Business Planning

We just wanted to give everyone an update letting you know we’ll be putting things on hold for a bit with the blog, possibly doing some re-structuring and figuring out our groove.

Keri and I have been hard at work, putting together a kick-ass business plan for Spoke Haven. We have a deadline coming up for submitting our plan for a course we both took this spring.  It’s getting down to the wire! The hardest part has been forecasting financials and really carving out the type of shop we’d like to have. We’ve now got a pretty clear vision of who we’d like to be and it’s a lot different from any other shop in the Madison area.

I want to take a moment to thank our friends with small businesses who have offered up some really great advice. Coast In Bikes, NessAlla Kombucha, Chrysalis Hair and Body, Hinckley Design & Production, and the Froth House. We’re very lucky to have a wonderful community of small business owners who are willing to help out other up and comers. Please support their businesses!

It may take awhile to get everything going, but we have some fundraising goals for next year as well as some events and promotions to help get the word out about the future shop. There’s going to be lots of touring of commercial space and talks with distributors happening. We’re both really excited to see our dreams of small business ownership coming to life!

There’s some talk of doing either a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign. While we’ll be the owners of the shop, we want our customers, friends, and family to feel like they too own a little part of it. Not to mention, giving back to those who choose to support our endeavors! Having a fun community space is really important to us and we want to be more than your average corporate or overstuffed shop.

Spoke Haven really wants to support and collaborate with local businesses and manufacturers of bike related goods. There are so many great companies doing such unique, progressive things in the world of cycling. We want to help them grow as we grow.

Once we finish up our business plan and move into our new home in October, we’ll hopefully have more info available. In the meantime will still try to post about upcoming events, etc. We may just be slow on doing product reviews and similar write ups. Believe me, there’s a lot of cool gear we’ve been using and would love to share!

Please feel free to shoot us an e-mail if you have any questions, comments, or advice. We’d love to hear people’s ideas on what they’d like to see in a local shop. -info@spokehaven.com-

One of things we’re going to work on is getting an e-mail list set up so once we get things rolling with the business we can keep folks updated on what we’re doing and where we’re at. We also want to spread the word about events we’ll be attending or hosting relating to the business.

Thanks so much for coming along for the ride!

-Cassandra

NorthsideWheelers-13

Saris Freedom- Made in the USA

freedompromo

A post about the Saris Freedom rack seemed appropriately timed as they currently are running a Fourth of July themed sale. As you can tell from our bio page, we have a pretty tight knit relationship with Saris Cycling Group. Yes, one of us works there and that may make us a little biased. That doesn’t mean we are obligated to do any posts about their product and we wouldn’t if we didn’t like them. Notice we aren’t posting about the Saris Sentinel rack (it leaves some things to be desired).

We’ve had the opportunity to use a few Saris products for an extended period of time. The Bones 2 trunk rack, Bones 3 trunk rack, and the Freedom 2 hitch rack. All 3 products have performed amazingly! The Bones 2 had been used for 3 years until the new black Bones 3 was released. We then said goodbye to the Bones 2 and installed the black beauty in its place.

Over the past year we’ve had the opportunity to take the Freedom 2 bike hitch rack on several trips. It’s been used around town as well as on a couple of long distance trips up to the Twin Cities and northern Wisconsin.

Some of the key features that we love:

-It’s one of the lightest weight tray style racks on the market

-It accommodates step through style and kids bikes (you can fit a very wide variety of bikes on the rack)

-You don’t have to lift the bike high off the ground

-There’s not need to tilt the rack up when not in use, the center column tilts to the side

-When the rack is installed, you still have access to your hatch/trunk

-It fits 1 1/4″ or 2″ hitches

-Easy out of the box assembly

-Cost, it’s one of the cheapest tray style racks out there

-IT’S MADE IN THE USA!!!

BONUS: Saris now makes a recumbent bar for super long wheelbase bikes or recumbents!

