February 3, 2016 § 31 Comments
When I was a kid my dad had a toolbox that lived in the garage. It was gray with a red tray inside. It was made of steel. Inside there was a big hammer, two screwdrivers, a crescent wrench, some pliers, and a big steel file.
I learned early that tools were the enemy. When something broke you had a problem, but once you put a tool to it, you suddenly became the 100% owner of the problem in fee simple with no remainderman, like the time our record player stopped working and we took it apart. We got a whipping for that. “What the hell are you taking it apart with a hammer for?” my dad had yelled.
The hammer was my tool of choice. I would take it out to the gutter and pound away at the cement curb, sometimes for hours at a time. Occasionally I would use the wrenches for bike repair but the bike always ended up lots worse than when I started, so eventually I quit trying to fix anything. I was the kid whose handlebars were always crooked and whose banana seat was missing a couple of screws.
When I started cycling I really learned to never work on anything, ever. The bike was a mysterious black box, where the ankle-bone was connected to the eye-bone and only Ph.D.’s in bikeology were competent to repair them. It got to the point that I was afraid to even carry tools with me. Better for the bike to explode than for me to have to adjust my saddle.
I was living in Japan when one day a Snap-On truck drove by my house. I remembered Snap-On from Texas, where you’d see their little trucks driving around. I thought they were cheap-o tools because of the name, “Snap-On.” It made me think of “snap-off.” I flagged down the driver and we started talking. He was a really nice dude and showed me inside his truck, which was filled with tools. I didn’t recognize any of them except the screwdrivers and the crescent wrenches, so I bought a couple. They were really expensive, but I chalked it up to buying U.S. products in Japan.
Next week he came by again and I bought a couple more tools. After a couple of years I had a big red box about two feet long by three feet high filled with Snap-On tools. I didn’t know what any of them did, but there were a couple that I could use around the house when something got loose. “Here, let me tighten that screw with this $150 screwdriver.”
Also, I had an old Bridgestone commuter bike with bolts instead of quick releases, so I used the socket driver to change flats. I bought the socket driver because it had an orange handle and because when you snapped on the socket you could grab it with your hand and twirl the driver, which made the coolest whizzing sound.
When I got back to America a buddy saw my tools and his eyes bulged. “Damn!” he said. “Is that all Snap-On?”
“That’s the best stuff there is.”
Over the years I lost various pieces or they got corroded from being left outdoors for months at a time and stopped working so I threw them away. Plus, the tool box was heavy and we moved around a lot. Finally I was down to a couple of dozen tools so I gave most of them away on Facebook. You never saw anything get snapped up so quickly.
Still, I kept a few screwdrivers and wrenches, especially the Old No. 72. Old No. 72 was the biggest crescent wrench in that guy’s truck and it cost like $400. It wasn’t good for anything but I used it to loosen the lock ring on my cassettes. The wrench was so heavy that when you tightened the lock ring you’d strip it instantly if you weren’t careful. I went through a lot of lock rings.
One day Smasher came over and saw my Snap-On stuff laying all over the balcony in various stages of rust. “Dude,” he said, “WTF?”
Smasher is a pro motorcycle mechanic and his shop floor is clean enough to build microchips on. I’ve seen his tools and they are cleaner than a woman’s wedding day underwear. Smasher came back a few days later with a bag. “You know that stuff is all Snap-On, right?”
“How about I give you some cheap Chinese tools that will last you a hundred years since you’ll never use them, and you give me those?”
“Okay,” I said.
He put them all into the bag and left. A couple of weeks went by and the replacements never arrived. Pretty soon I got a hankering to go strip a couple of lock rings so I called him up. “Where’s the cheap-ass Chinese tools you promised?” I asked.
“I’m out of town, dude. Susan will drop them off.”
“Okay,” I said. “But hurry. I’ve got some lock rings that need stripping.”
Susan came by while I was gone. Mrs. WM put them on the couch. They were in a little soft black case.
I got home and saw the case, laying face down on the couch. My urge to go ruin a few hundred dollars’ worth of bike equipment had faded so I just left them there for a couple of days. Then Smasher called. “Hey, dude,” he said. “What did you think about the tools?”
“Hang on and I’ll tell you,” I said.
I went over to the couch and grabbed the bag. I flipped it over and saw it was quite immaculate and had “Snap-On” embroidered in bright red lettering. I unzipped it.
