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Groucho Sports and other exciting stuff!

I’m super excited and honored to have been chosen as a guest blogger over at one of my favorite blogs, Groucho Sports. They’re a great company, doing some very cool things with riding and running apparel. Beyond their actual products, I can’t speak highly enough of the people behind the company. They’re a really great group of people, doing some really great things. It’s been exciting to watch them grow!

I originally wrote a post a few weeks ago, went to post it to their site, and was shocked to find it had already been posted! The amazing Erin Klegstad wrote basically the exact same blog that I had written – entitled “Why I Love Cycling.

Bummer? Sort of. Opportunity? Yes!

I wrote a different post that got posted today. You can check it out here.

I took my “Why I Love Cycling” post and have expanded upon it greatly. I’ve expanded on each point, and it’s going to be a weekly series over the next few weeks. A lot of them are already written, so you can expect more frequent posting over the next few months!

Once again, I have to extend a huge thank you to the folks over at Groucho Sports for the honor of guest posting today, and I hope you head over there to read my post. Their regular bloggers are pretty awesome, and I’d recommend adding Groucho Sports to your regular blogroll.

http://grouchosports.com/blog/groucho-guest-blogger/groucho-guest-blogger-jon-vick-look-around/

City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program

The spring email update from the City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program just dropped into my inbox. In case you don’t subscribe (and if you live in Minneapolis, you should) click here to subscribe.

There are some great resources there, and it leads with a shout-out to #30daysofbiking! Sign up today! Ride tomorrow!

Bicycling Update Subscribers,


The warm weather biking season is just around the corner.  Here’s a toolkit for gearing up:

 

Happy Riding,

City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program

5 Road Rides I Get Excited About

As part of Trek Travel’s Ride Camp in Solvang, we rode one of my all time favorite road rides last week. It got me thinking about where my all time favorite road rides are. This is the list I’ve come up with:

1 – Sella Ronda. In my opinion there isn’t a more beautiful road ride in the world. Made up of four passes; it’s the perfect balance of awesome climbing, awesome descending, and amazing scenery. With awesome spots to stop for lunch and great Italian espresso along the route, it really doesn’t get better than this.

2 – Figueroa Loop – This ride defines epic. Starting out from Solvang, it’s a 50 mile loop. It’s got an awesome 15 mile warmup through quiet, country roads before turning uphill. At that point the road kicks uphill, averaging nearly 7% for the next 10 miles, including a mile of bumpy dirt road, the possibility of some creek crossings, and a nasty pitch in the last mile. To put it simply, you feel like a badass for completing this climb. Then you are rewarded with amazing views as you descend off the back side and finally a long, slightly downhill run back into Solvang.

3 – Minneapolis Grand Round – There’s nothing epic about this ride. There are actually a lot of annoying things about this ride – stop signs, congested bike paths, bumpy streets. On the flip side, it feels like MY ride. When I get to ride the Grand Rounds, it means I’m home. I don’t get enough time at home, so I relish the familiar rides, the occasional familiar face on the bike path, the lakes, the Minneapolis skyline. Home.

4 – Smuggler’s Notch Loop – A great ride in Vermont. Not too long, not too short, a great climb, some great views, a stop for coffee and soup at the Johnson Coffee House, and awesome descent back into Stowe. Finishing off with a maple latte at the Stowe Coffee House or a great burger from Harrison’s, this is another ride that feels a bit like home, a home away from home.

5 – The “guide house loop” from the Trek Travel Tuscany guide house. This ride isn’t anything particularly special compared to any other ride in Tuscany. All of the riding there is awesome. It combines the great elements of Tuscan riding, great climbs, ripping rollers, a couple sweet descents, Tuscan villages, everything you could want in a short loop that can be done at the end of an FTP day or after a trip end. Beyond anything else, I have great memories associated with this ride. It is a ride in another country that I have shared with some of my closest friends, a ride that is a bit of a release from the “job” part of my job.