There are a few cons we also found on the rack. We want to make sure we’re giving a fair and honest write up.

Some of the things we dislike:

-No ability to add on additional bike holders (Saris has a 4 bike Freedom in the works)

-You sometimes have to lower the seat post or even remove a bottle cage to get 2 adult sized road/mtn bikes to fit properly

-The first time fitting 2 bikes on the rack takes a few minutes to get set up (You have to make sure the wheel trays are in the correct position and the center cradle needs to be lined up to attach to your bike frame)

The list of pro’s outweighs the cons by a lot, which has made this rack one of the Saris’s newest best sellers. If you’re in the market for a new bike rack, we highly recommend it. With the under $200 price point, you can’t really go wrong with a Made in the USA, Made in Wisconsin product. Saris also boasts a lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defect. They also try to make all of their racks with easily replaceable parts, should you lose a knob or a strap at any point.

The Freedom is on sale at your local dealer or online at www.saris.com/freedom.

Happy Riding & Happy 4th of July!!!

Made in Wisconsin: SCOUT Bags

As someone becomes a seasoned cyclist, they start to learn what gear is great and what gear is lackluster. There’s a lot of hype in the bike world about the latest and greatest technology, fabrics, etc.

It can be difficult to know who to trust when it comes to the gear you tote hundreds, if not thousands of miles. Luckily we found SCOUT Bags based in Wausau, Wisconsin. SCOUT’s story is not unlike many small businesses. The owner, Seth, was looking for a well made, utilitarian bag he could use for cycling. After taking a look at an old messenger bag he had lying around, he figured “I can sew that”, but decided to put his own spin on it.

What started out as an experiment on an industrial sewing machine, ended up spawning a full line of bag offerings. SCOUT now offers two kinds of messenger bags, a roll top backpack, a backpack dubbed at the “Tomb”, tool pouches, laptop cases, tote bags, a bar wallet, and even a nice clutch for the ladies!

SCOUT also offers heavy duty pedal straps, a saddle bag, and if you ask nicely…a sweet beverage holster 🙂

Seth insists on on using heavy duty canvas, vinyl lining, nylon webbing, buckles, straps, and thread on all of his products. We’ve seen a good amount of his work in person and both of us own bags of our own. The custom Tomb bag that I (Cassandra) have has held up wonderfully over the past seven months. Every piece of the bag was thought out and serves a functional purpose. You can’t always say that about a commercially made bag. I’ve had my fair share of bags from Timbuk2, Dakine, Dickies, and a plethora of other companies who make “commuter” bags.

I can say with complete honesty that my current SCOUT bag has been my favorite. Maybe it’s because I got my choice of color scheme or because it was made in my home state. I’m not sure…it could be that it just works. It’s not too big, not too small. The only thing I changed about the bag was I added a reflective strip of iron on material across the back as I didn’t think to ask to have a loop attached for placing a light on my bag for night riding.

Keri has one of the awesome waxed canvas clutches and it works perfectly for fitting a phone, wallet, and other small items for going out on the town or keeping in her messenger bag.

You can find SCOUT Bags locally at Madison’s Revolution Cycles or hit them (Seth will sometimes call in reinforcements when the orders start getting crazy) up directly via Facebook. There was an online store set up for ordering bags as well, but I believe it is under construction at the moment. We’ll put out an update with info once we get that information. Often times Seth will set up shop at various bike swaps around the state and he says that as long as he gets requests from cyclists for gear, he’ll keep expanding his product line and churning things out.

UPDATE: order bags via scoutbags.bigcartel.com

We have a feeling he likes a challenge, so if you dream it, SCOUT can build it err sew it!

When Seth’s not  sewing in his basement studio, you’ll catch him riding BMX or road riding. He claims to dig climbing hills, so if you run into him…challenge him to some king of the mountain 😉

Full disclosure: I paid full price for my bag as well as Keri’s bag. We are, however, most likely going to be working with SCOUT on some items for our upcoming online store. Stay tuned for the details.

