Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
Monthly Archives: February 2011
In last year’s State of the City address, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman outlined his ambition to make Columbus “Bike City USA.” In this year’s address, the mayor reiterated that commitment, with references to past accomplishments and future plans for bicycle-friendly infrastructure. You can read the full text of the speech on NBC4i.com.
I did an indoor trainer session on Tuesday of this week, and planned to get another one in Thursday morning. When Thursday morning came around, the bed just felt too warm and cozy, so I decided to put off the trainer session until Friday.
Thursday evening, I noticed that the weather forecast was looking pretty good for Friday, wither temperatures expected in the low 50’s, so instead of getting on the trainer, I thought it would be a good day to start getting back in the habit of riding to work.
Come Friday morning, that 6:30am inertia starting feeling hard to overcome again, both when it came to riding to work and getting on the trainer. But, I figured taking a real ride outside was the lesser of two evils, so I got my bike, riding gear, and change of clothes organized. As soon as I headed down the driveway, I was very glad I made the decision. The sun was shining, and the air was crisp and cool, but not too cool. The snow and ice had pretty much all melted from the sides of the roads, as well as on the short stretch of bike path that I take out of my neighborhood. The only real inconvenience was the layer of silt and pebbles that collects on the sides of the roads during the winter.
On my way down Route 91, it occurred to me that had I done the hour-long workout on the trainer, then I would have spent a half-hour driving to work, then another half-hour driving home from work. Instead, I was spending an hour riding to work, and an hour riding home from work–two hours total in either case, plus I was getting the added benefit of double the amount of exercise time.
During the day at work, several people commented that it was supposed to cool off considerable by the evening. Since I ended up being actually a little too warm during the morning ride in, I figured I was okay; I’d either be dressed just right or just a little cold. In the end, the temperature during my ride home was a couple degrees higher compared to the morning. It was pretty windy, though, but I was lucky enough to have the wind in my back during the first half of my ride east on Route 303. When I made the turn north on Route 91, the crosswinds knocked me around a bit, but nothing too terrible.
I was surprised when I actually made it home during the last remnants of daylight, another encouraging sign that true spring weather is just around the corner.
Ohio was once home to the factories that produced some of the most recognized names in bicycles: Murray, Huffy, and others. With the exception of a few small custom frame-builders, there aren’t that many bicycles being manufactured in these parts any more. However, the bicycle industry is thriving here in Ohio.
Ohio and other parts of the Midwest enjoy a position in geography that makes us not more than a couple day’s drive from every population center in the eastern United States. That makes Ohio a good choice as a base for warehousing and distributing products made elsewhere around the world. Many of the most well-known names in today’s bike industry take advantage of this by having distribution centers located in Ohio. These include Raleigh USA (in Pataskala), Bianchi USA, Seattle Bike Supply (in Reynoldsburg, distributors of the Redline, Torker, and Lapierre bike brands), and Specialized.
Specialized is based in Morgan Hill, California. They operate a warehouse serving the western US from Salt Lake City, Utah. In December of 2010, Specialized moved its eastern distribution center from Grove City to Groveport, Ohio (both on the outskirts of Columbus), in order to expand their warehouse space and implement other features to make their distribution process more efficient. The company held a grand opening and open house reception on February 11, 2011, and I was among those from the local bike industry and media who were invited to attend.
I drove to the Groveport facility past row after row of mostly featureless buildings, I presumed most of which were in the same business of storing and distributing products. The Specialized building was at the end of the drive on which they are located; fortunately, they had signs and flags posted outside to let everyone know that we were in the right place. I walked in and was greeted by some of the staff, one of whom handed me a bag of schwag, which contained a Specialized Riders Club jersey, a water bottle, a book commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Stumpjumper mountain bike, a sticker, and copies of the Specialized 2011 road and mountain bike catalogs. The bag itself was a re-usable grocery bag (in Specialized red, of course).
I was immediately able to join one of the tours of the warehouse, which was led for my small group of three by Jared, one of the warehouse staff. Jared walked us through the stacks of bicycles, clothing, components, and accessories that were stored in rows of shelving units at least three, sometimes more, rows high. Jared explained that about one-half of the available space is used for bicycles, about one-quarter for what they call “equipment” (anything not a bike), and about one-quarter is currently unused.
The bicycles arrive on one side of the building, and are also shipped to bike stores back out from that same side, using either FedEx Freight or FedEx Ground. The equipment arrives on the other side, and is shipped back out on that side using FedEx Ground. Here’s the equipment side, where orders going to bike shops are packed up and prepared to be shipped out:
The warehouse area was about 63 degrees, but Jared explained that was for our benefit; it’s usually kept colder to save energy. The overhead lighting is controlled by motion sensors, so that lights are only activated when needed in an area of activity. Another energy-saving measure is the use of large industrial ceiling fans, which help to keep the warm and cool air circulating, cutting down on the amount of re-heating that needs to be done to the air (or re-cooling in the summer).
I asked Jared about the employees’ bike commuting habits; he explained that there were quite a few that went to work by bike in the old Grove City location, but now many of them live further away, plus with the cold weather and snow this time of year, there were not many people riding their bikes in. The access road to the industrial park is not very bike-friendly either, with a 55mph speed limit and little to no shoulder, much less any bike lane or trail. Once they get more settled in the new location and the weather improves, they hope to take steps to more actively promote bike commuting. I did notice that they had showers in the restrooms.
Back in the reception area (the staff break room), I enjoyed some refreshments and talked to some of the other guests. I spoke to Lynette Carpiet, a journalist with Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, the bike industry trade publication. She flew to Ohio just to cover this event; being based in southern California, she marveled at how anyone could think of riding in our winter weather!
I sidled up to a group of a few guys, and noticed that one of them was none other than Ned Overend, the mountain biking legend. I asked if it was okay to get a photo with him, and he obliged; he was quite friendly and down-to-earth. We chatted a bit, surprisingly not about his illustrious racing career, but about cycling advocacy. We said he was really impressed with all of the work various groups do all around the country to improve bike access and awareness.
The formal part of the event started after everyone had their chance to take the warehouse tour. Kim Peterson, Specialized’s National Director of Distribution, introduced Jesse Rogers, the manager of the Groveport distribution center in which we were sitting. Jesse is the oldest employee at Specialized, having run the Ohio distribution center from its various different locations since it was first established 29 years ago. He described how the process was run at the very beginning, and how it has evolved and become larger and yet more efficient over the years.
Other speakers included the eastern regional sales manager for Specialized, a representative from the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the business development office of Groveport, and Ned Overend, who talked about how the feedback from professional racers sponsored by Specialized goes directly into the product design and development process. Finally, a drawing was held to give away a Specialized Roubaix road bike, and the winner was Matt Ford, an employee of one of the Bike Source stores.
For the final event, the group assembled outside the front door of the building for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Thank you to Specialized for their invitation to this event. You can see more photos in this slide show:
Two stories in this week’s news highlight the efforts of two Ohio communities to improve their bicycle-friendliness.
Cleveland Heights is working to obtain two grants to improve bicycle and public transportation access to neighboring University Heights and the rest of Cleveland. More details can be found in this article in the Sun Press.
The city of Riverside is working to complete a 3.6 mile section of bike trail through the city, completing connections to existing adjacent trails and communities. Funding is in place, but construction cannot begin until easements from several property owners are obtained, along with approval from the city council. A public input meeting is scheduled for February 7. Full details are in the Dayton Daily News.