Sunday Ample Clearance

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Jan 072013

One thing about bikes with disc brakes: tire clearance at the seat stay is usually pretty good. That’s a Conti 37mm commuter tire in there. One of the things I did this weekend was some clearance research on the project bike (apologies to Seven, too, for temporarily borrowing “Mudhoney”–no idea that was already in play until just recently–need a new project name now).

It was a productive weekend overall.

I’d like to think I’ve always fiercely avoided letting this blog devolve into one of those “here’s what I did today” sort of things. That’s partially because who the hell cares, really, unless it’s something worth sharing? And precious little of what most people think’s worth sharing actually is. Once I start posting photos of what I’m having for dinner, I’d sort of hope my readers would just shake their heads and move on.

But this past Sunday was unique in that I actually managed to get a lot done, including some early marketing work, and then making a new web page. This web page thing normally wouldn’t take long, except it required some social media integration and–far more time-consuming–working around a canned solution web platform. I really like just being able to write a file in a simple text editor, whereas creating files in a cheesy “page creator” (itself, web-based and buggy as shit) is right up there with chewing tinfoil. Anyway, got that done despite some funkiness before noon.

An hour and a half or so on the rollers watching bad TV and then family time, which these days often involves Skype. Skype means my head’s officially out of my weekend rabbit hole and so I started getting some messages. This was OK, really, because a partner in Taiwan has to go over some stuff with me, and that’s both important and fun. I’d already sneaked some time in on bike development stuff really early in the day.

Then back to marketing work, and checking some Google alerts I have, which revealed a conversation about one of my companies that was really interesting and got me thinking about a whole bunch of other stuff.

Pathetic, by most standards, but a pretty good day, I thought. Not as nice as a few hours on the mountain bike or road bike, but mileage was picked up today. It doesn’t always feel that way, and I’ll take it.

Noisemakers and Wallflowers

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Jan 022013

So it’s 2013. Among other things I’d not realized that moving to the West Coast meant getting to celebrate New Year’s at a much more sensible 9:00pm. The advantages are clear: a full three hours early I can reassure myself that watching large gatherings of drunk people bobbing semi-rhythmically to the weak and perfunctory musical stylings of an already weak and perfunctory pop star are still not my thing, then get back to more entertaining stuff.

Like work. I ushered in 2013 much like I have most other years: working on something. In this case a site promo code that wasn’t functioning properly but was set to go off at midnight, regardless. Fortunately, texting my particularly capable boss about a site problem at 8:30pm New Year’s Eve means getting a response at approximately 8:33pm, and a fix shortly after that. Whatever’s wrong with me, this sort of thing seems to be my idea of a good time on New Year’s Eve. I’m a happy little wallflower.

So maybe there’s something wrong with me. Or definitely. There’s definitely something wrong with me. It’s not even about making money so much as making things work. As long as I’m working on something I like–anything from a piece of code to a bike design–I seem to actually prefer creating to recreating. It might just be a nerd thing. A decent beer or two during the process is nice, but getting shit-faced purely for the joy of getting shit-faced has never really seemed like fun to me, compared to making stuff. I don’t know why.

There are, of course, less pleasant things to make–like a backup and relocation of a WordPress site on a sketchy server, which I’m dealing with currently and which ranks right up there with home dental work and chugging spoiled milk. But even WordPress work seems preferable to vomiting into roadside shrubbery, which I witnessed yesterday. As a general rule, if you’ve had to pull your car over to get out and vomit, maybe you shouldn’t be driving. Even if that’s the flu.

So I hope to make more in 2013. I probably won’t weigh less, be nicer, look better or set any new personal records. But I hope to make some things. Overall, January could end up being a decent month when it comes to projects. Some basic carbon fiber samples might be showing up, and I’m hoping to get a timeline on the Danzig prototype soon. A whole bunch of hours finally leading toward making something–that’s my kind of party. I blame Legos.


 E-commerce  Comments Off on Zappoed
Dec 242012

So apparently a customer server agent at Zappo’s spent ten hours on the phone with a customer a few weeks ago. This is just another new standard being set for online customer service, and it joins the ranks of other innovative new standards like endless no-questions-asked returns for any reason and free shipping and free return shipping. If you want to sell shit on the Internet these days, you’d better be prepared to bring your A Game.

Except, wait, what?

Borrow a healthy dose of Web 2.0 skepticism from Jaron Lannier’s pragmatic 21st Century paranoia, apply it to ecommerce, and one starts to wonder if this is improved customer service in the same way Wal-Mart greeters are improved customer service. Perhaps someone spending ten hours on the phone with Zappos doesn’t say as much about Zappos customer service as it does about the state of customers, and I don’t know that that’s something to brag about.

Gangkonfigurator Style

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Dec 192012

I had some technical difficulties yesterday. Computer was fine, but I technically needed more than four hours of sleep. So no post. Literally tens of people may have been surprised to see Monday’s sad post still lingering around. So it goes.

