We’ve been ironing out the kinks on this one for a long while. We had a soft roll out of it last year but, this year we’re set to help you get off that old bike and on a hot new whip.
How’s it work? It’s pretty simple actually. Give us a call (406-721-6525) or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and talk to either Chad or Alex. They’ll schedule a time for you to bring your old ride in for an evaluation. We’ll give it a once over and let you know how much we can give you on trade. That amount can then be applied towards the purchase price of a new bike. Easy, right?
To be honest, you could probably get a bit more by selling it yourself on one of the various online platforms (Craigslist, PinkBike etc). But with us, you won’t have to deal with paying eBay/PayPal fees. You won’t have to deal with shipping. And you won’t have to deal with meeting folks you don’t know to show off your ride and HOPE that they buy it.
Once we take the bikes in on trade, we’ll do any necessary work on them (chains, cables housing, etc) get them cleaned up and ready to ride and list them for sale so they can move on to someone else.
We’re stoked to get folks on new bikes and just as stoked to be able to offer great used bikes at a price that will get more people on good bikes!
If you have any questions on the program don’t hesitate to contact us!
Alright, enough talk about how the program works, how about we post up our first used bike?
Here we’ve got a custom built 2015 Kona Big Unit that we put together for a customer over the last few seasons. The Big Unit was available as a frame only this model year, made of Scandium Aluminum.
This build sees a set of hand built Stans Flow rims laced to XT hubs front and rear. Up front a RaceFace crankset spins a RaceFace NarrowWide 32t chainring. Out back, a single Surly 22t cog puts power to the wheel.
A 120mm RockShox Pike is ready for any terrain you can throw at it while a RockShox Reverb dropper posts makes handling those steeps even easier. The cockpit has Kona Bars and Stem riding above a CaneCreek 40 headset.
It has a Maxxis High Roller front and Ardent rear tire with XT brakes bringing the whole package to a stop.
This bike is ready to rip in its current single speed form or you can throw gears on here and spin whatever combo the grade calls for.
$1500 puts this 29er hardtail beauty in your garage and then it can start putting smiles on your face.
The unsung heroes of the biking world. We don’t usually have too many previous model year commuters hanging out. But, we do have a couple Cannondales. Stop by the shop or get hold of us by your preferred method today!
2015 Cannondale Quick 5 We have 3 of these available in size large. Retail was $549.00, 25% off puts them at $411.75
2016 Cannondale Adventure 2 Mens We’ve got three of these left in stock as well, one medium and two larges. 15% off gets you on one of the best “comfort bikes” in the business.
Kids are expensive. We understand. AG’s are almost all high school age but they don’t get any cheaper. And Chad and Danny both have little ones and are learning the joys of buying expensive things that get outgrown in seemingly no time.
With that in mind, we do our best to help make it as affordable as possible to get kids on quality bikes without breaking their parents banks. If you purchase a new kids bike from us, we’ll give you 50% of the retail purchase price in trade towards a new bike when they outgrow the old one. But what do we do with those bikes we get back in on trade? We have our mechanics run through them, do any needed repairs and get them up for sale at a discounted rate. Our trade in program doesn’t apply towards used bikes but, it’s a great way to save some money and still get your kiddo on a quality ride.
We’ve got some good examples in the shop right now. As always, give us a call/email or swing by the shop if you’ve got questions on any that you see below.
How’s 15% off 2016 MTBs sound? We’ve got a good selection from entry level to a couple high end full suspension machines. Give us a call at the shop or pop us an email at MissoulaBicycleWorks@gmail.com for more info.
Kona Lanai Medium 27,5″ tired entry level MTB
Kona Lava Dome Medium Entry level 29er MTB
Kona Fire Mountain Small, Medium(3), and Large 27.5″ MTB also available in Black/Yellow
Kona Mahuna Medium(2), XL(2) 29er, we used this model as our rental for several years, a great durable bike.
Kona Blast Small(2), Medium 27.5″ We use this model as our current rental bike and it’s fantastic. Lots of room for skills growth.
Kona Cinder Cone Small 27.5″ Same geometry as the Blast with a step up in components. This is the bike we all say we’d probably be riding if we didn’t work in the industry
Kona Kahuna DL XL 29er Awesome XC bike
Kona Process 134 Extra Small 27.5″ all mountain shred sled
Orbea Occam TR H50 Large 29er XC full suspension fun
Kona Process 153DL Medium 27.5″ Enduro machine. Shred local trail then send it at the bike park, this bike can do it all.
