Gravel Grind and Hammer Squad Logos

It’s always nice when what I do gets to overlap a little bit with things that I enjoy. Even better when both involve a worthy cause. Sometimes all that comes together, design, bikes and good mojo.

My local bike shop, The Radical Edge has been sponsoring on an event each Spring for a few years now to benefit Special Olympics New Brunswick. The Radical Edge Gravel Grind is now in it’s 3rd year and having participated in the first two, I can say it’s a total blast and a top-notch event. From the Gravel Grind Website:

“The Gravel Grind is being held in the spirit of the Italian grand fondo; or cross country ski loppet.  Some cyclists ride for the satisfaction and pride of just completing in an event, while others want to challenge themselves, their friends and of course some want to win!  With all of this in mind this is not a race. We are devoted to maintaining a laid back and fun atmosphere that can be enjoyed by both the recreational and competitive cyclists!

This event is intended to appeal to all types of riders; road, mountain, cyclocross and hybrids so hopefully by now you have the idea that this more of a celebration of cycling, Spring and the gathering of like minded individuals!”

As a big fan of the event, I was excited and honored to be able to help them out with a new logo, branding and some other materials this year. I worked with Executive Director, Josh Astle and Program Director Jane McKeown and created materials they were very happy with and I’m proud to have been a part of. What started as a logo design grew to include several other components in a process that really helps elevate the brand of the event to coincide with the professionalism and spirit of the event itself and the people that organize and run it.

I had been poking about online for some ideas and inspiration and struck upon some photos of old forestry service patches that sort of informed the final design that Josh and Jane finally picked.

Around the same time, Brian McKeown, manager/co-owner of the Radical Edge approached me about a logo for a group road ride that has been running weekly out of the shop for years now. The Hammer Squad ride isn’t for the faint of heart. These guys go out and, well, hammer. Brian was putting together a specific kit design for them and was looking for a logo he could put on a back pocket to represent the ride. He wanted something bold and powerful, and obviously featuring a hammer(s). I did a few different concepts and Brian actually picked the cleanest and simplest of the batch.

The idea is that the kit is a premium item and has to be earned, not just purchased. I don’t know what sort of secret handshake formula he has for determining when a rider qualifies for official Hammer Squad kit, but I do know I won’t be donning one anytime soon. The only thing I hammer on my rides are the donuts while standing around post-ride – but good on those guys!

Poets of Instagram

Photo by Eric Larsen,

I’ve really grown to love Instagram as a social media platform, it’s become one of my favourite places to visit online. It’s currently the only social media app I have on my phone.

I enjoy the nature of it – the fact that it’s primarily visual. I’m pretty selective with who I follow and for me, it’s a visual hit of inspiration whenever I check in. In some cases, folks have gone one further and are using their Instagram accounts as more of a blog, including lengthy, well-composed posts as the captions to their photos. Indeed some of them have an Instagram account as their sole online presence, nothing else, not even a personal website.

That said, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites – people I feel are really doing something different, unique and inspiring with the app.

Captain Winter

Eric Larsen (@elexplore) is a polar explorer. That’s a pretty cool job title. I don’t know the all the details of exactly what that entails, but I think the general gist pretty obvious. He’s a guy that digs the cold and winter. He’s on a one-man-mission to try and get you to as well. His Instagram feed is full of fun and inspirational photos and commentary about trips to the coldest, whitest areas of the planet.  He throws around some great stay-warm tips as well. As a fellow fan of winter, I know how much fun it can be. I also have discovered lately, that the more I get out in winter, the more I enjoy and embrace it. Conversely, when I’m not able to get out due to the to-do list or schedule, it’s a lot harder to tolerate winter and morale suffers. When the calendar is crunched and I can’t fit in a snowshoe, sometimes a choice post from Eric will suffice and keep the winter mojo going to the next outing.

