Last weekend Richter and I along the the Saris NE regional rep, Eric Wallace, boarded an EARLY morning plane to Wisconsin to visit Saris/Cycleops hq in Madison, Wi.. A few months earlier Eric had asked us if we’d be interested in going on the trip and mentioned that the weekend would kick off the the Nebraska/UW game Saturday afternoon, which would lead into the Greenbay/Bronco game on Sunday which would lead into a Saris hq tour on Monday. It was pretty easy to decide. Yes. We’ve been selling Saris/Cyclops powermeters and trainers since HSP opened the doors, even before the Pro Shop was opened. I’ve used powertap off and on since 2001 when TUNE was making the meters. As excited as I was to see some football games- and I will admit to being a fair weather fan, I was really excited to see Saris up close and learn more about the company.
I picked Richter up at 4 30 am on Sat. Tough start to the day. We met Eric at HSP and off we went. When we landed in Madison we were greeted curbside by national sales rep., Mike Blang and others who were waiting with vans to take us to our first stop: Casa de Blang for early tailgating before the drive to Badger stadium. Our group consisted of about 25 all in as reginonal managers from around the country brought 2-4 select retailers to the event. It was a friendly crew for sure and Richter and I were the only Pro Shop style retailers on board, which made for some interesting conversations with some of the other attendees. Ron Kiefel, former junior worlds team member, 7-11 journeyman, Coors Light heavy hitter, and Wheatridge Cyclery owner was on the trip which had me geeking out a little. I’m not sure many of the others realized what a player Ron was/is, but whatever. I’m always pretty excited to meet the guys I followed when I got into cycling back in 84’. Moving on. We tailgated at Blang’s, headed to another tailgate party at the stadium which required a special pass, and watched an underwhelming performance by Nebraska- I’m a Nebraska native so I felt a need to cheer for my people. The highlight of the game was being asked at least 3x by different people if we- Richter, Eric and myself, were in a band. One guy thought we were the goo goo dolls…..really? We should’ve run with that one. After the game we were pretty blown and packed it in and drove to hotel by a lake and got some rest.
Sunday we left around 10 for historic Lambeau field and the Packers game. We had another tailgate party to attend pregame, put together by our Saris hosts, that had me stuffed with brats and beer by 2. Richter had been talking about getting a cheese head for weeks leading up to the trip and his dreams were realized about halfway through the game when he got up and said, “I’m going to get my cheesehead”. He came back 20 mins later with it on HIS head. Pro. We spent the second half of the game in a sky box that had plenty of food and drink- super bonus. What an amazing stadium and although football isn’t my sport of choice, I’m always impressed by the skill of professional athletes- and these guys were no exception. After the game it was back to the hotel and some dinner.
Monday was an early rise and we were off to Saris hq and a factory tour led by Mike Blang and company owner, Chris Fortune. We started with a brief overview of what the morning would hold and then we split into groups and got down to business. The factory tour was really amazing. I had no idea that pretty much all of the manufacturing was done right there on the grounds and the manufacturing that’s done off site is done close by in Madison. Saris/Cyclops is a made in the USA company and you just don’t see much of that anymore. It’s one reason why the customer service is so great. If there is an issue they can track down the reason pretty quickly. We’ve done a lot of business over the years with the company and the customer service has always been top notch. We also spent time hearing about and seeing new product and it’s great to see that they continue to listen to the retailers and customers about what they want. The upgrades to the powertap line are fantastic. If you’ve been on the fence about using a meter- especially if cost is the issue, they’ve lowered prices and improved the product. We’re looking forward to the new stuff coming in and I can honestly say that I was going to use a different meter on my bike for 2012, but after this visit I decided to roll a powertap- I was that impressed.
What a great weekend. Whenever we get the opportunity to meet the people behind a brand we work with, we do so. Chris Fortune is a genuinely great guy who believes in the products he’s producing. He takes pride in making his product in the US and he is leading the bicycle advocacy charge in Wisconsin and beyond. Aside form that, he’s very generous- I think I spent 20 bucks the entire weekend. And you can also see that his employees are happy and believe in what they’re doing, and that’s not always the case these days. Bottom line is we’re as excited as ever to be doing business with a great company that is constantly working to produce even better products. We will be carrying the full line of the 2012 Cyclops powermeters featuring updated hub and head unit designs and of course we will continue to use the Powerbean indoor trainers for our classes- we’ve even added a few super magneto’s just for good measure. I’m still bumming about Nebraska getting blown out but after the trip my desire to learn to play the drums was reignited. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be in a band.