members of the club needed to get certified on road safety as part of a national program, so we turned our virtual training area into a powerpoint display to help them out.

Our Akron, OH store played host to a younger crowd last month, as they hosted a local Cub Scout pack for a  clinic on basic bike knowledge taught by our Eagle Scout sales associate, Don. He taught them how to put the correct amount of air in the tires, how to clean a chain, and how to make sure that their brakes were working properly. Each scout left with a water bottle after answering a bike maintenance question!

Our Columbus, OH store held their own Cub Scout clinic in January as well, as a group of local scouts came by the shop. Our lead Spin Doctor, Mike, went over proper hand signals, tube/tire changes and basic maintenance to keep a bike in great shape. The scouts loved it and couldn’t wait for their chance to be tested about basic mechanical problems.

Of course we also held clinics for the big kids out there, like this Basic Maintenance Clinic in our Oceanside, CA store. Remember you can always check on our site to see when the next free bike clinic is scheduled in your local Performance Bicycle Store.

Our Cincinnati, OH store helped out with a fundraiser put on by a local elementary PTO.  The carnival raised money for science and music programs at the school – our team at the event talked about bike safety and helmets while handing out water bottles to the hundreds of kids!

While the energy-filled youngsters spun their legs out on our kids bike display, we talked to parents about our Grow Up kids bike program. We had the opportunity to fit the kids on bikes, and we even got to give away 2 bikes to lucky raffle winners!

Finally, our stores have been holding indoor training classes, including our Novi, MI store. Above is a shot from their latest class – that’s the daughter of one of our regular customers leading the pack! Below is a picture of the training group at our Tucson Speedway, AZ store.

Looking Ahead to 2012

The title of this post may be looking ahead to 2012, but it seems like we should start by looking back at 2011. It was a busy year around the world of cycling, and the same was true for us here at Performance Bicycle. We opened 11 new stores across the country, from Michigan to Texas to California to Illinois to Indiana to Georgia to Idaho, bringing our grand total of stores to over 100!

Spinning the prize wheel at a Grand Opening celebration!

We’ve been busy here on the Blog as well, bringing you our always different Wordless Wednesday posts, our informative Spin Doctor Tech Tips, plus our coverage of interesting events like Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, racing with our coworkers at the Burn 24 Hour Challenge mountain bike race, and getting  to see a small race in France that you might have heard of (we’ll give you a hint, it involved some pretty cool scenery).

Getting up close and personal on the Galibier.

We’ve also had a great time giving away some great prizes, through our website and over on our Facebook page, including some lucky Ride Like a Pro SRAM winners, and of course our Scattante Americano Giveaway over the Fourth of July.

Our head copywriter Chas played Uncle Sam.

We always enjoy watching the professionals do their thing every year,  and 2011 didn’t disappoint in that regard. The folks over at Bicycling magazine put together a great slideshow of pro cycling highlights from 2011, from the season-long dominance of Phillipe Gilbert, to Alberto Contador’s win in the Giro d’Italia, to the drama of Cadel Evans’ first Tour de France win, to Juan Jose Cobo’s Vuelta a Espana triumph (aboard a Fuji Altamira):

JuanJo Cobo winning the Vuelta on a Fuji Altamira.

We also loved finding and sharing all manner of cycling videos, from ones that inspired:

To ones that involved crazy German mountain bikers:

To ones about the incomparable Chris Akrigg:

Or the equally awesome Danny Macaskill:

To a postman living his dream of riding with the Pros:

To a mountain biker losing a battle with a hartebeest:

Ouch!

Basically, we just loved all things cycling!

So what are we looking forward to in 2012? More and better things, of course! We’ve got new store openings planned, a fantastic lineup of new gear and new bikes (seriously, there are some awesome bikes we can’t wait to show you), more cycling events to cover, and fun giveaways and prizes to share. Plus it’s our 30th Anniversary, so that’s a pretty big deal (and it should be easy to find “pearl” cycling gifts)! Performance Bicycle was started in Garry Snook’s basement here in Chapel Hill, NC in 1982!

We promise to share everything with you here and on our Twitter and Facebook pages, and we hope to see you out on the road (or trail) in 2012!

