Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Hydrolic Dick Breaks"

Yeah, the title is misspelled, I stole the term from BikesnobNYC. So sue me. (unless Snobby is actually reading this, in which case, please don't sue me.)

There have been some interesting deveolpments as of late in the "technology" sector so it felt like a good time to re visit the discussion about disc brakes. 
If you recall from a previous post, "it's a love hate relationship," I discussed the merits and pitfalls of disc brakes for mountain bike applications. Overall, I believe the idea behind them is sound. Where I take issue is when the industry decided to adapt the technology and apply it to road use. 

To me, the idea was ludicrous to begin with. But the industry ate that shit up! 
(Most of them had this to say.) All sorts of bikes are being spec'd with Hydraulic rim and disc brakes for the 2014 model year. 
This provides a whole host of problems that they address by simply selling you new shit.
To whit; road frames do not have disc brake mounts, so now you need a new frame. 
Unless of course you get hydraulic rim brakes, in which case, you don't need to change the frame or wheels. Then, you only need to get rid of your current rim brakes that work well, and replace them with more expensive ones as well as the shift/brake levers that go with them. 

                                                      ...Seems like a fair trade-off. 

In my opinion, SRAM had the most anticipated product,
(Which appear to have failed) but Shimano was not without fault either. They had been using cable actuated disc brakes which provided the same logistical nightmares, i.e, frame compatibility and the always prevalent brake rub and high pitch squealing...
Then, just like Apple and the cluster-fuck that is iOS7, problems began immediately. 
With a mass roll out, a lot of products quickly saturated the market, and did not even make it to our showroom floor before the product was recalled
Upon further inspection, the recall expanded into other markets. 
At least Shimano had the decency to go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and issued a voluntary recall. Sighting, for the most part, why the product was unsafe. This got the word out almost immediately to both IBD's and consumers. 
SRAM, on the other hand, issued what they are calling a "stop sale"
News broke yesterday on bikeradar.com as a "recall" and the post was quickly removed. It appeared hours later as a "stop sale" with speculation among industry professionals that SRAM asked that it be corrected. 
Regardless of why no one mentioned this to the CPSC, the information was not widely available until later in the day and no further information was given as to why the product was deemed "a safety issue."
Seems a bit sketchy to me. 

It was under the guise of "stopping power" and "heat build up" that the brakes were introduced to the road market anyway. The theory being, carbon and alloy brake tracks heat up under braking forces outside of the realm of normal use, i.e; mountain road descents at higher than normal speeds. 
Heat in a brake track is bad because it can cause the bead of the tire (which holds it on the rim) to deform, then fail. That can cause serious injury, even death. 
Disc brakes do not solve this problem for two reasons;
As most of companies making the components can attest, brake heat is still a real problem on hydraulic disc and rim brakes, 
And, clearly, the "safety issues" they have found after the fact, are the same that plagued them before the introduction of the concept. 
As heat builds up in a brake rotor, it can glaze the surfaces of both the pads and rotor, making it impossible to stop. 
As Hydraulic fluid heats up, it "boils" bringing air to the surface and reducing the fluid's ability to work properly, resulting in failure. 
The manufacturers maintain that "we use this fluid because it doesn't boil." Or "we use this type of pad and rotor because they reduce heat to begin with making it safer." 

Case in point: Racers have been battling steep mountains of France for 100 years, 
From the time Tulio Campagnolo invented the quick release skewer to the advent of electronic shifting, most innovations have been met with gratitude and acceptance as a true improvement to the quality of racing in those types of environments.
There never was, nor is there now, a need for disc brakes on road bikes. 
The UCI (the same sanctioning body that told Lance Armstrong to take a hike) has not, and will not approve the use of disc brakes in competition until further testing is done. 

...because clearly it is needed.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Small Business and The Interwebs

Normally I would just say "hey, if you want to buy your shit on Amazon or Ebay, Great! Knock yourself out!"
As a mechanic at a struggling "Mom and Pop" bike shop, I have to look at it a different way.

