October 8, 2015 § 41 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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September 26, 2015 § 13 Comments
For almost three years now I have ridden with Bont Vaypors. Aside from the bad spelling, they had some amazing qualities that led me to put them on my feet.
- They were free.
- They didn’t cost anything.
- Tensile strength of 130,000 MPa’s.
Of course there was a down side or two. As Alan Flores said, “Dude, when I got those things I took one look and put them on eBay. What a joke.”
Or as Joe Yule said, “I had a pair once, briefly.”
“How briefly?” I asked.
“As long as it took for me to look at them, put them back in the box, and put them on eBay.”
So here were the negatives:
- Hideously ugly.
- Incredibly painful.
- Tensile strength of 130,000 MPa’s.
Doing a cost benefit analysis ($0 cost versus 130,000 MPa benefit), I kept them, trained in them, and raced with them. Over the years they bruised my toes so badly that my nails all blackened, withered, and eventually fell off, but unlike the leaves of New England lovely maples, they never grew back.
How stiff were these shoes? It was like setting your foot in wet concrete, curing it for six months, and then trying to wiggle your toes. When you pushed on the pedals, the only energy transfer loss was from the tendons that snapped and the ligaments that tore as these flexless beasts conducted muscle directly to ball of foot to pedal.
I loved those Bonts because they had such a fearsome reputation for pain and discomfort that anyone who saw you still wearing a pair after more than forty miles became afraid, very afraid. There is no pain like foot pain and if you can endure the 138-mile BWR on Bont concrete specials you can endure anything, even accounting. Best of all, Josh A. always wore his while walking his two Chihuahuas, Stanley and Olive.
It’s an awesome shoe that lets you maintain an 2015 race winning percentage of 100% and clack around the neighborhood picking up mini-puppy poop.
After a while I think the Bonts actually bent the bones in my foot because my toes, which once were narrow, straight, slim and rather lovely, became twisted, blackened stumps that snaked over one another like a bad root system. I occasionally thought about replacing them, but not seriously because, hey, free.
Then one day I happened into Bike Effect and Steve Carre insisted on measuring my feet. I know, I know. “Well,” he said, “your right foot is a full size bigger than your left.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that if your cycling shoe fits your left foot it’s probably horribly painful for your right, but if it fits your right foot then your left foot has enough extra space to open up a lemonade stand.”
That thought haunted me for a few months until, plagued by sneaky Internet algorithms that registered my ONE search for Shimano shoes and then showered every single page I visited for the next twelve weeks with ads for Shimano shoes (even http://www.skankytoe.com), I caved to the relentless marketing and bought a pair of fancy new Shimano R-somethings for $150.00. Stylish, sleek, lightweight, they looked comfortable in a way that the Bont torture chambers never had.
I was so excited when I went out for this morning’s ride with my new shoes. They didn’t hurt, but they didn’t fit worth a crap either. I wore them anyway because hey, paid for.
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August 8, 2015 § 22 Comments
“Hey, Wanky!” said the email, “Let’s check your chub!”
I said to myself, after checking the sender’s address and noting that it was from a respectable, upstanding person, “That can’t mean what I think it means.”
So I started over:
“Hey, Wanky! Let’s check your chub! I bought two tickets to the Body Spectrum fat scanner, one for you and one for me. It’s in Santa Monica–we could pedal over after the Friday coffee ride. What do you say?”
I said, “What in the world are you talking about?”
She said, “It’s this thing where they tell you your fat content, bone density, menstrual proportionality, and cranio-fibular viscosity.”
I said, “I already know my fat content: too much.”
She said, “But it will be FUN!”
I said, “Do they dunk you in a vat of kryptonite? Or is it the deal where they strip you naked and pluck your fat off the underlying tissue with those torture pincers?”
She said, “Neither. They just lay you on a table and scan you.”
I said, “With what? A bar code reader?”
She said, “No, silly, with x-rays.”
