Friday, December 09, 2022

Friday News And Views

Whiplash Effect Exerts Negative Energy Upon Bicycle Businesses. 

Last week I noted that a former editor/writer for a major cycling based website, who had himself been recently laid off, told of some big layoffs at Wahoo, the GPS/indoor trainer firm. 

In the social media thread that followed I saw a great explanation of the current issues that face cycling businesses, and several other recreational based industries. The theory is that during the pandemic, demand was not actually increased for cycling products, or by way of association, boats, campers, etc. No, all it did was to pile two to three years of sales cycles into about an 18 month period. 

This then manifests itself by a drop off in demand because these people won't be in the market to buy again for the length of another sales cycle, whatever that may be for a particular item. For bicycles, my feeling, having been around the retail end of things, is that is about 5-7 years, (shorter if it is a mountain bike due to the severity of usage and advancements in tech)

Meanwhile this is compounded by a supply chain that is so convoluted and slow to react that orders placed when demand and prices were at their peak are only now being delivered, right at the very same time that the demand has fizzled out, and inflationary pressures have popped up. 

The results are devastating. One commenter on the thread I saw, who is a supplier to the trade, claimed that up to 40% of dealers they used to call on no longer exist and that "large OE's" are claiming that they are strapped for cash. One commenter intimated that this "bust" will last into 2024. 

What does it all mean for you, the average cyclist? It may be a good thing for some that have expendable income as there likely will be good prices on some things, but overall, it will not go well for average cyclists. Retail outlets will disappear, be assimilated into larger, brand-owned chains, and overall choices will be eliminated and customer experience will suffer as well. 

Shimano Announces D2C Sales Of Pedals, Footwear:

On Wednesday of this past week, Shimano North America announced that consumers in the USA will now be able to purchase Shimano cycling footwear, pedals, and some clothing accessory items directly from its US website. (Sorry Europeans and elsewhere- Shimano is only doing this in the USA for now.) 

Comments: To be honest, I was a little shocked, but again- With less opportunities to put product on dealer floors due to there being more Brand Owned Bike Shops (That usually only sell one brand)  and less bike shops overall, I can understand that this is a better way for Shimano and for those who want Shimano product. I'm not sure how they will handle fitting, since that is of utmost importance with footwear, but pedals, well they are a commodity, really. That I totally get. Interesting move for sure.

Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame Prepares To Choose 2023 Class Of Inductees:

When the calendar turned from November to December last week, the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame cut off nominations for its second class of inductees which will be installed in Emporia, Kansas the week of the UNBOUND Gravel event. 

A social media post by the hall thanked those who sent in nominations last week. In that post, the GCHoF claimed that they had received "hundreds of nominees". 


Furthermore, the post stated that their team of cyclists, cycling business personalities, cycling journalists, and event promoters would be pouring through those nominees to whittle it down to the next class of Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame inductees. Oh.....and the first class of inductees will also have a say in the matter. 

I guess that means me! I'm not sure what that entails- yet -  but it should prove to be an interesting experience. That's something I'll be looking forward to for the coming year, and hey- Maybe I'll be showing up in Emporia again. If I make plans for that, I'll try not to get lost this time on the way down! 

PSA: Double Posts Throughout December:

I thought I'd let you all know that you are going to start, and already are, seeing many days with two published posts a day. That's the way of it when I have so much "End Of Year" stuff to push out before the month ends. 

Most of those double-post days will be on the subject of my bicycles. I know some of you were hoping for a one post round-up of all the bicycles I have, but I'm not into that and the way it is, I have a ton of bicycles to show off anyway. 

I may have used more of my bicycles this year than at anytime previous, so that makes for a lot of posts. Well, you'll see them, if you keep coming back here! And don't worry! Things settle down a lot again once we get to the New Year.

New SRAM gravel suspension fork design patent drawing.

A Linkage Fork For Gravel?

Recently Wheelbased posted this patent application for a design from SRAM which would be a suspension linkage fork for gravel bikes. 

Veteran MTB riders from the 90's will recognize this design instantly as one that has been "done before". The 1990's were the heyday for linkage fork designs and many companies made versions of the idea for 26" wheeled mountain bikes. Companies like Girvin, AMP, and Control Tech made popular forks many riders would be familiar with that were into the mtb scene back then.

So, why a linkage fork for gravel? SRAM claims that telescopic suspension forks are not very aerodynamic and that this design for a linkage fork would present a much more aero-friendly profile to the wind. The idea is that this design proposal would also be lighter, since it could be made almost entirely out of carbon fiber, minus the pivots and maybe the linkages.

1993 Kona Z-Link ad copy

Okay..... But why aren't there linkage forks all over the place for bikes now? Great question! The linkage fork has several benefits which could be employed for today's bicycles, but their main down fall is that their pivot points are susceptible to high-wear due to energy being focused on them through lateral and twisting forces. Once the pivots get sloppy, the fork is almost unrideable at that point. High maintenance is not a goal for any rider!   

It should be mentioned that the spring in the case of this SRAM proposed design is said to be of "plastic or elastomer material". So.... Okay- Why not just use a Redshift Shock Stop Stem? I know- I keep bringing that stem up, but for the minimal travel you'd garner from this SRAM fork, and judging from the proposed spring material, this Redshift stem I use on my bikes would be the superior choice from the standpoint of maintenance, aerodynamics, and cost. (Standard Disclaimer applies)

Give that linkage more travel and then we have a different conversation, but that is not the design intent here. 

Finally, another question: Are we trying to suspend the wheel for _____ benefits, or isolate the rider from higher frequency vibrations most commonly found in gravel (events, races, just riding around)? 

My position on this is that "if" you are trying to do what mountain bikes already are doing, get a mountain bike. Drop bar MTB is a thing. You'd have a realistic amount of travel to do what suspension does best (anything 80mm+) and you get the technology that actually works for that sort of riding that has been developed over the past 30+ years. Not some resurrected relic of MTB's failed past in that linkage idea. Besides.....

Lauf already has what could be described as a linkage fork without pivots which already does what most folks need in terms of the gravel scene, and it is lighter, and it is maintenance free. 

This is a neat idea to ponder, but don't expect to see this on your gravel bike anytime soon.   

That's a wrap for this week. Stay warm and have a great weekend!

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