Cobblestones, Monuments and Southern Hospitality - the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia. September 29 2015, 0 Comments
Richmonders have traditionally been a modest bunch. We know we live in one of the world’s best cities but we don’t go around tooting our own horns too much. That’s just not the southern genteel way of doing things.
Yet, right now, we’re feeling pretty proud of our hometown as the UCI Road World Championships came to Richmond, Virginia last week. Kudos to the organizers who pulled off the incredible task of plotting out a race course that was both challenging for the participants and also extremely fun for the spectators. Crowds steadily grew throughout the week culminating in ear deafening roars all along the course during Sunday’s marquis men’s elite race.
The Road Holland crew took to the course on our mountain bikes to ensure we experienced all vantage points. There was a lot to see but we’ll never forget the crowds that flocked to Libby Hill.
(Nick Davis Photography)
As locals, each night we were out and about greeting the world. Our cycling community rolled out the red carpet organizing local rides, bar crawls, and southern hospitality for all who wished to participate.
For those not fortunate to make it to town, following #RICHMOND2015 certainly must have given them a longing to be here. If you’re one of those fans, come visit soon. And bring your bikes.
UCI Road World Championships 2015 Aerial DP’s Cut
Richard MacDonald / New Media Systems, Inc.
You’re not coming to Spain. You’re coming to Catalunya. September 21 2015, 3 Comments
"Let’s get one thing straight. You’re not coming to Spain. You’re coming to Catalunya.” So began my recent cycling trip with these words from Marty Jemison. But let's take a step back first.
A few years ago, Marty placed an order with us and then followed up with a note mentioning his Dutch heritage. Through the course of an email conversation, we learned that he is a former professional cyclist having ridden for 1990s US Postal Service team. He finished the Tour de France twice and also won the 1999 US National Road Race. Marty now operates a tour company in Europe during the summer (www.jemisoncycling.com) and he’s been ordering jerseys from us for all of his riders for a few years now.
Having just come back from Colorado in August, my body yearned for more hills than the Florida flats can provide. The day after I returned, I reached out to Marty to see if he had any openings on the last few trips of his season. Lucky for me he did. He insisted on joining him on his signature Girona trip and I took him up on the offer.
Marty has been a resident of Girona (about an hour outside of Barcelona) for more than a decade now. While it is home to a gaggle of pro cyclists these days, it wasn't always so until Marty and a few pioneers put down some roots there. But it's not in Spain. It's in Cataluyna - there's a big difference. Catalans have been fighting for their independence for ages and still bristle at the thought of their imperialist neighbors. Whatever you do, don't call a Catalan a Spaniard.
I’m not much of a journal keeper but here are a few highlights from my trip that spanned from September 6 - 12th.
- People. Carolyn, Theresa, Dave, Tom - I lucked out with the most amicable riding crew you could ever hope to have on these kinds of trips. While I was the only solo traveler of the bunch, I never felt like the odd man out. And Dave always came back for me on the climbs. Pow, Marty's incredible domestique, was indefatigable and made sure we wanted for nothing.
- Food. When the tour company’s logo includes a fork, you know you’re in for some good eats. Protein bars, gels, and energy drinks? Nah. We ate real food. It works a lot better for long days in the saddle and because of its central position, Catalunya is a cornucopia of fresh fish, meat, cheese, fruits, and pastries. By the way, no matter what they say, it is possible to safely carry a chocolate croissant in the back pocket of a Road Holland jersey.
- 10am start. Thank goodness there are still civil people in this world who don’t believe in early morning starts. 10am meant plenty of time to have multiple espressos (all three hotels had the pro-grade Nespresso machine like I have at home) and take care of business.
- Cars and drivers. When your country is great at a sport, I guess it means you're liable to be nice to those who participate in it. Over six days of riding, I never had one driver cut me off or honk at me (except in an encouraging manner). They’re incredibly courteous in Catalunya and take driving and cycling with much more gravitas. It also doesn’t hurt that there are just not as many cars on the road. As Marty likes to say, “I take you on roads where there are more bikes than cars."
- Scenery. Catalunya seems to have a bit of everything that makes Europe what it is. Castles, twisty roads, vineyards, farmlands, and breathtaking vistas over the coast. You are never too far way from an old village which makes deciding when to stop for coffee almost as difficult as some of the climbs.
- The flies. I thought Florida was bad but the real manure on those picturesque farms just draws them in. They are everywhere. I dealt with it but the next time I go back, I am bringing my own citronellas.
There’s plenty more but I guess you’ll just have to take one of Marty’s tours to find out. Thanks Marty!
In Gear: Richmond Cycles opens at The Valentine August 28 2015, 0 Comments
Once the 2015 UCI Road Championships are over, the world will undoubtedly recognize Richmond as a cyclists’ town. However, the Valentine Richmond History Center already has an exhibit up and running to prove the point.
In Gear: Richmond Cycles opened last night and we were there. It’s an impressive collection of period photos, advertising art, and bikes spanning Richmond’s 140 year velo lineage. Never seen a “penny farthing” bike up close – now you can.
As a hometown company, when we got the call to add our wares to the exhibit, we were honored. You’ll see one of our kits on display along with some distinctively retro corsets and long skirts for women (you’ve come a long way baby!).
One thing that really caught our eye was an exhibition featuring contemporary Richmonders, from many diverse neighborhoods. Residents agreed to share their cycling stories in a special media wall projection created by Dana Ollestad, a local award-winning multi-media artist and curator.
There is no shortage of bikes on display to speak to this story including a 1937-38 Western Flyer boys bike that was used by a Richmond newsboy in the 1940’s. Seeing head badges from local shops like Rowlett's and Agee's from the period hits home the how deep our cycling roots run. Fun items are also on display, such as a 1960's Richmond Federal Savings and Loan change bank encouraging area youth to save up for a new bike.
“In Gear: Richmond Cycles” runs through Jan. 3, 2016. The Valentine is open to the public on Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sunday. 12-5 p.m. There will be special extended hours nightly until 8 p.m during the cycling events from Sept. 19-26.