Always thinking snow. I’m not sure what happened to me along the way but I seem to have an unexplainable bias toward winter. Don’t get me wrong, I like spring, summer and fall, too (kind of). But Winter has a strange hold on me. I think it’s because there’s a serenity to Winter that doesn’t exist in other seasons. I also like that being outside in Winter requires more thoughtfulness and planning. There are more reasons, of course, but I’ll leave it at that for now. . . #unrulydreamers #icephoto #staylit #winter #coldculture #thinksnow #adventure #brrr #belowzero #coldworld #camping #expedition #feelalive #icecube #lifeisbetteroutside #nature #optoutside #onthhorizon #photography #polartraining #throughourlens #wearezeal #stanleyness

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The Bicycle Craftsman

To anyone who’s been around in bikes for a long time, Richard Sachs (@therichardsachs)will probably need no introduction. The guy has been hand-building bike frames since before it was the new artisanal thing to do. In the world of bicycle as art, he’s an Old Master. Although he’s been building some of the best bikes in the world for almost 40 years, he recently ‘reinvented’ himself, for lack of a better word. He built a new, solitary shop and returned to building bikes the way he’d started, one at a time, by hand, with hand tools. In the process he has been sharing his reflections on the industry, life, his craft and topics like passion and drive, all via his Instagram feed, often accompanied by some great photos of both bikes and process. You don’t have to be a fan of bikes to appreciate his posts on inspiration, drive, and why we do what we do.

‘ Once every decade or less, I make one that I know I’ll never forget. . That I’ll remember for all time and after that too. . This frame from 2005 is one of those. . I was still doing a few units with the pre IC era parts and the older diameters. . Some even had a threaded steerer – this one did. . And braze-ons and hub spacings and brake dimensions from Merckx’s time. . I didn’t have my chops developed back when bicycles like this were ubiquitous. . When I finally paid off my down payment and I could do most of this blindfolded and with dull files, the landscape had changed. . So when I use my present stance and channel a past model, I can put it together and it zings. . This one zings and it did from conception to the day after the paint dried. . And it still does. . All This By Hand . #hauteframebuilding #neverfuckingrelent #brandonneuring

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Honourable Mentions

A few other cats also holding it down on the ‘gram and continually turning out inspiring content:

  • @slimwonder – Repping the Dads and bikes set, with bebop flava. #sockgame always on point.
  • @allhailtheblackmarket – Punk rock, discontent, skating, bikes and art. Through the disgruntled lens of middle-age.
  • @coldbike – Another winter nut. Bikes, Dad skills, kids, adventure.
  • @outsideisfred – Shenanigans.
  • @hotsaucecycling – Elite World Cup Cross Racing. Shoestring budget. Canadian, eh?
  • @targetsalad – Good espresso pulls. Mule Deer. Dad life. The World’s Most Interesting Bike Club.

Numbers are Just Numbers

A great article from TechDirt that popped up in my feed recently:

“…internet traffic is half-fake and everyone’s known it for years, but there’s no incentive to actually acknowledge it.”

Many of my clients come to me, worried about their website, SEO and page views. The Web wants you to believe that the Web is super-important – and it is – but it’s not the be-all-end-all when it comes to a comprehensive marketing strategy.

What’s more important is a cohesive plan that outlines who your audience is and best way to target and speak to that them.

You shouldn’t discount conventional methods of marketing like print collateral and advertising, radio, tv. Additionally you should consider things like sports team and events sponsorships, trade shows and conventions, community and charity events participation, and advocacy. Good old fashioned word-of-mouth still packs a punch, especially in smaller markets or for smaller businesses not looking to compete on the internet with multi-national corporations. Everyone’s current favorite hot topic, social media, can also be effective – IF used correctly, but you should still integrate it with other streams as part of a larger effort. Additionally, effective use of social media is a whole game in and of-itself and a whole separate post as well. I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole right now.

All these components of your ‘plan’ used in conjunction, can create what marketers like to call ‘top of mind awareness’ (TOMA) of your product or service that can function like ‘search’ in the real world.

What’s most important is that you try and develop a plan that works for your product or service and then strategically implement it, vs. ‘set up a website and try and get a ton of traffic’.

Arguably there will always be exceptions to the rule, but in most cases, website traffic alone isn’t going to be a boon for your business.

Forget about the size of your audience and instead concentrate on speaking to the people who matter. Focus on telling your story, and engaging with those that you know for sure are listening and interested (and real people). Your audience will grow organically and be much more worthwhile, reliable and profitable.