School of Spearfish Day Four: The Salsa Guys and the North Central Cyclery Guys

Introductory note: because of limited internet access, this is not going to be a photo-intensive post.  I’ll update it later with more pictures.

Day Four (our Third day of riding) included a number of awesome experiences.  After Day Three’s banzai run up to the Grand Canyon, we decided to join the Friday afternoon Shop Ride at the Bike & Bean.  Everyone at the Bike & Bean has been incredibly friendly—and the shop has an amazing local culture and group of dedicated riders.  I cannot say enough about how supportive they’ve been.  We were fortunate enough to ride with Scotty and Joey again, along with Jimmy, the shop owner, Jan, a local B&B rider, Rico the trail dog, and a number of other locals.

We were also fortunate enough to ride with Craig, the Mountain Biking the States guy.  After having read a number of his stories and posts online, it was really amazing to end up on the same trail as him.  I wouldn’t venture a guess about how old Craig is, but it is humbling to see him scramble up trails on his DW-Link equipped Turner.  He showed graceful movement at every opportunity.

Jimmy, Scotty and Joey peeled off the ride towards the end, to meet up with a US Forest Service representative (who himself was mounted on a FS 26er).  They rode up a side trail a ways to discuss new trail improvements and expansions.  This confirmed the positive feelings that we had about the Bike & Bean.  They’re not simply enthusiastic riders (and great guys) who run a bike shop–they were engaging in direct, personal trail advocacy with the Forest Service.  That alone is enough to justify supporting their endeavors.  They’re truly a great group of guys–it’s exactly the kind of thing that I’ve gotten used to the peeps at North Central Cyclery doing on a weekly and daily basis.

Following the ride, there was a pizza & beer gathering at the Bike & Bean.  (For a celiac like me, it was a Mexican food & Cider gathering).  A number of locals turned out for that gathering, and a great time was had by all.  Again–the local bike culture is strong, and the people are incredibly friendly.  We were taken in as friends by the whole group, immediately.

But two of the most memorable moments for me, from yesterday, occurred before and after the ride, respectively.

Before the ride, Chewy, one of the wrenches at the Bike & Bean (who is apparently an amazing technical rider in his own right), saw the School of Spearfish gathered outside the shop, and came up to us and said “oh, you’re the Salsa guys.”  Yes, yes we are.  There aren’t a lot of companies that I’d like to be directly associated with.  I wouldn’t want to be one of “the Nike guys” or “the Pepsi guys” or “the Pfizer guys.”  There are even quite a few bike companies that I wouldn’t want to be associated with.  But I’m quite pleased to be identified as a “Salsa guy”.  In the interests of full disclosure–I’m not a Salsa guy any more than any other cyclist who owns a Salsa.  I’m not an employee or representative of Salsa, I’m not sponsored by Salsa, and I have no relationship with the company (other than the mysterious circumstances under which they and North Central Cyclery arranged to have the School of Spearfish show up here).  I do know a number of great people who work at the company–but I haven’t met them through bike industry stuff.  I’m not in the bike industry.  I’ve met them at rides and races, I’ve e-chatted with them on MTBR, I’ve Facebooked with them.  I’ve met them as people.  Great people.

I’ve previously posted that if I could only have one bike, it would be my Salsa Vaya (the Vaytanium).  I’ve also posted my great affinity for my Mukluk 2.  And a few days ago, I posted that I wish I had a Spearfish instead of my current mountain bike.  Frankly, each Salsa that I’ve ridden has just plainly worked.  They have been fun to ride, and have served one of my primary bike purposes: making me a better cyclist.  In other words, I think they’re very good at their job–if their job is to make awesome, inspiring bikes.

I also think, from reading their blog, from reading their very honest posts on bike forums, and from meeting and talking with some of their workers directly, that they’re a great group of people.  In short, it was a really great thing to be called a Salsa guy.  In some small way, it made me feel like a bike ambassador of some sort–and I’m hopeful that these posts inspire others to ride Sedona, to go to the Bike & Bean and to check out the amazing rides from Salsa.  However you guys made this happen, I’m forever indebted.  This has been a trip that I’ll never forget.

The other great moment of the ride happened after the ride, during the pizza gathering.  All of the SoS riders had been talking with the locals and the B&B crew.  Someone that had recently walked into the party came up to me and asked if I was one of the North Central guys from Illinois.  Again, I said yes.

At some point, I’ll post a lengthy discussion of the merits of local bike shops (as I see it).  But for today, let me say that I’m in favor of awesome, local bike shops.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to fall in with the guys at NCC.  As with Salsa, I’m not an employee, sponsored rider or other official representative of NCC.  I’m just a guy that rides with the shop and buys from the shop–and as with Salsa, through rides I’ve met great people there who I count among my friends.  Ringleader Tobie from this ride, Hanging Chad from my Brown County Indiana ride this fall, Nice Guy Jeff from the…wait for it…Jeff’s Nice Rides, Transit Interface Eric from a ton of rides this past year, Polo Tyler from the Gypsy Caravan, and of course Super Frank who drug me across large portions of Northern Illinois on weekly road rides all summer.  They’re all guys who I’m honored to count as friends, and guys who I trust implicitly–whether it’s trusting them as I hang onto their rear wheel in a tight peloton, trusting them to work on my gear, or trusting them to recommend the best suited parts and products for me.

I got into cycling relatively seriously just a few short years ago.  It’s been less than a year since I walked into NCC and talked about wanting to build a bike that could be used as a gravel racer, cyclocross bike, touring bike, commuter, prairie path bike, long-distance ride bike, bike-camping mount, and all-around awesome ride (and walked out with plans for the Vaytanium).  At the first weekly road ride that I showed up at back in May or June, I was rolling on my then-current Scattante and was dropped within 3 miles.  Over the course of a year, I’ve grown as a rider, I’ve greatly expanded my technical knowledge, I’ve developed a fleet of lusty bikes, and most importantly, I’ve built a group of friends.  This experience isn’t unique to me.  Just about everyone who walks into the shop comes in as a friend–and those who don’t walk in as friends invariably walk out as friends.  DeKalb, Illinois might not be the most natural location in the world for a strong cycling culture–but it’s there.  Any time you want to mount a hammerfest road ride, a sufferfest gravel expedition, a mountain bike extravaganza, or just a nice spin on the bike, there are people who want to share that ride with you.  It’s a great place.  And again, being called out as an North Central Cyclery guy, I felt like an ambassador for a company (and people) that I believe in and am proud to be associated with.

This trip has been incredible, and I’ve learned a ton.  My technical riding skills on chunky trails have grown exponentially, and my bike handling in general has greatly improved.  My appreciation for a well-thought-out rear suspension on a FS 29er (like the Spearfish)  Beyond that, I’ve learned a ton about the other SoS riders that I’m here with.  And I’ve developed a complete trust with some guys that I previously only knew tangentially.  If GMatt is in front of me and calls out that a line is unrideable, I know he has a frank assessment of my skill and ability, and is looking out for my best interests.  If BPPhil shouts back to take the line to the left–even if it looks hairier, I know that’s the correct line to take.  I could give similar examples for BPaul and RTobie, but I think the concept is adequately clear.  They’re great guys and I’ve had an amazing time riding with them.

I’m incredibly lucky to be on this trip…and to be a Salsa guy and a North Central Cyclery guy.  A sincere thanks to both groups–both as companies and as groups of people that I know, like and appreciate.  I appreciate you all just a little more after this ride.  These are the kinds of companies that riders need to support, and I will continue to do my best to do so.

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