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Thursday
Apr242014

Marketing

Marketing is always a tough nut for the artist. All he wants to do is create, but then there comes a point where he must market what he creates in order to survive and continue creating.

It is tough when you have a product that you know is superior, but lose sales because some large corporation has more marketing clout.

This happened many times with me in the 1980s when customers would be on the brink of buying one of my bikes, then at the last moment opt for a Japanese Nishiki, on Centurion. Both good bicycles of that era, but could never compare to a hand built frame made by an individual craftsman.

The only reason they did this was marketing. These large manufacturers could place full page color ads in Bicycling Magazine. But at $10,000 a pop for a such an ad there was no way I could compete.

I had to rely on bicycle dealers to sell to a small group of hard core cyclists who could appreciate the difference between a limited production hand built frame, and a factory mass produced item.

Today the Internet levels the playing field somewhat but only slightly. It still takes time and effort for an individual to build a following with social media, websites, etc. Does the individual artist have the time or inclination to do that?

I also feel it is a big mistake to be too pushy. I don’t know about you, but it turns me off when the only message people have is buy, buy, buy, whatever it is that I’m selling. I am a strong believer that it is better to give than receive, and if a person keeps writing stuff that people want to read, his needs will always be met. Of course marketing professionals will cringe at this.

I remember back in the 1980s having a conversation with neighboring business owner about the way all our manufacturing jobs were starting to go overseas. He stated, “We will eventually become a nation of people selling insurance to each other.”

I remember his prophesy because it is fast becoming true, we are becoming a nation of marketers. Look at the ads on TV, Big Pharma and Insurance Companies. The only hope insurance companies have of getting new customers, is to steal them from another company. The cost of all this advertising is eventually passed on to the consumer.

With no one is creating or manufacturing anything. (At least not here.) We have an awful lot of people at this moment selling ideas on how we should all market ourselves. We have all manner of consultants, life coaches, and investment coaches. It is like a homeless man on the street begging for change, and being told, “Give me ten dollars and I’ll show you how to monetize your homelessness.”

The old cliché of “The rat race,” is never as true as it is now in these tough economic times, as people scramble over each other to get ahead. A certain amount of marketing is necessary to sell a product, but it saddens me to see worthless brands and ideas that serve no other purpose but to take people’s money. Don’t push your fellow man down to get ahead, help him over the obstacle first, and he in turn will help you over.

 

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Monday
Apr142014

The good, the bad and the clueless

Whenever I write an article about cyclists running stop signs and red lights it brings many comments for and against.

According to some, it seems you can be on either side and still see yourself as a good safe cyclist, it is not black and white for everyone, it is a matter of opinion.

Those who ride through red lights, say they do so for their own safety, and though the letter of the law says a bicycle is a vehicle and as such should stop and wait like every other vehicle. The red light runners say it is a stupid law.

There are many stupid laws, and not just traffic laws, but as a society can we pick and choose which ones to follow? Or just break certain ones we can get away with because they are not adequately enforced.

Take the speed limit for example, a good law most will agree. Without it there would be even more carnage on our roads. Most people drive at five miles per hour over the speed limit, they feel there is a good possibility they can get away with that.

Some years ago I realized it was ludicrous to drive at 5 mph over the speed limit, just because everyone else does. So now I drive at the speed limit everywhere. I save on gas, I save on wear and tear on my vehicle, and I am never going to get a speeding ticket.

Traffic often backs up behind me, and people get annoyed and will come flying past me at the first chance they get, and I wonder why they are putting themselves through all that stress. I get to my destination just the same as they do.

I am following the letter of the law, if others want to go faster than the limit, why should I be forced to do the same and allow myself to be intimidated by some monster truck that is tailgating me.

The same thing when I ride my bike, I will stop for a red light. If I am first in line I will stop in the middle of the lane leaving enough room for any car who might want to turn on red.