Where are your favorite rides, your favorite runs, your favorites of anything you get excited about?

My appeal to my fellow cyclists…

This morning I was doing my daily browsing through the internet, and I came across an article in the Saint Cloud Times headlined Bicyclist injured, ticketed after collision. As a long time advocate for cycling, I had a knee jerk reaction to the headline. I jumped to some conclusions. First, I assumed that some anti-cycling police officer in rural Minnesota found some way to put a cyclist at fault when he got hit by a car. Second, I assumed the Saint Cloud Times was equally prepared to make the cyclist the bad guy in the whole deal. I was mad before I even started reading the article. Then I started reading.

I was wrong.

I wasn’t wrong about being mad. In fact, I got even madder when I started reading. I was wrong about who to be mad at. The car had a green light. The cyclist had a red light. The cyclist went anyway. The cyclist deserved it.

You might think that that’s an awfully harsh thing for me to say, but here’s my take on it. As cyclists, we have a right to be on the road. It’s like the Spiderman quote “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’d like to offer a twist on that quote. With equal rights come equal responsibilities. As cyclists we scream and scream and beg and beg for motorists to share the road. Too many cyclists see that as a one way street, though. They want the motorists to give us our right of way, but they’re all too happy to dart into an intersection when it’s not their turn.

I’ll admit, I’ve been known to roll through a stop sign when no one is around, maybe cross before a light turns green if there’s no car in sight, but if there are other vehicles on the road, I respect the laws, just as I expect motorists to.

Cyclists are vulnerable on the road. We can be nearly invisible. We hide well in blind spots. There is one time, however, when we are SUPER visible, when we could just as well have a huge flashing neon sign above our heads – that’s when roll through a stop sign, run a red light, or do something else generally stupid and against the law.

So, fellow cyclists, I’m appealing to you, pleading with you, begging you, please obey traffic laws. If we are going to fight for our right to be on public roads, we have to take on the responsibility of following the rules of those roads. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of motorists who break traffic laws, do stupid things that put our lives at risk, but there is a big difference between motorists and cyclists. They don’t have to fight to protect their right to be on the road. We do.

When you’re out on your bike, rise above it all. Follow the rules. Be BETTER than the motorist who doesn’t. It will make all of our lives easier. Thank you.

Before I die, I want to…

This morning I ran across an article on wired.com entitled “TED 2011: What do you want to do before you die?” I am a casual TED Talks fan. I subscribe to the audio and video podcasts, but I pick and choose based on topics or speakers I am intrigued by. This one had me intrigued.

I’d suggest you click over and read the article, but here are the Cliff’s Notes. An artist in New Orleans rode past an abandoned, boarded up building. Growing weary of boarded up buildings and the advertisements that are typically plastered over them, she decided to take action. She and a group of friends painted the entire wall in chalkboard paint and repeatedly stenciled “Before I die I want to_______________.” She left behind some chalk and watched to see what would happen.

The story got me thinking. What do I want to do before I die? If I had to give just one answer, what would that one thing be? I couldn’t come up with a great option. Everything I came up with either seemed too cliché, or too small to be the one thing I should want to accomplish before I die, or centered around the wrong ideals. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I’ve come up with a list. If you only want to accomplish one thing, you’re not aiming high enough.

1. I want to launch my business – REALLY launch it. I want it to go huge.
2. I want to use that business as a launching point for an even bigger idea.
3. I want to marry the girl of my dreams.
4. I want to watch my friends who are starting businesses or chasing other dreams to be massively successful, and I will do anything I can to help them realize those dreams.
5. I want to continue to travel and learn more about the world, and I’d love to do some of that travel on my own terms.
6. I want to go on big adventures, and I want someone to share them with (preferably the girl mentioned in #3)
7. I want to write a book and sell it.
8. I want to ride my bike across the country, preferably north to south, on a mountain bike, on the continental divide. West to east on a road bike would work, too – in a pinch.
9. I want to keep learning – learn how to do new things, understand new things, and know the history of things.
10.

