Archive for July, 2012

A Tale of Worn Tires

Monday, July 16th, 2012

This past weekend was another bikepacking trip with my friend Mat. After a lot of uncertainty we decided to investigate a loop of about 160km of rail trail from Orillia to Midland, Pentang, back to Elmvale, Barrie and return to Orillia. Sounded like a fun trip and only having to cover 80km each day meant we could take it easy – a great advantage as the temperatures we’re easing up towards the forty degree mark.

With a late start (approaching 11:00) we rolled out the Uhtoff Trail, a nice little route partly hidden in the tree line at the edge of several farm fields taking us straight into Coldwater. This was where the route got a little dicey – some maps saying we could continue on rail trail, others saying we’d have to hit the road. Turned out that there is trail exiting Coldwater but it is topped with loose gravel big enough that I could feel my wheels twisting underneath as the surface shifted. Taking Highway 12 for a few kilometres into Waubaushene where we rejoined a now paved rail line all the way into Midland where we stopped for lunch.

Continuing on the trail out of Midland is now the road of a subdivision which quickly brought us into Penetanguishene. Leaving Penetang and heading south again we hit some amazing trail that had a whole network of mountain biking trail off the edges that would have been worth investigating had we not been fully loaded and on skinny tires. Being still fairly early in the day and having already covered 70km of our planned 80, we decided a detour was in order and headed in to Balm Beach to ride along the shores of Georgian Bay where the temperatures promised a little relief. Following Tiny Beaches Road along the edge of the bay is a great ride beside some under-used beach – this is practically the same beach as Wasaga but it wasn’t uncommon to pass public beaches that were completely empty despite being one of the hottest days of the year. Approaching Wasaga we turned against traffic and back over to our rail trail and into Elmvale for dinner.

Our plan was to continue riding along the trail after dinner taking advantage of a few more hours of daylight to leisurely look for a camp site. Despite the best efforts of a farmer who had plowed over the trail between seventh and eighth concession lines, we were quickly rolling down the gentle grade of the rail line once more. Quite quickly in fact. Instead of finding a camp site we found ourselves on the out skirts of Barrie before the sun set. Given that the end of this trip was only 30km of rail trail away from Barrie and we had decent lights with us, we made the decision to push on through the night and head north to do some off road riding on Sunday instead.

That was when my bike started protesting with my second rear tire flat of the day. Luckily I had picked up a spare tube in Midland after my first flat and didn’t have to try to patch this one getting us back on the road and through Barrie traffic before it got too dark. We thought we were home free rolling up a great stretch of rail trail I had previously rode on our way to Orillia and making good time, until my rear tire flatted again. This time there was no spare tube and we didn’t have enough light to make attempting a patch very feasible – especially given that it was a very slow leak. Since I was able to travel near a kilometer from the time the tire started getting soft to going flat, I tried just putting some air in it and continuing on. With only 25km to go, stopping a few times to air up a tire seemed faster than trying to patch it in the dark.

A kilometer later I was flat again and in the dark it felt like I had three broken spokes to add to it. This wasn’t going to work. We had a couple options though. Set camp where we were and either make a patch in the morning light or send Mat back to Barrie to get a new tube (or four) – or send Mat up the trail to Orillia where the truck was parked and come back to grab me and my now broken bike. We took the second option and Mat blazed up the trail as I walked my broken bike a few more kilometers until the rear wheel stopped turning all together. Carrying my loaded bike about five hundred metres got me back out to a main road but I wouldn’t get much further very quickly under my own power. And so I waited for Mat to return with the truck.

Standing for an hour at the side of this country road I was shocked to count 45 cars pass me at 1am – and a little surprised that out of those 45 not one stopped to ask if I needed help. Granted, a pseudo-fit, thirty-something man with a scruffy beard at the side of the road at 1am may not be the best person to judge how helpful people are as a whole, but as someone who always offers a hand to stopped motorists I found it a little surprising.

In the end we made it back to civilization that night and spent the night in Orillia. Mat had covered 183km in the end, about 170 of those being on rail trail, and when we got back to my shop and got a good look at my bike I turned out to only have broken one spoke but the tube was absolutely shreded. My rear tire had completely come apart over the course of the trip with ripped threads everywhere and quite a few patches thin enough to see light through. Given that these tires already had three years of bikepacking on them, including an eighteen hundred kilometer journey last year, they really don’t owe me anything. I guess the search now begins for new rubber – which is unfortunate because they no longer make my trusty IRC Mythos slicks in 700×42…


Sunday, July 8th, 2012

I was reading a post this morning by Chris Brogan where he briefly introduced an idea called “green blocking.” It wasn’t the focus of the post, more of just a passing comment, but it was the part that got me thinking.

According to Chris, Green Blocking is a term for setting aside a specific block of time in your work day just to contact people and interact. To be human. There’s no question the world is a changing place and that human touch is something that is disappearing from it, making that connection even more valuable. What about in your business though?

If you’re in retail, chances are you’re getting pressure from low-priced box stores and online retailers. And often it’s difficult to compete with them purely on price, but should that even be your goal? The boxes and online outlets can’t offer the same quality of service you can so why not improve on that by taking some time to reach out to your customers without a sales pitch? I know I regularly pay more for quality service, I can’t be the only one.

The same can be said for most service businesses, whether dealing with other businesses or directly with the end consumer. In most cases here you are selling knowledge, and in most cases there is someone else out there with more of it than you. But you have a relationship with your customer that no one else has, why not strengthen that?

I’ve long believed that the ultimate goal for service businesses should be a close relationship that makes you more of a trusted partner than a supplier. So why not reach out to your customer just to see how they are doing and what challenges they are facing without the goal of making the sale? If you better understand your customers challenges maybe you already have or can develop a solution that you can offer them. It’s an opportunity to make a new sale that you wouldn’t otherwise know about and to strengthen your relationship with the customer, but it came about from a simple human gesture, not from trying to make a sale.

In my personal life, a small group of friends and I exchange letters. It’s not always on a regular basis as life is hectic, and they don’t always see a quick reply, but it is an effort to reach out to someone and let them know they are important. In a world of thousands of friends online with whom you rarely make a real connection, a simple hand written letter is a real shock, but a great one.

In my business, one of my goals is to have a closer relationship with my clients, to really work closely with them to solve their problems. It’s something I know I can improve on, but that is important enough that I intend to make the effort. Green Blocking seems like just one more technique for me to reach that goal.

What about you? How do you reach out to your friends and clients to show you value them?

July Business Card Special

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

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