Thursday, December 31, 2009
I am blessed to have the friends that I have, as well as the family. Many of the connections I have made through this space are ones that have changed my life and enriched it beyond words. I know, without doubt, that many of the friends I have made through this blog and other forms of Social Media will be friends I will have forever. That never ceases to amaze me and is something that I do not take for granted.
Hopefully this year will have fewer stresses and challenges- the economy will hopefully turn around further and the conflicts of the world will hopefully abate. I dream of a day when my kids will be able to feel safe, or at least I will be able to worry less.
As the glow of 2009 fades away and 2010 begins to shimmer, I want to wish the world a better year than the one we've just had. May your days and nights be filled with happiness, love, health, wealth and security.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Today, at work, I rode again for a little less than an hour... and it was easily one of the most painful rides I've had in a very long time. The combined loss of fitness from the past few months has really taken a toll. I dare say, I'm in worse shape than I was when I came back from my crash over a year ago. Granted, the night of the crash I was actually feeling quite fit... but I came back from near death in better shape than I am in right now! Again- ugh...
Thing is, these past two days of really lackluster riding have helped me realize how much I love my bikes and how much I have missed them. I hate being so out of shape and so overweight (by my standards), but I love to ride. I'm looking forward to losing weight, regaining fitness and then hopefully getting back to racing in 2010. It's time to get on the USA Cycling website and buy my racing license and try to figure out how I'm going to find enough time to train. The bruised ego is still smaller than the desire to get out there and race. It's humbling to now be pack fill, but I sure do spend a lot of time smiling at the back of the group.
I won't be fat and outta shape forever- that much I know. So here's a call to all my fellow "wanna get back in shape" friends; let's make it happen in 2010. We'll support each other, share our experiences, offer help, advice and encouragement... and we'll enjoy riding our bikes.
What say you?
Friday, December 25, 2009
I write this blog because I am a blogger and a very social person, but also because of the friends I have made and community that has grown here. I am blessed, and more thankful than you know, that you come here to read the stuff that comes out of my head. I sincerely wish you all the very Merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years- I pray for all of us that the new year will be filled with health, happiness and prosperity.
The past year has been one filled with many different challenges and struggles, but I feel blessed to be doing what I do and to have the friends and family that I do. All of you make my life so much more satisfying- much more than you know.
Thank you for the support and friendship that you have given- it is a much greater gift to me than you know.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Well, anyway, I owe you all many thanks for sticking around this silly little stopping point in the blogosphere. I hope to eventually get back into the swing of things and get some content flowing around here again. For now, let's finish the whole Korea /Taiwan/ Japan adventure... shall we?
The Korean show was really awesome. Sanghoon Yoon, who owns/operates our distributor there Kisong International is a fantastic guy and his partner Jay is also very cool. I really enjoyed being in Seoul and really do hope to visit there again... especially when it isn't so cold! It began to snow as I was leaving- the wind was blowing the snow sideways and about 30mph. I'm looking forward to seeing nice things happen in the Korean market! It was pretty exciting to give 3 magazine and 1 television interview during the one day I was at the show- felt like a really good introduction of the brand to the market.
The booth; nothing other than Masi and Brev M parts! No way I can complain about that.
Sanghoon and I sitting for one of the magazine interviews- under the watchful eye of Faliero Masi. No pressure... no, not at all.
Could this stack of tubes be your next Masi? If you're lucky, they just might be...
In the jig to test mitering of tubes to make sure the stay is mitered properly for the seat tube to be welded to it.
A couple old dropouts used for checking tolerances. They never get ugly to me.
If you're in Korea and looking for a Speciale Premio frameset... be patient, they're on the way!
A rooftop view of Taichung- my home away from home and where I met my wife. Needless to say, I like Taichung a lot.
This "graffiti" was on a wall near my in-law's home in Taipei. Such a cool, random thing.
Once in Tokyo- actually Asakusa- I headed to the temple, like I always do. This year though, the main temple was being restored. Still, it didn't stop me from walking up and saying prayers.
I love this temple. I'm not a Buddhist, I'm more of a religious omnivore- I take and hold onto all the tidbits of religions that feel right to me. Visiting churches and temples of all kinds fills me with great peace and happiness.
The "other" reason for my visit to Tokyo was the annual CyleMode consumer show and the booth was jumping all three days of the show.
The new Brev M parts line was making a nice intro as well in Japan- lots of very savvy riders in Tokyo, arguably the savviest- so it was good to see the consumers hanging around the parts and checking them out. One of the very sexiest bike parts I've seen in a very long time- high flange Suzue 10spd road hub. I must've slobbered over that hub for a good 10 minutes. I kept walking back to it too... I'm a nerd.
Vittoria has reproduced some of their classic road shoes and these red ones with hard racing soles were so sexy I nearly walked away with them... but they were far too small for my size 12 feet... dammit!
Rin Project makes some of the very coolest stuff you can possibly imagine! Oh man... I've been slobbering over their product since the show last year. This year I got to meet one of the coolest cats around, Koichiro Nakamura, whose business card calls him the company Communicator... I love that title. Koichiro is a super cool dude and I thoroughly dug hanging out in his booth for a bit slobbering over the cool stuff they make. The hairnet helmet with snap on visor is on my Must Have list... in case anybody is shopping for me. The knickers are sweet too... too many cool things. Check out their stuff- no US distribution yet, as they are taking their growth slowly and cautiously, but they make some incredible products. Trust me...
We all know how much I love Keirin racing, but I still haven't had the pleasure of getting to a race while in Japan. But I walked up on this display and what I thought was going to be a Keirin discussion of some kind, but all I got to watch was some excellent race footage of the 2009 season. I was on edge watching the racing and really itched to be on my bike in the thick of the action!