I said, “I don’t want to get irradiated like a piece of food being prepared for a bomb shelter just to be told I’m chubby.”
She said, “It’s free.”
I said, “Okay.”
As we pedaled over to Bulletproof Coffee, where I had a large cup of coffee made with a stick of butter, I said to her, “Look, I know my fat content. It’s between 13 and 15 percent, give or take a point. Guaranteed.”
She said, “How do you know?”
I said, “There are about 10,000 online fat calculators. Do ten of them, take the average, and that’s your fat. And no cancer-causing x-rays.”
She said, “But what about your bone density?”
I said, “My bones can’t be dense. I ride a bicycle and my resistance training consists of trying to resist having seconds. My bones are like peanut brittle, guaranteed.”
She said, “You’ll feel better knowing.”
I said, “I never feel better knowing. I always feel better imagining.”
We got to Body Spectrum and they very nicely made me take all the metal out of my pockets. I asked if I could leave in my fillings and the plate in my head. They said yes.
The nice lady scanned my body. Then a different nice lady sat down with me to review the results.
She said, “You are not fat.”
I said, “Did someone say I was?”
She said, “But you have some fat around your viscera.”
I said, “You mean I’m chubby inside?”
She said, “Yes, but not unhealthily so.”
I thought about Wednesday when we went to the coffee shop and the nice counter girl asked if were a cyclist. I was wearing floppy shorts and a t-shirt and all my friends were wearing stretch underwear. “No,” I said. “I’m just a person.”
“I didn’t think you were a cyclist. You look ill … ”
“I do?” I asked.
” … suited. I meant to say ill-suited to be a cyclist.”
I gave her no tip for service, but a $5 tip for being so unintentionally cruel.
Back with the chubby checker, things were better. “Your numbers look good,” she said. “16.3% body fat is fine. You might want to do some resistance training, something to build bone density.”
I started to tell her about all the second helpings I was resisting, and all the booze I’d resisted in Germany, but didn’t. I quit while I was ahead.
100% butter made with pure butter.
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August 5, 2015 § 37 Comments
One thing I realized pedaling on heavy bikes across Germany is that nothing beats flat pedals, so I put them on my $75,000 racing bike and they go super awesome with my new Ceramic Speed bearings from FastForward. The pedals are made of plastic, which is pre-carbon, and they are 100% pre-carbon, made completely of pre-carbon.
You probably think I’m joking, but ask Toronto and Hollywood and Ronan’s hockey coach, who all saw me out running errands on Monday afternoon, all fredded out with my walking shorts and regular shoes and flat pedals and backpack, which was filled with two onions, a bag of celery, a bag of carrots, and a whole chicken because I was making chicken soup for dinner.
But I’m not joking, and if you want to turn your $75,000 full-carbon race machine into something that is:
- Easy to ride.
… then we are talking about a $10 upgrade, unless you want to get really fancy and buy high-performance flat pedals for $20 bucks or so. High-performance onion/celery/carrot/chicken carrying is the next big thing.
I’m really not joking.
How many times have you thought, “Fuck, I’d like to hop on my bike and get a quart of milk and some condoms,” but then you’ve immediately thought, “Fuck, I have to wear cleats, and then carry flip-flops, and then switch back and forth from cleats to flip-flops at the milk store and again at the condom store, ahh, fuck it,” and then you got in your car and spent $2.79 in gas and ruined part of the Amazon to drive down to the corner when you could have saved Mother Earth and been part of the solution not the problem all because of those sorry clip-in pedals.
Nope, I’m dead serious, clip-in pedals suck and they always have. What they are, is an improvement over the old toe straps where you had to coast, wobbling, while bending over to fiddle with a leather strap as you struggled to steer around a pothole and brake in time not to shoot out into the intersection and wet yourself or break your humerus in three places. Clip-ins were a big improvement over that shit.
