Recycled 3: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

• Editor’s note: Since my Bicycle Retailer and Industry News column won’t survive into the New Year, I’ve decided to resurrect a six-pack’s worth of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” screeds between now and then. This is No. 3, and it fits in nicely with Khal’s comment under the previous installment.

Herself aboard one of her two remaining bikes, a Soma Double Cross, at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park.

How to sell cycling when ‘street smarts’ keep buyers indoors?

“What are you doing to create great experiences?”—Tania Burke of Trek Travel during the 2017 Bicycle Leadership Conference

By Patrick O’Grady

Herself instructed me to sell her road bike the other day.

The timing was both good and bad. The good: Sport Systems down on Montgomery was getting ready to host the 23rd annual BikeABQ bike swap.

This sounds like a craft brewery inviting the local moonshiners to set up their stills in the parking lot, only with more methodical beards and less random gunfire. But it’s a fund-raiser for BikeABQ, so good for them.

The bad: It seemed counterintuitive to surrender a perfectly rideable bike going into Bike Month, unless it went to someone who might actually ride it.

Plus this bike is a golden oldie, a 48cm Cannondale R800 2.8 from the fabulous Nineties. Made in USA, bought from Old Town Bike Shop in Colorado Springs. Eight-speed 105 group with STI. Possibly the oldest bike in the garage, which is saying something.

Still, she hardly ever rode it in the Springs, and her only contact with it here has involved bumping into it while getting into or out of the Honda.

Herself claims it was scary to ride the road in the Springs, which it was, and terrifying to ride it in the Duke City, which it can be. So off it goes, or so we hope. One more hook in the garage for me.

This won’t leave her bikeless, in case you’re wondering. She still has a Soma Double Cross that has logged a lot of hook time since we moved to Albuquerque, and a Barracuda A2T mountain bike she occasionally rides to hot yoga/TRX classes. Call it a mile each way, about half of it on a shared-use, off-street, paved trail.

I often ride there and back with her, and we both try not to think about the ghost bike we see en route.

Here be dragons. I don’t mean to pick on Albuquerque and Colorado Springs here. I’ve ridden the road in both places and lived to tell about it, if only because most motorists never get to read this column.

But experience doesn’t keep me safe from the inattentive, impaired, inept or insane. If they can get Michele Scarponi and Yoann Offredo, they can get me, and probably you, too.

The autos just keep getting larger and more complex—see Bill Vlasic’s April 12 story in The New York Times about the clamor for supersized SUVs that are smarter than their drivers—while the roads mostly stay the same size.

When and if the roads do get bigger, they attract more and bigger autos. You could be excused for thinking a 2011 Honda CR-V is a “small” SUV until you see one garaged next to an ’05 Subaru Forester. Neither is something you’d like to have parked on you while you wait for the ambulance.

There be a drag. Now Herself is a smart person, into fitness, with a goodly amount of disposable income until I figure out where she’s hidden it.

Yet here she is, selling one-third of her bikes, leaving the second third idle and the third third nearly so. And for what? Indoor exercise classes. Hot yoga. In Albuquerque, where the average high temperature is 67 degrees and we enjoy 278 days of brilliant sunshine per annum.

You’d have to point something a lot scarier than a Lincoln Navigator full of texting drunks at me to drive me into a room full of sweaty yogis on a sunny May day.

But I’m in the minority, judging from the proliferation of sweatshops like Herself’s Hot Yoga Infusion studio, Life Time Fitness, CrossFit, SoulCycle or Peloton Interactive, the last of which claims to have nearly a half-million users, according to Lauren Goode’s April 25 story at

Getting buzzed. We bicycle types do a lot of handwringing—and rightly so, given the grim stats in this magazine every issue—over how to corral that ever-more-elusive customer.

We seek out experts who bludgeon us with buzzwords like “ecosystem,” “community” and “continuum,” or chastise us for selling “products” instead of “experiences,” and damn few of them, too.

Peloton will sell you a 135-pound bike that goes nowhere for $1,995, then charge you a subscription fee of $39 per month for one year to ride it while staring into a monitor. That may be one hell of an experience, but it sounds more like exercise to me.

And I always hated gym class, with its jockstraps and Desenex and bewhistled authority figures hollering all the time.

Fly like an (AMC) Eagle. For me the most memorable experiences are to be found outdoors, where my parents told me to go whenever I was being a pain in the ass, which was most of the time, and still is.

I liked it outdoors. I still do. But it’ll take more than MarketSpeak® to sell that experience to strangers when even family isn’t buying.

Maybe we’ll get some relief once Silicon Valley gets bored with “smart” SUVs and self-driving cars and starts focusing on the newfangled flying models.

Then again, maybe not. I mean, I’ve seen the way these people drive on the ground.

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the May 15, 2017, issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

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15 Responses to “Recycled 3: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Damn, I wish I were literary like you are, O’G. Nicely done.

    • JD Dallager Says:

      Khal: Actually I thought your reply (Best of PO’G #2) was very well done. Having had a few “near misses” from inattentive or malicious vehicle drivers in my road cycling days, your comment reinforced my experiences and also got my blood pressure up into the “red zone” as I pondered why so few of these licensed drivers are held accountable for their actions.