When the light changes I stay in the center of the lane until I clear the intersection, then I move as far to the right as is practical. Like driving my car at the speed limit, I am following the letter of the law.

If I am not first in line at a light I will wait in the line of traffic, and stay out in the lane momentarily, long enough to make sure everyone knows I am there and I am not going to get “Right hooked,” then I will move over to the right and let the traffic flow by.

Anyone can change their driving habits or their bike riding habits. All it takes is the will to do it, but if a person can see no fault in the way they drive or ride a bike it is not going to happen. 

As for the clueless, they are the ones who it seems, don’t know any better, and are ignorant of any laws or rules that apply. They are the people on bikes who ride on the sidewalk in the wrong direction and suddenly appear in front of a car making a right or left turn. They are the ones who ride on the wrong side of the road at night without lights.

These people behave like pedestrians on bikes. Pedestrians cross against red lights all the time, therefore some feel it is okay to do it on a bike. If I choose to ride a bike, I am no longer a pedestrian, I am a vehicle and I behave as one. No one can say I am a bad cyclist if I follow the rules, any more than they can say I am a bad driver because I drive my car at the speed limit.

My feelings are, if in doubt it is always a good idea to follow the law. It at least makes sure everyone knows what the other person is doing. Throw people into the mix who make up their own rules as they go along, and you have a somewhat chaotic situation. 

Footnote:

I left the UK in 1979 to move to the US. At that time I had never seen a cyclist ride through a red light, I had never seen one ride on the sidewalk, (Pavement in the UK.) or ride towards traffic. I am not just talking about cycling enthusiasts, but any person on a bike, period. Up until that time the Highway Code was taught in schools, so we all knew the rules from an early age. Plus the local Bobby rode a bike so he would enforce the laws.

It was somewhat of a culture shock for me when I moved to the US and saw the “Ride anywhere, do as you please” attitude practiced by anyone on a bike. Judging by the above video, this same attitude now prevails in Britain. Caused no doubt by new generations that were never taught the Highway Code, and probably never rode bikes on the road as children.

 

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Thursday
Apr032014

Ridiculous

I have seen some crazy bike set-ups in my time, but this one I think beats all.

Looking at the amount of seat post showing it must be above its limit with barely half an inch in the frame. This 52cm. First Generation Fuso was obviously too small for its owner, and WTF is that handlebar stem extension?

Luckily it has been bought by a collector who already owns a custom ‘dave moulton’ and a Recherché, and I am sure will restore this to some measure of sanity.

It is okay to dress your own children funny, but please, not mine.

 

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Monday
Mar242014

More on Practical Gearing

My last piece was about switching out my 50 tooth chainring on my Campagnolo Athena crankset, for a 46 tooth Cyclo-Cross ring, to give me a more practical gear range. The article brought many interesting and useful comments.

One of the things I learned was that there are other makes of Campagnolo compatible cassettes. Miche for example is one of them. It occurred to me that rather than go to the expense of replacing the whole cassette, why not just swap out a couple of sprockets.

With this in mind I ordered a Miche 13 tooth first position sprocket, that’s is one with a serrated outside edge that the lock-ring butts up against, and has a shoulder on the inside so it doesn’t require a spacer. I also ordered a 20 tooth middle position sprocket, which is plain and requires a spacer on either side. The cost was $12.99 and $11.99 respectively.

I unscrewed the lock ring, (You do need a tool and a chain-whip to do this.) I removed the 12 and 13 teeth sprockets. The final position (Inside.) cogs on my Campagnolo 11 speed cassette are conjoined triplets, with 21, 23, and 25 teeth. Next to that was another conjoined 17, 18, and 19 teeth. I placed the new 20 tooth sprocket between these two triplets.

I then replaced the 13 tooth sprocket with the new final position one. I was able to use all the original spacers as the new set up used the same number. Now my cassette is a 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, and 25.