We’re a couple weeks into 2017 already. Hard to believe. Seems like we were just doing this post for 2016… It’s hard to think about road bikes right now but, we figured discounting some bikes might get ya thinking about warmer weather and skinny tires. All our 2016 road bikes are 15% off and anything older than that is priced at 25% off or more! Check out the bikes below, give us a call or come in and check them out today!
2015 Orbea Orca M20 53cm This carbon beauty was $3899, we’ve got it marked down 25% putting it at $2924.25
2016 Orbea Ordu M20 Medium. 15% off this aero machine. Step your tri game up and shave time off your cycling segment while keeping some cash in your pocket.
Surly Straggler 54cm. We had a frame sitting around so we threw together a nice little CX build using a parts kit from a Kona Jake. Stragglers from this year were normally $1549, we’ve got this one marked at $1375
2014 Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Sora 53cm. Normally $969.99, we’ve got this bike marked down to $675. You won’t find a better price on an entry level road bike!
2015 Cannondale CAAD10 105 58cm. Retail was $1549.99 we’ve got this one marked at 25% off, $1162.50 gets you one heck of a road bike!
2014 Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Tiagra 57cm Was $1249.99, down to $825. If you’re thinking about giving road biking a try, or you know you’ll love it and just want a screaming deal on a great bike, this is for you.
2016 Cannondale Synapse Ultegra 3 58cm. 15% off. Road endurance bikes don’t get much better than this.
Surly Pacer 52cm A classic road bike with modern conveniences. Normally $1850 for this steel beauty we’ve got it marked down to $1200.
2015 Cannondale Synapse Carbon Rival Disc 54cm Retail $2699.99 down 25% puts it at $2024.99. The Snyapse is one of the best endurance road bikes out there, thinking of doing RATPOD? This is the ride for you.
2016 Cannondale Synapse 105 Carbon 54cm. 15% off on this red beauty
2015 Cannondale Synapse Alloy Disc Rival 56cm Retail was $1999.99 and this one is 25% off bringing it down to $1499.99. Light weight aluminum frame, disc brakes, and good looks. What more can you ask for?
2016 Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra 3 56cm 15% off
2016 Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra 3 52cm 15% off.
2016 Cannondale CAAD12 105. We have several of these from our demo fleet, size 48cm, 52cm, and 54cm. Retail was $1549.99, these are marked down to $1000. They received full tune ups at the end of the season and are ready for many more miles.
We also have two brand new never ridden ones, a 54cm and a 50cm. The new ones are 15% off retail.
2016 Cannondale Touring 1 54cm. 15% off and you’re ready to spin off into the sunset and never look back. Or just take a weekend trip… whichever.
2016 Cannondale Quick Speed 3 We’ve got two of these upright roadies, a medium and a large and they are both marked 15% off. Fast and light while keeping you in a more comfortable position. Perfect for a road cyclist who’s body may no longer agree with drop bars.
Almost seven months ago I found myself in the center of a city that traces its roots to a time well before the Roman empire. Ljubljana has been at the crossroads of European and Asian trade routes for several Millenia. History and lore are rich in this city with dragons featuring as prominently as the mountains that surround the valley. The Ljubljana we were introduced to was draped in lights and Christmas decorations. The city center was packed with people each night. The smell of kuhano vino – warm mulled wine – filled the air. This looked like a fun town.
Our introduction was festive but being new it was easy to feel anonymous. The culture and normal demeanor of the people we encountered did not help to diminish that sense of anonymity. People tend to keep to themselves, their eyes directed forward, even on the bus I would rarely make eye contact with people. The city felt cold, the people in the city seemed distant. It was easy to worry that it would be seven months of being outsiders, separate from the folks who called Ljubljana and Slovenia home.
Our kids felt the same, well except for my daughter. Within days she was hanging out with “friends” as if they had know each other since kindergarten. The boys hated school. They didn’t have friends, they felt excluded and they missed home. For a couple of months we heard only complaints and dread. I wasn’t dreading each day but I also didn’t have any friends that I could meet up with either.
But slowly things changed. We met a few people that we would spend time with. Our kids came home from school asking if they could go to a friend’s house and the anonymous faces that I passed on the street began to look occasionally familiar. The blank forward looks turned to the occasional wave or greeting. The cold hard edge that I felt had rounded and softened. The owner of the corner cafe would always wave. When I sat at one of his tables he was eager to engage.