Many a Keirin rider in Japan and around the world owes this man a huge thank you- this is Toshiyuki Ogino. Ogino-san is the President of MKS- the son of the company founder- and runs the company with immense pride. It was an honor to meet the man behind the brand- a brand we are SUPER proud to be able to spec on our bikes, even if only on a few bikes. MKS pedals are some of the finest around and there are only a few companies who have the ability to use the famous NJS stamp on their products.
Dessert one night after an incredible dinner- my fantastic hosts never miss a detail- ever! The great people at Kozaki are fantastic to work with and I am extremely proud to have them as our distributor for Japan.
Dinner the last night in Tokyo was at a very prestigious teppanyaki grill... and I think my taste buds died and went to heaven. The Kobe beef was so incredibly succulent and tasty... surreal. The company was also fantastic, making the meal that much more enjoyable.
The train ride to the airport was quiet and smooth- as all train rides in Japan are. If Japan does not have the best subway/ train system in the world, then it has to be among the finest.
I spend a ton of time traveling with this job. The travel has taken me around the world to countries I only ever dreamed I'd see and experience. Korea was all new for me and it is now a country I hope I am lucky enough to return to. Japan is a country I have now visited for the past three years and I am in love with the country and the people. I hope to be lucky enough to return for a bit longer and get out of Tokyo to see more of the land and people... and I would LOVE to have a bike with me! Taiwan is truly my second home now and is the place where I met my wife and now have family and a home. I am very proud of the fact that our bikes are made in Taiwan and I always enjoy my time in Taiwan, no matter where I go. Sometimes I get whiny about the travel, especially when it is during the periods of the year where I am traveling nearly every other week. But, truth be told, aside from the whacked out sleep patterns, the lack of riding, the time away from loved ones at home, I do really enjoy traveling for a living. I dreamed of being a paid cyclist traveling the world because of a bicycle... the dream has turned out a bit differently than I originally thought, but it is no less rewarding.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Taoyuan (Taipei). The past few days in Taiwan have been great- the
Taichung Bike Week "show" was very productive and I am really excited
about a few finds and how thebikes for 2011 are shaping up. It was
also great to have some time at hone with my wife inthe condo she
owns. She's staying until the 21st before returning to the US. I'mon
the train to the airport so that I can go to Tokyo until the 14th
before heading home.
This short 45min ride to the airport is always something I enjoy
actually because I get to see a little different slice of Taiwan and
some more of the beautiful countryside along the way. Taiwan always
captivates me with its amazing beauty which is such a stark
contradiction to some of the industrial areas I visit while here. As I
have said so many times before- Taiwan is an amazing place, filled
with massive beauty and wonderful people that clash with the "uglier"
side of Taiwan's role as one of the manufacturing hubs of the world. I
love this place though and it is very much a hone to me with my wife
being from here and me now having a wonderful family I am proud to be
a part of.
Soon I'll be on a plane to Tokyo and another wonderful place I love to
visit. I'll try to post some pics when I can get hooked back up to the
See you soon.
Sent from my iPhone
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Speciale Fixed LTD on the streets of Seoul! I spotted this kid and his friend riding and doing trackstands and wheelies on this pedestrian island in front of the hotel my first night. I was in such shock that I barely got the camera out in time to snap this terrible picture.
I told them I am Timothy- they didn't seem to care.
One of the amazingly beautifl greenways in the city- tons of great open space in such a huge city. This little river trail was amazing. There was a carp in the river that had to be as long as my arm. I was itching for my fly rod!
Seoul played host to the '88 Summer Olympics and I walked by the Olympic Stadium- this cycling sculpture was really cool. The whole road was decorated with sculptures from the variousl events. Really awesome artworks too- I was really impressed.
This building was awesome! I couldn't stop taking pictures of it. I probably took 20 pictures of it. It was so much more impressive in person... trust me.
These 3 young women were playing music in the hotel lounge. It went from traditional Korean music to Beatles covers and was amazing. Each of them looked like they were about 16 years old, but they were amazingly talented. The picture is dark because I didn't want to blind them with my flash, but trust me that they were exceptionally talented.
The Olympic rings at the Olympic Stadium- always an impressive sight.
Typical bike rack on the streets of Seoul- the main market here is simple sity bikes used for transportation. There weren't many on the street because it was pretty chilly- 40 degrees- and drizzly. But nearly all the racks had a few bikes locked into them.
Speaking of bikes... this was one of the two shops I visited. This one was geared more towards the lower price spectrum of family bikes- lots of kids bikes and very inexpensive city bikes. The store was tiny and I didn't see a door to a repair area, but I'm sure it was there somewhere.
This shop actually had some more expensive bikes- Specialized, Scott, Orbea, Gios among a few others. The fixed gear bikes were prominently in the window. The only non-commuter/ city bikes I saw on the street were fixies. They are a big part of the market here.
I'll post more later when I have more time. Heading to the tradeshow in just a little bit, but wanted to leave you with a little sumthin' to stare at until I get some pics from the show floor.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
The first spot proved totally unproductive so I headed towards a regularly good spot and then the hits started coming and I had a string of four fish on four casts. Once that spot stopped producing, I moved a little further down the beach and ended up with another four fish before finally calling it a night when my back and shoulder began to complain.
In the end, a night of 8 quality fish- all of which were released for another night of fun- was a very nice return to the water. The water had a slight wind chop on it when I first arrived but the wind eventually subsided and the glass returned to the water's surface and I was swallowed up the tranquility.
It's nice to be sitting here typing with some soreness in my right shoulder from a worn out arm from all the casting. It was a nice night for sure!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Why fight against tradition...
