The Woes of Black Friday

As told by a small business owner:

This time of year always has me torn, being a cog in the wheel of consumerism.  It disturbs me to see other bike shops blowing out bicycles at 30, 40 and 50% off.  It happens every year and it frightens me to think how long that model has been standard operating procedure. 

There’s a finite market for “luxury” items in the United States, clearly.  When we flood the market with cheap inexpensive products I think we are on a sad path toward huge retailers wiping out small mom & pop businesses.  One might argue that we are now in the throes of a “Global Market” and it cannot be controlled.  I hope that’s not true, I hope we haven’t passed that tipping point. We’ve built our small family-owned business to try and survive, even thrive in a very competitive retail market.  This allows us to sell what we are passionate about, what we think are the best products on the market, regardless of the ever-increasing pressure to sell cheaper.

I have no idea how mid size shops can keep their doors open these days.  It seems that from a profit standpoint, the only way to offset overhead and shrinking margins is through huge volume.  The viscous cycle continues.

Who knows if we’re on the right track, but we do our best to not run sales cycle after sales cycle in the hopes of driving more customers through the door.  Our approach aligns with carrying quality merchandise from brands that are responsible in the marketplace.  That and we run very lean, with as little overhead as possible.  This was the first year we started “firing” brands for operating against the best interests of small retailers.  Thankfully we have the ability to make those types of decisions.  We carry many products and bicycles that are considered “heritage” quality, nice enough to pass along to your children.

More and more we face brands that are selling their parts in HUUUGE lots to online retailers.  The result becomes distributor pricing that can now be higher than online retail prices.  It’s pretty crazy to think that anyone would want to contribute to an overall reduction in their brand’s value like that.  It’s certainly happening more and more however.

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for keeping the cash flow moving. The most obvious being that the largest market sectors are just trying to survive until the next quarter’s earnings. However, it seems to be at the detriment of quality, consistent availability and product support. 

If this interests you further you can read below.  With permission front Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works, I’ve reprinted an article from 1999.   It describes, in detail, a crushing cycle that continues today.  16 years and we’re still whittling away at hopes for a decent standard of living.  I wonder how and when things will shift, for better or worse. 

A very very special thanks to our most loyal customers, you have no idea how much of a difference you make for small business owners.  

David Strikes Again: Tramp Camping, Stoves, Eats

David has spent time as a professional guide and domestique.  His knowledge on camping, hiking, and bike camping are extensive.  Enjoy.

 

Here at Yellow Haus, we love tramping. We love riding bikes, hiking, climbing, pretending to fish, and living and sleeping outside. Living outside means eating outside,and unless you really dig the dust, the goo and the candy bars masquerading as ADVENTURE FOOD, you gotta cook.      

Lots of our newbie friends worry most about eating and hygiene as obstacles to enjoying even a Riv type S24O (Sub 24hr Overnight). This doesn’t have to be, as just a tiny pot and burner will afford both. Moreover, one need not fuss with dirty fires or dirty dishes. I said you gotta cook or eat goo. I didn’t say that you gotta cook in the field. You’re still going to want hot water so you’re still going to want a small stove and mess kit.

 

Confused yet? Hang in there and I’ll show you some easy ways to eat and stay clean whether you’re biking overnight or hiking the Range Trail.

 

Let’s get hygiene out of the way first. Wash your hands. Use Dr. Bronner's or any nice to nature equivalent. Do it often, with just a dab of soap and some water.  If you’re still walking around in The Real World squirting alcohol into your hands every time you touch something, cut it out. You only really need to do that after relieving yourself when you are away from plumbing. Really. Cut it out.  Hot water with a splash of the Good Doctor’s Peppermint and a bandana feels great if you can’t bathe by swimming, and hotel-like after a swim. Brush your teeth with what you use at home, do it the N.O.L.S. way. Do your bathing well away from ANY water and away from where you and your friends will be milling around in the dark. NO SOAP, BIODEGRADABLE OR NOT, NO MATTER HOW ORGANIC, SHOULD EVER ENTER ANY WATER BY ANY MEANS FROM YOU. PERIOD. IT KILLS THE FISH. Please, wash and rinse yourself and all your things with water that you carry away from your water source and your camp.