Smasher had lovingly reconditioned every single tool, even down to my one socket. “Dude!” I said. “You polished it all up! Even my socket!”
“You idiot,” he said. “I showed it to everyone at the shop. No one’s ever seen a Snap-On socket driver with just one socket. How come you only have one socket?”
“I only have one bolt.”
“And why three adjustable wrenches?”
“It reminds me of my childhood.”
Smasher had also cut out perfectly formed shapes for each of my random tools so that they would nestle in the case’s foam backing.
“This is pretty rad,” I said, “but I can already see a few problems.”
“Problems? What problems, you nut job? They’re nicer than when you bought them.”
“I’m afraid to use them. They’re too beautiful. I suppose I can season them out on the balcony for a few months, though.”
“Don’t you fuggin’ dare.”
“Okay,” I said, taking out Old No. 72. Its jaws purred open and shut, begging to wrap their shimmering edges around the tender aluminum of a slim lock ring. “I won’t.”
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January 16, 2016 § 24 Comments
Carmichael Training Systems, founded by exercise guru and former pro cyclist Chris Carmichael is looked up to worldwide for its ability to help people get the most out of their bodies. CTS recently published a fantastic list of six goals NOT to make this year, and since CTS has done the community a great favor by listing these six important “Thous shalt nots,” I thought I’d return it by giving them some goals for 2016. Chris & Co., you can PayPal me any amount you think appropriate.
- Expunge all Internet traces of Carmichael’s relationship with Lance Armstrong. Chris advertised for years as Armstrong’s coach and rode the syringe’s coattails all the way to success even though he was purportedly aware of Lance’s doping for decades. Fortunately, once Lance was revealed to be a cheater, a liar, and a fraudster, CTS has put more distance between Chris and his former protege than there are miles between here and the Crab Nebulae. However, inconvenient Internet links still exist that remind potential clients of Chris & Lance. For 2016, let’s get all those links deleted!
- Not dope any juniors against their will. Chris was sued by former juniors on the national team for allegedly force-injecting them with PED’s, leading to horrific injuries and side effects. Coach Carmichael is believed to have settled the allegations under a confidential agreement, so without admitting wrongdoing he was presumably able to pay off his victims without having this nasty chapter of cycling history attached to his Teflon brand. For 2016, let’s not dope juniors against their will!
- Sell another 50 containers of snake oil. CTS has mastered the art of selling people what they could get for free, i.e. bicycling fitness and health advice which anyone with a brain knows is this: 1) Ride more. 2) Do what you enjoy. 3) Decline the fourth trip down Ming Yang’s $4.99 All U Can Inhale Chinese Buffet.
- Double training camp reservations. The high point of any CTS sucker’s, er, member’s membership, is attending a training camp where you can dream of briefly rubbing shoulders with Chris or receive an extended jock-sniffing session with his old riding shorts. These camps are led by accomplished amateur and pro bike racers who think you are a fat, worthless pile of cattle crap even as they smile, wait for you on the clumb, eagerly paw at you for tips, and seethe at making $9.99 an hour while CTS is raking in all the cash.
- Expand the number of profamateurs who get full evaluations. Because you are a profamateur bike racer who may one day enter a Cat 5 race or get your Wanky Cat 2 upgrade after 25 years, it’s important to know your body composition. Whereas the typical Internet coach will just tell you, “Your body is composed mostly of water,” or simply “oxygen,” at CTS they will make you blow into a funny tube and pedal a bike that is stuck to the floor while trying to self-induce heart failure. They will take pictures you can post to show how much you suffered.
- Get more people to wade deeper into their cycling delusion. At CTS, after determining your body’s oxygen content (Hint: lots!), you can sign up for a life-changing experience that the rest of the world will regard as madness, i.e. sign up for a “tour” of sections of P-R, Flanders, etc. These will closely replicate the races themselves except that they will come with 4-star lodging, fine food, coach coddling, and lots of supportive emails to help you reach your personal best, even if that means riding 10k in rain along a cow path lined with pig poop.
But perhaps our biggest resolution for CTS is that it continues to succeed with its sports performance by ensuring that “CTS Athletes experience a 10% increase in sustainable power in the first 6 months of coaching.” If a 10% increase in power doesn’t translate into a happier, healthier life then nothing will!
