Monday, March 31, 2008
I'd love to say that Hayden made this spectacular achievement aboard a Masi Coltello, but he was riding his usual track bike... and I'm not complaining because I am extremely happy to be working with a new World Champion.
So to all of the Inferno riders and staff- especially Hayden- CONGRATULATIONS! All of us at Masi are extremely proud!
(PS- Oh yeah, Hayden is also the recently crowned New Zealand National Champ... but what's another title at this point, eh?)
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Give it is a listen... if ya' want.
The thing is, with art, is that I can't draw/ paint/ sculpt/ mold/ doodle at all... my life studies look a lot more like stick figures... on a good day. Don't even ask about the "bad day" drawings. One of my uncles is an artist- one of the best I've ever been lucky enough to view (as well as a very good friend of mine)- so I have been surrounded by art since I was a child. I have immense respect for those folks who can create images like that- I frequently see things in terms of images, but I am unable to bring them into the world. So I am always moved and impressed by the works of those folks who can bring their ideas into the world for the rest of us to see.
I have a few friends who have that talent... and then some... but I want to talk about two in particular right now.
I received the following email from my friend (and super-awesome artist) Taliah Lempert- you've seen me post about her art before;
I have a show comin' up in Philly
That I'm super excited about,
It's at Copy Gallery
319 N.11th Street, 3rd floor
There's a lot of work I've never shown before.
It's awesome to have a chance to see it all hanging up together,
It's going to look great and be a fun time.
So if you're in the area please come on out!
And on Sunday April 6th from 10-5pm
It's the long awaited opening of Brownstoner's Brooklyn Flea. http://www.brownstoner.com/brooklynflea/about/
I'll be there with prints, drawings, sketches
Debuting new t shirt designs
and hand printed cards
The flea is shaping up to be pretty awesome
I'll be there most Sundays through the summer.
There's more events coming up in April and May.
That you can check out here.
If you are anywhere near these locations, you simply must go check out her work. She's simply amazing and I am fully in love with her paintings.
My next artist friend is totally new here and I hope you'll embrace her work with open and loving arms... because she's good... really good!
Meet Kathleen King!
Kathleen is a friend of mine from recent history and a diehard bike nut as well as an artist, with an impressive portfolio of work that she's done over the years.
Her latest work is a really cool homage to the motion and grace of cycling. It conveys so much movement and power... without actually moving... that's cool! Anyway, go give it a look-see and say howdy to Kathleen and tell her Masiguy sent you (I hope she won't hold it against you).
Here ends today's lesson in Art Appreciation 101. There will be a test- so study hard and take lots of notes!
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Variety The Children's Charity.
The book is awesome; 101 fantastic authors (well, 100 great authors + me...) talking about all kinds of great things regarding the new modern age of social media (among other things) we are now in. It really is a great book and is worth every penny... and it goes to charity, to boot!
So, please, if you haven't already purchased a copy of the book... go do it now. You won't regret it - I promise.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
For years now, the bike industry has been riding a wave of popularity not unlike the "bike boom" of the 70's. Not only has this boom been good to the US bike industry, but the entire worldwide bike industry as well. It's been a really good ride, but almost all of us in the idnustry (Yes, I meant "industry"... smartasses...) knew it would have to come to an end one day.
The world is not going to come to an end for the bike industry or for cycling enthusiasts and consumer, but there is going to be some noticeable change very soon.
Bicycle sales, especially in the US market, have been doing very well over the past 10 years. In many markets, that can be traced back directly to that Lance Armstrong guy and all those French bike races he managed to win. At least one brand really made out well on that deal, but at the same time many of the rest of us got a boost from their good fortune. Road bike sales climbed to an all-time high during the peak of the boom. Other categories faired pretty well too, in the end, with overall interest in cycling reaching higher levels than ever before. All in all, the past several years have been good to the bike industry.
