Friday, November 1, 2013

Cycle Loft Review

As a small business owner I believe with all my heart that a business thrives or dies based on its customer service. Always under-promise and over-deliver. I try to do this every day, so it pains me when a company, especially one that has been around for almost forty years, just doesn't get it.

Let me set the stage...

A year ago our eldest wanted to learn how to ride a "real" bike (e.g. no training wheels) in spite of not showing much prior interest. I bought a bike on sale for her. She loved the bike but had a LOT of trouble riding it. Fast forward to this summer and she's doing really well! Something clicked and now she rides like she's been doing it for years. Awesome!

However this raised an issue: We have only one "adult" bike (my hard-tail, Fox Fork MTB) and my wife wants to start riding again. After looking around I decided that a simple rigid frame, single-speed, 29er would be the perfect addition to the stable. They're simple, have virtually no maintenance beyond greasing the bearings, and much less expensive than their multi-geared counterparts.

After a little research into single-speed bikes I was overwhelmed and confused by the variety. Just to name a few:

  • Bikes Direct 29er MTBs (scroll to the bottom of the page)
    • Around $400 for an aluminum frame (very harsh for a bike like this) and mostly made-in-China components.
  • Bikes Direct track bikes
    • Very popular as commuter bikes because they're cheap and reliable, but again, these are mostly made-in China, use hi-tensile steel frames (cheap and heavy) and have quality issues unless you're willing to replace some of the components out-of-the-box (tires, inner tubes, wheels, etc.) which makes them cost considerably more.
  • SolĂ© Bicycles
    • Pretty colors. Hi-Ten frames. More street oriented which limits tire selection. Just over $400 shipped and you'll need to purchase a rear brake (front is included).
  • Republic Bike
    • Pretty colors. HiTen steel frame. Street racing tires.
    • $450 for base configuration, shipped.
    • Flash-based web site to configure and order. Blech!
  • Retrospec Bicycles Amok
    • This is actually much closer to what I was looking for: single speed but with a CroMoly frame that can accept a multi-gear cassette or a multi-speed hub, set up as more of an XC/MTB with flat bars. Includes front and rear brakes.
    • I cannot find any contact information for this company other than an email address. There is no phone number or location listed anywhere on their web site. Looking up their web site address in WHOIS reveals an address in LA that appears to be a home.
    • Mostly sold via Amazon?

Discouraged by the choices available, I decided to go to Cycle Loft for some advice. Their web site lists some of the bigger names in single-speed (Surly, All-City, Tiemeyer) so I figured it was worth a try.

I explained to the salesman what I was looking for and my reasons why. Without any hesitation he said, "You don't want that."

I explained my reasons again and asked what they have that would meet my fairly short list of requirements (single-speed, CroMoly frame, XC/MTB tires and flat bars). He told me that they carry Trek and Specialized, but that they don't have any single-speed models in stock because nobody wants them.

Really? According to your own web site, people do...

He proceeded to walk over to a computer and pull up their internal dealer web site. He looked through all of the Trek bikes to find the single-speed models. He never even considered showing me any of the comparable Specialized products. 

So let's review: First he told me that I'm wrong, then said they only stock a couple of brands when their web site clearly states that they carry others, and finally had no familiarity with the models within the two brands he said they carry!

At one point I asked him, as a fellow glasses wearer, what kind of prescription sunglasses he likes for riding. His answer? "Ask your optometrist."

Do yourself a favor and avoid Cycle Loft.

Rude, ignorant, and disrespectful.

Friday, July 12, 2013

25 Things You Can Do With Peanut Butter

I've been trying to guide my family to a healthier lifestyle using Paleo and Primal principles, but every once in a while we decide to enjoy something that is... well... not exactly a "healthy choice". Of course Mark Sisson believes that a little cheating is all right.

I don't consider this cheating though... I just blame the kids.  :-)

Click on the picture below and enjoy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Run Ruckus 2013 (Boston) Review

2012 was the year that I discovered obstacle course racing (OCR) and Ruckus was the first "real" (meaning non-locally organized) OCR I ran. It was awesome and kind of set the bar for all of the others that I did. Sadly, this year's Ruckus is a mere shell of its former self. I came away disappointed and wanting more of the old Ruckus.

Ruckus has been held at the Marshfield fairgrounds each year, and it's a good venue. The venue is designed to handle large numbers of people, so parking is not an issue and it's never really crowded. However driving down Rt. 3 is a bit of a pain on a beautiful Saturday morning: Lots of people heading down to the Cape and the lane drop is a real bottleneck.

We had to ask for directions several times after parking—there were no signs directing people to the registration area. Registration was a bit of a pain. In the past, it was organized by last name. This year it was by bib number, which was emailed a few days in advance. Unfortunately they decided to hand out the t-shirts at registration instead of waiting until the finish line as they did last year. We were wearing our NE Spahtens drill shirts, so we ended up having to carry the shirts with us. Fortunately I was wearing a hydration pack and (barely) had enough room for both.

Upon entering the spectator and vendor area, we had to again ask for direction to the start line. There were no signs or anything. This is a bit of a recurring theme.

