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Category Archives: Gear and Tools

Caveat Emptor **

 

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Whether to buy from a local retailer, or from an overseas online merchant, often depends on the perceived need for after-sales support.  An item may cost more locally than it does online, but you can expect easier access to support from a local retailer than you would from an offshore online merchant.

However, buying locally does not guarantee after-sales suport.  A recent post on social media highlighted such a situation.  An individual had bought a new bicycle frame from a local seller.  When the frame developed a fault, the seller told the buyer that he had to sort out a warranty claim himself.

The seller was a parallel importer, and not an authorized retailer for that brand of bicycle frame.  In the eyes of an uneducated consumer, the only difference between a parallel importer and an authorized retailer is that the parallel importer can offer a cheaper price than the authorized retailer can.

Unfortunately for the consumer, there is downside.  A downside which can have a major consequence, as the seller referred to above found out, at considerable personal cost.

What is parallel importing?  Parallel imports (sometimes referred to as gray market goods) refer to branded goods that are imported into a market and sold there without the consent of the owner of the trademark in that market.

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In the example cited above, the trademark owner has appointed authorized retailers for its bicycle frames in Hong Kong, and in Malaysia.  A parallel importer had acquired the trademark owner’s frames in Hong Kong, and brought them into Malaysia.

Consumers in Malaysia thus have the choice of buying the trademark owner’s frames from a local authorized retailer, or buying an identical frame from a parallel importer.  The attraction of the parallel import, as I mentioned above, is the lower, often significantly lower, price.

What is the downside?  The downside is that the parallel importer cannot provide any after-sales service.

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Cartoon courtesy of Ted Goff

The authorized retailers in Malaysia will not provide any after-sales service either, as the frame was not bought from them.

In this case the buyer’s only option was to contact the trademark owner himself.  The only assistance given by the parallel importer was to advise the buyer to tell the trademark owner that he had bought the frame in Hong Kong.  I can only assume that this was to cover up the fact that it was a parallel import.

The trademark owner’s response was predictable.  Bring the damaged frame to their retail shop in Hong Kong for warranty procedures.  The parallel importer’s response, when the buyer shared with him the trademark owner’s reply, was also predictable.

“You have to pay for the shipping.”

                         **B39EC4BD-7C1C-41AA-AD63-2D7B360F8968

The Strava Effect

Strava Banner

Graphic courtesy of Road Bike Culture

There is no doubt that Strava has driven the phenomenon of social cycling, and sociable competition.  Millions of cyclists track and share their rides on the Strava website.  And in doing so, many strive to better their times on each ride, thereby hopefully outdoing their friends on a favorite sector, or even claiming a coveted King of Mountain or Queen of Mountain crown.

How many millions exactly?  With secrecy typical of a Silicon Valley start-up, Strava does not disclose precisely how many users it has, preferring to say that it has “tens of millions”, with a million joining every 40 days.  Wikipedia reports that as of March 2015 there were an estimated 1 million active Strava users.  Extrapolating from Strava’s own estimate of the rate at which people join, there are about 126 million active users today.

Not bad for a company which was founded in 2009.

Rapha festive500 Banner

Graphic courtesy of 2wheelchick.blogspot.my

Companies selling cycling-related products have noticed the ever-increasing popularity of Strava, and are using the app to connect with existing and potential customers.  One such company is Rapha.  In 2010 Rapha launched the #Festive500, an event in which participants challenged themselves to ride 500km / 311mi between Christmas Eve and New Years’s Eve.  That year there were 84 participants.

In 2011 Rapha started offering woven fabric roundels to everyone who successfully completed the #Festive500 challenge.  Strava was an obvious partner because their app made it easy for participants to record their rides and track their progress, and for Rapha to manage the challenge, from sign up to verification that participants had successfully completed the challenge.

Rapha Patches

Roundels courtesy of Rapha

To say that this partnership is a success is an understatement.  The modest number of  #Festive500 participants, 84 in 2010, had mushroomed to 83,130 in 2017.

Rapha Feastive 500 (1)

Data courtesy of Strava and Rapha

There were 19,120 successful finishers for the 2017 Rapha #Festive500.  That is a lot of roundels for Rapha to ship out.  Each one creating a link between Rapha and a cyclist.

