Saturday, January 15, 2011

Off to Headquarters!

Most people think I reside in Burlington since that's where our corporate headquarters have been for the last  year.  No, I still live in western New York and work remotely from my home office.  There are three of us in that situation.  We make the trip to Burlington several times a year to see familiar faces and get caught up in a whirlwind of meetings. Such was the case this week when Phil, our marketing analytics guru, and I jumped into a Jeep rented from Enterprise and hit the road. Kelly, our marketing communications manager, is a brand new mom, so she's not taking any road trips right away! We left under sunny skies and were soon on our way on the NYS Thruway.

Lots of snow everywhere but on the road.  And, yes, that very light cloud cover is our definition of a bright sunny day here in New York....

Six hours later, we pulled into the parking lot at 47 Maple Street.

Being Prez has its benefits!
47 Maple is the home of JDK, our brand managers, Terry Precision Cycling and several other businesses. It's a converted warehouse with tons of ambiance. The floors dip, dive and creak under foot. The exposed brick and massive steel beams are a reminder of the strength of the building and the wonderful times it has seen. (You know how I feel about steel!)

Branding is everything.  Even the door into our office hasn't escaped it!

Yeah, baby!

The first office you see when you walk in is that of our CEO, Liz Robert. That beauty of a bike is her new Fast Woman -- a titanium version designed by me and specially built for us by Lynskey Performance.  (Gotta love anyone who works out of a glass office in full sight of the front door.  No hiding from or by this woman!)

It's all about the bike.
Hugs all around for all the Terry employees who have been plugging away for the last year in Burlington and handshakes for the new faces we've only known as a voice over the phone. Winners, all of them! Later, we'll relax and talk about things. Right now, it's upstairs to "the roof", where we'll meet with our JDK brand managers to talk about progress so far.

This is the view from JDK's "roof" conference room. 
No time to enjoy the view. We have work to do. That's Liz at the head of the table. Next to her is Michael Jager, one of the brainiest brand guys you'd ever want to meet.

That's how our whirlwind tour went -- a series of meetings. Time flies when you're with neat people and you can see the fruits of your labor.   But when evening comes and the building empties out, it's time to relax with friends at one of Burlington's great eateries. There are so many, it's tough to choose one. Sigh -- I wish we had that problem where I live!

No explanation necessary.

On the third day, we headed home, but not before a stop at our warehouse which is a few miles away from HQ.  This is where the rubber hits the road. Your orders are filled here by people who want to make sure you're a happy customer. Theirs is a tough life and they do an amazing job for us.

I'll take the UPS orders; you take the USPS orders!

Outside, snow was falling and the weather prediction was for a whole lot more, so we hit the road while there was still time to get out of Dodge. Sure glad that Jeep had four wheel drive!

Slow going, but beautiful nonetheless.
We arrived home safely and are looking forward to the next trip to Vermont under warmer conditions!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Born in the Bathtub

Where have I been? I didn't realize it was trendy to be born in a bathtub. I just figured it was the safest place in the house for a prototype Terry frame and fork built for me by Waterford. The cats can't knock them over if they're in the bathtub. And the bathroom doubles as my workshop. So this blog is about my bike, which was born in the bathtub.

"My next bike" is always going to be my last bike. It will be perfect and there will be no need for another one. Thank goodness this is never true! Such is the life of a bicycle designer. We're always trying to achieve perfection.
I've been riding a beautiful Valkyrie Tour for the last year and enjoying it immensely. I've also been devouring Bicycle Quarterly back issues and enjoying them immensely as well. There's a recurring theme that runs through this magazine: the idea that a well-designed bicycle is about more than just a good fit. It's about harmonizing with the rider and playing the road like a bow plays a fine violin.
How does this happen? Well, a lot of things come together in a very synergetic way. This bicycle doesn't understand the word "stiff". But it does understand that bumpy roads will beat you up and rob you of power. (And in the real world, every road is bumpy -- just look at one closely in the late afternoon sun…). This bicycle believes it's okay to "give back", meaning a little frame deflection is a good thing. (Way too much to explain here, but see this site for a full explanation).
I want this bike. I want to ride the rippling roads in my favorite haunt and feel them disappear beneath me. I want to stop reaching for a lower gear just because the road tips upward a bit. I want to get off the bike after six hours in the saddle and feel totally refreshed. Valkyrie is a wonderful bike, but its raison d'ĂȘtre is touring. It's made for that rider who might load it up with 60 pounds of gear and hit the road for weeks at a time. It's just a little too much bike for me, the 100 pound cyclist who's no powerhouse, but who can go all day. It's still a great ride…but it's just not perfect.
So, armed with ideas from Bicycle Quarterly, I called Marc Muller, the chief designer at Waterford, and together we came up with this magical bike. The frame geometry is quite similar to the Valkyrie Tour. But there's some subtle stuff going on with respect to the tubing in the bicycle. My choice of components is part of the solution as well, with the tires being one of the most important. I also opted for the Nitto Randonneur handlebar on this bike. I was a little skeptical about the drops of the bar, which tend to flare outward a bit, but it feels great and works with the natural position of my hands.