The city was opening up to us. We were not just visitors, we were part of the activities and daily life in Ljubljana. The farmers at the vegetable stand that I frequented watched as my Slovene language skills slowly improved. I even received a compliment. One of the farmers told me she was impressed at how well I was now speaking Slovene. Ironically though, she said it all in Slovene and I had to sheepishly admit to her that I didn’t understand quite what she said. The fruit seller, a big Macedonian guy was always ready to toss in one extra pear or apple when he saw me. “My Friend,” he would say, “take this it is sweet and you will love it.”
Eventually, I would say, the city embraced us. Ljubljana now feels like home. Our kids were involved in basketball, drumming, voice lessons, skiing. It was much like life in Missoula except in a different language. After these many months I no longer feel like an outsider. We take short trip up in to the mountains or south to the Adriatic and return “home”. We all call Ljubljana home and consider it home.
Change can be frightening and difficult but it can also challenge a person’s ability to understand themselves and others. Moving to a new country provides a great opportunity to learn experience a new language, new food, new routines to the day and all the things that comprise culture. It has also offers an opportunity to redefine one’s self. I landed in Ljubljana with a clean slate, anonymous as I was. Everyone I met was new to me and I was new to them. How did I want to be perceived? What did I want them to know abut me? Would I make a positive impression on them?
My bike helped introduce me to a whole new community of people around Slovenia and Italy. These are folks with whom I would not normally meet, but our shared enjoyment with riding bikes provided the introduction. On my bike I feel at home, I am in my comfort zone. I was very fortunate here to meet up with a great group of folks of various backgrounds that are all part of a local cycling club. They have been exceedingly welcoming. I join them regularly for rides during the week and on the occasional weekend. The same was true in Italy. A random ride by myself exploring unfamiliar roads let to meeting a group of folks that ride together regularly. Their nature was all Italian, friendly, outgoing, welcoming and more than happy to be a tour guide. Man, I can’t help but love this place.
And now it is time to leave. I don’t want to say goodbye just yet.The last couple of weeks since the kids got out of school has been a whirlwind of sightseeing and being a tourist again. Trips to the mountains, trips to the sea, visiting towns and sights that have been on our list of places to tour. The list is longer than out remaining time here but we are making the most of it. We are packing in the activities and doing our best to make the most of our remaining time here. We should be good and exhausted by the time we get on the plane.
Most important is saying goodbye to our new found friends. As difficult as it was for our kids to make new friends, saying goodbye is turning out to be just as difficult. They talk about seeing each other again but it is clear from the tone in their voices and the looks in their eyes they all know it is unlikely. So their play resumes as if they will all be here together in Ljubljana far into the future, trying not to think of the inevitable.
I got out for one last big Hurrah! with the local cycling club. Every year they do a big ride around the northwest corner of Slovenia, The route goes through Triglav National Park and over a couple of big climbs. The ride is 230Km long. It is a full day on the saddle. The pace was casual but not slow. It was conversation pace and the group was full of conversation.
We had a couple of follow vehicles with us carrying spare wheels and extra gear. Quite a luxury. The follow van even had a speaker attached to the front that played a non-stop stream of music. Traditional Slovene music, Balkan pop music, English language oldies, rock and pop. It was quite a mix and very entertaining. This was a ride and not a race for sure. It included plenty of stops for snacks and drinks including two longer stops at a cafés. I stuck with water and Cockta – Slovene version of Coca-Cola but better – and the the Slovenes, well they opt for beer! Not just a small beer but a beer the way they normally serve them around here. I am not sure how they do it.
I think the beer gives them strength because on the last big climb of the day I found myself barely able to hang on to a pace that seemed to be increasing constantly. I may have to re-think how I hydrate.
The day ended with a great picnic that included baked fish that was caught in the local rivers. Sixty plus people enjoying the day, enjoying another beer and occasionally remembering that I only speak a few words of Slovene.
Thank you Slovenia. Thank you for helping make your country feel like our home. Thank you for the unique warmth and beauty that defines Slovenia. “It is small but beautiful”. That phrase is like a Slovene tag line. We hear it very often when we talk to people about their country. But it is true. High alpine mountains, rivers, seaside, vineyards, forests. There is a little bit of everything in a compact package. I hope we will be back. There is still so much to see and do. So many memories still to be made. Fortunately we are leaving with a memories that will last a lifetime. And maybe, with a bit of luck, we will reconnect with old friends. But we are not ready to say good bye yet! We are still here for a little while and so I am off to find one more adventure today. Time to make a couple more memories. Missoula, we will see you soon.
