Kickstart or Kickstop for Danzig

 Bikes, E-commerce  Comments Off on Kickstart or Kickstop for Danzig
Oct 312012

I know it’s been a long week of posts for anyone not particularly interested in the ecommerce side of my ramblings, but I’ve been eyeball-deep in that lately. As in “work on it all day, come home and work on another version of it” deep. Tough to get your brain out of that gear after a while. Even Halloween, traditionally a favorite holiday of mine, has crept up on me unexpectedly, so to speak.

But other projects are afoot and all. I’ve been paying particular attention to bikes and frames that’ve been appearing on Kickstarter. Volagi seemed to kill it with some pretty compelling offers on what’s going to be a very interesting new frameset, and now I’m seeing a Kickstarter project from a little company back on the East Coast. At least, let’s hope they’re still on the East Coast–after the past few days of hurricane conditons, they might well be located in Indiana now. (I have a lot of friends up and down that coast. Hope everyone’s well tonight.)

So: Danzig. The first prototype is in its early development stages now, but production is a whole separate serious of costs. If the prototype shows promise, should we use Kickstarter to offer t-shirts, new bike company stuff, and most importantly frames? I’m thinking we’d price at a “supporter” level that’d be about the same as a shop’s EP price.

What I’m wondering is this: is Kickstarter worth considering? As usual I turn to my favorite people in the world for guidance. Should we make Danzig frames available on Kickstarter? Let me know.

New Form
  •   Yes
Oct 302012

I don’t often get up on my soapbox, largely because I never really come down off it in the first place, but my vex du jour in the bike industry is actually a personal one. I’m pissed off about the trade war currently raging in the bike industry.

No, not that one–though, yeah, I suspect it’ll be a while before consumers in China develop a need for King headsets.

I’m talking about unique import practices–like the BMWs sawed in half you see up there. Doing that doesn’t do much for resale value, but it does let you import a BMW into the Ukraine for much less than a whole car would cost in fees.

As long as there have been different governments and currencies, somebody’s been making out on the differences, and it’s pretty common in the bike industry. But today I’m not talking about China, or even the Ukraine.

I’m talking about the problem of Irish imports.

Maybe best I be specific: I’m talking about Chain Reaction Cycles. It’s utter bullshit that a company like Chain Reaction can be based in a country that permits zero pricing regulation from distributors or manufacturers while still being allowed to sell into the U.S. market–a market where both online and brick and mortar dealers have their hands tied when it comes to pricing. Sure, the story of Chain Reaction is hard work and smart planning, but there’s also something to be said for handcuffing your opponent before proceeding to beat the living shit out of him, and that’s been their business model for years.

Reps tell tales of this company’s shipping rates being subsidized by the Irish government because they employ like a tenth of Ireland or something. Some say they’re all eight feet tall and can rip phone books in half (also provided free by the Irish government). Others say one year employment there automatically makes you a member of Irish parliament and gives you papal dispensation to kill in the name of God.

Reps sometimes exaggerate.

At any rate, bullshit, this, or bollocks. Whatever. Sour milk, sure, but there’s insult amidst the injury here, too.

Last Friday, one of the more recognizable companies in the bike industry lurched back into their three year cycle of baseball batting the knees of online retailers in the U.S.. Meanwhile, almost all their products are available at prices at or near our cost from Chain Reaction, who’ll gladly ship them right to your door here in these Americas.

But the worst is shoes. Back when Chain Reaction was first starting to advertise in the U.S. market, I literally had a rep for a shoe manufacturer tell me they were–and I am serious–“poor potato farmers just trying to sell anything they can to survive.”

Um. OK.

Fast forward over a decade and now we’re being told we have to raise prices even on shoes that have been replacing with newer models here in the U.S., lest we be able to sell those shoes into parts of Europe, where they’re still current.

So up we go to MSRP.

On the shoe in question, Chain Reaction is advertising it openly for $100 less than MSRP.