Like I am every day, I am thankful for my wife and daughter and their good health. Both of them enrich me more than I can express. I won't wax too poetic here- this time- but I would be nothing without the two women in my life.
I am thankful for the relationship I have with my ex-wife as well- she is a great mother and a valuable partner in raising our daughter.
I am thankful for the health of those around me who I cherish and love so much. Our health is such a blessing and is easy to ignore until it's pushed back in our faces.
I am thankful for my own health again! I get a little frustrated and cranky lately because I have ridden so little the past 3 months due to work, travel, silly injuries and sickness... but to do so is a gift. I was staggeringly close to death just a little over a year and a half ago and today I am well enough to complain about not having the time to ride as often as I would like. When I was lying in a hospital bed, unable to move well and wearing a cervical collar for my broken neck, I swore I'd never take my health for granted again- I think that's part of why I get so frustrated when I can't ride... it feels like breaking a promise.
I am thankful to have a job that I am very passionate about and really love doing. Sure, like all jobs everywhere, there are days when I roll out of bed grudgingly because I'd rather sleep or because the weather is just far too beautiful to be inside staring at a computer. BUT... my entire reason to go to the office is to work on creating ways to help others enjoy the simple joys of riding a bike. In the end, I have nothing to complain about. I design bicycles- not guns. Hallelujah.
I am thankful that I have made so many friends over the past few years via the connections that have occurred due to the simple act of communicating through this silly thing we call the Internet. I have so many friends across the globe- most of whom I've never met and might never meet, yet they are no less real as friends than any other friend I have here in San Diego. Sincerely- I am thankful for having "met" each and every one of you over the nearly 5 years I have been writing this blog. You guys/ gals are the gravy on my potatoes today and always.
I am thankful to have the family I do. Like all families, mine is not perfect, but I am thankful that my family is mine. I have seen other families up close and seen how bad tings can be- I am blessed to have the nurturing and supportive family that I do. They have watched my life take all the twists and turns of a GP race course, they have helped me when in need- or in the hospital, and they have laughed and cried with me along the way. I don't tell them often enough, like most people, but I love them all very deeply.
Now, in just a few minutes, I'm gonna be thankful that the seams on my bib shorts and jersey are strong enough to contain my doughy ass as I go for a nice little ride so that I can have a tiny smidge of an excuse to eat several pounds of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and a few gallons of gravy.
Enjoy your day of thanks as well- no matter how you do it or when.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I wish I could say there was any other reason than just the generic "I've been busy". I haven't been riding at all- between the back injury and being sick, I haven't touched a bike in weeks. Hopefully this week will break that cycle... I hope. The reality is that I've just been so slammed with work that by the time I am home from work, I have barely got the mental power to do the Twittering that I do. I have to admit that Twitter has been killing my blogging- the simple 140 character pseudo haiku has proven to be very effective at eating my motivation to blog. Frankly though, that bothers me and I want to regain my blogging power... promise I'm working on it.
Things have been super busy with the development of the 2011 bike line. Yeah- I know, it isn't even 2010 yet. I know... that's part of why I'm so dizzy! Our spec and design cycle gets increasingly shorter year after year. It's a freaking miracle I know what year it is now... 2020, right? We've already got all of our bike colors, names and models selected and are in the process of wrapping up key design elements, as well as spec. Spec is always the big issue and we'll be finishing the loose bits while in Taiwan in a little more than a week. Which brings up...
... I leave for Taiwan and Japan the first week of December. I'll be in Taiwan for Taichung Bike Week, which is the mini un-tradeshow for OEM market. It's the last big chance to see the newest of new products or finalize spec selections, etc before putting the product range to bed. We'll be there sniffing out the best stuff available, as well as getting preliminary views of the latest goodies coming from the big players in the component world. It's pretty exciting for a professional spoke sniffer like myself. The best part of the Taiwan trip for me is getting to sleep in my own bed, in my wife's condo she owns... which just happens to be a block away from where all the show meetings take place! AND... she'll be in Taiwan at the same time! She'll be there primarily to visit family, but at least I'll see here there when I am there. That's a very cool thing.
After Taiwan, I will be returning to Tokyo for the Cycle Mode consumer show for the 3rd year. I love Tokyo and the Cycle Mode show. Japan is simply amazing and our distributor there- Kozaki- is a fantastic host and I am always stupendously happy there. The show is great, the Japanese consumers are great to talk to... and I eat my way through Tokyo like Godzilla on a rampage! I swear... Tokyo may be my favorite place on the planet for food... I love it! I hope this year to finally make it over the uber hip, keirin themed bar- Kinfolk- while I am in the city too. I've never been able to get there in the past, but I'm going to try to get there this year and finally meet up with the very cool folks behind the place. I have no idea if there is any keirin racing going on the time of year in Tokyo, but if there is, I am going to make an effort to get to it. I'm also on a quest to get my hands on anything keirin related... so I'll be hunting!
As of Friday of last week, I might be also adding a little "detour" on the front of this trip; may be headed to Seoul, South Korea for a couple days to see the Seoul Bike Show- which is the Korean equivalent of the Japanese Cycle Mode shows. Our new distributor there will be debuting Masi (and Brev M), so I may be there to assist them in the public launch of the brand there. In the end it means a 3rd country in my 2 week trip, but I am excited by the possibility of seeing Korea and having the chance to help our new distributor there- Kisong International.
As always, as much as I can while I am traveling, I will be doing my best to post to the blog. However, in light of the fact I am often super busy while on the road, I don't get much time for blogging so it's a good idea to keep your eyes on my Twitter and Facebook for short notes and frequent images.
