Wiggle Chain Reaction Merger Romance

Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles Romance put to the Test

The merger of the two biggest online bike shops, Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycle is now being put to the test by being referred to the Competition and markets Authority (CMA) in the UK. Reported on BikeBiz, they have noted that the CMA are surveying bike and Parts and Accessories suppliers who need to respond this week. 

Online retail can be a double-edge sword for bike brands. On the one side, online shopping in booming and it provides an opportunity to sell a lot of stock to this growing market. On the other, online shops compete with the traditional bricks and mortar bike shops and the distributers who are also vital for marketing the brand and customer service.

Suppliers can be pressured into discounting their stock for online retailers – it means lower prices for customers online while distributers and bike shops who have traditionally supported the brand pay more for the stock and have increasing online competition.

The Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles entity has not released details about changes and whether both brands will continue to operate independently. For customers, it is likely that the brands will remain separate and behind the scenes, management, supply-chain and logistics can be optimise.

 

Smarter Climbing Descending Cyclists

Clever Climbing and Smarter Descents for Cyclists

On the mountain stages for any cycling race, the road to victory is a combination of skill, experience and intelligence. Whether you are racing, training or riding with friends for fitness and pleasure, the importance of safety is amplified when it gets hilly. Higher speeds on descents and slow, inconsistent speeds while climbing can increase the danger of a bike crash. There are a few easy rules to reduce the risk and increase the pleasure.

In the free Cycling Essentials Bunch Riding Guide, the chapter on ascending and descending covers the four key considerations for bunch riding safety and etiquette on the climbs and descents.

 

Climbing Hills in the Bunch

A rider who starts too soon is on their own and can bonk. A rider who starts too late will miss the boat. Strategy, tactics, nutrition, skill, ability… and a multitude of factors affect performance. This goes for competition cycling, but also when riding with friends in a bunch.

For training and friendly bunch riding, it is often more enjoyable for riders to cycle at their own pace. This means that the bunch may split up and it is common courtesy for the faster riders to wait at the top of a climb. When there are lots of climbs, a designated meeting point should be selected. Allow time for the slower riders to recover.

If there is a long delay, consider sending a fit rider to check up on slower riders incase they have suffered a ‘mechanical’ and require assistance.

 

Racing up the hills

Fast riders who are held up by slower riders and don’t have the opportunity to pass are quickly frustrated, so make it easy for faster riders to pass.

While ascending, your reaction time and also the ability to move over can be affected by both concentration and the sheer effort, so thinking ahead makes sense. When climbing hills, try and keep to the side. If you are riding in a bunch, likewise, orientate yourself to the side so that there is space for other riders who want to pass.

When you are in a faster bunch and are approaching a slower bunch or slower riders from behind, call out and let the riders know that you are approaching and overtaking. It is good strategy to let them know how big the group is, for example the first rider may call “10 riders passing” and this ensures that the slower riders don’t pull out too soon. The last rider can also call out “last wheel” (or “last rider”).

 

Increase the Gap

 

In a good bunch riding in tight formation, the gap to the rider ahead can be quite small. This is an aerodynamic advantage but also demands a lot of trust and confidence in the skill of the riders ahead and that they are also looking out for obstacles that can be a safety risk to the bunch.

During the ascents and descents it is harder for a bunch to maintain consistency in speed and cadence. Going uphill, riders may have different abilities climbing but also different styles. Descents are fast and often involve braking and cornering which can be less predictable.

The rule of thumb is to increase the gap – the space to the rider ahead. When climbing hills, if the rider ahead suddenly gets out of their saddle to stand without warning, their bike will surge back. On descents, the rider ahead could brake earlier than you anticipate, but also react quickly to unexpected obstacles while cornering. Your safety is improved by increasing the gap to a safe distances, the faster the descent, the bigger the gap.

 

Be predictable

Accident easily occur when riders are unpredictable, the move out unexpectedly and unaware of riders approaching from behind or they suddenly brake.

Ensure that your bunch has a culture of calls and hand signals. If a rider wants to get out of the saddle and stand, they call “standing” or even if they take a drink, holding the drink bottle to the side so that riders behind know you are taking and drink and might slow.

Each rider in the bunch has a responsibility to ensure that the other riders are alert and know if there are any changes, such as to your position or speed.

Smart Cyclist Bunch Riding Crash Corner

How to Corner and Merge on a Bike without Crashing

Cars and motor vehicles pose a significant risk to cyclists, but so do other bike riders. The risk of serious injury is the same so there are a few simple rules to follow to ensure that riders in a bunch are safe… and efficient. 

Efficiency is one of the biggest advantages of riding in a bunch (as well as socialising). When the bunch is a coherent group and all riders, from the lead through to the riders at the back, the bunch is faster and it is simply more enjoyable. In comparison, a disorganised bunch creates surging which makes the riders at the back work harder, it is stressful and there is an increased risk of crashing.

This article on avoiding crashing in the bunch follows on from the The Six Most Important Safe Bunch Cycling Rules and covers cornering, merging into single-file and crossing to two (or more) riders abreast.

 

How to Corner without Crashing

In a bunch when the riders are cycling with two or more abreast, the rule for cornering is to “Hold Your Line.” The most efficient path through a corner is to start wide, cut across the corner and then end wide, but when riding alongside others, this is a dangerous tactic. Both the inside and outside rider can cut another off so instead need to ride two-abreast (or three or four) around the corner. The rider on the inside has a shorter path while the rider on the outside takes a longer path.

If you are riding single-file, you can afford to take the most efficient path (starting and ending wide while sweeping across the apex). However riders need caution by allowing more space to the rider in front. If the rider ahead slows or choses a different ‘line’ through the corner, you need to remain behind and avoid suddenly appearing next to the rider when they are not expecting you.

 

How to Merge / Single-Up

 

When a bunch need to change from two (or more) abreast and form a single line, usually the call “Singles” or “Single-Up” is given and passed through the bunch.

The riders on the outside of the lane need to provide space so that the rider who was along-side, can then ride forward and into the slot. This zip-lock format of merging is safe and efficient, the onus is on the riders to leave enough space and also to ‘close the gap’ and ensure that the tight formation and speed of the peloton is retained.

 

Doubling-up

 

When a bunch changes from single-file to two-abreast, a call of “double-up” is called. A tight-knit bunch may anticipate that it is safe to ride two-abreast and no call is given.

The lead rider remains on the ‘outside’ and the next rider then moves out and alongside the lead rider. This pattern is repeated with every second rider moving out of formation and then up along-side the rider who want in front.

Riders towards the rear can quickly find a big gap in-front due to the acceleration so need to be aware of closing the gap while lead riders should aim to maintain a constant speed to avoid splitting the group.

 

Safety in Communication

Bike crashes can be bad luck, but they can also be caused by a lack of awareness and communication. In a racing environment, even when the finish line is in sight, the etiquette is still important, unexpected moves can bring scores of riders down.

GCN have some detailed cornering advice in their video – How to Corner like a Pro.

For more on bunch riding and paceline formations, technique and etiquette, download the Free Bunch Riding guide.

