"Euro" Jeff

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One term that littered our little bicycle racing world back in the late 80’s and early 90’s was the term“Euro”.  It was considered a compliment to be referred to as such.  It meant you raced and trained in an old school way, and above all else, it meant that you had the ability to suffer.  It went without saying that the Euro dudes were tough as nails.  

In Europe, that ability to suffer was often a result of trying to escape from a factory job, or a life as a farmer.  And to escape the drudgery of those jobs meant dedication, sacrifice, and suffering, and no one suffered more on the bike than the Belgians.  So if you were growing up in the States and you wanted to make it in cycling, there was one proving ground, Belgium.  And locally the guy that took that script closest to heart was Jeff Rasch.

It always seemed to me that trying to get some advice or feedback from any of the Euro guys was like trying to break into Fort Knox.  These were lessons learned through sacrifice and suffering, and you were going to have to learn them the same way they did, the hard way.  So imagine my surprise when after a team meeting Jeff Rasch approached me and told me that I was going to go to his house on Sunday and he was going to fit me on my bike.  It was an offer that I knew would only come around once, so I wasn’t going to squander it.

Once arriving at Jeff’s house, he wasted no time in telling me that my saddle was a few centimeters too low, and my reach was at least 3cm too short.  Adjustments were made, and advice was offered, much of which I still follow today.  Training programs were drawn up, diet was modified and improved, and ultimately a commitment to bicycle racing was established.  As someone who always felt like he was on the outside looking in, Jeff’s inclusion made me feel like I belonged.  Did he see something special in me that caused him to let his “Euro Guard” down, or was he just getting soft, either way I felt special, and it certainly gave me the inspiration to keep going.

The following weekend I arrived at a race trying to strictly adhere to all the lessons that Jeff had taught me.  It was a pretty cold day, so I made sure that I had my knees covered, just as Jeff had instructed me to.  “If I see you riding without your knees covered and it’s below 65 degrees, I’ll break your kneecaps”, is exactly what I remember him saying.  I recall trying to make sure that Jeff saw me so that he could offer me his approval, but when I rode past him in the parking lot, he hardly cast a glance at me.  He must have been in “Euro Mode”, calm, cool, and collected.  Certainly too cool to let other racers know that he had helped a young punk like me find his way.

As I continued pursuing my racing career, I began to glean information from any source I could find.  Many times this information would be pulled from some European cycling magazine, translated into a cryptic but acceptable format.  As soon as I could confirm that these new methods were valid, I put them into my vault of top-secret training methods.  The last thing that you were going to catch me doing, was handing over these lessons to someone that could then use them to beat me.  I assumed that this was the Euro Way, and that Jeff had simply had a moment of weakness, so many years ago.  Jeff continued to be one of the fastest local guys and continued to make his pilgrimages to Europe every year, always coming back faster, tougher, cooler, and most certainly “more euro”.  Our paths crossed numerous times over the years, and we became racing friends.  But the mystique and the allure of his “euro-ness” was always this intangible vibe that he seemed to have, and none of us could duplicate.  We all certainly tried.

Regardless of how many miles I would ride in a day, or regardless of the poor weather conditions I would subject myself to, I knew that Jeff would have ridden longer, harder, and most certainly in worse weather conditions.  It pushed me to improve, and it inspired me to find my own way.  Being somewhat of an introvert from the beginning, hanging onto these “racing secrets” began to isolate me even more from some of my fellow racers.  It didn’t bother me; I just figured that it just made me more independent, tougher, and certainly more Euro.

At the height of my racing and fitness I recall a day when a few of us met up to ride to one of the Wednesday Night Training Races.  Jeff Rasch was there, and therefore, I was euro-posturing to the best of my ability.  I cast out an aura of confidence, coolness, and indifference to anyone other than a fellow bike racer.  And then it happened; a young kid rode up towards our group on his bmx bike.  In my eyes this kid wasn’t worth a second glance.  But Jeff saw that his helmet wasn’t fitting right.  Jeff welcomed him over, told him how cool his bike was, and asked to look at his helmet.  Jeff made some quick adjustments to the straps and then placed it perfectly back on the kid’s head.  He gave the kid a few encouraging words, and left the kid stoked and smiling from ear to ear.  I was flabbergasted, Jeff wasn’t Euro all these years, Jeff was just a cool dude.  All the posturing I had done and held onto for all those years was gone in a flash.  Jeff didn’t make it cool to be Euro, he made it cool to be himself.  It’s a lesson I have since carried forward everyday.

Trek World

Trek World,  August 1st-3rd:

Whenever we tell people that we are going up to Trek World for 3 days of seminars, test riding, and looking at new products, they often suggest that we are going up there to “drink the Kool-aid”.  It’s often said in a negative context, but honestly, we like Kool-aid, so it’s with eagerness and excitement that we travel up to Madison, Wisconsin for the Expo.  It’s a little like having access to back stage pass at a rock show, you tend to hear and see things that generally don’t find their way to the masses.

