Small Town America, USA, 9 October 2013 – After watching this video we can reasonably conclude hydraulic road disc brakes will be the savior of the local bike shop. Currently Shimano and SRAM offer hydraulic disc and caliper brakes on their higher end group sets. The two target customers for these components are often wealthier cyclists who spend their discretionary funds on their hobbies (often named Fred) and hard-core cyclists who want the latest groupo for their Italian-heritage race frame.
The hard-core cyclist will most likely have a fully stocked shop in their garage or basement requiring the purchase of the requisite tool and accessory kits to maintain their new hydraulic systems. Hard-core guy will never watch this video. He will have a friend who served as the assistant to the assistant mechanic for SRAM at this year’s CX championship races tutoring his brake fluid bleed sessions. Off-season-Friend works at the LBS and will cut Hard-core a deal on the maintenance kits as well. He will ride carefree and bubble-filled on his newly upgraded frame.
Fred on the other hand will have little or no understanding of the function of the hydraulic system aside from the knowledge that should he be caught in a drizzling rain his trusty S-teed will stop on a dime; though he would never consider actually riding in the rain deliberately. Fred will follow the recommendations of his LBS’s chief mechanic returning regularly to the shop for the prescribed maintenance of his hydraulic system.
According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) the number of specialty bicycle shops in America dropped from 6,195 in 2000 to 4,089 in 2012, a 34% decrease in the number of bicycle shops serving American towns in the past twelve years. The economy, big box stores and weather factors affect sales at these shops. Competition from large chains and the Internet cut into the profits of small retailers in every industry and affect the bicycle market two-fold. A bargain bicycle bought at a big box store has little intrinsic value to the buyer; the low cost of the bicycle translates into little concern for maintenance. The buyer simply discards the bicycle when it no longer serves its original purpose. The small town bicycle shop loses not only the sale, but the profits from regular maintenance visits from the customer as well.
Small mom & pop shops by necessity often charge higher prices for their goods to stay in business. This drives cost-conscious customers to larger retail chains as well. Bicycling blogs and magazines often tout the advantages of shopping local, but Internet retailers offering free shipping and deep discounts win the price wars.
Road hydraulic and disc brakes may be just what the doctor ordered to save local bicycle shops. The complexity of the system necessitates some degree of expertise with maintenance chores. And the potentially harmful nature of DOT 5.1 brake fluid used by SRAM in their hydraulic system adds another level of intricacy to their upkeep. Few home mechanics are willing to entertain the possibility the fluid will spill on their costly carbon fiber frame causing irreparable damage.
The bicycle industry may not yet understand the potential boom it’s created for the specialty bicycle retailer with the advent of this evolutionary technology mounted to a road frame. Whether a buyer orders his hydraulic brake appointed bicycle from an on-line retailer or their local bike shop, a majority of bicyclists are likely to be ill prepared to maintain these systems. Most home mechanics are able to manage clincher brakes maintenance that requires only periodic cable tightening and pad replacement. Hydraulic systems, on the other hand, require greater skill, various tools and syringes, and the handling of potentially harmful fluids thus guaranteeing visits from every Fred in a 5-mile radius to their local shop since no Internet retailer can support this end of the business. The well-prepared specialty retail bicycle shops will be the real winners in this revolutionary movement.
Somewhere in Sweden, 5 October 2013 – A year ago this video was posted on Vimeo highlighting the Invisible Bicycle Helmet imagined and realized by two design students in Sweden. With all of the technology being poured into bicycle design including motors (wait what, didn’t Puch and Peugeot do this in the 70s?) why isn’t more being done to protect the rider? A year later and I don’t think I saw this in the blogosphere from Eurobike or Interbike for 2013. Instead we debate how Strava has changed bicycling forever. Why not change it with something truly innovative and ground breaking.
NY, NY, 5 October 2013 – The one bicycle blog that consistently, and I mean every time I wander over to his website, makes me laugh out loud is published by NY-based writer Bike Snob (http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com). His take on everything bicycle-related is slathered in a classically and admittedly New York perspective. Having tried tirelessly to create a blog worth visiting myself, I understand the work required to make art out of words. Bike Snob makes writing as good as his look easy.
A recent post included his commentary regarding the election of a new UCI President, Brian Cookson who promised to clean up professional cycling, highlighting the attached video–Bike Snob’s suggestion for a new and improved dope-free professional cycling industry. I teared up laughing by time I read his comment to Cannondale pro rider Peter Sagan, “fancypants”, who’ll have to do much better than wheelies in the post-McQuaid pro tour. Honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a Czech boy-toy in green tights doing wheelies?!?
San Jose, California, 4 October 2013 – This video has little to do with bicycles but everything to do with vision and the unending perseverance required realize your dreams. Today millions of people grab their iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks to do work, have fun, and escape without realizing the work that transpired to make these devices so forgettable. Steve Jobs changed our lives one device at time. He brought us the future and we hold it in our hands every day and bring it with us everywhere we go. Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of his death. When you pick up your communicator today, no matter what company made it, pause for a moment to consider how one man’s dreams fit into the palm of your hand enabling you to share your own thoughts and dreams and fears with the world in an instant.
Salt Lake City, 30 September 2013 – Watching this video elicits a twinge of guilt for selling my La Marzocco Linea. I bought the machine used from a defunct bike shop in Moab, Utah. I spent over a year tearing down it down to the frame, descaling, cleaning, and polishing every bit. I replaced anything that was worn including gaskets and springs with new replacement parts directly from La Marzocco. The first time the Linea filled with water and started running I was elated. I had added an electronic temperature control in a control box with automatic exhaust fans to bring it up to 21st Century standards.
The Linea was fun for a while but trying to grind beans for espresso early in the morning didn’t work well. The noise from the grinder could wake Sleeping Beauty. So, with a heavy heart I posted the machine online for sale. People have no concept of the amount of work one puts into something they love. Every offer was over a thousand dollars below even what the machine and parts cost to rebuild it. So, I took the Linea off the market. One afternoon a neighbor came by with a “friend” who was into coffee. He offered me a fair price and it went home with him.
The money, of course, is financing my DeSalvo Custom Disc Road Bike Project. I no longer have to worry about waking the world with my hobby. I can ride peacefully or as wildly as I want when I want without disturbing the family. I now brew coffee with an electronic coffee machine which works fine.
Mike DeSalvo wrote today saying he’s started cutting titanium pipe; the build has begun. All the planning and decision making are coming to a rapid end. I am flying higher emotionally than if I’d had 5 shots from the Linea; life is good.