Is "perfectly nice" the new buzzword? Some of the stuff I'm reading lately reminds me of a Victorian romance novel - "I DO find you ever so agreeable."
Take, for example, the recent CyclingNews review of the Canyon SLX. Is it even possible that they've read this site and realized what a joke review verbiage has become? They even take it out of invented acronyms.
Canyon's been doing what they do for a while, and it isn't just out of the blue that they are prominent to the point of sponsoring a ProTour team (at an approximate cost to the consumer of about $350 a bike - a pittance to pay to ride the same bike as my man-crush Phillipe Gilbert - or not). Their bikes are still rather expensive ($1900 for the SLX, and $1160 for their lower tier Ultimate CF), and there's the small matter of them not being available in the US.
As a windsurfer, I'm interested to see major windsurfing equipment supplier Neil Pryde get in on the act. In windsurfing, NP is the 800 pound gorilla, the Trek of the market. They absolutely define the sponsorship market, and win an outsized percentage of the races - because they sponsor the majority of the fleet. They've adopted the direct-to-consumer model for their frames, which are actually designed from the ground up and not out of an open mold. Time will tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Another interesting thing to note is that Pryde was far and away the first sailing company to go to far eastern manufacturing for their products, and are themselves based in Hong Kong. With all that said, they're still well north of $2,000 for their frames. I don't see it.
Clearly, there are more than a few brands out there that see the benefit of selling directly to knowledgeable consumers, and the press may even be waking up to the fact that there really aren't too many new ways to talk about bikes that are really quite nice, just about as nice as a bunch of other ones out there. Maybe they'll start talking about innovative business models that sharply focus product offerings to specific consumer needs, and strip out any extraneous costs to deliver the product to the consumer at the lowest possible price? Maybe when we start buying display ads (and pigs start flying around).
Mark your calendars for 11/13, the date of the First Ever Inaugural and Otherwise Premier Great November Ride. What is this Great November Ride of which I speak? I will tell you.
The Great November Ride is a coming out party of sorts for November Bicycles. We will be closing our first order period right around then, and we want a way to celebrate getting things off the ground. The Great November Ride will be a fun way to ease back into starting the training year and have a good time on some great roads.
Think of The Great November Ride as a miniature and very informal Grand Fondo, with elements of mixed doubles adventure racing thrown in for good measure. The route is definitely a worthy one, encompassing 70 miles and about 4000 feet of climbing, coming primarily in two parts. There will be ample recognition of feats of strength, mementos, and punch and pie.
A significant feature of The Great November Ride will be the encouragement of communism. All feats of strength will be based on team efforts, with each team being comprised of various racing categories and genders.
The Great November Ride will be supported with sag wagons and refueling spots, along with a recovery zone (as long as you like to recovery with grilled meat and the like) following the finish.
So write that down. November 13th. Costumes encouraged.
This one's got a full scoop of left field in it. Cut me some slack, it's Friday and I've got to go get paddled on the behind up and down the hills of WV by Gunnar Shogren tomorrow. Yeah, that ought to be a real howl.
Some funny guy out there on the interwebs calls racers "racists," which is funny if it avoids offending you. Of course Bert got all tweaked at people who called "cyclists" "cyclers" a while back, which of course launched a recent car ride into a full discussion of why swimmers aren't called "swimmists" and why oboists aren't called "oboers" (where's that umlaut key when I need it??). The lovely bride commented that, in general, the "-ists" were acting upon an implement, which sounded good and legitimized Bert's beef, until of course we realized that that made the Nascar crowd "drivists." I told you, left field.
Anyhow, the community of cyclers, collectively hereinafter referred to as communists (or communers, whichever floats your boat), is a pretty funny and special one. Take shaving legs. It doesn't justify itself on any real measure - it's got no aerodynamic merit, none of us get massages that often, and most of us don't even crash enough to justify that argument for it. But it looks really cool when your legs are all cut and tan, and it marks you as a member of the tribe. Sure, there are some leg wookies out there whose tribe membership trumps mine, but Chuck Hutch used to ride around Hains Point wearing his Corn Pops jersey not too long ago. Lest you forget, my very own team raced in astonishing AC/DC jerseys in our first ever race. Doesn't make it right. Where was I going with this?