The very competitive nature of the industry has lead to incredible values for consumers. Many years ago, a $1,000 bike was a pretty good bike. Maybe even a great bike. But now, the amount of product and technology present on a $1,000 bike is amazing. It is still possible to buy a bike that is not worth the money you pay for it- at all ends of the pricing spectrum- but it is pretty hard to. Technology and manufacturing have created a time where consumers typically get a very good product for the money they spend- this is especially true of bikes sold in the IBD/ specialty retail channel (ie- not Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, etc).
The down side of all of this pricing competition has meant that many manufacturers (and retailers) have had to operate with incredibly small profit margins- selling at lower than reasonable prices to gain market share. In essence, buying floor space (at the wholesale level) or buying loyalty (at the retail level). Thing is, it's hard to keep a business afloat like that and it is the major reason brands or stores come and go from the bike industry. Worst of all, when you operate on such narrow margins, any kind of increase in costs of goods means an increase in ultimate sell price...
... which brings us to my point...
Over the past few months, the bike industry has seen the "perfect storm" of circumstances hit it (like much of the rest of the economy); a slumping US and global economy, a massive increase in manufacturing costs, a dramatic jump in labor costs in both Taiwan and China, a sharp drop in the value of the US dollar and an increase in value of nearly every other global currency. The Taiwanese dollar, the NT, has gone from a little over $34NT/ $1US to just barely over $30NT/ $1US in just over 3 years. That may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly and doesn't even take into consideration any of the cost increases- that is just a loss in currency value. When you add in the cost increases for the actual products, it can become significant very quickly.
By some estimates, the cost of steel alone is going up as much as 65%! For my brand, which is heavily biased towards steel these days, that spells some pretty serious sleepless nights. Aluminum is going up. Carbon is going up. Anything petroleum-based is going up- like the materials used to make handlebar tapes and saddles. These costs are increasing leadtimes significantly as well, since many vendors are now unwilling or unable to spend the money to stock vast quantities of materials. This means that they need to order more often to meet their demands, but at least they don't have their capital resources tied up in raw materials.
In China, recent laws there are forcing a much needed increase in wages being paid to factory workers- as well as limiting the amount of overtime a worker can work. These are good changes, but they mean an increase in costs just the same. In Taiwan, there is a massive shortage of qualified skilled labor. The bike industry was once one of the best paying in Taiwan, but the rise in power of the tech industries there has drawn in a lot of the once strong work force in the bike industry. So now wages have gone up to compete for and retain good labor. It's a good time to be a factory worker in both China and Taiwan... or at least a better time.
In the past few months, I have seen 3 and 4 price increases from the same vendors. Just in the past 6 months- from some of the biggest names in the industry. Some vendors will not even quote a price any longer until they have a firm PO and then the pricing is only good for that one PO. This makes it impossible to accurately forecast the cost of a product and very difficult to create a selling price- when you have no idea if you will be making money on the product in 6 months. For me and the other brands at Haro, we print one price list per season and we live with that pricing for the duration of that product cycle/ season. This year though, we've had to issue a price increase to compensate for some of the price increases we've seen recently. We do our best to absorb those increases and preserve the pricing we've created, but when you are seeing double-digit increases, it becomes impossible to swallow all of those costs.
What does all this mean? Well, it certainly means there is a lot of nervousness in the bike industry right now. Many of us are very concerned about what the consumer is going to do; will they simply stop buying bikes (partly in thanks to what the economy is doing as well), or will they understand that we (the manufacturers and retailers) simply have no choice if we wish to stay in business? Some of us smaller players even worry if the Big Guys will simply eat the increases in the short term to maintain market strength and wait the situation out/ drive competitors from the market. Most things I have seen and heard indicate that those Big Guys are likely to pass on at least a small increase to their customers too. It would be hard to believe that they can afford such an increase in costs without passing along some of that burden. More to the point, it means that prices for Masi Bicycles are going to increase a little. On some bikes it will seem like nothing, but on others it might be more noticeable- when a bike goes from $700 to $775, it is more noticeable than when a bike goes from $4000 to $4300. Based on percentage, it is much less significant and the typical consumer in that higher price market is not as phased by the increase- generically speaking of course.