Two things about this list: First, #10 is blank. My list is incomplete. It is ever growing. I’ll always be adding to my list of things I want to do before I die. Second, this list is in no particular order.

What’s on your list? What do you want to do before you die?

Fill in the blank: Before I die, I want to ____________________________________________.

Turn anger into warm fuzzies: why social media monitoring is important.

Think your small business has no use for social media? Don’t see any point in being on Twitter? Think again. Check out this story.

After driving from Wisconsin to Southern California with a trailer in tow, the van was due for a service. I had made an appointment for 8:40, leaving us what should have been plenty of time to make it to a meeting we had loosely scheduled for 10:00 We wanted to get the van back as soon as it was finished so we could make our way back to Solvang for our meeting. The customer lounge at the Ford dealership was clearly an afterthought, and was less than welcoming so we went out searching for greener pastures. We asked them if they could call us as soon as the service was done, they confirmed my cell phone number and said “no problem.” Awesome; we set out for a coffee shop down the street.

An hour passed, and I started watching for a phone call. At ten minutes to 10:00, I made a call to push our meeting back. At 10:20, approaching two hours after we had handed over the keys, I finally called in to the number that was listed on Google Places for the Ford dealer in Buellton. It turns out that number was for the sales department, and they couldn’t transfer me. So I called again.

“Service”
“Umm… Hi, I had my van in for service for Trek Travel. I was wondering if it was done. I aske…”
“Who was your tech?”
“Uh, I’m not sure.”

I heard a groan on the other end and I was abruptly put on hold.

Then someone else picked up the phone and asked again what I needed. I explained the situation again, and was told that the van was ready to go.

At this point I wasn’t super happy. Each of the infractions – failure to call when promised, inability to transfer me, and general rudeness on the phone – wouldn’t have been a big deal individually, but they compounded into an unhappy customer – me.

So what else would I do? I tweeted it. “Customer service at Jim Vreeland Ford in Buellton, not exactly a home run.”

I expected that to be the end of it. I picked up the van. They had done everything we asked them to. The service itself was great. The customer service was lacking, but at that point it was behind me. I’m not generally one to dwell on things like this.

You can imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning followed on Twitter by @FordCustService, and sent a couple messages: “Sorry 2 hear about the negative experience w/ur [sic] dealership. I would like 2 look into this situation further. Plz DM w/details so…” “that I may document your concern & use the feedback to improve customer service. Provide contact info, VIN & mileage. Thank you!”

After I responded, explaining the situation over several DMs (sometimes being limited by 140 characters is challenging), I received this response. “Thanks for providing us that information. I am glad that the actual service on the van went well. We will utilize this feedback…” “to help improve future customer service experiences. Have a great rest of your Tuesday! 🙂 ^SA”

I was impressed. I tweeted the following in response, “Every time I turn around, I’m impressed by Ford – setting a high standard for American car makers. Thank you @FordCustService!”

Do you see what happened there? I didn’t ask for anything. I didn’t even ask that my complaint be acknowledged. By monitoring social media channels, Ford was able to take a situation where I wasn’t super happy about my customer service experience and turn that around. It didn’t cost them anything. They didn’t have to offer me a free service or a discount off anything. All they had to do was demonstrate that they were listening, and that they wanted to use my bad experience to improve customer service for future customers. I went from being mildly annoyed with one dealer to raving about how great Ford was, and all it took was a tweet.

After that, can you still tell me that monitoring social media is a waste of time? It doesn’t take a lot of effort, and the payoff can be huge. If you are a business, whether small or large, take the time to see what people are saying about you on the internet. It is worth your time.

Road ID: Protect Yourself

Do you ride a bike? Do you run? Do you do these things for the same reasons I do? For fresh air on your face. For the endorphin rush. For how great you feel when it’s done. To get away from your thoughts. To get away from people. To explore new places? Do you ever head out on your own for a solo ride or run? It’s amazing isn’t it? There’s nothing like going out and pushing yourself, with no one to beat but yourself, and pushing yourself even harder, trying to beat yourself to that finish line. I love long solo runs. I love going out and crushing myself on the road bike. It’s an amazing feeling.