This is perhaps a bit late in coming but it is the Giro d’Italia so I think this is worth sharing. Watching the Giro live has been a goal of mine for a long, long time. When the Giro route was announced last autumn I looked to see which stage or stages would pass closest to Slovenia. As luck would have it stage 13 would follow a route that very nearly passed into Slovenia. The finish of the stage was in a town called Cividale di Fruili. A very scenic town that is built high above a clear emerald green river. The added bonus is that this stage included four categorized climbs which would be a tough test for the riders. On paper it looked like it could make for a very exciting race. Four solid climbs, a long flat run in to the finish. Yeah, this could be a great stage. May 20th was marked in my calendar, I let the kid’s teachers know they would be gone and I went to the market to pull together a few things to pack for a day at the Giro.
A couple of weeks prior to the race my enthusiasm got the better of me. I drove to Cividale di Fruili, met a couple of Italian friends and rode part of the Giro course. I was excited to sample a bit of what the racers were going to experience. The climbs were massive. They were steep, the roads were narrow and the descents were a thrill. The preview also gave me the chance to scope out a place for all of us to watch the race go by.
The funny thing about watching a bike race live is that in general you are out on small, out of the way country roads waiting for a few hours to see the peloton for a few seconds as they race past. If you want to see the racers moving at a slightly slower speed you find a part of the race where they are climbing a tall steep mountain. At the top of the mountain, where they are likely to be the most fatigued, they are usually moving even slower. A scenic spot up high on one of the four big climbs was what I was looking for. I found a spot near the top of the first climb; a category 1 climb! Category one means that the climb is long and steep! The spot I chose wound through a high mountain village. The road made a couple of switchbacks as it approached the village and made a couple of switchbacks as it passed through the village. The switchbacks meant we could watch them for a relatively long time, at least as as far as bike races go.
Race day came. We left Ljubljana early and made the 90 min drive to Cividale and then up the road toward the top of the first climb of the day where we would try and find our perfect Giro picnic spot. According to the race schedule the racers were expected to approach the top of the first climb around 2:00pm. If we wanted to have time to enjoy our picnic and celebrate the Giro with the rest of the crowd we would have to be at our spot by noon. We also had to get to the start of the climb before the road was closed to cars. We drove part way up the climb and then walked the last 6km to our picnic spot.
The walk up gave all of us the chance to get a sense of just how steep the climb was. There were plenty of people making the walk and even more riding bikes up the road. I guessed the walk up would take somewhere between 45-60 minutes. Along the way we passed both walkers and cyclists taking the occasional break from the uphill effort and several cyclists decide that pushing their bikes was a bit more manageable.
We reached the top of the climb and found a small crowd of people who arrived before us and came with the same idea. The crowds at the Giro tend to be smaller than at the Tour de France by they are no less enthusiastic. Actually the smaller crowds means there is more interaction. It is more like a party and everyone is excited to celebrate, especially the Italians. Italians are so warm and always eager to share their enthusiasm, not to mention their wine. The crowds at the Tour tend to be so large that you spend a large part of your time just trying to maintain the small spot you staked out. Our little corner up on Monte Maggiore was all about the festivities. We set out our picnic and joined in the merry making.
The thing about watching a bike race like the Giro is that you come to celebrate the Giro and its history, enjoy the crowd and join the party. We had a couple of hours to wait before the race made it’s way up the mountain. It was time to join in the celebrations. Music, food wine and lots of broken English and Italian combined with plenty of arm waving and gesticulating made for great, entertaining conversation. This is what watching the bike race is all about. The party, the socializing and soaking in all the Italian atmosphere. The race doesn’t take a back seat but it was still a long ways off so there was no reason to concern ourselves with something that was not in our immediate presence; and living in the present is something that the Italians do very well. La Dolce Vita!
Eventually the enthusiasm and noise of the crowd was interrupted by the distant thud of helicopter blades cutting through the air at the bottom of the valley. We could not yet see the peloton but we knew they were down there somewhere and that the helicopter would be hovering just above them. The other really cool thing about our spot on the hill was that we could see all the way down to the bottom of the mountain to where the climb began. We could also see a few short sections below us where the road emerged from the trees, but it was the helicopters that gave us the best indication of where the racers were on the mountain.
The entire atmosphere on the mountain changed from one of pure celebration to one of a celebration at a beautiful sporting event with dedicated cycling fans eager to support their favorite riders and favorite teams. The lively conversation changed to nervous and energetic chatter. The anticipation was obvious everywhere we looked. This was an important stage and one of the first big mountain stages. This day could play in important part in the overall outcome of the race and this particular climb would be the first test of the day. These die-hard fans knew they could witness something special today. The anticipation grew as the helicopter drew closer. Every once in a while someone would shout that they saw a rider through the trees. We were trying to guess would be the first to appear.