Go see it.
A Most Uncomfortable Trip To Comfort, Texas August 28 2015, 2 Comments
One of our ambassadors, Adam Shepard has been riding bikes since the 1980s. While he is a Cat 4 racer, we can tell he knows riding is more than racing. He recently sent us this recap of a ride and we thought it so good that we wanted to share. It shows that you never know what you’re in for when you set out on a bike adventure. Enjoy.
In short – what I anticipated as an easy 200 mile weekend under supposed sunny skies turned into a rainy endurance test of will. But let’s get to the details.
“Moneymaker Mike,” my trusted companion and I started off from Austin before dawn with high hopes for a great trip to Comfort, a quaint little town in the heart of Texas.
Within 15 miles of the start, however the rain started coming down. We got wet and stayed wet for the rest of the day. Our progress was slowed by wet directions (my handlebar bag leaked) and the unexpected effort it took to push a 50 pound bike/load. We were used to 17 pound road bikes riding 70 miles on a Sunday like it was nothing.
There were multiple washed out low water crossings to navigate and paved roads that suddenly turned to dirt. I use this term loosely as the rain has muddied them somewhat.
After a long morning of rain and iPhone navigation we finally rolled into Blanco for lunch. A quick bite turned into a lingering hour and a half of bar-b-que and coffee. Reluctant to get back on the bikes in the threatening weather, we saddled up. We muttered, “It shouldn't take long to get there, we're over half way.” Ha ha! As we pedaled on the rain picked up and we came to the worst road of the trip, just as the sky got darker we found ourselves on a road with no shoulder and taillights that long since lost their charge. We slowly pushed on wondering if the next car would side swipe us. That’s the last time I take the Strava heat map as my only source that a road is rideable.
When we finally turned off the death road, we made a quick stop at the last convenience store before Comfort. A couple of candy bars and sodas were hardly enough to get us back on the bikes for the seven miles to the end. As we pressed on every distance marker seemed to contradict the previous one. Seven miles to Comfort, then it was 13. It made us nuts. After a good hour of effort we reached the turnoff for the camp ground. It was just four miles down a country road according to the web site - off we went. At about mile three, Mike looked back at the rapidly approaching cloudburst bearing down on us. It didn't take but two minutes for us to be drenched, and we had just dried out. When we made it to the end of the pavement, there was the campground and no one in sight. Only hand painted half coherent signs about camping and fees. The camping area was a stand of trees next to a muddy creek. A picnic table and more cow patties than we could count were the only amenities.
With a 20% chance of rain in the forecast, we were pretty confident we would not need tents so we didn’t bring them along. Bad decision. It was raining again.
Mike and I are pretty low maintenance but we decided we just couldn’t do it. With 100 miles to ride the next day, we needed more rest than seemed possible out there. We saddled up and headed into town.
Comfort, as lovely as it is has two types of accommodations, Fancy B&Bs or one run down motel dubbed the Executive Inn. We pooled resources and headed to the latter. After securing our room (via bike wedged against the door) Mike offered to get Dairy Queen burgers while I showered. After a few excruciating minutes under frigid water, I heard Mike come back with supper. Even with the cold water and fast food, we agreed that we were living in luxury compared to what could have been. We both eagerly crawled into our respective sleeping bags set on top of the beds and went right to sleep.
Day Two: The next morning we recalculated our route for a more direct, less hilly ride home. A leisurely start saw us first filling up on provisions at the local Chevron before heading to High's cafe. And this was certainly the “high” point of the trip. Mike had blueberry pancakes while I opted for the two egg and bacon sandwich on rye with tomatoes and cheddar-jack. It was sublime.
We lingered and then rolled out of Comfort ready to tackle the day. Of course the bad navigation put us on the interstate. We back tracked and sheepishly smiled at cars coming down the on ramp to make the right turn. The road ahead didn't do much for morale either. It was a series of undulating rollers of varying pitch, enough to make legs ache even before arriving at the climb itself. Of course, it rained again too. (I feel like it's just understood that the rain fell off an on all the time, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.) The saving grace was that car traffic was almost zero as the interstate paralleled our road. We made decent time as we rolled into Bourene, stopping only to grab a Coke and double check the route.
Off we went again...Travel time to New Braunfels was much slower. Between the rolling country road and the increased rain we had to slow down quite a bit. There were times when we couldn't see and times when the road became a stream replete with salmon.
By this time, we were no longer just wet. We – and everything we had with us – were soaked. It's lucky my phone survived. We had to stop more than once to secure the best dry bag out of what ever we could fashion. One stop to find the correct turn found me turning my handlebar bag over to dump out the water.
That's when I remembered the almost quarter pound magic bar I had purchased at High's. The graham cracker crust was damp but edible. The toasted coconut and thick chocolate layers were like spinach to Popeye. We were rejuvenated.
Pressing on we rolled wearily into New Braunfels, still 50 miles from home. Earlier, we had decided we would stop for 30 minutes at the most for some fast food or 7-eleven hot dogs. 30 minutes seemed like eons when we saw the paltry offering of the AM/PM. With a coke, water refills and some Sour Patch Kids we headed on until we found a cafe and had proper food. I charged my light while we ate tuna melts and roast beef sandwiches.
Getting back on the bike was getting harder and harder. We pedaled on heading for San Marcos, just 20 easy miles from salvation. We made pretty good time but saddles sores, wet socks and numb hands made each bump or rough chip seal road painful.
Elation rolled over us when we could see the sky line of Texas State in San Marcos – this was familiar territory. Sunday rides regularly went to San Marcos from Austin. We were practically home, albeit still thirty miles away. "But we do this all the time", I told myself, "We'll be back in an hour and a half." Yeah, not so much. We pressed on wondering why it was taking so long to cover these roads and why were we going so slow?
When we got to Kyle (15 miles to go) we stopped for our last indulgence, a DQ ice cream. It was magnificent. We took our time and enjoyed every last bite before pressing on. When we rolled into Austin and came to where we parted way, the sky opened up and torrential rains came down yet again. Both of us just laughed.