Cycling Rules for Bunch Riding

The Six Most Important Safe Bunch Cycling Rules

Cycling rules can save you from most of the preventable causes of crashes in the bunch or peloton. Embedded inside a group of cyclists, your visibility ahead is reduced to backsides and heads. The wheel in front can be anything from a meter to just centimetres away – the closer the better for drafting but riding too close gives you even fewer escape routes. Fellow riders on your sides and behind mean that each of your actions can cause a chain reaction which ripple through the entire bunch. 

A lot can go wrong, but there are a number of cycling rules for inside the bunch which can keep you safer and help you to avoid many of the situations which can cause a crash.

When you know the cycling rules and etiquette inside the bunch, if others don’t know it then there is still plenty of risk. It is important to openly discuss the cycling rules for your bunch, and to share them with new cyclists so that they know what to expect and how to ride safely in your group.

 

Cycling Rule 1 – Hold your line

This means, be predictable so that other cyclists can anticipate what you are doing. The easiest way to hold your line is to follow directly behind the cyclist in front.

The first example of NOT holding your lines is when riding inside the bunch and you veer left or right. This affects a rider beside you and all riders behind. This place added pressure on other riders to control their bikes and try and work out what you are doing. If you are on open roads and a vehicle is passing, a rider to your side may be forced out too far.

The second example is riding around corners two-abreast. If the outside rider cuts across the corner, they will cut-off the rider inside. Similarly, if the inside rider veers too far on the approach or exit, this can force the outside rider off the road. A dangerous situation for all which means slow a little and ‘hold your line’.

 

Cycling Rule 2 – Look Ahead

Inside a bunch with just the backside of the riders in front to look at, some riders focus their eyes down to the wheel in front. This is dangerous, it is easy to become fixated on the tyre and road and loose proper perception of everything around.

The correct approach is to look ahead, look forward which provides you with a broader field of view and peripheral vision. Though some of your view is blocked, you should be able to see the traffic situation ahead as well as spot the movement of the riders in front.

 

Cycling Rule 3 – Ride Smoothly

Although you are already holding your line, one of the biggest flaws of riders is to surge. Some cyclists pedal fast and reach the wheel of the rider in front, then stop pedalling or even brake. As the slow they have to accelerate again and it creates a surge effect which means that all riders following are affected and it often creates a concertina effect in the peloton.

Inside a bunch, each rider has an important responsibility to try and maintain a constant speed. The aim is to keep the distance between yourself and the rider in front constant.

If you need to make a drastic change – you need to call out to the other riders so that they can prepare.

 

Cycling Rule 4 – Make Small Adjustments

Following on from Cycling Rule 3 and riding smoothly, a peloton will accelerate and brake as the typography, terrain and traffic changes. Rapid acceleration can mean that riders behind are quickly left behind – if you are riding with a friendly bunch, you will want to keep together. Hard braking can be unexpected and lead to crashes.

The best approach are small / micro-adjustments. Rather than accelerating rapidly, keep it steady and constant to slowly build up speed.

To slow down gently and brush off a little speed there are a number of approaches:

Light Pedalling means you continue to pedal but with less force. If you stopped pedalling completely the deceleration could be too rapid, so light pedals is a gentle method.

Air Braking is sitting up higher in your saddle and allowing your chest to catch more air which slows you. This technique is often used on downhills as the following riders have a substantial advantage drafting and quickly start to accelerate and travel faster than the rider ahead. Sitting up can slow you and let you remain nicely spaced behind the rider up front.

Feather the brakes is very lightly applying the brakes to marginally slow you down. Very often cyclists on the road ‘ride on the hoods’ – their grip around the raised brake hoods and the index fingers on each hand resting on the brake levers.

 

Cycling Rule 5 – No Half-Wheeling

Half-Wheeling or Overlapping Wheels is when a rider is no longer directly behind the rider ahead and have edged up closely on the left or right side. Instead of keeping the distance to the rider ahead, the wheels are now ‘overlapped’. This is a very dangerous situation responsible for a lot of bike crashes. If the rider ahead moves unexpectedly, for example to dodge a pothole, they will hit the wheel of the rider following them, often causing both to crash.

In this situation, if the rider behind left a gap then the rider ahead is able to move safely left or right, even without warning.

The cycling rules and etiquette can vary between riding groups, generally a more skilled bunch is able to rider closer together and leave a small gap. A less experienced bunch, or a bunch with a lot of unknown riders should leave a larger gap to the rider in front for safety. In either group, following braking a rider in the bunch who brakes late may find themself half-wheeling and should immediately correct by braking. If necessary, call out to the rider behind that you are slowing.

 

Cycling Rule 6 – Moving Out

Inside the bunch each rider had a position and needs to keep to their position – not only will it make the peloton more efficient (for aerodynamics), it is far better for the safety of all when each rider keeps in position and you can anticipate their actions.

However it can be time to move out of position when there is a paceline (rolling peloton) and each rider takes turns at the front. Perhaps you are tired and can’t keep up to the rider in front so need to move to the back. Or perhaps the traffic situation has changed – there is a hill coming up and you want to give other riders space.

If it is time to move out, signal your intentions, a hand signal may be sufficient for some groups or even a verbal call. Look around to ensure the coast is clear and move out to allow the rider following you to move into your position. The intention is to minimise disruption to the rest of the cyclists.

 

Any more Cycling Rules?

On this page only the rules specific to your riding behaviour inside a group are covered though to be a good, safe an courteous cyclist there is more you need to know. In the Cycling Essentials series these are being covered, you can also find a more comprehensive compilation of cycling rules and good biking etiquette in the Free Bunch Riding guide.

Find and join cycling bunch

How to Find and Join a Cycling Bunch

Joining a cycling bunch is a rewarding way to enjoy cycling and make it a social activity – After all Cycling is the New Golf. It gives you time to connect with others and compare bikes and gear). Your aspirations could be competitive or social and there are a few things to know when joining a bunch. Firstly we will look at finding a bunch and secondly the etiquette for joining onto a cycling bunch of unknown riders. 

How do you find other riders? You probably already know if you are a mountain biker, road cyclist or into other styles of cycling and this (of course) is a good starting point. Here are a few places to start – and remember that it does take some effort on your part which includes going out of your comfort-zone to find the right group of riders.

 

Finding a Cycling Bunch and Riders

 

Colleagues and Friends

Probably the easiest way to start is with colleagues and friends – talk about cycling and pretty quickly you will find out who else rides, and plan to go for a ride together. You can also get referrals from your connections to cycling groups – it is always nice to have an existing connection.

Your Local Bike Shop

Good local bike bikes shops often have shop rides and some even have teams connected to the shop. For the bike shops, they are an excellent way to increase loyalty among customers – and in turn, customers can join regular local rides. Some shops will have different rides, such as monthly rides for beginners and weekly rides for more advanced riders.

 

Your Local Cycling Club or Bicycle User Group

Cycling clubs are generally for competitive cycling and often members will cycle together during training rides which may be organised by the club or independently by members who enjoy cycling together. Some clubs offer recreational membership for riders who are not interested in competing and social rides.

Bicycle User Groups (BUGs) are often recreational and accommodate riders of all ages and abilities. These are a good avenue for riders who are interested in cycle tours in the local region. BUGs may also be orientated towards cycling advocacy and engaged in building or fostering cycling routes in the local area.