      PO’G: Love your getting outdoors philosophy! As I reflect on the paradoxes of American culture in my dotage, your comments on fitness et al centers really resonated. There appear to be more of them (gyms, fitness, yoga, rock climbing, etc.) every day; but the amount of obesity in the US continues to climb. ??? Sounds like a mutually-reinforcing perpetual motion economic driver to me (I was going to say a self-licking ice cream cone, but that would have made me hungry!): Pay more to eat more (or less healthy) food, then pay to go to a fitness center to allow you to eat more/less healthy food. Is that the “multiplier effect” I remember from an economics class or merely the “invisible hand” of free enterprise? 🙂

      • khal spencer Says:

        Thanks, JD (and your initials immediately bring me back to sitting in front of the TV watching Hill Street Blues) for the compliment. I’ll try to live up to it.

        Like you folks, I find it worse than torture to be on a stationary bike or in a gym. They will have to pry my crumpled road bicycle from my cold, dead hands.

        On that side note, my oldest in the fleet is now a CAAD-5. It was a 2.8 like Herself’s but I had more bikes than asses or garage hooks at one point and traded the 2.8 Cannonball frame for a nice stereo amp.

        • Pat O'Brien Says:

          Hey Khal, I read your post, and it was well done and on point. I hope the recipients of your letters give them the attention they deserve. I am surprised that remedial driver’s school doesn’t include a session on how to interact with bicycles when driving. I’m not sure that’s included in any driver’s ed course. Your last paragraph above reminds me of the line in “The Blues Brothers” about trading the Caddy for a microphone. “Okay, I can see that.”

          You’re right. Our buddy Patrick certainly has a magical way with words. And Patrick, I think I already told you that Sandy is selling her last two bikes, a Trek 520 and a Salsa Ala Carte. All of her hobbies, weaving, knitting, spinning, and tapestry, involve her hands. And she is no longer willing to risk them for a ride. Me? Like we discussed in prior comments, I am very careful to pick safe routes for the time I will be riding. We cyclists shouldn’t have to do that.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Shucks, I just have lots of practice (I wrote my first newspaper story for money 43 years ago). Also, I had strong, ruthless teachers at the Colorado Springs Sun and later, the Gazette Telegraph.

      Finally, it helps that I really, really like writing. Since the advent of bloggery I bet I’ve written more words for free than for pay.

      I think it was PE in school that taught me to hate indoor exercise. I’ve had gym memberships over the years, from low-end YMCA deals to full-on yupster paradises with wet bars and massage therapists. Quit ’em all. I just gotta get outdoors, even if it’s just for a walk.

      Pat, I’m sorry to hear that Sandy’s selling the bikes, but I understand her reasoning. I’ve broken both collarbones and dislocated two fingers and can confirm that such injuries do not enhance one’s writing, editing and drawing skills.

  2. Gary Burmette Says:

    Agreed like totally, dude… Let’s hope that the autonomous vehicles will be programmed to leave us cyclists a measly 18 inches or so, which is more than the drunken texting twatwaffles do.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Life is fixin’ to get real interesting in that regard. The debate is all over the map. Will autonomous private vehicles croak public transit? WIll public transit go autonomous too? How long before Skynet achieves self-awareness? Etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

      I continue to be amazed at how eager for robotic transport some of us are. You’d think these people had never faced the Blue Screen of Death, the Spinning Beach Ball of Doom, and the ever-popular “Your phone call is important to us. Please continue to hold.”

      Just wait until you’re at a standstill in the middle of a 12-lane freeway during rush hour, locked into your immobile, autonomous BMW Blade Runner by a kernel panic, a botched app install, or some pimply teenage hacker rubbing one out in his mother’s basement.

      “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” asks the tinny voice from Lower Spaminacanistan, assuming your phone hasn’t bricked as well.

      This is when you kick out the moon roof, clamber out, grab the bike off the rack, and pedal off. To paraphrase Thomas McGuane: “We’re looking at under $40K. Let’s ride away from it.”

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Try to buy a new car with a manual transmission. “We have to order it” they say. I bought the Corolla iM off the lot with a 6 speed manual transmission. They got it as part of their allotment of Corollas; they didn’t order it. Better for me in price negotiations. People can’t be distracted from their devices and entertainment systems to push a clutch pedal and shift gears. Most of folks these days have never driver a manual transmission vehicle.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Herself finally went auto when she bought her new-used CR-V. It also has the usual in-dash Bluetoothery for connecting to the phone and/or portable music machine.

        I still rocked the hand-cranked windows until I upgraded from the 1998 Tacoma to the 2005 Furster. But I still have the five-speed manual. Can’t quite make the leap to automatical transmissionistics.

  3. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    I feel for you guys in the battle to enjoy using roads that are as much ours as the motorists who hate us. Certainly the computerized pilots will be less hateful, but will they be any better at not running us over? When I think of all of the possible situations on the roads in the USA combined with all the unintended consequences of things like Facebook, I wonder how the wizards creating the software could ever conjure up enough algorithms to deal with it all?
    Meanwhile, folks will take to the streets in “safe” motor vehicles to travel to a place they can sweat while looking out the window and going nowhere while Faux News blares on the video screens. Sad.

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