Here's to a great Thanksgiving week- I'll be back in less than 12 days this time, I promise.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
For the first couple years of this blog, which will be 5yrs old in March, I used to infrequently remark, "wow, today/ this week was really busy!" Over time that began to slowly migrate to "wow, this has been a busy month!" Now... "busy" is the new status quo and "I'm losing my mind" has become the new change of pace.
This weekend and last night, I had the pleasure of finally meeting some "old" friends face to face and making some new friends at various tweetups in town as the PRSA09 conference was in town. I got to finally meet my friend Kellye Crane, new friend Lauren Vargas and old new friend Steve Woodruff. I got to make new friends like Kami Huyse, Jacob Sloan and Fran Stephenson- among all the others whose names I have forgotten and business cards I have yet to rediscover. All of these folks are very smart people deeply involved in public relations and/ or social media. We all know I'm an SM geek, but I have a strong respect for PR professionals as well- a lot of what I do with marketing and branding shares very similar traits with PR. I was lucky enough to get to join these folks at various get-togethers during the week after the conferences. It should go without saying that I had a fantastic time and I am very happy I got to share some conversations and laughs with some folks I have a lot of respect for.
Tomorrow will hopefully be the day I get back on the bike for the first time in more than a week since hurting my back. The muscle is still pissed off with me, but it seems to be getting better... and I am growing too impatient to wait any longer. It's gonna be one of those agonizing recovery rides where everything feels wrong and I feel like I should just take up golf... but you have to start somewhere. I've been hoping for months that this winter will be the winter where I actually get back into the routine of steady training- even when traveling- so I really am anxious to get back on the bike and even into the gym. I'll try to report on how things go tomorrow...
So many cool little things going on right now and hopefully I'll be able to report on them very soon. There's some exciting things going on- I promise.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
The only "glitch" to the week is that in a totally inane and seemingly innocuous way, I pulled a muscle or strained something in my back that has left me completely unable to ride since Tuesday and in moments of searing pain. As I was putting my backpack on my left shoulder- which has my laptop in it and is relatively heavy- the strap slipped off the shoulder and fell to the ground. In my attempt to catch the pack and save the computer from hitting the ground, I twisted awkwardly and the weight of the bag caused the injury somehow. I did manage to save the bag from hitting the ground, but my back has paid the price. I've been walking like an old man or Frankenstein ever since. Today is the first day that sitting down or standing up doesn't result in a serious groan of pain. For the record; getting stupid injuries because you're a dork (and getting old) really, really sucks. The "silver lining" is that my cold seems to have gone away finally... now if I could only ride a bike...
This weekend is the start of the PRSA 09 conference here in San Diego. Though I am not attending the conference, it has brought a convergence of many of the really, really smart folks I "know" through Social Media (and if you have been reading this blog for very long, you know I'm as passionate about SM as I am about bikes). Last night after the conference, I went to one of the tweetups and had the chance to finally put a face to the @. I don't get too many chances to attend any of these kinds of functions from here in San Diego- usually because I'm quite simply working or traveling- so it's always a bit of a thrill when I get to meet people I only know digitally and even more exciting when I meet new smart people. So, even in my sore old man condition, I had a blast getting to talk to some great folks last night like Lauren Vargas, Kami Huyse, Fran Stephenson and Jacob Sloan. The conference goes until Tuesday so I'm going to get the chance to meet a few more of my friends this week and I'm very happy about that (bad back or not)! For all the rest of you attending PRSA09 who I have not yet met- welcome to San Diego! I look forward to meeting you over the next couple days.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Tonight was another little milestone; my daughter's first time watching me race since the terrible crash last year. Nearly since the minute I got back on a bike and began to ride again, she's been asking when we were going to the track so she could see me race again. All summer, she's been asking and has been really bummed out when I have gone to race without her. So tonight, after I picked her up from school, we headed to the track.
I won't lie- I was a little nervous about having her there and it certainly brought out the much more cautious side of me. I kept thinking, "not in front of her again". Luckily, there were no crashes at all tonight and she had another young girl to run around and play with all night as well. Needless to say, she was a happy 8 year old girl.
It would be easy, as a total starry-eyed dreamer Pisces, to sit here and try to analyze this desire of hers to see me race again; she needed to have closure, she needed to see her daddy get back and complete the journey of recovery, she needed to get over her own fear of what might happen. I don't know the answer and maybe I never will, but I know one thing- she had fun at the track again.
As for the racing... well, it would be a great story to say that I was able to get back on the bike after a month on the road with travels and kick ass. Well, this ain't Hollywood and I'm not Leonardo DiCaprio... sadly. BUT... I did have a great time with some really crappy legs.
1st race was 5 lap Scratch to "seed" for second event- I got second place and advanced.
2nd race with a Miss and Out... and I was out on the first lap. I've never liked the event!
3rd race was a 20 lap Points race and I scored points on the first and second laps... then dropped WAY back to second chase group. Not sure where I finally finished.
In the end, I had fun and I got to share it with my daughter; sometimes life is very good.
PS- Those Reynolds wheels were awesome! More in-depth report to follow... eventually.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
While I was in Rhode Island, a couple of boxes of amazing sexiness showed up at the office- a pair of the new Reynolds Assault carbon clincher road wheels and a pair of the all-new Assault carbon clincher track wheels! Now, as I've said recently- I really love my current wheels I've been riding on my Ultegra 3VC bike. The Ritchey WCS Zeta wheels are amazing- hands down one of the very best clincher wheelsets I've ever ridden- period. The Ultegra tubeless wheels paired with the Hutchinson tubeless tires is an amazing set of wheels too- the tubeless tires mated with the great wheels really does do a fantastic job of mimicking a set of high end sew-ups... even I have been amazed. However... I admit I am a massive product dork... massive. Reynolds makes some of the most respected carbon wheels on the market and the new carbon clinchers are making a lot of people very happy. I have friends at Reynolds who asked me to test the wheels out and give them some feedback... so I'm gonna do that!
