Monday, September 27, 2010

LiveStrong Helps Hightailers Help LeBonheur

Life Cycles: Livestrong gives boost to 100-mile bicycle ride

By Anthony Siracusa
Monday, September 27, 2010

For nearly 15 years, the Memphis Hightailers have hosted an autumnal bicycle ride offering participants the chance to complete 100 miles in one day. Called a "century ride," the Bluff City Blues 100 is a staple for many recreational cyclists.

When plans for this year's event were announced in July, Memphis Hightailers president Paul Rubin received an unexpected phone call: "We planned the ride for Oct. 2, which by coincidence was the day Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation called and essentially asked if they could sponsor the event."

Rubin said, "Livestrong simply wanted to promote a ride that raises awareness of healthy living. So we were happy to accept their sponsorship."

Livestrong is sponsoring 462 events in 375 cities across 50 countries on Saturday. In Memphis, Livestrong will provide a support vehicle for riders and 100 onsite volunteers at the event.

Healthy living is the recurring theme of the Bluff City Blues 100.

Since 2007, Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center has been the beneficiary of the event. The Le Bonheur Club, originally a ladies sewing circle that created clothes for orphaned children in the 1920s, began tending to orphaned children's medical needs in the 1930s. In 1944, the Pediatric Society approached the women's club about raising money to build a children's hospital. Le Bonheur officially opened its doors in 1952, and has provided medical services to children since then.

"We've made the Bluff City Blues 100 our premier event of the year," Rubin said. While the club hosts two other major rides annually -- the Red, White and Blue 4th of July ride and the Charles Finney Fundraiser Ride for the Church Health Center -- the Bluff City Blues 100 is the cycling club's largest event, with an expected participation of 500 riders.

"Finishing a century ride is a significant accomplishment. The Hightailers want the Bluff City Blues 100 to be a celebration for those who accomplish such a tremendous personal feat. At the conclusion of the event, we'll recognize by name those who finish their first century and provide medals for each rider."

Rubin says interest in the long-distance cycling event is growing. Forty riders, most of whom had never ridden a century, signed up for the Le Bonheur 100 Team. Since July, Susan Struminger and Mitchell Lansky have led the team on training rides that increased in distance from 30 to 80 miles. Cycling coach Clark Butcher provided participants with tips on nutrition, stretching, endurance training and basic bicycle maintenance.

In addition to the 100-mile ride, a 20-mile ride, a 40-mile ride and a metric century event -- a 62-mile ride -- will be available to participants.

The club has asked a few special guests to kick things off. Grizz, the Memphis Grizzlies mascot, will start one of the shorter rides, while Memphis Mayor A C Wharton will launch one of the longer.

"We've never had a mayor come out and support a bike event," Rubin said. "Conditions for bicycling in Memphis seem to be improving."

Anthony Siracusa, a native Memphian and graduate of Rhodes College, has just completed a 12-month study of bicycle policy, advocacy and infrastructure across four continents. You can read about his travels at and

Ride details
What: The Bluff City Blues 100, to encourage bicycle riding in Memphis and raise money for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital
Who: The Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club
When: Saturday; 100-mile ride, 8 a.m.; 62-mile ride, 8:15 a.m.; 40-mile ride, 8:30 a.m; 20-mile ride, 8:45 a.m.
Where: All rides leave from Mud Island River Park at the Old Memphis Belle Pavilion, 101 Island Drive
Cost: $45 for non-Hightailers members, $35 for members; $10 T-shirt fee (in addition to registration)
Register: Advance registration recommended, but participants can register day of event.

Mayor Wharton Speaking at Otherlands on September 20, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wharton pedals better health as a life cycle

Wharton pedals better health as a life cycle

Bike-friendly plan praised for greater access and appeal

By Tom Bailey, Tom Bailey Jr.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mayor A C Wharton this week gave some political advice to dozens of cyclists who overfilled Otherland's coffee shop to thank him for his recent actions and pledges to make Memphis more bike friendly. 

A member of the Memphis Hightailers bicycle club asked what cyclists can do to help Wharton make the streets more accessible for bikers. Wharton urged them to couch their advocacy in terms of wanting better health for themselves and the city instead of simply demanding more bike lanes.

Livable Memphis hosted the meeting to thank the mayor, who has just hired the city's first bicycle/pedestrian coordinator and pledged to add 55 miles of bike lanes over the next two years.

But Wharton said his ears were still ringing from criticism he received earlier Monday from city labor leaders for his hiring of a "high-priced" bike coordinator at a time when Wharton has ordered budget reductions.

Other constituents, he said, criticize him for caring "more for folks riding bikes than people getting a job."

Bicycle retailer Joe Royer of Outdoor Inc. told Wharton that bike-friendly streets are a critical piece for the city's growth "so we can pay union employees more. This is good for business."

