Monthly Archives: December 2009

Wetness

A manic week or so. Christmas is now behind us and New Year’s looms on the horizon. Thoughts are turning to next year, and what I plan to achieve. Is it time to make resolutions? Well, one of mine is of course to ride the bike as much as possible, but there are more fundamental things, like seeing my family more, as well as my own friends. For this, I need to plan more. I need to know my schedule more in advance and possibly book flights / tunnel / ferries a lot further out.

I will re-visit this at a later point.

The last few days has been spent with family. I have been also trying to get in some riding, but the weather here is just non-stop rain. For me, the rain isn’t something that actually puts me off riding, but it just makes the preparation last so much longer. You end up getting cold and wet while getting the bikes ready and that is hardly something that makes a ride attractive. Once you are actually riding though, it is okay. Then you arrive back home and promptly transfer all of that dirt and wetness into the house, have to wash everything, ensure you clean the bike before that goes away (or at least hose it down and use a water repelling spray on it) and then clean and feed yourself. It is all of this that takes massive amounts of time, and makes every ride a mission.

I was rather proud of myself though. I managed to get a ride in on Christmas day, as well as a swim. The swim is something we do each year, and it is a 15 mile ride from the house. Was great to stretch the legs on the fattest day of the year.

So…. rain…. perhaps I should get a home trainer?

Getting it wrong

There are so many mistakes that I have made as a rider over the years. Silly mistakes… stupid mistake…. costly mistakes. I thought it might be fun to list some of them, there are plenty more, but these are just a few of my favourites!

  • Seeing if it was possible to remove and refit the valve extender from a fitted tub, only to discover that it wasn’t possible to refit, causing me to have to unglue and reglue the tyre to the rim. Those of you who have never used tubs, this is not a fun job and means that the wheel cannot be used for 24hrs.
  • Not listening to what my body tells me – I wretched before the ride. I knew something was wrong during the morning ‘thinking time’ and yet I still got on the bike and did 40 miles off road. I even rode PAST my house about 30 miles in. That bloaty feeling didn’t leave though, and 10 miles from my house I hit the wall. Blood sugar crash, feeling sick, the works. I had to call a cab to take me home, and got him to stop twice on route to be sick. Food poisoning and no nutritian for the whole day had gone in.
  • Day before big race, I decide to drop the forks out of my race bike, only to have the headset disintegrate. I had to phone my bike shop, get them to stay late that day, drive there and have them fit a new one. Not ideal preperation.
  • Johny big potatoes -In Austria I rode past the same guy twice on a big climb.  The second time, he asked me where I had been.  I told him about a technical single-track that I take and often do.  He told me he knew it, but asked how I managed to ride it on my fully rigid bike.  He was riding a full suspension machine and had pads in his backpack.  I was wearing lycra.  I looked at him and said that it was simple, I just don’t crash, and if you don’t crash you don’t need all of that stuff.  I rode off downhill, first corner, fast, graceful.  Second corner, front tyre washes out and I go sliding across the fire road at 30mph.  I smashed myself up quite well, but jumped back on the bike and rode as fast as I could.  There was no way I wanted him to catch me.
  • Not me this one.  –  In Switzerland with a good friend of mine, he was showing me the local trials.  We were riding for a few hours by this point when we got to about 20 steps.  I hopped off and walked down them, but we claimed they were ridable.  This, I didn’t doubt, but I was not in my own country and had to fly the next day.  I didn’t want to risk it.  He set off riding the steps and half way down got it wrong.  He glanced the cliff wall, which put a 5 cm laceration in his calf muscle.  It took us another hour to reach the hospital, but fortunately we had a first aid kit with us.  The cut looked like it had been done with a knife.  At the hospital I was able to show them precisely what had happened.  I had recorded it as a video on my phone (unfortunately long lost).
  • Turning my bike around on a cattle grid.
  • Not listening to what my body tells me, II.  –  Last year in Germany, I simply didn’t drink enough.  It was a hot day, and I felt good riding.  But not enough fluid was consumed and my body shut down once I got home.  I was sick, and curled up on the bathroom floor, shivering and being sick for the next 3 hours.  Not nice.
  • Driving somewhere to go riding, and forgetting my shoes having to turn around and come home.

