The bike biz is as it always has been – fun, but littered with broken dreams. Every year many shops start, many fail, and the rest struggle along in an often crowded market where no one makes much money. Many mainstream bike shops still avoid recumbents, citing the complexity of the product and wide-ranging peculiarity of the clientele. But this complexity insulates ‘bent specialists from the competition with online sales and the “commoditization of the product.” Yes, you can often buy popular parts and accessories from England for less than I pay my distributors for them. I’ll bet some of you already do. Fortunately for me, it takes some creativity to get some stuff to work on these wacky frames. So the geeky recumbent specialist remains more essential than the iconic bike shop bro’.
I’ll grant that Easy Street and I had it fairly easy for a while. 1996 – 2007, the really early years, was a lot of sleepy part-time dilettantism. 2008-2015 saw steady growth of sales and paid down a big chunk of my mortgage on my tiny central Austin house. I’ve seen other regional ‘bent specialists come and go. But since 2016 the Texas market has become more crowded. One recent competitor flared and waned, but three other specialists now operate in Texas. Some of these are better built to survive than others, but that depends on how quickly they adapt, or can adapt, to realities of space, staff, and inventory. The same goes for me. I’ve had to run leaner this year, reduce space, squeeze staff, and spend more time in the trenches than, say, writing newsletters, if you hadn’t noticed.
Some years back I took some personality assessment for managers, which clarified something I already knew. I’m not a leader type with a defined vision and a ruthless will to realize it. I’m more inclined to develop those around me while cementing their loyalty through nurture. This is how I managed to spawn the Fort Worth shop and set Micah working on a long leash. Micah started with strong technical skills and enthusiasm for the product, greater than mine, and is growing his organizational skills. My Austin sales manager, Ron Blackman, whom many of you now know, came in with a good grasp of, and background in, retail management, but only passing involvement with the product. Now he sounds increasingly like the recumbent wizard that a shop needs to anchor its bona fides.
The long term goal is a mutually-supporting network of experts levering the buying power of several local and regional markets to keep product and support in reasonable range of more Texans. Shops will be no bigger or lavish than they need, and product selection will stay focused. It is hard to say how long this process will take. Opening the Fort Worth store took more out of my spiritual and financial marrow than I let on. I still have more experience than the people I work with, but I don’t expect that to last. This isn’t “Mike’s Trikes,” after all, but Easy Street, a brand that represents stable consistent service, built to last.
I haven’t done a roundup on these product updates for a while. Sorry if this is old news to some. Let me know if you have any questions or need clarifications. I’ll try to get some images added to this, but having sat on this info long enough I think I’ll just get it posted!
Catrike product updates:
- All of Catrike’s “big rear wheel” models, the DuMont, 700, 559 and Expedition, now use 12mm thru-axles to hold the rear wheel, making the rear end stiffer than the older 10mm quick release axles. This is good for people who want to corner hard. It is not so good for people looking for alternative transmission options like internally-geared hubs or e-motor wheels. These will no longer fit the frame unless designed for 12mm thru-axles. However, I can fit a Rohloff $peedhub to 12mm dropouts, if your tastes run that direction.
- Catrike announced a Bosch electric-motor option and it should be available this spring. I expect it will initially be only available on newly-ordered models, but we should have conversion parts available soon after. Since the motor mounts at the crankset, not the rear wheel, the 12mm thru-axle from above isn’t a limitation.
- Catrike has discontinued the fully-suspended Road model. The DuMont is now their only suspended model.
- The lower-priced Eola arrived earlier this year. To be honest, I’m yet to find the ideal pitch for this trike. We sell a lot of Catrikes, but have only sold one Eola in both shops (which was then returned for an upgrade). Ironically, it isn’t that this is a weak model. Catrikes are such a good value that you can get a lot more Cat by spending not much more money.
TerraTrike product updates:
- These people just can’t sit still. Besides a lot of changes in their main lineup, they are constantly coming out with new accessories. If you’ve been hankering after the Ergo-Luxe seat available on new ICE trikes, you should check out TT’s new padded seat cover.
- TT has replaced the paradigm-shifting Rover with the new Maverick. This trike resembles a Rambler in construction, cutting some weight. Prices are in line with what we saw on the Rover. The Rover will still be available in its tandem version, which can still be converted into a single trike. Sadly, there will not be a NuVinci N330 shifting system option on the Maverick. We sold lots of N330 Rovers and plan to bring in our own N380 kits to keep this system available. As an easy to use shifting system it had great synergy with the Rover, as it will with the Maverick.
- The Rambler will change considerably. It will take the Rover’s place as the 400-pound capacity trike. The trike will come standard with 24 inch wheels all around, and the track width will widen out to make the high-sitting trike safer and allow tighter turning with those big front wheels.
- The Gran Tourismo will evolve into the GTS (I do regret when real names get replaced by abbreviations), shedding some weight and refining the design. TT has always done a good job of making trikes that are affordable but not cheap, and they are challenging themselves by pushing into the faster realm of “sport-touring” trikes. Will they succeed? I’m yet to see a TT that really sells and performs like the Catrike Expedition or ICE Sprint. But then Jeff Wiswell’s crew should never be underestimated.
- Faster? Indeed, TT will be releasing the Spyder, an attempt at a really fast trike on par with the 700 or VTX. There will be an aluminum and carbon version. Expect to see all this new stuff at the ‘Bent Event. This wouldn’t be the first carbon fiber frame TT has made, but few remember the Edge built back around 2007 with its through-the-frame chain routing.
- The Boost Kit, which is a Bosch e-motor retrofit, is still available, and now a Boost Kit for the Rover/Rover tandem frame will be available this spring.
- Easy Street has been named TerraTrike’s “Dealer of the Year” for 2019. Thanks guys! I’ve been selling this product for 20 years now, and they’ve already planted a tree in my honor at the company headquarters. I’m looking forward to taking the plaque down to my local bar and enjoying some free drinks.