 

Online Bunch Ride Finders

There are hundreds of online website which connect cyclists, simply turn to Google. Cyclists will also turn to local cycling forums to reach out to others and connect and other cycling interest groups. While there is often a disconnect between virtual / anonymous communities and the real world, take time to understand and judge a group. Also be aware that a stranger or group of strangers online will not necessarily follow-through and be as reliable as in real life.

 

Etiquette for Joining a new Cycling Bunch

Whether you have found a brand new bunch of cyclists to ride with or your are out on the ride and want to join onto a group of riders, there are a few things worth knowing.

The first is that there is a lot you don’t know. This includes how well each of the other cyclists can ride in terms of fitness, bike handling skills and regard for others. You also don’t know the etiquette of the group – for regular cycling bunches, they may have their own protocols and make assumptions for all riders.

If you have organised to rider with a new group, take a few moments before setting off to discuss etiquette. For example if you are a beginner rider without experience riding the planned route, let this be known. Often there will be a ride leader or senior rider who provides guidance for the whole group – it is worthwhile connecting with them.

In a new bunch, it can make sense to ride at the back and observe until you are familiar and comfortable with the group.

The Unknown Bunch

If you are riding solo and come across another bunch who are riding at a similar speed, it can be nice to join them however etiquette is needed.

Firstly, ask the riders if it is ok to join them. Some groups may prefer not to have unknown riders; they may be concentrating on training or may be wary of the riding ability of strangers. In this case hang well behind the group and if you choose to overtake, don’t slow down.

Similarly, a bunch that overtakes shouldn’t slow down and you can ask them to speed up or drop behind if they are distracting.

For a new bunch, it is worthwhile remaining at the back and some bunches may allow you to join but prefer that you don’t take part in the rolling paceline. If you are welcome in the group, do take your turn on the front of a rolling paceline and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Follow ride etiquette within the cycling bunch, pointing out obstacles and holes plus signalling your intentions. It is better to do too much, in the effort of safety, rather than not enough. And just as important, chat with the other riders.

Bunch and Paceline Formations

Paceline – Ride faster with the right paceline formation

The amount of energy a rider saves while drafting is usually quoted as 40%. It is scientifically proven that drafting in a paceline can save between 20 – 40% energy. This is substantial which is why you should notice that you need far less energy drafting. The energy savings will depend on the wind direction and speed, how far behind you are behind the rider in front and technique. 

A group of road cyclists riding together are usually called a bunch. The lead riders break the wind with following riders reaping the benefits. When the riders start to regularly swap the position at the front it becomes a paceline. The objective of the paceline is to move faster so this allows each rider to have a turn at the front before returning to the back to recover.

Paul Doherty of The Exploratorium provides more details on the science of drafting.

In cycling races a group of breakaway riders from different teams are forced to work together and start a paceline. A single rider however can ‘leech’ off the paceline. If they refuse to take turns at the front this can cause the breakaway group to slow down so the peloton can catch up, or it is to save energy for the sprint finish.

Pacelines are an important part of the strategy in competitive cycling. At the sprint finish for example, a lead-out is where a cycling team will align its riders in line to provide as much drafting cover for their champion sprinter as the race towards the finish. Each exhausted rider will peel off, one-by-one and done well, the champion sprinter is only on their own for the last stretch to the finish line. Such is the advantage of the lead-out that riders from other teams will draft behind champion sprinters and compete for line honours.

 

Doubles and Singles

Depending on the size of the bunch, the road and traffic conditions and the wind, a bunch will typically ride in single file or two abreast, doubles. For competitive events, a bunch can be much wider as riders challenge for positions towards the front.

For cycling on open roads, a bunch may need to change from doubles to singles to allow traffic to pass or move from singles to doubles when there is more space.

 

The Paceline

A paceline means that the riders in the group rotate position, typically each rider has a go at the front. Commonly the rider or riders at the front will peel-off and slowly move to the back of the bunch, the next two riders move up and take the lead.

The time at the front can depend on many factors, riders may choose to stay at the front until they need a break, there may be an allocated time (by the ride captain) such as 2 minutes or 5 minutes at the front (or based on distance) or riders inside the bunch may call the lead riders to ROLL if they feel that the bunch is slowing. When the lead riders decide to peel-off they may call ROLLING to inform the riders following and also give hand signals to suggest the riders behind need to move up.

A faster paceline technique is a Rolling Paceline (or Circular Paceline). Rather than lead riders peeling off, instead riders from the rear race up to the front and position themself on the lead and this pattern continues. It require more energy by the riders but is also a means that much higher speeds can be achieved so this technique is popular in team time trials.

The following short video is headcam footage of a rolling paceline.

 

Echelon 

An echelon is a paceline which changes formation to accommodate a cross wind. Wind is a significant factor which can slow a paceline down and rarely can a bunch rely on a perfect head-wind, tail-wind or no wind.

In the echelon formation, riders position them self in the wind-shadow and it may mean that the bunch becomes further spread across the road. If it is a double-paceline, the riders in the wind-shadow will all be protected while the cyclists facing the wind all have to work harder. The bunch can protect a rider and help them to save energy by positioning them well inside the bunch.

 

For more on bunch riding and paceline formations, technique and etiquette, download the Free Bunch Riding guide.

Bunch Riding Peloton Calls and Signals

Bunch Riding Signals and Calls

In tight formation, unless you are at the front of the bunch while cycling, you have limited visibility and it is difficult, or even not possible to see what is happening up front. Of course this creates a risk situation for you as a cyclist and so bunch riding rule and etiquette need to work in your favour to help protect your safety. 

Communication in a bunch is through hand signals and calls (shouts). Often calls and signals are initiated by the riders at the front, but not always. Riders at the rear or in the middle can also make calls which are important to the safety of the entire peloton. The hand signals and calls make up for the impaired vision out front and should provide all of the information you need to ride and react safely in the bunch.

Regardless of who makes the call, it is crucial that every single rider passes this information on. Both voice calls and hand are repeated by each rider. In a bunch there is a lot of noise, the sound of bikes on the road, traffic and even the sound of the wind which can make a call by a rider a few lengths ahead or behind inaudible. Because sound is easily lost, it is crucial for each rider (and not just every second, third or fourth) to repeat a call and ensure that they need to slow down or stop or avoid an obstacle.

Some calls such as STOPPING have a hand signal which is supported by a verbal call. In the case where a rider needs both hands on the steering wheel, and it is unsafe to make the hand signal, the audio call fills in the gaps. On the other hand, some information may be passed on by hand signals alone, for example a parked vehicle ahead is signals with a hand behind the back and can provide sufficient information as the bunch slowly moves over to pass.

For more on bunch riding etiquette and safety, download the Bunch Riding guide.

Wiggle World's Biggest Bike Shop

Phew, Wiggle confirms that it is the Number One bike Shop

On the last blog post, we asked whether Chain Reaction Cycles had returned back to the top place as the worlds number one bike shop after their 2014 turnover was released and the term largest bike store used by media as well as themself. 

You never doubted that Wiggle would lose their lead, and their financial data is out – according to Bicycle Retailer (US trade publication), Wiggle has £179 million in sales in 2014 compared with £153 million for Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC). The most important metric is turnover, so Wiggle retains the claim of being the world’s biggest bike shop.