It is truly amazing to see all the different elements that Trek has under one roof.  We can’t lie and say that we don’t feel like kids in a candy store, but we are also there to conduct business, and learn about the products that we sell.  With every endeavor that they undertake, they don’t leave any stone unturned.  The level of detail that they bring to each product is staggering, it’s no wonder that their products are so great.  It’s also refreshing to hear them admit when a product doesn’t reach their expectations.  They learn from those mistakes and then improve the design.  They also admit when another company is doing a better job.  In short, they are determined to be the best, while still showing humility.

If liking Trek Bicycles, and Bontrager products means that we are “drinking the Kool-aid”, then please, pour us another glass.

The Grove Criterium

This past weekend we had the great pleasure of helping out at the Grove Criterium in the Grove Neighborhood. The Grove is a growing vibrant business and entertainment district along Manchester between Kingshighway and Vandeventer in St. Louis City. In the Grove you can find a diversity of independently owned restaurants, nightlife, retail, and services. It is also home to the premier nightlife in the area, and is a thriving center for the LGBT, artist, and cycling communities in the St. Louis area. In short, it’s one of the coolest places in town to have a bike race. We were asked last year if we could lend a hand as a sponsor. We leapt at the chance last year, and were equally excited this year when we were asked to return. Peder Hulse and his wife Amy are the driving force of this event, and not only are they doing a great job, they do it with a smile. They are amazing ambassadors for our sport, and we are proud to call them friends.

We only play a small role in helping with the event, but are so grateful for the opportunity. We set up our expo tent early on Sunday morning, just as the juniors were rolling off the start line. It’s always great seeing new faces in the racing community. But for a few of us old goats, it’s equally nice to reconnect with old racing buddies. We want to especially thank Karl Stover and Kurt Fletcher for flying the Goat colors. And also want to shout out to John Merli, Chris Harre, Aaro Froese, Austin Gnomes, Justin Maciekowicz, Chris Creed, and the guys at The Bike Surgeon, for always being supportive of us, we truly appreciate it.

What overwhelmed us more than just the racing, was the participation of the community. It’s a great thing to see when local businesses find value in bringing people into the neighborhood. It’s great seeing such teamwork amongst all the sponsors. In the sometimes competitive bike shop community, it’s rare to have 2 bike shops working together to sponsor a race, and we couldn’t be happier to have been able to work with the wonderful crew at The Bike Surgeon. First class guys, and if you visited the wheel pit over the weekend, you can thank them for pushing you back into the race.

We were so pleased with how many people came by and visited us and gave us their encouragement. Aaro Froese was a huge cheerleader for us, and we can’t thank him enough for sending folks over to chat, and even buy some merchandise. We were constantly reminded of how much enthusiasm everyone had for the event, the sponsors, and for us directly. The race was a reminder of what a great cycling community that we have, and we are already dreaming up new ideas for next years event. We will be there, will you??

Then and Now

I have to admit that I am a little longer in the tooth than a lot of our customers.  And I remember a time when bike shops were more than just a place to buy your bike stuff.  They were a gathering place for anyone that was into bikes.  You could talk new technology, old technology, racing heroes, racing tactics, touring do’s and don’ts, training plans, nutrition, music, maintenance, or even just on how your day was going.

I remember when I was still young, and a trip to the bike shop was nearly a rite of passage.  And the bike shop that I most visited was A-1 Bicycles. I’d let my parents know that I was riding to the shop, and from there, the adventure began.  I’d walk in the front door and the smell of rubber would hit me like a tidal wave, and the sight of shiny silver things everywhere.  It was certainly a good case of sensory overload.  I’d look into those display cases as if I was scrutinizing a Rolex, wishing that if I could only afford such a wonderful thing, all of my riding woes would disappear.  Inevitably the man behind the counter would reach into that case and hand me the new bright and shiny bike part that I had been gawking at.  He’d tell me where it was made, what it was made of, and spoke of the great quality.  Desires were set, and allowances began to be saved, all to one day head back to the shop to buy it.  Those guys behind the counter became my bridge to the greater culture of the cycling world. It was those interactions that really became genuine connections.

And while I may now be the one standing on the other side of the counter, I still have the same interest and enthusiasm to make that connection. What I truly love here at the shop is the daily interactions that we have with our customers.  It’s those connections that we make with each individual that makes the difference for all of us.  Our goal is that through the shop we interact and connect with a whole new generation of riders and introduce them to the wonderful world of bicycles.

