Earlier this year as we at the CCC started planning out the 2010 season we decided we wanted to offer more to our riders but needed a little extra cash to pay for things like stakes (which you all love to break hundreds of every year), course tape, flags, bib #’s, music, more flags, more stakes, Snuggies, and a few other items we haven’t yet revealed. But when we put together our sponsorship proposal we weren’t sure what kind of response we would get… if any at all. Luckily for everyone we have a great community of not only racers, promoters, spectators, and hecklers… but of series sponsors as well. At the top of that list for 2010 is Brandon Elliott, who literally called us the day we posted the series sponsorship proposal and said he wanted to make Iron Cycles the 2010 CCC Series Title Sponsor.
We recently sat down with Brandon to find out a little more about him, Iron Cycles, and what’s behind those flashy orange & black skinsuits.
Q: Everyone involved with the series greatly appreciates Iron Cycles stepping up to be the 2010 CCC series title sponsor, what inspired you to step up in such a big way?
A: Working in a shop doesn’t allow me a ton of free time in the summer months when everyone else is racing road, tri, crits, etc. Long training weeks aren’t all that easy in the summer either, so getting in short and intense training rides fit my schedule. I got into bike racing with some of our teammates on mountain bikes. Unfortunately hitting the trails can’t happen all of the time, so cyclocross filled that dirtless void.
When I thought about it, I could train through the summer pretty appropriately for cyclocross, then actually have time to race in the fall, it all made sense! Pretty much everyone at Iron Cycles is racing in the 2010 CCC series, we’re all addicts, and spend all week turning wrenches while talking ‘cross.
Q: In what ways do you see a return for your investment into this growing sport?
A: Honestly, sponsoring the CCC wasn’t an ROI kind of proposition. Seeing all cycling events succeed does help my business, but there are plenty of other events and causes we could have sponsored. I wanted to sponsor the CCC because I knew it was my main focus, all of my cycling friends would be there, and it promotes a very healthy and competitive environment.
Q: As a new(ish) shop, you have built a great following in a short period of time, what do you owe that to?
A: I’d like to think the enthusiasm we have for bikes shines through. While all of us at the shop do or have raced, we all regularly bike-commute as well. Being able to sincerely share our passion with everyone who comes through the door seems to really show that we practice what we’re preaching. Before Iron Cycles, and since then really, I’ve been into a lot of shops where it was painfully obvious the people there didn’t ride, WE DO RIDE! Not that there is anything wrong with that, but when someone is trying to sell me bikes or gear I want to know that they are out there using what they are selling. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about building wheels or gluing tires without showing up to race on them, and I think people notice that. Cusomters know if I’m gluing up some tubular tires onto my Zipp wheels, I’m going to be racing, not just talking about it.
Q: There are lots of great bike shops in Chicago. Do you interact with other shops? Trade techniques, product reviews etc?
A: HA! I can’t help but to assume there are a couple of shop owners out there tired of hearing from me! I’ve done my best to be as upfront and honest with other shop owners who show the same respect to me. Chicago is a big city and there is a lot of business to go around, so I’ve worked hard to build relationships with other local shops. I feel there are a few who have been especially respectful with territory lines, ideas, and support. Lou (The Pony Shop), Manuel (Johnny Sprockets), and Amy (MOX) have all been especially supportive.
Q: What has been the more memorable experiences you have had in the CCC series over the past few seasons?
A: Going 12 rounds wrestling my bike a couple of weeks ago rings a bell! That photo has found its way onto the CCC website as well as a few email strings I’ve been included on. I doubt I’ll forget going should-to-shoulder with a xXx’er in Northbrook last year through the sand, mostly because he edged me out at the line! At the top of the list though was getting my first top-10 this year and when I crossed the finish line saw my little baby there waiting!
Q: You not only own and run Iron Cycles, but you also race (quite well) every weekend have a little one at home, and just bought a house. What’s your secret to fitting it all in?
A: I wish I could say it was all my doing, but it’s my support crew. First and foremost is my wife who lets me sneak out for long weekend rides all summer and doesn’t complain when the alarm goes off at 5 am. She takes care of the 70% of my life outside of work. She does all of the tough stuff and just lets me do my thing. I get to come home beat up from riding or working and play with my awesome baby girl, who is always happy because my wife is taking care of her.