I have to admit that I have stayed away from carbon clincher rims; I've never been impressed with the braking power/ responsiveness and the potentially fragile nature of the rims has always left me wondering "why bother?" So I am more skeptic than fanatic, to say the very least. With that in mind, I have been keeping an open mind. The Assault C wheels have an advertised weight of 1525gms... damned light for a set of wheels with 46mm deep section rims and more than 2 spokes per wheel! It's a very respectable weight for a set of aero wheels and light enough to make a fella my size- 198.6lbs at the start of my ride- worry about durability and stiffness.
Reynolds supplies the wheels with special plastic tire levers to prevent damage to the rim when installing/ removing tires, a spoke wrench that goes into the deep recess of the rim, very nice rim strips, valve extenders, nice quick release skewers and a full set of carbon-specific brake pads. The rear hub uses the "older" Shimano 8/9/10 cassette body, so you can use all Shimano cassettes as well as SRAM- the newest version of the deeper grooved Shimano 10spd cassette body will ONLY work with new Shimano 10spd cassettes due to the profile of the grooves in the body. That's good news for people like me who have more than one component group on multiple bikes and don't want to have to buy multiple sets of performance wheels.
I mounted the wheels with my new Ultegra 6700 cassette and my current favorite clincher tire- the Kenda Kriterium 700x25. Seriously, this is an amazing tire- it rides SO much like a sew-up on the right wheels and is easily on par with any tubeless tire/ wheel combo I've tested so far. Sincerely- you should try them out and not just as a training tire because the extra width and sticky rubber make the tires excellent race tires that corner like the proverbial bats from hell.
Once the tires and cassette were installed, I changed out the brake pads and they went in smoothly into the shoes. Like nearly every carbon brake pad I've seen so far, the pads had a small "ridge" down the center of the braking surface that is caused by how they are molded. I didn't bother to file or sand the ridge off- mostly because I couldn't find my sandpaper- but you might want to when you install yours. It just helps them break in better and a little faster in my opinion. Now the wheels and the bike were ready for today's ride!
Today I tackled one of my favorite loops that is pretty much an out and back from my home and then north up the coast and back home. This loop includes numerous hills as well as longer stretches where you can put your head down and hammer like it's a time trial or a breakaway... all in all a great way to test wheels over the 55 miles. Plus, many of the roads are pretty nasty in parts, so it's also a good test of durability and comfort.
As I rolled away down the street, the wheels popped and pinged with the sound of spokes settling in to their newly stress-relieved homes. There's something about that sound that is just very satisfying. I don't know why, it just is. My first thoughts on the wheels as I took off where that the slightly extra power needed to start the wheels rolling was quickly rewarded with them wanting to stay rolling and being easy to keep moving quickly. They seemed to like to be up to speed and accelerated very well once moving. The first few stops were met with a little more "slowing" than "stopping" as the carbon pads and rims wore in a little. I was pleased to not notice the usual "pulsing" sensation when braking that I have felt on other carbon wheels I've ridden, including the carbon sew-ups I occasionally ride. The braking was consistent pretty quickly after the rims and pads began to get to know each other, but the braking power was noticeably less than normal pads on an alloy breaking surface.
After a couple miles I was on open roads, less shielded from the winds. Though the winds were light today, if you've ridden lightweight wheels with a tall profile, you're familiar with the sometimes twitchy nature of them and how easily they get buffeted by the winds. The very skinny, but non-aero spokes used in the wheels definitely help with that. I only noticed minor wind issues when sitting up riding with no hands to use my phone or reach for food in my pockets- otherwise they were very stable under normal conditions and did not require any real extra attention.
The front wheel felt very stiff when I got out of the saddle and showed no signs of moving around when climbing or sprinting- at my weight, that's something I frequently experience with light/ lighter wheels. The rear wheel seemed to be pretty darned stiff too- especially when applying power when seated. However, I did notice a bit of flex when out of the saddle and really swinging the bike around on a couple of short, steep power climbs on my ride- including one short climb I did a sprint interval on. Under that extreme sideloading, I did feel flex and possibly even the rim pulling into the brake pad- but I can not yet confirm that and will give the wheels the benefit of the doubt until I can do a better job of testing that theory. That said, I did not notice any flex from the wheels when diving through turns very aggressively, at speed. Normally, if a wheel is flexy, you'll feel it there too but the wheels tracked perfectly through turns- no matter how hard my sub-200lb body drove through the turns- which impressed me. So I'm not sure if I felt actual flex when out of the saddle or not- I'll keep testing and will report my findings. Again- not all that many wheels out there wouldn't flex under the size of a rider like me.
I put the wheels to the test on some longer, stair-stepping climbs along the route as well. In my lighter days, I was actually a very good climber and still climb well- when fit- for a heavy sprinter. So good climbing wheels have always been something I have appreciated and the Assaults did pretty well. Again, at 1525gms, they are not true climbing wheels, but they aren't intended to be- they are aero wheels that are light enough to not be a penalty when the road isn't flat or going downhill. On the climbs, I noticed very little resistance to acceleration from the wheels. The rotational stiffness of the wheels seemed to make up for the weight and this is a recurring theme in many brands these days- whatever "penalty" there may be for a heavier wheel is made up for with acceleration and all-out speed when descending or on the flats. Speaking of descending... they do it very well. Again, that perceived desire of the wheels to keep rolling was a nice thing when flying downhill- they got up to speed and stayed there, requiring very little coaxing to maintain descending speed. Once near the bottom and needing to stop, the pads did the job well enough- though a bit of squealing was heard on a few descents/ quick stops. Still... not bad.