Bacchetta product updates:
- The bike company that has aligned itself with ultra-marathon performance and speed has started making a trike. The CT2.0 (abbreviations… don’t get me started) debuted this year. Production had a gradual rollout and a few hiccups, but is now rolling. If you know someone who likes to ride fast but is starting to encounter balance problems, this is the trike to see. Our experiments have not shown it to be significantly faster than the ICE VTX, but it takes the prize in looks.
- 10-speed? Nah, who needs it? Bacchetta’s bike models are switching from 3×9 shifting systems to 2×11 systems, keeping up with the fashion. I’m sad to see those 3-speed cranksets fade from use, with their huge gearing range. You could mainly leave the chain on the middle ring and not have to think about the 1st and 3rd gears. Now I have to cook up some other kind of gear-simplification advice for my more techno-newbie customers.
Inspired Cycle Engineering product updates:
- No new models, but some rearrangement of names. We quit stocking the FullFat, which was a striking trike to look at but didn’t sell that well. It’s been replaced in our showroom with an Adventure HD dripping with techno-gizmos to beat the band. Come sit in the generous HD seat, with the posh Ergo-Luxe cushion, zip off with the Shimano STEPS electric assist automatic shifting Alfine 8-speed hub, yada yada. As usual for ICE the package comes together elegantly and we’ve sold a few of these.
- The VTX remains the best established racing trike. The Sprint-X is the fastest folding trike you can buy. The Adventure is still the ultimate luxury casual trike.
- I’m still annoyed that the electric-motor option is not available as a retrofit, but only available on new purchases. Hmmph.
AZUB product updates:
- The Czechs continue to make this line of durable touring bikes and trikes. They probably miss out on some share of the market by not trying to make stuff meant to be “fast.” They build for the honorable tradition of piling it with luggage and setting off across the steppes of Asia, which is great. But most people who spend money on premium ‘bents are looking to be fast, or at least pretend they are. AZUB did offer a dual 700C wheel (road bike size wheel) version of their MAX bike at Recumbent Cycle Con this year. It is now in Keller being set up for a buyer.
Lightning product updates:
- My favorite olde-timey steel framed racing recumbent is the venerable P-38, made by this little craftsman operation in California. The latest from Tim and crew is a full embrace of the disk brakes on the lower-end Phantom and flagship P-38 bikes. Of course you can still get a P-38 set up however you want, but the frames all come with disk brake mounting tabs.
We’ve had more opportunity to play with Shimano and SRAM electronic shifting systems, which are lightweight, simple, and mostly reliable. Like any electronic gizmo they sometimes don’t do quite what they are supposed to and the fix is generally a part replacement more than tuning. So, like hydraulic brakes, they work great, better than mechanical stuff, but if there is a problem then it becomes a matter for experts with special tools. This has been our experience with tubeless tires as well – lots of benefits, but more complication in setting it up and getting it going.
In electric assist motors, we remain impressed with both Shimano, who supply kits for ICE and AZUB, and with Bosch, who supply TerraTrike and Catrike. Both systems require special frame parts and don’t allow for a front derailer. But they allow for internally-geared hubs and aren’t hindered by 12mm thru-axles or any other inventiveness on the rear wheel. They are also both more expensive, but well engineered and full supported, which I value highly.
We were warming up to The Copenhagen Wheel e-motor system, despite some limitations on what models it could fit on, with its simple set up and lightweight, integrated parts. But then the company suddenly went kaput, leaving one customer momentarily in the lurch. We’ve installed a few other brands, some Bafang, UT Custom, and E-bike Outfitters. These all worked once we finished with them, but all had some part needing replacement. I’m not yet sold on any of them.
Lastly, my technical wizard Austin sales manager Ron has created an LED flagpole system. After some struggles with parts choices, trike frame variety, and just financing the parts orders, we’ve now released the system. It costs $214.95, but comes with a rugged mount, a rechargeable battery, and powerful set of modern COB LED lights. If you recall the LED “whip” system we had before I can tell you that this is much more powerful for about the same price. We checked out some cheaper systems, down to about $60, but they were just not up to the job.
See a cute video on Facebook here, and Ron’s video from a Christmas parade in Temple here.
For our 2020 rally and spring event, ESR will develop on an earlier concept and borrow from the Heart of Texas Recumbent Rallies we’ve done in recent years. The new ‘Bent Event will be a combination of a public demo day, where the recumbent-curious can come and try out the new spring lineup, and a rally, where the enthusiasts can share their love of this activity and the culture around it.
Saturday, March 21, at the shop in Keller, just outside Fort Worth:
- We’ll actively promote the event with the surrounding communities in the DFW area to bring in the crowds.
- I’ll have a lot of new models from our suppliers.
- We’ll have manufacturers’ rep’s on hand to help show off all the neat stuff. Currently TerraTrike will be on hand. I’m yet to go after others, but that will happen.
- We’ll be doing test rides around our test ride space, and down the Red Carpet Trail, connecting to the Little Bear Creek / John Barfield Trail system
- Other fun stuff that I haven’t thought of yet
But that is just part of it.
Registration will open for a “mini-rally” that day, which includes:
- VIP status as a Recumbent Ambassador at the ‘Bent Event. Bring you ride, bring your recumbent homies, and be a recumbent elder statesman to help guide and energize the crowd that arrives. I’m all about giving people someone to interact with who isn’t a salesman. Come give the crowd someone to deal with on their level and show them what the culture is about.
- VIP lounge, snacks, and other perks
- After the main event, we’ll meet for dinner and talks, a mini-‘Bent University, for those who are familiar with that part of our former HOT Rallies.
- I might come up with other ideas.