We reported that Wiggle list 12,000 products which is based on their inventory which is available to Smart Cyclist. This is just a fraction of the 66,000 products from CRC. Bicycle Retailer however reports that Wiggle have 50,000 SKUs – which are Stock Keeping Units, but again this doesn’t provide enough information to accurately use and compare because of product variations such as colour and size. For example, if Wiggle have 12,000 products and with variations there are 50,000 units, CRC have 66,000 products – but are these the ‘units’ and variations or are there four times the number of SKUs? This is not clarified.

While information for public release is generally carefully considered, and thus tends to be scarce, the report does however provide insights into sales in different territories.

…sales were up 26 percent in the U.K. and 20 percent in Europe over the period, but down 13.1 percent in the rest of the world.

Certainly currency exchange has a role, but also competition from the growing number of online retailers now servicing local markets (who can be competitive and offer even faster delivery).

What is interesting is the growth, CRC had 6% growth while Wiggle recorded 12% growth which is certainly a reflection on their continuing commitment to brand promotion and awareness.

Chain Reaction Bike Shop

Chain Reaction Cycles – again the world’s biggest bike shop?

This is confusing – a new report by the European bicycling trade publication Bike Europe talks about the ‘low’ growth of Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC), calling them the world’s LARGEST bike store. In this blog we recently looked at stats from previous years showing that Wiggle had taken over from CRC based on total sales volume: Has Wiggle beaten Chain Reaction Cycles to the Top Spot?

While it may just be simple rivalry, being the biggest, or the largest or the best is still a selling point. And perhaps it is just in the detail, with LARGEST being about range, they have just over 66,000 products for sale. This may… or may not include product variations (eg, black, white, silver or S, M, L, XL).

In comparison, Wiggle list just over 12,000 products, a mere 18% of the range from CRC. But considering Wiggle have recently been top-dog in sales turn-over, it certainly suggest that a broad product range alone is not the sole indicator of success. Until the reports for Wiggle are out, CRC probably are the Largest while Wiggle may remain the Biggest.

Make no mistake, these are both massive stores with a large customer base. The Bike Europe article talks about Small Growth of only 6% for CRC. They compare this growth to smaller (undisclosed) online bike shops which is where some criticism of this comparison is warranted.

At the top-end in a saturated market with fierce competition from direct competitors and new and niche players, growth is tough. Cycling is growing but the new bike stores, particularly outside of the UK with retailers who serve local markets and are an alternative for new buyers (to the big overseas retailers). Younger online bike stores can also afford to be more dynamic and cater to niche markets.

But critically, is exponential growth always the perfect measure of success – what about stability and sustainable turnover with stable or efficient profit margins?

A few interesting statistics, from the 2014 financial year reporting, the CRC turnover was £153 million with pre-tax profits of £4.8 million. The margins are low in the high turn-over world of online sales and it seems that Chain Reaction Cycles have been concentrating on streamlining – with much less overseas publicity and advertising as in previous years.

Bike Europe also reports that staff numbers have been reduced from 612 to 540.

 

Smart Cyclist Bunch Riding Who is in Charge

Who’s in charge in the bunch?

If you enjoy bunch riding, you will also know about the chain reaction effect. One rider brakes and the rest have to be on their toes and react quickly to avoid crashing. But it is more than avoiding crashing, it is about predicting what could happen, knowing what is happening and riding with the safety of other riders in mind – your riding error can have catastrophic repercussions.

In the Smart Cycling – Cycling Essentials series, the free Bunch Riding Guide outlines the approach for safe bunch riding, and this includes “Who’s in Charge”. So who is in charge… surely it is the Lead Rider?

Yes and no. Each and every rider in a bunch or peloton still has a responsibility to all other riders, both in the way they conduct them self and ride, as well as passing calls or signals through the bunch.

Let’s move to the back of the bunch to the Tail-end Rider. Far from just pulling up the rear, the rider at the back has an important role if the bunch needs to change lanes. As the rear most rider, they call-out to inform the bunch whether the bunch can move OVER or needs to WAIT. For multi-lane crossing the call may be OVER ONE or OVER TWO depending on what is safe. Each rider needs to pass this message forward to the lead rider.

In addition, the Tail-end Rider warns of vehicles approaching from behind, and usually provides an indication of the size such as CAR, BUS or TRUCK. If traffic is heavy, the Tail-end rider may also call to suggest that a bunch riding two abreast changes to single-file with the call SINGLE or SINGLE-UP. On hills or situations where riders fall off the back of the bunch, the Tail-end rider can request the bunch to slow or inform the bunch that the riders have rejoined with ALL-ON.

 

The Lead Rider

While all riders have responsibility in the bunch, the Lead Rider is responsible for many of the important calls and signals. And they have make the calls and signals with the safety of all of the riders in mind which means planning ahead and predicting danger scenarios. This is can be as simple and breaking early, slowing (calling SLOWING or STOPPING) and avoiding sudden braking within the bunch. It means slowing starting (after the bunch has stopped) to allow all riders to ‘get on’ and avoid the concertina effect.

Generally, the Lead Rider has to call early and ensure a constant pace which suits all riders with gradual changes (turning, swerving, slowing, accelerating). The Lead Rider often changes as it is a position which often faces the wind and allows the riders following to draft. When the rider signals their intent and moves over, the next rider in line generally takes the lead. These Pacelines, different formations and variations will be discussed in another post. What it means however is that each rider should be aware of their responsibilities leading the bunch.

One of the key safety requirements is to avoid and call out obstacles such as potholes, debris, parked vehicles, other cyclists and anything else which requires the attention of the bunch. For all of these obstacles, a call and often a hand signal is used which is then passed back but each rider. When avoiding an obstacle, the lead rider chooses a safe line with the assumption that riders will follow.

The Lead Rider also needs to make a judgement call at intersections and for changed traffic situations, for example informing the bunch whether to stop at traffic lights which change from green to amber or to ride through (on the understanding that the bunch is small enough to pass before it turns red. For larger bunches this can be tricky and riders in the middle may need to make an independent call to stop. In this case, riders in the front group should slow down to allow riders behind to catch up.

 

For individuals and non-commercial groups such as cycling clubs, the Bunch Riding guide is free to download, share and print. It provides a concise and visual overview of all of the key safety considerations for bunch riding.

Smart Cyclist Bunch Riding Guide

Free Bunch Riding Guide to Increase Rider Safety

Safety for bunch cyclists is paramount, Smart Cyclist has just released the free Bunch Riding Guide which covers bunch riding etiquette, responsibilities and safety.

The safety of all riders is at risk when bunch riding, a single error can set off a chain reaction causing serious injury to others. Crashes in bunches are often the result of inexperience and inadequate knowledge of bunch riding etiquette.

The Bunch Riding Guide provides clear and concise information, illustrated with graphics for the benefit and safety of cyclists and cycling clubs.

Bunch Riding Etiquette

The Bunch Riding Guide is the first guide in the Cycling Essentials series and is available for free for individuals and cycling clubs. Cycling clubs can also apply for a free version of the Bunch Riding Guide branded with their club logo.

> Download the Bunch Riding Guide here

Trek Online Shop

Trek create their own Internet (shop)

The market size of the big brands allows them the opportunity to do business on their own terms, for example many of the big brands such as Specialized and Trek no longer exhibit at bike shows such as Eurobike and instead run their own dealer events and customer demo days. And they have also controlled online sales, the popular online retailers Wiggle, CRC, PBK and Ribble don’t sell Trek online. 

