November 21, 2006

The beginning of an era...

Since the Little Guy recently got hit by a car while riding his bike, I figured this would be the perfect time to honor him by revealing the much-anticipated sweet new LGR kits. If this kit doesn't scream "Little Guy", I'm not sure what would. Like Super Rookie said, "Stars. Baby. Stars."

The end of an era

The 88's getting left behind, but I still look forward
to watching DJ racing in a brown Prius (or whatever)
next season!

November 12, 2006

2006 racing season revisited

After witnessing the MN State Championship Cross race last Sunday, I'm happy to announce that the 2006 MN bike racing season is officially over. Props to everyone who did the race on Sunday...that is a hard course. I rode out there early Sunday morning (before the race) with Pete and Patty Cakes with the intention of doing a hot lap, but I decided that there was no need for me to climb the hill, run through the Creek, or run up the stairs. I thoroughly enjoyed watching a few cross races this year - don't get me wrong, I missed not racing CX just a little bit - but generally speaking, I'm glad I had the cx season off, and I had much more fun watching than I would have if I had been racing.

Looking back on the 2006 racing season, there are definitely a few races that stand out for me. The highlight of my season was my first (and only) win at the track. Granted, a few of the big dogs were missing from the women's field that night, but it was still the highlight of my season (and my cycling career) since I had never won a race before (and haven't won one since). Another race I really enjoyed was the early season crit I did in Neenah Wisconsin in May. It was the first long crit I'd ever done, and it was one of my best races. I also thoroughly enjoyed the big pack riding experiences at Superweek...I'll definitely be headed back next year. What is strange is that my best/favorite races all took place out of town (with the exception of my one glorious night of track racing). I'm not sure what that means, but I'm hoping to do better at the local races next year. And while crits are my favorite, I realize I'm going to need to train better for road races as well.

Speaking of the 2007 racing season, I'm currently in southern MN recruiting for LGR. More on that later.

On an unrelated yet equally important note - for those of you who enjoyed my blog more than usual when I was in France, check out Eye of the Beerholder - Chadley now has his own blog, and I'm looking forward to it. Although it took him a month and a half to get it going, so I'm a little nervous about how often he's going to post...he may need some encouragement.


November 07, 2006

Car-buying Part 2: The Research

The first step of my research was to consult Consumer Reports, so I paid my $26 annual subscription fee, and went to work. I found the information to be very helpful and was amazed at how accurate it was. For example, the Honda Civic is one of Consumer Reports highest ranked cars. The only thing that was rated "poor" on the Civic was the exhaust systems for '97s, '98s, and '99s. I just happen to have a '99, and I had to replace my exhaust system a few years ago. And that's the only problem I've ever really had. The new car I was looking at was a Consumer Reports "recommended" car and after reading their rankings and road test results, I was more than satisfied.

The next step was - and this is where I found the mother load of car-buying advice. If anyone reading this is considering buying a car, I highly recommend that you read the series of articles on called "Confessions of a Car Salesman" - this dude went "undercover" for Edmunds and became a car salesman and the information he provides in this series of articles is extremely valuable and sometimes almost unbelievable. One of the things I learned about in these articles was that car dealerships now have "Internet Sales Managers" (I realize this may be old news to some of you, but I haven't bought a car since 1999) - and your typical floor salesman does not like it when someone enters the dealership and asks for the "fleet manager" or "Internal sales manager" because typically that means that the customer has done all of their Internet research. Which leads me to step 3...

Step 3 was using "Free Price Quote" tool. Using this tool, I just entered in the make and model of the car and my zip code, then all of the local dealerships that sell the car I was looking for popped up. Then I just entered some info (like my e-mail address) and choose which dealers I wanted to send my "price quote" to, and hit "submit". Within hours, all of the dealers I had chosen starting sending me their price quotes via e-mail. And I couldn't believe it...their initial quotes were $1,000 less than the sticker price at the dealership. While the price quotes were coming in, I used Edmunds to get a "True Market Value" (TMV) report. This report lists the MSRP price of the car (including any add-ons you may want) and the destination fee. The TMV also lists the invoice price for the car (and any add-ons) so that you have an idea about what the dealer paid.

