Posts Tagged ‘trek


LeMond and Ricco – Lost In Translation

Cycling goes into a semi-lull this time of year.  Races have started, but not many truly pay much attention outside of the finish of the cyclocross season.  Transfers are over, teams have been announced, training camp previews have taken place.  However, the cycling industry does not disappoint in providing juicy tidbits and places to read between the lines.

Trek v. LeMond

The news emerged that Trek and Greg LeMond had settled their differences yesterday without the predicted spectacle of a full-blown trial.  The press release made semi-believable statements including that both seemed to be “pleased” repeatedly.  Trek is “pleased” to give $200,000 to LeMond’s charitable organization and LeMond is “pleased” to resolve the issues and move forward with things he deems important.  While the mission behind LeMond’s organization is very important and should be to all, where I believe this gets lost in translation (despite all of this happening in my part of these United States – the area that doesn’t have any accent) is LeMond perhaps not fully understanding the meaning of the word “pleased.”

For Trek to write a couple checks for $100K is a gift.  Trek’s lawyers better not only get a hefty holiday bonus, but a Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving bonus.   If Trek would have been given the chance to write this check at the beginning, they would’ve gift-wrapped it and put a big bow on it.  Trek gets a tax-deductible write-off, avoids the trial of what would have been an outright attempt by LeMond to call up anybody and everybody including the person who changed the sheets on Lance’s hospital bed in an attempt to generate circumstantial evidence of his belief of Lance’s doping.  LeMond didn’t show up at Armstrong press conferences or give speeches without desperately wanting to create the far greater worldwide, mainstream media exposure that would have resulted from a trial.   The taste of bile in the back of his throat salivating about this possibility was something he hasn’t tasted since being told that the Badger wasn’t going to play domestique.  Apparently in LeMond-speak “pleased” means either “I’m really tired” or “Lance’s secret forces have placed an explosive charge inside of my brain and Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible Team isn’t taking my calls, so I better sign this.”

I’m not sure how they did it, but score 1 for Trek.  Maybe now they can push some of those legal dollars back into R&D and catch the Madone up to the Tarmac.

Ricco vs. His Mouth

The following comments may seem judgmental, but when will Riccardo Ricco realize that any time he opens his mouth, something really bad or really dumb comes out?  Guys, myself included, do plenty of things to screw things up on our own.  We don’t need this guy getting us slapped just for being a member of the same sex.   Again, I’ll give a small chance of misinterpretation to something being lost in translation, but here are a couple of his latest jewels (along with my potential interpretation and judgment) in the wake of his baby mama’s CERA positive.

Quote 1 “I know as much as anyone else. I’ve been away from home for 3 months.” Alternate interpretation – “Plausible Deniability.”  Judgmental comment – she stood by him during his implosion, he’s still banned from the sport with a newborn and hasn’t been home, definitely showing once again, it’s all about him.

Quote 2 “When I was positive, I confessed everything. I was honest.” Alternate interpretation – “I lied, cheated and stole, but when they caught me, they said they would reduce my suspension if I squealed like a pig.” Judgmental comment – He was honest from the time it took to strip away the web of lies in his brain and answer the doping authorities’ questions.  After that, the rest, including his so-called “remorse”, is really questionable.

Quote 3 “Cycling isn’t for women, it hurts too much.” Alternate interpretation – I’m a complete ass. Judgmental comment – Maybe that works in the OId Country, but having a “barefoot and pregnant” attitude doesn’t work too well in the modern world.  You’re on your own…and I wouldn’t recommend any US stops.


Pro Cycling’s Other 2010 Battle – Trek vs. Specialized

While many focus their pro cycling fanaticism on athlete vs. athlete, one of the more interesting spins to come out of the Lance v. Contador mental battles has been the escalation of the battle between bike industry icons Trek and Specialized.