I rode this bike for about 300 miles a few months ago and couldn't wait to get on my rippled roads. Magic! I felt like I was floating over them, yet I was still firmly connected to the road (no bouncing around) and getting a good return on my energy investment. Riding into the wind, I was definitely working hard, but the push back was solely from the wind, not from the bike. There was also a day of riding when I was feeling a little out of sorts from a flu bug. The bike was reassuring even then -- adapting well to my occasional sloppy riding, not chastising me for it.

And is this bike coming soon to a store near you? Well, I can't guarantee that a particular store will carry it, but by early 2011, you'll see it on our website, where you can purchase it directly from us. The name of this model? Precision. In tribute to the very first hand built Terry bicycle that launched The Original Women's Bicycling Company!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lunch with Cy

Monday, the day after the Wild Goose Chase, was a perfect kind of wind down day. Sunny and calm. The perfect day to ride with my friend Cy on some of the sweeter roads in the area and talk about what a great weekend it was and how much more we can do next year.

It was hard to come home this time. It always is -- that's just the effect Blackwater has on me. How lucky I am to know that emotion. I think this visit was so special because of all the neat people who came back into my life after a long absence. You know how you can just pick up with old friends you haven't seen in years? It's like all those years just blew by. The familiarity hasn't been lost at all.

I met Cy many years ago when Terry first started doing one week bike tours in Vermont. Cy was a leader on one of those trips. If you had the good fortune to meet Cy at the Goose, you know what I mean when I say she's just one of those really cool people you run across in life. A true free spirit. Our paths finally crossed again this August when Cy led our Terry Tour in Vermont for Sojourn Tours. I casually mentioned to her that she should hang out at the Goose on her way back south after the bike tour season ended. So, imagine my surprise when I was out riding Friday before the Goose and the cyclist approaching me turned out to be Cy! Ah, such is the nature of a free spirit.

Then there's my college roommate, Barb. So long, see ya after college graduation. Out of sight, but never out of mind. An email out of the blue a couple of years ago and the next thing you know, Barb volunteered to run registration at the Goose. Just picking up where we left off. Telling people about our incredible dorm room, Chips Ahoy in the middle of the night and way too much Gallo on the weekends. Hey, with a room like ours, it was the party room!

Ride over, it was time for a very late lunch. Apples from New York and Vermont. Gu from....Gu. One of our super sponsors. And we didn't forget the Raw Revolution energy bars. Many thanks to those guys, too. I wouldn't trade cycling and old friends for anything. Life's perfect combination.



Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I can't believe how much "stuff" I take on vacation. Just the electronics alone: 2 iPods™ (need a back up -- no fun driving 9 hours each way with no tunes), an iPad™, an iPhone™, a MacBook Pro™, a digital camera, a Flip® video camera and all the necessary battery rechargers and AC/DC converters...oh, and a mouse because the trackpad makes me nuts after a while. Binoculars and field guides. 60 packets of Gu®, containers of Heed™ and Perpetuem™ and Recoverite™. Supplements, since it's tough to eat right on the road and I need all the nutrition I can get for 10 days of riding. Oh yeah -- clothes. Street clothes, bike clothes. And tools -- in case I need to repair something. A spare wheelset. Helmet.

And let's not forget: the raison d'etre: THE BIKE!

You know what? If I forgot everything except the bike, I'd still be happy!



Saturday, February 13, 2010

Freeing a Stuck Seatpost

Last week, I began an overhaul of my hybrid bike, Moo. Moo is a very special bike. It began life as Mt. Marcy, our original mountain bike, named after the highest peak in the Adirondacks. When we decided to introduce a hybrid with a cow theme, Brian Moredock re-painted the bike and it became Moo. I have many fond miles on Moo and wouldn't trade it for anything.