Overall, I'd give the wheels pretty high marks so far. I'm still going to check to see if the rear wheel is actually flexing when I sprint hard, but they rode very well today. In the end, I really can't think of any reason not to buy these wheels. At roughly $1500 for the wheelset, they are a pretty good value for a set of race/ training/ all around high performance wheels from what I can tell so far.
- I did manage to break the end off of one of the tire levers when installing the tires. The rim bed is pretty deep- which is a good thing on a carbon clincher- so rolling the tire on by hand was impossible with the Kenda tires. Maybe another brand might go on easier, but I am used to rolling these tires on without tools. So be ready for a little sweating.
- Carbon rims are notorious for poor breaking performance, so be prepared to adjust your braking patterns. That said, these did better than other wheels I've ridden. There wasn't the usual pulsing and as the day went on, the braking didn't suffer much- though the few times the wheels did squeal, it was near the end of the ride. But all in all, it was better than others.
- The wheels are really nice looking and the rims are clearly very well made- especially for the price. The hubs run on very smooth sealed bearings and the cassette hums along nicely and engages pretty quickly. Again, all very nice features in an "economical" set of full carbon wheels.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Day 2 rained a little, but was more wind than anything which made us nervous about the tents and the coming days. Luckily, the winds died down a bit and nothing blew away or sank into the soft ground.
We headed out into the wilds of Providence and braved the crazy winds blowing to visit a few shops in the town. First up was Caster's Bicycles and Fitness, which has been around for nearly a billion years in Rhode Island. We had a really nice visit with Reed and his crew there. It's a cool shop with a bunch of cool bikes hanging in the back area... which is where I always gravitate- I love to see what bikes are hanging around in a bike shop... the employee's bikes, the customer's bikes being repaired, etc.
I came across this sweet older Speciale Premio from a few years ago that looked to be in really good condition.
Hanging from another set of hooks in the ceiling was this pair of near-mint condition vintage Schwinn Paramounts... including this excellent women's step-through that stopped my heart.
After we left Caster's, we headed over to see Rob and his folks at East Providence Bicycles. While there, we chatted to Jason for a bit about the local BMX and MTB scenes- he's a pretty avid rider and super knowledgeable. It was cool- as it always is- to meet somebody very passionate about cycling. Sure, the whole MTB/ BMX thing isn't "my thing", but I am always in support of people who are passionate about cycling.
Our last stop was to visit Providence Bicycles- another shop with a long history in the city and crammed full of cool bikes and people.
I'm terrible with names, so I can't even remember who I spoke with there, but all of the guys working there were cool and really knowledgeable about the bikes there. I always geek out in shops like that and I took full advantage of the chance to get my geek on.
Fixed gear/ single speed bikes are a big part of the Masi business these days- and I'm not complaining. Because of that, I tend to be like moth to flame when I see anything related to the bikes. I walked over to this case at the shop and almost got dizzy... lots of cool part from the "cheap" and basic all the way up to the uber-sweet Five Gold saddles that I love so much. I'm a total geek for these kinds of things and I just stood and slobbered for a few minutes. (I'm that much of a dork... yes.)
After visiting Providence Bicycles, we were officially done for the day and headed back to the hotel. However... after getting back to the hotel and having some time to kill before dinner, I ventured out on foot and stopped to check out a little shop we drove by earlier in the day.
Dash Bicycle is a truly cool little core fixie shop, right on the edge of the cool Federal Hill area. The shop is small, uncluttered and caters to the fixie and urban scene without wallowing in hipster angst. If you just wanna keep your simple commuter running, they'll be happy to help you out. And that custom bike rack out front is just too danged cool for words! I really geeked out on that for a while.
If you're in Providence, you sure have a bunch of cool shops to choose from. And... Providence clearly has a healthy bike culture. We were constantly impressed by the number of people on bikes of all types. We ate at a mega-cool place called Julian's and the entire front of the place was plastered with bike related art or posters for bike related stuff/ happenings... it was awesome (as was the food, drinks and service at Julian's).
Next on tap; the demo event itself... so stay tuned for more!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
If you aren't interested in being a jedi, maybe you'd rather fly your bike nerd freak flag a little higher. If so, lemme know...
Friday, October 16, 2009
Hopefully this will mean the return of the blog. I have missed it very much.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
So we flew into Rhode Island, via a plane change in Washington DC, on Monday morning. We ended up at the hotel in Providence probably around 7:00PM and got ourselves some dinner before getting some sleep. The flights were thankfully uneventful and we arrived with our luggage this year... no repeat lost luggage this time. We stayed in the same cool hotel in Providence, which happens to be in the midst of a very well-flavored Italian district. Needless to say, we had no bad meals during our stay.
Tuesday morning showed up quicker than expected, thanks to the three hour time difference and minor jetlag. But it was nothing that couldn't be cured by a donut and coffee from Dunkin Donuts... which we had EVERY morning while in Providence. Our area sales rep, Lance Cohen, picked us up in the morning and we left Rhode Island for the wilds of Connecticut! While in Connecticut, we had quality shop visits with Newington Bicycle, Biker's Edge and Smart Cycles. Each of the shops was a different experience and each had their own distinct personality. However- each was really cool to spend some time in.
One of the highlights of the first day, aside from the great conversations with each of the shops, was this little gem...We spotted this beauty at Biker's Edge and I was like moth to flame... it should go without saying that a large can of Whoop Ass is in my near future.
Next report will be about Rhode Island dealer visits and the start of the demo event itself, but I'm falling asleep again (stoopid jetlag...)