Community Events: December Recap

This month we thought we’d get a jump start on the new year by looking back at some of the local community activities that our retail associates supported or hosted in December. With over 100 stores all across the country, we’ve got many events to highlight (in addition to their regularly scheduled Spin Doctor clinics & group rides), so let’s get started!

First up is our Chapel Hill, NC store, which helped out the local East Chapel Hill Rotary Club bike build this month.  Earlier this month, John Bigelow, Store Manager of our Chapel Hill store, along with Gene Carleton and Bo Peele from our Corporate Headquarters, assisted Rotary Club members with building and conducting final checks of 50 brand new kids bikes. The bikes were donated to the Chapel Hill Christmas House, organized by the Chapel Hill Service League, and donated to local families in need to make their Christmas a little brighter.

Our Roswell, GA store was also involved with a Christmas bike build this month, participating in a North Fulton Community Charities organized event.  The NFCC collected over 500 used bikes, along with an assortment of scooters and tricycles, to give away this year, in addition to about 300 new bikes donated by various individuals and companies.

After some organization and triage, the bikes needed to be washed, repaired and polished up for NFCC’s Santa Shop (held later in the month). Over 100 people showed up to help out with the bike build, including three other local bike shops, in addition to Performance Bicycle, which had donated goods or mechanic help to the event.

A few of the volunteers looked like they must have run a shop in their garage with the huge toolboxes they brought with them (many with Spin Doctor work stands and tools)! Everyone had a great time and enjoyed giving back to the community – although the most fun was test-riding the completed bikes on the impromptu test track set up inside!

Staying with our Roswell, GA store, they were busy a few days later helping a local Cub Scout den to work through some of the requirements for their Ride Right certification. In their session our store team covered cycling laws in Georgia, identified the parts of a bicycle and taught the Scouts how to patch a flat tire. Here’s a picture with the Den leader and about half of the kids that were present.

Our Boulder, CO store (the very first Performance Bicycle store) was busy this month helping out the annual Share-A-Gift bike giveaway. Steve LeGoff, Ben Potman and James Terry from the Boulder store volunteered to repair kids bikes for this annual event.

 Steve has been volunteering with this event for the past 17 years – this year they helped repair over 115 bikes! The event was a huge success once again, with lots of good cheer all around. Many kids got a great Christmas thanks to the hard work of our team and all of the other volunteers! Congrats guys!

Our San Diego, CA store got in the holiday spirit by participating in San Diego’s Christmas Tree Tabernacle. Here you can see our team of Store Manager Jason Eddy (and his daughter Leila), Spin Doctor Josh Job & Sales Manager Chris Murphy, ready to show off their decorating skills.

Chris, Josh and Jason headed over to Liberty Station to decorate their tree, as part of the event to benefit the less fortunate during the holiday season.

As you can see, they put a cycling twist on their choice of ornaments and decorations. Once the day of the event was over the christmas trees were donated to a lucky local family.

Our stores often host local clubs in for special “Club Nights”, and our Bonita, CA store hosted a special event with their neighbors from the “Donny’s Café” riding club earlier this month. Club leaders Donny and his brothers Tim and John picked up food and supplies, and our team helped set up a wonderful spread for about 50 guests and club members, which spilled over to the cafe next door.

There was even a full Taco stand with a gas stove to cook the meat and heat up tortillas, including all the fixings! Not to mention the pounds of fresh brownies and fudge and peanut brittle for dessert, with Donny brewing fresh coffee. It was a perfect crossover between two of our three favorite pastimes, eating and shopping, only beat out by cycling!  Here’s Store Manager Greg Heath modeling the Donny’s Cafe team jersey:

It was also Club Night in Arizona earlier this month, as our Peoria, Scottsdale and Chandler, AZ stores teamed up to welcome members of the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club to our Chandler store. The PMBC showed up 71 members strong for this evening event, and our team got to meet and mingle with club members and their leaders in a fun and casual environment. There were even folks form the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists in attendance, an important bike advocacy group in the state.

The club members and our team had a great time talking bikes and enjoying our complimentary refreshments.  There was even some shopping going on, as PMBC members got a special discount during the evening.

