Bikes. Wow.

November 15, 2008

in Inspiration

This evening on my way home from work I saw a young girl riding her bike in the rain.  She wore a red rain coat and red rain boots.  I’m sure she didn’t care about those items; it was her bike, and maybe the rain, that was making her smile.  She was having a blast.  It reminded me of how awesome bikes are and how lucky I am to work in the bike industry.

I learned this lesson long after I got into bike manufacturing.  I first got into cycling because of my brother, and then I was quickly drawn to the competitive aspects of cycling:  racing.  I certainly didn’t have the connection that the girl in red seemed to have.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I disliked bikes.  I just loved other facets of cycling more:  designing, engineering, manufacturing processes, racing, and making stuff with my hands.

With all those overwhelming interests, I was missing out on the pure bike experience.  The simple, direct, visceral, connection of person and bicycle, with no other agenda.  It took me years to internalized that simple truth.  I learned it, in no small part, from a series of conversations I had, throughout a decade, with Clay Mankin.  Clay was an icon in the bicycle industry and a tireless, positive, champion for the promotion of cycling.

Sadly, Clay passed away just over three years ago.  However, my remembrance of Clay is not a sad one because it was from him, more than anyone else, that I learned how amazing our industry is, and how lucky I am to be part of it.  Bikes are simply awesome.  And at Seven Cycles we get to design and sell them for a living!  And that is so cool.

Clay was, of course, right.  Unfortunately, I often forget that.  I sometimes get hyper-focused on the business of Seven Cycles, on looking for ways to help our retailers, on ensuring that our customers have a great experience, on keeping Seven’s employees psyched, on trying to design the next great product or service, on figuring out how to continuously improve our manufacturing processes, and other small tasks like those.

I have so many conversations about gear-inches, grain structure, glycogen levels, carbon fiber modulus, one thousandth of an inch, and on, and on.  All  those conversations are worth having, and all that work is worth doing, so long as it leads to a rider with a smile.

Whatever a person’s reasons for having a relationship with bikes–whether it’s commuting, racing, riding in the woods, enjoying the scenery, being an anarchist, saving the world one bike at a time, or a hundred other reasons–they’re all good, particularly if it’s done with a smile, like a kid in the rain.

So yes, for me, the bike industry is amazing–every part of the industry, including selling them, designing them, building them, riding them, or fixing them; it’s all great.

From time to time I will forget.  And I am thankful that there are girls in red, and Clay, to remind me.

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