Monday, October 12, 2009
For now... I'm getting some sleep.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
I get into Providence on Monday night and then we'll be doing some dealer visits Tuesday and Wednesday, then the fun starts on Thursday. Hoping to see a bunch of you folks while out there, so please come say hello and/ or bring us some beer! (Food is ok too.)
Got all my packing done before midnight and without nearly severing any body parts off and needing a trip to the ER for stitches (that part makes my wife happy). Now if only I wasn't sick... guess I can't have it all.
Time for bed so that I can get up for my pre-dawn journey to the airport. Talk to you kids later- I promise... mostly.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Vegas, for whatever reason, despite the upbeat mood and atmosphere was a black hole! My friend Martha lost a very valuable-to-her notebook, another acquaintance lost a wallet, my bro-ham Stevil lost his camera and my very own lovely wife lost her wallet. I knew of a few more such occurrences, but I have forgotten them at this moment (a residual effect of the black hole experience, I am sure).
Anyway... I'm still trying to regain the mental capacity to write up a proper recap of the Vegas adventures, so please be patient as I allow the battery to somewhat recharge for another day or two. I will be back... as soon as I can stop yawning and falling face first onto my laptop keyboard.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Anyway, Interbike was awesome. Had a great time and the bikes got a great reception at both Dirt Demo and the actual show. Lots of good buzz and conversations and time spent with my friends from the industry. I was once again reminded why I love this silly business.
My brain is far too fried to recap it all, so I will simply leave you a few links for now and then I'll be back later with a more comprehensive retelling of festivities. Yes- I still love you and I hope you know I've missed you.
New stuff worth knowing about.
Little video interview.
THE coolest schwag from Interbike!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Over the past few weeks and months, we've been ratcheting up the work and preparations in anticipation of Interbike... or Interbeast as some like to call it. Our creative guys have been working nearly 24hr shifts getting all the needed signage and other art needs ready. The Product Managers have been scrambling to make sure all of their samples are ready to be displayed- using duct tape and bubble gum to make them work, where necessary. Lots of hand painted and hand decaled items exist this time of year. We Brand Managers have been scrambling to coordinate the efforts of our Product Managers and assist where we can while providing the creative guys with the copy they need, or other direction. We've also been working with the sales folks to make sure we're all getting ready for the same things- communicating the right messages and delivering what is needed to make the show a success. We've also been getting demo fleets of bikes ready for test riders at Dirt Demo, as well gathering up the various sundries required to pull off Demo.
That's just a small part of it all too. Countless hours have been spent gathering the catalogs, building the booth, packing the supplies, making sure things work and are ready, etc, etc, etc... and a small army is required to make it all happen. We have a particularly small army, so it's always a matter of "all hands on deck". Sunday morning I will be part of the caravan driving the big rental trucks to Las Vegas. One half of the fleet will be headed to the convention center to set up the booth and all of the displays and the rest of us will be heading to Bootleg Canyon in Boulder city for the Dirt Demo action- we're not setting up the booth, but we are standing in 100+ degree heat, with sand being blown into every crack or crevice. It's a fun job... but a hot, dry and dirty one. Every year I leave Demo and head to the show totally dried out from the sun, possibly a little burned, and usually pretty sore from all the standing and running around. It's fun... but it hurts.
One might ask, "then why do all this?" We've all been asking that question for decades! Interbike- and other shows like Eurobike in Germany and ExpoCycle in Montreal- still remain the most effective ways to launch products to the retailers, media and ultimately consumers. A few brands are skipping Interbike in favor of smaller regional shows just for their retailers, so that they have a captive and focused audience. Show dates are moving farther and farther away from the dates of product releases and selling seasons (selling to the retailers), so they are losing a little of that particular power, but they still remain the "necessary evil" that works more than it doesn't work. Shows continue to evolve or devolve as demos prove more successful and regional/ private shows become more popular, but for now the shows still remain the best option available- especially for small brands still growing dealer base and with limited funds that make regional shows unaffordable... brands like Masi.
Another reason why we subject ourselves to the torturous amounts of stress is because we're a pretty social group of people, we bike industry wankers. We still suffer psychologically from an inferiority complex compared to other industries/ businesses, so we tend to do many things "the old way"- meaning tradeshows that no longer really meet the function they were originally created for. I can count the number of actual orders I've written at a tradeshow in the past five years on one and a half hands. BUT... the follow-up business has been significant as we've worked to rebuild the Masi brand. Most of our retailers have already gotten their catalogs and sales information long ago and are already placing orders now, so Vegas becomes a social event, if they chose to attend. Vegas is much more party than business function, but that's the whole point of evolution.
So, yes, I'm down to the last weathered tatters of sanity now. The show is looming large on the horizon and sleepless nights abound. I know I'm going to forget something or mess something up- it's just a matter of "what"... not "if". BUT... I will also see friends I only see once a year if I'm lucky, I'll get to look at really nice bikes (even the ones that aren't a Masi) and I'll hopefully get to see that new product that becomes the BIG THING. Most importantly, hopefully there will be that one conversation with a friend or somebody new that I walk away from the show remembering for years. Some years it's as simple as chatting with a "hero"- like the year I talked with John Tomac for a long time, or the time I hung out with Bob Roll- or maybe it'll be one of those quiet sidebar conversations that are too many to remember and too few to be satisfied with. In the end, the main reason I go through this nutty nonsense- aside from not having a choice because it's my job- is because I love this stuff. Every Interbeast comes and goes with so much fuss and calamity that I feel like I need to change careers... until the the anxiety fades and I remember the fun and the cool stuff. Between all the chaos lies my favorite time of the year. Go figure...