A lone rider was the first to round the switchback at the bottom of the village. he had a small gap. 30 seconds later the main peloton appeared. At this point I think that most of the crowd forgot who they came to cheer for. All the racers received the same huge applause and cheers from the crowd. It was the race they had come to see and it was the race they were cheering for. Despite this being the first climb of the day there was a long interval between the first rider and the last rider to pass. The interval was a clear indication of just how difficult this day was going to be. But the support of the was no less for the last rider than it was for the first rider. These athletes were riding their hearts out and the fans loved it and did not hold back their cheers.
Once the last rider passed we made a hasty depart back to the car. We wanted to get back to Cividale before the race passed through the city. After the Montemaggiore climb there was a short fast descent and then the second climb of the day. After the second climb the course passed through Cividale n the way to the third and fourth climbs of the day. If we were lucky we could get back to Cividale to in time to catch another brief glimpse of the race.
Cividale was also the location of the finish of the stage. After the last two climbs the course returned to Cividale to finish in town so naturally this is where most people were gathered. The city was packed. Forget the small crowds, the whole city was a party. The cafés, gift shops, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops and sweet shops were all out eager to show off their specialties.
The road along the route was packed with people. There were huge screens placed around the town showing the race live. Huge cheers would erupt when a the camera showed favorite riders. We wanted a good spot because the race would be at top speed through town. We chose a spot just before a hard left hand corner hoping the peloton would have to slow just a bit as they entered the turn.It was a good guess but the turn did not seem to slow them at all. I think you have to actually see the race live to understand just how fast the riders are moving and to see the skill it takes to navigate a hard left hand corner on cobbled roads all while moving at speeds above 45kph. We may have only seen them for a moment but the thrill is intense and memorable.
Now it was a waiting game. The race had two more climbs to summit before the flat 12km run in to the finish. There was a lot of racing left and the dynamic of a stage like this meant that lead changes would be inevitable. We watched the big screens to follow the race all the while cheering for the racers that had fallen off the pace. Judging by the gaps we were seeing the two first climbs must have been monsters. Riders were passing through in groups of three, four or five and well off the pace of the leaders. Many of the riders I am sure were wondering if they would finish within the time cut.
The whole city seemed to move as the crowd slowly made their way to the finish line on the other side of town. We had at least two more hours of waiting but we joined the crowd around one of the many big screens positioned around the finish area.
As expected the stage was decisive. Some of the favorites had a good day while others finished with looks of obvious disappointment. There were still several days left and anything could happen. If you followed this year’s Giro you will know that the days that followed were wild and the finish had an ending that no one could have predicted. For us it was a memorable day and I think that most of the fans would feel the same. I think we saw the racers for all of 10 minutes at the most but that does not diminish event. The build-up, the anticipation the festivities and the camaraderie are timeless. The racers may pass in a flash but the memories last much longer.
A little over a week ago I made the short drive from Ljubljana to the town of Cividale del Friui in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in northeastern Italy. Wine is one of the primary industries in the Friuli region so a glass of wine seemed appropriate while I sat down to write this post. The Giro d’Italia will be passing through this region in late May and the finish of stage 13 will be in the town of Cividale del Friuli. Ever since the Giro route was revealed last year we have been looking forward to watching this stage since it will be passing so close to our home. It will be a very rare opportunity to us to go and see the Giro live; something I have wanted to do for a long time.
The stage should be pretty exciting as it has several climbs including two category 1 climbs,meaning they are long and steep. The reason for the drive over was to go and ride part of the course and see if I could find a good spot where we could plant ourselves, set up a picnic and watch the stage go by. The stage makes a couple of different loops around the region as it heads up and over the local mountains. There are several great places to watch. One of the best, and the spot where I think will be a critical point in the race is the category 1 climb up to Cima Porzus. The top of the climb comes just over 30kms from the finish. The problem with the climb, from this spectator’s point of view, is that there will not be enough time to get down to Cividale del Fruili to watch the exciting finish. The alternative is to watch the race as it climbs up the first category 1 climb up to Montemaggiore. The climb is steep and weaves back and forth on a seemingly endless series of switchbacks. There are plenty of places where we can set up our picnic, watch the race approach, lose our minds as they pass and get back to Cividale del Fruili with plenty of time to watch the finish.
