Grand Performance Bike Shop, Dan Casebeer, and the Hour Record in 60 minutes!

Dan Casebeer has owned Grand Performance bike shop in St. Paul for a long time.  And he’s been an avid cyclist for even longer.  Not only is Dan known as one of the most knowledgable people in cycling, but also as one of the most approachable. In the stuffy, sometimes arrogant world of road cycling, Dan stands out as the one with the easy smile who’s ready to talk to just about anyone, about just about anything.  Of course cycling tops the list of his favorite topics but he’s just as ready to talk about wine, food, travel, relationships, or parenting.  After a few attempts to sit down together, I finally lucked out and found Dan on a slow day.  It was a rainy late May afternoon and the Giro D’Italia had entered its final week so there was even more than usual to talk about.  When I asked about his beginnings, I was surprised to learn about Dan’s connection with the late Steve Hed.  Most everyone in cycling knows that Steve Hed was the founder of HED Wheels, a wildly popular company that seems to have accomplished the impossible:  Reinvent the wheel.  In the early 80’s Steve had a small shop in Bloomington, MN called BikeLine.  Like a of us starting out in cycling, Dan hung out at the shop between training rides. Soon, Dan was making extra money building wheels, often taking 5-10 wheelsets home each week to build in his down time. Dan was getting paid by Steve piecemeal for the work and the two became friends.

Busy racing full time, Dan spent much of his competitive cycling career escaping was MN winters by racing the Tour of Texas and other national events but he kept his connection with Steve.  In 1984 Dan set the coveted hour record on the Indianapolis velodrome.  I misspoke and stupidly asked, “what was your time?” and fell victim to the joke, “Of course, it was 60 minutes!”   Dan forgave me in a blink went on to tell me the story:  At the time, the previous record was held by none other than the late Steve Tilford.   Dan was fresh off a frustrating national time trial effort and “ill prepared” for the hour record attempt. In search of redemption, Dan decided to give the hour record a try anyway. I laughed that one doesn’t just give the hour records a try.  It is, with little argument, one of the most difficult challenges in cycling. Dan posted a new national hour record with a remarkable distance of 27.63 miles, besting Tilford’s distance by a mile and a half.

In 1987, while Dan was racing in Wisconsin’s Milk Race (a precursor to Superweek, that took its name form the famous British event) he crashed hard in the Fond du Lac stage. During Dan’s recovery he returned home and became more involved with the shop as Steve was moving in another direction. The shop space and inventory grew, and Dan eventually bought out a third partner and soon he was running GP as we know it today.

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Dan in classic form c. early 80’s.

 

I still remember the first time I stepped into the shop.  Even though he didn’t know me, I felt Dan’s warm and welcoming vibe.  I saw vintage bikes on display (including Dan’s track bike on which he set the hour record in 1984) as well as a handful of beautiful state-of-the-art Italian carbon fiber machines.  These bikes sit alongside a few other vintage bikes as well as new bikes from MOOTS, Wilier, Kona, and of course Bianchi. The shop is clean, but not too clean. The hardwood floor is marked from years of foot traffic, including metal cycling shoe cleats, tire marks, a few coffee stains, and the countless packages that have gone in and out of the shop for decades. The door frame edges are worn rounded and smooth and the window is lined an array of cycling stickers including respected brands like Campagnolo, Vittoria, and Bianchi. Whenever I walk through the old blue door I feel like I’m entering more than a bike shop. GP is a place full of stories, history, and most of all, really great people. In my opinion, GP is the epitome of all bike shops and what I think every bike shop should aspire to emulate.

 

13315807_10154099336115149_844977541007310495_nDan, Mike and friends enjoying the finest. “If it’s not good, I don’t drink it.”

Dan is nearly always in a good mood (except for the one time I hid his lunch) and every customer that walks in the door gets equal attention whether they’re spending $6000 on a new Bianchi or just getting a simple repair.  GP has many loyal customers and one called the shop asking specifically for Dan.  When the customer was told that Dan was in Europe for two weeks they sighed, “Now, how am I going to get my flat repaired”. Obviously, GP employs several very capable mechanics able to do flat repairs but the story reveals just how personal the bike shop experience is for many Grand Performance customers.