- I will probably not have an opportunity to put on the chicken suit this year. 🙁
Then, Sunday March 22
- Rally registrants will get overnight bike/trike storage at the shop, if needed
- Meet up for a ride down our fabulous trail system. I’m still designing the route, but I’d anticipate a 1 hour ride, a stop for food at a restaurant (that will be expecting us) and a ride back. Anyone wanting to turn around sooner can, since the ride would mainly on trail except maybe at the very end.
- This ride will be open to everyone in the community, so I’d expect a mix of recumbents and not-so-recumbents.
Why the change? I need to get more exposure for the Keller shop, so I need a public event. The Rally is great, but it doesn’t reach new people and, honestly, to do it up the way I’d think proper was a lot of work. Though it broke even on paper, I could never compensate for the amount of time my Minister of Culture put in to organizing it.
I’ll probably bug you with more announcements as this event approaches, but you can also keep up by going to the HOT Rally Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HOTRecumbentRally/
… then if you are reading this you are probably mature enough to race in either the Dallas or College Station Senior Games.
The reason I bring this up is because Bacchetta Bikes has gotten a wild hair to support athletes racing Bacchettas in the Senior Games. Currently, only the Dallas games (cycling event in mid-March) and College Station games (late February) allow recumbents, being less benighted than their state- and national-level comrades. Do you own a Bacchetta? Willing to break a little sweat on one? Here is the deal:
If you compete in a Texas senior games event this spring (2019), then Bacchetta and Easy Street will make it worth your while. Download and complete the form below and submit it to Bacchetta with proof that you competed. One of two things will happen:
- If you plan to race on your current bike or trike, then Bacchetta Bikes will give you 10% off the purchase of a new Bacchetta from Easy Street (including the new Pelso). And, upon purchase of a new Bacchetta, Easy Street will give you a shop credit equal to 10% of the value of your new bike for upgrades, accessories, spare parts, and service after the sale.
- If you buy a new Bacchetta from Easy Street to use at the games this spring, once you have raced then Bacchetta will send you a 10% refund on the bike. Easy Street will offer a 10% credit.
But you have to race this spring. If you have any questions about this, call me, Mike, at 512-453-0438.
Click here for information about the Dallas Games
Click here for information about the College Station Games
Click here to download the rebate form
Click here to ask Mike a question
So, this just in … Gary Solomon and crew from the Laidback Bike Report are going to be at the HOT and we are EXCITED! The Laidback Bike Report puts together a monthly program followed by many in the recumbent community. As they describe it, “a monthly live video webcast of recumbent interviews and news.” Well, they are going to have more material than they know what to do with when they join us in March! We are looking forward to having them be a part of the fun. And, if you are there and asked for an interview, just say “yes!” If you’d like, take a look at the announcement they made in Facebook on December 20 about their plans to attend. Are we going to see YOU there too? I hope so!
Best wishes of the season to you,
Rebecca, your Easy Street Minister of Culture
It has been a while since I had a chance to talk over some new products in the shop. This may be old news to some. Sorry if some of this is “long attention span theater.” Just read until you are bored.
TerraTrike EVO-Bosch: Last year, TerraTrike introduced their first version of the Rambler EVO, a trike with a factory-installed electric conversion kit. Despite a few rapid price hikes during its first months of availability, it remained a good deal on an electric trike. I had some disappointments with the design. Though TT created an elegant mounting system for the battery, we still didn’t have a frame that was really built from the ground up, ready to mount a battery like you see on more finished upright e-bikes. No biggie. I was concerned about the Falco motor they spec’d since, as a former Falco dealer, I’d had a few problems with these systems. TerraTrike used simplified, pre-programmed control software intended to avoid all the fussy fidgeting with motor parameters that ate up a lot of my time. OK, we’ll see. Once we started getting EVO’s out on the street, we had some complaints from big people with steep hills that the motor didn’t have the torque to get them up their worst climbs. Hmmph.
Lately, my greatest fears were realized and TT got reports of motor systems doing some unpredictable things. This was my experience from my days selling Falco kits. TT asked us to stop selling the EVO, leaving both them and us with expensive, but unsellable inventory sitting on hand.
But, good news… the revised EVO has arrived with a Bosch motor system. Like the Shimano STEPS system we’re seeing on ICE and AZUB trikes, this system replaces the crankset, not the rear wheel. This means you lose your front derailer, but with an electric assist your low gears are much less important. It gives greater low-speed torque, so for the critical business of getting you up the worst hills, it is better suited. Since it doesn’t affect your rear wheel, you have a greater number of choices in transmission. The new EVO-Bosch comes with a plain old 8-speed derailer, but we’re working on them to pair the Bosch motor with a NuVinci continuously-variable transmission which has proven to be such an effective combination with the STEPS systems we’ve sold on AZUB trikes.
Once again the price went up, since the Bosch system costs more than Falco, but you get what you pay for. We’re expecting a retrofit kit for the lower-priced Falco system so we can clear out our remaining inventory of that model, and I expect we will focus on the Bosch-equipped EVO’s. More about that as we start playing with the new systems. I wish TT had used STEPS since we know it better, but here comes another learning experience for us.
Bionx crumbles: I tried to stay optimistic about a revival of Bionx, our Canadian e-motor supplier, but I’ve lost heart. We’ve liquidated our remaining inventory, mainly to existing Bionx customers to get them reserve parts. Much like when BikeE went under 18 years ago, I’m reluctant to create new dependent customers, even at a discount. I want to support what I sell.
The big question is “what next?” We need a reliable e-motor conversion system.
- I don’t see myself picking up Falco again. See my article on the EVO above. Hub motors offer great versatility, but I’m not looking to go down that path again.