I packed my bike in the car and made the one hour drive to Italy. The town of Cividale del Friuli is a few short Km’s from the border with Slovenia. Almost immediately upon entering the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region you are surrounded by vast rolling vineyards. It is early in the season so the vines are still small with only the beginnings of new growth but it is not hard to see why this is such a massive and important wine growing region. In fact wines from the Friuli region are regarded along with those from Tuscany and Piedmont as producers of some of the worlds finest wines. Cividale del Friuli sits above a river that is a deep shade of jade. It is clear and rich with color. There is an old stone bridge that crosses the river in to the center of town. It is a truly a stunning sight.
I hopped on my bike trying to mentally trace the map of the Giro stage hoping that I would be able to remember the route I was supposed to follow. A few Km’s into the ride I saw a banner on the wall of a building welcoming the Giro to town. I stopped to snap a photo and just after I took the photo a group of cyclists went rolling by going the same direction as I was headed. Just like my first trip to Italy last January I rode up and asked if I could join them for a while. As with my last ride this group of Italian riders was happy to have me join. One of them, it turns out, works for Cannondale in Italy. He and I were riding the same bike. We rode for a while passing through several villages in the flat agricultural land. Everywhere I looked there were banners and “pink” decorations welcoming the Giro to their region. If you come and don’t know the route of the Giro all you have to do is follow the banners, ribbons and quirky pink decorations. There is also a lot of road work being done along the route. The racers will be welcomed with fresh asphalt and freshly painted white lines. There is still some road work to be done and some lines to be painted but I am sure that by the time the race pass through the riders will enjoy some immaculate roads.
The group stopped at a sports park to refill water bottles. Giorgio, the guy works for Cannondale, told me they were going to ride one of the climbs that the Giro would climb. Cool, that was what I came here to do. It would be great to have these folks guide me. As we approached the climb, Alberto, one of the other riders, said something like “supra la montagna, “piano”. Perfect, I thought, that is just what I was hoping for. I could see the road rise up ahead and it looked steep. I guess that makes sense considering the Giro has classified it as category 1. It turns out that on this day “piano” translates roughly to steady tempo until this foreigner cracks and then we pick up the pace one more notch. I was clawing at my handlebars, sweat dripping off my forehead and up ahead of me I could see Alberto comfortable chatting away. I think that 4-5kms means something different in Italy as well. As we passed through 5kms I could not see a summit anywhere near us. Finally, after climbing for 9Kms we reached the top.
We had only covered about 30kms on the day to this point and I was tapped. Holy smokes, that was a steep bugger of a climb. The view of the Italian Alps was remarkable. The skies were so clear I am sure I could see all the way across Italy. It was also a good opportunity for the requisite selfie.
At least we were at the top and where the fun part begins. I love flying downhill on my bike and I love going fast. A steep winding Italian road would be awesome! Off we went. OK, awesome is a bit of an overstatement. The road was steep, the road was windy and with the brakes off my bike quickly picked up speed. The problem was that the road was narrow with super tight switchbacks that came in very rapid succession. When I say narrow I mean narrow single lane wide. The corners were tight and blind. More than a few times there was a car coming up the road which required us to stay tight, pull in our elbows, stay out of the gutter on the right and avoid nailing the driver’s side view mirror all while banking hard into a turn at mach speed. That was easily the most stressful 9km descent I have ever done. Alberto and crew flew down the mountain seemingly with out fear or regard for the fact that a car could appear around the next blind switchback. I couldn’t keep pace with them going up but there was no way I was going to let them ride away from me on the descent. We dropped a couple of guys but I kept on the wheel of Alberto and another rider. The other rider, I never caught his name, was using carbon rims with special carbon specific brake pads. On more than a few occasions his rear wheel would momentarily lock up as we entered a super tight switchback. It was driving me nuts. I was sure that at any moment he was going to go sliding off the road. If that wasn’t bad enough the smell of burning carbon brake pads was awful. I had no idea bike brakes could smell as bad as burning car brakes. But then, I guess I have never been on a descent quite like this one. At the bottom I was relieved we were finished. I am not sure I would call that descent fun. Actually, yeah, it was fun.
Alberto and his group had, for the most part, completed their ride. Alberto rode up to me and said “now we drink caffe. Do you drink caffe?” Do I drink coffee. Hmmm, are Ferrari’s Italian? After one more small climb we rode up to Alberto’s favorite cafe. We walked in and Alberto said “Ciao” to the two gals working behind the counter. He looked at me, and as he motioned to the baristas said “Italy has the most beautiful women, no?” The two gals gave him a congenial smile but I think I saw them both roll their eyes. I could not argue, those two were beautiful but I was not sure how to respond. I was pretty sure that one of them was Alberto’s girlfriend. I didn’t want to put my foot in my mouth so I said that all Italians were good looking. It is true, Italians are all good looking. Who knows, maybe it is something in the wine. I’m not sure but just in case I think I will pour myself one more glass.