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December 14, 2015 § 12 Comments
Cracked pelvis ehab and recovery have their benefits: Lower grocery bills. Less laundry (waaaaay less laundry). Zero monthly bike equipment expenses. And of course, fewer showers. Waaaaaay fewer showers.
But the downside is extra time. People evolved having to scrounge and scrape from dawn to dusk. They don’t do well at all with extra time. This is why they invented war and writing and art and television and Facebag and the Twitter, to kill all that extra time.
The excess hours have caused me to sink into the cesspool of planet scroll, where I scroll down the Twitter endlessly. That’s where I came across Planet Fitness and Shushanik Gabrielyan. Planet Fitness is a gym that caters to first-time and (very) occasional gym users.
It discourages gym rats, squat racks, grunting, and it only has up to 80 pounds of free weights. Everything is done in a nurturing “judgment free zone.” No one is made to feel inadequate or intimidated by some ripped fitness freak who is curling a Smart car.
In case the workout experience tires you out, once a month Planet Fitness offers free pizzas and bagels. And free Tootsie Rolls 24/7 at the counter. It’s hard to say whether they’re successful, but they have over 1,000 franchises and are publicly listed.
Shushanik Gabrielyan is a young woman who graduated from high school and is now suing the Glendale Unified School District. As a member of the school’s water polo squad, she was subjected to workouts in which her coach Casey Sripramong conducted drills that were “extremely intense and egregiously inappropriate,” and that even left her “pushed to the point of exhaustion.”
With regard to Planet Fitness, gym rats hate the place. “Worst gym ever.””It’s not a gym.” Etc.
With regard to Shushanik, comments generally hover in the region of disbelief. Suing a coach because her workouts hurt and made you sore? Really? I mean, really really?
And the answer is really, yes. But the bigger question is whether or not Shushanik and Planet Pizza herald the onslaught of the zombie apocalypse, and if they do, how in the world are we going to battle it with nothing but pizza-and-bagel gorging candy-asses armed with Tootsie Rolls, and the occasional whiny “athlete” who’s upset because she had to sweat?
Alas, if it were only limited to gyms and water polo squads! But it’s not. Competitive cycling is awash with Shushaniks–from thin-skinned juniors who can’t handle losing to glass-ego masters who foment a revolution because they’ll have to (Gasp!) compete against 35-year-olds instead of 40-year-olds.
This begs the question, “Is there anything wrong with being a cupcake?” Of course not, just as long as you understand that the purpose of cupcakes is to be eaten.
And then there’s the bigger picture. Planet Pizza claims that its business model ($10 monthly membership) accommodates people who need a gym to help them get ready to go to a gym, but that’s utter bullshit. Planet Pizza’s clientele are like every other gym’s clientele: They sign up and don’t go.
However, unlike CrossFit and SoulCycle and all the other ridiculously named, mirrored meat markets, at $10/month it’s easy to maintain your membership at Planet Pizza without actually going, almost like having a $2.99 blog subscription that you never actually read.
This is one reason Planet Pizza hasn’t raised its rates since 1999. The other reason is that when you discourage actual “gym rats,” i.e. “people who use what they’ve paid for,” you eliminate the gym members who wear shit out.
Running a gym requires continual equipment maintenance and replacement if you have a contingent of heavy users, and the stuff isn’t cheap. It’s much easier to stretch the life out of a treadmill that’s never used, cf. your Lemond indoor trainer gathering dust in the garage, and the lifespan of the equipment affects every gym’s bottom line. Problem is, excluding heavy users to focus on members who never come gives the lie to Planet Pizza’s marketing ploy. They don’t exist to help the uninitiated get fit, they exploit suckers. Which is kind of the same thing.
Worse, this type of behavior, once accepted and entrenched, makes it unexceptional when an athlete sues a school district for making them uncomfortable and sore. I shudder to think who Gabrielyan is going to sue the first time she has marathon sex. The promise of “all gain, no pain” and the cynical sale of gym memberships-cum-pizza ties in perfectly with people like Gabrielyan who are outraged that progress requires discomfort, discipline, and, yes, nut-crunching misery. Donut Ride, anyone?
Of course there’s an easy solution to all of this: Quit scrolling.
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December 1, 2015 § 27 Comments
Although I generally disdain using this space for anything useful, here’s something useful: Using MedPay insurance to defray your medical bills.