- With “mid-drive” motors like STEPS and Bosch delivering better climbing torque, and with bike component design catching up with this new innovation, I’m ready to embrace mid-drive motors. I was strongly resistant to earlier systems for recumbents that actually had the motor at “mid drive,” halfway back on the frame. I didn’t like seeing the motor, with all its torque and force, bolted haphazardly onto the frame of the trike in some place that the frame maker never intended for torque to be placed. Mounting the motor at the crankset makes sense. STEPS would be my choice, but like Bosch, it requires the frame to be built specially for the purpose of holding the motor. “No problem,” I think, since on most trikes nowadays that just means a re-designed boom, not a whole new frame. Unfortunately, the trike makers aren’t helping. AZUB will sell us STEPS booms, so no problem. ICE only wants to sell STEPS booms with new trikes and won’t let us do a retrofit. TerraTrike has thrown in their lot with Bosch. Hopefully I’ll be able to get Bosch TT booms for retrofits on newer TT models (no dice for Rover or older Tour models). Catrike has been keeping a low profile. They doubtless have something planned, but so far, they are no help.
- There is a whole zoo of retrofit mid-drive kits, which is the most likely replacement. Bafang is the one most people are familiar with. These replace the crankset on any trike without needing special frame fittings. Currently, no company selling these is set up like Bionx was – which was to specifically support dealers like me. I can do like many online dealers do and track down someone in China and have them ship me a pallet-load of them, but that isn’t what I’m looking for. We’ve talked with some Bafang retailers about giving us a small discount and selling the kit for a competitive price, charging for installation (we never needed to do this with Bionx which sold at a more respectable margin). There are many other companies making similar things, but they are all sold direct to the consumer online. Several customers are waiting for me to decide on something, but I remain the same plodder I’ve been since 1996.
When I finally make up my mind, I’ll let you all know. But if I am going to sell a product, then I’m damn well going to support it. I’ve been fiddling with and using e-assist for nearly 20 years now, and I know about the range of quality and the problems which can arise. I’m not going to put my stamp on something without demonstrated quality and manufacturer support. More on this as it develops.
TerraTrike Gran Tourismo: TerraTrike’s new flagship trike is establishing itself as a popular model, as it should. It isn’t their most expensive offering, which suits me fine. TT has always been, in my mind, the trike for the masses and it is good of them to put their focus at a lower price point in their range. And best of all, the way the GT comes shipped makes it easy for us to offer a range of colors and spec level without having to special order. We can get you the GT you want quickly.
I’ve not much else to add about that. It is a good trike at a good price. You have to ride it to see if it is really for you, but offering that service is why we’re here.
Lightning Phantom: One of my favorite 2-wheelers has received an upgrade. The Phantom now comes with hydraulic disk brakes standard, as well as better tires. Yes, the price went up, but that’s how it always goes. On the flip side, I’ve still got some older model Phantoms and I can cut a deal. Talk with me directly if you are interested.
Adventure HD with STEPS: We’ve sold a few STEPS systems, but finally got a demonstrator model on the floor. This means we also have the scaled-up Adventure “HD” model permanently in the showroom as well. As an ICE demonstrator, we’ll be able to rent this out for people considering a purchase who want to see if it will carry them up that godawful hill in their neighborhood. I haven’t gone through and priced that yet, but as usual rentals would be 5% of retail for a 24-hour overnight rental, or 2.5% for an afternoon “get it back today” rental. ICE has gone insanely cushy on the Adventure seat. This company does nothing by half-measures.
More Electronic Gizmos: Mike Librik (me, that is) is this low-tech guy who just wants to see your bicycle run forever. He is not into sophisticated electronic gizmos, even though many of his customers are. So I hire people like Ron and Micah who are more gee-whiz than I am.
So it is with a sort of reserved professional enthusiasm that I tell you that new Cateye Sync lights can be synchronized and controlled through a smart phone app, or through each other. You can also monitor battery levels in the lights through the app. I’ll have to go get one of those smart phones some day. I’m still getting over buying the laptop computer. Never mind that SkyNet, or the Cylons, or the HAL 9000, can now turn off your bike lights from some satellite somewhere when you are trying to cross a busy intersection in the rain at 2AM during the lush rush. I’d better just let you call Micah and ask him about this.
Speaking of gee-whiz electronic gizmos, the Cycliq cameras (“cyclic?” “cycle IQ?”) have either a headlight (the Fly12) or taillight model (the Fly6), and they store the last few minutes of riding footage. Why do this? While we’d like to assure you that motorists and cyclists always co-exist in mature harmony, this isn’t always the case. If you are harassed on the road, you will wish you had some evidence, and now you do. Indeed, if you are hit by an irresponsible driver who then flees the scene, you really need evidence. Cycliq cameras also have a security alarm that will complain if the bike is moved with the alarm active, and it will “bluetooth” connect to your phone to alert you, if you are in range.
Well … I surprised myself. Didn’t know I had that much to say about the newest gizmos, but there ya go.
What you will get is a REALLY GOOD DEAL on our new Easy Street “Texas” jersey, designed especially for recumbent riders. It is the same jersey as we have sold in the past (and have since run out of), but we have changed “Austin” to “Texas” in honor of our two shops.
Oops! We need to have a few days to organize our order and submit it to Bend-It. So, I had to change the final date to register and order jerseys to Dec. 26th. Thanks for your understanding!
(The actual jersey will have the color fade you see on the far left. I’m not sure why we don’t see that on the other three views.)
SO, here is the offer:
The jerseys are going to retail for $65/each. WHEN you register by December 26th, you are able to order a jersey for only $45, deliverable to you at the HOT. In this way, you can get a significant price break on them AND be sure you get one (or as many as you want) in the size(s) you want.
If you have already registered, go back to BikeReg and you will see an option for ordering Merchandise. Enter your order there. Obviously, if you have not yet registered, go do it now and order your jersey(s). 🙂
Now, a word on sizes. Bend-It swears that if you use their size chart, you will get a jersey that fits. I know we all feel as if their jerseys run small. So, keep that in mind when you order.
