But yes, it's been busy and remains busy and will stay busy for as long as I can see into the future. In a little more than a week (or less), my second daughter- Masidaughter 2.0- will be arriving in the world. My tiny little Taiwanese wife is growing to be as big as a house... on little stilt legs. It's simply amazing to me that she's still swimming between 1000-1500M every single day. She looks so cumbersome and awkward now, yet she is still as strong as ever and just blows my mind with how tough she is... even though she is beginning to hate me. Sorta.
Taiwan was amazing- as always- and very successful as well. Over the years, and especially since meeting my wife, I have grown to become more and more comfortable in Taiwan and it is now literally my second home- we still own my wife's condo in Taichung. As much as any "foreigner" can be, I really feel that I have become a part of Taiwan and not just the Taiwan bike industry. I still only speak about 5 words of Mandarin, but that doesn't stop the Taiwanese people from truly making me feel welcome and a part of their world. Many people I know have something of a love/hate relationship with Taiwan... but mine is all love.
I returned from Taiwan to having my mother in law here staying with us for the next month or so- she's here to help take care of my wife, in the very traditional Taiwanese way- as well as be here for the birth. Our daughter's name will be Lily Annchi. Annchi means "angel" in Mandarin. And since she is being born in the Spring, she is our Lily- our little flower and angel. We wanted to give her a name that would be both "American" and Taiwanese, to respect the two cultures that have created her. Annchi- pronounced kinda like "awn-chee"- is a name we felt would be less difficult for the usual English tongue to figure out and will hopefully not be one that never gets pronounced correctly. I am very happy to have my mother in law here, even though she doesn't speak English and I speak no Taiwanese (a different dialect than Mandarin). I am very proud to be taken in and accepted by my wife's family- they are wonderful people and clearly played a role in creating the woman I married.
As for the actual trip...
The show itself was very good. I heard some folks saying they felt the actual attendance numbers were down, though I did not really feel that- but I was in lots of meetings and in previous years was in even more meetings and saw very little of the show. So, truthfully, I'm a pretty poor gauge. However, the meetings I had with international distributors were all very good and I am super happy by how the new 2011 products were received. If the ID customers are any kind of an accurate barometer of things to come, the next year is going to be a really good one for Masi. Really, really good. In between meetings, I scoured the floor for "the next big thing" and I can honestly say I saw a lot of really cool things, but nothing really jumped out at me. The biggest thing I noticed was that nearly every supplier offers far more color customization than ever before. Whether it's drivetrain components or just cable housings, color is king. Frankly, that makes me super happy because that means the costs for special colors and color highlights will be coming down. If not this year (2011 product), then certainly next year. All in all, I got a good feeling about 2011. We're not out of the economic slump and there are lots of challenges ahead- like many suppliers saying there will cost increases coming on nearly all products by as much as 20%. Remember 2 years ago when there were materials shortages and high fuel costs driving pricing through the roof? Well, brace yourself for round two... due to changes in labor laws in China (which is actually a good thing globally), many manufacturers expect costs to climb significantly. Add a major labor shortage in the bike manufacturing industry and you have another "perfect storm" to create rising prices. Many experts expect the pricing to fall somewhere in the middle of the 10-20% increases being talked about, but one thing is certain- by the time 2011 and 2012 products begin to show up, costs will be going up too. You have no idea how much I wish that wasn't true... but...
While in Taiwan, our Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Gear Grinder team was racing in the Tour of Taiwan. Most of the other teams in the event had been racing for many weeks during the early Asian race season calendar in events in Langkawi, Malaysia and the Philippines so there were a lot of race-honed legs already in the event. KPC did an awesome job to place Phil Gaimon in 2nd on GC! This was their very first race together and they proved to the racing world that they can compete in UCI events and do well. Phil Gaimon, Johnny Sundt, Chad Hartley, Jake Rytlewski and Chad Birdzilauskas were all badasses! Frankie Andreu lead the team well and team owner Chad Thompson took care of the details as well as helping with the tactical side of things. Mechanic John Columbus and soigneur Janis Burns made things run from behind the scenes and countless other folks like Jackie Shao (who works for our distributor partner) and Eric Yang of Kenda Tires put in the extra efforts that made the team successful. No rider ever does anything alone and this race and this team proved that a collective effort can make big things happen. To understate the obvious- I'm beyond proud of these guys.
