That's my youngest daughter's selfie, taken to show us the weather in Chicago one morning. The white spots are snow, and it was about ten degrees, as I recall.
This is a long blag. The next fifteen minutes are a rant, not fun to read, less fun to write. One of those cathartic things. Skip it, scroll down to the red skinny advertisement, you can't miss it and you won't miss anything. I HAD to write it, it's just complaining.
RAMS and IMANOSH are developing rear derailers that don't mount on normal dropouts, and they're introducing them at the high end, which forewarns of a trickledown to higher volume middle and lower prices bikes, which is where they'll make their money. That is HOW paying racers to ride your stuff works. Here is something that might be related--we just don't know.
At the Taipei (Taiwan) bike show in mid-March, there were notable absences: Some of the biggest brands of Europe and the U.S. It's possible that when COVID hit, they, like everybody else, over-ordered as a way to matter to the manufacturers and secure stuff to sell later that year and the next and next. It wasn't just a bicycle industry panic. We were competing for materials and in some cases factory time with automotive and construction industries, too.
When a big old high volume mainstream bicycle company over-orders out of speculation or fear or whatever, it makes a bigger splash than when we do the same. We DID the same. Our "big orders: included 1,400 front derailers and twice as many rear derailers as usual, and upped our bike orders from 1,200 for year to 1,800. By mainstream bicycle industry standards, it was a piddly over-reaction. We felt we had to book factory time so others didn't edge us out of August 2021 production. This is what our trading company advised. Factory time is filling up, better get in your orders.
Several of the biggest brands in Europe and the U.S. overordered also, and many of them use the same Taiwan mfr. They wanted their factory time, they wanted deliveries they could count on every month of every year, as before. This part isn't speculation.
And in this case, the HUGE mfr/subcontractor they relied on also has its own brand. They buy from somebody who is also a competitor, which might be awkward, but in this scenario it's a vendor-customer relationship with that *also a competitor asterisk.
Competitor or not, the supplier, the HUGE supplier, who is also Taiwan's biggest manufacturer, wanted to take care of its important customers, so made the bikes, and in fact filled up 35 warehouses with them. They expected to ship them off on schedule and get paid for them, but then something "funny" happened: The COVID Effect ended, and bike demand fell to ye olde pre-pandemic levels. Bike shop sales fell to pre-Covid levels, and they had enough bikes already.
They may have said don't send them, we won't buy them. Those formerly great customers didn't show or attend the industrie's most important bike trade show, POSSIBLY because they didn't want to face their bike mfr. Maybe it was for another reason. I have an inside line, but not the insidiest line.
COVID affected almost everybody. Nobody in Taiwan is making new stuff because they still have the old stuff. The 2023 edition of the bicycle trade's source book Taiwan Bicycle Guide (TBG) was a duplicate of the 2019 edition, relabeled 2023.
If it played out as I've speculated, and if you were one of the big bicycle companies, or one of their derailer suppliers, how would you deal with this? Maybe you'd contrive a strategy that would allow you to sell the bikes now packing the HUGE warehouses, so you could pay the manufacturer. One of those strategies MIGHT be to introduce new technology that automatically made the warehoused bikes less desirable, seem like last year's now-obsolete stuff. That way, the bikes in the warehouse could be heavily discounted without affecting the desirability of bikes with the new, world-changing shifting and derailer-attaching technology (which you'll see below). The new hypothetical technology would have to be "a game changer," radical and incompatible with up-to then technology, and it would have to affect not just bikes, but components, too.
Possibly totally unrelated to that, of course, this is the future of shifting. It's about 14 minutes long. It is a RAMS strategy.
This is IMANOSH's:
So now the two biggest parts makers are taking parallel paths in the same direction, and the direction is to turn current (?) bicycle derailer attachment and shifting technology upside down, to make it obsolete and go away.
They new technology is part of a strategy honed in the electronics industry. Its goal is to get you to switch-and-"upgrade" your bicycle as often as you do your office equipment and software and hand-held devices. This IS the fight.
I resent the slick presentations that you saw in the videos above, if you saw them—the ambling toward the camera, the polished casualism masquerading as being on your side.