–Rebecca, Your ESR Minister of Culture
The newest event at Easy Street’s Heart of Texas Recumbent Rally is the Texas Trike Shootout. I expect this event to be exclusive to the 2019 rally.
Back in the 1990’s when ESR got started, the #1 recumbent news source was Recumbent Cyclist News, and editor Bob Bryant did reviews of any ‘bent he could get his hands on. When Bryant managed to get two closely-competing bike or trike designs in his stable at once, he’d do a dual, comparative review called a “shootout.” I’m borrowing that term here.
Earlier in 2018, Bacchetta Bikes made a splash at Recumbent Cycle Con by introducing the Bacchetta CT2.0 carbon racing trike. The CT 2.0 took an existing European design and enhanced it with innovations used by Bacchetta, known mainly for making fast recumbent two-wheelers. Prior to this, there were only two “fast trikes” that one could buy “off the rack,” so to speak: The Catrike 700 and the ICE VTX.
I will not knock the 700’s speed, but it keeps a lot of sport-touring ideas, like the mesh seat and rear disk drag brake, and a plethora of standard accessories for comfort. It was not a full-blown “win at any price” trike like the VTX, with its carbon shell seat, titanium axles, and meticulously analyzed and hydroformed frame geometry.
The VTX is the one to beat. Can the CT 2.0 do it?
Well, let’s find out! At the 2019 rally, Bacchetta and ICE pit crews will be attending with their trikes. Here is how it will work.
- A select group of rally attendees, probably 10-15 people, will each race both models. (See below for how we’ll decide who races.) These races will be competitive with both trikes on the course at one time.
- We’ll lay out an out-and-back course, making a steady climb to a turn-around, so climbing speed is a factor. The trikes will circle a pole before returning, so turning radius and turning stability is a factor. Then the trikes descend to the finish, so top speed is a factor.
- We will measure all the individual times for each trike. We will also count total wins. The trike with the lowest overall time across all riders wins. The trike with the most individual victories wins. Most likely these measurements point to the same winner, but I’d be curious to see why if they don’t.
- We will see how an individual’s times compare on each trike, and the companies can look into why different people’s times vary.
- We intend for a variety of people to race, not just the biggest, fastest people. Sure, someone signed up for the Warriors’ ride will ride faster than someone signed up for the Scenic ride, but we’d like men, women, short, tall, big, small, old, young… a wide variety of people to race these. All this is to help both companies make a better racing trike. And we’re doing it to have fun!
- The course will be laid out to give a competitive spectacle but also to be safe. We don’t want anyone dying for the cause, here.
- We’ll aim to give lots of people a crack at this, but we will limit the number of racers just because we figure people will only want to watch two trikes race each other for so long. We will do some time trials on Friday to determine who will race, along with our own selection criteria. So, let us know id you want to do it (email works, use email@example.com), get there on the early side, and make sure you are on the list when you arrive.
- Whether you race or not, you’ll be able to ride both trikes. Experts will be on hand to help you get off that low seat! We’ve got all weekend and lots of opportunities to ride.
- The CT 2.0 will not be available for sale until summer of 2019. Come ride it and race it in the spring! If you are on the fence about ordering this trike, this will give you a better chance to check it out than you might have had at Recumbent Cycle Con in Nashville. The 2019 VTX will be available in January of 2019, and will be on display in Austin from that time
- If you want to race then contact firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know, but it isn’t essential that you do. Please get to the rally as soon as you can so we can put you in the time trials. Just because you aren’t the fastest rider doesn’t mean you shouldn’t race. Leggy Lance bike racer types are welcome, but so is fat old granny. We want a diverse range of riders, and since each rider’s times count toward both trikes, we’ll still be doing a balanced assessment of the trikes even if Lance vs. granny isn’t a balanced race.
That’s it. Since I don’t foresee a product release like this every year, expect this laid-back showdown only at the 2019 HOT Rally in Keller.
Time for a long-overdue update on progress at the new shop.
I’ve long held that one cannot gain wisdom without feeling like an idiot, and I’m feeling a lot wiser now. I think it is a good thing to have one’s contractor handle the city building permits since they are the one responsible for doing the work, but what I’ve learned is that as client I should take the trouble to follow up with the city and verify that the permits they pulled are the ones they said they’d pull. Had I done this I wouldn’t be sitting here idle for three weeks. With a partitioning wall, door reconstruction, rearrangements to the overhead lighting, and some plumbing repairs to do, this fellow went and pulled a permit for paint and carpet work. A city inspector came by and pointed the problem out to the crew who was there, but the guy in charge did nothing, despite my protests, and they came back and shut down work.
After a lot of prodding I did get this fellow back into the city where we learned we needed an asbestos report done for our carpentry permit, which got done. And to his credit, my contractor did complete all the permit applications, despite now being charged double for them due to the stop work order. He didn’t just wash his hands of his little debacle and leave me scrambling to find a replacement. I can’t say I’d hire this yoyo again, though.
One bit of progress is that despite the stop work order on doofis, the sign company was able to come and install the big sign in front. So that warmed my cockles a bit. Also, our work bench is complete and just waiting for the stop work order to be lifted, probably Monday or Tuesday, so I can get the tools set out. The same carpenter (a former recumbent shop owner in the DFW area) is finishing up our counter. Getting computers, tools, and inventory on shelves set out is ready to go, but I’m waiting for the contractor to finish some drywall work. Once that dust settles there are lots of things ready to go.
Hopefully we’ll manage a soft opening by the end of June. I’ve learned to moderate my expectations, however.
Work on the trail progresses in a schizophrenic manner. The concrete contractor got an early start, but the city of Keller asked him to stop since they hadn’t actually issued him a purchase order for the work. They got that out, and now the work seems to be set back several weeks. I’ll see what I can do to move that along, but that depends on everyone’s schedules.
