Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday News And Views

C.O.G. 100 Registration Still Open:

The field for the second annual C.O.G. 100 has been filling up nicely. We still have spots available though, so head on over to the C.O.G. 100 registration page and sign on. We are still looking for you women out there to get on board with this deal too, so keep in mind, that field is small to non-existent and you could be the Iowa Single Speed Gravel Champion. We have hats being designed and everyone signing up gets one. Plus, we have two different t-shirt designs on offer and those are optional. We plan on opening up the t-shirt offer to the general public also, so keep on the lookout for that coming soon.

Otherwise we have a bit of time before we have to get out again to look at the roads once more and assess whether or not we need to execute any re-routes. I know we had a couple of spots we were worried about, so those will be getting our attention first. We have to also clear our start/finish area with the proper authorities. Details like number plates have to be taken care of and organizing volunteers as well. Much to do yet, but I foresee it all coming together well in the end.

The whole "search for a gravel bike" led me to this- The BMC "Orange Crush"
 Time For A Concept Bike Revisited:

Almost ten years ago, in late 2010, I had a series of posts on the site dubbed "Time For A Concept Bike!", and I know it went along to about six or seven parts. In the end of it all, I was supposed to be having a new, custom made rig done in steel.

I had posted my thoughts on the blog with the result being a huge blowing up of discussion and debate about some of my thoughts. Not least of which were that "all I needed was a cyclo cross bike" and the surrounding "geometry differences in millimeters doesn't matter" which came along with all of that. Of course, that is nonsensical thinking, and we all accept that a cyclo cross bike is not a gravel bike these days. Ten years ago, was quite a sticking point. Mostly because there were no gravel bikes. No one had ever ridden what I was talking about, or if they had, they weren't commenting on the blog. People dismissed the idea out of hand.

Well, this mythical gravel rig, hand made as it was going to be, never materialized. I became a bit tight in the funding department, and so I put out a search for a stop-gap bike to "make do" with until such a time arrived that money was less an issue and I could go forward with the project. One thing I was against for this bike was a disc brake. (Which eliminated the Vaya) I narrowed my search down to two cyclo cross inspired rigs, (again- there were no gravel bikes in those days.), but they were cyclo cross in name only. Well, one was actually called a "Monster Cross" bike, and you know now which bike I ended up with.The old orange Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross from 2011.

It is a great bike, but not exactly what I had in mind. So, this "stop-gap" bike was really only meant to be around for a little while. Then 2012 came along and the whole deal with Raleigh and the Tamland started up. I waited to see what that would result in, and in 2014, I got my Tamland. Well, that was "good enough" and by this time the whole "concept bike" thing had faded into a distant memory.

So, I came across those old posts researching stuff on the blog last month. I thought it might be fun to revisit what it was that I had in mind, compare it to some of the more radical "gravel rigs" of 2020, and then, maybe, I will see about actually doing this for real. I'll also see whether I was wrong, or whether I was right, about my guesses from 2010 in terms of what would make a good gravel rig. Stay tuned for that new series coming next week.

The Airbourne Hob Goblin 29"er FS bike.
 Airborne Is Still Doing It:

Let's see, I think the first time I ever heard about Airborne they were doing titanium direct to consumer bikes named after famous WWII bombers and fighter planes. That would have been in the early 2000's. Then there was a problem with the company, resulting in a buyout by the Huffy Corporation. I actually reviewed an Airborne Goblin 29"er about ten or so years ago now.

Looking up the history, I see that Huffy sold the company to the the son of the founder of the DK BMX bike brand, (which Huffy also owned at the time), and he and his team are bringing back Airborne for another go-round selling consumer direct. Yes, consumer direct bike brands have been around a loooong time. 

It's funny when you think about it. Back 20 years ago, a consumer direct brand like Airborne was looked at with very suspicious eyes by most consumers. It was assumed, (and many a time rightly so), that spec and quality wasn't up to snuff. Mainstream brands sneered at these "sub-quality", "pretenders", and paid no attention to the ground swelling of consumer interest in these brands. Much to their detriment, even today, I would suggest.

