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The Trying Times Retailer Tour

Middleton, Wisconsin , United States
March 27, 2020
40 mi




ft elev +


Today I wanted to encourage some Madison shops with a quick note on their windows, so I plotted a course, printed some signs, pumped up my tires and hit the road. 

As I set out, I had a couple concerns. For one, I am pretty out of shape. The ride wasn’t going to be fast or technical and there was no one to push or pull me to go harder, but I’ve been off the bike for a bit. Partly because of crappy weather and partly because of crappy motivation. I had started the year well, but once “black ice” season hit, followed by the dreaded weeks of “winter mix”, I was off the back. I can handle cold. I can cope with wet. But at this point, I just don’t need to ride cold and wet, so if it’s in the 30's and precipitating, it’s really easy for me to say, “nope”. So, I’m a little out of shape... and 40 miles is 40 miles. 

But this wasn’t a difficult route, so I was excited. Excited.. and cold. I left before the heat of the day started to kick in and I was uncharacteristically underdressed on my extremities. The first hour was full of achy fingers and tingly toes, but eventually I acclimated. 

The other concern was just the awkwardness of walking up to a window and taping up a sign. It's just... weird. This was easy to overcome because *everything* is weird right now. 
Ultimately, these were the perfect choice for gloves. I was chilly to start, but they still made me smile.

Wheel & Sprocket in Middleton is pretty new and it's nice to have them so close to home.

Issac and Dave at Neff Cycle Service are solid dudes.

Our first office for blackriver/Ride Spot was in the basement of Motorless Motion. I think they converted our office to a walk-in fridge. Seems right.
My goal was to tape ten signs on ten doors of ten shops in Madison with a simple message of encouragement. 

The first few shops went by quickly. Endurance House, Wheel & Sprocket, Motorless Motion and Neff Cycle Service were all still closed when I went by, so posting the signs was easy. Cronometro had just opened, but their door allowed me just the cover I needed to get the sign put up without being seen. 
When I ran the shop in Illinois, we use to sneak up to Madison for little vacations and I'd always stop in at Crono to drool. They were ahead of the curve in regards to the full service custom approach.

The iconic Machinery Row.

From there I rode over to the dynamic duo of Cafe Domestique and The Cargo Bike Shop on Willy. I’d dialed my routine by that point: remove gloves, tear off four pieces of tape and stick them to my saddle, pull one sign out of my handlebar bag, affix tapes and bam! Sign is on the door. What I didn’t anticipate was Dan, dear dear Dan from Domestique running to the front door as I was about to put the paper up. 

He lunged to the door and placed his hand on the glass for a solid socially acceptable social distanced high-five and… oh, I’d be lying if I say I didn’t choke up just a little. We left our hands on the glass for a heartbeat and I posted the paper with the other hand. He smiled and lowered his head as he read it. We smiled, nodded and I turned to tape the sign on the shop next door. But by then they knew! Amber was there, at the door with a big smile, so I slapped the paper on the door, gave her the glass-enabled high-five and quickly rode away so I wouldn’t be tempted to stay. In the rush, I forgot to take a picture. 
Next stop was Revolution Cycles. I like Rev and the owner Jeff is a good friend. When I went to put up the note, he was there... 20 feet away at the counter... looking at me with a look like, “Heeeey! I know you! Wait! What are you doing! Come in! Wait no! What?” I stuck the sign on the window and skittered away like a coon caught in the trash. I knew if he made it to the door before I made it out of sight, I’d totally break isolation and give him a hug.
It was then that I realized social distancing has been relatively easy for me, because I haven’t had to apply it very hard. Just seeing the folks at Domestique, TCBS and Rev made me really want to go give them a hug or a high five or just sit near them and say “What the heck is going on! How are you?”. Living on the outer edge of town removes me from those moments, so it hadn’t hit me yet. I felt a… gravity. I consider myself 51% extroverted, so being that close to people I care about without being able to simply sit down for a coffee was a real bummer. 

So I rode away. 
With all the stealth a middle-aged man in a bike helmet can muster, I was able to slap a sign on Slow Roll Cycles undetected and speed away. Maybe they saw me, I don’t know, but it was fun to act subtle and sneaky. Just one more stop: Black Saddle Bike Shop. I rolled up on the side where no one could see me, prepped the sign, quickly rounded the corner to the door and locked eyes with Mitch as I stuck up the note. I threw him a “shaka” and disappeared around the corner again. 
Slow Roll is a newer shop in Madison and is run by some great folks.


Black Saddle is the newest shop to open in the area. Mitch is a good dude. It's too bad Black Saddle is literally the farthest shop from my house on the western edge of the Madison area.

It's common to see campus be quiet in the summer, but I've never seen State Street this silent before.

At this point, I was deep into the East/North side of town and had the whole city to cross to get back to my house. My mission was accomplished and the wind was at my back, so with a happy heart and heavy legs, I headed home. 

I’m sure you have some burning questions, so I’ll answer them now. 

1. What was your nutrition plan? 
(Haha nutrition plan). For such an arduous adventure, I stuck to my standbys (read as: I always eat the same thing). My wife, Anna made me some “Tobitillas”, which has been my go-to grub for *actual* adventures for years. PB, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, a drizzle of honey (or Nutella) and crushed almonds rolled up in a flour tortilla. Delicious. To drink, a couple bottles of water and Nuun. Lastly, a handful of LifeSaver wintergreen mints (aka, crack). 

2. What was your playlist? 
Thanks for asking! (We can debate earbuds on bikes another day). In this order, I listened to the new Pearl Jam album "Gigaton", “Deloused in the Comatorium” by The Mars Volta, the brand new Childish Gambino album, Jeff Rosenstock’s “Worry”, Kvelertak’s latest album “Splid” and finally, “The Wrong Man” by The Threats. This mix did the trick today. 

Ah yes... the note. 

It felt really good to get out for a ride with a simple goal in mind. I hope the shops found the notes encouraging and I look forward to a high five or a hug with all of those folks again soon. 




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