After her come the guys at the shop. I know if there is something I need done, they can be trusted to do it well. Chase and Steve are both there not only doing their jobs, but coming up with new and creative processes and equipment we can implement. They know bikes, equipment, and how to fix them both. I’m also lucky enough to have a few guys from the team who were enthusiastic to work in the shop as well, and while they aren’t working full-time, they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to getting all of the loose ends tied up at the end of a busy day.
Following close on their heels are my parents an in-laws. My dad has a great business mind, my mom helps me with my people skills. I call them pretty much daily with questions or looking for advice and ideas. My in-laws have helped calm Nisha’s nerves about me being self-employed and have supported us as a family. Without a solid home life, the professional life would be too tough.
After them comes Brian Conant. But why thank him, he’s coaching all of my competition as well!
Q: What special services/products does Iron Cycles offer to the cross community that may be unique or some people may not be aware of?
A: A big avenue for us has been our training studio, which isn’t the most common thing for a shop to have. I’ve been a certified personal trainer since college, adding a fitness portion to the bike shop was always part of my plan. When we made the move into our new store I decided to take it by the reigns and do something different. It’s not a huge profit center for us, but it’s something we get to use personally very often and a few select members get to use as well. Having a group of 5-6 friends to ride with indoors seemed to be much more productive than jumping on a trainer in the basement solo.
A lot of people don’t like trainers, but I’ve learned to be friends with it. The Computrainers allow you to get in a very specific workout and know that you’re not slacking, which is pivotal to time-crunched athletes. Time well spent on the trainers will allow you to dial in your fitness.
Q: What is one of the more important necessities for your race daily routine?
A: Caffeine. And a good warmup. Last year my fitness wasn’t even close to race-worthy, so my warmups were weak in fear of tiring myself out before the whistle was blown. This year is very different (again with the BSC Coaching!), and a good warmup now will make or break my result. Oh, and tire pressure. It’s amazing how much 1-2 psi can mean to your race. My dad was my pit crew in Campton and he scoffed at me when I said “30 psi front, 31 psi rear.” He couldn’t believe there would actually be a noticeable difference. I promise you, there is.
Q: What is your best cross specific tip for bike set up?
A: It’s all about the tires. Light wheels are great too, but the wrong tires will make your race miserable. Once you have the tire issue under control, look to your brakes. Cyclocross bikes are notorious for brake chatter, I see it every weekend. But the right combination of brake setup, pads, and rims will all but eliminate that. No brake chatter will lead to much more confident riding. I don’t want to jinx myself, but my Focus has yet to chatter, not once!
Q: What are your thoughts on handups? Are you more of a cash, food, beverage, or anything goes kinda thing?
A: I wish I could say I had a strong opinion, but no one is ever giving handups during the 30+ races! Going off with the 30+ guys at 9:45 means most people haven’t even arrived yet, so we don’t get anything handed up. If I had to side one way, I’d say handups are a go as long as they don’t provide an unfair advantage to any one racer. Dollar bills, twinkies, bacon, spaghetti, fire away!
Q: One of your women riders was the subject of the CCC’s 2010 billboard. What went through your mind when you saw that picture? Have you found the billboard for yourself and had your picture taken in front of it?
A: First thing I thought, “Why am I not the one on there?!” Then I realized there are about 500 other racers each weekend that would make that billboard much more attractive than I! Kristina sure has drawn a lot of press for us with the billboard and magazine cover, so she deserves a special shout-out on that front. I was really excited to see it, something like that adds legitimacy in my eyes to what I’m doing at Iron Cycles. Sometimes I get caught up in the little details, but a billboard makes you step back and just sort of smile.
It took me a bit to get down there, but I finally made it last week. My wife went by, actually she passes it every day on her way to work. My parents came into town and went down there, they are always happy to see something new for Iron Cycles, I think they might have been the most excited out of everyone!
Q: What is in store for Iron Cycles in 2011?
A: We just started carrying Felt bikes, and the 2011’s are just coming in. Team Iron Cycles is growing and branching out, so watch out for them. We’re looking forward to another great indoor riding season in the training studio, the weather is just now coming around for that. I have a few other things that’ll be coming around soon that I won’t mention quite yet. And hopefully 2011 will allow us to sponsor the CCC again!
So there you have it. Look for Brandon and the rest of the Iron Cycles cyclocross team at the next race and swing by and say hi.