Just ride

Simetimes it is just about riding a bike. My plan is to become fitter than I have been for the last couple of years, that is no secret, but what normally happens is that the path there, the planning to achieve your aims can get in the way of the name of the game itself.

In order to be faster on the bike, at it’s most basic level, I need to ride my bike more. For the moment, this is what I am concentrating on. That means, If I think I can squeeze a ride in, if I have an hour in which to do some pedaling, then just do it. Truth of the matter is that while structured training, training plans and hours spent riding a day would see a lot more progress, opportunist training will also have an effect.

I think what I am saying is that anything is better than nothing.

My plan this week is to use the bike to commute. It is cold, it is miserable and it is dark. But, and this is the point, at least I have ridden.

Airlines and flying

Something I will update from time to time……

Hong Kong and Home

Wow, my head is full of fuzz.  Too many drinks, not enough sleep.  I need to stop and process the last few days… both in terms of work and personally.

I took advantage of my traveling freedom, so that on the way back from Taiwan, I stopped in Hong Kong for dinner.  I know people everywhere, partly because of studying languages, and partly because of having worked in translation.  It is one of the things that I value most in the whole world.  I love the mix of cultures and knowing people living all over the world, I can really submerse myself.  In Hong Kong I was visiting an ex-colleague and very good friend.

With languages one of the difficult things is knowing if you are coming across as the person that you really are.  No one, no matter how much they speak or use a language will ever be able to fully express themselves in a second language, being able to master the nuances of emotion.  I find it with German, and sometimes I worry that parts of my personality are lost.  Some might actually see that as an advantage.

I thought about this a lot last night…. Between the 18 beers and 8 glasses of white wine, or whatever we had.  The point is, I felt that I witnessed my friend for the first time.  I have never really been around her when she has been speaking Cantonese.  Last night, it was just like having her there, everything I like about her, but plus 20%.  I didn’t understand anything….  I didn’t get the in jokes, I didn’t know what was going on, and just let it all unfold in front of me.  Everyone was hugely welcoming, and I will return as soon as I can.  Her fiance, their friends, the whole night.  Even the dodgy karaoke (which didn’t have my karaoke song on it) was fun, taking place in her Fiance bar.…. Fun to the point of loosing my voice.

Bar Life in Privacy

I didn’t really get many photos, as I was only there for 12 hours.  It was about spending time with my friend, relating and relaxing.  We went out for some great food though.  In Taiwan, we spend most of our time eating Thai food, Japanese and Italian….  strange as local food is so good, but it seems to just be the way it it.  We went out though to a rather well known restaurant….

Dinner, at 1am.....

My friend told me that washing the implements in green tea to sterilize them was a custom.  Struck me as odd, but I think I have heard about it before…..

I went this morning to the airport without having slept.  It is not the best way to fly, and I insisted that if I was to stay out all night, then I wanted to have a shower.  A friend of my friend was getting married today, and was out drinking.  At 4 am they went to a hotel….. at 5am I was taken to their hotel room, where they were fast asleep.  I nipped into their bathroom, had a shower and then left them the following thank you note on the mirror.

I hope they appreciated it!

I hope they also took a photo….. I can imagine it becoming the thing of legend whenever they talk about their wedding…

Good day

Today was extremely positive and I now have more of an idea about what this show is about.  Actually, it is more like a series of meetings rather than a show, and perhaps that is why it is uninteresting for the press.  Everything is behind closed doors, but things actually seem to get done, rather than everything disappearing into the ‘glam’ of other, more public bike exhibitions.  There is a rumour that next year this will be a proper show, but at the moment it is spread across four hotels in Taichung.  Meetings take place in hired meeting rooms, or in hotel rooms.  There are bike people walking from room to room, and hotel to hotel.  Additionally there is a hotel out of town, which is a ‘product university’.  Manufacturers give presentations to a room of people about their products.  I have not been yet, but I think it could be worth doing for us too.

I have had a number of interesting meetings today.  I think some real progress has been made.  What is nice is that this is a lot more relaxed than any of the other shows.  It might be the lack of media here that does it, or the fact that it is a trade only event.  It means that people are willing to talk, and you know that what is said wont be repeated.  It is a code, of sorts.  The first rule of fight club…..