If you get hit by car, you now know (because you religiously read this blog–and by “religiously” I mean “daily,” not “becoming an angry white Christian man and shooting up an abortion clinic”) that it’s a great and inexpensive idea to have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
However, whether you have such coverage or not, once the driver’s insurer admits liability and issues you a check, you have the problem of healthcare insurance liens (and so does your lawyer, and frankly, whose problems are more important–yours or his?). In short, when your healthcare insurer pays for your medical bills after fighting tooth, claw, nail, fang, whip, hammer, icepick, baseball bat, and slingshot, the terms of their agreement with you allow them to assert a lien against the bodily injury settlement money you get from the insurance company of the driver who hit you.
In other words, you finally got them to cover your accident, and your humble lawyer finally dragged a few dollars out of the offending driver’s insurer, and lo! The health care insurance company wants its cut. “After all,” they piously intone, “we paid your hospital bills.”
Now you’re probably thinking, “Like fuck you did. I paid them–it’s called a fuggin’ insurance premium. Why should you have any claim to the money I get from the baddie who mowed me down?”
Answer: Because they have the gold and they write the rules, and California rules say that they can. Don’t like it? Become a major insurance company. I hear it’s a growth business.
If this seems like it sucks, that’s because it does, and as time goes by health care providers are getting harder and harder to negotiate with regarding these liens. Used to be, your savvy lawyer could phone them up and say, “Look here, Mr. Dikbag, I worked my butt off to get this settlement. If it weren’t for me you’d be getting zero, so cut me some slack and reduce your lien.”
They’d hem and haw and do it. Now they still hem and haw, but the reductions aren’t as high, and in many cases they don’t reduce them at all.
It’s often the case, especially when you get hit and your injuries are moderate or minor, that the ambulance ride and the follow up treatment greatly reduce your eventual recovery. In essence, by filing a claim and hiring a lawyer, it can seem like all you’re doing is working for free for the healthcare provider: Getting the driver’s insurer to cut you a check which then gets (mostly) handed over to the healthcare provider. They think it’s great. You (and your humble lawyer) think otherwise.
Since the healthcare insurer has first priority over the settlement check, he gets paid before you, and before your lawyer. Lawyers don’t like that very much, and neither do you.
So although the message might seem to be, “If you’re going to get hit, make it a catastrophic injury and get hit by someone with a billion dollars of coverage,” it isn’t. The message is that there is at least one low-cost way to keep the healthcare provider’s grubby paws off your money so that it can remain in your grubby paws and the even grubbier paws of your lawyer.
Here’s how: Get MedPay coverage added to your auto liability coverage. If your insurer doesn’t offer MedPay, switch insurers. MedPay coverage is an add-on that lets you send medical bills directly to your auto insurer when you’ve been hit by a car. Your healthcare insurance pays zip, and therefore has no lien on your recovery. For small and moderate cases, MedPay coverage is great, and some insurers will offer benefits up to $25,000.
You submit the bills directly to YOUR auto insurance company, they pay you or the doctor/hospital/ambulance directly, and you submit your claim for pain, suffering, and lost wages to the insurance company of the offending driver. When you reach a settlement, your healthcare insurer (Kaiser, Anthem, Providence, etc.) has no claim to any portion that was covered by MedPay.
The other good (great) thing about MedPay is that it kicks in regardless of fault. In other words, you don’t have wait until the mud wrestling match is completed with the offending driver’s insurer to receive the benefits, and in the event you’re tagged as being the one who caused the collision, your MedPay coverage still pays as long as your injury isn’t covered by worker’s comp.
One added note about MedPay: In some states, and California is one of them, MedPay does have a right of reimbursement in the event you are “made whole” by your settlement. Although it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to discuss the “made whole” doctrine, even a MedPay insurer may be able to claw back some of its payments from your settlement. In any event, MedPay gets you paid more quickly and will cover co-pays and other out of pocket expenses that your healthcare insurer will not.
Be sure to check the policy for exclusions, reimbursement rules, and read the fine print; every insurer’s policy is different.
So before you lawyer up, MedPay up.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog, or you can get some MedPay coverage added to your auto liability coverage. You know which one I’d recommend. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
November 30, 2015 § 57 Comments
The UCI Rules Committee announced that professional teams will be allowed to use disc brakes in all races for 2016. “We think this will help cyclists at all levels spend more money,” said committee chairman Snookie van der Sluit in a press release.
