30 Jan 2015

The NCC Spring Bundle

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We’re trying something new this spring.

We’re working with a company called Podiumwear to offer a limited edition NCC Spring Bundle. Podiumwear has some deep history in custom activewear coming from a line of Nordic Ski clothing worn by multiple Olympians. They know cold. They know sweat. And it’s all made in Minnesota.

They helped us design a simple kit with some of our NCC style.

We’re offering a mid-weight long-sleeve jersey, a stout wind vest with a nice tall collar, and a custom NCC print neck gaiter. I don’t know about you, but I’m over the moon about that gaiter.

NCC Spring Bundle


The bundle will be available for order until Sunday, Feb 8th.

There is a sizing kit for the jerseys and vests available at NCC right now. We encourage you to stop in to get a feel for the product and try it on. You can order with us at the store or order online. The tactile quality to the pieces is very noticeable. Order up one size if you’re between sizes. They are generally true to size. But remember that these are Spring bundles and not Summer bundles, so some of us (myself included) might need “Spring fit” as opposed to “summer fit”.

Podiumwear will take all of your sizing and payment info and then ship the kit directly to your house after the first week of March. Easy Peasy.

Follow this link and use the password “Upward” to get the special bundle pricing.

Thank you for your support!




29 Jan 2015

The NCC Story – for those of you just joining us…

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For those of you just tuning in, I thought it would be a good idea to catch you up on the story.

I realized last year that I think about all the goings-on of NCC as a linear story, and I forget that we have people coming into that story at all different points. Sometimes we share things on the internet without explaining what they are or how they fit into what we are doing here. That’s a disservice to those who are just checking us out for the first time, so I thought I’d recap some of our history to keep us all on the same page.

We have a saying. “We’re not in retail, we’re in construction; we might sell bikes, but we build community.” That may sound lofty or foo-foo, but that statement is a result of over ten years of reflection. Bikes are a commodity (gasp!). They are inanimate objects with no soul. But when someone buys a bike, starts riding, rides with friends and family, and has fun doing so, then there’s momentum. Then there’s something special. Then there’s something we can get behind.

The Custard Cruise is a family classic.

The Custard Cruise is a family classic.

We started in 2004, when Big Frank bought the existing DeKalb Cyclery and brought me in as manager to start North Central Cyclery. I was as green as could be. Truly – I had no idea what I was doing, but I had reckless energy, a woman I wanted to marry, and nothing else going on. Every day, I’d come to work assuming that every customer who walked in the door knew more than me about bikes. My employees certainly did. I had to be willing to listen and learn all the time. That became one of the founding characteristics of our shop – we didn’t always have all the answers and we weren’t going to act like it. We made it a point to avoid the elitist know-it-all tendencies bike shops are known for.

This is in 2007. The one in the middle is not Big Frank.

This is in 2007. The one in the middle is not Big Frank.

For the first few years, we voraciously gleaned knowledge from our customers, our vendors, and our peers in the bike industry. We were learning who NCC was in real time. We adopted some of the events and momentum of the old shop while also trying to break ties with the negative stigmas in the community. For ten years now, we’ve supported, hosted, or promoted almost every cycling related event in the area.

The Corn Fest Bike Rally!

The Corn Fest Bike Rally!

As far as the products we sell, we have always taken our selection under deep consideration. We want to sell things we can stand behind. We have had a great partner in Trek Bicycles since day one. They supported the transition under new ownership, offered a ton of support through dealer events, and have always made excellent bikes for all styles of riders. They do more to help small bike shops grow than any other manufacturer on earth. We were able to support our local business with Trek bikes and have grown with them for years.

Our Trek rep Josh rippin in Marquette, MI.

Our Trek rep Josh rippin in Marquette, MI.

NCC started to evolve after a few years into the destination shop it has become today. All because of a bike I lusted after in my days as a poor college kid. My boss at the coffee shop had a willow green Surly Long Haul Trucker and I thought it was the coolest machine I’d ever seen. After a couple years in the bike industry, I started picking parts to build my own. A steel touring bike, brought into the flashy world of alloy and carbon bikes we had at the time was an oddity. I might as well have brought a moose to the group ride. But I loved it, and soon after, we had a few requests for them. We built a few, and then started stocking fully assembled Surly bikes on the floor. At the time, Surly only had one complete bike – the venerable Cross Check. We were the first in the area to stock a size run. I had peers in the industry say it was a terrible idea. It wasn’t a terrible idea. I’ve had much worse ideas.

My first LHT. Wool Jersey. Brooks saddle. 2006?

My first LHT. I got married in those socks. I still have that hat, too.

Part of what made it really click with Surly was the fact that I genuinely liked the people behind the product. They were a super small company and you could talk to everyone. In 2004, I was a glowing neophyte at Interbike, the industry’s largest trade show. I was totally overwhelmed by it all, and I found myself hiding in the Surly booth. They had like four frames, one bike, a rack, and a bar. The guy at the bar was Andy Corson, and he treated me like a person. He offered me a beer (I refused… it was like 10am), and we had a normal conversation. I still have the business card he gave me. I met the other Surly guys over the years and many of them are still dear to me. Some of them need a shower, but I call them friends.