Trek and Specialized belong to the few brands that have prevented sales through the big online retailers and a quick search confirms. Wiggle provide a “not found” for the search term Specialized and Merida while for the search term Trek the big bike brand has some competition from a nutrition brand.

Screenshot from Wiggle:

Wiggle Trek Bicycles

Chain Reaction Cycles however take a different approach, while they don’t have Specialized or Trek in stock, they have plenty of positive results in searching for Trek, Specialized and Merida, however all promote their own inhouse brand called Vitus. They are ‘managing’ the search results to push their own gear.

chainreactioncycles trek bicycles

 

Runout Stock

It is common practice for brands to offload their old season products at good prices and the online retailers are good outlets as they have massive amounts of traffic and also operate on lower margins. This can be a Win – Win situation for the brand and retailer (and customer) as dealers are not able to offload the stock. It does however mean that the retailers may not stock new equipment. And some brands resist the online retailers regardless, and any stock that comes through are from rouge distributers.

 

Trek Connect Retail Marketing

This is the name of the new service going on trial for two years and open to 30 Trek dealers in the United States. The brand is supporting these dealers with an online sales platform which includes the dealer in the loop.

The big problem which dealers have with the internet is that they are cut out, the brands on the other hand don’t immediately lose-out with internet sales because they are still making sales. However in the long term it upsets the bike shops and the brand can lose retail support which is still crucial, particularly for higher priced items such as complete bikes which a majority of customers still prefer to buy instore.

With the new Trek online shop at trekbikes.com, the dealers will receive a ‘service commission’ and customers encouraged to pick up the bike instore. Any bike ordered goes to the dealer anyway who will assemble the bike and can delivery or hold it for the customer to pickup.

Trek Bicycles Website

 

Measuring Success

There are a number of angles to approach the move by Trek and predict the success. From a dealer perspective, the Trek brand is trying to support them and generate sales. And very importantly, providing a commission for sales.

From a brand perspective, they have to support their dealers and see the popularity of the internet and don’t want to miss the train.

From a customer perspective it can be viewed more critically, what is the actual benefit for the customer? Often customers are looking for the lowest price when buying online and have a number of ‘brand independent’ retailers who are competing for their dollar. A dedicated Trek Online store won’t compete with other online retailers or bike stores, the prices need to be regulated so that it isn’t creating a disadvantage.

For a customer, the online access however may provide some advantages such as:
• Faster and quicker overview and selection of the preferred bike and parts
• A larger range and more options than available instore (though Trek have the instore Project One concept)
• Convenience when a store visit is not possible

Buying online does assume that the customer can chose the right bike and right size so this may be an area for confusion, if a customer purchases online to discover instore that the bike is the wrong size. It is the fault of the customer, though the dealer will probably have to help resolve.

The biggest volumes of internet sales in the bike world is in parts and accessories, for customers there can be some convenience in saving a trip to the bike shop… but this is about bikes so the online purchase option for Trek bikes may be more ideologically important than for actually generating sales. The online shopping isn’t competing, rather is another doorway to Trek.

The new retail concept launches in September 2015 for the US and Bike-EU reports that this is a pilot program which will trial for two years.

Geo restriction Country Blocking

Geo Blocking Sales for bikes and parts

Traditional geographical boundaries meant that was always a regional focus to the sale of bikes and gear. Of course the key brands were available, though always through local agents such as the distributer / wholesaler / importer or a national branch of the bike brand. 

Mail order made it possible for enthusiasts in remote continents (i.e. Africa, Asia and Australia) to have some access to speciality gear, there was usually a long wait and premiums for currency exchange.

With the ride of online shopping, sales initially were regional and for successful shops who adapted, they become international. But there were two effects:

Firstly, the products were no longer just ‘niche’ and hard-to-get products, rather they were everyday parts and accessories which were already available ‘locally’.  Customers were buying because it was cheaper… not because they couldn’t get it from their local bike shop.

Secondly, brands were now selling to the same buyer, but not via their local importer and bike shop and for many brands it raised questions of warranty and supporting the traditional retail channels.

 

However, the customer was usually a winner.
The customer has the same item for a lower price and are comfortable buying online so it is also convenient. Of course there are risks such as warranty issues and customer service challenges when dealing with the overseas shop. The end effect is that the bike rider has the same item… and the brand still sold their product.

 

Geo-Restriction and GeoBlocking for bikes and gear

Mavic was a very early adopter and for years they have been blocking Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles from selling their wheelsets to selected countries overseas. Other brands such as Continental have remained readily available.

Of course for customer who really wanted the Mavic wheels there were a few ways around restrictions such as using a 3rd party service to mask the country of origin and in cases it allowed delivery to an overseas address. Sometimes a bit of juggling the cart (selecting £ and UK delivery, adding the item and then changing currency and location) or simply ignoring on-site notes of restricted delivery… and letting the wheels simply turn up a few weeks later.

For ‘direct to customer’ brands such as the German brand of Canyon bikes and brands which are simply unavailable and unsupported in some countries, mail-forwarding can be used and is a service which is becoming increasing popular in the U.S. for example. A last resort is an international flight to Europe when the cost of flight and expenses is lower than the cost of purchasing locally.

 

How do retailers GeoBlock?

Wiggle detect a visitors location and when the product isn’t available they suggest that the product is no longer available, rather than not available. A challenge being that the products can be easily found on the wiggle site and only when selecting an unsupported delivery destination are the products suddenly out of stock.

Product No Longer Available

Search Engine Optimisation dictates this approach, it is better to include a product in the inventory and then try and guide a customer to alternative products, rather than to lose them completely. Of course customers who also notice this and over time simply may not visit.

Error 404 Page Not Found

Chain Reaction Cycles likewise have the product available in their directories for SEO purposes, however appear to favour an approach of sending visitors with an incompatible destination to the homepage. This can usually lead to the customer wonder ‘what just happened’ and trying a few times. Within their search database the term “Mavic Ksyrium” with a UK destination and GBP selected shows 25 results while with Australia as a destination and AUD there are only 8 results.

Among the Australia results are a few Mavic wheelsets which are apparently not blocked. Perhaps clearance or hard to sell wheelsets.

Mavic Ksyrium UK

Mavic Ksyrium Australia

 

Evans Cycles takes a different approach. In the past they haven’t appeared to block brands for sale, though more recently have changed tact. During testing there was also blocking on some Shimano parts which is unusual as Shimano and SRAM virtually never have geo-restrictions, sometimes the big online retailers sell before local bike shops overseas can even get stock.

Customers from ‘incompatible’ delivery destinations will see the complete range and receive no information or notice of restricted availability (with their overseas location and currency selected). First when the customer tries to check-out and pay are they informed that they can’t purchase. How annoying!

Evans Cycles Unavailable

 

While Evans do allows their own system to be circumvented, this process will not be documented. And there are also many other retailer to chose from. From the big ones, with our example of Mavic, Ribble have a single wheelset in their database, without any restrictions for people outside of the UK. Likewise ProBikeKit have no apparent restrictions however are focussed on UK customers and seem to neglect customers outside of the UK when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Hargroves Cycles is also in our database however doesn’t sell outside of the UK….

Actually they do, but unlike their competitors Hargroves don’t allow the destination to be selected by (potential) customers while browsing. Country selection is hidden inside the checkout process and their overseas delivery charges are hefty in comparison. In favour of Hargroves is their extensive range of our example brand ‘Mavic’.