Once we found the start line, we saw that it was divided into five sections, based on how fast you think you'll run the course. Unfortunately this meant there were 5x the number of people at the starting line as compared to last year. They staged us so that each group started two minutes after the previous one. In the end, our 11am start time was closer to 11:15 because we were near the back. Also of note, last year everyone had to climb over a platform to get to the start line. A good way to start an OCR! This year was just line up in the right place. If you could even find it.

I enjoyed the running part of the race. It was almost all trails, which the past week of rain gooped up rather nicely. Unfortunately all of the water stations along the way had run out of cups, or water, or both! I believe their first wave was at 9 AM and we started at 11 AM. It's hard to believe that they ran out in the span of two hours. Also there were empty plastic cups littered all over the ground. Recycling containers would have been very welcome instead of the mess we saw.

The obstacle part of the race was rather unremarkable. All of the signature Ruckus obstacles we have come to expect were missing: Gorilla Bars, Ranger Bar, Lobster Traps, Air Loops, Normandy Spikes, Twisted Fences, etc. Their obstacle page lists all of the fun things that we didn't do.

At the end, Mt. Ruckmore was a joke. Last year the slide was built up on a multi-level platform of cargo containers. Each runner had to go under, over, around, and through in order to get up to the top, then the slide was very high and very fast. Loved that! This year it was a giant inflatable slide, much like the one used by Foam Fest. When did Ruckus go from setting the standard to copying a lesser race?

After the finish line we received a beer glass instead of a medal. This is the first year they didn't have medals, and with the number of first-timers running with the Spahtens, a medal would have been nice. My wife was really looking forward to getting one!

Once in the vendor area and beer garden, we discovered that the free cup of beer was Coors Lite. Blech! Last year they had Harpoon come in with a choice of brews. Very disappointing that they didn't source a local microbrewery once again.

I wanted to sign up for the Ruckus Fearless 5k in November, but now I don't think I'll waste my money. I'm also going to think long and hard about going next summer when there are so many other events in New England around the same time.

It's a shame that Ruckus has fallen so far in such a short amount of time. It almost feels like a different company is running it now—the web site is different and the logo changed.

Sadly, I have to give Ruckus a grade of "C" for 2013.

Friday, March 29, 2013

How to... Tie Your Shoes?

My wife sent me a link this evening that pretty much blew my mind. I thought I was doing pretty well, moving from Velcro to laces when I was a kid. Now, thanks to her, I found that there are many different ways to tie your shoes!

If you have any problems caused by your running shoes constricting part of your foot, there may actually be a solution to your problem, simply by re-lacing your shoes! Yeah, who knew? Below are some articles she found:

I hope everyone has a great Easter weekend and gets a run in!


Saturday, March 16, 2013


I love watching TED Talks. They bring in the best of the best, let them talk for fifteen minutes, and then make the video available for free.

Shane Koyczan is a spoken word poet who was bullied for his entire childhood. I can relate. It's not an exaggeration for me to say that water board torture would have been preferable to most of my days at school. Worst of all, some of my teachers shared in this transgression. Teachers. They're supposed to keep order and protect those in their care, not enable and encourage the bullies.

At the age of 40 I'm still haunted by things that happened more than half a life ago. I will probably never forgive thm. However there was a warped satisfaction to be had in seeing some of the worst of my tormentors at my ten year class reunion sitting around. In a drunken stupor. Miserable and alone. Now they know my pain. My life has become theirs.

Karma is a bitch.

Shane took his pain one step further than I ever could; he made a TED Talk out of it. Watch this phenomenal presentation, his emotion, and even his tears, and understand why it is so important to teach our children that bullying is not acceptable. If your child is the victim of a bully, don't be afraid to stand up to the parents and raise Holy Hell with anyone who will listen. If you child is a bully, shame on you.

Bullying cannot continue.

It will not continue.

Thank you Shane for giving us a voice.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

2012 was the year that I ran my first obstacle course race (OCR). 2012 was the year that I started to get back into shape for the first time in more than a decade. I'm not one to make a New Year's resolutions because I'm horrible at keeping them. All I'm going to do is make myself a promise to keep up the good work!

My original goal was to sign up for one OCR per month. So far I have five on the calendar, with three more on the horizon. That will cover January, April through September, and November. The winter months are not exactly popular times for OCR here in New England, but that's beginning to change! I'm running the Blizzard Blast at the end of January. I hope other race promoters see how popular this is and get a few more going during the winter months.

2013 will still be a year of firsts though: My first Tough Mudder. My first Spartan. Well, actually two Spartans because I'm doing a Sprint in August and the Fenway Time Trial in November.

Out of all the firsts in 2013, the one closest to my heart: This year will be the first time my amazing wife runs with me! I don't care about our course time. We will both finish. Together. Hand in hand.

In terms of my training, my focus will  be more on strength training and a little less on running. I finally had to admit to myself that it will be a while before I can run a seven minute mile for more than a very short time. I just don't have the twitch muscles for it yet. But the thing that hurt me the most in the various OCRs in was raw strength and power. My new circuit reflects that mindset. I used to lift weights based on the three-day cycle found in The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. I'm modifying that to work with TRX.

A couple of weeks ago I posted that I bought a TRX suspension trainer. That was probably one of the best fitness purchases I have ever made! Once I firm up my workout rotation I will post it here for others to follow. I won't say it's right for everyone, but it might provide a starting point for others who are interested in trying this amazingly simple piece of equipment.

Good luck to everyone in 2013! I'll see you on the race course...