I rolled into my driveway and into the open arms of my wife, glad to be home and glad we went. This was our first bike packing trip and certainly not our last. But you can bet we'll be smarter about it next time.
Meet Jim - Our 2015 Cycling Makeover Winner July 02 2015, 0 Comments
We’ve seen a lot of strange submissions to our makeover contest over the years but none as strange as the ones Jim Levi sent in. We’ve posted them below and you can judge for yourself. But, apparently everyone feels similar because Jim is the winner of the 2015 contest.
As is customary, we talked with Jim about the victory and he gave us the backstory on his cycling career and the pictures.
Jim hails from Downingtown, Pennsylvania which is about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. He’s 27 and now into his fourth year of riding after having taken up the sport to lose some weight. 70lbs lighter, Jim needs some new clothes and we’re happy to help out.
He’s also a renaissance man - bass trombone player. Wedding DJ. Past member of the Philadelphia Wind Symphony.
So what’s with the crazy camo outfit? It relates to a race Jim puts on with his buddies. It’s called the Downhill Mini Masters and it occurs at Harmony Hill Nature preserve. The event’s name provides some strong clues to its nature. Steep downhill. Kids bikes. The masters part? Older people ride the bikes and try to master the art of not seriously injuring themselves.
And the scary outfit? That’s Jim clowning around at a Haunted House frequented by the local children in town.
Congrats Jim! And don’t ever wear what you wore in those pictures again.
Suffering the Never-Ending Barrage of Sartorial Slings and Arrows June 18 2015, 0 Comments
To run a clothing company is to suffer the never-ending barrage of sartorial slings and arrows. Sometimes the slings are mean spirited. “Why don’t you make a jersey in mohair???!! Everyone knows it has better thermal properties than anything else…You guys will never last!”
Most of the time, however, the arrows are emblematic of the “good guys” that are our customers. They’re giving constructive feedback and desires to this still young clothing company.
Many such arrows pointed our way regard the opinions of the color “Celeste” or Italian Sky Blue. Over the years, it has danced among blue and green influences just like Bill Evans (an allusion to my favorite jazz piano player for the non jazz people out there).
Bianchi, the company most synonymous with Celeste, currently employs a very bluish Celeste. But not too long ago, the scales tipped to more green influences.
To make something in Celeste is to take a stand. We have taken one. Our Celeste is a pleasing compromise between the aqua marine blues and overly cool whitish looking greens - the part of the air closer to foamy sea than to the azure blue Italian sky.
Vote Now! Road Holland's 2015 Makeover Contest May 19 2015, 0 Comments
Let’s face it… we’ve all been there. Maybe it was that shop team kit that you bought when you got your first real bike. Or perhaps it was that on-clearance jersey with the cereal box characters. We understand that you’ve made some pretty horrendous choices in the past when it comes to your cycling gear. We have too. After all, it takes the dark to be able to see the light.
But we want to help and celebrate how you can move on to better rides ahead.
For the past two weeks, We asked readers to email us a photo of their worst cycling garb ever. It could be a terribly mismatched kit, some poor fitting gear, a ridiculously loud jersey, or anything similar.
For our amusement and yours, we are posting what we consider among the TOP entries! Now it is your turn to help us choose who will win a Free $250 Makeover from Road Holland?
SCROLL DOWN TO VOTE below for your favorite and ask your friends to do the same! Winner will be announced on June 3, 2015.
^The Great Pumpkin^
^Polkadots but No Moonbeams^
^Mismatched in RVA^
^Keep Away From My Kids^
^Ice Ice Baby^
^Breaking Away Tribute^
^Behind the 8 Ball^
The Beauty of Sartorial Suffering... Our Annual Makeover Contest April 30 2015, 0 Comments
It’s that time of year again… the time of year when we celebrate the beauty of sartorial suffering with our annual Makeover Contest.
At Road Holland, we know that you’ve undoubtedly had a lot of cycling fashion fails before you met us. Hey - it’s ok. We’ve all been there and happily we’re not there anymore.
But to remind us just how bad it was and how far we’ve come, send us us a photo of you in your worst cycling attire ever and we'll send you a promo-code for $25 off your next purchase of over $50. Plus, you'll be automatically entered in our Makeover Contest. The first place winner will get $250 worth of free Road Holland gear!
Here are the rules:
Send us a pic (by May 18th) of you in your worst cycling garb ever. It could be a terribly mismatched kit, some poor fitting gear, a ridiculously loud jersey, or anything similar. We will be posting the best photos and our fans can vote for the best - or shall we say the worst - kit. All entries will receive a $25 coupon that you may use to immediately to start looking better. We will then announce a winner on June 3, 2015. It's that simple. So start sending your entries to email@example.com
Good luck, and we’re waiting to see you at your worst!
Jonathan and Richard
Can You Party Like A Dutchman? April 23 2015, 0 Comments
We were first exposed to partying Dutchmen when we met Mark VenHoek in Richmond, Virginia in the mid-90s. Mark was on a work exchange program with Jonathan's father’s company and given that we were about his same age, we hung out a lot with him. In short order, we met many of Mark’s family and friends and began our obsession with all things Dutch. These guys were awesome - very cool and always social, plus they liked food and beer. We were hooked and helped lead the way to our naming Road Holland in their honor.
Mark eventually returned home to Holland to work and start a family but the close friendship continued and we have been there many times as a result. During all of our visits, we noticed how cycling is more than just about the cliché of "suffering." In the Netherlands, everyone young and old rides whether for sport or for transportation. It's a way of life. The country takes it very seriously as well - the bike paths are actually nicer than the roads there! They have stop-lights and medians to keep them separate from car traffic.
We also learned that the Dutch take whatever they do pretty seriously -including knowing how to have a good time. You only have to look at turn 7 of the famous Tour de France Alpe d’Huez climb for proof. In the 1960s, Dutchmen and rabid cycling fan Father Reuten built a church there. His fellow countrymen started to join him each year as he cheered on the climbers and the rest is history. Ask people from the Netherlands and they’ll tell you they own Alpe d’Huez (and it doesn’t hurt that their riders have been pretty successful there).