The better part of my time here in Slovenia I find myself going out for solo rides. There were not many, or any group rides during the winter and early spring so finding folks to ride with was not very easy. I would see plenty of others out on the roads but, like me, they were usually solo. Heading out to explore the roads around Ljubljana on my own was certainly not a bad thing. My routine was to get on the google machine and study the roads that would eventually become my route for the day.
The beauty of having my road bike with me here in Slovenia is that I find myself riding on roads that I would not otherwise have any reason to be on. There are small roads that head off in all sorts of random directions and many head into small valleys or up to hilltop villages or simply come to an unexpected end. For the most part there is no reason to be on those roads except for the simple pleasure of exploring or occasionally getting lost. The other unintended consequence is finding plenty of interesting and unique place to go hiking with my family on the weekends.
With spring finally arriving the group rides have also begun. I met a fellow rider at the top of a pass between Austria and Slovenia. He and I were headed back the same way in to Slovenia so we had the chance to get to know each other. He invited me to come join his club’s group ride the following week. I have not been on a group ride in ages. I don’t know when the last time was I joined in the “Hell Ride” or weekend rides in Missoula. I was eager to join a group again.
I showed up Tuesday evening and found a group of about forty riders waiting to depart. If it has been a long time since my last group ride it has been even longer since I have been in a group this size. Aleš, the ride leader, was happy to have me join the group but was also very clear that I had to follow the rules of group etiquette. To ensure that I knew what I was doing and not cause any problems in the group he would ride next to me. He made sure that I knew to point out (the very rare) obstacles or debris or bumps in the road. He made sure I didn’t pull through to slowly or too quickly. After several Km’s I think he decided that I was able to handle myself. We rode next to each other the entire ride. Aleš it turns out is a professional sports photographer and he has been to the last 14 summer and winter Olympics among all the other sports events he photographs. He is a super interesting fellow. It was a blast riding tempo and sitting behind a few wheels waiting for my turn at the front. Just as all was going well I promptly managed to crash on a round-about. I’m not sure how it happened. I was near the front of the group as we entered the round-about and I felt my bike slip. I looked at my front wheel and in super slow motion I watched it lose purchase and every so gracefully glide off to my right. In a matter of a fraction of a moment I remember the impending embarrassment flooding in and thinking “hmmm, this is not good” and “oh man, are they going to want me to still ride with them after this?”
It was such a weird crash. The pavement was super smooth so I just slid a bit, feet still locked into my pedals and my bike shorts providing the friction necessary to bring me to a stop. Instinct said get up and keep going. Before the last rider in the group had passed me I was back on my bike – embarrassed as hell – and riding again. I rode back up to Aleš doing my best to hide my embarrassement. “Are you fine?” he asked. “Oh yeah, no problem. I’m fine” I said trying to pick up the conversation where we left off before my little diversion. That was not a good way to get back into my first group ride here. Fortunately there were no other incidents on the ride and I hoped most of the folks in the group would forget it even happened.
The weather and other obligations here in Ljubljana kept me from joining the ride for the next couple of weeks. The crash was still on my mind when I rode up to where the group meets. The folks on this ride are all pretty skilled riders, not all of them race but they are all very comfortable in a group. My goal for the ride was just to stay upright this time. It was a strange goal especially given that I cannot even remember when the last time was that I crashed on a road bike.
The ride was mostly without incident and I can happily report that I did not crash. The only incident, and I suppose it was more than just a small incident, was getting pulled over by the police. We were zooming down a typically narrow two lane road riding in a side by side paceline when a local police car went driving up the road past us. The car pulled over and two officers stepped out and waved us over to a small driveway off the side of the road. Just about everyone started pulling out their ID cards. I didn’t have my Slovene residency card so I was getting a bit nervous. The police asked who was in charge of the ride. The ride leader/club president, another person named Aleš stepped forward and was the group spokes person. I understood some of what was being said but not much. They asked what the team name was (Team Bam*Bi – more on that later) and where the team vehicle was (No team vehicle this evening – a big no no). There was a short but animated exchange and in the end we were let off with a warning.