In our Novi, MI store, a Team in Training group came by this month for their first spin/run workout from our store. There were 18 spinners and 2 coaches, including one inspiring woman who is training for triathlons in order to lose weight, and she’s already lost almost 100 lbs! Our team said that it was great to be able to help her out with questions that she felt too intimidated to ask in other stores, and she even planned to try out our store’s indoor cycling class later in the month.Our Speedway Tucson, AZ store also held their first spinning class this month.  Here’s a picture of James Gurr, one of our store associates and a certified instructor, leading the class. The store manager of our Broadway Tucson store, Margarita Selden, decided to swing by and give the class a try, and Speedway Tucson store manager Wes Coons said everyone enjoyed the class and had fun.

Finally, we wanted to share an interesting story about elite marathon runner Susan Loken and our Chandler, AZ store. As you can read on her blog, Susan is training for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials, but an injury hampered her ability to train. Looking for low-impact alternatives that would keep her fitness levels up, Susan heard about the ElliptiGO elliptical bike and decided to give it a try at our store. After some instruction and fitting by our team, Susan was off and rolling in no time!

As you can see below, Susan quickly picked up on the basics of riding the ElliptiGO, and has now incorporated it into her training regime. As Susan said on her blog, “This bike will keep my cardiovascular system strong along with building core and leg strength. It will also keep me exercising outside!” It sounds like nothing is going to stop her from finishing the Olympic Trials, and our team was happy to be a small part of her efforts. We wish Susan the best of luck at the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston!

Thanks and Happy Holidays from Performance Bicycle!

From all of us at Performance Bicycle, we want to take a moment to say “Thanks!”, and wish you and your family a happy holiday season! Plus we wanted to share this great “thank you” card created by Adam, one of our graphic designers and proud owner of an amazing Christmas sweater!

And if you haven’t quite finished all of your holiday shopping, remember that our shops are all open until 6PM on Christmas Eve and are full of great last minute gift ideas (and gift cards) for cyclists!

Christmas Bike Build Day with the Tarwheels

Earlier this December the Christmas spirit hit Performance Bicycle HQ like a red hartebeest hitting a mountain biker. 17 Performance employees and 8 of their friends with the Carolina Tarwheels, our local cycling club, met at the Performance warehouse with workstands and tool boxes in hand.

Among our group were Senior VP’s and interns, skilled mechanics and copy writers, warehouse logisticians and graphic artists. In front of us were 69 bikes still in their boxes. The task: build these bikes for needy kids in the Chapel Hill, NC area.

Five hours and many laughs, many slices of pizza and many, many bad jokes later, 69 shiny new bikes were waiting for new owners. The kids will be happy but the builders take home a more profound gift, the gift of helping others.

Our thanks to the Tarwheels for letting us here at Performance Bicycle HQ be a part of this holiday tradition!

Community Events: Habitat Workday

This year on November 18th a number of employees from Performance’s World Headquarters here in Chapel Hill, NC made the long (15 minute) drive to neighboring Durham, NC to give half a day to the Durham chapter of Habitat For Humanity.


We gathered after lunch, both talented and non-talented, ready to do our parts.

Actually the only real thing we had going for us was a willingness to work but with Habitat, that’s all it takes!

Before long, our Habitat build site manager Denisha had Chaz and Erik churning out trim while others in our group painted the walls inside the house.

By the end of the day, gutters were cleaned, trim was made, paint was applied to walls and doors, and a post was wrapped. We worked hard and now two Habitat houses are a little tiny bit closer to completion.

Check out www.habitat.org to see if there are volunteering needs in your community!

Community Events: November Recap

Every month we like to recognize the efforts of some of our over 100 stores doing what they do so well, participating in their local communities. In addition to their regularly scheduled Spin Doctor clinics & group rides, our retail associates support or host many great cycling events, including events like these highlights from November.

For this first event, we really have you to thank out there! Our Holiday Food Drive was a great success again this year, as we were able to collect 8690 food items, equaling 9115 pounds, across all of our stores!

We love being able to give back to our local communities, and our store teams were very proud to be able to bring these food donations to their local food banks across the country. Thank you to everyone who donated – your efforts were very much appreciated during this holiday season!