“There is a significant need for disc brakes among manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers in every market segment,” said van der Sluit. “And disc brakes allow them to meet the need for more customer expenditures, which is a key component in making cycling even less affordable as a sport or recreational activity while simultaneously accelerating the twin trends of planned obsolescence and product incompatibility.”
Reactions in the cycling world were generally positive. “I don’t give two fucks what we ride, all my shit’s free,” said Fabian Cancellara when asked about the rule change.
Mike Sinyard, president of Specialized, was equally enthusiastic. “I’d definitely give two fucks, probably even ten,” he said. “Although braking performance in wet conditions is offset by the greater weight and the pain-in-the-ass factor of through-axles, getting every pro on a disc brake is crucial if we’re going to make weekend warriors insecure about not having the latest trick shit. And that’s the fulcrum behind every meaningful bike purchase these days.”
Simon Mottram, CEO of Rapha Clothing for Gentlemen and Gentlegirls, saw huge opportunities in the new rule. “Cyclists have shown a huge appetite for spending more money, and the fact that disc brakes are better in the rain, an environment in which no one with a brain ever rides, is a key sales point. Now the flabby flabber who only goes out when it’s 65 and sunny can buy a whole new bike and wheelset to feel better about the possibility of riding in the rain, even though the actual chances of him doing it are zero. And we have a new line of disc gentlemen rainy pink clothing to go with it, a cute motif of baby whales with pink spouts.”
Derek Bouchard-Hall, the new CEO of USA Cycling, gushed about the new ruling. “Expensive? Yes. Requires replacement of your current $15k wheel quiver? Yes. A guarantee that fewer kids will get into cycling? Yes. More ad revenue as manufacturers and retailers seek our platform to tout the new technology? YEEESSSSS!!!”
Frumpy McDangle, local trail boss for the South Bay Sunday Fritter Crawl, was more circumspect. “I’m sure it’s a great idea,” he said, “but I haven’t bought a new piece of bicycle equipment since they came out with derailleurs, so unless it helps me with my morning dump I’ll probably pass.”
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November 3, 2015 § 33 Comments
I went down to San Diego last Tuesday to get my legs plucked off by Ryan Dahl, among others. While we were sitting in the coffee shop waiting for the plucking to begin, we chatted a bit because once the ride starts the only conversations you’ll ever hear go like this.
“How’s it going?”
Ryan and I had been teammates on SPY, which is like me saying that I was teammates with Tom Brady because I bought a Patriots jersey. [Note: I had to close my eyes and strain for thirty seconds to come up with the name of a single famous football player who isn’t named Earl Campbell, and then another ten seconds of scrunched up forehead to remember Brady’s team.]
I had seen Ryan wearing a new kit called “Wend,” and had seen on the ‘Bag that he had a new bike shop called Wend, except from the Facegag pictures it didn’t look like one.
“So what is ‘Wend’?” I asked. “Facebag says it’s a bike shop but it looks like a candle factory.”
Ryan laughed. “No, it’s actually not a bike shop or a candle factory.”
“What is it?”
“It’s the family business. Wend has been making ski and snowboard specialty waxes for over forty years.”
“Then why were there a bunch of bikes turned upside down?”
“It’s a sideline I’ve gone into.”
“Upside down bike waxing?”
“Sort of. Do you know about using paraffin to lube your chain?”
Unfortunately, I did. The week before Fukdude had set the 40-y/o hour record at the Carson velodrome, he had given me a lecture about chain waxing. This was three years ago, and you had to send the chain(s) to a guy in Colorado who dipped them in paraffin and sent them back all waxed up.
“What the fuck for?” I asked Fukdude.
“Dude,” said Fukdude, “you fuckin’ dip your chain in and it saves 1.5 watts per mile. Fuckin’ glides over the teeth like a lubed condom.”
“How much does it cost for those 1.5 watts?”
“About $25 a dip.”
“How long does it last?”
“About 200 miles.”
“Ouch,” I said.
“I know. Fukkin’ expensive shit,” said Fukdude. “But I’m not gonna set up a fuckin’ crock pot in my bathroom and fuckin’ boil wax before every ride. Wife thinks the whole fuckin’ bike thing is fuckin’ crazy as it is.”