Moo is very outdated, though. It was time for the 7-speed set up to give way to newer baubles, so hence the overhaul. As I tore the bike down, all went smoothly until I got to the seatpost. It wouldn't budge. Moo is steel, the seatpost is aluminum. Jerry Kraynick, who owns Kraynick's Bike Shop in Pittsburgh (and who is my bike mechanic mentor), claims that Archimedes said he could move the world if he had enough leverage. Like a lot of women, I embrace leverage wholeheartedly! So, it was off to the basement and the workbench vise to put leverage to work.

Ah the beauty of steel. I could feel it springing under my coaxing, but the seatpost wasn't impressed. Having built frames, I really didn't feel comfortable applying any more torque to the frame than I already was. Brute force needed to give way to something else.

In rapid order, I exhausted the easier possibilities: ammonia soaks (aluminum oxide hates ammonia), carbon dioxide blasts on the seatpost interior (aluminum contracts more than steel), prying apart the seat lug ears. Nada. I'd reached the bitter end: time to start cutting.

I cut off the top part of the seatpost, leaving about 1/2" exposed. Then, with a hacksaw, I started two cuts down the inside of the seatpost, 90 degrees apart. This was painstakingly slow and intense. My goal was to cut down as far as possible without cutting all the way through and slicing into the seat tube. So, I'd saw for a while, then blow out the chips and shine a light down the seatpost to see how I was doing. I was tending to hold the saw at an angle that meant I was cutting deeper toward the top of the seatpost than the bottom. This wasn't bad, because I was able to pry the upper part away once the cut was deep enough. Just seeing some of the seatpost come free was encouraging. You know how you tear a piece of paper off a pad at the perforations? That's what I was trying to do -- get the aluminum down to such a thin piece that it could break away easily.

After many, many hours of tediously sawing, checking, sawing, coaxing, sawing, checking and coaxing some more, the wedge finally broke loose and the remainder of the seatpost popped free! It was one of those moments I will cherish forever. A right of passage of sorts.

Here are some photos.

The first shows the two wedges -- the smaller one on the left was the wedge I worked with.

Here's a shot of the interior of the wedges. If you look closely, you'll see a little ridge on the outside edge of the wedges. This is just how close I was to the seat tube itself. It looks like about 0.5 mm.

 And here's the source of the problem. Doesn't look like much, does it? The inside of the seat tube is surprisingly clean; there's just the normal oxidation I'd expect to see. My theory is that even though I greased the seatpost, by the time it slid into position, more grease was scraped off the bottom of the post than the top.

These are the tools I used. The needle nose Vise-Grip was great for working in a small area. I chose an 18 tooth hacksaw blade because it cut a wider swath and gave my wedge a little more room to move...once it started moving. And I went for the expensive one!

I blame myself for letting this happen. I habitually check the seatposts on all my bikes a couple of times a year to make sure they are lubed and moving freely. But somehow, I took good old Moo for granted. Big mistake! I think I'll have a t-shirt made up that asks "Have you checked your seatpost lately?"



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Zen of Bike Building

Apologies to the real thing, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A neat book when it came to the sections on maintenance, but totally lost on me otherwise. I never could figure out why that guy would let life come between him and his motorcycle.

I've been in a zen state myself the last few days, building up a new Terry frame built for me by Waterford. It's a little bit of Valkyrie, a little bit of Isis and steel blue like the color of my eyes. If the bonding that's going on now between woman and machine is any indication of the future, this bicycle will take me to Brigadoon and beyond. Of course, I say that about all my bikes….

It's been a while since I've done a true from the "ground up" build, cutting the steerer tube and installing every component from scratch. I feel like I'm at a long overdue reunion, getting reacquainted with hacksaw, file and production cloth, feeling the weight and balance of well-made tools in my hands. Recognizing again the difference between the "clean" dirt of metal filings and grease and "dirty" dirt. I'm comfortable eating a sandwich in the presence of the former, but not the latter.

Sometimes I wonder what my bikes talk about in the wee hours of the morning when I'm sound asleep. Do they stir restlessly, waiting for the dawn, wondering what roads await them? Do they reminisce about rides they've done? And what will they tell this newcomer? Hopefully that a bicycle couldn't find a better home!



Friday, September 4, 2009

My Vacation

Late every summer, I meet up with some friends from California and we go on a tour in Vermont with Bike Vermont. This year we chose a new tour that started south of Burlington and made its way into the Champlain Islands. I've never been on a Bike Vermont tour that wasn't super duper, but this one was over the top. Imagine a week on the bike with a tailwind, great weather, eye-popping scenery, quiet roads and sumptuous meals. (Of course, if I'm not cooking it, anything is sumptuous....). The Truth: I like Larry Niles, the owner of Bike Vermont, but he's not paying me to write this.

