Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dogtown and shaved legs

Since Sunday's race in Doss, TX, Lauren and I have stayed here in Fredericksburg for the Fourth of July. We love the farmer's market and all the local shops and restaurants. The RV parks here are super clean and chill. And the riding scene is unbelievable. The local bike shop hands out maps and talks about roads the same way the guys do for trails in Sedona. The county road map is like Cosmic Ray's trail map. Turns out, because of the expansive German communities starting two centuries ago, Gillespie County has more paved rural roads than any other Texas county. What's even better is that these roads are very lightly travelled, often without markings, through beautiful country, over killer hills, go on for miles and are all connected. It's very Dogtown and Z-boys in lycra.

So I was in the local shop, Hill Country Bicycle Works, getting my drivetrain un-clunked and talking with Adam, the owner who is also the race promoter for the Fredericksburg road race. A super cool dude who was nice enough to knock out my repair while I waited and chat me up about the race and the local roads. He reminded me how important the local bike shop is. No matter what your game and level, we're so up south creek without them. I mean, of course they provide mech services and merch and a place to bum around while you decide to spend too much on a new gruppo, but they're also the ones spearheading advocacy and putting on races. Every amateur team centers on a shop and all the major road races and crits are put on by these guys.

I love and all the other nouveau-nashbars out there, but aside from draining our pockets a little faster, they're not doing enough for us, for the community. The sport and the movement need more than stuff. We need a physical presence, brick-and-mortar legitimacy. We need the connection to a place and something to build on. We may be able to get the latest and lightest Campy and SRAM off ebay, but without our LBS we're just techie tourists. Of course, our shops need to hold up their end of the deal. They need to be more than a retail outlet. They need to be service experts, they need to be involved in the scene (both as promoters and activists), and they need to get better at selling lifestyle not just frames and components.