porsche e-bike

as a rule, i tend not to involve myself in the parallel universe that is the e-bike market, for similar reasons as to why i have done likewise with mountain bikes: i own neither. though my early years in the hebrides were conducted aboard a hardtail mtb, it was but a matter of time before that gave way to road biking, purely because i seemed to spend more time on the road getting to scrabbly bits of offroad, than i spent actually getting muddy. and those kilometres of travel were accomplished on two-inch knobbly rubber, a method demonstrably slower than riding 25mm of treadless.

and though i was sent a very fine turbo vado by specialized for review, by the time the review was written, i had come to terms with the fact that i was definitely not the target market for an e-bike. with uk legal e-bikes capped at 25kph, ending motor support when exceeding that speed, i became a passenger, riding pretty much everywhere at 25kph, watching the battery indicator like a hawk to ensure sufficient juice for the return trip.

but there are many for whom the e-bike has arisen as a gift from above, and strangely not only for those categorised as elderly or infirm. a matter of two years past saw the emergence of an e-bike hire business on the island, and over the course of last summer, we met several of their customers, all younger than the ageing sunday peloton, riding as if the highway code didn't exist and as if they were the only ones on the road (much to the annoyance of several truck drivers and a bus). every one of them could likely have accomplished the same journey on a regular analogue bicycle. batteries not included.

so while the e-bike market might be experiencing a meteoric and satisfying rise in sales, from an ecological point of view, it is using what, in my opinion, is unnecessary amounts of electricity. though e-bikes create no emissions at the point of use, that electricity has to be generated somewhere, and for the moment, that's more likely to be coal-fired, gas powered or nuclear than renewable. such matters may change, but it seems still a valid point to make that many e-bike owners could manage just as well on analogue bikes, it's just that they haven't read rule #5.

however, when you consider that the the power source for the e-bike market shares a great deal with the path being taken by the car market, it should probably come as no real surprise that the financial might of the car market is slowly but surely, making inroads into the velocipedinal realm.

though the electric car is also in some sort of an enforced rise to power (pardon the pun), it is predictable that those making headlines are the frighteningly fast, aerodynamically-shaped two-seaters with an electric motor on each wheel, expressly designed to go as fast as possible. legislation prevents that particular situation infecting the e-bike market (for now at least), but that hasn't stopped the likes of porsche selling their own beautifully designed and crafted, full-suspension carbon fibre e-bikes, currently outfitted with shimano motors.

constructed by germany's rotwild, a porsche e-bike can be yours, as long as you have between £10,000 and £12,000 to spend. however, one does have to question their grasp of the bicycle market when their website states, 'The 'PORSCHE' logo on the top tube immediately reveals the roots of the eBike.' the porsche logo actually appears on the headtube, while the word 'porsche' is emblazoned on the downtube.

it's possible, however, that japan might soon be given the bum's rush, following the german car manufacturer acquiring a 20% share in e-bike drive-systems manufacturer, fazua, with an option to purchase further shares in the future. and were that not sufficient to signal its interest in the e-bike market, porsche has also established a partnership with ponooc investment to focus on "...technological solutions in the micromobility market."

with the relaxation and in some cases, total disappearance of covid restrictions, car use has returned to pre-pandemic levels all across the world, while the bicycle slowly creeps back to the relative obscurity it once enjoyed. however, though we can commiserate with each other on reality, it appears that the singularity might be headed in a hitherto unforeseen direction. while the luddites amongst us bemoan the marginalisation of the caliper brake, maybe we should be looking at the bigger picture and prepare ourselves for the encroaching rarity of analogue bicycles.

still, i've been wrong before.

monday 14 february 2022

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what a difference a day makes

nerabus islay gin

the good folks at nerabus islay gin have been bestowed a bronze award for two of their islay made gins. i would be fibbing if i said i could tell you which of their four variations now wear the bronze coloured gongs, but they had asked if i would drop by on saturday morning to take a photo for the next edition of islay's local newspaper. since i am in the habit of popping out for a regular saturday morning constitutional, i willingly agreed to do so.

the first half of my parcours eventually brings me out but a few metres from bridgend village, on the other side of which lies islay house square in which is situated the islay gin showroom/shop. thus there was no hardship in popping in while on my merry way to debbie's for the customary double-egg roll and a soya latte (augmented, on this occasion, with a square of millionaire's shortbread.) following a short discussion of predominantly velocipedinal matters (one half of the duo is a keen cycling aficionado), i duly snapped a couple of images, bid my farewells, and headed south west.

up to that point, in direct contravention of the forecast i had dutifully checked prior to the grand départ, it had done little other than rain, precipitation that was gleefully encouraged by 60kph winds. thank goodness for goretex and waterproof overshoes. those conditions persisted pretty much all the way to debbie's, straight into a direct headwind, easing only as i arrived and parked the bicycle outside.