As with most things in cycling, change is a constant – riders change teams, teams change sponsors.  The standard reaction is usually all you read about – Rider X is really excited to be on a new team and really likes his new bike.   Specialized came into the mix when Contador’s status with Astana was still up in the air with an astounding $1,000,000 individual sponsorship, targeting the top step of the Tour de France podium.   This new sponsorship also caused an unceremonious split with Quick-Step which, call me crazy but sponsoring a Belgian team with Belgian cycling heroes Devolder and Boonen as well in 11 other Belgian cyclists, given the fact that Belgium is well…Belgium.   I’m guessing there was a pretty high PR and related sales as a result of their efforts.

When Lance retired in 2005 and Trek (temporarily) lost its Icon, sales suffered.  The Big Red S took steps forward, primarily at Trek’s expense.  Even having Contador riding Trek to his earlier Grand Tour victories didn’t seem to have nearly the desired impact.  However, Specialized didn’t get to where it is without marketing savvy.   Factor the probability that Contador could win again multiplied by an X factor of (insert insane value here) as a result of the magnitude of press that comes in the media coverage of Lance v. Contador Part Deux, apparently your answer is $1,000,000.

What has been surprising so far is Contador’s gushing love-fest statements about his new Specialized ride.  Statements reflecting that he “demanded the best” and therefore “required” Specialized as part of his conditions for staying with Astana.  Recent items from press conferences and releases included Contador stating that the additional stiffness and power of the his Tarmac SL3 required “a couple of days to get used to” and that he was very happy with a recent BG-Fit and work with Dr. Andy Pruitt, which had helped his positioning and power output on the bike.

If you read the various reviews, the reality is that he’s not speaking out of line or making absurd claims.  Most reviews absolutely rave about the Tarmac as a precise, efficient Pro Tour-caliber steed.  By comparison, the reviews on the Madone seem less enthusiastic – usually stating “it’s a gre..good bike, but” with quick references to how the Madone doesn’t have the stiffness and acceleration found in other top bikes.  Obviously, the magazines don’t want to rip on a review for fear of losing an advertising buck.  My experience with these bikes echoes the same sentiment, to the point where I recall test riding a Tarmac and being astounded by the stiffness, quickness and power (but slightly nonplussed by the excessive road feedback on a road that recently had the summer pea gravel/tar treatment).

Now the “if” parade begins.  If Contador loses with a team dedicated solely to him and given better equipment, is the only reason that the team wasn’t that good?  (Yep) If Specialized has so much vested in Contador and Astana, why the contrasting Red/White/Black paint? (Either they thought Contador was going to Caisse d’Espargne or realizes Astana’s color palette is so awful they didn’t want to make a bike they couldn’t sell)  If Armstrong pays his typical obsessive attention to detail, will he realize he might be giving up a couple transferred watts and have Trek go away from the ‘off the rack’ mentality and add a couple layers of magic black fabric? (He might want to)  If Contador sits on top of the TdF podium this year, does it equate to Specialized giving a quick rabbit punch behind Trek’s ear?  (Who knows?)

In either case, as long as Lance is around, Trek sales will rebound/rise.  However, if Rocky Contador loses his Apollo Armstrong, is the value to Specialized as great or won’t we know until he’s reached the 5+ win club?  Either way, I’m sure the magazines will be able to sell a few more ad pages this year.


Shifting the Bike Industry Paradigm

Like many cyclists, I’ve got a good relationship with my LBS.  While I could save a buck or two or ten by scouring eBay and discount sites, I appreciate the value of having somebody there for me to throw my bike in disgust at after my drivetrain tried to morph into an automatic with a spastic clutch during last week’s race.  The caring bike shop owner takes time to look over the carnage of carbon, aluminum and steel while I rail on about how my mechanical issue dropped me from a surefire 9th place all the way back to 14th and theorizing on how to explain to the international cycling media the reason for my mechanical issue without upsetting my sponsors.  (For the record, my sponsors are there because I’m apparently semi-likeable and a good cycling advocate.  The only international cycling media I’ve ever addressed was getting my blurb in Road Bike Action’s “Why we Ride.”)