That's the deal. The thing is, when you are a bigshot bicycle parts maker with more money than you can shake a stick at, you have an obligation (there I am, assigning obligations!) to grandfather-in certain things, and derailers that fit onto hangers should be among the grandfathered things. You should feel that obligation, not be oblivious to it.
We're not going along, which is the only thing we can possibly do. We don't need donut-shaped dropouts because we don't use disc brakes that rip wheels out of normal dropouts. It's harder to remove and replace wheels with thru-axles (and donut dropouts). So without the donut-dropouts, we get by fine with derailers that mount onto derailer tabs. It's an ideal system. Maybe the tabs are problems in carbon or aluminum, but they work perfectly in steel, and they NEVER break. They can bend in a crash, but even that's hard, and they're easy to straighten. The one guy in the one video who said something like, "I can't tell you how many derailer hangers I've gone through" is sending a strange and, to me, dishonest message to the world and innocent riders. I've bent two in my life, both were fixed permanently and easily with a five minute procedure. In any case, a bent dropout won't make the bike unrideable if you have friction shifting, but let's not go down that rabbit-hole.
But it's not just the dropouts and the way you mount derailers to them. The bigger concern (or, selling point according to some), that you set up and adjust your shifting with an app on your phone.
Who can love bikes and love that? The beauty of a bike is how much it can do with simple, visible, mechanisms you work with fingers and legs. You kick them into action and get the feedback and adjust along the way. What's not fantastic about THAT? How is it improved with electronics? How much is any ride improved by electronic derailers? The question isn't "why do you like it?" It's "how is a ride improved by it?"
Sorry, but this is another thing that reminds of a Bob Dylan lyric.
I'm crestfallen / The world of illusion's at my door
I ain't haulin' / Any of my lambs to the marketplace anymore
Bicycles as we used to know them, the kind you pedal, the kind that sometimes make you sweat uncomfortably but that pay you back in something and are nicer to the earth and all that, are the sacrificial lambs in this scenario, in these times. It's all businesspeople who have used bicycles to build up businesses, but ultimately regard bicycles as commodities, launching pads for more business down the road, whatever the market wants. Because to them, BICYCLES are ultimately not as respectable as things that hum or buzz or roar, and move either entirely on their own or with a flick or twist of the wrist. It's all cloaked in earth greenism and philanthropy and empathy, wanting to do good...and there's enough truth in all of those things to get a secure fingertip hold. YES, smaller motor vehicles can theoretically replace cars on the road and do less damage, and some small percentage of eBikes is doing that; YES, eBikes are more accessible to people who need to motor around for excellent reasons but who can't afford cars; Yes, eBikes are wonderful, totally, for people with mobility issues that bicycles can't fix. eBikes have a place and we're not against them, but should they get tax credits that Bicycles don't get? That's a difficult Yes, isn't it? And when you learn that 80 percent of the "cycles" purchases in Germany are eBikes, and even ye olde Amish are converting, a Bicycle lover has to be a little concerned for the future. I allow myself to be concerned without hating eBikes, and without acknowledging the good they can do while they're doing less harm than a car but more than a Bicycle. Small unimportant note here: You might think it's pathetic, I understand that, but I'm trying to say "Bicycle" in times when, before, I might have said "bike." and I'm trying to get in the habit of Capitalizing it, the way early 20th-century writers used to capitalize noteworthy nouns. I get that THAT may be another level of pathetic, but we all get to deal with this in our own way, and this is just a Blahg.
A recent ad in the bike industry's trade magazine:
We KNOW 65-year old mechanical bike parts work. Will electronic parts work for even 10 years? We don't know and I'm not suggesting. Well, that last part isn't true. But click on this and get the gist and fast-forward thru it in a minute or two, and then think: Are electronic bicycle parts makers really hoping and expecting you to use the same parts in five years...or are they following the electronic office equipment model, knowing that once you're dependent, you'll keep coming back for more?
U-CAN-DU whatever you like. You can enjoy the experimental dive-in, the change of pace, the novelty, and maybe even the temporary performance of electronic bikes. Is espousing mechanical parts pathetic in 2023? Is it "head-in-the-sand" stuff? Youbetcha !