Wharton agreed, saying safe, appealing streets for bikes and walkers make Memphis more appealing for the lifestyle choices they offer.

Besides, the city needs the exercise, he said. The economic and human costs of the city's obesity rate should pull at "your purse strings if it doesn't pull your heartstrings."

The city will focus on creating logical bicycle and pedestrian connections instead of just "chalking up" miles of striped bicycle lanes that may or may not be meaningful, Wharton said.

For example, cyclists should have good routes from Cooper-Young, through Overton Square, to Overton Park, he said.

The route from the University of Memphis to Tiger Lane west of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium should offer a bike connection, Wharton said.

But don't expect him to create a bike lane down congested Union Avenue. "We're going to use common sense," he said.

Livable Memphis, the coalition for sustainable neighborhoods, gave Wharton some requests as well as support.

Program manager Sarah Newstok told Wharton the coalition would like to see police training on the new bike laws passed this year.

It also wants the city of Memphis to adopt a plan for providing better access for cyclists and pedestrians.

And the coalition wants more enforcement directed for the safety of pedestrians.

-- Tom Bailey Jr.: 529-2388

Monday, September 13, 2010

Victory Bicycle Studio Built on Founder's Passion for Bicycling

Victory built on founder's passion for bicycling

By Anthony Siracusa
Monday, September 13, 2010 

For Clark Butcher, a love of cycling started with hamburgers and hot dogs.

"I was a Boy Scout as a kid, and one weekend, I volunteered to serve food at a mountain bike race at Arkabutla Lake," he said.

After the inspiring event, Butcher began saving money for his first mountain bike.
Butcher, who completed his first triathlon at age 7, has been racing bicycles for 12 years. He is the city's only Category 1 racer, a class reserved for semi-pro riders, and he has coached cyclists of all skill levels across Memphis. He serves as a consultant for bicycle team training camps and organizes a handful of local races annually.

When Butcher's part-time interest in bicycle coaching began to blossom into a full-time commitment, he called his friend Robert Taylor -- a real estate agent with Raspberry CRE -- to ask about acquiring office space. Taylor, who had spent his 20s and 30s as the general manager and head buyer for a local outdoor retailer, was also looking to move his continued client base back into a brick-and-mortar 

"We started brainstorming and decided that, since I needed a space and Robert's maintenance and fittings needed to move from his house, it just made sense to get a little storefront."

The duo tapped professional bicycle mechanic Michael Crum, acquired a 500-square-foot storefront on Young Avenue near East Parkway, and decided to open a small shop in the heart of Midtown. They decided to call it Victory Bicycle Studio.

"Victory Bicycle Studio is a specialty retail store with a focus on cycling enthusiasts, weekend warriors and racers," says Butcher. "Our goal is to provide exceptional service, support and expedited maintenance time. Between Robert, Michael and myself, there is 30 years of experience in the bicycle industry. Our goal is to over-service people."

Beginning a bike-based business in the midst of difficult financial times may appear risky. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, total bike sales declined from 18.5 million in 2008 to 14.9 million in 2009. But specialty bike stores catering to a particular niche -- such as elite racers or daily commuters -- experienced a slight growth in market share during 2009. This is largely because specialty bike dealers provide a high volume of parts and accessories, a market niche not filled by big box retailers.

Still, the lifeblood of a locally owned bike shop is its service and maintenance commitment. This, Butcher says, is Victory Cycle Studio's No. 1 priority.

"We're doing so many fitness assessments and seeing folks not riding the right bikes. At Victory, we don't want to sell you a bike that we have on the floor. We want to see you on the absolute right bike. We want to be a sort of liaison for finding the best possible bicycle. If someone says, 'Hey, so and so online has the best bike for the best deal,' we'll sit down with them, take measurements and make sure that they have the best stem, the best handlebar and the best bike fit."

Butcher believes bicycling is growing in Memphis. "The opening of the Shelby Farms Park Greenline, the creation of designated bike lanes, the growing number of charity rides and races in town, the weekly group rides with as many as 80 people showing up ... there is just so much going that can cater to any level of cyclist in Memphis. I was the only kid racing in high school, but now there are all sorts of individuals riding bicycles in the same group. There is a student with two part-time jobs riding next to an orthopedic surgeon."

Butcher is particularly excited about the opening of the Shelby Farms Park Greenline on Oct. 9. "The greenline is what is attracting people who haven't ridden bikes before. They're dusting off their bikes and checking this out. The growing number of group rides keep people engaged. It's fun, it's a low-impact sport, it's social. It's cool."

Victory Bicycle Studio, 2294 Young Ave., 729-2229,
Anthony Siracusa, a native Memphian and graduate of Rhodes College, has just completed a 12-month study of bicycle policy, advocacy and infrastructure across four continents. You can read about his travels at and