As a bike shop owner today, Dan certainly feels the impact of internet sales. He simply stated that “not everyone is going to be a loyal customer”.  GP has no marketing budget and Dan insists that there is value in seeing a product and holding it in your hands rather than seeing it on a computer screen. Obviously, the mail order experience doesn’t allow for a tactile experience and, choosing to spend his energy elsewhere, Dan only said, “I’m bummed” about internet sales.  Yet, he is not deterred.  Dan loves the innovation of cycling. He’s an aficionado about materials, developments in carbon fibre, advancements in groupsets, including electronic shifting.  He loves new products as well as the heritage of certain brands.  And since he uses the products himself, he can talk about the user experience in great detail.  While I was talking to Dan, several customers came in with questions and all seemed to leave satisfied and somehow in a better mood than when they came in. One had just visited another shop and, instead of pushing for a sale, Dan was complimentary: “That’s a great shop. They really know their stuff over there”.  Soon the customer was laughing and asking about the best wines from Dan’s favorite region in Italy.  As the customer left, I didn’t even notice if he bought anything and no one really seemed to think it mattered.

I asked Dan about his support of so many young riders over the years and he quickly responded “I’m proud of the people I’ve sponsored, and some weren’t even racers.” Many have told Dan that working for him was one of the best jobs they’ve ever had. His value placed on mutual respect has made him many, many lifelong friends.  In addition, Dan is most interested in helping people get out on a bike a enjoy the experience. He hopes that more people, every day people, can integrate riding into their daily routine. “Instead of taking the car that one mile to the store, I hope people choose to ride,” he says.  “The pace of life is so much better that way.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Cabin

FullSizeRender 2Every time I go to our cabin on Lake Seventeen (named for an old logging camp) I am reminded how some of the best things are the most simple. I’ve always loved to canoe and for most of my life, I’ve only paddled in one canoe. This canoe is famous and truly one of a kind. It’s an aluminum canoe that was once green, then orange, and a few other colors in between. Today it’s a perfect mix of multiple layers of weathered paint, scratches, a few small dents and the look that only time and heavy use can reveal. It’s as stable now as when it was new and I hope it lasts forever.  As soon as I climb in, I know just how it will react on the water, even if I haven’t been in it for years.

Another thing I enjoy about the cabin is the simple task of chopping wood. My dad’s ax is well worn but still in good shape. He keeps the blade sharp and his initials are burned into the handle giving it a rustic feel.   Swinging this ax gives the sensation of using the perfect tool.  Its design probably hasn’t changed much over a century yet it feels modern, or maybe “present” is a better word as this suggests your frame of mind when the ax is in motion.

The paddle is, in some ways, the perfect design. We have several wooden models from an outfitter in Mississippi that we’ve owned as long as I can remember. Each paddle is perfect in its own way. Aside from a few different lengths they’re all the same and they all function flawlessly.  In fact,  you can’t really improve the design. The top handle fits perfectly inside your fist and the wood flexes just enough under pressure. When switching sides, the paddle’s weight carries just enough inertia as you pass it high over the boat, leaving an arc of water drops before dipping the paddle back into the water on the other side. This motion is repeated countless times and there’s something reassuring about it.  It’s required to chart your course and forces you measure your power and, most of all,  to slow down.  You simply can’t be in a hurry in a canoe.

Criterium Racing

Last night was another criterium at the state fair.  And once I drag myself over to St. Paul and line up to start.  Like a lot of people, some nights it’s hard to motivate and find the energy just to get to the start line.  Yet, after the race is over I find the sensations on the ride home include some of my favorite parts of the experience.  Racing is still relevant for me because I know I wont push myself as hard on a training ride.  Also, when I have a teammate that is counting on me, I will ride even that much harder.  I’ve won enough races in my cycling career and now I’m more interested in riding to benefit someone else.  Nearing 50, I know my days of being able to do so are numbered and each time I race I am thankful that I am able to race at all. Actually making some sort of impression on the race is the icing on the cake.