Here's why Antonio here is so cool. And, as a part-time hobby he performs surgery and art on RapidRise rear derailers, transplanting parts from one onto another. For fun and all. He is the only person in the world doing anything like this with derailers, and I am so impressed and think it's so neat.
Here's a one-of-a-kind he made. Of course it works. If I were rich and dumb, I'd buy it off him for $400. That's how much I like it. If I were Elon Musk I'd create a factor to make them.
He found out something I didn't know, that NEXAVE is short for Next Avenue. not Next Wave, as I kind of assumed.
Here's a slightly "looser" version of something that may or may not make it into real print someday.
The most treasured fly rods are made of Pseudosasa amabilis, a variety of bamboo (cane) that is native to southeastern China. It takes between 35 and 70 hours to make a really good cane fly rod, and if you want to get one by one of the best makers, you’ll have to wait three months to five years. They cost between $1,200 and $7,000 new, and up to $10,000 even used, when built by somebody who stopped building when he retired or died.
The best of these rods are as breathtaking as the best violins. A violin’s tone is a fly rod’s feel. When a bamboo fly rod flexes, you can’t actually feel the individual fibers and stretching and compressing, but it seems like you can; and the sudden thumping surge of a fish on the line is like a hand orgasm that travels up your arm into your brain. A fine bamboo fly rod is as close to a magic wand as anything that’s not a real magic wand. You don’t even have to fish with it to know that. You can flex it through the air and feel it.
The popular modern fly rod material is carbon fiber, known in the fishing industry as graphite. Graphite swept the fly-fishing world the same way carbon swept the bike world. But compared to a bamboo fly rod’s lifelike flexy feel, a graphite fly rod feels eerily light, hollow, and stiff. When you love the feel of cane, you can’t be happy with cold, efficient, effective graphite. Beautiful rivers with beautiful trout deserve organic fly rods, but there's no money in bamboo rods. Not for high-volume brands.
OF COURSE graphite works well and is popular and people who use graphite rods sometimes poke fun at people who fish with bamboo. It's easy to do. There are bamboo collectors, snobs, and so on, but that doesn't change the underlying facts that bamboo, in many fishing situations, has inherent super desirable qualities unmatched by graphite.
Bamboo rods CAN be mass-produced, but not without compromises. Through WWII they were mass-produced, and having an old Montague (mass produced) bamboo fly rod is kind of like having a lugged steel Raleigh frame from the 1960s, or even, hold onto your hat, a midpriced Bridgestone or Fuji lugged bike from the early 1980s ( both of which were notches up from a '60s Raleigh, in my opinion).
There's no more market for those rods, and these days they'd cost way too much to make, at least in America,even with mass-production speed and compromises. But the material, that Arundinaria Pseudosasa, is still the same, just like CrMo steel is always CrMo steel.
Many people who know about bamboo fly rods can tell the provenance of a rod in three seconds from ten feet away. There are connoisseurs and collectors with forty rods worth $150,000…but who, when and if they fish, fish with graphite. They ’re willing to give up the feel (and the looks) when it means also giving up the worry about it. It’s needless worry.
Bamboo rods routinely last 50 years even when fished a lot. So these beautiful, functional, out-of-this-world cane fly rods end up living in a cool dry closet, uncased to show-off and dry-cast over lawns on dry days, then put away again. When bamboo rod builders at the top of their field reach a certain age and their rods are still “underpriced” by dead-builder standards, there’s a flurry to buy them not to fish, but as investments. Orders build up, lead times get longer, which triggers a panic. If the direct-from-the-maker price is $2,500, and the lead time for a new one is now two years, those who have them, new or barely used, put them on the market for $3,500 to $4,000. The builder gets wind of this and either raises his prices, a pretty reasonable response, or in at least one case, quits building rods.
It is normal to find comfort in the FACT that graphite rods can withstand being stored wet, or being in the 200-degree insides of car on a hot day. Bamboo requires some care, but with that care can last 100 years--of USE. And, because of the nature of its material and construction , you can step on a bamboo rod or even run over it with a car, and do little damage; and if you do a lot of damage, it is fixable.