Tom Boonen's Eddy Merckx

One thing that captivates almost any racing cyclist is the sight of a professional cyclists bicycle.  They are looked over and investigated as if to find some sort of hidden secret for speed within those parts.  There is one bike in our collection that has got to be everyone’s favorite.  The Tom Boonen bike.  When we received an email from a collector in Holland informing us that he was selling a Tom Boonen Eddy Merckx EMX-7, to say that we were interested is an understatement.  We were also very skeptical.  A bike like this needs to be confirmed to be an authentic.  One quick email to Eddy Merckx Cycles in Belgium informed us that they created a special mold for Tom Boonen, all they would need to do to confirm its authenticity would be to measure it.  The seller was happy to bring it to the factory to be measured, and once there the great folks at Eddy Merckx Cycles confirmed that it was a Tom Boonen bike from his 2011 season.  And while we really don’t know where this bike may have been raced, we can certainly imagine it being pushed to it’s limits by Tom.  Rain, cobbles, headwinds, and fierce competition, this bike has most certainly seen all of them. While 2011 was primarily a down year for Tom Boonen.  He still won the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar, and added the Belgian Classic Ghent Wevelgem to his win column.  For some riders, those two wins would make their career.  For Tom Boonen, those victories are indicators of what he could have won, had it not been for crashes and injuries.

One thing that really jumps out at you with this bike are the proportions.  It’s low, and long.  The folks at Eddy Merckx Cycles told us that it’s got a very short head tube, but an extremely long top tube, and when you look at it, those two dimensions really jump out at you.  Tom Boonen is a big guy, standing 6’4”, so you expect to see a large bike, but you don’t expect to see the extreme amount of drop down to the handle bar.  Fans of slamming the stem will love the way that this bike is set up.  There is no trace of a headset spacer to be found.  Tom’s use of a 140mm stem is also worth noting.  It’s clear that this bike has one purpose, to make Tom ride fast.

His saddle choice seems simple enough, but we’ve been told that the width of this particular Prologo is wider than one that you and I can buy.  Apparently Tom likes a wider tail to the saddle to push against for leverage and power.  We’ve taken our tape measure to it and it is certainly wider than anything that we’ve seen in the Prologo catalog.  When you ride like Tom, companies want to make sure that you are comfortable on their stuff.  What Tommeke wants, Tommeke gets.

A bike with European roots always looks better with another European favorite, Campagnolo.  In the is case, it’s a complete Campagnolo Record 11 group set.  Tom’s use of 177.5mm cranks is another “old school” choice, in an effort to get every last bit of leverage.  We’re sure that those cranks have churned thousands of miles, because those chainrings look like they’ve been through some extremely hard pedaling.

Sometimes the appeal to a bike like this is the stuff that we don’t know, the mystery of the unknown.  We certainly look at it and wonder what it would tell us if it could talk.  Countless miles, countless stories, endless possibilities.  Pro bikes are cool, and having this one is something that we are very proud of.

A Few Good Goats

Rider Qualifications: We are interested in racing cyclists that embody the spirit of sportsmanship, fair play, and integrity.

-10 Mass Starts in last Calendar Year (excluding training races) -should you not meet these requirements, let us work with you to achieve them through support, guidance, and encouragement) -Riders willing to be Ambassadors for ALL of their sponsors -Riders interested in a healthy team atmosphere -Riders willing to assist their team, teammates, and their sponsors in and out of competition. Rider Benefits: Team Purchases: (generally a one time buy in at the beginning of the year) -Team Bikes at up to 40% off retail -Team Equipment 30-40% -Team Clothing  Wholesale on all team clothing On Non Team Purchases: 15% off Bicycles 20% off Parts/Accessories/Clothing Free Coaching via Team Directors Coaching via Aeolus/VeloPro Race Reimbursements for Targeted Races Guidance and Advice from Team Ambassadors Access to Team Only Rides Wholesale Pricing on Team Clothing Shop Support at most local races. How do I join? Assuming that you meet all the qualifications, club dues are $45. Membership is valid from the time you join until December 31st.

Who can I contact should I have questions? You can email Dirk Sprogoe at dirk@billygoatbicycleco.com or Karen Proper at karen@billygoatbicycleco.com

How do I order clothing? Email Dirk at dirk@billygoatbicycleco.com or Karen Proper at karen@billygoatbicycleco.com How can I help? Whether it’s ordering team clothing, working on events, or simply helping a teammate out, we can always use help.  Please contact Dirk or Karen, dirk@billygoatbicycleco.com  or karen@billygoatbicycleco.com

R.I.P.

