Tuesday, May 23, 2006

No. 63, Vol. 5 - Looking Golden.

We're driving from Ohio to San Francisco this weekend via a 26-foot Penske truck. The boy and I will be commandeering the big ol' truck, with my wife and daughter driving the dog and hamster in the Subaru wagon. We're hoping for a smooth 3-day adventure.

As the Gaansari story unfolds, more information will be given about the upcoming new product launch, the new business model, and the players involved. One of the new technologies we're using is Gizmo (kinda like Skype, but more versatile). Our new contact information will be available June 1.

If you'd like to receive updates on Gaansari and the other projects we're involved with, including Project Rwanda, send an email and we'll add you to our ever-growing Bike Evangelist newsletter list, nearing 2,000 strong worldwide. Keep an eye on this blog for further updates, fun things to read, and general silliness.

~ Gary B.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

No. 62, Vol. 5 - Bob's Your Uncle: My First Taste of the U.K.

I just visited the United Kingdom for the first time last week, and despite my straining to understand the various colloquialisms, I rather enjoyed myself. The people, the scenery, and food were charming, and the bike riding was spectacular; or as the locals say, the "mutt's nuts."

Manchester's coat-of-arms

My nine-hour flight from Atlanta was an overnighter, which sometimes makes the most sense when traveling internationally. I landed in Manchester, and after moving through customs at a tortoise-like pace, met up with Mr. Richards, who promptly whisked me away to Todmorden in his spiffy red Alfa Romeo on the M62. Sitting in the passenger seat on the left side was different, but I got used to it after a few days.

MR's spiffy red Alfa Romeo steering (on the rightside, of course)


Todmorden is a charming hamlet, surrounded by hills and dales I'd only seen in picture books. Mr. Richards and I spent the day getting to know each other, talking bikes, and indoctrinating me into the UK bicycle scene. His world is lovely, and I rather enjoyed getting to know his children as well.

Sir Toby of Todmorden

Gracie and Lu, queens of the Todmorden tarmac

Mr. Richards' unbridled enthusiasm was in overdrive last Thursday as we hopped on some mountain bikes, steered our way past the tripe factory(!), along the canal, across some cobbled roads and alleyways, and up to Mr. Murray's place. M2 is MR's righthand computer guy and expert MTBer. Between fielding cellphone speaker phone calls from Ray at the warehouse in Doncaster, the boys and I snuck a few peeks at some very clever Mac vs. PC ads on Mr. Murray's new Apple iMac desktop computer. As a life-long PC user, I may switch teams down the road...

Next, it was on to the Singletrack Magazine World Headquarters to meet Chipps and his crew for a quick coffee and chat. I've known Chipps since 1999, and thought it only polite to visit when in Todmorden. We discussed Gaansari plans for the U.K., then pressed on back to MR's house to spend time with the kiddies, enjoy some of Mrs. Richards' world-famous gammon, make some headway in my relationship with Gracie, toddle around the shed and grounds with Lu and Toby, then head off on our epic offroad ride that evening with M2 up to and around Stoodley Pike, the national monument.

Thar be Stoodley Pike, me hearty.

The cowpaths, sheep and rocks made for an exciting (and somewhat nervous-making) offroad ride for me, especially coming off a transcontinental flight with little rest. We soldiered on, enjoyed each other's company, and spun our way back into town, where I stayed at the dapper Scaitcliffe Hall. Charming to the core.

The next morning M2 and I met for a coffee and a chat at the Bear Co-Op to discuss our new website plans. We both noticed the large number of older gentlemen scuttling about the roads on old English steel bikes in garish team kit. This gave rise to a healthy discussion about lugged steel bikes, something near and dear to our hearts at Gaansari.

We transferred our bodies down Water Street to the Tenth Muse Cafe for some veggie sausage and mozzarella panini, and after more website discussion, rode our bikes back to M2's place to meet MR, who promptly wisked me off in hs red Alfa to visit the Doncaster warehouse crew.

M2 and the rolling hills

Ray, Andy, and Mark were charming, and it was good to see the UK operations. MR showed me some new products, then after zipping once again through the plush green countryside, we landed in Sheffield, former top UK steel producer and hometown of several music industry icons, including Pulp, Def Leppard, Joe Cocker, The Longpigs and the free improvisers Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. The 1998 Mercury Music Prize award winners Gomez are also connected to Sheffield, as some of the founding members went to Sheffield Hallam University together. The Arctic Monkeys, who have recently exploded onto the UK music scene with the fastest selling debut album of all time, are based in Sheffield.

Sheffield's coat of arms

We arrived at DL's place a bit early, so we chatted outside for awhile before DL returned from his daily road ride. His wife and young daughter also arrived a few minutes later, and after exchanging pleasantries, MR, DL and I walked down to the town centre for a bite to eat and to discuss business.

MR, Texas, and DL

For the next few days DL and I took his young daughter and dog Texas for some walkies, meeting some friends and getting acquainted. We're both turning 40 this month, so we share much in common. The weather turned sour in Sheffield on Saturday, but there's nothing like a good hilly road ride to cure the cold-weather blues. Our two-hour tour of the Peak District was nothing short of spectacular, despite the heavy rain halfway through the ride. My desperate thoughts of hot coffee and biscuits back at DL's house were realized once we needled our way through busy Sheffield traffic. The birthday cook-out at DL's friend Bill's place was especially fun - everyone's first whirlwind tour of England should be this accelerated!

Tour de Peak District

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. After a few hours of heavy product develop planning late Saturday evening, it was time for me to pack my things, catch a little pillow talk, and board my returning flight for Ohio Sunday morning. I was excited to get back to my family, and became especially excited about working with my new British friends.

Reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.

The lumberjack handshake has now been introduced on four continents by yours truly; will this madness never end?

Stay tuned for more...

~ Gary B.

Friday, May 05, 2006

No. 57, Vol. 5 - Tornado Tom!

Belgium road racing pro Tom Boonen has caught the attention of the entire Boulanger famille, which has made for an exciting spring. My buddy Alan taped a few spring classics for us, and we've enjoyed Tommy T's infectious smile the past month or so. What's not to like about this guy? He's 25 years old, current world champion, Belgian, and oozes charisma and panache not seen in the Euro peloton in decades.

Tom pipping George to take Paris-Roubaix `05
Photo: Graham Watson

Tom taking world champion's gold in late`05
Photo: Graham Watson

Tom bustin' a move in Tour of Flanders `06
Photo: Graham Watson

Tom showing his trademark smile as he crosses the line in Tour of Flanders `06
Photo: Graham Watson

Thursday, May 04, 2006

No. 60, Vol. 5 - May is National Bike and Birthday Month!

Happy Birthday, Jason, wherever you are.

I turned 40 on May 7, and my firstborn Samantha will become a teenager on May 25, the same day as my sister-in-law Kris celebrates a birthday. Her husband John, my younger brother by two years, celebrates his special day on May 18. The woman who towed me around Allouez, Wisconsin in the late 1960s, my sweet mother Marge, has a birthday May 26. My late grandmother's birthday was May 9, and it was especially fun when her birthday and Mother's Day coincided over the years.

It's also National Bicycle Month here in the USA, so make sure to prioritize some saddle time the next three weeks.