I was really glad several months ago when I put the matter of finding the location behind me so I could set to work setting things up. Now I’m really looking forward to putting this phase behind me. Me feel wiser every day!
So, Duncan G came in today, bringing his Rans V-Rex in for some long-overdue attention. Of course, I had to chat with him based on the appearance of his trusty ‘bent that is his main mode of transportation. Turns out that he decided to go car-less in 1996. Why? Well, he got ready for his first day of work at Cap Metro, went downstairs to get in his car, and his car wouldn’t start. That’s where it all began. After all, he now worked for Cap Metro, he told himself, time to take the bus.
I asked him, after all this time, what he considered to be the advantages and the challenges of living car-less in Austin. Not surprisingly, saving lots of money and getting lots of exercise were the top two reasons to appreciate going car-less. The biggest initial challenge he remembered was realizing he just could not get up and go, anytime and anywhere. And, for a gent who likes to get out and enjoy all that a town like Austin has to offer, that was difficult.
Fortunately, a few years later, Cap Metro put bike racks on their buses and that was a big help. And, gradually, he has developed more options as he utilizes Car2Go and the get-a-ride apps like RideAustin; makes getting around our fair city just that much easier and more doable.
Biggest and newest event in his transportation life? Moving to an address near the Crestview Station, hub of CapMetro trains and bus routes going every which way. “Transport Heaven” he calls it.
As usual, I find myself inspired by our customers. YAY!
I thought it was just about time I got up to see the progress being made on the new shop and ride some of the trails in the area and meet with my Executive Party-Planning Committee! So glad I came. The shop is looking good; very bright and clean looking. Our signature green, white and black colors are in evidence, Mike and Micah consulting at every turn. I feel just a little disappointed that we are going to have to put off some of the more artistic touches — especially for the bathroom, so enthusiastically discussed on Facebook — but we will get those eventually.
I did get to ride the trails this morning, leaving Mike to wield hammer and saw as he works on building a platform to display our lovely ‘bents in the windows. My oh my! What an extensive trail system! I had LOTS of opportunities to get lost and tried to take advantage of all of them. 🙂 The benefits of my meandering path included seeing lovely neighborhoods and having a number of conversations with friendly people who I accosted along the way to see if I could figure out where in the world I was and which direction I should go to complete what I thought was a loop. (This tends to be my favorite part of going on a relaxed ride in unknown territory.) The prize for friendly conversation, however, goes to a woman who was out working in her back yard garden bordering the Cottonbelt Trail and overheard my conversation with another bicyclist. She offered to be of any help that she could… including inviting us in for water and to use her bathroom. I was very impressed and told her she got my gold star award for friendliest bicycle support person for the day.
Finally turned on my phone’s GPS and, though she directed me to go in the exact opposite direction that my evidently untrustworthy intuition urged, made it back to Cross Timbers Park from where I could find my way back to the shop. YAY!
Look forward to seeing you out on the trails,
Rebecca, ESR Minister of Culture (etc.)
A view in the back door, which we contrarily plan to make into the main showroom entrance.
So this is a little embarrassing. My plan is to make this blog the #1 place for Easy Street info, but one of the most significant recent events got posted on Facebook but not here! So, for the record, we’ve signed a lease on a new shop in Keller at 2041 Rufe Snow Dr. #101. That is old news to most of you, so I’ll move on.
Micah has cleaned out his Austin apartment and handed in his keys, so he is now based in the Fort Worth area. The shop has a phone number, 817-846-8903, and an email addy. This is all diligently recorded on our Directions page and our Contact page. But then you probably knew that too.
Behind the scenes, power is on in the premises and the contractor has a key. Work should begin inside later this week. We’ve got a storage unit nearby and have started transferring inventory and supplies. Once a little floor work is done I’ll be able to begin storing things inside.
The Red Carpet trail, as cleared out by the Keller Parks Dept.
The surveyor finally got their report to my civil engineer, and once I have his report next week I can move forward with our trail. Since any bit of trail needs a name I’m going to call it “The Red Carpet” trail, as a nod to my idea of good service. I figure that should sit well with the management of this shopping center too, as well as the city of Keller.
More to come. I figure once the floor is done, the electrical inspection is passed and we have a cash register and work bench in there we’ll be able to do business, if only by appointment. If you have a need, feel free to contact Micah, as he plans to hit the ground running.
Now that all the excitement over the new shop announcement in Keller is passed (with the grand opening celebrations looming ahead), it is time to get down to some unpleasant facts.
Easy Street staff is about to get stretched very thin. I’ve got four people working this operation, including myself if you count all my executive navel-gazing as work, and now we’re going to try to run two shops at a 200-mile distance. Yes, you can expect to see new staff come on at both shops, but not immediately. Most of you are familiar with the term “growing pains” as they apply to business. At least in the short run, if not the medium, our ability to tend to your needs will diminish. Here’s the dope:
- Showroom hours will shrink. As of April, the Austin showroom will be open Thursday through Sunday, now closed Monday in addition to Tuesday and Wednesday. We will need extra time to catch up jobs, orders, receiving, and all the other back-office stuff. I’m sure they will all be driving up from Corpus Christi on Monday to stand dejectedly with their noses to the door glass, wishing they’d troubled to look at the new store hours.
- Similarly, the Keller shop will be open from Wednesday to Saturday, closed Sunday through Tuesday. Micah will be on his own up there, with support from me when I can, but I’ve got a shop to run down here. Micah’s impression of the Dallas market is that it’s lucrative, but demanding and wants it done now. Well, too bad.