Also, clip-ins made you faster, not because of some stupid circular pedaling mumbo-jumbo or pulling up on the back stroke, but because they chained you to the beast and allowed you to transfer more force to the pedal while allowing you to hold onto the bike in a vise-grip fear of death, further increasing the power transfer.
Otherwise, clip-in pedals suck huge donkey pustules because they discourage you from using your bike to, you know, do useful shit like riding to the bike shop to buy more bike stuff to make your bike even more useful for running errands like riding to the bike shop.
For example, once you get flat pedals you can buy a pair of these pants on one of your trips to the bike shop to get more bike stuff to enhance the usefulness of riding your bike, and yes, I’ve already ordered a pair and am saving up for the mountaineering thingy key chain and the fancy brickwork.
Clip-ins are also hell and ruination for new riders. We’ve all been there. Some friend/S-O/sucker gets interested in bikes, or more likely, gets guilted into it by you, saves up $75,000, and asks you for help at the LBS in getting set up. You go to the bike shop together, in a car of course. “Gotta have Campy 19-speed, full carbon.”
“Gotta have a Giant full carbon aero frame made of 100% carbon.”
“Gotta get tricked out in a StageOne carbon summer kit with bibs, fall kit with windbreaker and vest, and winter kit with long-sleeve insulated jersey and matching leg warmers.”
“Can’t walk out of here without three cases of artisanal electrolyte replacement drink mix.”
“And you need these shoes. They are full carbon.”
“Why do I need the shoes? I already have shoes.”
“To fit onto your pedals. They are full carbon, too.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The pedals are like ski bindings. They lock your foot to the pedal.”
“So I’m locked onto the bike?”
“What happens when I need to get out of the pedals?”
“You twist hard.”
“What happens if I can’t do it fast enough? You know, like at a stop sign?”
“You crash. But you’ll learn quicker that way.”
“So I have to crash my $75,000 bike in order to ride it?”
“Pretty much. Until you learn how to use the pedals.”
“How long does that take?”
“Depends. Some people get the hang of it in a few weeks, others take longer.”
“How much longer?”
“Oh, some people never get it down.”
“And all the while they’re crashing because they can’t take their foot off the pedal?”
“Something like that.”
“Well fuck that.”
And then the friend/S-O/sucker walks out of the bike shop with all the purchases still on the counter and takes up hot bikram crossfit golf.
Even worse are the thousands who buy the bike and pedals, fall over a few times, and never ride again. And remind me what the purpose of the pedals was for these BEGINNER BIKERS? So they can ride faster? Faster than what, a mailbox? I recall my old girlfriend from college who hated bicycles and couldn’t really ride one, so I badgered her into getting a $275 Nishiki with toe clips and straps. On her maiden voyage down the block she tumped over, feet strapped into the clips, whammed her head, got a concussion and had a short seizure. Welcome to cycling and the excitement of being tied to your bike! She never rode again, of course.
See you on the road. Hope you like my knickers.
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July 10, 2015 § 10 Comments
The 3rd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2015 at Strand Brewing Co.’s new facility in Torrance. The event begins at 5:00 PM. Mark your calendars now. Award presenters Sherri, Steph, Lisa, and Chris are already getting their stiletto heels and high-slit dresses ready.
In addition to the usual nonsense, self-congratulatory platitudes, and having the chance to play “Who’s that cyclist I ride with all the time but can’t identify unless my face is four feet from their ass?” the following activities are on the calendar.
1. Receive tremendous swag offerings from SPY Optic, our sponsor. SPY’s CEO Michael Marckx has supported this blog and grass roots cycling from the day he took over as boss in Carlsbad. Those of you who attended last year will recall the SPY glasses that were given to category winners (not to mention the ones that were stolen by drunken attendees), the SPY t-shirts, and all of the other support that Michael & Co. personally delivered on the day of the event. This year I’m leaning on SPY again to bring the HAPPY, and they have already delivered.
2. I won’t be drunk at the mic. The down side is that I probably won’t have much to say. The up side is that since we’ll be at LA’s best brewery, no one will notice or care.