Of course we also love to get out on the road to support local rides. And rides don’t come much bigger than the annual El Tour de Tucson in Arizona, a fantastic fundraising ride that draws a crowd of over 9,000 riders!

Our Tucson Broadway and Speedway locations teamed up to man a much appreciated aid station out on the course (quite a few folks said we were the highlight of the course)!

Many riders really needed our expert services, and we worked on over 300 bikes at our tech station. Our team aired up tires, adjusted brakes and derailleurs, and even tensioned a wheel to offset a broken spoke – whatever was needed to keep riders on the road.

As you can see, we had quite the crowd all day long – our Performance tent was a welcome sight in the desert!

The Tucson Broadway team was back in action at the Tour de Safford, another great fundraising ride in the Arizona desert.

As the exclusive bike shop for the event, our team did free safety inspections and a lot of airing up tires before the ride began.

Our tent was also a popular spot for tasty nutrition samples – a last minute gel before hitting the road.

There were over 300 riders in this year’s Tour de Safford, and we spotted more than a few Scattante bikes amongst the crowd.

In the San Diego area, our  Sorrento Valley, CA store was right in the middle of the popular Bike the Coast event, so our store team stepped up to serve as the ultimate aid station (our store was the only support station that the 100 mile riders would see twice). Since the ride was maxed out at 2500 participants, our aid station was a popular spot all day long (even the port-o-potties had a line around the building for those who hydrated a bit too much)!

We fixed many flat tires and broken spokes throughout the day – apparently there was a mean pot hole a few miles from the store! We did the best with what we had to get folks back on the road – a few of the wheels left with non-bladed or mis-colored spokes, but everyone was determined to finish the event!

Our support station was also popular for the 2 tables stockpiled with bananas, oranges, Granola, Brownies, Pretzels and freshly made PB&J’s. We had a 3 person assembly line for the sandwiches, and they would not sit on the plates for more than a few seconds! Plus we had plenty of sports drinks and fresh water to quench the thirsty riders – our team was busy all day long.

But probably the best story of the day was the rider who rolled in to our aid station with 2 broken spokes, a broken derailleur and derailleur hanger. Since we didn’t have a hanger that fit, we decided to go back to the basics – we  took off his cable, derailleur and hanger, cut down his chain and turned his ride into a single speed! The look on the guy’s face when he realized he was going to be able to finish the event was priceless!

A few of our stores have organized in-store cycling classes, like this group at our Novi, MI store, since it’s so much easier to stay motivated when you are training with friends. The Sales Manager, Roger, lead the class in an hour of aerobic spinning, including sets of sprints with recovery and climbs of various lengths and then some stretching for cyclists. Roger even talked about proper form on the bike and mentioned a few drills people could do at home to improve their pedal stroke.

Here’s a shot from our Bloomfield Hills, MI store, who partnered with a local Team in Training group to hold a training day. It was inspirational to see all these people coming together to motivate each other even though they were all in different parts of their training, from beginners to experts. After their session we provided them with bagels and bottled water, plus a special discount for working out in our store. Our store team is already looking forward to their next training session!

Our Dayton, OH store also held their first indoor cycling event in November. Here’s a shot of the group who braved some nasty weather to maker it into the store. Everyone said they would be back and maybe bring some friends.

Our store teams also like to support local schools, like our Pittsburgh, PA store shown here at the annual Carnegie Mellon fair. We talked to over 800 people at the fair, and worked on quite a few bikes. We also gave advice on trainers and training, and assisted folks with proper fitment questions/issues they had with their current bikes.

Our Speedway Tucson store was back in action at the Basis Middle School Community Fun Day. This annual event has grown every year, with more than 500 people at this year’s event. There were many activities and events going on all over the venue for the participants – our team was there talking with people about bikes and doing repairs, plus running a tire pump contest, with the younger kids trying to set the best time for 60psi and the older kids and adults aiming for the best 110psi time. Our team had a great time and are already planning next year’s event…. maybe with a bicycle obstacle course thrown in the mix!