King’s Day - Monday April 27 - is another opportunity for the Dutch to show they can party. Held on King Willem-Alexander's birthday, it’s a celebration of all things Dutch and especially orange. For us Americans, King's Day is best described as July 4th combined with St. Patrick’s day. A day for “oranjegekte,” orange madness. As the authoritative Wikipedia says, a day that the “normally strait-laced Dutch let down their hair.”
We can show you great photos of Dutch revelers next week but we’d much rather see you decked out in some orange. Send us your best orange madness photos and we’ll post them to our Facebook page.
It’s your chance to show the world you can party like a Dutchman. Don’t miss it and don't miss our King's Day Sale either, we will be partying like the Dutch until the end of April.
Jonathan and Richard
A ride to the coffee shop. April 02 2015, 7 Comments
You know the whole "look good on the bike and off the bike" deal but how much do you really see it on our site? Well not nearly enough. But that's changing now.
Thanks to our new photographer Nick Davis we've got some great pics to share. A few of our friends from our hometown dealer Richmond Bicycle Studio took a spin in our threads this past Sunday. From road to coffee shop, I'll know you'll agree that they look great proving just how versatile a piece of our gear is.
Thanks Nick! And standby for more pics.
Video: 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show March 12 2015, 1 Comment
As usual the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) was mix of the wondrous and wacky world of bikes. Although the snow tried its best, it didn’t stop droves of bike loving folk from coming to “Looavul.”
Didn’t make it? Well here’s about 3.5 minutes of what you missed. Did make it? See if you can spot yourself.
See you in Sacramento 2016!
Jonathan and Richard
A Major Cycling Accident February 25 2015, 7 Comments
The Facebook post dropped on my news feed like a ton of bricks "Heading to Ukiah via ambulance. Hit by a car.” It was January 30th, 2015.
My good friend, Deb Banks, owner of Rivet Cycle Works, had been involved in a serious crash along with four others while doing a 300 mile credit card tour in California. With just shy of nine miles left on the first of three consecutive 100 mile days, a car careened into her and her crew.
This shouldn’t have happened. It was 5pm. It was a beautiful day. There was plenty of light left in the sky. The pavement was dry. The road was curvy but she was on a very straight section of it. Everyone was an experienced rider who knew the rules of the road and that cars always have the upper hand. But it did happen. And it gets worse…it was criminal.
The 18 year old driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.22. To put that into perspective, here’s how a variety of reputable sources describe that state of being: "Stupor - Lose Understanding - Impaired Sensations - Severe Motor Impairment - Loss of Consciousness - Memory impairment” The 42 year old passenger had a warrant out for his arrest. The crime - murder.
After surveying the scene, the driver coolly stated, “Well it looks like you guys are alright so we should get going.” Unfortunately for him though, Laura, one of Deb’s crew was now under the car. Not good.
For Deb, the rest of the next hour or so were spent in a ditch and in a blur. Slipping in and out of consciousness, she didn’t hear the approaching ambulances and didn’t see the Flight For Life helicopter that whisked Laura away to the hospital. She also didn’t see the police making two arrests. The next thing she knew, she was in an ambulance heading to the hospital as well. Pretty soon she would learn that she had a cracked pelvis, a compound fracture in her right ankle, and a serious gash on her left arm. Fortunately, there were no obvious head or neck injuries. Deb has had surgery to fix the broken ankle but the doctors removed a significant amount of cartilage. She’ll learn the impact of that over a long period of recovery that for now has her in a cast and immobile.
The rest of her crew sustained a list of injuries reminiscent of an intense dialogue from E.R - compression fractures, multiple contusions, broken clavicles and ribs, abrasions. Serious and painful as they were, no injuries were life threatening and despite the long road to recovery, everyone will walk and presumably ride again.
Although she is still coming to grips with the accident, I asked her for some perspective. “I’ve ridden 10,000 miles a year for the last 5 years. I’ve been incredibly lucky not to have anything serious happen so far. I guess sooner or later things happen. It’s the nature of the beast.”
Despite her willy-nilly feeling toward bike accidents, even Deb admits she is angry and has her dark moments. “I’d like to see the driver put away for a long time. Sure he’s in jail. But he’s getting three meals a day on the taxpayers’ dime. I may be walking by August and who knows when I’ll be back on my bike. I cannot drive for the foreseeable future. Yeah, I’m angry.”
I asked Deb what her dark moments are like. She spoke of the fear of never being whole again - wondering if she will walk without a limp or ski, another passion of hers. 10,000 miles a year puts one in really good shape and she can already feel her body slipping. At 57, she is too young to ride a motorized cart around the grocery store but she has. “I feel like my mother,” she says.
But like the experienced randonneur she is, Deb pushes on. “I’ve set my sites on the 2016 1200 kilometer Great Southern Randonnee Australia. With any luck and a lot of work, I’ll be there.”
I admitted to Deb that I was currently a bit unglued about riding myself given that she’s the first person I’ve really known to have been involved in a major cycling accident. The response - classic Deb.
"You love riding your bike. Do the things you love.”
What Happened In 2014? December 24 2014, 1 Comment
We know you’re busy getting ready for the holiday and we hope it is a great one! (Selfishly, we sure hope some of our gear is already nestled below your Christmas trees!) However, before everyone goes off the grid, we wanted to give you a quick year in review.
One word best sums up 2014, our fourth year in business – YOU.
2014 was meeting and getting to know better so many members of our peloton . Whether it was seeing you at NAHBS in March, riding along with you during Bike Virginia in June, or eating dinner with you at the Philly Bike Expo in November, we enjoyed some quality time. Shai, Rod, Walt, Padraig, Mary Elizabeth, Ken, Sherry, Chris, Debra, Piotr, Eleanor, Frank, Brett, Kim, and many others – you know who you are!
Some of you we just got to know very well via email but we feel like you are bona fide members of our crew now too. We loved looking at every single one of the pics you sent in from around the world. On our blog, we also launched our “Meet The Rider” series and want to continue it in 2015. Up until now, we’ve been asking for submissions but we’re always welcome to take them unsolicited – do not be shy.