 

Where does this leave the customer?

Some brands block some online shops from selling to customers in some countries. It depends how determined the customer is, where there is a will, there is a way. The inconsistency by many brands who try to block will leave loopholes. When online retailers in England wont sell, what about Northern Ireland… or a German retailer?

For brands there are also consequences. Some customers who experience these road blocks may return to local bike shops or local online bike store. Some brands require their products to be sold in-store, even if you are in South Africa for example, South African online retailers are not allowed to sell.

But some customers will simply walk away and turn to other brands, brands which are comparable but which they can purchase through a channel which they prefer, and for price they feel competitive.

 

Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles Sponsorship

How Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles change Bike Sponsorship

Whether you run an event, an advocacy group or are a publisher, the chances are that it has taken years to establish, and was have grown out of love, passion and enthusiasm also needs solid financial supporters to make ends meet. 

Have a look at the number of big events, or advocacy groups or publishers which have truly been able to retain “bike only” sponsors alone, even bike brand sponsored pro-cycling teams have a limited lifespan and tend to turn to the lucrative ‘non bike’ businesses who want to capture the hearts and minds of cyclists; Red Bull, Skoda, IAM, Sky, Saxo, Orica.

In big business there are big brands, but the more local, the harder it is, and the less likely that you can rely on Giant, Trek, Specialized, BMC or Shimano. These are big brands in cycling, but bike brands are tiny on a global scale and their marketing “vision” much shorter.

International online retailers are a new opportunity, they run big sales numbers and any event or organisation or outlet is a conduit directly towards their customers. They are still careful with their investments, but the larger your audience, the bigger the potential.

However the competition between the bricks and mortar retailers and the online retailers creates the perfect ALL OR NOTHING scenario…

Where support from locally based brands wanes, getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard as a key sponsor or financial support can help you reach new heights… and it is ‘bike’ and it is compatible with the ‘non-bike’ sponsors.

However getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard can also sever all ties with local brands and also leave you open for criticism for not being a patriot, for not supporting local jobs and business.

While sponsorship from local brands may have been tough to acquire (or non-existent), once you turn to the Dark Side, you may never again have a chance with the local industry again.

So the question is, what do you stand to lose and will this make a difference?

Will it really affect the ability of your event, your organisation or your ‘channel’ to grow… will you be able to retain enough of your participants, members, readers or following… and grow these numbers.

Whatever the decision, don’t forget that the world and the marketplace is changing so consider the future of retail use this to help make a decision today on your sponsorship and support allegiance.

 

photo © KevPBur

Bike Shop Advice Fails

Bike Advice which Fails

The motivation for this post comes from a Bike Radar post called “Buying from a bike shop vs online” which seeks to inform readers of the Pros and cons of direct-sale and bike shop purchases. Rather than a list of failed bike advice, this explores information and our ability to get quality information, as opposed to popular content.

Bike Radar is a well known website among cycling Netizens and gets a fair amount of attention as a product-centric website. I have enjoyed the breaking news, sometimes they are bold enough to ignore embargoes and they are big enough that the brands forgive them and come back for more. Their style however is often short and sweet to the point of being (or appearing to be) dominated press releases and with a major focus on attention grabbing news. The indepth article of cyclingtips and other similiar specialist websites are a completely different style, and while cyclingtips is well regarding, the site founder Wade Wallace has acknowledged the conundrum of publishing high quality indept articles verses the more popular, brief, attention seeking content, in other words, Click-Bait.

On the one hand, Click-Bait works to get the click, and the reader gets tabloid style fulfillment. But in the long term it is hard to judge the effect. Tabloid newspapers exist and thrive because they have an eager audience, but so does intellectual media which you could argue faces tough competition.

The repercussions of information

Google ranks content on popularity, they have an algorithm (which has not been publicly released) and ranks search engine results on an array of criteria. The chances are that in a Google search that the first page of results will be good results and you only rarely need to click through to page 2 and beyond.

Now that many publishers have become atune to click-bait, there is mountain of information which has the purpose of encouraging reader curiosity and their click, rather than delivering quality content.

As a test I searched Google.com for “online versions local bike shop” and landed on a quality CyclingTips article:  The LBS v.s. Online Shopping. An opinion article but with charts and facts.

A search for “buying bike online” brings me to the Bike Radar article [mentioned in the introduction] which has a different style, it tries to present itself as a ‘Pro’s and Con’s’ article however, as a 2014 article appears to be stuck on ‘direct to market’ bike brands such as Canyon and Vitus (which has become Chain Reaction Cycles inhouse brand). The positive aspects of buying a bike online are price alone.

Whereas instore:

The key advantage of buying from an actual physical shop is face-to-face advice, both in terms of buying the right sort of bike and also when it comes to fit and sizing.

It’s not wrong, but is also not very comprehensive. It feels limiting because off the top of my head I can list an array of advantages, they will depend on the buyer, but can be powerful incentives and reasons to chose a bike shop. Likewise, these advantages (sizing and fitting) can also be deficiencies in some bike shops.

 

The changing face of information

Content on the internet, when it started making its way into web browsers in the 90’s, was modelled on desktop publishing, including the quality. This changed as human interaction with computers is different from interaction with a book or magazine. Humans have a short attention span, and Twitter is a fantastic example of the development of electronic publishing.

But it also raises an important question about the quality of content – with Google as the gatekeeper of information, what piece of information is now presented as more relevant? When searching for “wheelbuilding” will the viewer get:

a) The top five Awesome Wheels or;

b) The Sheldon Brown – Wheelbuilding page.

Seasons online cyclists will know the late Sheldon Brown as a prolific publisher of high quality bicycle information and to this day is a reliable online resource.

The implications are vast, it is happening now, but it is also being influenced by many other factors, for example what Google knows about us. Google probably knows your age, gender and location and predicts what you want to see. Does this mean that a new bikes rider will be presented with information relevant to them while an experienced cyclist (using the same search term) gets a different and more relevant set of search results?

 

Bike advice which fails

The trend in publishing information which appeals, but without depth means that detailed or potentially more valuable or useful information may start to come up second. Will this force the modern human to retrun to evaluating the information and search results in more detail, such as in the days of lycos and alta vista where it took longer to find the right content?

Using the analogy of Facebook ‘Likes’, do we like something because it appeals to us or because it is better?

 

Unfortunately in this rambling commentry there are no answers, but it is food for thought in considering the information before us, our choices and how information will develop.

photo © Omar de Armas

 

Wiggle Warehouse Clearance Sale

Wiggle is moving – Get Ready for Warehouse Sales

In perspective, on a global scale of industry the cycling industry is very small. But the biggest retailer in this very small market needs a lot of space. Wiggle are moving from an 85,000 foot warehouse (with 2 million items) in Portsmouth to a 323,000 foot facility near Wolverhampton in the Midlands, a three hour drive from London.

The move was announced last year, and now the warehouse sales are starting with their latest campaign promoting up to 50% off.

You know the online sales where a product retails for 30% less than the stated RRP, then during sale time there is a 30% discount… off the RRP, so you are paying the same price. It is hard to spot the real sales, sure there are some run-out products but the run of the mill accessories don’t drop dramatically in price.

