25 Milestone

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Oct 222013

It’s pretty rare for me to pause and just enjoy a moment, but after seven years, more hours and money than I care to remember, and plenty of great dark waves of self-doubt, today I enjoyed some of what I think most people call “happiness.” I turns out I really did know what I was doing after all.

1 patent – 27.5 inches – 160 millimeters – 2 links – 25 mile round trip commute to work
absolutely zero suspension bob

Plenty still to do, but it works. The design I’ve put so much into actually does work. Really, really well. I’m a little bit in shock, actually. Not quite ready for daytime photos, but there’s an entirely new kind of suspension system in the world. I’m quietly happy tonight.

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.

2014: End of Innovation’s Vacation?

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Nov 282012

Between the official rise of 650b to electronic suspension to commoners roaming the aisles at Interbike, next year is going to be all about excitement.

Seriously, while 2013 products are still pretty boring, 2014 is looking ready going to light shit up. Here’s what I’d like to see.

More garage mechanics/programmers developing better electronic suspension than the major suspension companies.

More of this guy’s work, and more U.S. made carbon fiber. Much more.

If there’s a common theme here it’s that do-it-yourself seems to be going high-tech when it comes to bicycles, and that’s pretty great. We haven’t seen this many genuinely new ideas in a long time. I’m more fond of some than others (I’m just not particularly into electronic suspension, particularly after riding plenty of “analog” bikes this year that pedaled exceptionally well).

But it’s all for the better.

London Calling

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Nov 222012

I was up at four this morning to start a turkey. That’s high noon in London, England, a place that I’m increasingly convinced makes Portland look pretty normal by comparison.

Case in point, this London-based site dedicated to “bike taxidermy.” It seems completely impossible that Portland didn’t come up with this first. In fact, I have my suspicions.

But then yesterday I received an email from my boss that included only a single link. This is what happened when I opened that link:

Yes, that just happened. What’s more, since he first brought it to my attention (thank you!), they’ve sold another 27 or so on their way to a goal of one thousand. Personally, I suspect they’ll do it, if only because they’re featuring a horse mask in their video, and horse masks are the hotness right now. Like London.

So come on, Portland! Let’s get off our asses and start selling nose ring mustaches that look like tiny handlebars, or crowd funding a DIY home kit that lets you build your own 2,000 square foot house out of used inner tubes.

Tomorrow, I mean. Today’s just for turkey.

Zero Marketing Gift Ideas

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Nov 212012

Solid gift ideas for the holidays.

I hate marketing.

Don’t get me wrong. I can sell me some shit, and like Liam Neeson, I’ve acquired a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career.” But I’m pretty sure I lack a certain marketing something, that higher level of disdain for my fellow man that’s present in marketing lifers. I like customers. I believe in certain products. That kind of shit gets in the way of marketing.

Maybe it’s just the time of the year. Between the endless ad spot pushes from every Herb Tarlek of local radio station/newspaper/nano-zine/photocopied-flyer-on-telephone-pole fame trying to sell me space, to the sheer mayhem of holiday promotions, I’m looking forward to mid February.

So I’m starting my list of holiday gifts so fucking cool that they need no marketing whatsoever. Conveniently, this also doubles as my holiday wish list.

Yes, that’s a Slayer Holiday Sweater. The nice thing about these items is that they require no explanation.

It’s a ’75 Volvo C-303. Think your new Volvo family wagon is safe? Good luck surviving a zombie apocalypse in that shit. You can’t even fjord water, let alone have the approach angle to scale the really steep stuff. Might as well just give up.

Palm-based flamethrowers really require zero marketing. I wouldn’t recommend this for kids under, like, six. Or anyone over six, either, but you have to admit it doesn’t need a fancy package or celebrity spokesman. It lets you shoot flames. From your hand. Solid.

Mood Ring of Fire

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Nov 192012

Took some time off last week to travel up to Seattle and see Rush. I’m an old drummer, which makes this sort of pilgrimage mandatory behavior. But I think taking the kids to a packed, three hour concert was a little off the wall, even by my standards. From what I could tell, they were the only seven-years-olds at the show, and they stayed awake the entire time (thanks partly to fire and explosions).