After the show and the race, I headed down to Taichung and spent a few nights in my wife's condo while I got some work done at our assembly factory. Bits and pieces of our 2011 sample bikes are beginning to show up for our catalog/ show bikes, so there was a bit of work to be done- as well as fun with friends. Good food, good friends, good times... I love Taichung. After a few days in Taichung though, it was time to head back to the US... and a very long day of traveling. The day began with a cab ride to the High Speed Rail station, HSR to Taoyuan and a very short shuttle bus ride to the airport, a 14hr flight to LAX, a short car ride and dinner with my best friend in LA, a train ride from Union Station to San Diego and then a short car ride home with my wife and mother in law. All told, it came to well over 20hrs of travel. But I got home!
I can hardly remember what happened Thursday in the office as I was in a total fog after getting home at midnight and getting about 4 hours of sleep. I took Friday off and have this Monday off as well, for a little 4 day break. It's been great spending time with my daughter, wife and MIL. I've even ridden my bike the past 3 days... even though it has hurt like hell. I got sick with a cold the day after arriving in Taiwan and I still can't breathe very well. Riding, my legs feel weak but ok... but I feel like I'm breathing through a snot-filled straw. It's been great to ride again- after 2 weeks off the bike again- but it sure feels like I keep starting back up from farther behind than the last time I got back on the bike. That said, I'm happy to be pedaling again. Period. I'll try to keep the whimpering to a minimum... most likely.
And now- a bunch of random pictures!!
The koi pond inside the courtyard area of our condo. It's just a nice little space to relax in... I really like it.
One night while walking around after dinner, I found this really cool little fixie-only shop in Taichung. RH+O... check'em out. I'll be hanging out with them the next time I'm in Taichung, but this time with a bike to ride with them too!
The outdoor plaza a few blocks away from our condo in "little Europe".
The front of my wife's condo building- it's a very nice courtyard setting off the main street, so it is quiet and comfortable.
Gorgeous lugged forks for Speciale Fixed Ultimate frames... too, too purdy.
I don't even need to say anything about how beautiful that is...
Beautiful Alare Bellissima frames getting ready for assembly... they sure are pretty!
The host shop for the Q&A with the riders is actually a great Masi dealer as well. This display of Mini-Velo bikes was pretty impressive.
It looks to me like Johnny is wondering why the hell he has to share a "stage" with me. I would probably wonder the same thing Johnny...
After the ride, the team did some Q&A with the riders who came out to get a chance to ride with the team. It was a very enthusiastic group.
On Sunday, as Johnny was nursing a post-birthday hangover, the team did a nice little group ride. It was really cool!
Johnny Sundt- his birthday was on Saturday, the final stage of the race... and after flogging himself to protect Phil's GC position, he still managed to get 5th on the stage! At the post race party, he and I shared a birthday cake... and a "thumbs up"!
Frankie Andreu, after the final stage of the Tour of Taiwan- looking pretty happy to have clinched that 2nd place on GC with Phil Gaimon.
My birthday was in Taiwan again this year- 3rd or 4th year now- and this year we went to Modern Toilet for dinner. We'd heard about the place last year and were just dieing to try it out. It's all toilet themed... and they do a great job of it! It's pretty funny for sure. I liked my ice cream though...
This is called "foot drumming" and she uses her foot to change the sound of the drum. It's very cool. There were 4 drummers in the performance at the Velo/ Wellgo dinner party before the Taipei Show started. This was only 1 of the 3-4 performances during the dinner... one of the major highlights of my trip to the Taipei Show each year.
Until the next time (which I hope won't be long from now)...