Oh yeah, so we've got this community of similarly minded people, who all spend what amounts to way too much time working way too hard so that we can compete in this game that's pretty freaking hard. You can go hit tennis balls and even "play tennis" a couple of times a month and enjoy the game and be pretty decent at it. If you rode your bike a couple of times a month, unless you've got some sort of gift, racing isn't going to be such a happy or pretty time for you. But at least it'll be over quickly. I think I'm off track again.
Sometimes, we get the chance to take ourselves a little less seriously. This fall, we'll be hosting a regular group ride. Details to be announced later. But the object is to take the serious-o-meter down a couple of pegs, and encourage people to get together and enjoy riding our bikes around, maybe a bit aimlessly (you see I'm pretty good at aimless), and just sort of have a good time with fellow communists. Maybe even encourage some would be communists to join the party, and indoctrinate them in a less high-pitched manner than might happen at more focused times of the year.
We're also planning our coming out party, which will be known as The Great November Ride. Part Gran Fondo, part competitive eating contest (Judd needs to earn his BAR points somehow), part keg stand, this will be a fun event, once again designed to spread communism.
Another great venture will be the Donut Hole, aka the Rockville Criterium. Cruelties of the calendar can work out in your favor, and as the great Young MC taught us, every dark tunnel has a lighter hope (so don't hang yourself with the celibate rope). Maple glazed premes never tasted so good. Mike's working furiously on that.
If I was more skilled and disciplined, there would be a lot more artistry and subtlety in how I make the great tie in to the November mission, but you can see I've already gotten off track several times, so I will get this one out there before some butterfly flies past the window and I lose my train of thought again. The community and the communists are seriously important to us. A big part of our mission is to take some of the sharper, more wallet draining edges off the the community, but also to be a positive force in strengthening the community, and having the community engaged in what we're doing. The community has helped us a ton in getting to where we are, as it was the community that drove all of the decisions to this point. The cold-war capital "C" Communists and their command economy gave the world such memorable products as the Lada, and with all apologies to Larry's car, we're aiming a little higher than that.
We've made no secret of where our bikes come from. In fact, we've gone out of our way to be very clear that we're sourcing from open molds out of a catalog, from Taiwan. So are a lot of other brands - the difference is that many of them are blowing smoke about the engineering decisions "they" made or how the geometry was tweaked from the input of "their" elite racers.
Where we add value is knowing which catalogs to shop from, and being able to order the quantities the suppliers require in order to do business in the first place. (You can't just order a single naked frame from Merida or TopKey. Nor can you order a dozen to be used expressly for your team. You have to go bigger, which is a barrier to entry in this business.) Starting by choosing a supplier was important to us. The most awesome bike ever doesn't do racers much good if it's held up in production for 2 months longer than expected. We started with the business needs around the supplier relationship, making sure our bikes were coming from someone reputable and reliable.
The other place we add value is in selecting which bike to buy, once we have a supplier partner. We had a list of features we wanted the bike to include, including a tapered head tube, frame weight around 1100g, a price point. The geometry was also critically important. We wanted something squarely in the "Perfectly Acceptable" range. We're not engineers, and it seemed disingenuous for us to have to explain a steeper than usual seat tube angle, or a head tube cropped aggressively short. We wanted something almost any racer could look at and say, "I can make that work, no problem."
But bikes that share all those criteria can still look pretty different. Dave uses the phrase "bike-flavored bikes." It means bikes that have an unencumbered, utilitarian design. They're contemporary in their construction and tube shapes, but classic in their lines. They look like they're made to let you go fast on them, and not to sell you on the suspect advantage of a swooping curve, skinny little tube or unconventional profile.
After all that, and looking at literally hundreds of bikes, here's the one we chose - the November Wheelhouse:
We're all in for minimalist paint and decal schemes, though the finished frames will go a little further than this one. We'll have decal mock-ups within a few days, which of course I'll post here as well so you can see decisions being made in real-time.