Sympathy isn’t the goal here. I’m a “mail order” guy by brick and mortar standards, and though my path to bike ecommerce was carved through the solid rock of custom bicycle assembly and absurdly time-consuming phone and email customer service, I still get that some shops hate the online guys. Guilty. We send shit in the mail.

But seriously. There’s a big difference between any online retailer in the U.S. and one free to operate with no pricing rules. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with both hands tired behind our back. I’d be nice if the manufacturers helping drive both online and brick and mortar bike shops out of business didn’t pretend it was a level playing field out there. It’s not.

We’re not even playing the right kind of football.

Instant Gratification of the Future

 E-commerce, Gadgets  Comments Off on Instant Gratification of the Future
Oct 292012

Long before he took up debating chairs, back when men were men and cops held pistols like teacups, Clint Easton was Dirty Harry, and Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

I’ve been reminded of that a lot lately, based mostly on how few hours I tend to sleep a night, but plenty of other things as well. While I can’t speak for Clint, I think Harry Callahan would’ve recommended corporations don’t go getting too far ahead of themselves either.

Case in point, the newest use for my favorite pet world-changing technology: Google’s self-driving cars.

Apparently, being ferried to work while unconscious isn’t the only visionary implementation on the to-do list. The real beauty of self-driving cars is their ability to deliver products to your house.

No, seriously.

According to the article on, your deliveries will eventually be brought to you by driverless cars. And it will be awesome.

Delivery without human contact has so many advantages. For one thing, unless the vehicle doing the delivery is a cross between an armored car and one of those 24-hour theft-proof convenience store windows, you’ll presumably be able to also pick up those Frankline Mint collectors’ coins your neighbors had ordered and anything else that looks good, too, including the delivery car itself.

They’ll get that all sorted out, of course, with lasers and self-driving police cars and stuff. Much hazier is how self-driving cars are any real advantage to consumers. Aside from UPS’s obsessive compulsive routing system that eliminates costly left turns, it’s difficult to imagine benefiting much from the actual “vehicle drives to your house” phase of the shopping experience. Compared to the logistics stuff that’s already going on with hubs and airplanes, the part where the shit gets driven to your house doesn’t seem to be any area for much improvement.

But apparently I’m missing the point. According to AndroidAuthority’s article, instant gratification is about to get even more instanter.

Other companies, such as Walmart, Amazon, eBay, and others have been developing the idea of same day shipping. In essence, you order an item and it’s delivered to your door step in just a few hours. This would be fantastic for the online shopping community. Google has been making plans to do this as well.

The service has been live in San Francisco for a little while now. However, it is currently only for Google employees, their families, and their friends. Instead of getting into commerce and keeping warehouses, Google’s plan is to partner up with companies that have these things and simply deliver the items. According to the New York Times, a well known apparel company is already involved in this concept with Google.

Never mind the fact that Google’s entrance into a massive warehouse logistics endeavor would make even less sense than their purchase of Motorola. What’s weirdly adorable about this article is its unbounded optimism about a future in which basic cognitive skills no longer guarantee humans a job. The article continues,

Okay, so Google’s plan for same day deliveries is awesome. What’s even more awesome is that they plan on using their self-driving cars to do it. Just imagine, a legion of cars without drivers delivering your new gadget or clothing items directly to your curb. Then you can retrieve it and the car goes off to its next delivery.

This is an amazing concept. With no drivers to pay and, thus, no scheduling conflicts, Google’s self-driving cars can deliver things day and night. So when that wine you’re drinking makes you impulse buy that Star Wars themed Android charger in the middle of the night, Google’s self-driving cars will have it there before morning.

Online shopping is already pretty popular. People buy things online all the time. So would the addition of same day shipping be the next big thing and make it even more popular? More importantly, would you use a service like this? Let us know.

Yes, because when I order my Star Wars-themed Android charger in the middle of the night, it’ll be so much more convenient to have the package arrive at three or four in the morning.

And what the fuck is, “Online shopping is already pretty popular”? Yes, I believe I’ve heard of this “online shopping” of which you speak. Of all the moving parts required to make delivery within hours happen, I believe self-driving cars would be the least impressive. Near the top, however, would be having warehouses within hours of everyone’s homes and replicating your inventory in every one of them.