however, just to confirm the answer given to a german cyclist many years ago, one who queried whether i went cycling when it was windy, i don't really mind riding in such conditions. as the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad weather, just poor choice of clothing. only a few days past, someone posted a photo of a bahrain mclaren merida bicycle following last year's autumnal paris-roubaix, captioned 'what every road bike looks like, following a summer bike ride in scotland.' granted, it's not summer by a long chalk, but the agricultural nature of my environment, encouraged by gallons of surface water, turned the specialized crux into a verisimilitude of that photograph, and scarcely missed a square centimetre of its rider.

i am a fellow predisposed to cheeriness, even in the face of adverse weather, but when the sun comes out, that cheeriness, even if the wind has subsided not one jot, is multiplied by a factor close to infinity.

according to those who know about such stuff, when happiness prevails, our brains receive signals informing them to release quanities of dopamine and seratonin into the central nervous system, which, in my case as i pedalled along the road towards kilchoman distillery, resulted in an undeniably large smile. disappointingly, there was no-one nearby to see it.

it would be incorrect to give the impression that such moments are few and far between. last saturday i took my life in my hands and pedalled directly from the croft to debbie's in winds marginally over 80kph, during which time there was a smattering of precipitation. yet though i possess no means of measuring, i'm pretty sure dopamine and seratonin were part and parcel of the experience. each to their own, i suppose. it would also be misleading to infer that such moments can only be achieved when cycling, but i'm more than happy to mislead you into believing that to be the case.

according to officialdom, spring does not begin until 20 march, meaning that we've more than a month of winter still to endure. that, i am reliably informed, is about to be seriously reinforced on wednesday when the winds are expected to exceed 100kph straight off the north atlantic. but the start and stop dates of the four seasons are but a man-made conceit; the weather is as the weather does. so might i suggest that you ignore intangible boundaries and ride your bicycles out of doors in any weather that takes your fancy.

dopamine and seratonin will be your domestiques.

nerabus islay gin

sunday 13 february 2022

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falling short

orange and blue

like many other cyclists across the world, i am constantly in receipt of marketing missives from the great and the good, ostensibly advising me of how to get the best out of a groupset that i don't necessarily own, or how to get the best out of cycling apparel that may also be missing from my personal armoury. that, of course, is the principal thrust of such communications; to point out just what joys are missing from a velocipedinal existence, in the hope that our wallets will subsequently remedy the situation. and i cannot deny that they do have a tendency to engender feelings of inadequacy, even though i'm well aware that i have more apparel than is seemly for one individual. and to be honest, all of my bicycles are well equipped in the engineering department.

yet the magic of those e-mails is to underline that which not only am i personally missing, but that of everyone else in receipt of same. this, you will understand, requires skill with the english language, using generic concepts that are flexible enough to cater to a wide-variety of personal situations. for instance, the most recent to arrive in my inbox is headed 'elite-level layering', thus pandering to the self esteem that allows me to categorise myself as 'elite'. this despite the fact that i once refused a review bicycle with the word 'expert' in its name, because it sounded as if i might have to train like a mad-person simply to justify acceptance.

in case you're wondering, i did accede to their sending the 'elite' version. my esteem is obviously quite narcissistic in its responses.

in the case of this specific marketing ploy (one which, admittedly, i received with open arms) the text captioned an image featuring clothing of questionable colour contrast. i mean, an orange jersey with a sky blue gilet; that was marginal on a 1970 gulf oil sponsored porsche 917, but definitely questionable as a cycling apparel combination. that said, there's little chance of a smidsy interface between motorist and cyclist when clad in such a manner. obviously enough, as a designer of very little note, my colour sensibilities would never allow the knowing imitation of a porsche racing car.

but while marketing science (such as it is) can undoubtedly be tailored to appeal to as wide a range of individuals as possible, there will likely be a subset to whom the appeal is purely tangential. and, though i do accept the appeal of the communication, i fear that i may be a member of that subset. for the principal thrust of the carefully considered copywriting was to have the reader accept the veracity of the layering principle, and thus explore the possibilities of the purveyor's online range.

that part of the equation, i am willing to implicitly accept, but it's the reasoning behind it that is slightly less than convincing, particularly having read it following a purgatorial ride into a stiff, rising headwind (one that had already led to the cancellation of the evening ferry service). if i might refrain from beating about the bush any longer, allow me to quote: "From lightweight gilets to break the wind on descents..."