Unfortunately, as with so many great things out there, along with the reward of the experience comes some risk. It’s easy to forget that you are vulnerable out there. You could get hit by a car and tossed into the ditch and left in a hit and run. You could crash on wet railroad tracks. You could twist an ankle on a trail run. You could have an allergic reaction, a heart attack, anything could happen. Do you always bring your drivers license with you? I don’t. Not always.

What would happen to you if you were left incapacitated? What would happen to you? Even if someone found you and got your transported to a hospital, how long would it be until the hospital figured out who to call? How long would it take for your family or friends to realize that you should have been home by now? Would they just assume that you’d gone for a longer run or met up with some friends somewhere for a post ride beer? How long would it be until they started to worry? When would they start calling hospitals, and how long would it take until they figured out the right one to call?

I’m not just throwing out a worst case scenario. A very close friend of mine found himself in a similar situation yesterday. I don’t yet know a lot of details, and I don’t feel right sharing speculation, but here’s what I do know. He had a bad crash on a mountain bike. He was found some time (I have no idea how long) later, and transported to the hospital. He is now “stable but in very serious condition” in a spinal trauma unit. He was lucky. He had a cell phone with him and the people who found him started calling numbers in his phone, and now his family is by his side as he faces a very scary surgery.

I’m not advocating for you to stop doing solo runs or going out for long rides by yourself. I’m certainly not going to stop. I’m asking you to be smart about it. Don’t be naive and tell yourself it will never happen to you. If you spend enough time on the road, the law of averages suggests something will happen to you eventually. Don’t let these risks scare you out of doing the things you love, just be go out prepared. I year ago I asked my mom for the greatest Christmas present a parent could give their dumb kid like me who goes out to do this kind of thing all the time – a Road ID (affiliate link). Now if anything happens to me, there’s no question who to call. It’s got contact info for my parents, my roommate, and my work listed. You can get them customized with a motivational phrase, and even sign up for a program that allows you to have a code that links to an online database with medical information that would be important for a doctor to have. One of the more creative uses I’ve heard of is creating a Google website and putting a bit.ly link to that site on the Road ID – allowing you to have that customizable and updatable information on your ID without paying the annual fee.

RoadID

I’m not ordering you to go spend your hard earned money on a Road ID. That’s not my place. I’m simply asking you to be safe. Have a contingency plan. The way I choose to do that is with a Road ID. It’s a plan that works brilliantly for me. I recommend it to everyone. I wear mine all the time, so I know I’ll never accidentally leave the house without it. Even if I go for a ride and forget to grab my ID and some cash, I’ll have my Road ID. If I’m going for a run where I won’t bring anything with me but an iPod, I’ll have my Road ID. It’s my insurance plan. What’s yours?

Don’t stop going on solo runs or rides. They’re too awesome. Just be safe out there, friends.

 

4 day Solvang Ride Camp for $399??? Sort of.

The other day, I wrote about Trek Travel‘s new Solvang Ride Camps. Were you tempted? How about this crazy little tidbit that I just learned. Anyone who goes on one of our Ride Camp trips will get a voucher for $300 off a new 5 or 6 series Madone or 9 series Speed Concept – including Project One! (to be used within 30 days of finishing the trip) So if you were planning on buying a new Madone or Speed Concept this spring anyway, this trip just became an amazing deal! I’ve been out for a couple rides in the last three days and the riding here is stellar. We’re off to write one last route tomorrow and all the pieces will be in place for a week (or four days) of awesome riding around Solvang. Hope to see you in California!

As always, leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter if you have any questions I can answer for you about this or any Trek Travel trip!

