Tag Archives: Germany

An update – quiet times

I haven’t posted for a week. I realised that this was becoming a little like a training blog, and a boring one at that. I rode today, I rode yesterday…. Blah, blah. So I thought I would leave it for a bit and write about something else.

This last week involved quite a lot of time off. Monday and Tuesday were holidays in the UK. Germany has loads of holidays too. In fact I hadn’t taken the recent ones, saved them up and took the UK ones instead. Then Thursday was a German holiday, so I took that too. It sounds lazy, but this is my quiet period. Selling in new products to distributors is difficult, and they can only sell what they can sell in the middle of the season. Yes, advertising helps, but advertising needs to be international – and doing that is expensive. A lot of my time at the moment unfortunately is taken up explaining why products which should have delivered haven’t. As you can imagine, this is not much fun. The weather is also critical in this industry. Good weather sells bikes and accessories, shitty weather, well only the hardcore cyclists go out in that. As far as OEM sales go, there is just research to be done. Meeting with people and presenting products takes place from the Munich ISPOBike show this year, then Eurobike, Interbike and the others in between. The product managers at the bike companies arent really specifying the 2014 bikes yet – and certainly not in the detail that our products are on their minds yet.

To motivate people, a few distributor visits are perhaps called for. That said, going without a set target for the visit, other than talking to the sales reps, makes it feel a bit too much like a nice day out. I am very aware that I don’t want to take advantage.

I have been riding too. Last Tuesday, 138km, then nothing for the rest of the week (giving my legs a rest). Some visits to the gym in the building two days running for some rowing, another massage, and some time on bike on rollers doing spin ups (up the rpm until you can’t go any faster then try to hold it). I am in Germany now, after an eventful journey yesterday. Just did a fast flat ride, 43km at 34.4km/h, then another 5km to warm down, so a balance of 49km averaging 32.7km/h. My legs are quite tired now!

Next week, well time for a summer holiday I think. 🙂

Worksriding

Working at a bike company usually means that you all like bikes. Those who have no interest eventually give in and end up with bike or 7. What we don’t often get to do together though is ride. Everyone has a different rhythm. When R&D is super busy and pushed for time, sales is more relaxed. When sales is relaxed, normally this is in the lead up to a show – getting everyone out on bikes at the same time is difficult.

Today we managed it, and I have to say I was impressed. Everyone rode well, and although not everyone was of the same level, no one was really left behind. I managed to push myself quite hard a couple of times, working with one of our product managers, to sprint back to the group (usually as I had dropped off to take photos).

At the end of the day, I had (including riding to work and back), around 65km. It isn’t looking like a bad week so far, but I think the riding is over, back on an aeroplane tomorrow.

Riding around here is so nice though. I must admit I miss living in Germany for that very reason. Good roads and varied terrain. The weather today even played along, and the ride included a beer garden stop (alcohol free Weiss beer).

There were some nice bikes on the road today too!

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Upgrades

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.

Worksrider Update

Some of you will hate this post. It is about bicycles….. well work, and travelling too.

In the last couple of weeks I have been to the Netherlands, a show in the UK and am now in Germany. I have visited distributors, bike retailers (with 15,000 bikes in stock!) and manufacturers. I have talked to Giant bicycles, Gazelle, Koga, Batavus and Magura. I have seen prototypes, sat in meetings about 2013 products and decided the future direction for distribution in certain countries. I am working hard and loving it.

I have been riding too….. trying to get fit, because I have been signed up for Mountain Mayhem as part of our second tier team. My schedule is packed, it helps me not miss the pretty one. I am loving every minute though….

Speaking of loving it, our team mechanic is building the 2011 bikes…. I popped in to see him today…. There was this shelf….

Gerard Butler

A travelling day today.  Up early and out of the door by 7.15am (I work from home, this is an early start!).  Off to Heathrow terminal 1.  Again I am reminded why I like T1 and Lufthansa’s setup there…. Within 5 minutes I was airside and off to the lounge for breakfast.  There I got to have a bacon sandwich while sat next to Hollywood a-list  (I had to ask the lounge employees who he was!).  He was quiet and well behaved, although his entourage were being a little LA and self important (which of course everyone is in the business class lounge, but he was being a bit DYKWIA.  Anyway, enough about Gerard Butler having breakfast sat next to me – I am now back in Germany for a week.  Home, Taxi, Plane, Train, Taxi, Office, Company Car, Hotel and to sleep.  Then up at 5.30am.