Last night my teammate Andrew Thompson placed third. After working hard to position Andrew for several sprints laps he was able to find enough to place well enough for a podium spot.  We don’t race together too often and things don’t always work out perfectly.  But last night, despite being outnumbered, we kept trying and had some success.  In the picture below (credit Terrell Brown) you can’t see Andrew because he’s tucked in behind me, right where he should be.  At least until it’s time to go!

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Taylor George

I won’t say much but we lost a great person this week. Taylor George was a father of three boys, a passionate cyclist, husband to Heather, and all around wonderful person. I spent a few memorable nights at his place sharing dinner, stories, and hanging out with Heather and their kids.  I recall burning creme brulee with a blow torch in his kitchen and playing tricks on his kids. We trained together (once in a blizzard), traveled to races together, waxed our skis in his garage together, and occasionally hung out at Caribou coffee.  Heather raced more back then but then she started showing up to support Taylor and took lots of great pictures. Taylor loved cycling and when he showed up to race he was all in.  For Taylor,  every ride was an event and, even though he rode a little wild, his heart was in it every time.

Top Pic. Taylor at Fridley CX, a race he helped promote.  Bottom pic. Taylor with kids before they started to grow and get wild.

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Taylor’s service will be at St John’s Lutheran Church, Lakeville:
Wed, 5/3/17
10am Visitation
11am Funeral Service
Noon luncheon (at the church
1pm leave for burial.

St Patrick’s Cemetery, Inver Grove Heights

1:45pm burial

Truly on Vacation

I forgot to mention something from last night’s Ted Talk that struck me as innovative. Some companies in Europe are now sending an auto reply to customers, clients, etc. that says, “The person you’ve emailed is on vacation until June 10th. You’re email will be deleted. If you would like to contact this person after that date, feel free to do so. Otherwise, you may contact…”

Wouldn’t this be a nice feature? When you are on vacation, you are truly on vacation, not checking emails or thinking about work at all.  Why is this so hard for Americans?

Another company, in Denmark, I think, has desks that literally pull up off the floor toward the ceiling clearing the work space for yoga and/or a dance floor at a certain point every day. This enforces a stopping point in the work day by removing the work space.  The web doesn’t have a “stopping point” and it’s hard, even for adults, to reserve protected time away from the screen.  Just imagine how hard it is for some kids.

 

Technology and Well-Being

I went to a TED talk at Target’s beautiful new Social Room on Nicollet Mall across from the Dakota. The topic, “It’s Personal”, featured 8 or 9 speakers ranging from authors, inventors, comedians, and psychologists talking about healing from heartbreak, transportation, living with purpose, the effects of technology on well-being, and life expectancy. Surprisingly, factors such as clean air and exercise are near the bottom of things that contribute to a long life.  There is a small city in Italy (I can’t remember its name) where an abnormally large percentage of residents are 90 or even 100 plus years of age. The city is constructed in way that forces residents to interact every day.   Basically, people have to interact with each other to get through the day – to get the news, food, basic services, etc…  Thus, they’ve found that the social connection these people share contributes to a longer life.

In contrast, it’s entirely possible for us to go through an entire day without talking to anyone. It’s really easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re connected through social media, “likes”, snippets of opinions, and so forth but these have no positive impact on our well-being whatsoever.  We need face-to-face interaction, eye contact, touch, etc.. There is nothing new here but I’m afraid that we are yet to realize the effects of technology on our well-being. I’m predicting that it will be startling.

******

At the beginning of the day, we woke up to snow covered trees and a cold house. After an extra cup of coffee I went down to the basement, got on the rollers and forced myself to ride. Oscar was asleep at the top of the stairs in his bouncy chair so I could see him from where I have my rollers set up. It’s dreadful to ride indoors but, once you get going not so bad.  I managed 37 minutes and a handful of short intervals before I had to stop when Oscar woke up.