In recent years Rapha has capitalised on the increasing popularity of the #Festive500 by offering prizes for the best #Festive500 stories.  The 2017 prizes included a Rapha Travel trip and Leica D-Lux camera, a 3T Exploro Team road bike, a Wahoo Bolt GPS Bundle, and a Wahoo Kickr Snap turbo trainer.  The winning entries can be seen here.

In 2017, the year-on-year growth in #Festive500 participants leveled off.  Perhaps because of the very cold winter in the northern hemisphere.  That has not deterred the folks at Rapha.  They have already asked roadies to make the #Festive500 their end of year challenge for 2018.

I wonder what the 2018 roundel will look like?

Specialized KEG Storage Vessel

An article titled 6 of the best: saddle bags, which appeared recently on bikeradar.com, reminded me of a post I wrote last year about how to carry everything that you need while on a bike ride.

When I wrote that post, I was using a Silca Seat Roll Premio under my saddle to carry a spare tube, tire levers, a CO2 regulator and gas cartridge, patches, a multi-tool, and cleaning wipes.

I’ve recently switched to using a Specialized KEG Storage Vessel instead of the Premio.

KEG Storage Vessel

Photograph courtesy of Specialized

Not that there’s anything wrong with the Premio.  Far from it.  The Premio is an excellent piece of kit, and there will be times when I use it again.

When I go on overnight credit card tours, my Apidura Saddle Pack takes the place of the Premio, so I need an alternate way to carry a spare tube, tire levers etc.  I could put them in the Apidura, but opening the Saddle Pack mid-ride is not particularly convenient.  I have used a top tube bag a number of times, but found that the bag gets in the way when I am out of the saddle.

The KEG sits, out of the way, in the bottle cage on my seat tube.  It has the additional advantages of being extremely easy to open, it does not need to be removed from the bike like a saddle roll, and items can’t fall out like they may from a saddle bag.

Items inside the KEG are held securely by a pocketed “tool wrap,” which also prevents rattling.

KEG Storage Tool Wrap sigma sports com

Photograph courtesy of sigmasports.com

There are always a compromises when it comes bicycle components.  On the minus side, the KEG occupies a bottle cage, leaving me with room for one water bottle instead of two.  Which is not a problem, as there are lots of places to refill my bottle where I usually ride.

On the plus side, I have lots of exposed seat tube where I can mount one or more rear lights.

The Specialized KEG Storage Vessel is now my preferred way of carrying flat tire repair essentials.

I give it Two Thumbs Up

 

Una Leggenda Italiana

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Photograph courtesy of The Bike Artisans

The Fiat Seicento, an update of the Cinquecento, is a classic of the automotive world.  Dario Pegoretti, on the other hand, is a bicycle frame building legend.  He is one of the most revered and respected steel frame builders in the world.  His frames, exclusively in Columbus steel, are unique.  Frames which are turned into works of art by paint that expresses his artistic passions.

The Bike Artisans brought Dario to Kuala Lumpur to meet his fans, and more importantly, to take orders from aficionados eager to own a custom-built DuendeMxxxxxxo, Responsorium, or Big Leg Emma frame.

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Graphic courtesy of The Bike Artisans

Over two days Dario measured and interviewed more than thirty individuals.  He suggested which of his frames would suit each person’s build and riding style.  Then, each customer had to decide whether to have that frame finished with a stock paint scheme, or to go for the “surprise me” option of a hand-painted Ciavete design.

Pegoretti Measure 1

Photograph courtesy of The Bike Artisans

The Bike Artisans very kindly organised two events to mark Dario’s visit to Kuala Lumpur.

The first was dinner on Saturday night at Timbre, conveniently located next door to the bike shop.

It was an opportunity for Pegoretti owners to get their bikes autographed by Dario, for wish-we-were-owners to ogle the bikes and frames on display, and to get a photograph with the master.

Pegoretti Bikes 10 Alvin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Alvin Lee

Pegoretti with Dario Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The second was the Pego-Raduno Asia Edition ride, from The Bike Artisans to Genting Sempah and back.