Well this should be different. Wiggle are moving and any business would prefer to sell their stock and get new stock delivered to the new location rather than ship the lot.

 

Genuine Savings Predicted at Wiggle

For the warehouse clearance, I expect to see a more great value sales and significant savings. But it could also be a mixed bag with plenty of hard to sell gear that they simply want to sell going for dumping prices.

And a question on small verses big items. Big items are more costly to ship, while small items are fiddly, so will Wiggle try to clear out more of the big and bulky gear, or free up space with the smaller bike accessories and gear.

There are over 5,000 products listed, but do expect some running, swimming and triathlon gear as well as cycling gear.

 

How do you spot the genuine sale items? 

That is the hardest question of all as it is likely that some items which fail to clear will get further price drops. The best approach is to keep your eyes open. One tip is to use the Smart Cyclist price comparison if you know what you want, type in the items and quickly check the current price. Alternatively, visit Wiggle, to pick up a bargin where you need a bit creativity and luck.

But the best tip of all if you are anywhere near Portsmouth, keep your eyes and ears peeled for warehouse direct sales. It won’t help online shoppers but experienced suggests that for any leftover stock that they simply have to clear, there will be a lot of happy locals.

 

 

 

Brains Travel on Bike

Do you lose your warranty when you buy online?

I was reading a 2012 article on Grey Market imports – which was defined in the article as anything purchased overseas and not through the ‘proper’ local channels. The grey market is actually more than this, but that is a conversation for another time. 

The author of the article quotes a US bike shop owner (with names and details removed) and the following caught my eye.

When one buys from these companies they are: a) putting money in the pockets of somebody unknown, b) hurting the local economy, c) getting products with no warranty whatsoever, d) dealing with poor customer service after the sale – try to return something to them e) Could be in violation of U.S. Custom’s import tariffs

Briefly addressing a) and b), if a customer buys a Shimano or SRAM item locally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that in most cases the item has been manufactured overseas and the chances are that  the brand is overseas (i.e. the Headquarters are not in the same country unless you are from Japan or America). Point taking, adding in the local importers and retailers gets more money moving in the local economy when buying locally. But the fact is that if you really wanted help the local economy you would only buy locally produced and manufactured items. With food and some consumables this is possible but the reality is that bike and cycling gear manufacture is usually cheaper in Asia, all of the big brands manufacture there and it means that ultimately there is a flow of money out of the country.

In perspective, the comments are dramatic and about creating guilt among customers who wonder why some items cost a fraction of the price overseas and their local bike shop isn’t doing anything to provide enough advantages to purchase from them.

 

No warranty online… really?

Sometimes warranty replacements are easier online – from the comfort of home you send in a photo and provide details. A few days later a courier comes and picks up the item and a new item is delivered. It can be that simple, but of course it can be a real pain.

The pain can involve packing and taking time to post, having to cover postage costs yourself and then waiting. Sometimes the customer service is poor. But generally as a customer you have rights and the retailer (from whom you purchased) should resolve any issues. And generally they do, sometimes better than bike shops.

Have you have made too many trips to the bike shop? “Come back on Tuesday”, so you make the trip to the shop and return on Tuesday to discover that they have forgotten you, and forgotten to call. Your chances of having a warranty replacement are that same as online. With online orders you have to wait, but instore you may have to wait, sometimes the shop sends it to the distributer who then needs to send it to the brand and that can take months. With an online purchase it is common for online shops to ‘cut their losses’ and make it easy for a customer by quickly replacing (and resolving the warranty replacement with the brand later) or in some cases to suggest the customer keep the part and a new one will be sent.

Customer service can be poor online, but the big online shops such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles are out their to win and retain customers. Their customer service has been boosted dramatically in recent years and all of the serious online bike shops know how important this is to their business.

There are rogue online bike shops out there, probably plenty so there is safety in sticking with the big stores (which in turn makes it tough for new and honest business). Comparing to local bike shops, are they all honest? Do they all look after you after the sale? Some bike shops don’t even look after you the moment you walk in the door.

I can tally some great experiences in local bike shops, but also some shocking experiences and in the face of growing online competition its a wonder that some bike shops believe that they can survive with their poor customer service and shonky service.

 

There are good and bad retailers online and offline. As a customer you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy from a local bike shop who isn’t looking after you, guilt-tripped because you are killing the economy. But the local bike shops can lift their game and become a better option for you… because their service is better and they look after you. As a customer take time to know the risks of buying online, such as not being able to try before you buy, but if you are buying from a reputable online retailer, the chances are that warranty and customer service is just as good as in store.

 

photo © Vanessa Gutierrez

 

Mario Cipollini

Culturally incompatible – Cycling gear that doesn’t sell

A blog came up on my radar, Jonathon Nunan is a consultant in the bike industy and publishes insider news on his brand new Better Bike Business blog. A February post caught my eye:

Selling cycle clothing in Australia? No hotpants or white Lycra for starters.

It covers a list of do’s and do nots for selling cycle wear in Australia, a good list and explanations such as including UV rated wear, Australian cyclists love full length zipper and women like 3/4 knicks. Surprising is that cycle wear needs to be offered in size 6XL, 8XL and 10XL plus… wow.

That’s a nice example of some of the cycle wear that does and does not sell in Australia, what about the rest of the world?

 

What are the Rules for Cycling Wear?

Do you remember the The Official Euro Cyclist Code of Conduct (by Dom Guiver and Mike Flavell)? It is a goldmine of goodness, here are some excerpts:

Rule 1. Image and style shall be the primary concerns of the Euro Cyclist. When suffering, one must focus first on maintaining a cool, even composure and second on performance. Winning races is an added talent, and only counts if said Euro Cyclist wins with appropriate style.

 

Rule 5. A prominent line where one’s kit ends and where one’s deep tan begins is essential to one’s image. Artificial tanning is BANNED. The tan shall reflect the level of training commitment.

 

Rule 6. The socks of the Euro Cyclist shall extend to within two (2) cm. of the main bulge of the calf muscle, and shall never extend further than one (1) cm. past said primary calf muscle bulge. All socks SHALL BE WHITE in colour with prominent logo placement.

 

Rule 12. Ridiculously stylish eyewear (see endorsed products list) is to be worn AT ALL TIMES without exception. Glasses are to be worn over helmet straps at all times.

There are 63 rules in total, and if you are serious about cycling, you really need to learn them by heart. The most current version is on the OREC (Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist) facebook page.

 

Cycling Brand Matters

Getting a bit more serious, it goes without saying that there are differences between continents and nations with regard to well known and lesser known brands. Popularity can depend on the brand origins, the marketing of the brand among other factors.

Seasons play a role, how cold is winter, how hot is summer. Is professional cycling (road, track, MTB, BMX) popular and what about access to these different styles of cycling.

Consider mountain biking, in one country or region it is considered a fringe sport, a sub culture. In other countries it is an active sport more open to a broader age range and sports cycle wear, even lycra is commonplace.

And even the media and television coverage of cycling events will play a role. If cycling fans see the professionals in the latest gear, the lastest gear is likely to be a big seller – and this includes styles such as long cycling socks.