3. This year I’m flying in a special guest, the legendary Steve Tilford. I can’t do a better job of introducing Steve than by sending you over to his blog, www.SteveTilford.com. But I can tell you this: Steve is one of the greatest cyclists this country has ever produced, and he still races with the intensity today that he brought to the sport as a junior more than thirty years ago. Steve is a fitting keynote speaker for the event because he has been an advocate of clean racing for decades, and has paid the price for refusing to cheat. Yet the reward he has reaped–a career marked by integrity and amazing palmares–shows that some things are worth fighting for. Steve will also join the Saturday morning Donut Ride, where you can try to follow his wheel. Good luck with that!
4. In 2015 we’re introducing a South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame. The first inductees are people you will recognize for their advocacy, their skill as cyclists, or for their contribution to the unique culture that makes LA one of the best places in the world to ride a bike.
5. Award categories this year will be posted soon. You’ll get a chance to vote, and like any good authoritarian regime, votes will only be counted to the extent that the comport with a pre-ordained outcome.
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PS: Don’t forget to take the 2015 Bike Racing Survey here.
June 16, 2015 § 14 Comments
After enjoying two of its best years since the world-renowned performance eyewear company was acquired by Italian megabehemotholithic ubercorporation Luxotica, Oakley trumpeted its strong sales and growing market share with a dramatic corporate restructuring. Long-time CEO and engineer of the brand’s smashingly successful Prizm brand, Colin Baden Powell, has been restructured to the position of Chief Design Engineer in recognition of his important work in developing this benchmark product.
CitSB got a chance to sit down with “Scoutmaster” Colin and talk with him about the exciting prospects for Oakley’s future.
CitSB: You must be pretty excited about this demotion, I mean, restructured up-leveling.
Colin Baden Powell: It’s the highlight of my career and I’m so appreciative that Luxotica has shown me this level of confidence.
CitSB: Can you tell us a little bit about your work with the Prizm and how it has helped revolutionize the performance eyewear market?
CBP: Absolutely. We decided to start from scratch, clear the slate, and come up with something that has never done before.
CitSB: Which was?
CBP: Develop a reverse-breakaway product.
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: In bicycling, a “breakaway” is where you “break away” from other riders and then pedal off quickly to be the champion winner. So we wanted to “break away” from our competition. It’s a bicycling sport term. That was our concept.
CitSB: Pretty cool.
CBP: Yes. So in order to “break away” from our competition and pedal to the championships we decided to do that in reverse. In other words, instead of trying to get ahead of everyone we would drop behind them and do something innovative that they couldn’t see and copy.
CitSB: Because you’d be behind them?
CitSB: And that’s the Prizm?
CitSB: Pretty neat. Then what?
CBP: As was part of our plan, the first two years we’ve been far, far, far behind the competition, tucked safely way behind them. In bicycling sports it’s called riding off of your back.
CitSB: Being off the back?
CBP: Whatever. So we successfully did the reverse breakaway off of your back and the main office in Milan was blown away by the execution. They are crazy for bicycle racing sporty stuff in Italy. They went crazy when I showed them what I meant by a revers breakaway. I don’t speak much Italian, but they were excited, I can tell you that. Who is Fausto Coppi?
CitSB: Coppi? He’s, uh, Italy’s most famous standard breakaway rider. So they probably really did appreciate the reverse breakaway concept. Maybe you could call the next generation the “Fausto.” They will love that. So how has this concept been received by the market?
CBP: The response has been incredible. We managed to keep sales way down from the date of launch ’til now. In fact, we’re doing 1/10 the business of our competitors.
CitSB: Sounds like you have this riding off of your back stuff down.
CBP: I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a pretty hardcore amateur bicyclist myself.
CBP: Fifty miles a week, consistently, six or seven months out of the year.
CitSB: So tell me more about the restructuring. That really sounds exciting.
