Friday, June 20, 2014

The Key Contact Point on a Bike - Part 2. Time For New Shoes!

I have vivid memories of my first real cycling shoes. They were purchased in the early 80's - black, all leather, lace-up Detto shoes. It made me feel like a real cyclist. They had holes all over them to help keep your feet cool. I don't recall the coolness, but I do recall having the Dettos shined up, by a street-shoe-shiner, in Baja Mexico when I was down there to do the Tecate-Ensenada bike ride back then. The shine-job left permanent block polk-a-dots on my socks!

I was having a bit of a flash-back to the Detto's when I opened the box of my new Giro Empire ACC shoes. Like a few other things in cycling - everything old is new again, and the Empires don't disappoint on this front - they are lace-up shoes, for one, and they have these, not really holes in the uppers, but micro perforations to aid breath-ability!

The Empire shoe model started as a collaborative, one-off project between Giro and BMC Pro Taylor Phinney. Phinney came to road cycling from the track, and some of the shoe manufacturers still made lace-up shoes for track cyclists. The project grew from there with the Empire being introduced to the impressive Giro shoe line 2 years ago. It's started to catch on!

Most modern cycling shoes have given up on laces, and most commercially available shoes and the most popular shoes, be they for road cyclists or triathletes*, will use Velcro closure straps, ratcheting systems, or now becoming very popular, Boa closure mechanisms - or a combination of two of these systems.

*FWIW - I note that the Empire ACC is not a shoe for triathletes!! Unless you like longer transitions times.

Laces, may seem old-school, and a bit of step back-wards, but, you can really micro-dial in the fit across the top of the shoe and around your foot. Of course, the one major draw-back of this, compered to the other, now, more conventional mechanisms is an inability to adjust on the fly with the Empires.  You need to dial in the fit and the tension before you start riding and can only change ounce off the bike. I was able to sort this out after the first few rides! One tip I found helpful - put the shoes on early in the getting-ready-for-the-ride process. Then if you have under/over-tightened, you can change before getting on the bike. In other words, don't wait to put the shoes on last, and jump on the bike!

I'm very particular about cycling shoe fit and am cognizant of the fact that cycling shoe fit is very individual. However, I will say that the Giro Empire with it's completely seam-less upper fit my somewhat normal, average width feet, very nicely. I did have to size down a half size - I've been consistently a 44 in several other brands over the last few years - 39.5 was the magic number for the Empires.

While the Emprires may seem a throw-back to days of old and the Detto's, other than the laces the Empires are  cutting edge in cycling shoes. They are feathery light! The Easton EC90 sole is one of the stiffest and thinnest around. The upper is made from EvoFiber utilizing silver embedded anti-microbial X-Static fibers in the lining. The shoes also come with Giro's own SuperNatural fit-kit of an insole and 3 interchangeable arch supports. I fiddled with these, but in the end used the custom molded insoles from a previous pair of shoes - for me that yielded the best and most comfortable fit. They've even come up with a solution for, what to do with the lace ends ounce you have them tied up - you put them through an elastic hold-down strap, that's part of the tongue!

On the road and on the bike they have been outstanding. I run Look pedals and cleats (see more here) - mounting and interfacing was perfect. The sole is a bit flatter front-to-back, than my previous shoes, but after a few rides, I started to really like this, particularly when ankle-ling in the pedal stroke in a bigger gear. The inability to not be able to make adjustments on the fly, as previously noted, for me has been a non-issue. I wore them early-on (5 - 6th ride), in the 100 mile Gran Fondo New York race, and never needed to change lace tension the whole way!

Finally, they sure are conversation-starters - people want to know more about them. "What are those", people ask? And so I tell them a bit of the above story!

Thanks to Heath and the team at La Bicicletta in Toronto for help with a size exchange.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Success in Sales. Parallels with Endurance Sports and, is it all about the Follow-Up?

The poster above, from the National Sales Executives Association* has been circulating around on LinkedIn in the last week or so. As many do, I often get asked what I do. I've worked in Sales or it's newer, sexier, moniker these days, Business Development (BD), for many years. The stats, above would be a good starting point to explaining what I do. I do a lot of following up!

People who don't work in Sales or BD, will not understand the above. But the facts and the stats speak for themselves. In business, "success", at it's most fundamental, is about selling something, to someone! Thus, Sales is critical to the whole process. We've all heard the over-night success stories and the small start-up that hit it out-of-the-park from the get-go and was then bought for a billion dollars! Those business stories, while fun to read and inspirational, are the exception and not the rule. For the vast majority of businesses, it's a drip-drip-drip process, practiced over time (read- years), that leads to "success"

It's at times like this, that, I feel blessed to have a back-ground as an endurance sports athlete. The parallels are obvious. You need to be committed and focused. You need to really enjoy doing what you do. You need understand that really what's important is the preparation, because there are so many variables beyond your control, that impact the outcome,  that you can't really worry about it. You just need to know, if you prepare properly, you will reach that goal. There will be set-backs, but again, the focus and the preparation will keep you on track.

Olympic Triathlon double medalist (Gold & Silver), Simon Whitfield had a phrase and motto, "The relentless pursuit of . . .". That sort of sums it up nicely. Whitfield was also big on not worrying about outcomes . . . just staying focused on preparation, because, "That's all I can control"

It's the same in Sales or BD. Some will look at the numbers above as being rather bleak and grim. Others will look at it as an opportunity! That first stat is startling - "48% of sales people never follow-up with a prospect". Following up is, really, if you read through the whole poster above, what it's all about. You are always, following up! It's like breathing and brushing your teeth for Sales People! But, there is a right way to do this . . that's a discussion for another day. Point is half of sales people, never follow up!

All those lessons of the endurance sports athlete start to apply - in short, it's a long road, to success, in sales and business, so you better enjoy the process, you need to stay focused & committed,  be relentless, you need to worry about preparation, not outcomes, and be in it for the long haul. There are few over-night sensations! Oh . . and make sure you follow up!

*A quick Google search revealed that this Association, is fictitious. However, for Business-to-Business sales, while a generalization, and perhaps anecdotal by someone, I don't think they are too far off. What do you think?

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