We also conducted our first large scale survey of our customers. While we can’t divulge the results (We have to keep some trade secrets now don't we?), suffice it to say that we know a lot more now about who we are designing for. We’ve always known who we are and what we want Road Holland to be about. However, sometimes you just have to hear it from fans to make sure you stay on course.
2014 also marked a number of business changes for us. First, in June, we lifted the burden of fulfillment of all of your orders from Randee, Jonathan’s wife, and engaged a warehouse company to do the work. We’re sure happier about it and so is Randee. Here's a shot of the moving truck containing all of our inventory - that was a tiring day.
We engaged a new factory in Morganton, North Carolina to begin sewing jerseys for us. Along with continuing our production in Miami, NC should allow us to get gear out to the market much quicker than before. The Valkenburg is the first jersey to come from NC but look for more.
Color was also a big story. The re-introduction of Carolina Blue in our lightweight summer jerseys and the introduction of Celeste. For our mid-weight gear, Devil Red, Forest Green, Slate Blue, and Silver Grey are all new in the line-up.
Lest we not give them short shrift, we should mention shorts 2.0. We know we had a slight style slip with shorts 1.0 but sales suggest we nailed them the second go round.
For 2015, we will be back at NABHS in Louisville in March. We’ll also do a big ride somewhere but have yet to finalize it. And if schedules work out, we’ll surely be back in Philly.
We have more full-zip short sleeve Merino-poly jerseys on the way as well as women’s sleeveless jerseys (sorry men – sleeveless is not happening for you!).
But what we’re most looking forward to is continuing to meet and work with more of you.
Thanks for a spectacular 2014. And to all a good night.
- Jonathan and Richard
What's Rotten In The State Of Toy Land And Why Bikes Are Just Better December 21 2014, 7 Comments
We’re mid-way through Hanukkah.
The middle point of anything is often time to think about what’s happened so far and what’s still to come. As the parent of a six year old boy and a nine year old girl, I’m using this interlude to reflect on the state of today’s toys.
I hate to sound like a curmudgeon, but do toys today just really suck? They do right? Is it just me? I’m not saying all of the toys of my generation were better (well most were…). Yet, unlike my Milton Bradley StarBird Avenger, I cannot imagine my son’s fourth night gift - The Hot Wheels Break Through Crazy Curves - fetching multiple times its original sales price on eBay in years to come.
Granted, the Hot Wheels Break Through Crazy Curves was relatively inexpensive. Yet, like so many things today, it feels laughably disposable. It will enjoy a ridiculously short lifespan. So short, that the Hot Wheels Break Through Crazy Curves is already a few steps away from the cabinet where all of my son’s toys (or pieces of toys) go to die. That cabinet contains so many bits and fragments of formerly must have gifts that it could be the setting of an epic Director’s Cut version of Toy Story.
Please indulge me for a moment to use this blog to recap what’s really rotten in the state of toy land.
Appliance Like Design. While there is no shortage of Hot Wheels toys on the market, each seems to live in its own world. Break Through Crazy Curves does not feel at all similar to the Hot Wheels Super Spin Carwash my son received for his birthday. Or the Triple Track Twister he got as a gift from his aunt over Thanksgiving. It's almost as if they all come from different companies and meet for the first time on the shelves of Toys-R-Us. A logo is just about all they share. But I guess that is ok because I can't even find the Super Spin Carwash and Triple Track Twister anymore.
However, it's rare that I see my son and his friends integrate toys from different domains. When I was a child, my Britain's soldiers may have towered above the Corgi tank, but that didn't stop me from thinking they were both part of the same battle. A Playskool toy bus likely stood in for a hi-jacked troop transport. I knew they were from different worlds but they were fixtures in my universe of toys. What place does a scary looking Skylander have in the Hot Wheels world? We'll likely never know because of the next point.
Hyper accelerated entropy caused by too many pieces. Little more than a few minutes after assembly (or even during assembly), pieces begin to scatter and disintegrate causing rapid disinterest for the child. The worst offenders — toys with names that have more than two words - Littlelest Pet Shop, Barbie Dream House, Skylanders Trap Team, Star Wars figures. It pains me to say it, but versus the Kenner versions of the late 70s, today’s Star Wars figures are a scant few steps away from a Rube Goldberg contraption. Do kids need fully articulating arms and knees, removable weapons belts, and helmets with visors to truly feel the Force?
For me, losing Han Solo’s blaster was as Obi-Wan said, “a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” It taught me a lesson in how to take care of my things. Losing a blaster these days is like losing the straw to a juice box - there’s always another somewhere.
Instructions. If the box says the toy is for ages six years plus, it should be for ages six years plus. My father can fix anything but I don’t recall needing much of his help to put my toys together. My six year old doesn’t even attempt to build most things. And why should he? The sheer number of parts is overwhelming even for me. I needed a double scotch after working with the Hot Wheels Break Through Crazy Curves.
It’s not that the instructions are necessarily hard to follow. It’s more that the surfeit of pieces fit together so poorly (or not at all) that I wonder whether I am doing things right. I would love to just be called when there is a need for batteries.
Longevity. I definitely sound like the curmudgeon here, but they just don’t build toys like they used to. The stomach sinking site of whitish plastic that I have bent too far or pushed too hard is routine. To the environmentalists out there, do not worry about today’s toys. They have already begun breaking down before they even hit the landfills.
Decals. Every toy comes with decals now. And lots of them. Growing up, I viewed decals with a sense of dread and awe. I wanted to apply them PERFECTLY. Often, I did not even want to use them at all as if the act of doing so would take away the newness of the toy. For Legos especially, a decal locked a piece into a permanent role. Putting decals on was serious business.
Now, decals are just like another sheet of stickers from the party store. My son races to apply them with abandon giving little regard to how well they align with the edges of pieces. There are so many included that they are meaningless.
“Groundhog Day Syndrome” - Over 10 years of parenthood, I have assembled many toys. I have searched for, shoved, and manipulated my fair share of plastic. Yet somehow, no matter what I build, I feel like I’m building the same toy over and over again.