Here’s a shot of Store Manager James Harrell and our Tour De France cyclist and employee Bernard Croyet , from our Kearney Mesa, CA store, leading a bike rodeo with a local Cub Scout group. Working with smaller groups like this can be some of the most rewarding experiences for our teams, since it really does get these kids excited about cycling.

Our Greenwood, IN store hosted 2 small groups of Cub Scouts for clinics one weekend, and it was great to see how interested these young riders were in learning about the sport.

And it’s always great to get a little recognition for your efforts, so our Ann Arbor, MI store was very proud to receive this poster from the Rotary Club of Michigan. Store associates Chris Sams and Patrick Larkin worked with the local Rotary Club to fix and restore 24 bicycles for kids and teens without bicycles. The poster was presented to the store as a token of their appreciation to Performance Bicycle and its support to the local community.

As you can see, it was another busy month for Performance Bicycle stores in November! We only had time for the highlights here, but visit your local store to find out what’s happening next month.

Community Events: Looking Back at October

Every month, our over 100 stores support or host many great cycling events, in addition to their regularly scheduled Spin Doctor clinics & group rides, so we wanted to take a moment to recognize just a few of the events that our folks in the field were involved with in October.

Our Columbus, OH store helped out at an elementary school bike rodeo, as part of Ohio’s “Wear Your Bike Helmet to Work or School Day”.

Our team had a blast fixing and tuning up all kinds of bikes for the over 70 kids who showed up for the event!

Here’s our team in the little down time that they had, in between working on bikes and handing out water bottles.

The event was such a success that they scheduled 2 more events with 2 different scout groups over the next 2 months.

Our Boulder, CO store hosted a book signing with USA Cycling Coach John Hughes, author of “Distance Cycling.”

John Hughes has completed the Race Across America and multiple Paris-Brest-Paris events, one of the oldest and longest cycling events (it’s still 1200km, with a time limit of 90 hours)! He is the former Director of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association, and his book is full of tips on how to prepare yourself for some long days in the saddle.

Our Bonita, CA store was recognized by the Chula Vista Clean Business program for their efforts to reduce waste, prevent pollution, and conserve energy and water.

Spin Doctor Roger Guzman and Store Manager Greg Heath manned a tent at an event celebrating the Clean Business program, and shared their success with the community.

Our Broadway Tucson, AZ store was the exclusive bike shop for the “Tumacacori Century Gene Chapman Memorial Ride”.

The weather was beautiful for this ride through the Arizona desert, and Store Manager Margarita Selden and Spin Doctor mechanic Bryan Zittlosen enjoyed meeting the riders at our tent.

We did free service checks on bikes and handed out nutrition samples to the over 200 plus riders at this great fall event.

Finally, an array of folks from our Colorado stores showed up for the Denver Veloswap.

The VeloSwap is the world’s largest consumer bicycling and sports expo, where you can buy, sell, re-cycle anything cycling-related. Visitors packed the Performance Bicycle booth for our giveaways and a chance to win some of our great prizes!  Here’s a video that shows you what the VeloSwap scene is like:

Ride Report: Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

Well, we were warned that Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo was “the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States”, and we can now safely say that it was definitely the hardest road ride that this author has ever been on! Right from the start we (that’s David and Chris, from our headquarters) could tell that we were in for an epic day in the countryside around Harrisonburg, VA. But let’s begin at the beginning, as they say.

We started our adventure loading up the car in the rain, which we have a knack for finding whenever we head out. We drove up to Harrisonburg the night before the big ride to attend the gala dinner, where we got the chance to meet some of our fellow gran fondo riders, and even chat with Jeremiah Bishop himself. As he was all weekend, Jeremiah was approachable and excited to talk cycling – we talked about his experience riding in the pre-Olympic mountain bike test race (the course is harder than it looks) and he even talked a little smack about the upcoming Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (where he’s the 2-time defending champ). But mainly we talked about the route for the Gran Fondo – the route was designed by Jeremiah to be the most challenging training ride for himself and his friends  that he could devise. He scoured Google Earth to find back roads, country lanes, wicked climbs and amazing views. He promised us that the route would make us think that we had been transported to the Alps, while also testing our limits to the fullest. When a guy with Jeremiah’s record tells you that a ride is going to be hard, you tend to believe him.