Pego-Raduno Ride Griffin Yong

Photograph courtesy of Griffin Yong

Pego-Raduno Ride Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

It has been unusually cool over the past few days.  Which helped make the Sunday morning ride very pleasant.

The ride ended with a satay lunch outside The Bike Artisans.

Pegoretti Satay Alvin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Alvin Lee

And the opportunity to look over what was probably the largest collection of Pegorettis ever assembled in Kuala Lumpur.

Pegoretti Marcelo MxxxxxO 8

Photograph courtesy of The Bike Artisans

Pegoretti Bikes 15 Alvin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Alvin Lee

Pegoretti Bikes 11 TBA

Photograph courtesy of The Bike Artisans

Pegoretti Bikes 14 Alvin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Alvin Lee

Pegoretti Bikes 13 Alvin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Alvin Lee

Pegoretti Bikes 12 Alvin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Alvin Lee

The thirty or so who ordered frames now have a ten month or so wait while Dario cuts and welds tubes, and paints frames in his workshop in Verona.

Perhaps Dario will visit Kuala Lumpur again at the end of the year to deliver those eagerly awaited frames.

Pegoretti Dario

Photograph courtesy of The Bike Artisans

 

Cycling Infographics

Infographics make complex information eye catching, shareable and easily digestible.  The best ones combine eye-catching graphics with interesting facts.

For example, A World of Languages.  Did you know that 146 living languages are used as a first language in Malaysia?

2017 Infographic 7 Alberto Lucas López www lucasinfografia com

Graphic courtesy of Alberto Lucas López

Unsurprisingly, there are lots of infographics to do with cycling.  This one plots the increase in the number of riders who completed the Rapha Festive 500 between 2011 and 2014.

2017 Infographic 3

Graphic courtesy of Rapha

For 2017, the number of roundel winners is above 19,000.

More details about the 2012 and 2013 Festive 500s are presented in these infographics.

Some activity-tracking sites produce individualised infographics.  Strava is perhaps the most popular online cyclists’ community, with 203 million rides logged in 2017.

Each cyclist using Strava can generate a movie summarising their own achievements in 2017.  The closing graphic looks like this.

2017 Strava My Year in Sport

Graphic courtesy of Strava

Strava also lets members generate heatmaps showing where they have ridden during a user-selected time period.  The color used highlight the routes changes from blue through purple to red, depending on how often that particular route has been ridden.

2017 Strava Heatmap

Map courtesy of Strava

Third parties can access Strava’s data to produce their own infographics.  This is the heatmap produced by Jonathan O”Keeffe’s Strava Multiple Ride Mapper application.  It improves on the native Strava heatmap by using a wider range of colors to indicate ride frequency.

Veloviewer.com is another third-party application that pulls data from Strava to create individualized infographics.

One is a variation on the heatmap, supplemented with the date, distance, and elevation of each of the rides within the user-selected date range.

2017 Veloviewer Wheel

Graphic courtesy of Veloviewer

The more popular Veloviewer infographic, especially at year-end, is the one which tracks a variety of measures through the year.

2017 Veloviewer

Graphic courtesy of Veloviewer

Madewithsisu.com uses your Strava data to produce art, rather than infographics in the strict sense of the word.

Like Veloviewer, the user selects the time period from which data is to be used.  Clocked represents each of your activities as a ring. They start when you started and finish when you finished.

The Multi-Route plots the route of all your rides for the chosen time period.

If you are interested in more infographics about cycling, like this one . . .

2017 Science of Suffering

Graphic courtesy of Velopedia: The Infographic Book of Cycling

or this one . . .

2017 Hour Record

Graphic courtesy of Velopedia: The Infographic Book of Cycling

then Velopedia:  The Infographic Book of Cycling is the book for you.

Music to my Ears: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Bluetooth Headphones

Aftershokz Logo

Logo courtesy of Aftershokz

Wearing earphones and listening to music while riding is one of those topics, like wearing a helmet, or the correct length for socks, that divides the cycling community.

The main argument against is that earphones block out surrounding sounds, so cyclists are less aware of aural cues like traffic noise, spoken or shouted warnings of hazards, and so on.