That became another foundational part of NCC – we want to sell things we enjoy that are made and sold by people we enjoy. And as it turns out, the people that want to buy those things are often people we enjoy. It awesome the way that works out.

That’s what’s really helped us grow with Salsa Cycles, Moots, Gunnar, and Jones, too. There are awesome people behind those products, wonderful people riding those products, and great folks looking to buy those products right now.

Our focus on local events and being inclusive to new riders has been another way we have worked to grow our riding community. We have done bike rallies, bike clinics, ice cream rides, coffee shop rides, group road rides, and pumped tires for at least a million people.

Ladies FB banner

In 2008, we hosted our first sanctioned Cyclocross event in Hopkins Park. We had 200-some racers. Now that race has over 600 racers. In 2010, we hosted the first Gravel Metric, promoting it with a video that went viral, attracting 50 riders.

We made two more videos for the next two GM’s. You can see them here and here.

The 2014 running of the GM had over 400 riders, including a number of sponsored pro riders, which I mention not as a status thing, but as a remarkable fact. The GM is free and there isn’t even a real trophy for 1st place.

Gravel was something we had. We don’t have mountains. We don’t have hills. But we do have gravel. The gravel scene exploded and we have added a few more gravel events to the calendar: the Night Bison and Ten Thousand. After 2012, we started working on a non-profit to help separate our events from the business and give us a flag to fly over our advocacy efforts. That non-profit is called Axletree and would never have come to reality without the tireless effort and goading of one guy – Dean Frieders. He strongly (forcibly?) encouraged me for liability reasons to start the organization, and as an attorney, had the knowledge on how to do it.

Axletree has grown in its events and its advocacy since then. We have been able to consult the city on a number of bike related projects, re-write the local bike ordinance, get into schools to do bike safety assemblies for kids, and install a couple public bike pumps. And we have a ton going on for 2015.

Axletree at GKMS

Our culture at NCC as a niche shop grew alongside those Axletree events, too. We are a known destination for gravel bikes, touring bikes, fatbikes, titanium bikes, and U.S.A. made bikes. We even created a whole showroom for these bikes. We call it the Ride Away Room.

NCC 040614-25

We dig those bikes, and we ride those bikes. But we’re still really excited when a kid comes in with their parents and gets their first big bike from us. We get geeked out when a mom comes in and wants to start running some errands on her bike. The guy getting ready for his first triathlon coming in to replace his junker Tarmart bike gets us pumped up. We love seeing the comfort rider turn into the sport rider turn into the road rider turn into the fatbiker, but we also love seeing that comfort rider ride that comfort bike till the tires are bald. We’re excited to see all kinds of riders come into the store. Especially in winter! Sometimes we’re just glad to see anyone these days.

So that’s where we’re at. That’s a brief history of NCC. You can always learn more by flipping through the annuls of our blog, reading our history and logo story, joining our email list, following us on Facebook, or coming in to the shop. We hope that you do.

So, now, what’s your story?





27 Jan 2015

NCC Hot Head Stocking Caps

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Cozy for your head.


Order here: http://northcentralcyclery.bigcartel.com/product/hot-head-ncc-caps

23 Jan 2015

Thirdsday #1 was pretty cool.

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Our first Thirdsday adventure was a success.

The definition of success is different to different people and applied differently in different occasions, but according to me, it was a success.

There isn’t much virgin territory for a cyclist in DeKalb County. One of the things I like best about fatbiking in the winter is the sudden newness to everything. Everything becomes rideable to some extent when you are liberated from riding solely on bike paths and roads. City parks are open territory, and even the small grove of trees behind the house seems to offer something new.

Riding the river is something that sounds ludicrous to a lot of people. Admittedly, it has some danger to it. When we announced we were going to ride on the river for Thirdsday, we were met with some warnings and even some chidings. The temperature had been below freezing for weeks and we had already tested some sections of the river with large groups of people, so we were too concerned about the ice being thick enough. And we honestly didn’t think anyone would show up since we had announced it with almost no time to plan.

So we were pretty surprised when Dave and Craig were there. Actually, we were first surprised when Dave called us when we were almost to the meeting spot. He had called us to let us know we would not be riding the river that day. At least, not that part of the river. To our great surprise. It was open and flowing water at our starting point. The adventure was over before it began!

2015-01-15 09.12.13

We jumped in the car and did some scouting further up the river. It was solid up there, so we went back and hike-a-biked a bit before we got on the river. The river is fun to ride for myriad reasons. The danger adds an element, for sure. It’s like an alien surface – with different textures, characteristics, and sounds. You start to learn the different sounds pretty quickly, from the deep knocking to the clinking to the crunchy coughing sound of hollow pockets. At first, everyone is timid and every sound is the sound of imminent danger. As one goes along, one get more familiar with the sounds and grows confident. If you stay on the river too long, you might even get too confident, as we later found out.