I relayed this to Ryan, who laughed. “We’ve kind of solved that problem. Let me send you a sample.”
The next day, after getting a new pair of legs at Legs ‘R Us, a package arrived. In it was a bottle of cleaner and a bar of roll-on underarm deodorant. I pulled off the cap and saw that it was actually wax.
Ryan had also sent a link to a YouTube video showing how to clean the chain and apply the wax. Apparently the whole process would take less than two minutes.
Calculating my usual ten-thumbs factor, I set aside four hours in the morning to get the job done, and another two hours I’d likely need to clean the wax from the sofa, toilet seat, paper shredder, and nose hair trimmer. Amazingly, the whole thing took less than two minutes, which is a lot less than it takes to kill the smell of my armpits:
- Wipe the chain.
- Roll the wax on the chain, just like you roll it on your armpit.
- Voila, your chain is now waxed.
I’ve ridden it twice now. My normally nasty and noisy chain is quieter than a Scientologist stalking a confused college freshman. This stuff is amazing. Plus, on my first Wend wax ride I almost beat Derek going up the Switchbacks.
No more lube for me, and after you use this stuff, it’ll be no more lube for you, either.
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October 8, 2015 § 45 Comments
Cruising the ‘Bag yesterday I ran across a strong statement about the superiority of handmade Italian carbon frames. The writer was pimping Cipo’s new brand, which has the amazing benefit of being 100% fully made completely in Italia, and it is all Italian. The writer went on to say “You can feel a substantial difference between hand made Italian and the Asian made stuff.” For a minute I wasn’t sure the subject was still bicycles.
But he brought me ’round when he said “Specialized, Trek, Cannondale — wish they could say that #notchinese.” Then things came hot and heavy and illiterate with this gem:
“… to say Taiwan isn’t part of China is like saying Texas isn’t part of the US, both think there independent but in reality there not. The point is about Quality and workmanship. Nobody way back in 1998 said were sending our production to Taiwan/China because the workmanship is better, it was to increase profits with cheap labor. I have a few Asian bikes other then my felt’s and they ride fine, I might be wrong but made in Taiwan was not much of a selling point… BTW- I’ve shot over 15,000 x-rays on all manufactures and there is a distinct difference in workmanship with the big box Asian brands the smaller Euro brands. I’m pretty sure I’ve x-rayed more carbon then any man alive and can tell the subtle difference between the quality & run of the mill brands.”
So while the author trumpeted the awesomeness of Italian racing frames, a market they once owned and now have a tiny sliver of an itsy bitsy percent, I was left to try and understand what the fuck he was talking about. And then I got it! I’d heard it all before! Just substitute “Asian stuff” (because Asia is one place with one nationality), “China,” “Taiwan,” and “run of the mill brands” with the word “Japanese” and we’ll go right back to the early 1980’s–without even needing a flux capacitor.
Once upon a time …
The Japanese entered the U.S. market with transistor radios, courtesy of Akio Morita and SONY. In a short while they destroyed the U.S. market, first with products that were as good and cheaper than ours, and later with products that were much better, more innovative, and more expensive. Remember the Walkman? The PlayStation? Bet you’ve never owned a Sylvania TV.
The little Asian people who were only good at copying and ripping off the smart white man quickly proved his equal, then his superior, in the entire field of electronics.
Then Honda and Toyota got in on the act. They first had an uphill struggle even finding people willing to sell their cars, and the first Japanese vehicles I saw in Texas were labeled “rice rockets,” “rice burners,” or simply “ricers.” By the way, these are all considered pejorative, racist terms. As with transistor radios, Americans quickly chose cheap, reliable, efficient quality over the shitbombs that ‘Mercan ingenuity flung from the anus of mighty Detroit. Remember Lee Iacocca’s “The K cars are here!”
Hahahahahaha! NO, THEY AREN’T.
So the Japanese first knocked down our electronics and motorcycle and automotive markets with competitive pricing and competitive quality, then eviscerated it with vastly superior, innovative products that carried a luxury premium while Chrysler has been sold around to foreign automakers like a rusty old Colnago on e-Bay. Toyota is now the largest automaker in the world, and the first two Nobel prizes doled out in 2015, for medicine and physics, went to Japanese scientists. That makes a tally of 24 for the “copycat” race, by the way.