Step 4 - I started e-mailing the Internet Sales managers back. In their initial e-mails, they all said "have you driven the car yet?" and "we should set up an appointment for you to come in and drive the car and talk" - they were trying to lure me to the dealership, which is exactly what I didn't want to do since I realized that I was actually feeling like I was the one in control. So in my responses, I started dropping names - e.g. "I know you said you were giving me the best price in the state, but dealer X offered me this much lower, and dealer Y offered me the same price plus a bonus package." One dealership started getting whiny about what the other dealership was offering, and the others kept trying to sweeten the deal....and this was all via e-mail. I had everything in writing. It was awesome. And I was actually having fun.

The 5th step would turn out to be the key step in my research process - I phoned a friend. I called a friend/car saleswoman and I talked to her about the offers I was getting and she told me exactly what to do. Long story short, I offered to buy the car from one dealership for $200 less than invoice (plus some discounts on my add-ons), and much to my surprise, they accepted my offer. In the end, I got the car and add-ons for about $2,000 less than the sticker price. I was satisfied.

Still to come...Financing with Mr. Slippery and Lessons Learned.

LGR update

I've gotten a few more questions, so I thought I'd share:

What do the LGR kits look like?
Oh, they're cool. Think they're not? They're very celestial.

Does the Little Guy really have hairy legs?
You tell me:

I haven't seen Tuffy out riding for a while, is he doing some secret training?
Only the monkey knows.

So I see that Time is one of your sponsors, does that mean Smithers is joining LGR?
While that would be a natural fit, I think Smithers prefers to race against Super Rookie at the track so that he has something to talk smack about. But maybe if Ped joined, Smithers would reconsider.

What do some of the LGR member's tattoos look like?
I'm glad you asked. Guess the LGR team members:

Are you really getting a tattoo?
No mom. No Pat. But I would like a NASCAR belt buckle.

What's the most number of piercings that a LGR team member has?
I haven't taken a poll yet, but I'm told there's one team member that has that might be tough to beat. Although rumor has it Gilby's going for nine.

Car-Buying Part 1: Let the games begin

Four days ago, I dreaded the idea of buying a new car. I've only bought a car from a dealership once before, and it was the cliche car buying experience - slimy salesmen throwing out phrases like "trust me, you're getting a great deal", "you should definitely get the extended warranty", "I need to talk to my manager", "okay fine, we'll throw in the floor mats for free", "you're not going to find a better deal anywhere else", and "want to go water-skiing with us?" (okay, the last one wasn't typical, but I was actually asked that). That was about 7 years ago and I had to take my dad with me to help with the negotiating part because I was so nervous about getting ripped off.

So it's no surprise that I was not looking forward to going through this process again. But last weekend, Pete convinced me to go test drive the car I've been eyeing up for a while now. Having been through the process many more times than me, Pete is much more experienced at it - but he's also much more cynical about it. The second a car salesman starting walking towards us, Pete put his head down and mumbled to me "quick, walk away before he talks to us". When the salesman asked if he could help us, I politely told him that we were just looking, and to his credit, he left us alone. But when you actually want to test drive a car, you have no choice but to deal with Mr. Slimy Salesman - but much to our surprise, we got to deal with Ms. Friendly-and-Not-Too-Pushy saleschick. Pete and I both drove the car, and really liked it, so when we got back to the dealership, they got us right where they wanted us - in the office talking numbers. I actually liked Ms. Friendly-and-Not-Too-Pushy, and felt like I might actually be able to buy a car from her eventually...but then her evil twin, Ms. Used-Car-Sales pushed her way into the office. Ms. Used-Car-Sales was the cliche car salesperson - smoker with raspy voice, lots of bling, pushy, annoying, and not a good listener (e.g. her-"what color do you want?", me-"black", her-"we don't have a black one, but we have a yellow one", me-
I definitely don't want yellow", her-"well we have a red one too", me-"I'm actually set on black", her-"well that limits your options", me (to myself)-"no shit, that's why I want to buy a new one"). By the time Ms. Used-Car-Sales was done yammering, we'd had enough of the process for the day. And fortunately, since I wasn't in a hurry to buy, it was quite easy to walk out (knowing that they'd be contacting me soon anyway).

Having test driven the car, I decided it was time to do some Internet research. And I was amazed at what I found...

November 01, 2006

For (Dis)pencer

Happy holidays!

p.s. the ears were too difficult.