Fix It Sticks- LAST DAY for KICKSTARTER BACKERS!!!

Today is the last day for the Fix It Sticks KICKSTARTER Campaign! If you haven’t heard of this product yet, you should probably start looking up bike blogs because all the cool kids seem to be digging on this product design. We know we are! fixitsticks

The bits of the Fix It Sticks are permanently fixed into place, so you don’t have to worry about loosing the pieces in a jersey pocket or on the road. The Sticks are lightweight and beautifully simple in design and function. Brian Davis, the designer, has spent many hours perfecting everything from materials to color to weight. The best part is, he’s based in Wisconsin and the sticks will be USA made!

We’ve decided to back his project and hope others do too. If you support his campaign, you’ll be one of the first kids on the block with some sweet new bike tools. Expect a full review of the product once it shows up in our mailbox. Other sites have pre-production models, but we want the real deal,  the available to the public, full production model.

To support Brian and the Fix It Sticks campaign, please click HERE. Word is that Brian is working on some other slick bike related goodies. We can’t wait to see what he has in store for the future!

p.s. There’s a little tutorial on how to make a holder for the Fix It Sticks out of a reclaimed bike tube. We got a sneak peak of one at the Brazen Dropouts bike swap…super sweeet.

What’s that? More Winter Gear!

I apologize for anyone living in a land of warmth and sunshine because we won’t be covering much of that kind of riding until the end of May. Wisconsin winters as of late have been starting in December and last until at least April.

Last week we got 16-20″ dumped across the southern region of the state and expect 4 more inches today!

We haven’t been able to ride our bikes much of anywhere because the snow and ice is so packed down on the roads that it’s damn near impossible NOT to crash out. The awesomely wonderful Vittoria Randonneur Hypers rule in the summer months, but make for quite the crappy tire for winter.

Luckily the pagan gods/Santa Clause dropped some extra cash in our laps so outside of fixing our main computer at Spoke Haven HQ (the one with all the important design suites on it, doh!), we get a little extra to buy some winter commuting goods.

Today we ordered up a set of 45NRTH Polara Studded Tires. The tires are size 700x35c, have 110 studs, and feature nicely spaced knobs to shed snow. They retail at about $50 a piece. It’s kind of pricey, but most people get several seasons out of studded tires when treated right. There are some folks who spend more on slick roadie tires that last less than a season, so I’d say the price is fair. 45NRTH is a part of the QBP family. Designed in the land of ice & snow, the Twin Cities, so you know they are going to be functional.Product_Studio_PolaraBoth Keri and I will take a stab at trying these bad boys out on our respective commuter bikes. It’ll be exciting to start 2013 out with some sweet snowy rides. The goal for 2013 is to ride the distance from Portland, ME to Portland, OR…3000 something miles! That may seem like a lot to some folks or it may sound like nothing to others who ride everywhere, all the time. For us, it’s a satisfying goal and can’t wait to start working to reach it!

The next item purchased was an Ibex Merino, Made in the USA balaclava. Keri already has one, but Cassandra doesn’t.

ibexbalaclava

It’ll keep us from growing ice beards 😉 $30 for an awesome piece of wool made in the USA that will last years to come and won’t make your head stink.

The last item we’re pretty stoked about aren’t items we purchased, but that we’ve re-discovered in digging through a box of ski/snowboarding goodies…GOGGLES! We’ve laid off using goggles since sunglasses are usually the top choice for riding, but with it still being fairly dark in the morning and on the way home, goggles work best. They are also ventilated and don’t fog up quite as much, or so it seems. As women who have smaller faces, we both use kids sized goggles. The Spy Targa Mini goggles are fairly inexpensive, but still a nice option.

spyminitarga

We’ll be sure to do an overview of each item as we commute with them. As always, experimentation is fun and necessary! No two rides are ever exactly the same for us here at Spoke Haven. We’re constantly trying out new gear and new ways to make being on the bike more enjoyable!