CBP: It is, and the folks in Milan recognized that I didn’t just do it on my own. They’ve given Ted Li, our incredibly innovative senior vice president and general manager of the North American market, which is globally the biggest for Oakley, an amazing opportunity to work as a sales manager at Quiksilver.
CitSB: The surf underwear company?
CitSB: I didn’t know that was part of the Luxotica corporate sausage machine.
CBP: It isn’t, but he had so much success here with the Prizm and our other authentic products especially the bicycle racing market thing that Luigi Florentino dello Cappucino, the CEO in Milan, decided to give Ted the opportunity to go innovate somewhere else. What is it that the surfer people say? “We are like stoked dude, mahalo.” Right?
CitSB: Um, right. Other exciting promotions?
CBP: Well, our senior VP of products, and formerly strategy, Chris Donnelly, has always been a key part of what has made Oakley the following-edge company we’ve become, exemplified by the Prizm, and Luxotica gave him the dream promotion.
CitSB: What was that?
CBP: He has always wanted to do high-speed corporate turnarounds, so they gave him an hour to clear out his office and “turnaround” out the back door. Proud to say he got ‘er done in 59:00 flat. Taught that boy everything he knows. Josee Perault, SVP Global Sales, and Link Newcomb, SVP Retail, were already restructuring for a major promotion into a free market job search position scheduled for September, but they were told they don’t need to bother coming in the building ever again as a kind of going away “thank you.” They were touched, really touched. Carline Starner, SVP of HR, was given an exit package that she probably had to create herself. Awkward, perhaps, but it was the highest compliment if you think about it.
CitSB: Sounds like Oakley’s on a tear. Any thoughts about the future?
CBP: Yes, once we get finished with our reverse breakaway project we are going to segue into “Project Sprunt.”
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: It’s another pro bicycling term, sprunting. It’s where you go lots faster than everyone else at the very end of a race but actually they all pass you. There is a really cool blog we all follow here at Oakley that has lots of deep insight into the pro cycling world. The writer is an expert on bicycle stuff. Inside tip here — he’s the guy who we get our best ideas from.
CitSB: What’s this, uh, blogger’s name?
CBP: Not sure. He goes by the handle “Wankmiester,” or “Wankmeister,” or “Wanky” or something like that. Say, mind if I show you our latest glasses? The Oakley Spruntmeister, engineered for reverse breakaway artists.
CitSB: Thanks, I think I’m late for another appointment.
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June 5, 2015 § 24 Comments
I had a pair of Mavic Open Pro 32-spoke wheels. Thet were aluminum box rim rims, “bulletproof” as people like to describe a wheelset instead of calling them “really fucking heavy and slow.”
These were sold to me by Steve Bowen, the wonderful guy who used to own the PV Bicycle Center. I had walked into the store one day with a glazed look that said “Ready to spend some money on something,” and Steve, the consummate salesman, recognized it.
He pointed to the wheels hanging from the ceiling, which I’ve always thought is a great place to sell products if your clients are giraffes. “These would be good for you,” he said. “Chris King hubs, 32-spoke, bulletproof.”
Like the old saying goes when you have a stud horse for hire, “The best time to breed the mare is when the farmer is in heat,” and I was in heat for some new wheels and Steve sensed it, despite the fact that my bike needed a set of “bulletproof” wheels about as badly as it needed a concrete saddlebag.
“Cool,” I said without missing a beat. “How much?”
“$1,200 for you,” he said in perfect contrapuntal time.
“Done,” I answered in rather more complicated 7/8 measure.
Then for five years I rode the dogfuck out of those wheels. Four BWR’s, 15k miles a year, races, trails, you name it, IDGAF what the road looked like, those wheels rode it, even the cliff down to the Nazi Camp off Sullivan Ridge. Yep, that cliff. On a road bike.