Once that miracle is solved, then yes, I’ll be the first to “online shop” myself a pair of “road closed” signs and see if I can roadblock a Google car into an existential crisis.

Trial by Water, and One of the Places I Work

 Bikes, E-commerce  Comments Off on Trial by Water, and One of the Places I Work
Oct 262012

Any thought I had of making it through a Portland winter without getting soaked to the core were quickly dispelled on my thirteen mile ride home last Tuesday. The rain started in earnest about a quarter mile from work and varied little the whole way home, allowing me to achieve that unique sensation of feet literally suspended and floating inside my shoes. Big thumbs up to the Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Jacket, though. Glad I bought local on that one.

Speaking of local, BRAIN was in town recently and included a stop at our brick and mortar store, and a little conversation with The Main Man about that store (which shall remain nameless, lest Google insert its ads here on my blog ’cause of something I did, thereby causing a rift in my personal space time continuum). It’s complicated.

They also mentioned Velotech, the parent company. Check out the article if you’ve ever wondered what I do for (part of) a living. There are some other great projects, of course (I’m involved in many things, not even counting my performance enhancing drug, bovine growth hormone powdered shake, and pro peloton bullying enterprise and the skate shoes I sew myself from the pelts of roadkill to sell on Etsy) but Velotech’s the day job. Reading about it in BRAIN’s article probably won’t shed any light on what the company actually is, but it’ll at least put you confusion at exactly the same level as that of my friends and immediate family. Just what is Velotech? Even though of us who work there only know that our jobs seem to involve bicycles.

Have to give a shout out to The Main Man for working an Amazon throat punch into the interview. If there’s one thing that brings all of us together–ecomm bike shops and brick and mortars alike–it’s hating on Amazon and what they’re doing to the bike industry and countless others. Jay is always on point, throwing elbows like a boss. Add his mega-nerd programming skilz, and yes sir, I will go into battle with this dude. Even against the dark, unstoppable armies of Amazon. Let them may rain hell fire down on us. After a winter commuting in Portland, fire from the sky is starting to seem like a good time.


 E-commerce, Swine  Comments Off on Faceblock
Oct 252012

I manage some corporate Facebook pages–nothing overly elaborate–but a few places where companies can keep fans updated on events, share media with customers, and offer support and advice. Basic communication.

I’ve advertised with Facebook, too, though “sparingly” doesn’t begin to describe it. Plenty of people have told me how awesome Facebook advertising really is, and I’m sure for some businesses it makes much more sense than others, but I also think plenty of businesses mistake “Likes” for “sales.” They are, in fact, distinct. Facebook is rarely your main sales tool. It’s a means of staying in touch with your customers.

At least, until recently.

So the other day a co-worker alerted me to a little rant originated by George Takei (yes, that George Takei) about how Facebook has started changed companies to actually communicate with their fans. Basically, posts were reaching only a small percentage–about 15%–of fans, but you could pay Facebook to have them reach more.

Checked into it. Seemed true.

Then there was a post from someone purported to work at Facebook explaining that it was all a misunderstanding and that posts pretty much always reached only a small percentage of fans, and the advertising was a way to ensure you reached more.

This appeared legit, but of course didn’t square with reality. So you’re telling me a dude who signed up to pay attention to my page is ignoring my posts, but will click on an ad or something for them?

Lot of fuzzy undefined things there. In fact, Facebook definitely was trying to encourage page owners to pay to promote posts, but were they blocking fans otherwise? If so, this would have to be something they’d just started doing after Zuckerberg’s shareholders had realized they owned part of the world’s biggest free waste of time. Which meant we should have befores and afters, right? Companies that had measured their reach and watched it suddenly drop–like right before they started being asked to pay to promote their posts.

Where were those?

Apparently, they’re out there. And pissed.

Does Facebook own the rights to distribute your Facebook shit? Absolutely. Total dick move to play that card? Completely.