The rest of the day I brainstormed new business ideas, played with Oscar, and read more of the book “Love in the Time of Cholera” (which I first read over 30 years ago).  The TED Talk gave me a little energy so I went for a short run through the woods with the dog. There were a few snowflakes but the cold air felt good in my lungs.

I also have some people lined up for my interview series. Stay tuned.

 

 

Thoughts on being a stay-at-home dad

I’m a stay-at-home dad. I’m also in my late, late forties. I’m not sure I fit in a demographic but it is what it is.  My partner, Robin and I have an 8 month old baby boy and I am the primary care-giver.  Robin works full-time as a design director and we realize that we are lucky to have this opportunity.  Initially, we thought we’d just try it for a few weeks and decide if I could do it (and if I liked it). After my FMLA ran out, we made the decision for me resign from my job at the U and stay home full-time. As any parent knows, it’s not easy.   Some days he naps for an hour or more, other days he takes three to four “fake naps” of just 10-15 minutes.  I do my best to keep things flowing at home and keep myself healthy and sane. It can be lonely and I find myself craving adult time–or even just normal interaction.  Inevitably, every time we go out, a sweet grandmother-type will approach us and strike up a conversation. O almost always offers up a beautiful grin and soon we’re all laughing.

fullsizeoutput_becTypical morning.  Do I look tired? I am. 

Our day to day varies. I believe he should breath lots of fresh air, experience museums, cafes, lakes, trails, and our awesome parks. He should be exposed to new people, smells, sights, food, nature, etc. every day.  One of the best purchases we made was a Burley trailer that accommodates both skis and wheels. Before the snow melted, we’d skate ski together at Hyland and Theo Wirth parks (I’ve found classic skiing too jerky to pull him). Robin and I also took him snowshoeing while we were up north and the Burley worked great.  Thanks to Dan & Mike at Grand Performance for helping pick out and set up the trailer.

Now that the weather is warm enough, we go for a bikes rides all over the city. Luckily, we have access to safe routes around Cedar Lake, Lake Harriet, Lakes of the Isles, Calhoun as well as the Luce Line near our house that goes as far west as we’d ever want to go.  I’ve found when we’re having a rough patch we both do a lot better when we get outside. No surprise.  IMG_8494A recent ride to Loring Park with O. It was his first time digging in the grass and the first really nice day of spring.

A while back Robin and I did the math that older parents do. When he’s just 10, I’ll be nearing 60.  When he’s going through his mid teens I’ll be 65. I’ll be 80 when he’s only 30, etc.. This gives us all the more reason to savor every minute.

Interview with elite road cyclist, Jennifer Hale: Why one of MN’s most successful cyclists doesn’t celebrate winning and likes trashy pop music

How did you get into bike racing?

Jen grew up in Iowa and all Iowans know about RAGBRAI, the huge annual bike tour and rolling party that crosses the state every summer.  One year the route went through Jen’s hometown and she saw all shapes and sizes of riders and said to herself “I could do this”. Just a teenager, she hopped on her purple Trek mountain bike, joined her brother, and rode the event the following year.  It wasn’t until years later, at age 30, that Jen entered her first race. Up until that point, she didn’t know racing existed and she didn’t know any women racers. Jen watched her brother race the Melon City criterium, part of the long standing Quad Cities Series that takes place every memorial day weekend, and decided she was going to give racing a try. Soon after, Jen lined up for her first race. The event was the MN State Road Race championship and, with some basic fitness from riding RAGBRAI, she finished a surprising 2nd. From that point, Jen has managed to string an impressive list of victories and shows no signs of slowing down.

Jen Hale racing the 2016 North Star Grand Prix 
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“I rode on a composite team sponsored by North Memorial Health Care.  It was my first experience racing on one of the “big” teams with teammates who are National Champions, Olympians and have raced in World Championships.  I learned more about bike racing in those 5 days than I could have ever imagined and felt honored for the opportunity to support our team leaders.  Our North Memorial team won two of the six stages of the North Star Grand Prix.”

