Friday, April 30, 2010

George Wisell

Before I get to the interview with the great George Wisell, please go check out the contest over at AHTBM. If I didn't have such a hangover, and owned a set of rollers I'd be at my house attempting this challenge right now. I would most likely fail miserably, but hey what better way to try to get rid of a hangover than by drinking 3 beers and failing from a set of rollers and giving yourself a concussion. Speaking of hangovers, the most recent installment in my "interviews of people I think you should know more about, and therefore gives me something that kinda resembles content to post" involves Mr. George Wisell of Bike29. Since I got to know George in February down at SSUSA, there have been two certainties when doing something with George, 1.) if it is before noon I am really hungover and 2.)if it is after noon I am either riding bikes or drinking. Needless to say it has been a glorious friendship.

George owns a bike shop and online bike store up in Vermont, and despite the fact that I typically cannot stand people from New England, George gets my seal of approval. Dedicated to the greatness that is big wheel love, George has kicked 26 inch wheels out of his life like a prom date who won't put out. George knows bikes, because he rides them, and more importantly is an overall cool guy. With that enjoy what he has to say, and once again, George chose to answer the questions in purple because according to him purple is the new pink.

George down in AZ

You have 50 words to describe yourself to the world, go.

Seriously passionate bike nerd, with a penchant for the tech. Unfortunately, I spend way too much time working on bikes than I do actually riding them. When I do get to ride, I most enjoy riding with friends, and the beer and food that follow.

How did you get into the wonderful world of bikes?

I had to ride my ass to school from the age of 10 . I started out on a BMX bike, but graduated to some old crappy Raleigh 10 spd. I kept the BMX for little stealth missions in the woods near my house. Having few friends that lived nearby, bikes were a great way to get to hang with my buddies, and we often raged on our bikes long after dark.

In high school it was more about transportation than fun, and then I got into snowboarding and hardly rode the bike at all. After a few years chasing winter around with my snowboard, I grew weary of that lifestyle and found that biking was something I missed. I worked at a shop for a while as a basic assembler, then worked my way up to the title of sales manager for a small southern CA frame builder over the course of 6 years.

What made you decide to open up a bike shop in a small town in VT?

This is somewhat of a saga, but the short story is that it kinda came about because I was out of work, and I needed to find something to do. I had exhausted all the local possibilities of doing something I had the qualifications for and that paid actual money, and we weren't about to move anywhere.

When did you make the switch to the big wheels, and what caused it?

After my time in SoCal, I was pretty burned out on the whole bike business. I hated biking, which sucked because it had been such a motivating and fulfilling force in my life. I picked up a Surly Karate Monkey in 02 when I had moved back to VT and was working at Burton Snowboards, and presto, riding a rigid hard tail that was heavier than my pimped out 6" travel full squish bike was way more fun. I sorta didnt look back.

There is a pretty clean line drawn in the sand regarding the debate of local bike shop versus buying online. You do both, where do you see faults in both side’s arguments?

Too many bike shops try to be every thing to every body. They are cluttered with irrelevant items. I specialize in a certain type of bike, therefore everything in my shop is relevant (almost). Not every bike shop has the knowledge or experience with these big wheels, and thanks to the internets, people will find them here. It is time consuming to run and operate an online store AND a fully functioning retail and service shop, as I am a one man show for most of the year. But, I compete with all the big shops locally, and I compete with other big shops that are not local because of the .com side of things.

The single biggest negative about the .com thing is having to be competitive with dirty mail order stores, who shall go nameless. They are all about making the deal, but they don't back it up with service, and unfortunately, their cut throat prices aren't sustainable for the long term. This erodes my margins, but hey, it isnt like I take a paycheck or anything. I've outlasted at least one of these places, and I imagine I will outlast a few more.

You recently stepped it up and became a big time sponsor for a couple riders, what prompted this?

We had a couple of friends who were not getting the help they needed from their support organizations, so B29 stepped it up and did what we could to make life easier for these folks. It kinda sucks not physically being there for our riders or customers all the time, but we'd do just about anything for them to help them along the way to attain their goals. We don't make any product, so the only thing we can do is try and make people happy.

When do you feel like it is proper to use the word epic when describing rides, or things in life?

