Monthly Archives: April 2012

A lunchtime ski

It seems like a strange thing to do, and I must admit that after California things do feel VERY cold here.  So, we went skiing.

We live close enough to an indoor ‘real snow’ ski slope to be able to go there for an hour and get some runs done.  Actually it is only really one run, and that isn’t that long.  It was our first time there, and the Pretty One decided that she would board – we once did a boarding holiday together when we were brand new – it nearly broke us!  I skied – I haven’t got as much ski time as her anyway.

My thoughts on the place – well next time I will do a lesson – either skiing or boarding.  The slope itself is too short and once you have done it, you have kind of done it if you are just going there for a ski.  I think that for learning and concentrating on technique indoor skiing is fine.  As it was, going for an hour was fine, and I had fun, but I think I will need more things to concentrate on next time.
There will be a next time though.

Photographs aren’t mine.

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Time for something about flying.

Last year, I had a mileage balance with Star Alliance (as a Lufthansa frequent flyer) of 98,000 miles.  In economy.  This wasn’t all of the flying that I did, but just the flying with Star Alliance.  There were other flights which were with different airlines, which don’t count towards this.  It is a lot for economy.  Even within the sphere of frequent flyers, doing this sort of mileage in economy commands a little respect.

The 98,000 is relevant because for Lufthansa the tiers of status within their scheme are 35,000 miles and 100,000 miles.  The next tier would have meant increased chances at upgrades and better availability to spend all of these miles.  I wrote to Lufthansa to see if they would make a exception and grant me the status.  They turned me down.  Them’s the rules.  It seemed a little harsh to me, given that I had the flights booked to make up those miles within the first two weeks of January.  For this reason, I started to look around, and decided to concentrate of BA instead.

Right now, I am sat in 19G on a Boeing 747-400 on my way from LAX to LHR before flying on to MAN and home.  I started my journey at MRY – Monterey.

Shuttle service to LAX

MRY - this is it. Tiny. Here to serve golfers visiting 17 Mile Drive, as far as I could tell.

19G is Club World, with a fully reclining seat, which turns into a bed.  I have just slept for six hours.  Why am I in Club World (the business class product)?  Well, BA have four levels of service.  World Traveler (Economy), World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy), Club World (Business) and First.  The budget that my client gives me is enough for economy, so dipping into my own funds, I can fly in Premium Economy.  This is a good product on BA.  The seats are larger than economy, they have more recline, and there are fewer seats across the cabin.  I flew to Hong Kong recently in this cabin on one of BA’s newest aircraft, and was extremely impressed.  I arrived rested and relaxed – not really something that I get flying economy on such a long flight.  For me, this is worth the difference in price, but I am flying a fair amount so the whole airport experience becomes rather tiresome.  I am also quite tall.  However, I don’t think that for once a year flyers, off on holiday that anything other than economy is necessary (unless it is your honeymoon, or you have money to burn).

What is wonderful about this cabin though, is if there is availability you can use miles to upgrade to business class.  This is how I am now sat in Club World.  I managed it on the way out as well as on the return – which required a certain amount of effort.  The images are from the seat on the upper deck on the way out.  A daytime flight, I barely slept, so enjoyed the champagne hospitality perhaps a little too much!

The Seat

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With British Airways, I didn’t have any status, so was back at the bottom of the pile.  I am, however, now already at tier one (bronze) with tier two (silver) within grasp.  With that comes business class lounge access, even on economy tickets and premium economy tickets.  As it is likely that not all of my long haul flights will be upgraded, this makes the experience far more pleasant.  For example, today I came directly from a hot and dusty bike festival after a day in the sunshine, to Monterey airport, then flew to LA with a short 1.5 hour connection.  The TSA (security in the USA) were living up to their reputation as being extremely slow, so that when I got to the lounge, they were already calling the flight for boarding.  Thankfully, the British Airways representative there arranged for me to be brought to the head of the queue to have a shower (there are 8 private bathrooms for the lounge) so that I could be fresh for the flight.  In and out within 10 minutes.  It is for this kind of service that lounge access and status (or even a business class boarding pass) come into their own.

For the short haul, flying from Manchester to Germany mostly, there is a choice of Lufthansa into Frankfurt, or their low cost carrier GermanWings, into Cologne.  It is the latter option that I am taking – sure, there is no lounge access, but the money saved can be used to pay towards the long haul tickets, where any discomfort lasts so much longer.  The experience isn’t quite as pleasant as Lufthansa – and Cologne Airport’s facilities are less good, but it makes sense.

So far, I am really glad of the switch and have had a very positive experience with BA.

The joys of jetlag

So after having a bit of a strange non day yesterday (it was 8 hours shorter than a normal day, because of traveling from the US West Coast), and also being able to sleep on the plane (more on that to come) I woke up pretty early – without the alarm.  I got myself out of bed, kitted up, put the bike in the car and drove somewhere nice to ride.  Got 35.6km done, with an average speed of 28.9km/h.  Quite pleased with that, as I am feeling all fat at the moment.