What is the best part of cycling for you?

“Learning. I learn so much every time I race. When racing with the  elite/pro women the margin of error is so small that if you lose the draft for even a moment, it can be a big mistake. As soon I finish, I can’t wait to race again to keep trying new things.”

What was your favorite race?

“”I’d have to say that it’s the Snake Alley Criterium. The atmosphere is unmatched. I like climbing and the novelty of the narrow brick street is pretty incredible.”

What was your biggest win?

“None of them stand out to me.  Any time you win it’s fun but I don’t celebrate it much. I am always looking ahead to the next race to see what I can do better.”

What makes a great cyclist?

“You have to have drive, and have to want it. A great cyclist needs to find out just how hard they are willing to work.”

Who is your favorite pro?

“On the women’s side: Lotta Lepisto, the Finnish rider on the Cervelo-Bigla pro team.” Lotta won this year’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen in an exciting sprint. Jen is also part Finnish but the fact that “Lotta looks likes she’s having fun is really appealing.”
“For the men, my favorite pro is Tom Dumoulin who currently rides for Sunweb.  His performance at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana won me over.  He didn’t have any teammates who could support him, so he had to do all the work himself.  I have a lot of respect for someone who can literally give all they have in a race, even if they don’t end up with a great result.”

What music do you listen to when you need motivation?

“I like super-cheesy pop music. I like Justin Beiber. I don’t listen to the words of songs, I just like the beat and how it makes me feel.”  Feel free to make fun of Jen next time you see her!

What have you had to give up to be successful in cycling?

With her new husband Brandon Hale who also races, Jen doesn’t feel like she’s had to make many sacrifices. There’s no one saying, “when are you going to be home from your ride?”  Both Brendon and Jen train and travel together to races. Also, Jen’s career fits around cycling perfectly.  She enjoys her job as a project manager but she is able to be home by 5:00 so she can begin her training.

Is there a moment you can describe when you knew you were good?

“I haven’t reached that point yet.  I feel I continue to improve every year” Jen says this taught her to continue to search for her limit. She describes this as “wanting to know where my top is” and to an extent, never being satisfied.  Just off another win at the Ken Wood Memorial Road Race this weekend, Jen seems to be reaching even higher this season.  To some, it may seem that she’s already reached the top but Jen says, “I’ll keep fighting until I know where that is.”
 
What advice do you have for new riders?
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Cycling isn’t the easiest sport to get in to and it can be intimidating.  Don’t forget that every cyclist was once a beginner too and probably had the same questions.”

Ken Woods Memorial Road Race

In the masters 40+ 100K Matt Muyers (Donkey Label) rides perfect race and repeats 2016 win.  Teammate Chad Macy sets up exciting finale.

I had a great view watching the sprint unfold because I was dropped the final time up the climb. With 2K to go a group of four had a small gap over the chase group of eight, including me, albeit briefly.  As I came unhinged the seven remaining chasers bridged back to the lead four. Mark Mlinar (Flanders) initiated the bridge and the final sprint opened a moment later.  Coming off Mark’s wheel, Josh Roesser (Twin Six/Metal) nearly stole the win but Muyers has just enough left to win by a wheel.

I ended up 12th about twenty seconds back, happy with the legs but sad not to get a chance to sprint.  The hard climb right before the finish was my undoing.

In the 1/2 field Thomas Soladay (Rally) took the win by a several bike lengths over Alex Meyer (LSC?) and Sean Mailen (Orion racing). The rest of the top ten trickled in separated by three or four seconds each–a sign of a tough finale.

The men’s 50 plus may have had the biggest field of the day. Charlie Townsend took the win in a bunch sprint. With so much talent, perhaps this race should have been three laps?

Top three in the women’s open were Jennifer Hale (Birchwood), Dierdre Ribbons (Orion Racing) and Cory Coogan Cisek (the FIX) third.

Stay tuned for my interview with Jen Hale, one of MN’s most successful cyclists and fellow Birchwood teammate.