I rode the wheels so hard that I wore out the rims and had to replace them along with the rear hub. Then in November I cracked the front hub on the Nosco Ride. Apparently even bulletproof can’t withstand a mortar round. Of course, I sent the fucked over, trashed up, shattered, blasted, and deformed hub back to Chris King and told them that their product was plainly defective as it had only been driven for the last five years by a little old lady in Montebello who uses her bicycle to pedal .2 miles round-trip to the grocery store and back.
They sent me a hub the next day and Boozy P. built ‘er up on one of the afternoons when the brewery that he lives behind was closed for remodeling.
Then in 2014 I got in heat again for some wheels and for the first time in five years spent some money on my bike. Local bike shops have gone bankrupt waiting for me to spend more than six dollars at a time. I decided to test out something that wasn’t bulletproof, that is, some full carbon made of 100% carbon, you know, carbon wheels.
As soon as I bought the FastForward full carbon wheelset, my old Mavics violated the Wanky Rule of Wheels: Thou shalt have no more than two.
So I went on Facebag and posted “that” photo. You know the one. It’s where your cyclist friend leans his wheels up against the closet door for a photo and everyone on Facebag world realizes that 1) All cyclists live in cheap apartments and 2) We all have the same carpet.
I offered these beautiful wheels for the low, low, low, low price of $200, and in response to my offer received a number of caustic replies, all related to the condition of the wheels after five years between the forks of someone with a reputation as terrible as mine.
“Fuck all you wankers,” I said. “I’m calling Vinnie.”
Vinnie is an aged Cat 1 racer who is also a teacher, longshoreman, part-time bike mechanic, and most importantly, an eBay savant. Vinnie sells on eBay like he races, and by the way, he has the fitness of a bath towel. Doesn’t matter. For Vinnie, every race is a study in aerodynamics. He can finish any crit in the top ten simply by drafting.
He treats other riders as a scientific review of the principles of aerodynamics, and I have seen him reject perfectly rotund, excellent Cadillac drafts in favor of bodies that are slightly more advantageous in terms of slipstream. I have seen him do 60-minute crits without pedaling more than eleven times. He is a connoisseur of body types, and an even more assiduous student of the psychology of eBay buyers.
Vinnie will take your old frame, your old shifters, your old socks, your old boyfriend, WHATEVER, and sell it on eBay for far more than you could ever get on your own. Then he will ship it and charge you 30%.
Vinnie studies eBay like Warren Buffett studies stocks. In other words, Vinnie knows suckers.
He put up the wheels for sale and got back with me seven days later. “They won’t fetch anything as-is.”
“WTF? They’re immaculate! Perfect! Bulletproof.” It’s like having the obstetrician tell you that your baby isn’t just ugly, it’s actually a rhesus monkey.
“Yes,” he said, “they are perfect in every way. But that’s not how they’re perceived. They’re perceived as second-hand junk that has been beaten to shit and that will likely explode after two days’ worth of riding.”
“The hubs are new!”
“They’re Chris King!”
“The rims are practically new, sort of!”
“I’m a gentle rider!”
“I picked only the best lines in the last four BWR’s!”
I sighed. “Okay. So I guess I’ll come get them.”
“Not so fast,” said Vinnie. “We will get $400 dollars for them.”
“Yes, but it’s going to hurt.”
“$400 never hurts.”
“We will cut away the rims and just sell the hubs.”
“Huh? That’s nuts! We’re not going to waste those awesome rims and spokes!”
“Yes, we are.”
“What idiot would buy a pair of hubs instead of a pair of wheels?”
“Because when they see the wheels they think, ‘Those rims have been grudge fucked by Godzilla on a meth bender.’ But when they see they see the hubs, all nicely polished and leaning against my closet, they think, ‘Whoa! Chris King hubs! Imma build up some bitchin’ wheels with those bad boys! Bulletprooooooof!'”
“You’re joking, right.”
“Wanky,” he said.
“I never joke about money.”
“Do the surgery.”
Seven days later I got the text. “Hey, man, hubs sold for $400. Come get your money.”
I don’t know if he also does hits. But if does, I’m pretty sure he always gets his man.
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