- On the events front, expect less of them for the time being. We’re going to hunker down to the bread and butter business of stocking the showroom, informing our customers, and getting their repair jobs done. Rebecca will have two shops’ books to keep, and will increasingly cover inventory management. We won’t stop doing events, and we will be throwing a grand opening for the Keller shop, but we will stop doing the more ambitious ones… for the moment. Having said that:
- The Spring Glamping trip is cancelled. I should have seen that coming sooner, but looking at things realistically I can’t pull both Rebecca and I out of the shop during our busiest time of week in one of our busiest months. I expect to return to Glamping in the fall when business is starting to slow down and we can catch our breath a little. Anyway, no one had actually signed up for it yet.
- With Micah off working his magic in Keller, I won’t be able to trot him out to consult on hi-tech gizmos any more. Yes, I’ll learn about some of this stuff, but the past few years of having him around has made it very easy for me to push stuff off on him that now I’ll have to come up to speed on. I was painfully aware of this a couple of days ago when he was fussing over a customer with an electronically shifted Catrike he’d built up with a power meter crankset. There is all this bike stuff now that talks to your smart phone. I guess I’ll be getting myself a smart phone. You may know me as a mechanical problem solver, but I’ve never been into the “hot new things” like Micah has. I’ve got some catching up to do, and here comes STEPS And Di2 and all that.
- Similarly, Micah has been able to pull on my supply of doo-hickies, thingamabobs, and other little problem solvers that have accumulated around this shop since the 90’s.
- Lastly, and most painful for me, is that our ability to do fast turnaround service drops considerably. I know some of you have to come a long way for your repair work, and I’d like to be able to drop everything and knock out your job. I may even be able to, but I can’t promise it and a part of me unwisely wishes to promise it. I mean I should be able to tune up this 1980’s vintage Inifinity in 100 minutes, and maybe I could if these yo-yos didn’t keep parading into the showroom. And Laurie needs off when? There is gonna be some unhappy people, and I’ll get to meet all of them.
This condition won’t last forever. There will be new staff. There may even be more people of Micah and Laurie’s caliber, but these are hard to shake out. Even so, new hires will first be doing build work which keeps the showroom stocked but doesn’t help us react to someone’s immediate needs. The vast variety of designs and systems on recumbents means that training people even to do check-overs isn’t trivial. Indeed, to me the simple “check over” is intended as assurance to you that no problems will spring up soon, and that takes a depth of understanding that most people don’t come in off of the street with.
Is everyone happy yet? Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. It has been bothering me now for a few months. The need to cancel the Glamping trip made this announcement more urgent, so there it is.
It’s not as rainy a weekend in Austin as expected, though the College Station Senior Games, farther to the rainy east of us, have been cancelled due to weather concerns. This would have traditionally been the weekend of our big annual Heart of Texas Recumbent Rally, but it would have been nerve-wracking going into it with the weather so uncertain. It isn’t cold, but everything is pretty wet.
I decided back in November to put the rally on hold this year because we’d launched the effort to get a second shop opened in Fort Worth, so I’m taking this occasion to write an update on that work. This may tax your attention span. It definitely taxes mine! On the surface little is visible, but the reality is that this has consumed me. My thanks to Micah and Laurie for keeping up with trends in the market and helping with the customers, and Rebecca for keeping up the administrative stuff.
I don’t see anything as certain until a lease is signed, and you’ll hear me crowing about that when it happens. But up till now there has been lots of driving back and forth, visiting places, rounding up contractors for estimates, writing descriptions of work, calling various city inspectors, and intense conversations with real estate agents and/or property owners. This has all been instructive and character building. :^/ I’m reminded in some ways of when I was a greenhorn bike dealer, with customers occasionally explaining the basics of bike maintenance to me. Maybe not so mortifying, but instructive.
Micah communing with Plan A
Over the past few months I’ve come up with 5 possible scenarios for a Ft. Worth shop. The first place I found I thought was going to be it, but it was the first case of dealing with a property owner whose place was in shambles and who thought it was my responsibility to fix his property for the benefit of paying him rent. I just couldn’t abide that. Is this unrealistic? That was “plan A,” in a retail strip center well situated by a decently long, but not the longest, trail. I still miss that place, just not the guy who arrived in a chauffeured Rolls Royce to tell me he had no money.
Lots of work needed on Plan D, but lots of potential
I spent a few weeks working seriously on “plan D,” a space I really liked, with great highway access and trail access, though again the trail wasn’t the longest and it was broken often by neighborhood streets. This was a case of a “light industrial” zoned auto garage that the city had re-zoned commercial. The owner had to put a lot of money into it to make it rentable and seemed agreeable to doing so. After my experience with “plan A” I was adamant about his needing to get it up to code. He had the vague way of talking, but when I finally got a firm number on what was needed to bring it up to code he couldn’t avoid the matter and finally told me I’d need to replace his HVAC system, update the electrical and insulate all the walls. The next time I do this I’ll be better at getting to the truth of things sooner.
Back on the trail, I looked back at “plan B,” which was another light industrial space well situated next to great trail. I knew I’d have to put money into fixing it up without much help from the land owner. After all the hoops I jumped through on plan D I got right to things like calling the city inspectors, only to learn that I couldn’t put a bike shop in a place zoned “manufacturing-light.” I got great encouragement from the chair of the local planning commission to get the zoning changed, but considering that the property owner (whom I’d never met) needed to sign off on it and I’d certainly end up like the owner of plan D, needing to upgrade everything, I pushed plan B to the back burner. Thinking about the owner’s leasing agent pushing the lease on me a few weeks ago, who certainly knew I couldn’t even do business there once a lease was signed, sure gives me the creeps.
