Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday News And Views

Image courtesy of Shimano Social Media.
 Mavic Out- Shimano In:

Tuesday it was revealed that Mavic would not be supplying neutral support cars in the Amaury Sports Organization, (conductor of the Tour de France, other major cycling, golf, and motorsports events), races going forward. Mavic had been supplying the nuetral support via their now famous "Yellow Car" since 1973. Mavic, who fell upon hard financial times in recent years, went into receivership, came out with new owners, but no longer has the means to carry on with the traditional support. 

Shimano, a robust company which is has obvious ties to cycling, has stepped in with the "Blue Car" of Shimano Neutral Support and will now serve in that capacity for all Amaury Sports Organization cycling races. 

Comments: Many reactions to this I've seen have been characterized by dismay and a question of whether or not Shimano can be a truly 'neutral' support option for ASO events. So, here's what I have to say in response to those points.....

The traditionalism which is the backbone of Pro Road Racing is not helping the sport to grow. The reaction to the exit of Mavic from its iconic position as a nuetral support in Le Tour is just a symptom of the cancer that lies underneath Pro road racing and should indicate that changes are needed. However; the infrastructure surrounding the monolith which is Pro Road Racing will be tough to move. I mean, the fight to remove the spectacle of 'podium girls' was characterized by far too much resistance by fans of the sport than a modern reading of the room in the 21st Century might indicate. Imagine what those fans would be reacting like if more pressing issues of race relations, gender equity in terms of racing, and fairness were brought to the fore. So, to see the moans of fans when Mavic goes away is to be expected, I suppose. 

And support cars? You all know what I think about that! Now, I wouldn't advocate for an immediate suspension of support cars in the Tour, but why replace Mavic at all? I mean, every team already has a team car. The whole idea of Mavic neutral support came about when in 1972 a team car went down and the principal person at Mavic then decided to loan out a Mavic car to help out. The next year, Mavic neutral support was born. But again, can't we wean these teams off that altogether? I would argue having less cars and motorcycles on route should be the goal, until you have just the Amaury Sports Organization's vehicles out there to facilitate the event. But again- you know where I am coming from with those thoughts. 

Cargo ship image courtesy of Maersk
Evidence That 2020 Might Be A Bit Tight On Parts:

I've been banging on about this for weeks now, but that doesn't mean I am done yet talking about how hard it is going to be to get parts (and complete bikes) in 2021. The shortages are real, and they will affect all aspects of cycling throughout the year. Lately I've noted several things. Specifics are kept out to protect the folks involved....

  • Big brands are allocating bikes where the bigger dealers are and/or where the money is waiting. That means that you probably will not get many, or maybe no chances, at test rides or choices to bargain against. There will be limited stock, so you may have to defer on color choices, or equipment spec. You may have to just take what is there at the time you look, because if you do not, someone else will. And no- there will be no sales. No discounts. And from what I've already had a peek at, prices are up significantly over last season. 
  • More Smaller Brands Are Going Consumer Direct:  With bikes at a premium, and bigger brands shutting out small brands on dealer floors, look for more consumer direct marketing. There is a network of delivery being set up now that will deliver bikes 100% assembled and I expect many smaller brands to start using this service. It is a nationwide service and should ease folk's fears about consumer direct sales. With this happening on the horizon I fully expect that these smaller brands will start preselling models for delivery at later dates. Prices will reflect that there will no longer be any 'middleman' or bike shop sales. 
  • Parts Are Being Rationed To Bike Shops: I've seen this already. Shops will not be able to order bits and pieces at your whim for delivery tomorrow anymore than Amazon will be able to. All across the board parts will be rationed due to severe shortages. Some niche parts, like fat bike hubs, are being found in short supply, or completely unavailable, as manufacturers concentrate on mainstream parts for common usages. So, chains, tires, cassettes, brake pads- All will be harder to get in 2021. Plan ahead! Far ahead! 
  • 2021 Models Will Have shorter Runs And Fewer Variants: With short supply of parts, brands will have to take what they can get for 2021, and in some cases I already know that choices are limited to one spec on a model which may have had three to four spec choices in the past. Again- if you see the bike in the right size- you may have to just buy it. Even if you hate the color and don't like the spec, unless you can wait until 2022. 
Here's another chunk of evidence. This from the Niner Bikes folks. Read their take on things here.