Whether it’s the Power Rangers Zord Vehicle or the Spider Man Spiral Blast Web Shooter, pieces seem indistinguishable from one another. Yet, they are not - that would make things too easy in the event of a lost piece.
I am not sure what the next few nights of Hanukah have in store for us. My wife did the shopping this year and some gifts came wrapped from my siblings. But I do know that I went for a ride with the kids this am and we had a great time. I wish I could say that about playing with the Hot Wheels Break Through Crazy Curves.
A New Jersey and Some BBQ December 13 2014, 1 Comment
I always get a thrill when taking delivery of a new style jersey for the first time. I’ve tested the prototypes, hemmed and hawed over minute details, and just about driven everyone batty who has worked on it. But all of that fades from memory once I claim the first medium for myself and tear open the package.
Usually that occurs at our factory in Miami but this past Thursday was different. A small lot of Valkenburgs, our new full zip Merino jersey, was ready at our new factory in Morganton, North Carolina. Coincidentally, I was in Winston-Salem (about 90 miles away) visiting my parents and siblings to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday. Road Holland is a family affair, so along with my father, mother, and sister, we hit the road to Morganton to collect the lot.
I like the drive to Miami but there's nothing like being in the hills in Western, North Carolina. There's also a lot less traffic.
Morganton, “Nature’s Playground” as the official welcome sign says, sits in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Asheville and Hickory. It’s seriously picturesque and despite a fulsome amount of 18 wheelers lumbering along some of the major thoroughfares, it seems like a great place to begin a cycling sojourn into the hills.
With a population just shy of 17,000, you surely won’t mistake it for a major metropolis. Yet in previous times, Morganton was a serious producer of textiles of all sorts. Sadly, NAFTA washed that role away. With the Valkenburg, we’re helping reverse the tide and get some people back to work.
Once at the factory, I had a nice visit with Nand and Neelan, the heads of the operation. Arriving in the US from India in 1979, they lived briefly in New Jersey before settling in Morganton where they have focused on high-quality athletic clothing ever since.
I also talked with some of the cutters and sewers of our jerseys. Just like our food, I believe it’s important we know where our clothes come from. When you do, you can almost feel the pride they take in their work in the garment itself.
After saying our goodbyes to Nand and Neelan and loading up the car, we headed back to Winston. Along the way, we stopped in Statesville where we lunched at The Carolina Bar B-Q.
My family knows BBQ. While we had differing opinions of the cue (it was very lean and lightly smoked), we all agreed that the cake-like hush puppies were some of the best we had ever eaten.
I particularly enjoyed the red slaw and turnip greens. The CBBQ offers two sauces – mild and hot. The latter (my preference) is emblematic of Eastern NC offerings while the former represents Western and almost Kansas City like influences.
The desserts were tempting but we were just too full and had an early dinner back in Winston to think about.
I have four main passions in life – cycling, wristwatches, hi-fi gear, and BBQ. On Thursday, I hit two of the four.
Not bad for a day's work.
Meet Rod - Escaping Grizzly Bears One Bike Tour At A Time November 19 2014, 3 Comments
The first picture of me is from 1984 and was taken at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. This was one of two days I rode with a cyclist named Ben who was very experienced at touring.
I vividly remember the climb to Lake Louise from Canada 1A Bow Valley Parkway. We left Banff and followed Bow Valley Parkway which becomes Lake Louise Drive at the town of Lake Louise. The first part of the climb was just a normal climb. Then we turned onto the road leading to the lake.
I was riding a 24T chain ring x 34T cog combination. About 50 yards from Lake Louise, the road pitched up. With 55 lb. of equipment on the bike, I was out of the saddle and hoping my hamstrings would not shred. I think the distance from Banff to Lake Louise was about 45 miles.
Ben and I took the necessary photographs then parted. He was headed toward Jasper, Alberta and I toward Golden, British Columbia. Instead of riding back to 1A then climbing Kicking Horse Pass on Trans Canada 1, I took a back road and hoped I would not end up as lunch for a grizzly bear. The road led mostly downhill and I was the only soul on it for miles and miles.
When you ride in this type of country, you must have the necessary tools and supplies to make bike repairs. I even carried an extra tire. Finding a 1 1/4" X 27" tire was probably impossible. I never looked for a bike shop but I suspect Banff may have had one but that was it.
The bike was a Nishike touring bike. I purchase the frame and fork from Bike Nashbar for $175 and using as many components from my existing road bike as possible, I cobbled together a beautiful touring machine. Unfortunately, I crashed the bike in Houston some years later. I would still be riding it today if that were not the case.
You may ask, "How can anyone remember the details of such a trip?" It's impossible to forget such a tour. Today, I would question the sanity of it but you do different things when you are younger. Today, I would ride "a smell the roses" pace and walk a few of the climbs and take more pictures. Back then, the motivation for averaging 68 miles a day was my 2-week vacation limit, my fear of grizzly bears, and the need to get to the camp grounds which were few and far between. The bears didn’t get to me physically but they sure did get to me mentally. Upon checking in at one place, a visitor center employee informed me I was their guest. She said, "Guest.” I heard “lunch" and nearly rode away as fast as I could.
That’s the road for you.
A Very Quick Look Back at the 2014 Philly Bike Expo November 13 2014, 0 Comments
After missing the Philly Bike Expo in 2013, we couldn't wait to get back there this year. And we were not disappointed. From just a few years ago, the PBE has grown dramatically to include more frame builders and purveyors of really cool stuff.
It's hard to convey everything we saw, but here's 90 seconds at least.
Meet Barry and Erich - Autodrop, Ltd. (they have in effect dropped themselves) October 22 2014, 2 Comments
Many people send us photos of them wearing their gear on incredible rides. We finally stopped salivating over the pictures long enough to ask some of them to tell us about those rides in more detail. We thought we’d share and start a guest blogger series. For our next installment, Barry and Erich share the history of AutoDrop LTD. and how they came to team up with Road Holland.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they ride a bike. Some complain too much, others ride dangerously. Many riders make a point to talk about their equipment, or their last 'epic' ride, or how many watts they can push. Others will talk incessantly, when it really makes more sense to be quiet (like riding across a gorgeously picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway viaduct) or have nothing to say when you need a word of encouragement.