Bottom line- as much as it sucks, the bike industry is raising prices to slightly compensate for the rapid and painful increase in costs to produce a quality bicycle. I am seeing anywhere from a simple 5% increase to a massive 15-20% increase in my costs... and that's just the ones I know about so far, but that does not mean the retail price (or dealer price) is going up that sharply. In all likelihood... more increases are coming. And coming fast. Does it mean you are getting any less of a bike for the money? No, not at all. It just means that you'll be paying what is a more realistic price for the bike you get. Sure, there will be a slew of new low-spec bikes showing up on the market to keep the perceived necessary price points met. Some manufacturers will undoubtedly find ways to cut spec to keep a certain price (not our plan though). I'm not saying they are wrong to do it and we might find ways to create new models in those sensitive price ranges- it's just going to be a fact of life.
How long should this last and what does it mean long term? Well, that has yet to be accurately predicted to my knowledge. My guess is that prices are not going to be coming down any time soon. The global economy is still looking pretty volatile and the US$ keeps taking a beating. The Chinese Yuan is getting stronger, as is the Taiwan NT, and the Euro and the British Pound... so it is unlikely the Dollar is going to regain enough strength in the short term to eat up the cost increases. The overall volatility is likely to settle down, but as oil/ gas/ petroleum costs remain high, costs of goods will remain high- as will the costs to transport them. The global demand for raw goods- like steel- isn't going to decrease either. China and India, specifically, are eating up massive amounts of resources of raw goods as their economies expand and their development and growth increase as well. So, yeah... it's not too likely things are going to change any time soon to keep prices where they are now. I do predict that some smaller companies (retail and manufacturing) are going to pay the ultimate price for these increases and will either fade into history or be eaten by healthier competitors.
All of this would seem to point to very dark days for the bicycle industry, but things have actually been coming back up a bit after a mild slump in sales the past two years. Road sales have dropped, but are remaining strong- especially at the higher price points- and MTB and BMX are both seeing nice signs of life across the industry. At first glance it would appear that the industry is getting some support from consumers who are seeing the price of their other purchases going up all over the place. Costs of nearly everything across the board are going up... it's just a fact of life right now.
So even though buying a new bicycle might not feel as fun, due to the sudden increase in price, you're still getting a great deal on great products and the industry you are supporting is showing good signs of health... which hopefully means I get to keep my job a bit longer... I hope.
Monday, March 24, 2008
I'm just sayin...
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I hope that your Easter/ Sunday/ weekend was equally enjoyable and that you had a little something to be happy about too.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
And now, today, the Swiss phenom added Milan-Sanremo to his impressive and growing palmares with a gutsy solo break 3km from the finish line, out of a small elite leading group. If Cancellara is not one of the most dominant riders of his generation, then I do not know who is.
Photo; AFP Photo/ Cyclingnews.com
Congratulations Fabian and CSC.
Friday, March 21, 2008
So we've done the parts pictures and some other random images from the first day, etc, so now it is time for the people of Taipei Cycle Show... at the least the few people who were unfortunate enough to stumble in front of my camera lens.
Names have not been changed to protect the innocent (or the guilty for that matter)...
Our friend... Kendall- Short Bus- Young of Ritchey Components. He's a lot smarter than he looks here... no really, I swear he is.
The happiest Brand Manager in all of Taiwan...
... and with good reason.
A bunch of guys with big steaks and one guy (of questionable manhood) with lasagna- Maris Adamovics (Ritchey Taiwan), Kendall- "I like beef"- Young, Pat- "my wife thinks I'm cool"- Crosby, Wayne- Bearded Lady- Doran, John- "snoring chainsaw"- Webber, Joe- "I'm not signing that expense report"- Hawk and Masiguy.
Meet Matt McClendon, our good buddy from Kenda Tires. Though his Wii form might be a little odd, he's a great guy... I promise.