2015-01-15 11.16.22

The danger, mixed with the new surface, mixed with the delusion that you’re somewhere faraway and different is what I loved about our day on the river. We ride in squares here in DeKalb County, so the twisty, wooded “trail” is a welcome change. The banks are often as high as your shoulder, so you’re “in” it. The drifts can create some wild moonscapes where the wind carries snow from the fields across the frozen surface.

2015-01-15 11.18.55-1

We had a few sections we had to jump on to the bank, but for the most part, our ride up to where the East fork meets the South fork was almost entirely on the river. We hit patches of slush that surprised us every time. The surface looked consistent, but all of s sudden, you’d sink a few inches down and slog through a big puddle under the snow. It was eerie, and a little disconcerting, but we learned the best thing to do was to keep pedaling. Even having your back tire punch through the ice wasn’t a big deal if you just gave it some gas and kept your weight moving forward.

We looked at a few maps of the river before setting out, and we knew a few things that gave us peace of mind. The river was never deeper than our height, and we were always within a mile from a house, should anything go wrong. This fact added some comedy to the ride. Just when you thought “man, we must be really out there,” you’d come across a porch swing set close to the river and realized you’re rolling through someone’s backyard. Technically, we weren’t actually, since the waterway is actually public property under the care of the Forest Preserve.

We had a few long sections where we had good surface and enjoyed the silence. The ride was mostly very serene. It was a bright and sunny day. Crossing under some of the overpasses, the cars were an offense to our “wilderness”.

The fork turned out to be the end of our road, literally. The water there was much warmer, or faster, or both. We parked on a snow bank and opened a thermos of hot coffee. It was a great little moment. We didn’t know it, but that was the end of the serenity.


2015-01-15 10.35.48


2015-01-15 10.47.17

We had a headwind headed home. It was worsened in a few places by the direction of the river and the height of the banks. The slushy spots were slushier, too.

Then we saw some muskrats, both adorable and gross in the snow. We came to a turn we had hiked around on the way up and our confidence in the ice tempted a couple of us to stay on the river. Chad made his way across a narrow section with a log to his left, then some snow, a few inches of ice, and then open water. Chad was riding his 29er with studded tires, so it rolled on through it. I followed, sans studs, and even said aloud, “I don’t have studs, this is a terrible idea”. That was when I laid down in the Kishwaukee River in Winter. It happened pretty fast. The bike went out from under me to the right, into the open water, and every appendage I put down to arrest my fall punched right through the ice and slid away. I was on my belly before I really knew what happened, with my head and right arm out of the water.

I’ve fallen through ice before and I harbor a healthy fear of it. This wasn’t anything like last time because it was only a foot deep. This time was more refreshing than anything. Dave was right by me within seconds to help me get the bike out. I got up, laughed a little, and said it was time to go. Then I started booking down the river with all that delicious adrenaline in my system. My boots were gushing with each pedal stroke and I went through a constant mental checklist. Dave and Craig are working firemen/paramedics, and Chad has paramedic training, so I was in good company. I was an Eagle Scout, which was only worth telling someone if they weren’t a medical technician.

We weren’t far, so I wasn’t too worried. The seal had been broken, though. At that point, everyone but Craig spent some time in the river. By the end, I was just walking across the open sections. I couldn’t get any wetter. Dave fell in to his waist. Chad dipped his feet in a couple times and then kissed the river. Less than ten feet from the bank where we’d be getting off the river, I hear a sick crunch and thud behind me. Chad is in full-on scorpion pose, cheek to cheek with the ice, with his front wheel completely and perfectly submersed up to the handlebars. He got up pretty quick. His eyes weren’t crossed and he was finishing his sentences ok, so we got up on the bank and hop-hiked back to the bar.

2015-01-15 11.44.12


I was surprisingly comfortable at that point. The water in my boots had warmed a little by my activity, and the wool on my skin didn’t feel cold at all. I was wearing the Sturmfist gloves, which are lined with Merino wool, and I couldn’t tell a temperature difference between my left hand and right, despite the left hand being totally drenched. It was odd. And liberating.


We were totally satisfied with our adventure that morning. The adversity made for a great day. In the days following, the river thawed and swelled, so don’t even think about trying it now unless you’re in a kayak – which would be crazy…


…because that water is freezing.






13 Jan 2015

Thirdsday #1 – January 15th

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Chad and I will be riding north along the Kish on fatbikes starting at 9am.

Meet at the bridge close to First and Bethany in DeKalb. It will be easy to spot us, since there will be no one else on a bicycle as far as the eye can see in any direction.

This is going to be an adventure. Come prepared. Bring extra food, insulated water, heat packs, and whatever else you need.

We plan to ride 3-4 hours and see how far north we get in 2 hours before turning back.

There will potentially be a good amount of hike-a-bike, depending on the drifts and river surface.

We realize this is an endeavor, but that is the idea. We know everyone does not have a fatbike (or studded tires). We are looking for companions with the appropriate gear and the appropriate lack of common sense to join us.

Future Thirdsdays will be more inclusive, and will also be announced with more advance notice.

If you’re interested in join us, call the shop or get in touch with us somehow.

If you need a sick note for your boss, let us know.