I did take a number of pictures today though as I walked around.  I can’t really comment on what I saw or was discussed, but I have convinced myself that I will return next December to extend our OEM business.

Art

Bike route?!

No Access

Too cool for school

No Access

Hmmmm?

It continues

Today I am sat in a Suite in the Tempus hotel in Taichung. I am on the 11th floor overlooking a frankly pretty ugly skyline. Below me I can see the swimming pool and spa area, which I plan to use in the coming days.  It is my first time in Taichung, and, so far, it feels pretty much like Taipei.  It looks similar too, although perhaps I am being unfair.  I have barely left the hotel.

This is a strange show.  It is strange because there is a ‘need to know’ air around it.  Products are being shown, but cameras are a no no.  Products are also behind closed doors.  I haven’t seen anything at all yet.  Nothing.  But I know.  I know but cannot tell!

SRAM are here, Shimano are milling around…. in fact someone from Shimano USA came looking for my friend Jeff today.  He isn’t here.  I asked though if there was anything interesting from them here.  He just smiled.  And that’s the point.  I don’t need to know.  I am not building a range of bikes, I don’t need to plan budgets and production runs.  I don’t need to co-ordinate just in time deliveries, and nor are you.

Tomorrow I plan to have a proper look about.  The show is spread across a number of hotels, and it would be good to be seen.  It would be good to just chat with industry people.

Sorry to disappoint Michele.

Made in Taiwan

This week, the second week of December, I am in Taichung, Taiwan for Taiwan Bike Week.  Most of you wont have heard of this event.  It doesn’t have the glamour of industry and press highlights such as Eurobike and Interbike.

So what is it?  Well, it is where manufacturers and bicycle companies meet.  It is where they discuss the specification of next years bikes, negotiate prices, talk to assemblers (the people that put the bikes together for brands, which is why you will at times see pictures of bikes from many different manufacturers apparently pouring out of the same factories) about their plans, their price points and differentiating the products.  If you ride a mid to high end bike, then the likelihood is that it will have formed a discussion at this event or in Taiwan at some point in its existence.

The reason you haven’t heard about this show though, is because most of the time the industry, and certainly the press shy away from this part of the bike trade.  It prefers ‘passion’ and European / American flare to sell products and sell a dream.  Not that their isn’t passion in Taiwan (or elsewhere in the World), but most big brands prefer to sell their European or American credentials, where indeed much of the design and engineering will have taken place.  Not all of it though, not by a long shot.

Which draws me to my next question.  Why is it that ‘Made in Taiwan’ or indeed ‘Made in China’ is banded around as a bad thing?  Who cares that Mr Cannondale handmakes his frames in the US?  Does this mean that it is a better bike than something coming out of the Far East which is also ‘hand made’.  Certainly, no one goes as far as to claim that, but the implication is there.  Why aren’t the bicycle magazines more honest about the bikes that they get to review, and why are brands secretive about something that most of us know?  Perhaps it is because of budgets and actually having the money to fly to the other side of the world to look at production there?  Perhaps it is because the intangibles sell too many products, and advertisers would be scared off?  I don’t know, but I find it sad that many people have this distorted idea that ‘Made in Taiwan’ is a bad thing.   It doesn’t just apply to bikes, it applies to many things.  My experience is that there is always this underlying connotation that if it wasn’t made by people we can immediately relate to, then it is somehow not as good.  Perhaps that is it.  Perhaps it comes down to a fear of the unknown?  A discomfort of a culture to which you have trouble relating, where the core values might be different and therefore you are unsure that their motivation to do a good job is there?

On internet forums you read about people wanting to keep the ‘money in their economy’ and buying accordingly.  I find this argument to hold little water however, as very few companies are using all materials and labour sourced in one place.  And if they are, it is probably to the detriment of that product in the long run.  Just as humans benefit from diversity and a wide gene pool, so does product design and innovation.

I work for a German brand, but it is a very international team behind everything.  My boss is perhaps the least German German that I have ever met, both in terms of his mannerisms and his approach.  We have partners all over Europe, in Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Japan and China.  The diversity is one of the things that keeps things fresh.  People approach things from different angles, and we all gain from that.  Do we use our German roots in our marketing – yes, however read the first page on any of our brochures and you will find information about our international nature.