Interesting to see where this all goes.


 Bikes  Comments Off on $32,500
Oct 242012

I don’t get it.

No, seriously. It’s easy to make fun of UBC’s $32,500 fixed gear bike because it’s ridiculous. But it’s also fascinating that a company would choose to put what’s apparently mammoth levels of materials technology into a fixed gear bike, and that it would do the rounds on sites like without anybody really talking about what it’s supposed to do so well.

What’s it supposed to do?

Selling the Drama

 Bikes, Swine  Comments Off on Selling the Drama
Oct 232012

At this point the seemingly endless descent of Lance Armstrong’s character has started to seem a little overwrought. Hardly two minutes consecutive go by without Undead Armstrong staggering back across the world stage, fueled by lord only knows what and strung together with money and rubber bracelets. Most people in the cycling world have long since passed the “acceptance” stage and are ready for Armstrong to just please go away.

But Lance just doesn’t roll like that.

Increasingly, what’s become apparent in all the rush to strip Armstrong of his titles and place in cycling’s history is that here we have an individual who does not go gently into that good night.

No, this is far from over, and the real speculation now isn’t whether Armstrong will disappear from the world stage, but rather how famous he’ll continue to be. Just think of the many upcoming story lines we have to look forward to.

  • Claiming to Be Broke
  • Finding Jesus
  • Reality TV

In fact, the more we see of the post-bullshit Lance Armstrong, the more we realize this is an individual who’d be willing to bring down his entire Livestrong organization, before becoming an obscure and forgotten man.

Why? Because Lance Armstrong’s kind of a psychopath, and, as a very interesting article on recently pointed out, psychopaths have a way of taking over.

You should check out the article itself, but one short interpretation suggests that, among other things, psychopaths are simply willing to say and do things that are way beyond the pale, in order to get what they want. They make dime store narcissists and megalomaniacs look downright self-deprecating. Armstrong is one of those guys.

Case in point: he could have made a hell of an effort to save Livestrong by putting as much daylight as possible between himself and the organization. But that never happened, and it never happened for one reason: because Livestrong is all about Lance Armstrong.

It’s why some supporters are asking for their money back and calling the entire organization into question. Livestrong shouldn’t have had to repudiate Armstrong’s actions; he should have distanced himself from the organization completely the minute he became a liability.

But he didn’t. In fact, I don’t recall hearing an apology anywhere in there from Armstrong. At the very least, he owes a dozen personal ones, but all total, he owes many millions more.


 Bikes, Swine  Comments Off on Repurposing
Oct 222012

I’ve long been fascinated with the interesting world that is the fine line between fashion and bicycle manufacturing. Some pretty interesting business models exist there, including yet another shit-bike configurator I discovered yesterday. This one’s German, which means the site selling you $150 bikes for $1000 is clean and slick. You can choose your very own shit saddle and shit stem and shit bar, allowing you to create the ultimate personalized colorway on your ultimate personalized shit bike.

But I’m awarding the lifetime achievement award for turd polishing to From what I can tell, their business model should be the envy of every shop rat and struggling store owner in the world.

Check out the dumpster salvaged bike up top. Apparently, that particular bike was just sold by for about $800 U.S., approximately $683.23 more than it was worth. Based on the general condition of components in the detail photos, it’s pretty clear these bikes are being built with used parts. But I suspect SohoFixed had gone even bigger than most when it comes to rebranding shit bikes as high fashion. Free Wal-Mart quality frameset? Check. Parts from the “$10 or Less” bin at the local bike shop? Check. Bike mechanics? Not so fast, there, big spender. Something about the way the bikes are looking–and that’s cleaned up for the photo shoot, mind you–suggests might have achieved the ultimate level of shit bike rebranding. Could it be true? Could they have chosen to avoid even the expense of hiring those costly “bicycle technicians” to assemble their bikes?

We can’t be sure, but creating artisanal, one-off custom bicycles out of salvaged parts and then having them assembled by people who’ve never installed a saddle onto a seatpost before no doubt yields a more solid bottom-line for both the company and customer.