The Emporia GA Pro Silver Edition wheel.
HED Offers Polished Silver Wheels:

In a land of black anodized components, HED offering a silver edition of their Emporia GA Pro wheels is 'news'. back in 1990, that news would have been met with a solid chorus of 'So what?!!" Why? Because back then, it was black, not silver, which was the oddball anodization color for components. In fact, when Shimano got into the high end road bike market, it made a splash when it debuted with black anodized Dura Ace parts. Weirdos! Didn't they know that road bike parts are always silver? (Yes- actually that was the predominant thinking back then)

Well, that may help you understand why it is that in 2021 when silver anodized anything is seen as weird. In a sea of black anodized bits and baubles, the way to make your limited edition wheels stand out is to make them silver. And not just silver, but polished silver, for that gleaming, sparkly look. 

Actually, Velocity USA has offered polished silver as an option for years. I happen to have a nice set of A23 wheels in polished silver. But that doesn't make silver common, not by a long shot, and when you see all the modernistic design put into today's components, you most often see black, or worse, flat black. Gah! That's the worst of all. I wish more classic design and silver anodization would come back. That would be a refreshing change from the post-modern style of plastiky looking, boring black stuff that is put out there now. 

Maybe one reason we see so much black and not the silver, smooth, glowing anodization we used to see is that there has to be a lot of polishing done to the surface to gain that smooth, chrome-like look. If you are a fan of Velocity stuff, you may know they charge a not insignificant fee for the polished look. Similarly, these HED wheels cost more due to the silver polished appearance. So, from that standpoint, I get why black is all we see, but I am willing to bet that many people would be willing to pay the price if the latest stuff was offered in silver- and if it looked classy- not like some art project gone wrong. 

Public Service Announcement: 
It was brought to my attention this past week via social media that some people missed that I am no longer producing, putting on, or devising events for people to come ride. 
I decided to retire from those endeavors since I was put into a spot during 2020 where the pandemic kind of took all of those old habits of producing events off my plate. I had no choice, really. I couldn't in good conscious put on any sort of an event. 
This in turn led to many miles of riding alone, contemplating my life, amongst other things. After some time went by, I came to realize that I was enjoying riding my bicycles a lot more. I wasn't thinking about events or what they demanded from me to put on. I didn't have deadlines to meet. I didn't have loose ends to tie up. I could just ride my bicycles. turns out I had a lot more fun doing that than I had been having recently with regard to events production. 
I realized I had been doing this- putting together routes and events- for 15+ years. That's a long time to have a lot on your mind. I figured I had done my best to give a lot of folks an experience. Experiences that I hope made a difference in their lives. But I had to call an end to it once I realized that it was just time to turn the page on that part of my life. I was an event director, a 'race director', if you will. I've done that. I don't need to keep pushing into that as I've accomplished a lot of goals for myself, learned loads, and pretty much have mined that vein out. Now I will be turning to other challenges. 
So, if you missed coming to one of my events over the years, but always wanted to 'someday', well, let this be a lesson. There is no "Someday". That is a myth constructed to make you miss out on growing and doing. (See yesterday's post!) There is only "Today", and if the opportunities of Today are there, there is no guarantee that they will be in the future. Best to grab that bull by the horns and go do it. Everyone is different in this respect, so I cannot say anything specific for you. Just don't put "it" off, whatever that "it" is for you.

That's it for this week. Have a safe and active weekend!


Daniel said...

Speaking about bike shops not having parts. I've been slowly (like since last June) gathering parts for my Kona Libre build that I've been trying to work on now for nearly a year. I want to put GRX on it (ideally Di2) but coming across parts has been like looking for a winning lottery ticket. But this past Wednesday a local bike shop got a few GRX Di2 components in and I bought those up as soon as I could because in these times who knows when I'll have a second chance. So now I have a nearly maxed out credit card but hey I got my Di2 that I've been trying to find for nearly 3/4 of a year.

Guitar Ted said...

@Daniel - Thanks for that comment. That sounds like a great build and I think you are going to enjoy it.

Unknown said...

Total agreement on the too many cars in the peloton, while they're at it, let's get rid of the radios and power meters too.

S.Fuller said...

I'm getting ready to crew a rider for Race Across America and, from a team lead perspective, getting parts so the bikes are race ready before the start, as well as having spare parts with us for our race is one of the things that is top of my mind right now.