On my last day in Taiwan, the last day of the show, there was an amazing political rally/ parade. Thousands and thousands of people filled the street and carried signs and waved flags, chanting political slogans. It was 100% unlike anything I've ever experienced in the US. It was moving- I had goose bumps and even got teary-eyed a few times. The people were so amazingly passionate about their political experience. People came up to me to shake my hand and say "Taiwan #1" and then moved on or told me all about their political views- some even did so in English. I stood there in awe as I watched the throngs of people marching by- men, women, young, old, children... it was amazing. Taiwan has a precarious and tenuous relationship with China- China claims Taiwan as part of China- and Taiwan wants to remain (essentially) independent. It has created some incredibly high tensions between the two and the rest of the world is watching very nervously. All I can say is that I hope the two work it all out without a single shot ever having to be fired. I've never been to China, so I can't make claims about the country or people, but I have been to Taiwan several times now and have some very close relationships there and have a great fondness for the people and the country. It is my sincere hope that this political process yields a strong leader for the country and that this new leader can work well with the leaders in China to secure an enduring peace between the two.
Even the dogs get into the process in Taiwan!
That's all for tonight...
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Thanks for your patience- let's get to the good stuff now!
As a race nerd, I still seriously geek-out on cool stuff like these wheels. I never did find out who the actual manufacturer is, but several brands had their labels on them. They were pretty cool and light though.
There are many very talented frame makers in Taiwan. This particular one struck me for its very fluid lines and nice structural features- check out the beefy dropout area and the ridge by the seat collar area. The frame had a lot of great and complex shapes.
Biomega continues to make some of the coolest bikes I've seen. I just love their simple designs and creative touches. This bike just made me smile when I saw it.
One of my favorite trends developing right now is painted/ colored bars, stems and seatposts. Sure the finishes may scratch over time, but when you are creating a really beautiful bike and can add some awesome colored accents... parts like this are a great thing to have available. Keep your eyes open for a few well-known companies to be doing this... trust me on this one.
It's no secret that I'm a big SRAM fan. I still love my Shimano and Campagnolo parts too- in fact I just finished building a new steel sample frame with my Dura Ace parts (pictures later) and rode it tonight. But I've been one of the folks who claimed that SRAM's entry into the road market would be a good thing for all of us. Well, the venerable Rival group is getting nice updates like a black finish to match the Force and Red groups and is also getting a new carbon fiber brake lever. What was already a good looking group for the money is now a drop-dead-sexy group for the money. (Don't worry though... the folks from Japan are not going quietly into the night... not at all... but I can't say anything yet.)
One of the biggest product highlights of the show was these guys; Grammo.
I'm a true racing geek and love cool looking race gear, but these wheels were simply off the charts!
Thing is, they spun incredibly smoothly and felt very nice in the hands. The large carbon bladded spokes were very cool with two steel threaded spokes that went in to the rim and used regular spoke nipples.
These babies were just simply stunning- they really did a great job on the cosmetics.
I pretty much fell in love with them and fondled them each time I walked by the booth. They were starting to get a little concerned.
I'd love to say I talked my way in to a set of the wheels to test and report on for you, my faithful and wonderful readers... but I failed to even get any words out of my mouth because I could hardly breath from the hyperventilating.
So those are the product highlights that I'm allowed to tell you about... (nudge, nudge, wink, wink...). Next up will be some of the people who make going to the Taipei show such a good time.
So until the next time- good night!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The view outside my window of the San Want hotel in Taipei around 10:00PM on my first night in town. The city never really sleeps... it gets quieter, but never actually quiet.
I know it's a crappy picture, but this is the Taipei 101 (world's tallest building). You can barely see what looks like smoke billowing from the top. I don't know what it actually was, but it was creepy looking.
This really cool sculpture stands in front of the new convention center. It's huge! Probably over 100' tall. It's a really cool sculpture- it's on the cover of the current Bicycle Retailer and Industry News too.
The architecture is very cool and modern- my pics do it no justice. The metro rail passes right in front too.