What happened is simple. White people couldn’t fathom that “Asians” were able to learn, imitate, improve, and innovate. So what if they invented gunpowder, the compass, and Hello Kitty? When the ugly reality of WE’RE NUMBER ONE became a mantle assumed by Japanese carmakers, (number two is now German, give or take a secret piece of exhaust software), the former masters of the universe drowned their beaten pride in “classic car shows” and automotive memorabilia that glorifies some of the worst, ugliest, and poorest performing vehicles ever made: The “muscle car.”
So it’s no surprise that we have people like the ‘Bag poster dissing on Asian bikes while he reps Cipo frames on the side, and that he thinks “China and Taiwan” are just like “Texas and America.” It’s no surprise because racism and prejudice run deep, and when your “inferiors” kick your ass, take your markets, and scoop up your Nobel prizes, the best that most people can do is namecall and rest on laurels that haven’t meant squat since the first major American bike manufacturers began producing in China and Taiwan.
Why Taiwanese carbon bikes are the best
Actually, they aren’t. That’s because there is no “best.” Bikes are made to do a variety of things, and no single manufacturer does all of those things better than every other manufacturer. The U.S. handmade bike industry is proof positive that small shops with skilled craftsmen can satisfy many thousands of customers. And steel is not only real, it is one of many materials, along with bamboo, that has proven its mettle in the real world of real biking.
But Taiwan is the indisputable center of carbon fiber bike manufacturing technology, and its base is built on the world’s best carbon fiber which, if you want to name names, is made by Toray Corp. … a Japanese company, not an Italian one.
People like the ‘Bag poster can point to crummy carbon bikes that come out of China and Taiwan, but so what? Crummy cars come out of Italy, crummy cars come out of Japan, crummy cell phones come out of China, and crummy everything comes out of the U.S.A. This only points to market segmentation, not to bad products at the top. As surely as some Chinese manufacturers make shitty bikes, others make world class ones.
Do you really think that Apple uses Foxconn because they make a bad product? And do you really think that top of the line Specialized, Felt, Giant, and Cannondale bikes are anything other than superlative? Because if you do, you’re going to have to come up with something more objective than “there is a distinct difference in the workmanship.” Please do share some of these 15,000 scans with us and compare apples to apples. And then show us how those “differences in workmanship” which you can only see with a flux capacitor x-ray MRI electron scanning microscope translate into performance, durability, comfort, or aesthetic differences.
And this is what gets the “Made in Italia” people’s goat: China and Taiwan (and before them Japan) entered “our” markets with products that had a high cost/quality compromise, and now dominate the market across all segments, from entry level to expert.
Nor is the story limited to bikes, cars, and electronics. Canon and Nikon are all there is in the world of cameras; everything else is a tiny little asterisk, and the Germans haven’t gotten over that, either.
Code word: Bigot
Using words like “Asian stuff” and conflating Taiwan and China is racist. Taiwanese speak a language that is unintelligible to speakers of standard Beijinghua; it’s called “Taiwanese.” Taiwan has a completely different political system, a radically different history, and a totally distinct economy from China. Just because the writer is too stupid, too lazy, and too prejudiced to know the difference between Taiwan and China doesn’t mean that Italian bikes are better. It just means that he is stupid, lazy, and prejudiced. Oh, and the Taiwanese use traditional kanji rather than the simplified ones introduced by the communists, so the writing is different, too.
In other words, not the same as “Texas and the USA.”
The market is screaming at you, glad you’re listening
Ultimately, the “Made in Italia” hard-on that Cipo’s bikes are using to try and get a tiny sliver of the U.S. racing market is a good thing. The customer, who’s apparently lots more discriminating than an x-ray, has told Italy that their bikes suck. People don’t want to pay a premium for something that’s inferior, or that is only marginally better for an astonishingly bigger cost, which is why the Italian bike making industry has dried up and mostly blown away. It’s why Campagnolo is now a niche product and it’s why Shimano and SRAM dominate.
But it’s disingenuous to take a technology that was perfected in “Asia” and whose products saturate the global bike frame market and claim that this is somehow Italian, even when the brand is Mario Cipollini, a guy who doesn’t make, has never made, and will never make a bike. Italy has given the world some great things, and forgetting bikes for a moment, has given us the most wonderful food known to man: Pasta.
Oh, sorry. That too was originally MADE IN CHINA.
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