Why do you want to work here?

IT seemed like a great idea at the time. “I wont be here, she can stay in my apartment”.

We have a new member of staff. I met her once, and gave her a good grilling. It was part of the interview process. “Why do you want to work here?… I see, but couldn’t you do that anywhere?… Hmmm…. So you aren’t a cyclist?…. No that’s good, a different angle, and all”. My job, while weighing up the candidate (I gave her the green light to my colleague – who made the decision) was to test her English. It was also, as she is a designer, to see if she likes ‘designing things’ or ‘designing things to sell them’. There is a huge difference.

Anyway, she needs somewhere to stay. As I am travelling in March a bit, and also in April, my German apartment will sit empty (just eating money really, for no good reason) so to cut the losses, and to do the ‘newbie’ a favour, I offered it to her for the same amount a week, as you would pay in a hotel for a night. I will freely admit that a hotel would be nicer, but being able to cook your own food is a bonus.

Now, I don’t hugely like my apartment in Germany. In fact, nothing in it means anything to me, which is why I don’t mind letting someone I don’t know stay here. There is only a wooden box that I would like to retain when I move out. Perhaps I can persuade her to buy it all? After all, she may need furniture. Alright, maybe not.

So, it is a plan, that has been set into motion. Only, I forgot that it would mean that I would have to clean the place. So that was a fun evening. It was very dusty. It is clean now. But is it German clean? Will this ‘newbie’ think I am a dreadful slob?

She’ll have internet though, and a telly. A DVD player, and all of my ‘old’ clothes (that I wear in Germany where I don’t worry too much about what I look like – means I fit in j/k). It wont be too bad. All the same just to underline stereotypes, I have left 9 cans of baked beans and a jar of mint sauce in the cupboard.

What an odd way to get to know someone though?!

Dusseldorf, riding and thinking

Thursday after work I finally got on a bike again. It had been a while because of illness, and then being back in Germany moving into my new (and tiny) apartment. Then there was the damage done to my car by a bit of road debris on Wednesday, reporting that to the (disinterested) police. Thursday I rode to work. Together with a colleague, we had decided that we would ride in, then home, then put in some time after work. It was a good call, especially as a different guy at work had managed to collect all of the parts for a bike to build his first ‘proper’ one. eBay had provided him with pretty much everything that he needed, and an XTR equipped hardtail, with a very grinny owner road back with us, having finished the assembly that day.

Our route home was 50% offroad. Just farm tracks really, and a couple of paths. Just about as hard as you want to go on a brand new bike. He headed home and the other friend and myself headed to the other side of the Rhine to where we live in Koblenz, and headed into the hills for a spot of further mountain biking.. The loop was 25 miles, with 500m of climbing. It was boiling hot and a great ride in alpine-esque scenery. Added to the 15 miles of commuting, and it was a good days cycling.

Friday it pissed it down in the morning, and so I drove in. The evening was going to involve driving to Dusseldorf to visit a one of my best friends and loveliest people in the whole wide world, who lives there. We were at university together, and she enter became a member of my ‘superleague’ of trusted friends very quickly. Over the years we have kept in touch, despite the international nature of our lives (she lived in Spain for a year, is half Irish, half German, studied in England, then worked in Munich and is off to Madrid to return to studies soon). Seeing her home where her parents brought her up is a real privalage, and meeting her whole family, was also great. It was so nice to be made to feel so welcome. It is certainly a good move on my part to have consciously decided to make more of my time here in Germany,, visiting more people and taking fewer things for granted.

Speaking of which, I have just watched Rich, Famous and Homeless on the BBC iPlayer. If you can find it on YouTube or something, it is a real eye opener. Part of the conversation this weekend was actually about how good our lives are, and how although I think we have all suffered with feeling lost and desperate at some point or another in life (I know that I have), that comparatively all of us are very spoilt and have a wealth of opportunity. It is something that I don’t want to forget quickly.