So what am I doing in Taiwan, and why Taichung.  Taichung is perhaps the heart of the cycle industry.  Giant are based here, Velo are based here (if you have a saddle made by your bike manufacturer, or with their name on it, chances are if you look underneath it says Velo), and all of the large manufacturers are either in our about town.  I am here in Taichung for the first time, despite it being somewhere where barely a month passes without one of our design team being in town.  I am meeting with product managers, who are putting together bikes for the next couple of years.  OEM supply (selling parts to bikes brands to put on ‘new’ bikes) is part of my job, and it is something that we are putting more efforts into.  My trip to Taichung is therefore ‘scouting’.  We aren’t entirely sure what to expect.  I have some meetings lined up with existing customers, but much of the reason for going is to ‘be seen’.  Sales is, as always, about personal relationships.

Here are some pics from my day so far….

Heathrow, Sunday morning

Thai Airlines.... lots of leg room in economy people.

Faster than a speeding.....

Equipment Choice

I suppose it comes down to freedom actually.  Freedom to chose, but is that always liberating.  I sometimes feel trapped by the choice presented to me.  This isn’t to be misunderstood.  I enjoy having the opportunities that I have, but sometimes the confusion of choice is quite constricting.

Yesterday I wanted to go for a ride on my road bike.  Now when I first started cycling this was easy.  I had one pair of shorts, wore a t-shirt (I think it had the ‘Muddy Fox’ logo on it) a helmet, and away I would go.  In the winter, then I would wear a long sleeve t-shirt.

Now, well now I have LOADS of kit.  Complete outfits that work in temperature brackets of 5 degrees C.  Get it wrong and it is awful.  Perhaps awful because it is uncomfortable, but more likely because you know that you could be ‘just right’.  Yesterday I wore:

Helmet, buff, thermal long sleeve vest, team issue winter jacket, full winter gloves, shoes, oversocks.

Mistake.  I was boiling!  Only that discovery was only made once I was into my ride.  Prior to that, when I went to get the bike out, I discovered a broken spoke, and once I got going that my bike computer had stopped working (I borrowed a wheel from The Pretty One’s bike to allow me to ride).  It really was almost a reason to go back home.  Especially as everything seems to conspire against you.

I decided however that as it would be the last time that I would be able to ride in the next week or possibly two (more about that later) I needed to ride.  I stopped, removed items of clothing (the gloves spent the whole ride hung from my handlebars and the vest went in my back pocket) and pushed on.  I was glad I did.  Without the computer working, I trained by time, and three hours later I was back home feeling really good.  I figure that I rode about 80km, but felt quite fresh at the end of it.  The damp and chillsome conditions are such a huge contrast to last week, but all the same it was good to be out there riding, and actually there is something about the bloody mindedness of riding in less than ideal conditions (it rained towards the end of the ride) which makes you feel that your training was better for you than if the conditions had been ideal.  You overcame the mental challenge.  You got outside in the fresh air, on a day when most people would have stayed at home, or gone to the pub to watch football, rugby or another sport than pleases the masses.  When I returned home, I put the still dirt splattered bike back away where it will stay until just before Christmas.

So maybe I spend too much time worrying about what I am riding, the kit I am using, the correct gloves, helmet, shoes, top, bottles, energy drink etc.  Maybe I need to set myself a 20min countdown timer to limit the amount of time I waste before getting on the bike?

Right now, however, that is trivial.  I am on an aeroplane somewhere over Poland.

Winter

It has been a strange day. I planned a ride this morning, but have been working and trying to put the horrid winter out of my head. Having my summer holiday at the end of November has thrown me completely. I certainly don’t feel like the year is drawing to a close! The cold and wet in England after the gloreous weather of Cape Town is depressing me. It didn’t help, of course, that for the entire day I have been reminded of it. I listen to BBC Radio Five Live on a digital radio a lot. The Pretty One works there, so it was a loyalty thing, but actually it is rather good and I like the company when working from home :-). Well, the World Cup Football draw is in Cape Town. They broadcast from my haunts of two weeks ago. Oh, the aching!

I had to ride the bike to clear my head!