My top gear is now a practical 95.5 inches, which is as high as I’ll ever need to go. I have effectively removed a 12 tooth top sprocket that I would never use, and added a more useful 20 tooth one. The first nine cogs now go from 13 to 21 in one tooth steps.

There is a slight visual difference in that the new Miche sprockets are bright chrome, whereas the original Campagnolo are dull chrome. (Picture top.) The proof of the pudding would be in the riding, I took the bike out for a longish ride, and the gears shifted up and down flawlessly.

I think I have shown, (Along with all those who commented on my last article.) that there is a desire amongst non-racing leisure riders, for a more practical gear range. We have shown that this can be achieved, and in a way that will not cost a huge amount of money.

Someone asked a question about my new Russ Denny built Fuso. I have had this bike for just under two years now. It is one of the best, and most comfortable riding bikes I have ever owned. (Picture above.) It is purpose designed and built for the style of riding I do now.

It has a low 10 inch (25.5cm.) bottom bracket height. This means I can put my toe to the ground when stopping in traffic. Grounding a pedal on corners is not an issue, I am not doing any fast cornering leaning over at extreme angles, and anyway, modern clipless pedals give more ground clearance than the old style quill pedals used to.

The average road bike has a 10 5/8 inch (27cm.) BB height. Mine is 5/8 lower which means my saddle is also 5/8 inch lower in relation to the ground. However, my handlebars remain approximately the same height as any other bike of a similar size. It means my bars are a little over an inch below my saddle without having to jack the handlebar stem up at some strange angle.

Actually if I were able to design this bike over again, I would probably go even lower to 9 ½ inch BB. (24.1mm.) The lower BB means longer chainstays, which gives extra tire clearance to run wider 25mm. tires. I could quite easily go to 28mm. if I choose.

I am enjoying my bike riding more than ever. There is no pressure if I can’t get out because the weather is bad, or I have some other commitment.

When I raced there was always a need to ride and train hard, in the 1980s when I built bikes there was never any time to ride. When I did occasionally ride I was so out of shape I didn’t enjoy it. Now-a-days I just ride, nothing to prove, to myself or anyone else.

 

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Wednesday
Mar122014

46 Big Ring

The gearing on modern bikes is probably one of the greatest improvements seen in the last twenty years. The only issue I have is that for the non-racing leisure rider, like me, the gear ratios available are well outside the range I am likely to use.

Even with a “Compact” crankset with 50 – 34 chainrings, the 11 speed rear cassette comes with a 11 or 12 tooth top sprocket. And the 12 x 50 gives me a top gear of 112 inches, which I can guarantee I am never going to use.

Even more frustrating, the gears I use most, the ones between 65 inches and the upper 70s, fall all the way over on the large inside sprockets of the cassette, when using the 50 tooth chainring, and the other extreme when using the inside 34 chainring and outside small sprockets on the rear.

Riding most of the time with my chain out of line just causes unnecessary wear on chains and sprockets.

It would be nice if 11 speed cassettes were available with a top sprocket of 13 or 14 teeth, but they are not. At least I haven’t been able to find one.

I did however, recently discover that Campagnolo make a Cyclo-Cross crankset, with 46 – 36 chainrings. I wasn’t sure if they would fit my Athena crankset.

Campagnolo has this strange set up where the compact chainrings have a 110mm. Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD) but the one bolt that is threaded into the inside of the crank arm is on a slightly bigger diameter circle, for some reason. Other makes of chainrings with 110 BCD will not fit.

A search on eBay for “Campagnolo 46 tooth CX chainring,” brought up an abundance of them. I ordered a silver one for my wife’s bike. It fitted with no problem. It was an easy swap, I didn’t even need to remove the crank or the pedal.

I went ahead and ordered a black one for my bike. Now I can ride using my new 46 big ring, and the sprockets I use most are the 16, 17, 18, and 19, right in the middle of my cassette. I still have a top gear of 103 inches, which I am also unlikely to use, but who knows, one day I might be on a steep downhill with the wind behind me.

 

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