Consumer direct brands were always assumed to operate in the marketplace as the "cheapest, race to the bottom" back-marker of the industry, but they were striking a nerve, and not just because the prices were so attractive. If you recall, many of these brands did not sell on technical, jargon-infested marketing ploys. They never used pro racers or that sort of "high-brow", ultra-fit athlete look. They sold on the every-man having fun at a price that wasn't bad. They cut the "BS" and went for what makes bikes fun in the first place, you Not this "type 2" so-called "fun", or whatever "real racers" and the wannabees come up with for their definition of fun. But the sort of, "get this cheap and get out and have fun already" message which resonates with consumers. They could care less about "APB", "Mini-Link", or whatever length the chain stays are. It was about freaking fun! Pop the rig outta the box, go ride, get rad fun. Cut the song and dance. Ya know?

But the direct to consumer brands didn't make good decisions on components, geometry, and yes, the length of chain stays, so many folks got turned away by their end user experiences. Had companies been more conscious of that, then I feel direct to consumer would have gained a much bigger foothold than they have. They still could, if they upped their consumer satisfaction and serviced them at LBS's.

Yes, I feel that the future will be a blend of the stalled out consumer direct model and the old, stale LBS one. A model where the best of both things will finally create a new model where consumers don't have to navigate "The Culture of Bro" (or the latest "PC-du jour" mash-up) and will get a decently priced bike with "boots on the ground" service that consumer direct never had. Will that be Airbourne, or some other brand? I doubt the "Four Behemoths" of the industry we have now will figure it out. Time will tell......

That's all for this week. have a great weekend, and as always, thank you for reading here!


Daniel said...

I actually owned an Airborne about 8 years ago. It was their CX bike called the Delta if I remember right. It was alright. It had a carbon fork that was the least stiff carbon fork I've ever seen. You could see it flexing to the left if you applied the brake hard enough. I don't remember how much it was but I didn't regret buying it and for someone just starting out with cycling it was a perfectly good bike.

Skidmark said...

LBS shops do a lot of warranty work on the brands that they sell. The manufacturer reimburses a fair portion of this expense. But also a lot of free work gets performed by the shop, both to help maintain the brand reputation and to maintain customer satisfaction. Customer direct sales seem to shift some of these costs off onto whoever ends up assembling and servicing the bike.

MuddyMatt said...

I'm not sure about the US, but over here in Europe 'consumer direct' brands are huge:

* Canyon - make superb bikes (all disciplines, with some advanced/off the wall ideas at times like the double decker gravel handlebar)
* YT Industries - Great MTBs, I have an original Jeffsy 29er. Bikes are normally well-resolved designs of current trends, rather than trend-setters, but that's my opinion.
* Rose Bikes - again, solid products, all disciplines
* Ribble - Traditional UK road brand, now broadening into Commuter and MTBs. Their Ribble CGR 'gravel' bike is sweet.

Plus countless smaller outfits selling quality bikes online. On the whole I think people recognise the quality and expect the value that comes from consumer direct.

The problem is the impact on the LBS trade. The smarter ones recognise their survival is built around the community they can create (and services they can sell off that), and very importantly, servicing. The less smart continue to exclude people who don't fit their idea of a customer, and are falling by the wayside.

Consumer direct is not for everyone and doesn't do anything to attract non-cyclists who are yet to understand what they need, but a blended approach would work as you suggest - Ribble have some stores in major UK malls to show off their products, but you order online and get them serviced at your LBS.

I agree that this will probably be how the retail side evolves from my European perspective, but it's by no means certain. Brands everywhere need to get a much better hold over growing their customer base rather than selling different bikes to the same people.

Guitar Ted said...

@Skidmark- Yes- the consumer ends up bearing the brunt of labor costs and dealing with warranty, or other customer service things that LBS's used to be the mediator in between. This is a flaw not exposed to many consumer direct customers, but when it rears its ugly little head, it can be quite a shocker to the consumer.A blended model of retail/consumer direct may be able to address that issue.

@MuddyMatt - Those higher end brands are relatively new in the US market, and despite fears that Canyon, (in particular) would draw off a ton of sales from the major brands here, it hasn't happened. Certainly, they sell some bikes, but the forecast "doom and gloom" for traditional retail never happened here.

Your point of how the market is basically flat- selling to the same individuals over and over again- is well taken. Spot on there, and until that changes to drawing in more "outside the pie" people, any future model of retail will never really gain a foothold in the cycling business. I think this is where we are supposed to be talking about electrification of bicycles, by the way, which is where the industry thinks it is going to draw in "non-cycling" types. said...

That Airborne looks suspiciously A LOT like the new GT full suspension bike posted on the other day...…..