Solvang Ride Camps

I feel like I haven’t even finished last season yet, much less gotten to the winter season (and I’ve been back from New Zealand for over a month already!). Yet, here I am, already starting this season! I put off leaving Minneapolis as long as possible, meaning the drive to Madison and load was a bit of a whirlwind, but I still managed to get out of Madison ahead of schedule. My early departure from Madison afforded me the luxury of taking my time driving across the country. I even managed to roll into my destination city before sunset a couple times on this drive. That NEVER happens! It also meant that I got to spend some time catching up with some great friends along the way, one that I hadn’t seen in years and a couple that I see fairly often, but still not often enough.

I picked up Greg at the Santa Barbara airport the same evening I arrived in the van, and we have wasted no time getting after the preparation for Trek Travel’s new Solvang Ride Camps. I’ve spent some time in this area in the past, guiding our Tour of California trip when it came through here in 2008, with Vision Quest the same year, and with the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge. Armed with a bit of experience in the area and some great front end design by Mark Thomsen, we’ve been driving all over the roads of Santa Barbara County. I have to tell you, it’s been a while since I have been this excited about the riding we have for a trip.

Ride Camps are no normal Trek Travel trip. We’ve stripped out a lot of the frills of a standard trip (and with them a lot of the price!), choosing to focus instead on the riding. We will ride past a TON of great wineries, but we won’t be stopping in. The views are stunning, but if you want to take a picture, I hope you can do it while your bike is in motion, or you’ll have some catching up to do. At the same time, it’s not going to be a week-long hammer-fest (unless you want it to be). We still want everyone to enjoy the ride, so we’ll be splitting into groups as necessary so everyone can get the miles they want at the pace they want.

That’s not to say you won’t have time to take advantage of everything this area has to offer. Because we’ll be spending less time stopping, we will finish our rides earlier in the day, leaving you plenty of time to get out and explore Solvang and the surrounding area, and you’ll be able to do it in normal shoes and without standing around in lycra. We aren’t staying at the most luxurious hotel in town – but I’ve stayed at the Hadsten House in the past, and I’m a pretty big fan. We aren’t eating at a different high end restaurant every night – but the Hadsten House’s restaurant is one of the most highly rated restaurants in Solvang on Yelp and Trip Advisor.

Despite these differences, several things remain the same. You’ll still get great support – my co-guide Greg is awesome. You’ll still get maps and route guides if you want to knock out the miles at your own pace (maybe stopping for a couple of those photos and for a little of that wine). You’ll have options for more miles every day if you want them. Most importantly, you’ll still get that rockin’ Madone 5.2 so you can really enjoy the ride. And if that’s not good enough for you, we still have our optional upgrades to Bontrager Race XXX Lite wheels and/or the Madone 6.5!

We have some amazing rides planned, and more rides tucked away in our back pocket. There’s more than a week’s worth of great riding in this area. If you need to be convinced of the quality of the training available here, when I rolled into Solvang, the Trek/Livestrong U23 team was set up at the Hadsten House for their spring training camp. That said, if that’s not quite good enough for you, if you need something a little more pro, we’re also running ride camps in Mallorca, home of the training camps of Leopard-Trek, Radio Shack, HTC Highroad and many more pro teams.

These trips are focused on riding. It’s all about getting out of the city and onto open roads or away from winter or the fun of spring salt and sand on the road and into warmer climates (it was 74 degrees and sunny here today). Rumor is there’s still some snow season left in other parts of the country. If the latest forecast for snow is enough to make you crack and you just HAVE to get away, if you’ve finally watched the entire series of Lost in the trainer and have nothing left to entertain yourself indoors, if you have a big race or event coming up later this year and you want to log some early season miles, or if you just want to come out and ride some of the greatest roads in North America, come ride with me. I’ll be here until June.

I’m on vacation in Mallorca

Sunken Sailboat on the coast of Mallorca

Sunken sailboat on the coast of Mallorca

In taking a proper vacation, I’m not planning on taking time to blog, so in the meantime, I thought I’d post a few photos. Photos are over on my SmugMug site. Check it out.