I have what many would call a cycling gear ‘addiction.’ Over the course of the year, I probably average spending $500/month at the shop.  But, I don’t envy the shopping torture that I put my LBS owner through to earn that money.  Back in the day (as the kids say) when I managed a big box bike shop, the company’s mantra was a religious large scale purchase of closeouts.  I became a swami of off-season sales.  However, this knowledge engrained itself into my buying habits and constantly has me waiting for the unfortunate cycle of late season shedding of existing inventory and closeouts available from the manufacturers.  The 2008 parts will be just fine, thanks.

Given our national/global economic downturn, everybody expected the bike business to blossom.  Thoughts of America actually accepting the bike culture entered cyclists’ collective consciousness, if for no other reason than one less horn-honking jerk to almost run you over on the morning commute.  Why then are bike inventories after the season 39% higher than a year ago with 97,000 road bikes (up 88% over last year) and 202,000 hybrids (up 214%) sitting in warehouses? Yes, people kept their wallets closed overall during this crisis.  However, I see it as an exacerbation of the perpetual cycle the industry drives.  What bikes people did buy were previous year’s closeouts…they wanted more for their recession dollar.  The industry is out of touch with actual buying trends – they don’t know what is selling or why.

The bike industry needs to look no further than the American auto manufacturers to realize they need to make a paradigm shift.  For decades, the American automakers had to each year come out with new models and new features to supposedly keep up with the competition.  Meanwhile, over in Germany, companies like BMW and Volkswagen operated on keeping the models the same with small improvements each year and only making significant changes every 5-10 years.

I just purchased a 2008 Trek Fuel EX 9.5 frame to build to my spec recently.  It cost 43% less than a new one.  My buyer’s remorse kicked in when looking at the 2010 version and questions of “how will I live without ABP RACE and DRCV?” arose.  After asking Trek, there’s no performance difference between the ‘08 ABP and ‘10 ABP.  The reviews of the RP23 shock on the ‘08 overall were glowing.  Apparently, if I launch myself off a cliff, the DRCV might be a good thing.  I’m 38, I race XC, I live in the Midwest and ride trail…isn’t happening anytime soon.  The moral of the story – despite the cavalcade of new acronyms, the performance difference is incrementally minimal in 99% of the cases year-after-year.

Given my rant, here are my three recommendations to help fix the bike industry.

1)      More model consistency year-after-year.  If a frame has no significant changes other than the color of paint and the components are 95% the same, don’t create 5 new marketing terms for how the new one is better.  Let your LBS be able to sit with a 2009 model next to the 2010 model and say “they’re both great bikes.  The 2009 is $150 less because it’s last year’s model, but they’re essential the same bike.”  The typical now statement is “the 2010 has the hypersonic formed chainstays for greater vertical compliance.  Riding the 2009 is like putting a jackhammer under your saddle, which is why we’re discounting it $2,000.”  Forcing your LBS into a market where they have to reduce to a 5-10% margin after August 1 is just brutal.  Doing this also provides more value to closeouts by retaining retail value and ideally, larger margins.

2)      New retail cooperation paradigm.  Many think the era of the LBS is over and manufacturers just need to go the direct-to-consumer model.  Nope.  Disagree.  Could list pages of reasons, starting with cyclists need the service/education/communal connection, but you already quit reading 200 words ago.  Certain manufacturers cut their own throats with a dealer network by allowing large volume discounters to snatch up remaining product and advertise a 25 – 70% discount.

Existing dealers are stuck with current inventory and really would like to find a way to ship it back, preferably with a bag of flaming poo inside.   Manufacturers, launch websites that sell bikes at retail price but direct the sale to their nearest LBS dealer.  Dealers can pull from existing inventory or get new product shipped in.  Instead of bailing out with deep discounts on late season inventory, list national sales prices that follow the same procedure.  Ideally, the manufacturer’s benefit by getting a more accurate and timely production model, both gain inventory turnover and higher annualized margin.  Yes, I can already hear the wailing of the Jensons, Chain Loves and CBOs of the world, but rather the industry be healthy then have fattened vultures.

3)       A gift bag containing DZ-Nuts, Hammer Gel, bike mini-tool, the Zen of Pedaling and a video on how to use the aforementioned products with every bike purchase.

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