OK, if you are like my partner, Maureen, you’re gonna want at least a one liter pot and some way to heat it. She loves to heat up a pot before bed. She’ll brew a pot for a hot drink as she gets  sleepy so that she can go to bed warm. The rest of that pot of hot water is guarded jealously. Generally, she’ll splash a little aromatic soap in there and soak her face,her neck and her arms with  compress after compress till her tea is drunk and she is almost asleep. She wakes herself up with almost the identical ritual in the morning.  She needs a stove to feel clean in the woods.  She could do that with a stick fire, but probably wouldn’t and therefore would enjoy the experience less.

Let’s get on with the cooking and let’s also hang with how Maureen does stuff, she’s fairly new to tramping but is already fully actualized. I am old with lots of old, abandonable ways of doing this stuff. She is new with new ways that work now. For instance, we have a closet full of gas powered stoves from the last century that scare the crap out of both of us and stink. I took pains to be expert with gasoline stoves. It was a right of passage in my youth to make an XGK purr. And I could. And who cares. Mo uses an open burner alcohol stove with ease and I think, could make one out of a beer can if pressed to do so.

The truth is, she and I almost never need to cook, cook. We really only need to boil water for even a weeklong hike with some planning, and an easy overnight by bicycle with less planning. For example, on most of our S24O’s, we eat something home cooked, carried afield and accompanied by snacks and cold drinks. I always want coffee and a post prandial Turkish Bath. Mo has her gig . In the morning, right alongside the familiar ways to wake up, like coffee and instant oatmeal, you may be surprised to see boil-in-the-pouch Indian fare. So good. So easy. There’s nothing to clean up if you eat it right out of the pouch.

Longer trips for us mean carrying cheese, cured meat, tinned fish, tortillas, tea, instant (yup) coffee, seaweed, bullion, nut butter, man the list of ready-to-eat easy-to-carry good food just goes on. I didn't even mention fresh raw fruits and veggies. We don’t bother messing around with freeze dried food or even the noodle pouchy stuff from the grocery store. Udon, cooked and vacuum packed is as close as we get.

Because of our easy style, we don’t need a stove that boils a quart of water in two minutes flat under gale forces at negative temperatures. Rather, we prefer a slow, quiet and safe stove that you can hunker down around without funky fumes and half empty canisters to deal with. We like alcohol stoves for this reason. On longer trips of three or more days we use an integrated stove, cookset and stormcooker made by Trangia. We use the smallest hard anodized set.  When we’re going light or overnight we use a two part stove windscreen combo made by Vargo. We use their Decagon stove and aluminum windscreen.  We each have our own billy pot and cup.

I’d like to talk a little bit about what we burn. We burn Everclear and we burn wood. I stopped using gasoline and isobutane a long time ago and won’t harp on why, but if you’re headed this way there are some things you should know. Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol made undrinkable with various denaturing agents. In New York State, benzyne and other dangerous hydrocarbons are commonly, legally used to denature alcohol. That’s why we use Everclear. It’s safe to spill it on yourself, your food and your tinware, just be careful with the matches! It’s pretty expensive, like twice or more than any other fuel discussed, but this is a luxury, right? Parse it out. Find clever ways to maximize, chart, measure, whatever if that makes it worth the cost for you. If you were left without a choice, you’d stay warm around a burning tire. Believe me. You shouldn’t do that when you can choose not to.

So that’s it really. When you buy your cooking gear, jump online and check out the manufacturers website. Trangia, esbit/Light My Fire and Vargo have great, informative sites with lots of useful info and helpful videos (We carry Esbit and Vargo in the shop and can get Trangia).  Then go outside and practice :-)

Have fun out there and raise a glass to Yellow Haus! Salute!