We (Barry and Erich) met on a bike ride in the mid-2000s - the now-defunct “Monday Night Recovery Race." These rides convened after work, nearly always included the same loop (called a City Loop) and were a great way to get together and talk about the weekend's racing activities (read: finishing mid-pack) while keeping the legs loose. Inevitably, the last few miles of each 'recovery ride' would bring some serious speed and wagging tongues. We gathered off the bike to hang out and eventually designed kits to identify ourselves as the "City Loop Mafia." The Mafia rode strong for a few years, but as folks moved away and lives changed, the group dwindled. Barry and Erich kept riding, and realized a few common goals while racing each other up and down hills in northwestern North Carolina: to ride bikes in search of deeper meaning, to design unusual cycling events, and to design a kit and/or clothing to represent a simple, pure vision of their new venture: Autodrop Ltd.
The name Autodrop Ltd. would become a small race/ride production and clothing partnership. The name is intended to appear serious but be absolutely humorous, stemming from a situation sometimes encountered by amateur cyclists riding above their ability: when trying to keep the pace high in a race, riders may sit on the front too long and exhaust themselves. When they finally pull off and the adrenaline wanes, they suddenly find their legs burning, heart rate pegged, and the previously obedient paceline sliding away from them. They have, in effect, dropped themselves. The dreaded "autodrop." They added the "Ltd." tag purely for effect.
The first endeavor was a checkpoint-themed cycling event in Winston-Salem, NC. Riders received a list of checkpoints of varying value, and were challenged to 'tag' as many as possible in 6 hours. A local pub hosted the finish and riders rolled in exhausted, happy, and ready for some food and beer. Two other events soon followed, both tied to small local charities. With momentum and local interest increasing, Autodrop Ltd. needed a visual image - specifically a jersey. The guys required the following characteristics: American made, wool, simple and high-performance. A quick internet search brought them to Road Holland. A simple email to Richard and Jonathan in November 2011 started the relationship that produced two custom jersey runs and continues today via our work with embrocation.
Embrocation, a wax based concoction also known as “Belgian Knee Warmers,” is a transplant from European cycling circles. During the cold weather months, riders use it to protect the skin, warm up the tissues and provide a sense of purpose and comfort that may be needed when riding in harsh conditions. We used embrocation on cold winter rides while training for the 2011 Tour of the Battenkill. Eventually one of us said,”Hey, we could probably make this stuff.” With Barry's focus on uncovering the details of a proper recipe and obsessive attention to detail, we soon had a test batch sourced from local beeswax, essential oils, and capsaicin: "Auto/Embro." The mix was faster to heat up than most others we had tried, and held up well for 4-6 hours in rainy and cold weather without the need to reapply. A local bike shop signed on to sell the product, and it soon sold out. Erich designed custom labels for the local pro-cyclocross team, who also signed on to use it.
In 2013, Richard and Jonathan requested that the guys create a custom mix for Road Holland, now known as Veluwezoom Warming Embrocation. This mix has the same medium heat rating as the other embrocations we made. But, it has a more sophisticated scent that combines the wood and flower bases.
Embro is most beneficial between when temperatures range between 35 and 55F. It is especially helpful if the rider may get wet during a harder-effort ride and does not wish to deal with wet, soggy fabric leg warmers (one of the reasons why cyclocrossers love to embro). Two important notes however: always apply cream to your chamois BEFORE applying embrocation to your legs unless you want some warming action down there…) And always wash and wipe embrocation from your legs prior to taking a post-ride shower. The water, especially hot water, notably increases the sensation of heat as opening pores allow deeper penetration of the capsaicin.
The products and events of Autodrop Ltd. represent what we know about each other - we share different skills but similar passions for quality and the fun of cycling. The match with the guys at Road Holland feels completely natural as well all appreciate high-quality, simple designs, and a non-pretentious attitudes toward cycling.
Bike Touring Thru Europe With Road Holland On Their Backs October 02 2014, 1 Comment
A few years ago, my brother introduced Road Holland to a friend of his in Oriental, North Carolina. Pretty soon, Walt Abercrombie and his wife Linda became two of our best customers. Originally from the Netherlands, Walt couldn’t resist the big orange!
Last June, Richard and I met Walt and Linda when they participated in Bike VA. In addition to learning just what stand-up kind of people they are, we got the details on their upcoming 30th wedding anniversary cycling jaunt to Belgium, Holland, and France. On their Bike Fridays, they would begin in Brussels, travel northward through Holland, and then take a train to Provence.
Many of us only dream about doing something like this but Walt and Linda made it happen. They’re almost done with their voyage now but they’ve captured it all with an amazingly detailed and entertaining blog. If you’ve ever wanted to see some of Europe from a bicycle seat, this is as good as it gets.
Enjoy. And to Walt and Linda, happy anniversary!
It’s ok to copy Coppi (and Bartali). September 29 2014, 0 Comments
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, why not imitate some of the best?
In addition to being champions in many regards, Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali showed that you can look elegant on a bike. They rocked some styling collars “back in the day” and we’ve got images of these famed riders pinned up on our office walls as inspiration.
Even with your all carbon frame, you may not be able to ride as well as them. But at least you can look as good as them in our Den Haag jersey. You’ve got to see it to believe it so click on over and take a look.
Jonathan and Richard
What’s with the funny names? September 25 2014, 1 Comment
We get a lot of questions about the names of our jerseys - what are they, what do they mean, and how do I pronounce them? The answer - they are all names of towns in the Netherlands and there is a reason why we picked each one.
Take Den Haag. Many of you know it as The Hague which is the seat of the “world court.” Now, you wouldn’t show up to court without a collar so we thought our design was apropos. The button up-collar, a couple of stripes, and some nifty-cool back pockets make this the cycling equivalent of the legal “power tie.”