Real estate agents confer while Micah communes with Plan C
So as of this last week, I began to run the numbers and make the calls on “plan C,” which is a nice retail center in a ritzy northern suburb. It is close to great trail, perhaps the best. This trail is long with lots of trees, but I’ve a 200 foot gap to it from a quiet corner at the end of the loading dock, meaning I will need to get into the trail-building business to connect my customers to it. The city is enthusiastic and the Parks director sent me a grant application to get the city to cover 33-50% of the cost of it. A list of contractors is due this coming week. I don’t yet have assurance from the board of the corporation that owns the shopping center that I can run trail across part of their property. Most of the trail would cross undeveloped parkland, and I don’t have the city council’s approval for that yet, but I’m optimistic with the Parks director so happy about it. As you might guess, the space is expensive compared to the others, but still less than I pay in Austin. I’d get a generous tenant improvement allowance, though I wouldn’t be able to spend it on my trail (makes no sense to me). I’m busy sketching out a floor plan, ready to share it with the fire marshal.
If I get the go-ahead from the management, I expect I’ll take the plunge. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the product and in Micah to make thing work. But if this falls through then there is “plan E,” which is to move all the goods into Micah’s house, get him a van, and work by appointment, at your location if necessary, or at some trail head, and work at low overhead (though with much less cash flow) until the right place comes along. I’m hoping for a more conventional approach than that. I’d like to get past this stage, not prolong it.
Me getting prettier every day
That’s it. These past few months have been some of the hardest in my life. Having done this bike-wizard thing for over 20 years now, I don’t mind having a different project consuming me. Responding to all the requests to get more Easy Streets out in the countryside has just been the impetus to this work, but I’ve been there in spirit already. It all means spending all my time doing stuff I’m not experienced at, generally feeling like a bit of a fool, spinning my wheels, working inefficiently. I’m slow, but I’m stubborn once I commit, no surprise there.
Next weekend is what I’d hoped would be “grand opening” weekend, and it certainly won’t be happening then. But it will at some point. More news to come.
Early March update: The shopping center approved the trail plan and it is written into the “letter of intent” document they sent. I’m waiting on contractors’ bids and a civil engineer’s report, as required by the city, and the trail proposal goes before their Parks Board this week.
All I can say is … we could not have asked for a better inaugural Glamping event! In fact, when I questioned one of our Glampers on Sat. evening if she and her husband had been having fun, she replied, “Oh, this is way beyond fun!” That sure made me happy. And, whether or not you choose to read the rest of this blog post, make sure you get guest perspectives by taking a look on Facebook and reading Gay Bradford’s visitor post, comments posted by various other glampers, and looking through the album of photos.
With this being our very first “Glamping” (“Glamor” + “Camping” for the uninitiated) adventure that Easy Street has ever hosted, needless to say, we were on pins and needles from the very start. Would there be enough people to sign up? Did we choose the right location? Had we planned the right number of activities? etc. etc. And, of course, the first weekend of November was pushing it in terms of what we could expect weather-wise, but I simply could not resist the idea of scheduling it to coincide with the full moon. And, it all worked … Thank the Lord and pass the mashed potatoes!
Kerrville-Schreiner Park in Kerrville, TX was just a great place for our first such event. The setting was beautiful and we were lucky enough to have the fall color just beginning to show up. The paved roadways in the Park, along with the beautiful 4-mile paved trail along the Guadalupe River connecting the Park and Kerrville, gave those who were not interested in off-road biking plenty of opportunity to ride anyway.
The off-road trails were easy enough to encourage riders new to this style of riding to get out there and experience what it’s like, and yet they were not so challenging that we had to worry about losing riders along the way due to death or injury … bad for advertising and selling the experience to future customers
And, Sunday morning a small group of intrepid adventurers rode a lovely country road out on the north side of town. Though they missed our fabulous flapjacks, sounds like they enjoyed themselves immensely.
The ride into Kerrville for dinner at Mamacita‘s on Friday evening was a great way to start the weekend,especially on the way back under that full moon I mentioned. I was a little disappointed we did not get a private room for the sake of making announcements and going over some riding tips for the next day, but the restaurant was all set up for us and, despite our large group, the service was excellent, the food was very good, generously portioned, and reasonably priced, and the restaurant provided quite a lively and entertaining setting. And — they helped us celebrate Fernando’s birthday which was important! Riding at night was a new experience for some, but with lights, the full moon, and great company with everyone watching out for each other, it was lovely. And, there was a fountain display with rotating colored lights which we would never even have noticed during the day.
I have to mention here the hospitality of Adam and Lisa, owners of Hill Country Bicycle Works, locations in Kerrville and Fredericksburg. They allowed us to stuff all of our ‘bents into their shop while we dined at Mamacita’s. (There was no safe bike parking at the restaurant.) And, they made friendly and interesting companions at dinner as well. In fact, a fellow had wandered into the Hill Country Bicycle Works earlier on Friday looking for recumbents. They encouraged him to come back in the evening with the promise that there was going to be a bunch of us showing up … and he did, along with his wife. They had a great time, he bought a used ‘bent Mike had brought along, he provided an internet connection to Mike on Sunday for his appearance on the Laidback Bike Report, and, on top of all that, he turned out to be a fellow model rocket enthusiast so he and Mike talked model rockets as well. I love to experience serendipity!
Easy Street provided breakfast Saturday and Sunday, lunch-fixings on Saturday, and the main course for a potluck dinner Saturday night. There was PLENTY OF FOOD. I will have to admit that buying food for group meals is challenging. With the word “glamor” involved as part of our promised experience, I simply could not stand the idea of running out of food — and we certainly did not! And, turns out our glampers were gifted cooks as well; sure enjoyed tasting the various dishes they contributed.
There were many pleasures to the weekend, planned and unplanned, from “Okie Golf” [you can ask me later!] provided by the Bradford’s to free massages by Fernando who set up Saturday afternoon in the Dining Room. There were experienced riders helping inexperienced riders. There were new friends made, future outings planned, and everyone pitching in to help as needed. THANKS EVERYONE! We will do it again. Cheers!