There are moments in life that you know you will never be able to forget. Sometimes those moments are great, and sometimes those moments are heartbreaking. We recently experienced the latter. One of our mechanics recently passed away. He leaves behind a wife, a brother, a sister, nieces, friends, and co-workers, who would want nothing more than to spend one more day with him. Richard Florman left us far too soon. We know that he was such a driving force for us at the shop, and one of the most meticulous mechanics that we’ve ever worked with, and that we will never be able to replace him. In times like these it is always hard to find the words to convey what our hearts feel. The terms sad, tragic, surreal, and disbelief have been used so many times the past week and a half that they almost seem meaningless. We are doing our best to remember all the wonderful things, the quirks, and the stories that Richard shared with us. While struggling to find the words for the loss we are feeling, we came across this great quote: "Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 Richard was more than a bicycle mechanic, he was craftsman, an engineer, a tinkerer, and most of all a cyclist. So we know that his legacy will be the thousands of repairs, the thousands of bike builds that he performed. We also know that his gift to us is going to be the countless number of miles that we will surely ride in honor and memory of him. Richard, if you are listening buddy, the Billy Goat family, and the cycling community thanks you for the infinite number of miles that you’ve been able to give to us thanks to your amazing mechanical ability. We will be forever grateful.

Interbike 2015, a whirlwind.

Trip To Interbike, 2015!  

Alarm is ringing @ 5AM, time to catch the 7AM flight to Vegas. Checked my bags with 20 minutes to spare, sweated my way through the security line, jumped on the plane as they closed the doors behind me and off we went.

Flight was perfect and arrived 15 minutes early. It was a cool and breezy morning in Vegas. After getting my rental car, finding a parking spot, hiking to the registration tables and getting my admission badge it was 10AM (Vegas time). If you’ve ever been to Vegas, or “The Show”, you can understand how overwhelming it is. The Vegas properties are 5 minute walks just to get out of the parking lot. Everything is HUGE!

I had an hour to kill before my first appointment so I decided to take a lap and check it out. Absolutely incredible! We’re talking 577,000 square feet covered with one bike product after another. From clothing, to bikes, to accessories, to energy drinks. You name it, they’ve got it.

First stop was with Thule/Camelback. They have a great product line with some nice enhancements for the upcoming year. Looking forward to continuing carrying their products. Immediately following was Bianchi. Their bikes are beautiful! And although I certainly got wrapped up in the Kool-Aid, Dirk and I are anxious to get our preseason order completed and get some of that sexy Celeste color on the floor.

After visiting a few other booths and a long day of walking, talking and filling my back-pack with brochures I was anxious to go see Cross-Vegas. Just in time to see the women’s start I want to congratulate local racer Sunny Gilbert. She was magnificent! She pursued, lap after lap, the chase group that contained Katie Compton. Every lap Sunny was the same 7 – 10 seconds behind a super elite group of riders. A most impressive ride. Congrats!

The men’s elite race did not disappoint. Sven Nys, my favorite rider who also happen to have one cool name, did not disappoint with a solid 2nd place finish losing out to young buck and next super-star Wout Van Aert. In the end Wout was just too much for Sven to handle. Also an impressive show from Jeremy Powers who was throwing punches all day long at the EuroStars and ended up 6th.

2nd day at “The Show” I spent some time at the SRAM booth, thanks Brad for the tour, and checked out the new SRAM eTap. It is Cool! It may be a little scarce when it first comes available but if you’re looking for an alternative to Di2 I think these guys have a found a solid alternative.

My flight was leaving @ 8PM Vegas time so after a 2nd long day of walking, talking and brochure collecting it was time to go home and I was beat. I did have the pleasure of flying home with Sunny Gilbert and Doug Nishamura who kept me company. At 2:30AM my head hit the pillow thinking about all the cool new opportunities we can incorporate into The Goat.

The Little Things

9/9/2015 In our world of electronic shifting, GPS tracking, carbon fiber and titanium frames, it’s easy to get lost in all the technology. But sometimes it’s the little things that bring you back to what you love most about riding and selling bicycles. This past weekend we were reminded of those little things, as we were doing bike safety checks for the JCC Kids Triathlon. From “Frozen” themed bikes, to full blown miniature tri-bikes, they were all there, but even more impressive than the bikes were the smiles and enthusiasm on all of the kids faces. That enthusiasm is infectious, and we couldn’t help but get excited as well. By game day, the kids had put on their game faces and were ready to go. To see that determination was truly inspiring. We want to thank all the kids who participated and are an inspiration to all of us old-timers.

Another great incident of how the “little things” really can make our day happened yesterday. A customer and her son came into the shop yesterday to pick up her bike. After Dave helped her get her bike into the car, he extended his hand to the son, and I watched as the kid instead wrapped his arms around Dave. When he came back into the shop, Dave told me the kid said that “he was a hugger”. I was just beaming. It’s those little experiences that fill our daily jobs with so much joy and happiness, that bring us back for more.