See, the problem that small businesses face because of the internet's ability to out-price us is nothing new. It is however, a growing trend. Online retailers have a remarkable opportunity to undercut IBD's (independent bike dealers) due to the lack of sales taxes and free shipping. Not to say that they are making a lot of money by doing so, as they often sell items at or near the cost of the items wholesale price. One thing they do do (ha... "Do Do") is buy larger quantities from the wholesalers, and sell all of it. This allows them the opportunity to buy even more, at an even better price. If I buy 1 turd taco at x amount if dollars, but they buy 100, they get a better price. Therefore, they make at least some money on each unit. Even after free shipping.
The problem will always exist, so it is up to us to find creative ways to bring parts of that market share back to our stores. For now though, on a day to day basis, this happens.

Let say, this guy walks in to the shop, we'll call him "douchebag."
Mr. Bag wants to upgrade his components, to Ultegra Di2. He seems pretty serious about it too.
He asks for a quote on several options (including 11 speed mechanical groups), and I oblige.
A few days later I discuss these options and a price that is all inclusive i.e. parts and labor.
Together, we land on Di2 at a price of $2,530 installed (by me, a Di2 certified Mechanic).
Then the conversation quickly changes to, "how much if I install it myself?"

Ok, dick. I see where this is going, but I will throw you a bone anyway...  $2,280.

"well what if I buy it online and bring it to you, how much?"

Seriously douche, knock it off.

Well, Mr. Bag did not 'knock it off' and takes the next ten minutes of my time asking silly questions about compatibility issues..."if I get so-and-so chainrings, what cassette should I get?" "how long do my crank arms need to be?" "What 'e-Tubes' do I need?'" "Which is the right battery mount?"
I don't know, did you ask Ebay or Amazon? What did they say?
"Well, no."
...Oh, then why would you buy it from them?
"because I can get a deal."

Yeah? Well I could have given you a deal as well, but
A) you never asked and
B) if you give a mouse a cookie, he will want a glass of milk.

While I understand the value of a good deal, and certainly have capitalized on one or two myself, the "deal" is not where I hold issue with Mr. Frodo Douche-Baggins.

See, the industry can only survive if the consumer is willing to provide for it. Meaning, the customer has to spend money in our stores to keep them open. This requires us to show that we can add value to what they need by providing goods and services at a good price, with knowledge and expertise. Still this begs the question: If I am good enough to provide a douchebag with knowledge and service, why not parts also?
Why does he feel it is fair to take that from me?

To some extent, it is our fault. A large problem for the industry of late has been the fear that we "can't compete with online retailers!" True, unless you consider that we could compete, if we only wanted to provide a better price. The resistance to that logic is sound: "if we lower prices, we lose money."
But do we really? I'm am not advocating that we give shit away, but seriously,
Is it better to sell 50 shit sandwiches at 20% off, or sell none at all because your "price is too high?"
Then you are left with 50 shit sandwiches you can't sell, which become overhead in your store. With the 2014 shit sandwiches being shipped to your store soon, what do you do then?
Now you don't have the room and have to unload them at or below cost.
Guess what? ...you just "ate" 50 shit sandwiches.

We can all admit that we all live in a culture of instant gratification.
If you get it from Amazon, even with free shipping, you have to wait. So, if I have it in my store would you buy it? Price too high? What if I give you a better deal, will you buy it then?
Or is that still not good enough?
At some point, they have to decide what we are worth to them.
Honestly, if I have to coddle you to get your business, you might as well move on, because it never stops there. If you give a moose a milkshake, he will want a straw. In fact, he will expect a straw, every time, at a better price, until you have nothing left to give him.
Perhaps a poor attitude on my part, but for every douche bag, there are at least 5 people* who genuinely value your knowledge and skill, who appreciate what value you bring to the table.
Those are the customers I want to deal with. 

Please support your IBDs and
Please don't be a douche bag.

*80% of all statistics are made up on-the-spot.