A fourth potential bike project has been added to my list, which I think means I now have a fourth full-time job or something. Unfortunately, dreaming up bikes doesn’t even make the top three when it comes to “things people pay me to do.” Actually, if you count the almost $15 that Google owes me from my Canootervalve ad hosting empire, designed bikes and suspension systems doesn’t even make the top four. It is what people who aren’t getting paid refer to as “a labor of love.”

Anyway, wildly successful profit center or not, I have to backburner Canootervalve for my own sanity to focus free time on doing bike stuff instead of writing about doing bike stuff. I’ll still post all updates on any of the projects here first, but fact is I started this blog to help keep my sanity after leaving my old company unless less than ideal circumstances. I’ve managed to keep it cranking out updates on shit other than what I ate for dinner despite accumulating a pretty alarming number of obligations, so the sanity-preservation play now moves to increasing sleep, decreasing posts.

One thing on my mind, though, is becoming a bike company. I don’t know that this is a bridge I’ll ever have to cross, but assuming the Project Danzig prototype doesn’t wallow around like a drunken duck, having at least some rough idea of a Second Act seems like a good idea. Consumer direct makes a lot of sense, but I like bike dealers. Hmm.

For some site design work I’m doing, I had occasion to visit Koba and check out their bike konfigurator. I’ve always thought configurators were pretty cool. I even built a superhalfass one a long time ago, but one thing about Koba stood out: I’m definitely going to refer to parts groups as “gangs.” As in the new SRAM XX1 Gang. In fact, if I end up involved in a bike company, maybe we’ll just write the whole site in German, so we can use words like “Konfigurator,” too. That word just looks right with a “k” up front. Very death metal.


Combination bike company and death metal band?

More sleep is clearly needed here.

Big Engines

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Dec 132012

The blur of today included a whole lot of marketing, signing off on some pretty interesting frame samples, IT development, and dinner with a manager at one of our distributors. In actuality, he’s considerably more than that, though. This particular manager also happens to be one of the smartest and best guys I know in the bike business. One of the advantages to my current work is that it’s pretty broad. We could be discussing purchase of a simple quantity of bike products one minute, a completely original concept for a business the next, and both are things we’re actually going to do. This guy’s a good fit for discussions like that.

Anyway, one reoccurring theme to the dinner–and the day in general–was authenticity. We’re a unique company with particular goals for customer service, fulfillment and IT, and one of the things that matters to us a great deal is content.

Yes, that same crap that’s all over the Internet. Content.

Both this distributor and my company happen to be big believers in content creation. I’d just read this article by Steve Rubel that drives the point home. Retailer or manufacturer, we’re all in the content business now. When Rubel suggests your company “adopt a newsroom mentality,” I couldn’t agree more. For me, it’s always gone back to that authenticity. Content creators have a story to tell.

Assuming the year 2013 happens at all (Mayan calendar ending and all), we’re going to see two key things:

  • the beginning of the 650b revolution
  • the rise of companies with Something to Say

Good content–unique content–matters, now more than ever. When I look at what’s distinguished that manager’s company, and what I hope distinguishes our companies, it’s content. Not just high-res images and lots of product copy, but personality that comes through the business. I left dinner tonight motivated to get back to telling stories about all the companies I represent, which is really what good marketing does.

Lots of stories to tell in 2013.

The Shot Across the Bowels

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Dec 112012

A lot of truly hairy shit went down yesterday in my life as a Bicyclentrepreneur or whatever, and frankly I’m still processing it all–and will be for a long time. It’s a small world after all, is all. A really weird-ass small world. All over for now, though. My basic sense of how the world works has almost returned to normal. Maybe some day I’ll be able to write about it here. This shit’s supposed to be cathartic and stuff, right?

But it wasn’t just my own little personal yesterday that was all jacked up. Both Facebook and Google were down today. Down as in non-functional.

I don’t know about you, but I was damn near ready to start throwing bricks through store windows and grabbing shit for the coming Mayan end times when I couldn’t access my Google docs this morning–until I realized everything worth looting pretty much required Google or Facebook. D’oh!

Let’s hope this day goes a little smoother, with fewer surprises all around, and way fewer pictures of self-immolating robots. Yesterday was all kinds of wrong.


 Bikes, E-commerce, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Disruption
Dec 072012

As weeks go, I’d just as soon forget this last one ever happened.

This is true for any number of reasons, not the least of which is losing Dave Brubeck. Personally, though, this past week reaffirmed my suspicions that I’m officially working my ass into the ground again–a bit of a known problem for me. Also, it confirmed that I’m a disruptive motherfucker.

I’d like to think I’ve passed into the acceptance phase of life wherein I quietly realize shit’s always going to annoy the hell out of me and that the majority of men are content to lead lives of what used to be quiet desperation, but these days turns out to be pretty loud, shrill and annoying desperation.

I’d like to think that, but apparently, I can’t. I don’t like leaving things alone.