Probably bears mentioning that I didn’t just take the kids to a concert; I took the kids to one of the first concerts to be held in Washington state after they’d voted to legalize marijuana.

At first, I’d assuming this was just negligent, half-assed parenting on my part. After thinking about it a little more, though, I’m pretty sure it follows in a long line of sketchy but calculated parental decisions common to my family. That’s much on my mind this week, given the whole Thanksgiving thing. I’m thankful I had parents who were remarkably level-headed but sometimes chose to hang out with people who were not that way at all. See, exposing your kids to some massive doses of human stupidity–when done correctly–has a distinct preventative effect.

More on that later, but I’ve been away from bikes, too, and maybe that’s a good thing. While 650b mountain bike wheels and hydraulic disc brakes for drop bars continue to slouch their way toward the limelight, the here and now of bike high-techery has to be mind reading helmets that display your mood using LEDs. No, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

According to Treehugger.com, somebody has actually invented a bicycle helmet with LEDs that change color depending on your level of alertness and general happiness. As seen in the photo above, these lights ring your head and communicate–based directly on your brain’s activity–how you’re feeling. Finally, a way to express your mood through tiny lights that circle your head. I only hope someone finds a way to tie this technology into MonkeyLectric’s wheel lights.

How awesome would it be to have your mood translated into furious profanity and images of total destruction drawn in colorful lights right on your spinning wheels?

Some more updates this week on a bunch of stuff that’s probably semi-important to be, at least financially.


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Nov 092012

A while back I asked for some opinions about launching Project Danzig, my little bike design, on Kickstarter. While I consider both of the guys who read these posts to be infinitely wise and well-traveled in the world of bicycles, making sense of the responses has proven difficult. I got a lot of responses (OK, there are more than two of you out there), but zero consensus. Like a total 50/50 split.

Now I know some of you just vote the “no” ticket across the board, from supporting cheesy-sounding new “social micro-financing invention sites” to rescuing a bus filled with puppies from a volcano, but for the split to be so balanced wasn’t expected.

What’s up with that?

Either way, I’m taking a break from banging my head against the keyboard to point out one particularly upscale Kickstarter project, Fabike (I don’t know either–it’s like a cross between “Fabio,” the designer, and “bike”).

To my thinking, Fabike marks a few key changes to the bike projects I normally see on Kickstarter.

For one thing, most Kickstarter projects tend to skew toward hippie-capitalism–“it’s about all of us, man” kind of vibe. In contrast, Fabio’s baked his name right into the bike. He’s bringing a little bravado and swagger to the party, and why the hell not? If my name were Fabio, I would, too. There’s no “i” in “teamwork,” but there’s a lot of “fa” in the “fabike.”

More importantly, this is clearly a company, not a dude. You don’t set out to “fund your little labor of love” by offering a carbon fiber frameset and a full assortment of private label branded parts, from crankset to wheelset–to laser-etched BB30 adapter cup set.

I’m not for or against here. I’m just curious to see what’s clearly a company using Kickstarter to fund what appears to be a pretty sophisticated project. Why half of you don’t like Kickstarter, I may never know (unless you comment), but I’m wondering how Kickstarter has changed in the last year. I suspect it’s become a target for companies capitalized enough to have developed something without it, but using it to hedge their bets.

Interesting to see how all of this will change in the next week, let alone the next six months.

Still drawing.

Fine Tune #9,493

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Nov 082012

So what I discovered when I reviewed the patent on this thing last night is that the forward lower pivot does not need to be below the rearward lower pivot. Does that make any sense, or have I gone full redrum at this point? I had to impose constraints about the relationship between the upper and lower pivots, but not the vertical relationship between pivots on the same rocker. OK, I’m pretty sure that one didn’t make any sense. Redrum.

Basically, I can rotate the front of the lower linkage up, away from the bottom bracket shell. There are some interesting things that happen when you do this but overall it’s just an option, and I’m at the point where design options damn near make me weep. Right now options are cause for celebration the way finding out you can scratch your nose against the ground when buried to your neck in sand is cause for celebration. A little wiggle room when you thought you were all out of that sort of thing can be a pretty big deal.

Still no magic wand, though. Because the real beauty of the system is how the lower link tracks right along the chain, you really can’t just go putting it anywhere without screwing up the system.

Anyway, back to the drawing board.