 

Surly Wednesday- David Shares His Emotions

Here be a post from David, our all-around best/most appreciated employee (and our only at the moment, soon to change!).  He more recently attended an industry event with me down in PA, fell in love and the rest is history:

 

 

In October, Yellow Haus was invited along with other East Coast independent bicycle dealers to an industry event called Biketoberfest.  Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP) hosted at their new fulfilment center in Lancaster, Pa. This was QBP’s way of thanking said dealers for helping them become the biggest supplier of bikes and bike stuff in the U.S.A. ( Great American Dream Story… Wiki check it out). They did not disappoint. First night was a great dinner at the new facility with German Oompah band, beer, the works. The facility is really impressive, huge, energy blah blah out the wazzoo, a model of flow control management made to look, from the outside and to the neighbors, like the giant milk barn it replaced. The creators of Surly actually have a lot of sophistication.

 

I won't bore you with all of the details from the rest of the weekend except to say that it was spent in the Marriott Lancaster Convention Center eating, drinking, seminars, expos and, the point of this post, an entire day in the mountains with every Surly, Heller, All City, Salsa, and Foundry bike you’d want to get your mitts on with your choice of single track CX course or gravel road to fall down on.

I was super stoked about Ride Day because the Surly Wednesday was out of the rumor stage and had already been to the press at all the big bike shows out West. There were going to be Wednesday test bikes to shred on super fun single track!

Alex and I rode all day, everything, breaking only for lunch. We wanted to ride as many bikes as possible just for shits and giggles. How often do you get these opportunities?  I even wiped out real good with All City’s CFSSCX on a downhill where that bike don’t belong because I suck that hard.

I kept going back to the Wednesday, over and over, all day, like a palate cleanser, like it was already my bike. Like I liked it better than even the killer Salsa Pony Rustler.  I was hooked and I’ll tell you why.

The Wednesday is a fat tire 26” mountain bike that comes stock with 80mm rims wearing 3.8” Nate tires. It has a symmetrical steel frame, rust prepped and powder coated. Giant oversized, tapered headtube that fits anything and a threaded bottom bracket join the awesome-ingenious dropouts, dropper-post port, and a full quart of braze-ons…. this all go Robbin’ Eggs Blue do anything, go anywhere shredder.  The frame, fork and rims will accept up to 4.6’ tires according to Surly, but I bet you can fit a Big Fat Larry up front. The drop-outs are brilliant in that they allow track fork-end type chain tensioning for fixed(!) or SS setups, or two thru axle positions to give a 17” or 18”

chainstay length.17” tucks a 3.8” tire right under the saddle and you’re riding a fat tire Yo Eddy. Set it up at 18” and you can fit almost 5” K.N.O.B.B.I.E.S. 45 North seems to have aimed the Flowbeist and Dunderbeist at this bike, and as the rims come tubeless ready, that seems to me to be a sensible upgrade if you can’t just ride the piss out of what they give you at ‘68 Road Runner pricing.

We have not had much snow, but I have gotten a bunch of all types of riding in on this beast. Here’s what I have changed on my Wednesday. Swapped the, uhm, stem for a stem. You’ll see. There’s some kinda story, but I guess stems are the new pedal. Put on a sweet 40mm rise chromoly Surly Open Bar, a set of pink Oury grips so you know what you fuckin’ wit. That’s it. this thing is good to go. Hayes cable actuated brakes. Sram x5 no BS 2x10 drivetrain with thumb thumb shifters for us guys who buy our choppers at Iron Mike’s Military Surplus.


This bike is mint.  I love my Wednesday.   

 

 

We've got a medium and large at the shop, should you be tempted to add one of these to your collection.