The next day we were up early to get to the start in downtown Harrisonburg, VA. Greeting us was a crowd of almost 300 like-minded riders, ready to enjoy a slightly overcast day out on the road. Here we are kitted out in our Scattante Team jerseys and Forza bib shorts. We had updated our respective Scattante and Fuji road bikes with brand new Kenda Kriterium Endurance 700x25c tires, built to handle rugged roads with their puncture-resistant Iron Cloak protection (inflated to 95 psi, per Jeremiah’s advice).

alpine_loop_2011_1 With the blowing of an alpine horn, we rolled out of town to start our long day in the saddle. Everyone started their respective route on the same road, in one big peloton (there were also shorter Medio and Piccolo route options). Jeremiah circulated throughout the pack, making sure that everyone was having a good time.

alpine_loop_2011_2

Photo by Jay Moglia http://www.rawtalentranch.com/

But after a convivial few miles at an easy pace, Jeremiah moved to the front and put the pedal down right before the first King of the Mountain climb (award jerseys were determined by your time on 2 pre-selected climbs, not on your overall time).  The field quickly strung out over the 4 miles to the top of the Shenandoah, and we settled in to a pace we could maintain for the 70 miles we still had to ride. Of course the long climb up meant that a fantastic descent awaited us on the other side. We flew down the mountain to rural West Virginia roads, where the first rest stop awaited us. Fully stocked with tasty treats and friendly volunteers, you really could get used to this treatment! But we’re here to talk about the ride, so we’ll move along – to the dreaded first dirt road climb!

alpine_loop_2011_3

Photos can’t do this monster justice – it was super steep and just slick enough that you couldn’t stand up without your rear tire spinning out. Sometimes it felt like you were about to topple over backwards, and we saw more than one person walking with their bike. It made us think of what the earliest Tour de France riders must have faced, such as Octave Lapize in his assault on the dirt roads of the Tourmalet in 1910 (thankfully we had more than 2 gears)! Once over the top, it was time for the equally challenging dirt road descent to the valley below.

alpine_loop_2011_4

After this road, the ride was more of a blur, but in a good way. Our legs were toast, but the riding was fantastic – we rode through valleys, down deserted country roads, and through small West Virginia towns. Take a look at the picture below – it could just as easily be a photo from France or Switzerland as the Virginia/West Virginia countryside (and since we just rode in the Alps in July, this comparison was fresh in our minds).

alpine_loop_2011_5Onward we rolled, sometimes joining up with other riders in a small pack, and sometimes just sailing along by ourselves. The course was so well-marked that there was never a chance of getting lost, so we just found a rhythm and kept on pedaling. Eventually we made it to the final KOM climb of the day, a 6 mile ascent to Reddish Knob, up another dirt road, of course. We just kept telling ourselves, Jeremiah really rides this as a training ride!

alpine_loop_2011_6Once over the Shenandoah again, it was all downhill to the finish in Harrisonburg.  No, scratch that, it was sort of downhill to the finish. The last 20 or so miles wound their way through the rolling farm fields outside of town, with barely any flat road in sight. Our route was expertly mapped to bypass the main roads into town, opting for the purely pastoral path, with plenty of friendly locals waving hello as we rode by (we even passed an Amish horse and buggy).

alpine_loop_2011_7Finally we rolled into town and made it to the finish line festivities – with nary a flat tire between us all day thanks to our rugged Kenda tires. Food and finisher’s medals were waiting for us as soon as we crossed the finish line – the helpful volunteers even had moist towels ready so we could clean off a day’s worth of hard-earned grime. And it was indeed hard-earned, as we could see when we downloaded the data from our Garmin Edge 800 GPS bike computers. We rode over 90 miles in total, with almost 11,000 feet of climbing (and just as much descending). Once we got cleaned up, we caught up with Jeremiah to see what he thought about putting on his very first Gran Fondo, and also about his preparation for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (mixed with some ride highlights we captured with our Contour GPS helmet cam):

So would we ride it again? Absolutely (although maybe give us a week to recover)! If you judge by the results page, you’ll see that we didn’t exactly light up the record books, but that’s only part of what a Gran Fondo is all about. It’s really about challenging yourself, experiencing something new, and just having fun. Jeremiah and his team of volunteers (led by his wife Erin) made sure that all of those boxes were checked for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. Definitely make plans to give it a try next year, because now that Jeremiah has let everyone in on his secret training ride, this event is only going to get bigger and better. Just bring a positive attitude and your climbing legs and you’ll have a great time.

alpine_loop_2011_8To see all of our pictures from the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, check out our photo album on Facebook.

