Sort of had a shit week last week. I figured I was due for SOMETHING good to happen this week. And it did. I mean at least I THINK it's good news. It involves change. Something I'm not good with, but sometimes you have to mix shit up to stay motivated and grow.
So what's the change? In '09 I will no longer be racing for Bikeman.com. I can NOT thank Bikeman.com, Big Al, and Davis Carver enough for giving me a chance to be part of their team for 4 seasons. It really is one of the best, if not THEE best grass roots race programs in the country. The work that Big Al does for the team, on top of his shop duties and his own racing and training is stellar. When I applied to race for Bikeman 4 years ago, I had only a couple endurance races under my belt but Al dug my vibe and let me on the team. The rest is history as they say. Thanks Bikeman!
So where to? Well I've been given the opportunity to race for a local shop here in Pittsburgh. Pro Bikes. I've long been a customer of the shop in Monroeville (as well as back when the location was known as Pittsburgh Pro Bikes). Since then there have been changes. Pro Bike formed in the wake of the P.P.B's. demise and it was reborn by some good folks intent on keeping Pittsburgh full of local bike shops. Not only are the new owners familiar faces, many of their employees and team are friends and fellow racers of mine. I'm stoked to have the chance to be closer with my "team", enjoying the benefits of race support, training, and encouragement that comes with a team. Something that it was hard to do with Bikeman.com since almost all the team is located about 500 miles away.
Another very important thing for me is the wrenching assistance they will give me. I've always relied on my good friend Tom for wrenching. But I can't ask him for help ALL the time. Nor can I go into a shop and say "can you put this new drive train that I bought somewhere else on my bike? With 3 locations and Tim C. wrenching at the Monroeville location, it will be super nice to be able to take some of the pressure off of Tom. Now we can go back to being friends instead of racer/mechanic.
Much of the "sponsorship" (I hate that word) is "lateral" of sorts from what I had with Bikeman.com. That part is not that important to me. I knew it wasn't important when I realized that I was looking forward to supporting THEM as much as I wanted them to support me. I WANT to see the shop do well. Not just survive, but PROSPER! Keeping folks on bikes, on the roads, trails and race courses of the Pittsburgh area. In addition to racing for Pro Bikes I've created (and will maintain or help maintain) a blog site for the team to post photos, results, race reports, rides and more. I was pretty geeeked at the enthusiasm that Todd (co-owner) had when he saw the site. The site will grow and I will be sharing it here in the future when we actually have some stuff to post on it! So Aaron, how 'bout some CX race reports?? Get on Soupy and Todd too! I figured since I know my way around the blog thing, and that many of my races are NOT local, this is a way for me to contribute and get more exposure to the team.
So that is part one of this week's news. Now part two....
As I mentioned above, I hate the word "sponsor". I like "support" much better. Why? I look at sponsorship as a VERY two way street. They are giving me support for my racing. Sometimes it's free. Sometime it's discounts.Whatever it is, in turn I give them support by racing, doing my best and getting the word out about the products or shop. That's why it is MEGA important to me to have support from folks I WANT to support and be associated with.
I used to be impressed with folks with long lists of sponsors. But I'm the type that I'm not gonna use a product JUST because it's free. Oh, I'll TRY stuff, but I'm talking USE. I have to WANT to use it. I have to WANT to be associated with them. I've been damn lucky to form relationships with my "support" over the years. Just as with Bikeman.com before and Pro Bikes now. I want to see the folks I support succeed. To get folks using their products. Because the companies are cool. Because they make good stuff. That works! Because they are passionate about our sport and getting people out riding bikes and/or outside.
So in 2009 I'm VERY happy to know that my relationships with Salsa, and Princeton-Tec will also continue. Very pleased. My 2008 was a suck year. Illnesses, injuries, and race bonks left me with some suck results. But I'm giddy like a school girl that Salsa will continue to be part of my racing. Salsa and P-Tec saw beyond the results and saw a doofuss doing what he can, with very little talent but with some passion for the sport. On top of that, I of course will continue my relationship with Twin-Six and maybe one or two others.
I commented a few weeks ago that I was "toning down" the whole sponsorship thing. I thought I would. But then I realized I would be pimping these folks anyway, because I like their gear. I have the support of these folks because of the relationships that I've formed with them and the sharing of their passion. I WANT to see folk riding a Salsa that they bought at Pro Bikes, through the woods wearing Twin-Six gear, at night with the trail lit up by a Princeton-Tec Switchback. I feel proud when I see folks using stuff that I use. I would feel like shit if the products were shit, and I was just blowing smoke out my ass.
Maybe if I was a pro or an elite level racer my take on sponsorships would be different. Maybe I would be in survival mode just to race. But I have the luxury of NOT being that guy. Just a guy who loves to ride his bike, attempt to race, and would use this gear anyway. I'm extremely lucky that folks see me as a viable option to market their gear. I don't intentionally pimp shit. I like "bike stuff". I love the anticipation of the UPS truck showing up in front of my crib. I love going into a shop and sniffing the fresh rubber on a new build. I feel comfortable with my new situation. On some level I have real relationships with all of my "support" for 2009. That makes me happy. Jason, Justin, Brent, Ryan, Todd, Craig and others are good folks. I thank them for '08 and look forward to 2009.
Thanks again to Bikeman.com for 4 great seasons. Now Rick REALLY needs to really step up in the blog department!!
EDIT: I made some edits to my original post. My mind has been going 200 mph with thoughts this past week. It's hard to get it all down. And get it all down with proper spelling and grammer. I mean grammar.