Sometimes when a rod owner dies and has a 30-year old rod he’s been reluctant to use, his widow will offer it back to the builder, who buys it and sells it for more the same or more than a new rod costs. It’s not a happy moment, though. Often, the builder will remember the original buyer and the enthusiastic correspondence with him, and is hit hard when he finds out that all of the work he put into developing the taper for just the right flex characteristics, and the cutting, fitting, gluing, and finishing of the bamboo has been wasted. It's all kind of a Van Gogh effect. He sold zero to just a few paintings when he was alive. What's wrong with cane rod flippers these days has been going on for centuries in the artsy world. Support the living if you can, right?
I wonder if Bruce Gordon frames skyrocketed when he died. I wonder how many of Richard Sachs's customers are buying to flip. It happens here, too. Last week a guy sent me photos of an early Rambouillet frame that had been repainted by Joe Bell. He bought it at an estate sale. I remember the original buyer, a good customer and fan in the early years. It looked unridden.
This buying-fancy-and-not-using phenomenon is common. We all do it here and there. Plus, using the crappy thing to do something fun or necessary provides its unique form of feel-good...like you're ultra-honoring the dang humble thing, or however you want to think about it. We're thinking about the same thing.
But it's still a semi-shame when doing that means the groovy thing gets wasted. Old, rusty farm equipment always looks better than new stuff. Use shows proof of love and adds beauty. Whether the object is a bamboo fly rod, tablewear, shoes, knives, bicycles or other objects that combine art, craft, love, beauty, and function, you can usually buy 90 percent or more of the function for 20 percent of the price of an artsy version. Then you can still own the artsy version and get pleasure from looking at it and fondling it, without worrying about it getting wrecked in an accident or degraded by use.
An obvious example we can all relate to: When you ride a “beater bike,” you still get the fun of riding with less stress. This is a testimony to how much a simple bicycle gives you, a miracle of the simple machines that make it up. But in my business, we get notified by widows (usually) whose husbands have left them pristine 25-year old bicycles, clearly barely ridden, and it’s always a bummer.
(A few years ago our family went to Denmark (my ancestral home?) and stayed in an airBnB. The Danes are cool...to generalize. The ONLY plates, cups, and bowls in the place were Royal Copenhagen. The living room had a PH lamp. That wouldn't happen over here, and it might have been the only air BNB in the world with that stuff, but it was neat.)
We all reconcile riding versus preserving in a way that makes sense to us, but if you aren’t already locked in one way or another, here’s something to consider:
When you’re heading to the movie in the shifty part of town, ride the bike that won’t wreck your day if it gets stolen. But for daily tasks like shopping, commuting, errands, and all-purpose exercise, ride your favorite bicycle. At the risk of sounding self-serving, I'd say--get more than one special bike. You probably do that, or want to do that anyway. Then you can spread the wear over a few and they all stay happy for decades. That’s the whole idea. If you don’t, then when you’re too old to ride, you’ll wish you’d squeezed more life out of your pretty bike. Don’t let a good bike turn into eBay fodder for your heirs. Ride it to death, its or yours.
Today March 24, Ebony came by for her Sam:
She has an old Centurion, perfectly good bike, but wanted something spiffier.
was in a guy's garage looking around on the shelves and found this old cereal tin. We can't expect these to make a comeback:
At least cereal boxes are still paper-ish.
Eben Weiss/BSNYC has a blog every should read every week. Sign up. It's always good.
I generally and basically never reprint letter, and this one isn't a standout or especially interesting, but it's a topic that comes up a lot.
There is no color code, at least none I knew of. The Taiwan painter must have had internal paint number, but these things aren't automatically internationally circulated and archived. I'd like to help, but I'm not more in a position to than your mail carrier is. I'd say just find a nail polish color you like, or if you want to get the whole thing repainted, find a color you like among the 10,000 available. A new paint job will run probably $400 to $1,000, and the decals, as far as I know, are unavailable. I am well aware that a matter-of-fact presentation of basically bad news makes me seem like I don't care, but I swear, this is the best I can do. My vote is nail polish. I use it on my own bikes, even tho I CAN get real touch-up.