Getting Ready for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

We here at the Performance Bicycle Blog have decided that it’s time to see, in person, what’s up with the growing popularity of the Gran Fondo (literally “big ride” in Italian). Gran Fondos, or cyclosportives, as they are also known, are organized and timed mass-participation road rides, usually with an extra degree of difficulty not usually found in the typical charity ride (but still with rest stops!) Participants aren’t necessarily competing against each other, but they are racing against the clock, since you normally have to beat a pre-determined cutoff time to finish. Ultimately it’s this personal challenge that attracts riders to a Gran Fondo – the chance to test yourself on an epic route with other like-minded cyclists along for company (and ok, maybe a little competition).

But that’s not all that Gran Fondos have to offer, as they often act as a fundraiser for deserving charities and groups, plus you often get the chance to meet and ride with the famous cyclists who are hosting or participating in the ride. Famous Gran Fondos around the world include the Maratona dles Dolomites in Italy, l’Etape du Tour in France, or the popular Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Gran Fondo in California.

For our foray into the Gran Fondo world, we’ve decided to check off all of the above by registering for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, Virginia (on Saturday, September 24th). In case you didn’t know, Jeremiah Bishop is one of America’s most accomplished mountain bikers in recent years, with multiple national championship titles and many other prestigious wins to his credit. Lately his focus has been on marathon events and stage races, but he’s also been mixing it up at a few World Cup cross-country events this year too. So when you hear that Jeremiah Bishop has set up a Gran Fondo, you get the feeling that you’ll be in for an epic ride.

Billed as “the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States”, the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo route (like most Gran Fondos, there are also shorter options) certainly sounds like it won’t disappoint! Covering 95 miles and with almost 11,000 feet in elevation gain, it adds to it’s “most challenging Gran Fondo in the US” credibility by including several miles of dirt road climbing, pitches of up to 15%, and some raging mountain road descents. This promo video shows what’s in store for the ride:

As a bonus, the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo is also a fundraiser for community charities, local schools and cycling infrastructure – all of the proceeds from the event get put to good use after we’ve finished suffering out on the road.

Chris and I (David), the same team that rode the Alps during the Performance Tour du Jour trip to the Tour de France this summer, are heading up from our headquarters for this Gran Fondo. There’s nothing like riding up Alpe d’Huez a few times to get your legs in shape for a challenging ride.  Well, that’s our theory, at least! To be honest, we really haven’t been packing on the road miles since we got back to the States, so we’ll see if there’s any fitness left over from our Euro riding when we get to Virginia next week!

Chris and David on top of Alpe d'Huez

We’ve actually met Jeremiah at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race – he was even nice enough to pose for a picture with his comically oversized winner’s check.  Of course the only time we saw him was at the start of the race and then at the awards ceremony, since he usually finished in about half the time that it took us to ride the course (we were lucky to make it to the finish before they actually took down the finish line)!

Jeremiah Bishop and us

David, Jeremiah and Chris after the 2009 Pisgah Stage Race

We have a sneaking suspicion that the same timing will apply to this Gran Fondo, but lucky for us there’s a gala dinner the night before the ride where we’ll get to rub shoulders with the pros and other riders (without being in a oxygen-deprived state, as we likely will be on some of those climbs). But out on the road there will still be fun goals to aim for, like age-graded  king of the mountains jerseys, staffed rest areas, cowbell prizes for the last place finishers (this prize is definitely in reach), finish line festivities, and of course some beautiful scenery.

Now that we think about it, maybe we do get what this Gran Fondo business is all about after all. A chance to test ourselves with a challenging ride in a great atmosphere, along with a few hundred new friends, all for a good cause.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 202 other followers

%d bloggers like this: