April 12, 2018

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Don't Throw Out The Baby

 As it is with most issues I’m of two minds when it comes to Facebook.  On the one hand I’m a middle-aged person with Midwest roots and I enjoy my privacy.  On the other hand I’m a small business owner who appreciates (though doesn’t fully understand) the marketing power of social media.

Embarrassing as it may sound it took me years to appreciate marketing – I still don’t understand it, but at least I understand it a bit more than I did in the early days.  In 2011, when I started Greenlite Heavy Industries, I was laser-focused on bringing my ideas to market, and scarcely gave a thought to actually selling my product.  As you can well imagine my company floundered.  I slowly realized that half of the business is making the product and that half of the business is selling the product.

So how do you sell product?  There are numerous marketing techniques, but in order to sell product online (as opposed to having shelf space in a store) you must advertise.  When I started I had this Yvon Chouinard-like pipedream of “oh I’ll make some stuff for me and my friends and it’s just going to take off organically and …”  Yeah well forget that.  Advertising comes in many forms: news stories, radio, TV, print, blogs and, last but not least, social media.  News stories, radio, TV, print and blogs all take some upfront investment, while social media is – at least at first – relatively inexpensive (nothing is free but social media is close).

Back in the day a new clothing company had to decide: are we going to sell retail or are we going to be mail order.  If you chose retail, you had to produce in large quantities and you had to convince the retail market gatekeepers to stock your product.  One way to do this was pay dearly for a spot at the Outdoor Retailer Show.  If you decided to be mail order you could sell direct to consumer, but you had to invest significantly in advertising.  Either way the first step for most companies was towards a bank.

The internet changed all that.  Now a small company can set up on a shoestring budget, make a small production run, create an online store and start building a brand via social media.  Obviously, this only goes so far, but it’s a fair start without requiring a big bank loan or creativity-stifling investors.

While I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Mark Zuckerberg - I don’t believe that he’s either as smart or as innovative as he presents himself – I do worry that the value of social media (of which Facebook is the dominant player) to small independent business is poorly understood by the majority of Senators and Representatives who were questioning him.

Online retailing and marketing via social media have allowed small businesses to gain a foothold in the marketplace without first taking on a potentially crushing debt load.  Innovation comes from the fringes – the dreamers on the outside who aren’t constrained by corporate think.  I’m certain that regulation of social media is on the horizon – and some regulation is overdue – I merely hope that the architects of this regulation understand the power and independence social media provides small entrepreneurs. 

 

April 10, 2018

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It Stinks to be Number Two

While I’m super happy that Peter Sagan won Paris-Roubaix on Sunday I have to say that Sylvan Dillier didn’t get the credit that he deserves.

Bicycle racing is a odd in that it is an team event that crowns an individual winner and that it’s a super aggressive sport that often rewards wimpy (some say smart I’ll stick with wimpy) behavior.  What made Sunday’s race extraordinary was courage and downright guts shown by Sylvian Dillier.

Dillier would have been justified to just sit on the World Champion’s wheel and say “you wanna win you do the work.”  Instead every time Sagan flicked his elbow Dillier went to the front and pulled.  When the Terpstra crew were eating up the gap Dillier didn’t play around, instead he went to the front and did monster pulls despite the fact that he’d been off the front nearly all day.

As the pair approached the Velodrome and it became clear that Sagan and Dillier were going to go one two I was fully expecting the old cat and mouse game wherein each rider tries to force the other into the front position.  I think Sagan was figuring the same thing when he pulled over and slowed up on Sector 1, but instead of slowing Dillier pulled through and kept it hot.  I think that move cost Dillier any chance at victory, but it showed a lot of guts.

I wonder what Dillier’s calculus was at that moment.  Was he just acting on instinct – guys pulls over I pull through?  I don’t think so.  I think he had a plan, I’m just not sure what it was.  At first I was thinking that maybe he was looking to score some points with the World Champion – see what a good teammate I could.  I’m not saying that threw the race or even planned to throw it, instead I’m saying that he took a longshot that he knew probably wouldn’t pay off in a win but could pay off in a future contract.  After watching the podium ceremony I re-thought that theory: Dillier clearly was upset about second place.  Whatever the reason it was a great finish to a great race.

February 11, 2016

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Sneak Peak

Here at Greenlite we're working on a selection of riding shirts.  In keeping with our design philosopy we're starting with a classic timeless design and tailoring it to the cyclist and outdoor athlete.  The fit will be athletic: slightly broader at the shoulders and a little tapered at the waist, and the style, well let's say it's classic but bold.  Keep an eye on our blog for more updates.

September 24, 2015

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Midweek Climb - Artist Point

I managed to talk Steve B and Mike R into taking a mid-week day off from work and join me on a ride up to Artist Point – the end of Highway 542, above the Mt. Baker Ski area.  The three days following the Autumnal equinox were predicted sunny and so we set off on the morning of Sept 23rd driving to the tiny town of Maple Falls, just six miles south of the US/Canada border.

On these rides oftentimes the biggest logistics problem is simply finding a suitable place to leave the car, but on this occasion we had no such trouble as the super nice lady manning the Maple Falls Visitor Center invited us to park in their lot.  Problem solved.

The weather was sunny but the temperatures were crisp; arm warmers, full finger gloves and, for Steve and myself, knee warmers were in order.  The route from Maple Falls to Artist Point is literally a no-brainer: stay on the road, ride to the end, turn around and come back.

After about twenty miles of shady rolling terrain we hit the steady eleven mile uphill portion.   I’d just finished reading the latest issue of Bicycle Quarterly and one thing that Jan is really good at in his articles is reminding me to enjoy the ride, the physical motions, the scenery, the scent of the clean air, the silence, the warmth of the sun.  While I was busy enjoying all of this bounty, Steve and Mike were well on their way to Artist Point.  As John Wayne once said: “a man’s gotta know his limitations,” luckily I know mine, so I just settled into my locomotive pace and rolled steady onwards and upwards.  I was riding a dead-end road on a weekday in late September traffic, hence was light and those few cars/motorcycles that did pass gave me plenty of space and some even flashed an encouraging wave.

The gradient was never too steep (four to six percent) the road surface was surprisingly well-maintained the sun was warm the air cool, all seemed right with the world.  As I neared the Mt. Baker Ski Area Mt. Shuksan and its formidable Price Glacier came into view.  One of the most photographed peaks in North America Shuksan is ruggedly beautiful, especially in the fall, but it’s a daring climb – from any side – and one that I never attempted.

Above the ski area the road makes some gutsy switchbacks, the engineers who surveyed this must have been inspired by those crazy roads that serpentine through the Alps and Dolomites.  Peddling through the hairpins was a lot of fun and soon I could see Steve and Mike waiting for me at the end of the road parking lot.

The descent promised to be chilling so Mike and I donned vests while Steve opted for the full sleeved jacket.  With his mountain bike handling skills Mike droped in first railing the corners.  Steve descended with me as I took the curves cautiously – this was my first big descent on carbon rims and I wasn’t one hundred percent trusting.

We made quick work out of the return trip and after fueling up at the local gas station we decided to tack on an eighteen mile loop that Martha W has suggested.  The fifteen minute stop combined with a tall can of Full Throttle had left my stomach sloshing and my legs dead.  “So this is going to be a conversational pace,” I asked hopefully.  The road was rolling chipseal with practically no traffic and for much of the first eight miles we rode three abreast at a moderate pace.  At Highway 547 we turned left and motored down a steady descent into the microscopic town of Kendall.  From there we climbed the final few miles back to Maple Falls and the car.

Pizza in Mt Vernon and a no traffic post rush hour drive home finished out a wonderful day of bike riding.  For more photos go to: https://greenliteheavyindustries.smugmug.com/Artist-Point-2015/

 

August 07, 2015

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Support a Pro

What I love most about cycling is the sense of community.  Whether you be a racer, a commuter, a cyclo-tourist, a randoneur, or a messenger, whether you ride carbon, steel, titanium or aluminum, whether you have thirty three gears or just one we're all in this together.  Here at Greenlite our number one purpose is to support and promote cycling - not simply cycling for sport but cycling as an everyday activity.

At Greenlite we absolutely love bicycle racing.  The sport is physical, mental and emotional, it's an "all-in" experience, and like in most sports we have our elite professional athletes.  Like elite athletes in any sport bike pros give us a glimpse of what is possible while also providing us mortals with thrilling competition.  A few professional cyclists make a comfortable living, but the vast majority do it for love of the sport.  In order to, in admittedly a very small way, promote professional cycling Greenlite Heavy Industries has begun a Support a Pro program.

The Support a Pro program will support a chosen cyclist for a six month period by donating 100% of all proceeds from the sale of our Waxed Cotton Tool Roll.  The first Support a Pro will be Seattle Native Jessica Cutler.  Here's a little bit about her.

Jessica Cutler is a Seattle native who cut her teeth on the muddy cyclocross races of the Pacific Northwest. She's been racing on the professional road and cyclocross circuits since 2012 nabbing a few professional podiums and wins along the way. Jessica hopes to have a strong 2015-16 cyclocross campaign with the ultimate goal of winning singlespeed cyclocross nationals. She's so happy for the support of Greenlite Heavy Industries as well as her other sponsors who are the reason that she can do what she does!

 

July 24, 2015

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Biking Vs Tranquilizers

…Cycling is an especially favorable type of exercise. It has a very good effect on the brain, on the mental state, and on the psyche. It’s the best antidote-this kind of muscular exercise-for stress and mental fatigue. Instead of tranquilizers, I advise muscular action-even to the point of fatigue, so that you won’t need medicine to tranquilize you.” 

 

Dr. Paul Dudley White, from the President’s Council of Physical Fitness, as quoted in the 1967 Schwinn catalog

June 03, 2015

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True Cost

The purpose of GHI is to facilitate a more active lifestyle through cycling.  I didn't set out to make a political statement or change the world.  I made my products here in my hometown of Seattle because it felt right.  I use Swiss Schoeller fabric because I can stand behind it.

I just finished watching the movie True Cost and I must say that I feel a bit vindicated.  Everyone to whom I spoke in the fashion industry has said that I must produce overseas if I want to even have a chance at success.  I'm holding firm on my business model of hometown production using the finest fabrics available.  Only 3% of garments sold in the US are made onshore, I'm proud that Greenlite Heavy Industries is a three percenter 

May 04, 2015

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Oh Solo Mio

When I ride alone, I prefer to be by myself.

 One thing that I really enjoy is knocking off something that’s been on the hit list for some time. The idea of cycling Washington’s Mountain Loop Highway has been floating around in my head for three years now, and when I found myself with a free Saturday and a clear forecast I decided to turn the idea into a reality.

I fancy myself a social guy, but having spent the past seventeen years as a stay-at-home parent and owner of a small one man-operation business I’ve grown comfortable with being alone. I decided to do the Loop trip solo in order to keep it simple: I could start and stop at my leisure, and I could ride my own pace. More importantly I needed a break from bike racing and training for bike racing where it’s hammer time all the time. I needed to get out and ride – on my own terms.

As the name suggests the Mountain Loop Highway is a loop – eighty one miles of paved road plus fourteen miles of gravel/dirt with a total of forty five hundred feet of elevation gain. I tackled the route counter-clockwise starting and ending in the town of Granite Falls. Traveling counter-clockwise meant that I’d ride the steady twenty two mile climb to Barlow Pass on pavement and then descend towards Darrington on a poorly maintained dirt road.

My Moots PsychloX was already outfitted with 32mm Compass Stampede Pass tires, so the only trip specific change was attaching the mount for my Ortlieb Ultimate handlebar bag. I loaded the bag with a spare tire, two tubes, a pump, a basic repair kit, food and my trusty Nikon V1 camera. Personally I prefer real food over power bar type stuff, so I packed a turkey/swiss sandwich, four chocolate chip cookies and a bag full of Twizzler Bites (the secret weapon). I brought two water bottles, one filled from the tap and the other with two scoops of Hammer Sustained Energy.

Riding with endurance rider extraordinaire Jan Heine has made me see the value in a “Porteur” bag but since my “touring” bike is also my Cyclocross bike I’ve been reluctant to retrofit a front fork rack. The Ortlieb Ultimate is suspended from the handlebars and offers a functional handlebar bag without major modifications to the bike. Conceivably I could have shoved everything into my jersey pockets but that would have made for an uncomfortable inaccessible load; the handlebar bag was definitely the way to go.

I pulled into Granite Falls at nine thirty and immediately found a nice public parking lot just off the main drag. As I was unloading my bike a pack of brightly clad, well-stocked cyclists rode by. They were followed a few minutes later by a second similar-looking pack. Perhaps this route is more popular than I had thought.

The sky was clear, but the temperature was chilly so I elected to wear a wool baselayer, my summer team jersey, arm warmers, bibs and the Freemont Knicker from Greenlite Heavy Industries (my company). Mountain biking shoes probably would have been the smart option – in case of some unexpected walking – but I chose my Specialized S-Works road shoes because quite simply they are the bomb.

The road on the first six miles out of Granite Falls was a bit busy with double-bottom dump trucks heading to some quarry, but once past the turn-off it was just the occasional Subaru loaded with day hikers. The road was smooth and the shoulder wide and relatively debris free. The 32mm tires inflated to 70psi smoothed out the chip seal and I quickly relaxed and settled into a sustainable pace. The road follows the Stillaguamish River and goes in and out of bright sunlight and dark shade. I was glad that I’d elected at the last minute to strap the tail light to my seat post. At ten miles in I stopped at a small grocery store in the town of Robe and grabbed half a cup of coffee.

Riding alone forces me to be a little more outgoing than I normally tend to be. Typically I leave the talking to strangers to my buddies and take a more backseat role, but when you’re alone there is no backseat. I chatted up the owner and a few regulars asking about the condition of Hwy 530, from Darrington to Arlington. They agreed that it was an excellent bike road: smooth pavement wide shoulders. I was worried about this portion of the route, I hadn’t driven 530 in over twenty years and I certainly didn’t want to share a narrow highway with logging trucks and diesel dualies.

On on, up up past the ranger station at Verlot, past Silverton – which is little more than a sign – and on towards Big Four and Barlow Pass. After the Mt. Dickerman trailhead the already sparsely populated road became mine entirely. The grade was gradual – maybe two or three percent – and the road smooth.

Barlow Pass is also the trailhead for the popular hike to the ghost town of Monte Cristo and there was no shortage of cars in the lot. Where they all came from I’m not sure.

After a quick lunch of half a sandwich and a cookie I set off on a much deserved descent. The first fourteen miles past Barlow Pass are on what appears to be an unmaintained yet heavily used dirt road. The hard pack dirt was a minefield of ten inch deep potholes and consequently I was continually on the brakes dodging and weaving between mini craters. I hit pavement near the confluence of the White Chuck and Sauk rivers and from there it was tailwind assist smooth sailing into Darrington.

The temperature remained cool and I was none too hot in my arm warmers when I pulled into the Darrington Shell station. I wasn’t alone: two walls of the cookie cutter gas station were lined with well-used touring bikes. When I walked into the station I saw the blue and white wool jersey of the Seattle International Randoneurs. I grabbed a can of Monster Energy (I can’t help it I love that stuff) and some Alieve for my aching knees and returned to my bike.

I recognized this crew as the riders I’d seen earlier that day in Granite Falls. “Where did you start?” I asked the lady who was strapping more stuff than should be legal onto her beautiful Seven bike.

“Redmond” she said.

Damn I thought. I later found out that these hard cores were in the middle of a 400km ride from Redmond to Baker Lake. Now that’s burly.

From Darrington to Oso it was fifteen westward miles into an easterly headwind. The road was smooth, the shoulder wide, weather cool and clear and the grade slightly downhill, but I was working to maintain a good pace. Two miles shy of Oso I stopped to look at the devastation from the landslide which had happened just one year prior. What really amazed me was the length of the run-out zone. I was over five hundred yards away and one year ago where I was standing had been buried.

From Oso it was on to Arlington. The wind was really hitting me now and despite having eaten every thirty minutes I was starting to bonk. On the outskirts of Arlington I turned left onto Jordan road. Now I was in the home stretch: ten miles of rolling rural terrain along Jordan Creek. By the time I hit the dot on the map called Jordan I was post bonk and feeling great. I enjoyed the final few miles between myself and the car.

I got back to the car at around three o-clock, loaded up and headed to the convenience store for a bottle of Orange Crush.

I would highly recommend this ride. With exception of the Randoneurs I saw no other cyclists. All of the paved sections were smooth, traffic was light and the shoulders wide. Wider, softer tires were definitely appreciated on the dirt descent from Barlow Pass. Had I been riding skinny 23mm tires I probably would have opted to ride clockwise in order to climb rather than descend the dirt section.  Best of all I had no close calls with impatient or idiotic drivers. Everyone who passed me gave me plenty of room, and there were zero blaring horns or screaming fools. A great day in the saddle.

For more images go to http://greenliteheavyindustries.smugmug.com/Mtn-Loop-Hwy-2015//

 

April 20, 2015

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Behind the Scenes

Andy Bokanev capturing the moment with Mick Walsh in the Snoqualmie Valley. Mick is one of the most prolific and successful endurance racers west of the Mississippi, and he was gracious enough to share a late afternoon with us.
April 16, 2015

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Ad For Bicycle Quarterly

Just finished a print ad for my favorite cycling magazine -Bicycle Quarterly.  BQ the only magazine that I regularly read cover-to-cover - actually it's probably the only magazine that I've ever read front-to-back.

The photo was taken by camera maestro Andy Bokanev, while Tarik Abdullah - sous chef and owner of T's Leatherworks - graciously stood patiently in the middle of the street.  Tarik is wearing the brand new Ballard Pant in gray.