Proponents of listening to music whilst riding say that it can boost their ability to ride harder, faster and with more enjoyment.  Others simply enjoy the escapism and motivation that listening to music can bring to a solo ride or training session.

I enjoy listening to music while I ride.  I used a pair of Jaybird Bluebuds X in-ear Bluetooth headphones, until the inline controller failed.

I replaced them with Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Bluetooth headphones, which address the problem of earbuds blocking the ear canal by positioning transducers in front of your ears, rather than in the ear canal.

Using bone conduction technology, sound vibrations are transmitted directly to the inner ears via the cheekbones, bypassing the eardrums completely.

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Graphic courtesy of Aftershokz

The Trekz Titaniums have been a revelation.  I rate headphones for use while cycling on five criteria:

  1. Fit / comfort
  2. Battery life
  3. Sound quality
  4. Ease of use
  5. Durability

My primary requirement for headphones is that they fit well, and are comfortable for many hours.  The Trekz Titaniums do fit well.  The wraparound headband, or more accurately, neckband, is flexible, and the headphones are light (36g / 1.27oz).

I wear the headphones as shown in the photograph below.  I find that fitting the arms holding the transducers over the stems of my glasses helps with long-term comfort.  That way, the transducers do not press so hard on your cheekbones.

Some reviewers complained that these headphones are slightly uncomfortable after prolonged use.  To them I say riding a bicycle gets slightly uncomfortable after a prolonged time, unless you change hand positions, move around on the saddle and so on every now and then.  Take the Trekz Titaniums off whenever you stop for a break, and discomfort will not be an issue.

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Photograph courtesy of engaget.com

My second requirement for headphones is battery life.  The Trek Titaniums have a claimed battery life of six hours.  I have exceeded that estimate on a number of occasions.

Sound quality is my third assessment criteria.  The Trekz Titaniums have enough fidelity to suit my needs.  The sound quality is not brilliant, but if I wanted to enjoy the full range, definition, and subtle nuances in my music, I wouldn’t be listening to it while riding a bike.

More importantly, the bone conduction technology works as advertised.  I can hear what is going on around me, and hold conversations, while these headphones are pushing music to my inner ears.

The controls for these headphones are easy to use.  On the right arm are a volume up button that also serves as a power button, and a volume down button.  Next to these sit a Micro USB port for charging the headphones.

Aftershokz Controls

Photograph courtesy of trustedreviews.com

On the outside of the right hand transducer is a multi-function button. Pressing this button once allows you to play and pause tracks, answer and reject calls, and activate Siri or Google Now voice commands.

You can also double-press it to skip forward to the next track in your playlist.  Oddly, there is no capability to move backwards through your playlist, so repeating a favourite song is not an option.

Aftershokz Controls 2

Photograph courtesy of trustedreviews.com

As for durability, these headphones are well-built.  The controls work reliably.  Bluetooth connectivity is fast and consistent, with a range of 10 meters / 33 feet.  More importantly, sweat, of which I produce a lot, and rain have not had an adverse effect.  A nanotechnology coating and watertight rubber gaskets repel sweat and moisture.

The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones are available in four colours, and two sizes.  The Mini comes with a headband which is 4.7cm / 2ins shorter than the standard headband.

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Photograph courtesy of pushys.com.au

The Aftershokz Treks Titanium Bluetooth headphones are an essential part of my cycling kit, like a helmet and spare tube.  I recommend them to all my cycling buddies.
Aftershokz Rating

Where Are Those Cables?

e Cycling USB Port

As I recharged various devices after the Genting Sempah night ride, I was struck by how “e” cycling has become.

It wasn’t that long ago that bike lights were powered by AA or AAA batteries, and cycling computers were powered by coin batteries.  These days lights and cycling computers are rechargeable.  As are an increasing number of other cycling gadgets.

It is not unlikely that today’s cyclist will have six or more devices to recharge after a long ride:

  1. Cycling computer
  2. Sport watch
  3. Front light
  4. Rear light
  5. Camera
  6. Electronic drivetrain
  7. Power meter
  8. Headphones
  9. Mobile phone

We are becoming increasingly e-dependent.  The most important items to pack for a weekend cycling trip might just be some USB cables and a multiport USB power adapter.

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