My clan and I spent the last week of 2009 visiting my brother and his family in Rhode Island. Some of you may recall that Nathan got into biking this past summer. He was supposed to join me in maintaining this website, but seems to have called it quits after only one post. (I promised I’d hassle him about this publicly. Perhaps it will guilt him into trying again.) Fortunately, he hasn’t given up on the riding.
While I was there, we hit a couple of local bike shops. The first was Mystic Cycle Centre. Nathan had a gift certificate to use, so we grabbed a floor pump and assembled an emergency repair kit. Mystic Cycle is the shop closest to Nathan, so it’s the one he’s been inclined to frequent since he began cycling. However, he nodded when I confirmed his suspicion that it’s the sort of shop that ultimately discourages all but the already committed from cycling. They carry almost entirely high-end brands, and they display a pronounced lack of enthusiasm when it comes to working on a bike they didn’t sell you, or educating a new rider. Here’s an anecdote to illustrate the general tenor of the joint: the guy who rang us up said they couldn’t honor an AmEx gift card because AmEx supports Walmart. It’s the shop’s prerogative not to take AmEx. But to make some elitist remark like that when we’re already at our local bike shop purchasing their merchandise seemed like a rather chump move.
The next day, we visited another shop, one which Nathan hadn’t yet had a chance to visit: Caster’s Bicycles & Fitness. What a terrific shop! They carry a wide range of equipment and brands, thus offering their customers a variety of price points and riding options. Three separate staff persons chatted with us over the course of our visit, and much of the conversation was little more than friendly small talk. One did a great job bringing Nathan up to speed on different clothing options for cold-weather riding. (Nathan is determined to ride every month this year.) Another patiently fetched three or four different items for me from the back room only to recommend I buy nothing now and pay a visit to my local bike shop to make sure I get precisely what I need. This is the kind of shop that invites riders at every level to wade a little more deeply into cycling.
Back at his place, I took a spin on his Cannondale Synapse. What a sweet bike! (Pity it was only about 17 degrees outside.) I am wrought with envy. The thing I do not envy, however, is the hill on which he must end every ride he takes that originates from his house. It is positively wicked. Three-tenths of a mile after his road begins, a relatively gentle incline starts. At six-tenths of a mile, you hit the first of three steep “steps.” His driveway appears one full mile later. The hill actually continues another quarter-mile or so, and Nathan is considering changing up his route so as to complete the climb, round out the circuit, and conclude his ride heading downhill. I think it would be a very wise move.
Finally, Nathan introduced me to the free “NBW Guide to Cycling in the Ocean State” map produced by the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen. This is a fantastic resource. Not only does it reflect the growth and popularity of cycling in Rhode Island, it also encourages non-riders to give bicycling a try, and helps new riders learn more about where to go for the kind of riding they want to do. I’ve indicated numerous times on this site that I’d like one day to help produce a local cycling map. The NBW Guide is an excellent model.
We had a great visit. I left hoping we can find a way to get together over the summer so we can take a ride together.