If there’s a productive outlet for this sort of thing, it’s making things that are different. Companies, bicycles, whatever. But I can think of a lot of unproductive outlets that’d be a hell of a lot more fun. For better or more likely worse, I’m pretty sure I’m operating in 5/4 time, but I promise it’s not just to be complicated. It’s because it sounds better to me.

Marketing Gone Wild

 Bikes, E-commerce, Swine  Comments Off on Marketing Gone Wild
Nov 292012

Looks like Project Danzig is officially in the hands of someone capable of figuring out where all the derailleurs and bottom brackets and photon torpedos are supposed to go. In the meantime, I’ve been confronted with an interesting new bike project that’d be about as different from Danzig as possible. Still kicking around directions, but I tagged in my customer service guys today to gather ideas for the ultimate utilitarian bike. In addition to taking care of customers for a bunch of web sites, they also tend to ride bikes. A lot and in ways that are both remarkably practical and wildly impractical.

In short, they’re the type of people who should be involved in designing bicycles. Some great ideas resulted, very few of them the same. Now we must battle.

While Danzig’s in the oven, I’m focused on the marketing side of my life, wherein logic and self-respect are often awkward party guests.

Consider the Miller commercial up top. Personally, I have a rule that if your marketing idea risks insulting all of humanity, you might want to at least get a second opinion. Miller clearly feels differently.

But the real pros have figured out how to insult much more than just your intelligence. It would never occur to me, for instance, to help sell cars by carefully positioning them behind my scantily clad daughter.

According to, though, a guy named Kim Ridley’s somewhat unique eBay used car marketing angle is to use photos of his daughter (and various other young girls/tattoo-practice-volunteers), each scantily clad and posed next to what appears to be the most heavily curated assortment of shitty cars for sale on the Internet.

You know you’ve achieved Twelve Level Ninja Marketing Mastery when you find yourself wondering if maybe that last ass-shot of your little girl with the Nissan might’ve been just a little much, but then using it anyway.

Big Deals

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Nov 272012

My oh my. So much going on today. As I write this, it’s 10:45pm, November 26th, Cyber Monday, and my ecomm day job is currently showing 936 orders received today. That’s sort of a new record. I may in fact be experiencing a panic attack just thinking about it.

Yes, I’m pretty sure that was a panic attack.

I came home from Cyber Monday madness only to start my night job, wherein the first thing I did was make a button. What do you think?

Then, briefly, the idea that Anonymous may have kept Karl Rove from stealing the last election flickered across my conscious, and I must admit I hoped this was true.

Then I put some time into emailing a guy about a prototype bicycle frame and let him know that, yes, I think 27.5-inch wheels and 161.7mm of travel seem just about right.

Much work still to do after that, when, somewhere in the midst of a bunch of corporate Facebookalating, I noticed an email from Twitter. I’m normally programmed to ignore Twitter emails, but this one was from the Canootervalve Twitter account I never use. It was to inform me that Billy Cobham had started following me. Billy Cobham is a legendary jazz drummer and composer. He’s this Billy Cobham.

While this was just some sort of accident on his part, I spent the next hour or so of work partially pondering the ramifications. Him following me meant I could actually send Billy Mr. Cobham a message.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Probably, I should not have even done it, but I’d seen him perform once, and it was life-changing. Not in that “I mean this figuratively” way, but in more of a “actually changed my freakin’ life” sort of way. Hell, I’ve read interviews with this man that caused me to rethink my life (his interview in Modern Drummer back in the ’80s where he extolled the virtues of a slower, more deliberate European pace, particularly when it comes to eating dinner).

Now that my one son is becoming increasingly involved in playing the drums, I couldn’t help it. I sent a message to Mr. Cobham–under 140 characters–just to let him know I had the honor of seeing him play once, and hoped my son could see him as well.

What else can one type, given an opportunity like this? Personally, I could have Mick Jagger’s cell phone number on speed dial, and I’d never call it. Having Beyonce’s private email address would mean nothing to me. But this was really something. After a very, very long and frantic Cyber Monday filled with pace and panic, this small moment meant a great deal to me.

Content’s the Thing

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Nov 262012

It’s Cyber Monday, which means I’m taking some time off from Canootervalve to do stuff that pays the bills. Other than working on the full-suspension bike, though, the big thing in the back of my mind is content.

When Bill Gates declared content king back in 1996, it turned out to be as prophetic as it may turn out to be misunderstood. The original Windows pitch–at least to consumers–was all about empowering individuals to create things. That sure wasn’t how Microsoft ended up paying their bills, but there was a time back then when that emphasis on making content really was a part of the program.

The definition of “content” has changed so much, though. Today it’s become incredibly easy to create text, images and video content that others see. What we do with that has also changed, which brings me to retail, my gig. What’s the role of content on an ecommerce site? Product information, sure, but what else? What is it people expect of content on an ecommerce site? I’m thinking about that more and more these days.