Monday, September 14, 2009
Also, we mention the Daily Mail's publication of James Martin's hate-filled, anti-cyclist review of the Tesla Motors Roadster. David Bernstein of the Fredcast and Spokesmen podcasts was able to secure an interview with Rachel Konrad of Tesla Motors which is a great piece of follow-up.
I've gone to the show several times over the past 5 years I've been with Masi to support our distributor there- Norco. Norco IS the 800lb gorilla of Canadian cycling- they have a huge line of bikes of their own and distribute nearly every product any consumer or retailer could possibly ever want. As a shameless plug for my friends up north, their Axiom line of accessories is simply top-notch and is some amazing stuff. I highly recommend it and personally endorse it!
Anyway... the folks at Norco and many of their suppliers are good friends of mine, either newly or from several years. Needless to say, it's never hard to get me to go to Montreal to support them and meet with their retailers. Plus, being the mega-bike-nerd that I am, I love being around bikes and bike people.
As I expected, traffic at the show did appear to be down from previous years- though I have no real data to prove that. The traffic in the booth was good, but the overall number of people walking the show did seem to be fewer than previous years. The Masi section of the booth was in prime real estate, so the bikes got great visibility and I had some outstanding conversations with people. I've been to shows in the past, when the economy was bad, and all retailers would talk about was how bad things were and how they were scared for their businesses... which makes for a long and very depressing show. However, this year, dealers were surprisingly upbeat. Sure, they are feeling the pinch of the economy- except for the ones having their best years ever and there were a few- but they felt very optimistic about the coming year. Many expressed having more inventory than they wanted to for this time of year, but they were confident the product would move and then they would have room for more new stuff. In the end, they were expressing a belief in a recovery- though they openly stated that they felt the US economy had been hurt much worse than the Canadian economy, so recovery was likely easier for them.
All that said, the response to the new bikes was exceptionally good. Many folks came back by the booth several times to look at bikes multiple times or to bring other members of their shop by to see bikes. I had more than one retailer say, "that's the best bike of the show, right there"... and that was said about more than one model. Needless to say, as always, that makes my heart skip when I hear stuff like that. We do work very, very hard to create the bikes in our line. It is no superfluous exaggeration to state that a little piece of us goes into each bike. In some cases, it's a really big piece. Having shops say glowing things is great and fills me with great pride, but one of the best things is when they take pictures of the bikes... especially when they use their phone to save the picture. One young shop kid took a picture and gleefully proclaimed that it was replacing the picture of his girlfriend as the wallpaper on his phone! THAT'S the stuff that really makes me feel pretty good... maybe not so much for his girlfriend though.
I have to give the usual thanks to all the folks at Norco- I don't even know where to begin so I'll just thank everybody. Rather than omitting somebody in a list- as I always do- I'll just leave it as a big thanks to all. As always, my friends, it was great to see you all and I sincerely enjoy and appreciate your kindness and friendship.
It was also great to make new friends like Taylor from Burley and Sonya from Ergon, as well as see great friends like Kendall from Ritchey, Chris (Smithers) from Lazer and Karl from Thule- to name a few. It is the people, much more so than the product- which is saying a lot- that I love the most about the work I do to pay the bills (well, most of the bills anyway). I may not be wealthy, but I can sincerely say that I am rich.
Over the course of my 5 day visit, I was able to get out and ride 3 times through the magnificent city that is Montreal. I love to experience a city via bike and I have been blessed to be able to ride in Montreal on multiple occasions. The city is raucous and hectic with some crazy traffic and drivers sometimes, but it all seems to work out. I've managed to avoid many close calls in Montreal and it always leaves me feeling a little bummed that I couldn't ride more. I love to ride on wide open roads in the country, but I live in the city and riding in the city is a part of who I am, so I am used to it and I have grown comfortable with the spastic poetry that is urban cycling. It may not be pretty in the usual sense, but there is something to it that fills me with a lot of joy and peace. Sure, I'd rather be miles from cars and stop lights, but since I can't always do that, I've grown to live with and appreciate the energy and flow of honking horns, brake lights and absentminded drivers. It's less Miles Davis and more Ornette Coleman, but it's a music of its own. I really enjoyed those few rides and seeing the city from angles I would never get otherwise. It's been said many times by people with far better skills than I, but seeing a city from a bicycle gives you a perspective that is somehow better and supremely more enjoyable.
After 5 days, it was time to come home and finish preparations for Interbike in Las Vegas... I leave on Sunday to drive out for set-up for Dirt Demo at Bootleg Canyon before heading into the city for the show itself. Montreal serves as the perfect "warm up" before the big event in Vegas and after my trip to Australia in July, I am pumped up and ready for a great show and excited to see what the US retailer feedback is like for the new bikes and the state of the US bike market.
Sorry for the infrequent posts lately- I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with this crazy workload and travel schedule... hopefully more regular posting will materialize soon.
Here are a few pics to wrap things up;
It's probably best that I am a little out of focus- the flab is harder to identify that way.
Yep, I forgot to bring a water bottle with the bike and had to resort to regular bottled drink bottles... but the view is still great!
The view in the daylight- it was a super warm and clear day on Saturday. The view of the city is always so incredible. Down in the distance is the Olympic Stadium from the Montreal Olympics of 1976... which it is rumored was only recently finally paid off.
A family of raccoons- not sure if they spoke French or not- was mooching snacks off the tourists at the lookout point. They looked well fed...
The Olympic Stadium up close- I got to ride by it during my long, getting lost, journey through the city. It is pretty cool up close and looks very modern even more than 20 years after it was built.
My faithful steed at rest along one of the wonderful views along the Saint Lawrence river- the bike trail along the river is gorgeous.
(PS- yes, I ate nearly my entire weight in poutine and Montreal bbq... )