 

Making or breaking it

While writing, I have been thinking hard, what cycling equipment or cycle wear is truely specific to one country. For every I can think of, I can’t say that it is really specific, such as Americans only wearing white cycling shoes or the British only wearing black helmets. I can say that in Europe, commuter cyclists are more fashionable, particularly where bike riding is a convenient or prefered transport mode. When cycling is less integrated into society, there is a natural focus on safety, so fluro and high visibility wear becomes more important.

So this is a great topic, and for the cycling industry, something most brands should know – so what unique trends have you spotted in cycling, unique to one country or region?

Title Photo: © David Hunter

New WIggle Logo

Wiggle redesign their Logo, Smiling Cyclops?

The website for the worlds biggest online retailer, Wiggle, was a bit shakey the last few hours, and then suddenly a new logo appeared. I have grown used to the playful logo with the looped g’s,  it has always reminded me of the other playful Wiggle…. or The Wiggles to be exact. The Wiggles are an Australian entertainment group for kids which were quite popular across the globe.

What does the new logo reveal about Wiggle? We see the Wiggle orange, but now with a darker foreboding grey background. The company name ‘wiggle’ has a new font, still stylised but a little more refined and compact.

I am not married to Wiggle, and can live with the linked g’s being removed, but after the surprise of the new logo suddenly appearing, the Smiling Cyclops graphics which adorns the text is truely unexpected.

Yes, they are trying to create a unique graphic symbol to represent Wiggle which also works without the text. Chain Reaction Cycles have the broken chainring in their logo and can use the chainring as a stand-alone graphic.

Chain Reaction Cycles Logo

But aside from the functional aspect of creating a recognisable symbol, the symbolism is equally important. What does it represent. It depends how you look at it and it looks like they are trying to evoke a similar feeling to the Toyota “Oh what a feeling” ‘thingy’. It’s a ‘thingy’ because it is not the actual Toyota logo, but is a recognisable and trademarked… um… ‘thingy’ which Toyota use in their advertising. It also means you are not allowed to jump for joy next to your car, unless it is a Toyota.

 

Oh what a feeling

So if the curves in the new Wiggle logo mark represent a persons arms, and the dot is the head, do the g’s represent the ample breasts of a man or women with crooked legs?

Updated WIggle Logo

But I didn’t see the ‘jumping for joy’ person when I first looked, instead I saw a Smiling Cyclops. If you want to freak yourself out, do a google search for “Smiling Cyclops”. I really loved the green monster from the film Monster AG, Michael “Mike” Wazowski (with the voice of Billy Crystal), and you could classify Mike as a happy cyclops so  this is the visual that will probably stick with me when I see the Wiggle logo from now.

mike makowski orange

So now Wiggle have a new logo and we can expect to see this appearing everywhere – but can we also expect other big changes? Let’s see.

 

Bad Online Bike Shop

What NOT to buy online

I am subscribed to a newsletter from Anthony BikeRoar, though didn’t actually subscribe and know for a fact that my email address was scrapped and included without an Opt-In, so it’s all very naughty. 

The purpose of the BikeRoar website isn’t obvious, they seems to have a bike comparison function, a directory of American bike shops and cycling articles and news with a strong Mountain Bike focus. I generally glance through the newsletter which has “Top Five’s”  and beginners tips, but in their current newsletter I spotted a featured article, “What NOT to buy online” by author Joey Esterhuyzen.

Now that is an interesting topic and in the first paragraph the author states the position of BikeRoar to online shopping,

Although we are not anti-online shopping, we have, in the past, made a song and dance about buying and supporting your local bike shop…

But it continues, unfortunately, to say,

…here is a light-hearted list of what NOT to buy online…

All of my anticipation has immediately vanished, but I continued to read anyway and discovered that the article isn’t ‘light-hearted’ (as in humorous) rather it includes one funny picture and instead is ‘light-reading’; basic common-sense information with broad comments, barely pausing to give substance or examples for justification.

Funny Bike PictureScreen caputure from BikeRoar

 

When buying your cassette there is a high chance of getting it wrong. Selecting the wrong gear ratios, wrong model, wrong gear count, or forgetting to replace the chain at the same time (which itself is riddled with landmines). Along with this, you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before – for both the cassette AND the chain.

For a beginner, perhaps it is useful to ensure that the reader knows that the techy details (specs) are really important and if you get it wrong, you lose. But this type of information is not particularly new and applies to mail-order, telephone-orders and online shopping for car parts, audio sound-system parts, instruments… and almost any product that has parts and comes in different sizes.

In core message is that if you go to your (physical) local bike shop, the mechanic will get the right item because they have the experience, plus if they stuff it up, it is their fault. If however you chose to buy yourself online, then know exactly what you want and be prepared to assemble.

The information on cycling shoes does try to provide reasoning as to why and identical sizes shoe can still be a bad fit.

 

But what I am missing is…

I am missing two things. Firstly, even accepting that the light-hearted humour is limited to a picture of a funny bike, I want more depth and I want real-life examples to open my mind. For example explaining what happens if I buy a compatible cassette for my bike which has a different gear range and the effect it will have when I try to climb the steep hill next time. Instead of telling me “…you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before…”, tell me which tools they are.

And secondly, I am really missing the content that made me click through in the first place. I do want to know what NOT to buy online. Online shoppers are now buying things online which they would not have considered five years ago. Clothing is booming and the risk of getting the wrong size is hardly stopping sales. There are not many product segments which are untouchable, but there must be some things you shouldn’t buy online.

 

Here it is: what should you NOT buy online

Let’s exclude advice targeted to beginner cyclists whether or not to purchase, rather really try and think of specific products you should not buy online. It was more difficult to put a list together than I anticipated.

You should not buy:

  • Flammable lubricants / cleaning agents because it is simply better not to air-deliver dangerous items.
  • Second-hand cycling knicks. It is not hygenic as they are intended to be worn without underwear.
  • Bicycle Helmets are a safety item so a perfect fit is important and you also need to ensure that the helmet complies with local regulations (if applicable) and with any regulations for competitive cycling, if you compete. I recommend that you know that it fits perfectly before buying which means a trip to your local dealer. Though do consider that showrooming (when you try first at a retail store with the intention of purchasing online) is bad form.
  • Items which are illegal to use in your country, for example, Germany has strict regulations on the brightness of bike lights and even how loud audible devices such as horns can be. While lights and loud air-horns for the bikes will pass through customs, if you fit them and uses them on public streets there can be consequences if you are stopped by police officers or involved in an accident.
  • Fake cycling apparel (and gear). Though it may be a fraction of the price of a genuine item there are two problems, the quality is often signficantly inferior and secondly by supporting fake / counterfeit / unlicensed products it supports an industry built on fraud rather than the cycling teams and cycling brands who deserve the support.
  • Bikes and gear of unknown origin. By all means, do some research and find out more, however if you don’t really know anything about the products and are not getting the right signals, then you don’t really know what you are getting.
  • Anything from untrusted online retailers. Check and see if it is a genuine online bike shop because you will never see your $800 again for the top-of-the-line-brand-new-too-good-too-be-true Pinarello.

And for an attempt at humour, don’t buy yellow jerseys or ‘world-champion’ jerseys or any other cycle-wear reserved for the victor of a race. You have to earn it first. The exception is when you are buying a collectable (and the money goes to charity) and you don’t wear it rather it hangs on the wall until it is uncovered that your cycling hero was a doper all along and now the jersey is worth only disdain.

 

 

Title Photo: © Egan Snow