I can’t claim to understand how it’s possible for a company to pull something like this off, but more power to them. If the market in London can sustain a business that sells shit bikes at a premium, they might as well be allowed to have at it. And as long as the customer knows what he or she’s getting is willfully pays this much for a second-hand bike, it’s probably a win overall. These things would’ve just ended up in landfills. Now they’re bound for the trendy lofts of the irresponsibly wealthy, which I’m all for making the landfill of the 21st Century.

Pre-Halloween Danzig Update

 Bikes, Gadgets  Comments Off on Pre-Halloween Danzig Update
Oct 192012

But enough of my yakkin’ about other stuff. I may have found a way to make Danzig even simpler. I can’t quit you, Solidworks.

After a brief (like seven minute) and tempestuous relationship with a linkage arrangement that’d put the rear shock directly in line with the seat tube (sort of tucked inside an oversized seat tube-esque channel or something), I started experimenting with lower shock positions. The whole story is right up there, in all those blue lines (along with some other interesting blue line stuff I can’t go into right now).

Why do I do this to myself? Tough to say. But if the shock could be mounted low enough, I’d be able to take a lot of metal and machining out of the upper rocker. Now I’m sort of obsessed with trying to make it happen.

Somebody really needs to take my laptop away.

Foundations are Not People

 Bikes, Swine  Comments Off on Foundations are Not People
Oct 182012

After a bit of confusion wherein companies scrambled to do the math, trying to figure out if abandoning Lance Armstrong meant advocating cancer or something, Nike and now Trek have finally turned their back on Armstrong.

While it was certainly wise of all companies involved to verify the douchbaggery of Mr. Armstrong before taking action, there still seemed to be a delayed reaction when it came to severing ties.

If anything, it took former teammate of Armstrong, Paul Willerton, and a small group of protestors showing up at Nike’s corporate office in Beaverton, Oregon to help corporate America separate Armstrong from Livestrong. quoted Willerton as saying:

To be fair to athletics we have to look at Lance the person and the athlete and deal with that, without letting everyone say the magic word and pull that cancer cloak over it. I feel that they are mutually exclusive, that just because you support one doesn’t mean that you have to support the other. Nike could make a strong move right now by dumping Lance Armstrong, even if they still need to continue paying LAF.”

And so they did. Nearly all of the sponsors are gone.

More complicated is the relationship Armstrong has among cancer survivors around the world, for whom his status as both a hero and a source of hope is very real. The most disturbing aspect of Armstrong’s fall for grace may be the debilitating effect it has on some of his most dedicated fans–cancer survivors every bit as impressive as Armstrong, but people who found in him a sense of not just hope, but community.

As Steve Madden, former editor of Bicycling pretty eloquently explained, there was a lot of inertia to just accepting Armstrong for years, pinching our noses harder and harder the more the situation seemed to stink, because, well, there was a good cause going on.

But really it’s time to take Lance as his word. I’d always thought he seemed like an OK enough guy–um, doping and cheating and lying and apparently threatening aside–except for the false modesty. To be sure, everything Lance was always Lance, and everything Livestrong was always Lance. And he, more than anyone, took great pains to make sure it stayed that way.

But now it can’t. If there’s a moral to this story, it has little to do with doping and honesty and sports, and everything to do with the Problem of Celebrity. It’s unfortunate that we tend to need somebody like the mythical, imaginary Lance Armstrong. There seemed to be a sense of weightlessness over the past few weeks, as the Livestrong network collectively pondered an existence without Lance at the center of the universe. I was particularly disgusted by Livestrong ads running on Facebook that were very conspicuously worded to combine strong ideas of “support” and “standing up for” with relatively vague objects of that support. The obvious effect was of rallying behind Lance.

Make no mistake, for all the good it did, Livestrong was also a tool in Armstrong’s campaign of deceit and self-promotion. The real question was could it exist without him.

For now looks like it can–thanks to a whole lot of amazing people who might never be celebrities, but who are ultimately far better individuals than Lance Armstrong.