Monday, April 03, 2006

Cobblers for Hobblers

Cobbler supplies are more difficult to buy than politicians. See for yourself. Just try to find a merchant who will sell you a single sheet of 6-iron high-durometer midsole material. That is what I did with a good portion of a day last week -- search for someone to sell me the material that I needed to build my cleat spacer. I few minutes of web surfing revealed that there are no retail delivery channels for the would-be weekend cobbler. The few suppliers that I could find were either manufacturers or wholesalers -- both with strict quantity minimums. Manufacturers typically wanted your to buy a few thousand square feet, while wholesalers wanted you to open an open account, starting with a $500 minimum order.

Internet retail has become so pervasive, that it is easy to forget about the "old" ways of commerce. Twenty years ago, finding something esoteric like midsole material would have required a scavenger hunt in the garment district of the nearest metropolis. But today, few markets are closed to instant Internet retailing. The cobbling market is a rare remaining exception. Those guys are still doing it old-school.

After about four hours of surfing and phone calls, I managed to find a wholesaler who was willing to accommodate me. The salesman spent some quality time with me on the phone, asking questions about what I was trying to do. I explained the whole thing to him -- about the nylon cleat, the carbon sole, the need for a spacing material that had both a high durometer value and a high frictional coefficient, etcetera. He suggested three possible materials, of which he sold me a single 2x3 foot sheet each. So, for about 30 minutes of his time, he sold $50 worth of material to a customer who was not opening an account. I haven't experienced old-school customer service like that in a very long time -- if ever. In today's eTailing and SuperStore commerce environment, people who are that helpful get fired.

A ten minute trip to the local hardware store got me the M5x16mm bolts that I needed to finish my shoe. I really hope that the SuperDuperStore craze does not kill local hardware stores. Even a brief thought of the HomeDepot check-out lines on a Friday afternoon is enough to give me the shakes. Anyway... with the spacer completed and the shoe assembled, I went for some test rides.

Friday afternoon was a local 30 miler with minimal climbing. The shoes felt pretty good, and so did the knee, so Sunday would get a more challenging ride. On Sunday, David and I rode a hilly route from Middlebury, CT to New York. We split up near the 60 mile mark, to ride to our respective homes. I logged a little over 70 hilly miles with minimal knee issues. It seems, however, that lateral knee movement sometimes causes a sharp pain. That is it little worrisome, given the rough terrain on Route 66. Chances are, that there will be sections of road that will require some standing combined with technical maneuvering. It would appear that this is now something that I need to avoid.

Friday Ride Summary

Route: Ossining / Mahopac / Ossining
Distance: 30 miles
Speed (avg/max): 16.3 mph / 31 mph
Riding Time: 1 hours 50 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 90 bpm / 180 bpm / 135 bpm

Sunday Ride Summary

Route: Middlebury, CT to Ossining, NY
Distance: 72 miles
Speed (avg/max): 13.2 mph / 40 mph
Riding Time: 5 hours 27 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 50 minutes
Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 90 bpm / 188 bpm / 153 bpm

Miles this Year: 1865