The main reason I arrived in Taipei a day early was so that I could attend the annual Velo/ Wellgo party. I use a lot of Velo products from handlebar tapes/ grips to nearly all of my saddles. Stell Yu is an incredible woman and I have immense respect for her. She has built an empire in the industry and is still as genuinely humble as you can possibly imagine. So I arrived a day ahead of my co-workers so I could serve as the company representative for this annual party thrown by Stella and her sister company, pedal/ shoe maker, Wellgo (Xpedo).
Here, George Lai of Velo kicks the evening off. George is another great guy to know in this industry.
The highlight of the evening for me was the HanTang Yuefu traditional Chinese folk art performance group.
These women put on the most wonderfully elegant and beautiful performances you can imagine. I really enjoy traditional performances like these and I was greatly impressed by the show we were provided- it was simply amazing.
The evening wrapped up with a toast to the attendees (a few hundred people) from Stella. It was a great night shared with some wonderful people.
So my next post will be from the show floor- people, products and more... I promise.
(PS- And thank you for all the birthday wishes. It is sincerely appreciated. )
Monday, March 17, 2008
I have pictures and even a few videos to share, as always, so stay tuned.
I'm gonna go to bed now... sucks to be so wiped out on one of my favorite days of the year (St. Patrick's Day). Tomorrow is also my birthday, so hopefully I'll be semi-coherent long enough to blow out my candles.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
As soon as I get the chance to sit down and do a bit of writing and downloading of pics, I'll get you updated.
The new convention center here in Taipei is awesome. I have a few pics and will post them once I can. This show is the first in the building- the paint is still wet and it still smells of wet cement. The president of Taiwan was here to open the show and present the center to the press. It's pretty cool. If you dig modern architecture, Asia is the place to go. Lots of great design here.
Ok, back at it again.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Since it is nearly 9:00PM here and my body thinks it is nearly 6:00AM... I think I'll go for a walk and find something to eat for dinner.
Pictures to follow soon.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
This weekend was a spastic blend of activity and errands and the usual "etcetera". My daughter stayed with her mother Friday night and Saturday morning, so I was able to get out for a nice ride on Saturday... even though my legs were totally useless. All the missed rides lately have taken a toll on the legs that were beginning to come back around. Still, it was great to get out and ride.
Saturday evening, The Princess and I went to my sister's house to babysit my nephew overnight. This morning and afternoon, the three of us waded through the day in a nice lazy way, enjoying the beautiful weather we've been blessed with the past few days. My sister and brother-in-law returned later in the afternoon and then Masidaughter and I headed home. She went back to her mother's and then I ran out to get a quick haircut before heading off to the tradeshow and innumerable meetings and dinners.
Once the haircut chore was done, I was home and getting into my riding kit and headed off for a nice ride on my Speciale Fixed before the sun could set on the day- thank goodness for Daylight Savings Time! I rode my usual sprint workout loop down on the bay- the sunset was spectacular and the weather was ideal. It was a great ride and a great end to the weekend.
After the ride, I came back home to finish laundry and packing. I also grilled up some yummy fish, along with some black eyed peas (I am a Southern boy after all).
All things considered, I guess I'd have to say it was a good weekend. Now comes the hard part- a long flight with my knees thrust up under my chin and the eternal battle of good and evil (and possession of the arm rest).
As always, I'll do my best to get some blogging done- along with some podcasting and maybe even a bit of video. Whenever possible, I'll do my best to get photos too... as always.
Ok, gotta run and get a little sleep before the day kicks off and the miles tick by.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
If you are at the SXSW festivities in Austin, TX, go say hello to my blogging/ biking brother DL Byron and the Bike Hugger crew. Please... they're good people... I swear.
They are doing a ride too... though it is underway as I type... because I'm so lame!
Sorry this is late, but I hope a few people read this and make it to the festivities...
... and sorry DL... I meant to do this days ago.
Friday, March 07, 2008
So now you know what the frame looks like. You'll love it- I promise.