Epic is over used and has lost it's true meaning. Our Sabino Canyon hike could be described as epic, but we really weren't in danger of serious harm (except Robb and his guts, and maybe eating lunch in that river bed while it was raining). I'd describe that as awesome. I once was on a big stupid bike ride in Moab. I ran out of water, cramping and bonking hard on Gold Bar Rim, the sun was going down, and it was either going down the Portal Trail, or going down Poison Spider and eventually staying in the desert overnight. We chose the Portal. That was pretty epic. Other than that, unless someone dies, epic should not describe burritos, long rides where no one has a mechanical or gets a flat, or bowel movements

What is your ideal bike setup, give us all the details?

Mr Furley is doing it for me right now. It's the bike I brought to SSUSA/AZ, he's a Niner One9, 100mm Reba and I9 wheels, weighing in at 22.81 right now. He is wicked playful. I'm currently using a Rotor chainring, and turning a much higher gear than I am used to, but I find that I am starting to develop some actual power and speed. It's like the BMX bike I always wanted as a kid.

What do you find yourself doing to survive as a bike shop owner during a Vermont winter?

Besides getting all Jack Nicholson in the Shinning, over the last five years of doing this I have: taken other seasonal jobs and working the B29 remotely, stayed put and gone snowboarding in the morning and worked in the afternoon, stayed put and built tons of wheels and shipped them all over the world. Occasionally, I get to go to nice warm places like Tucson and get to meet new people who like doing the same things I do. It all boils down to the fact that I have to do what it takes to make ends meet. Sometimes it's a lean winter, other times it's a party.

What are your top three riding destinations (based solely on the riding) in the states?

I have to pick 3? I've been all sorts of places and want to go back to all of them, but here's my top 3 places I've been to and top 3 places I've not been.

I'd like to do more riding in mid and north coast CA,

I'd like to do more in Pisgah,

more Durango

I want to visit Idaho and Montana.

I hear Tsali is amazing

Have you ever had customers try to trade you Ben and Jerrys ice cream, or Cabbott cheese for bike parts or work?

Mostly I get folks trying to buy my services and stuff with snowboards, outerwear and stuff like that. Snowboards do not pay the bills, and I'm already hooked up with more equipment than I'd use, ever. I really like to trade goods and services for cash.

Mount Snow has played a large role in the domestic racing season over the past decade, do you think the riding there is a proper representaion of east coast riding?

No. While it certainly has heritage, it is not representative of what is going on in VT. Mt Snow is lift access resort riding that caters to western Mass, NY and NJ (no offense). I very am active with the Stowe Mountain Bike Club, and we were the first club in our state to build trail using the IMBA guidelines. In the past we've had to fight tooth and nail for access, but we are making great strides every year in both the amount of legal trails, and the QUALITY of these trails. Most of what is really happening in New England is happening at this grassroots level. It pales in comparison to the massive trail networks of Colorado, Pisgah etc, but it's all we have, and we've worked very hard to get it.

Do you have a favorite MTB ride in Vermont, and how would you describe riding those trails?

I love our annual weekend trip up to the Kingdom Trails in north eastern VT. We've been doing it for over 10 years now, it started with a couple of friends going up there to camp and ride. Now our group has grown and nowt we rent 2 houses to accommodate the 20 or so humans that go there. While we all have kids now, we still throw down like its a kegger at Dejay's house. We generally ride our asses off for 2-3 days as our schedule allows, eat til we can't move, and destroy at least a full keg of local craft brew and several bottles of tequila.

Describe to me your ideal bike trip (time, money, wife, kids, and jobs aren’t issues you have to worry about in this dream scenario).

I turn 40 next year. I want to do the Colorado Trail high roller style. I want to eat awesome food and stay in a bed as many nights as possible while taking 10 days or less to complete the trip. I want to have as many friends with me as possible, be it for one, some, or all of the stages. I had originally set my sites on some "epic" riding in the Swiss Alps, but that is going to be way too expensive, especially if I want friends to come.

Your wife is the current SSUSA champ, how much does she rub it in your face, or use her awesome status to get out of things like dishes, laundry, and bike clean up?

I used to be a chef when I chased winter around, so I always make sure the kitchen is clean. I am the default household bike mechanic, so I work on the bikes no matter what. I do make sure she has a pimped out ride though. We both work full time, so home life is sort of a shared effort. The laundry never ends, the dirty dishes never end, but I do mow the lawn and deal with the trash as my assigned tasks.

Feel free to add anything else you wish to let the masses know, except support for the Red Sox

Yankees SUCK!

The lady killer up close. Hope you enjoyed, happy weekend.

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