 

Numero Dos- E-bikes

We have the opportunity to be a dealer for a new-to-the-US brand of e-bikes...which sparked our interest in the topic in general.  By and large we support e-bikes in a big way as they apply to the transportation cycling segment.  We've been a Stromer dealer for a couple of years now.  Their bikes are excellent.  Beautiful to look at, seamless ride quality and industry-leading from a technical perspective.

Stromer ST-1

Stromer ST-1

The problem, or I should say hurdle is cost.  The ST1 bare bones is about $3,499. Get it with lights/rack and fenders (Items that make it a functional transportation bicycle) and you're being pushed into the $4k range before tax.

Welp, just learned to never draft while in the blog app itself…lost an hour’s worth of writing.  Oh well, so I’m going to bang out where I left off:

Long story short here’s some reasons to give the ‘Ol e-bike a chance, it may take you by surprise:

WIND- Windy days on a bike blow real hard (see what I did there?).  Doubly so when you’re hauling a load or destined for hilly terrain.  E-bikes balance your output.  So it doesn’t matter if it’s blowing at 20mph and you have to bring a bag of heavy tools to your buddy’s house 8 miles away, uphill.  You’re going to make it there in the same time as if you were load-free, going downhill.

RAIN- Rain gear sucks, no two ways about it.  Especially when it’s hot out.  Same as above, the output balance is a real game changer.  No more showing up looking like a drowned rat (either from rain or from sweat).

SNOW- Similar in thought to rain.  Winter riding involves a daily algorithm of what layers to consider.  That formula uncomplicates itself DRAMATICALLY if you have the even output of an e-bike.

SICKNESS- Let’s face it, we’re all human and when you’re under the weather hopping on your bike for a 6 mile commute kinda sucks.  With an e-bike, it’s not so bad.  The fresh air might even improve your mood once you drag ass-outside. 

All of these examples are extra bonus happy times if you are car-light or car-free and you’re forced on the bike certain days/situations.

TRAFFIC- I feel a bit more comfortable traveling at or near urban traffic speeds (~20mph).  Everything seems to happen a little less dramatically.  When you you’re being buzzed at differential speeds of 20-30mph it can get nerve racking at times.  Also, drivers tend to respond better to taking the lane or merging for a turn when you’re closer to their traveling speed.

GRANT PETERSEN- Says that you shouldn’t get wooed into the murderous rocky coast by the sirens of e-bike land.  Don’t listen to him; he’s just having a tough time shedding the last of his suffer-fest persona from racing (Normally we say his words are gospel).

IT’S CHEATING- Don’t be a wanker, OK?  If you’re one of those self-hating train-till-you-drop Cat5 racers spouting rhetoric about how e-bikes skirt the purest forms of biking I can guarantee you three things:

1.     You’re doing it wrong

2.     You’re ripe for therapy sessions

3.      See #1

RIDING EVERY DAY- You don’t have to throw away your other bikes.  I still ride my other bikes plenty.  This frustrates me as much as the notion that either you commute every day of the year or nothing.  Enjoy the fruits of variety my friends, the world is your oyster.

Here’s to hoping this post has you considering why e-bikes make a lot of sense for transportation cycling.

In my original draft (that I lost) I had figured out a clever way to plug our friend Mario who owns/runs Natural Pet Foods on Clinton Ave.  I can’t remember how I did it and I don’t care to try and re-create that thought.  Go buy your pet food there, he’s real people.

Oh and here’s the brand, Blix, that we are considering stocking.  Comes in around half, plus a little, the cost of a Stromer.

Post-post editorial correction- Our apologies.  Mr. Petersen is indeed pro-ebike; with the exception being kids and trail riding (We're of the same opinion). Yahoo!!

Numero Uno

In the spirit of keeping the creative juices going...we're starting a blaaag.  It'll be the mental vomit that consumes our bike-obsessed minds.  Once and a while I might rant about my wife putting spoons in the fork compartment of our silverware drawer....or other diabolical treachery that makes my particular brand of OCD go haywire.  Mostly it'll be about bicycles though.