Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tales from the Bike Shop: The GU KInG

This February will be my 13th year in the bike industry. In that time some pretty cool stories have come along. I'd like to share some of the better stories about people, places and events that have come my way. To start I will take you back to my very first bike shop job in Branson Missouri and introduce you to.... The GU King!
The first bike shop I ever worked at was a one man show in the Ozark hills of Branson Missouri. As is the case with most "one man shows", Craig, my boss, really needed an employee so he could have a day off. I became his shop Grom in the Fall of 2000. After one day of "training" I was soon left on my own, breaking chain tools and selling the wrong size bikes to people. Luckily for Craig, I learned quickly as he REALLY needed some days off.

 Working alone can be difficult. People and phone calls NEVER trickle in, they come all at once. When not accustomed to this it can be pretty overwhelming. So you would think that I would have been overjoyed when a middle aged guy named Darren started showing up to just "hang out." But the thing about Darren was that he didn't ride bikes. He also almost didn't talk at all and when he did it was in a sloooow drawl. He mostly would just stare at me and smile. It was a little creepy. He didn't help me with the shop unless I asked him to "just watch the place" while I went to the bathroom. He would answer my questions, but in short sentences and with no detail. Once I managed to get out of him that he had been in the military during the Gulf War, had been in an accident and that he was now a volunteer EMT/Firefighter. As time passed I began to dread my Saturday's with Darren. It was just so weird that he didn't have anything better to do, but sit on the stool and watch me work.

I finally talked to Craig about him and he said "Oh he's harmless, just let him hang out." So I did, but I began to simply loathe the sight of him. He would be there in the mornings as I was un-locking the shop, just waiting to come in and sit...and stare... and smile...

I finally talked again to Craig about the situation. I told him I felt uncomfortable and that Darren was making me crazy. Craig said he would ask him not to come to the shop anymore if I wanted him to, but that I should think about it for the week. As my weekend came back around I thought hard about whether I really wanted Craig to ask him to leave. I realized he really didn't harm a thing just sitting there and that maybe the problem was with me, not him. And another thing occurred to me. Maybe he really liked bikes? As my Saturday started, like clockwork Darren was there. At the end of the day I decided, instead of asking him to leave, that I would ask him if he wanted to go mountain biking. To my surprise he said yes. I let him use one of our rental bikes and the next day we went on a ride. It was a short one, but he seemed to really enjoy it. Towards the end of the ride Darren was starting to bonk. I offered him a GU energy gel which he had never had before. He gulped down the Chocolate Outrage and remarked that it "tasted like cake batter." (say it like Forrest Gump and you've got it perfectly!)

The next Saturday Darren was there as usual, but to my surprise he was really jazzed and talkative and all he seemed to think about was BIKES! He was suddenly interested in all that had surrounded him for months.  He asked me questions about bikes and he told me he was ready to get his first real mountain bike. He also had me order him several flavors of GU, and bought all that we had on the shelf.  Sometime in the middle of that week I sold him a decent entry level hardtail mountain bike. That next Saturday, on our morning ride,  Darren generously offered me any flavor of GU that I might want and I was shocked to notice that he had at least a box of GU in his back pack. I said "Dang Darren, you're like a freakin GU King!"   Little did I know what I had created!

As the months went by Darren became head over heals in love with cycling. He bought a road bike too and was proud to only wear Fox Racing moto cross gear on all his rides, including road rides. He had his new nickname stenciled on the back.  The name read in huge letters.... "GU KI G"   I asked him where the "N" was in KING?   He said  "They were out of N's"

Sometime in late Fall 2001 Craig and I traveled down into Arkansas to ride the new Syallmo Trail system. Darren had really progressed as a cyclist and so we invited him along, although we were a bit worried about his fitness for such a long ride.  That day the trail was rough, the trail was soggy and the conditions were tough.  Darren slipped further and further behind, until we were waiting for long stretches of time.  At one stop Darren finally came toward us pushing his bike.  He stopped and threw his large Fox backpack on the ground with a thud.  Craig said, "What do you have in that thing?"  Darren said, "Oh ya know, just some GU."   Craig investigated and we found 5 BOXES of GU!  Every flavor and many many POUNDS worth of GU!   Enough was enough, we confiscated the GU KING's bounty and split it up between us for the rest of the ride.  From that point on we checked his back pack before every long ride.

I left the Ozarks in 2003 to head for Moab and Fruita,  chasing my mountain bike dreams.  As the years have slipped by most of my old Ozark ride crew has moved on to other adventures or simply stopped doing anything.  It's hard to get anyone to ride with me when I go home now, despite the many miles I drive to visit.  On one visit home I was stoked to get home to show my new wife all the trails I grew up on and to ride with the old crew.  The problem was there wasn't a crew anymore.  Nobody to ride with...except for Darren, the one guy whom I almost had removed from the bike shop was now my most loyal riding buddy.  Long live the GU KInG!!!

From December, 2012


  1. What a fantastic story! Merry Christmas! -Noah

  2. Awesome story Landon!!!!
    -just do it... It's easy.