So button one up, and marvel at how good you’ll look and how great you’ll feel.
Almost Heaven - Cycling in the Blue Ridge Mountains September 15 2014, 0 Comments
Have you ever ridden in the Blue Ridge Mountains? If not, make a plan - and soon. Because the green in these pics is shortly to be replaced by spectacular autumnal colors. Mile for mile, we think there is no better place to ride and no better time to do it than in the Fall. For more information and for a host of rides with detailed maps and cue sheets, visit the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition.
Oh, and who are the people in the pics? That’s one of our customers - Alan Santos and his wife. Alan is a professional photographer who, as he puts it, "lives in an old bungalow in Silver Spring, MD with my lovely wife, two awesome kids, two sassy cats and one mellow dog. I try to live a good life.” Alan was born in the Philippines and grew up in Conyers, GA, where he picked up his first Nikon and first photography job as a freelance photographer covering the 1996 inaugural Olympic mountain bike race in Atlanta.
So how did Alan take the pics if he is on the bike? Well, thanks to a tripod, some programmed camera settings, and some legal child labor, Alan made it happen. We think talent runs in the family…don’t you?
Meet Phaedra - Broken Bones and Gnarly Rocks September 08 2014, 3 Comments
Many people send us photos of them wearing their gear on incredible rides. We finally stopped salivating over the pictures long enough to ask some of them to tell us about those rides in more detail. We thought we’d share and start a guest blogger series. For our first installment, Phaedra - a wizard of words and a local cyclist in Richmond, Virginia, shares a formative experience of hers on the James River Trail system. Enjoy.
I’ve been a roadie for a long while. And even though I still love road rides as much as ever, let’s face it, it can get a little boring. Staring at someone’s rear end – uh wheels – for so long can make you crazy. On one of those 45-milers two years ago I decided it was finally time to try mountain biking. Trails! Nature! Loose comfortable clothing! Technical challenges! I was tired of looking at asphalt and my friends’ spandex-clad butts. It was time for something new, something with a little more style.
I got myself a full-suspension Giant Lust and some comfy baggy shorts and starting throwing myself at the James River Trail system. I’m sure you know what’s next. Pretty much every mountain biker I have ever known has broken some bone somewhere at some point, and I was no exception. A year into it, I broke my arm on a shifty rock drop on the Buttermilk trail.
Honestly, I had no business being on Buttermilk that early in the game. The James River Park system is a gorgeous network of several trails that offers everything I had dreamed of on those monotonous road rides – nature, trees, flowing water (and no cars!). I started off riding Belle Isle, a family-friendly loop with a few optional log piles and tree roots to play with. Then I moved up to Forest Hill Park, which added more obstacles and some steep climbs. After that I struggled onto North Bank – an intermediate strip of trail along the James River with a ridiculous amount of rocks.
I wasn’t yet ready for Buttermilk, the oldest trail in the park system and by far the gnarliest. But a friend suggested we ride it, and I didn’t even see the steep s-foot drop by Reedy Creek until I was right on top of it. I braked, flipped and the landing ate my left elbow.
Last week, after many months of healing, it was time to go back.
I enlisted a few trusted friends as spotters and off we went. I tackled the first part of the trail just fine, and then up came My Rock. We stopped, looked at it, talked about what line to take, and I watched a few of my pals roll down it. Then it was my turn.
I felt like I was going to barf, but I feel like that with any new cycling challenge – my first Gran Fondo, my first century, even my first time clipping in with new pedals. What if I failed? What if I looked stupid? What if I came in last? What if my friends laughed?
Screw all that. I glared down the trail and took off, headed for the drop. Eyes forward, butt back, arms bent, crouched low over the seat, here it came…..and I sailed right over it. Slam dunk, baby! New skill mastered, fear conquered.
Broken bones or not, I will never give up mountain biking. I love it for the same reasons I took up cycling in the first place. It challenges me, there is always something new to learn, it makes me feel strong, and of course, beers after the ride. Plus, I look a hell of a lot better in a mountain bike kit than spandex.
Why We Love Gran Fondos August 27 2014, 4 Comments
Suddenly, Gran Fondos (see here for an explanation of them - http://www.granfondoguide.com) are everywhere. And I think this is a good thing.
The popularity of Gran Fondos echoes a trend in cycling overall. People want more - more of everything.
- They want safer roads so they can ride without fear.
- They want better gear (yeah for us!).
- They want better experiences.
- Most importantly, they want those experiences to be about themselves.
At least here in the States, for most riders, charity and casual century rides have traditionally held sway as the main achievement-oriented outlets for cyclists. Everyone can remember their first MS-150 ride, the feeling of crossing the finish line, and the sense of accomplishment. It’s awesome. But let’s be honest with ourselves, most riders have limited connection with the charity itself. They have donated or raised the required amount of money to participate and that is the main (if only) extent of the link. I don’t fault them - it’s natural and there are countless charities and organizations pulling these same riders in many different directions all throughout the year.
There is also little, if any, cache among non-cyclists about training for a charity ride. Outside of our world, no one really knows about the MS-150 rides or the Tour de Cures. I wish it were not the case but it is reality.
Contrast this with the New York or Boston Marathons, the Iron Man competitions, or even the relatively new “Tough Mudders.” If one says he is training for one of these events, he immediately garners some status (either as an individual with incredible athletic prowess, mental fortitude, and/or as a lunatic). The cycling world has not kept pace with such events.
Enter Gran Fondos. While some Gran Fondos benefit charities, the real focus is on the rider. Whether it’s gourmet snacks at rest-stops, post-ride massages, riding with cycling legends, or the ability to compete against the clock, Gran Fondos offer that chance to expose the inner pro in all of us. And someone who is saddling up on a lavishly expensive full carbon bike with Di2 probably wants a competitive environment sometimes.
I don’t think charity rides are going anywhere anytime soon. But the growing popularity of Gran Fondos may cause organizers to re-think how they approach the events. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to participate in both. But I sure will be looking forward to that lemon sorbet at the mile 50 rest stop and a glass of Prosecco when I cross the finish line.
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