We began in Shelburne, south of Burlington, and spent a day exploring the roads around Charlotte and Ferrisburgh before heading west to pick up the ferry across Lake Champlain to Essex, New York. Now, given that I had left New York to come to Vermont to ride, this did seem like a step backwards, but the relaxation of a twenty minute ferry ride across the Lake (not to mention the free wireless network on the Charlotte side, which made my iPhone giddy) assuaged my grumbling. Indeed, the five mile loop around Essex rewarded me with great views of the Lake and Vermont. The deli in Essex was rumored to be fantastic, but, cheap date that I am, I opted for a row of Fig Newtons and a couple of bananas that I scarfed from the ever-present Bike Vermont van. Returning on the ferry to Vermont (yeah, that feels better), there was time for more exploring around Charlotte before settling in for the night in Shelburne.

Tuesday showed just how beautifully planned this tour was. We rode from Shelburne onto Burlington's famed bike path. Getting from Shelburne to the bike path was a little dicey (turn here, turn there, repeat 100 times...) so one leader rode in front of the group and one in back acting as guides through the maze. Then came the piece de resistance. We turned from the bike path onto a narrow three mile causeway (a former railroad bed) across Lake Champlain. 200 yards of the causeway is missing. It was once a railroad bridge, but is now a cut for marine traffic. No problem -- a bike ferry took us, 4 bikes and riders at a time, to the other side of the causeway and we rode onto the Champlain Islands.

The causeway was amazing -- fairly hard packed dirt; just a little soft on the sides. My 23 mm tires didn't complain, but I kept thinking what a challenge this ride could be on a windy day. Hmmm -- it would probably be coming from my left. First I'd bounce off the huge rocks on the side of the causeway and then I'd go in the drink. It was becoming clear that this week was all about water. From this point on, no matter where we were, Lake Champlain was never far away.

Our home base on the islands was North Hero. From there, we explored north and west, in the U.S. and in Canada (as long as one remembered to bring a passport...). The most remarkable riding was on Isle la Motte. It was also the only place where I gave up on the Fig Newtons and had a great sandwich in a little bitty eatery off the back end of a farm in an apple orchard. ("More free wireless!", the iPhone shouted with glee.) It's open for about two hours a day. Call me nuts, but I spent the rest of the afternoon simply riding up and down an eight mile stretch of road, taking in views of the Lake, orchards and historic sites.

Within a few hundred yards of each other on a beautifully kept dirt road are two neat stops: the Fisk Quarry Preserve with 450,000,000 year old outcroppings of the world's oldest coral reefs and a house where Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt stayed in 1901. He was there when McKinley was assassinated. Between The River of Doubt, by Candice Millard and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, I have a soft spot in my heart for Roosevelt.

Isle la Motte has become a cycling hotspot. So much so that the residents have gone to lengths to request that cyclists remember the rules of the road to safely enjoy the island. At breakfast the morning of the ride, we were given a handout reminding us to ride single file, get off the roadway when we stopped and to respect private lakeshore property. Road signs at regular intervals encouraged single file riding; no excuses unless you can't understand English or French!

On the following afternoon, we went kayaking in Carry Bay. I don't do that much kayaking, so it's a real treat for me to see the world from a different perspective. I must have seemed like a real laggard to the rest of our gang, but I couldn't be rushed with so much flora and fauna begging for a longer look. I saw several osprey as well as an immature green heron.

The final morning led us back south, bumping up and over the spine of the lowermost island. A cold front had come through mid-week, so the air was crisp and the views of the Lake were crystalline. We finished up at the Snow Farm Winery where a Bike Vermont van drove us the 40 some miles back to Shelburne.

You know how once in a while you land that perfect ride, when it seems like the bike is doing all the work? When you don't feel any pressure on the pedals and the miles fly by effortlessly? Imagine five straight days like that! It made it very hard to stop riding!



For those who are curious, I rode an Isis Pro with a triple crankset. I used Schwalbe Stelvio 23 mm tires (now replaced by Durano or Ultremo), which were just fine on the well-packed, firm dirt roads we encountered. My on-bike fuel of choice was Cytomax® in the water bottle and Hammer® and Gu® gels in the back pockets. Shorts by Terry and jerseys by Terry and GORE BIKE WEAR™.