Oh, and yes, it was wonderful to be back on my own bike again.  It is just so right.

Monterey – Sea Otter Festival

I have spent the last few days in California, at one of the largest Bike Festivals Worldwide. Sea Otter is traditionally the start shot for the US bike season, and brands, customers, and racers converge on Laguna Seca Raceway (near Monterey, about an hour south of San Francisco) to completely feed their inner bicycle nerds.

It is a local show, for the USA with no, or very little International relevance from a sales point of view (I had a conversation with a potential distributor from Peru, and South America remains high on my radar of places to build the brand). For me, traveling here in the past was, as I mentioned in a different post, about helping my US colleagues while we established the brand there. However, as the job has evolved, I am now working with bike brands establishing relationships, with a view to supplying the products OEM for bike manufacturers to include on bicycles when purchased new.

The reasons for doing this are many. First of all, there are larger quantities involved. We are unlikely to spoil the market place for ourselves, given the number of bikes produced worldwide. Selling the product as accessories will remain core to the brand, but there is room to sell OEM alongside. Increased quantities means increased turnover and increased importance for the vendors and factories involved. The second reason is that it means that more end consumers are exposed to the brand, as are more retailers, but in a stealthy fashion. People who would have never experienced our product or considered it, will now be exposed to it, because a bicycle they have purchased has it as standard. This will then instill a trust for the brand, which in turn will help them consider it when purchasing products from any of the other product categories that we serve.

My trip here was focused on these customers. On finding them, and presenting the product to brand / product managers. The people who decide if your bike has this saddle, or that saddle, for example.

Sea Otter festival is great for this. It is a chance for me to talk to a lot of brands in a relaxed environment. At the larger shows, there is often little chance for this, as product managers are there and focused on looking at their competitors’ products (or discussing things with existing suppliers). For me, too, the International Sales side of things is the focus in Taipei in March, and Eurobike in September. Adding an extra opportunity to find new customers, particularly in the Californian sunshine, where everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves is actually an ideal environment for this.

I would call it a success.

On top of this, there is the social aspect. Taking people out of their every day work environment, putting them in a hotel – it helps free up the mind a bit. You take more away from it, than you expect. Always.

I didn’t really take many photos of the event itself, but I did ride again – a different borrowed pimped out bike. Also, my friend Dorothy was enjoying her new bike!

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17 mile drive

So where am I, and what am I doing?

When I first started this job, within the first two months I was sent to California for a week to help our then, brand new US office at a festival. We were all new to the company, and undermanned. I was so green, and it was so exciting to be sent to the States for work. The festival itself is called ‘The Sea Otter Festival’. This is huge festival at the Leguna Seca racetrack which features road, dirt and mountain bike racing. There is also an exhibitors area for brands to present their stuff. In the past, this was my job. We are now large enough though that I don’t have to do it – someone else takes that job. I am here walking the show, talking to product managers. It is a relaxed show, in the sun, in California talking about OEM product.

Sleep is difficult. I am only here for a few days so there isn’t time to adjust. What is nice though is that his means waking early and going for either a run or, like this morning, a ride. Working in the industry, getting a bike, even a really nice bike, as a loner overnight is quite easy. For the bike’s owner, this is a good thing. They don’t have to have that bike in their room getting in the way overnight, and I, well I get to ride and test stuff.

This morning I rode along 17 Mile Drive. Possibly one of the most beautiful roads in the whole world. It is literally just outside the hotel. 7:30 am, riding along, it was bliss.

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Haven’t let up….

I keep traveling. Easter saw me visit my parents, The Pretty One’s family, my grandparents, TPO’s cousin, and numerous friends. A big triangle of driving. There was the odd ride or run in the, but actually far too much time in the car. The North West to The South West to The South East, then back on Easter Monday for work on Tuesday. No big deal perhaps, but this last weekend saw us back down London way, just four days later as I had to work at the shop (a friend’s business in central London called Suka, where I pledged to help out from time to time). More driving, in what isn’t the world’s most economical vehicle (my beloved 10 year old 3 litre BMW).

Things haven’t let up either. I am reclined right now in my seat flying to LA. I have no idea what the time is, nor what the time is supposed to be, and while I have slept a bit, I will arrive at my destination (not LA) at 10.30pm local time. It is always difficult to know what strategy to have in this scenario. Perhaps spending an hour on the rollers this morning was a good one, perhaps not. I will update as this experiment continues!

Looking back.

Last night we sat in one of the conference rooms at work. On my desk here there are powered hifi speakers, loud things which fill a room. Using these, and the 60inch LCD screen on the wall it makes for a pretty good cinema. We order beer and pizza. What occurred to me as I was sat there is how far we have come.

There are now 13 people working purely on the brand and the sub brand in this office. When I started there were just 3 including me. Other departments have exploded in size too. It made me think about how far we have come. The brand is going from strength to strength.

It is a while since I was at the office, and the new products, the new recruits, everything. I just wish I could write about it!

Oh well. A photo of pizza and a TV is the best I can do.

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