As we rode off and returned to our double paceline formation I asked Grega, the rider next to me, what the problem was and why we were pulled over. He launched into a tirade about how archaic the Slovene laws are regarding cyclists on the road. “I wish the laws were the same as they are in the rest of Europe” He said. The brief synopsis goes like this regarding the archaic laws. If you are in a group of four or less you need to ride single file. A group of six or greater must ride two abreast. There is an exception it turns out. If your are in a group of four AND you possess a Slovene cycling association racing license you may ride two abreast. The reason we were pulled over was that we were in a large group riding as a team training ride and we did not have an official team vehicle following us this particular evening. If we had a team vehicle and we had our racing licenses we would have been just fine. The riders were not pulling out their ID’s when the police pulled us over, they were pulling out their racing licenses. That is archaic? I guess in other European countries you can ride in a large group without the team vehicle as long as you have your racing license. Something like that but I have not looked any deeper into the law as it is written. The Slovene laws I verified.
All in all I think the whole episode was a bit of a bonding experience for the group. An opportunity for everyone to gripe and complain about the impractical laws and the over zealous police. I also felt like I was part of the group having shared in the experience. The ride continued in usual fashion, one long climb, a wicked descent and a flat 20km run in to the village where we began our escapade. The group invited me in to the pub for a beer after the ride. They reluctantly, but with some prodding of Aleš, sort of filled me in on the reason behind the team name – Bam*Bi. When the four founding members formed the team they named it using the first letter of their girlfriend’s (at the time) names. I am sure there is much more to the story given the glances and snickers they were giving each other but the details were not forthcoming. Just before I got up to leave Grega said “you have not replaced you bar tape yet.” No I had not. My handlebar tape was still a little bit torn from my little dance with the asphalt three weeks prior and one of the other guys asked Grega to mention it to me. I guess they had not forgotten that I was That Guy. At least they still let me ride with them.
We have so much information at our fingertips these days. We are surrounded by data and it is all virtually inescapable. We get on our bike and switch on our Garmin. It providess us up to the moment info and stores it for future review. I am not going to say that folks here in Slovenina, or Europe in general, are more inclined to dwell on info provided but they do have their own take on it.
We spent a winter skiing in Slovenia and Austria. We met other skiers on the lift, asked them where they were from and told them about us. Almost without fail they would ask us about our local ski hill back in Montana. In our case that local hill would be Snowbowl. How many Km of piste does your hill manage? What is the total amount of vertical at your hill? How many piste do you have on your hill? We really did not have an answer. I know that the top of the Lavelle lift is about 2200m, about. How many runs at Snowbowl? Well his guess was as good as mine and that was the same for the number of Km of piste. Really, who cares about that stuff. I just look to see what the snow and weather forecast show.
But no, the folks we talk to on the lift seem to have a whole host of facts about their local mountain. The top loft is not at about 2100m but is at exactly 2169m. Austrians are very exacting as are Slovenians. I am sure we all know folks that carry that info around with them but here in Slovenia that is more the norm rather than the exception. Even the ski lifts give you more info than you need, but it is pretty cool to see it. My kids know how many chairs there are on both the Grizzly lift and the Lavelle lift, they even know how long it takes to get from top to bottom, assuming the lift doesn’t break down mid ride.
On the local lifts here we have plenty more to look at…
It gets us where we want to go even if does “only” go 5m/s
Built in 2001 this is one of the older lifts around.
One thing that we have found to be pretty cool are the trail signs. Walking in the hills is, among other things, a national pastime. The trails all have signs that indicate the time to walk the trail rather than the distance. I have seen this all over Europe. In France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. I wondered why they didn’t have the distance marked. I was told it was because distance does not give an indication of the terrain. A flat walk of two Km is far shorter than a 2km walk straight up a hillside. If you have three hours for a walk and the trail sign says 2hr 45min then you know you will be finished when you need to be finished. Sure some folks walk faster than others but for the most part these signs pretty much nail the timing. In a way, for someone competitive like me, it is a challenge to go faster than the sign would indicate. The problem, if I can call it a problem, is that there are some many wonderful things to slow down and take in that the timing usually works out accurately.
Like said, being that walking is a national pastime people, young and old, tackle all the same trails. Some are steep, some are rocky or rooty and some are in perfect condition. Regardless if you have your walking poles you are good to go. Everyone here uses them. I have even heard of ultra runners using them on mountainous terrain in competition.
We are surrounded by data, some is just a little less High Tech than others
Ask someone for directions and be assured that the time and distance to your destination will be accurate as well. This has been an almost comical treat here in Slovenia. If you ask for directions to a specific place expect very good directions.
“Ah, yes. To reach the bookstore walk three minutes on Celovska cesta then turn right on Damianska and walk 120m. you will come to a small lane.Turn right again and walk 40m the store will be on your left side. All very specific and accurate. Who need GPS?