islay is relatively flat, with few, if any, descents, that feature winds stopped in their tracks by something as tinsy as a lightweight gilet. i had already returned from the above mentioned ride clad in a long-sleeve merino baselayer, long sleeve jersey and softshell jacket overlaid with a thermal gilet. so, obviously enough, i am scarcely unacquainted with the layering principle, yet chilly would still be an adjective i'd be happy to employ. to once again undermine the thrust of the e-mail, there was even lip service paid to the existence of thermal armwarmers that might be pressed into service, indicating that i may even have opted to wear a short-sleeve jersey, or perchance a similarly constituted baselayer.

it's february in the hebrides; it's cold, it's windy (110kph forecast for later in the week) and there's a strong likelihood of freezing rain or hailstones. i am several layers of winter clothing away from choosing a lightweight gilet to fend off the elements, and i'd venture that i'm not alone in such matters. that said, i can but admit that i went ahead and browsed their range of allegedly appropriate apparel anyway. so it would appear that even when specifically targeted marketing misses that target, it still works.

and just to prove that this is more than a one-off instance, sitting two e-mails below the example under discussion, is another from a well-known italian component manufacturer entitled, 'the essential for summer success.'

i'm left wondering which layers i'll need for that in seven months' time

saturday 12 february 2022

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i know when i've had enough

jazz albums

the other day, i was reading an article by jazz pianist, liam noble, in which he was bemoaning the way that we currently consume music. like many modern edifices, music has truly become a commodity; do not misunderstand me, i'm aware that music, in the form of vinyl, cassettes and compact discs, has always been a commodity. but it's just one of life's oddities that, as music has entered the realm of the intangible, it has become even more commoditised.

as part of my son's 'friends and family subscription to youtube, i have the youtube music app on my ipod, which allows me, similar to spotify and apple music, to listen to pretty much anything my little heart desires. and even when i have chosen to play an album, such as the 1957 recording of art blakey's big band, when that album comes to an end, youtube proceeds to play what its algorithms have decided is of similar interest. and while it would be hard to describe this as anything other than convenient, i also have the option of choosing a playlist featuring all manner of amalgamated jazz music.

if you'll pardon my impertinence, that's just wrong.

in much the same way that i prefer to read a daily newspaper rather than access the news online (i enjoy the fact that an editor has assembled the news in bite-sized lumps and in some sort of logical order), i like to think that the tracks on an album were specifically chosen to be on that album, and should thus be enjoyed in the manner in which art blakey (in this specific case) hoped i would. endless streaming of tracks from different artists in no particular order seems to break the contract that an album purchase implied.

and just don't get me started on the subject of the all but defunct album artwork.

however, one of the other points made by mr noble concerned the sheer amount of music being produced. and i quote: "We have become used to an all-or-nothing approach to everything. It's either all live music, wax cylinders and crackling vinyl or it's a brave new world where music of the future will be released in a gas through the streetlights and suburbs of cities, towns and villages, perfect, odourless, soundless. And it will probably be Beethoven, James Brown and Neil Young because new music will be too expensive to record. Perhaps we already have enough of it. I mean, how many 'playlists to aid work concentration' does a person need?"

while you may, by now, be wondering what on earth any of this has to do with bicycles, that last statement of mr noble's might have parallels in our world. for how many more new bicycles does the world need? it is, of course, a rhetorical question, for just as in the world of music, nobody's going to stop anytime soon. witness the situation with cycling apparel. in 2004, rapha founder, simon mottram, stated that, unable to find the clothing he truly wanted, he'd started his own company. and to be honest, he was probably the last person who could genuinely have made that statement. but it hasn't stopped others attempting to emulate his success.

and it could be said that we're long past the point of no return when it comes to bicycles. admittedly, predominantly at the behest of the uci, bicycles are still of the recognisable, double-diamond' format, but the differences between each model in each genre of bicycle are now pretty minimal. granted, all the cables have moved inside, the chainstays have slipped half way down the seat tube and we have discs instead of calipers. but it's arguable whether we actually needed any of those, so am i being really naive in questioning just how much we need more 'new' bikes?

just like music streaming, bicycles are commodities; as we have already discussed previously, there are any number of investment companies and/or multi-nationals keen to partake of cycling's popularity, but purely in financial terms. as such, the revenue from releasing a regular stream of new models is the very reason they're involved in the first place.

but of course, i am being supercilious; modern-day commerce is founded on the principle of a never-ending supply of 'new', accompanied by enough marketing and sponsorship deals to convince us that no matter how good our current bicycle is, a new one would be considerably better. it is something to which we have become inured and, to all intent and purposes, something we eagerly expect. in the same way that fans will clamour for adele's latest release (even if it sounds exactly the same as the last one), most of us feel the same way about the latest colnago, cervelo, pinarello, specialized... (delete as applicable).

climate change and the need to accelerate ourselves towards net zero might have something to say about this endless cycle. experts agree that the world needs less of everything, and certainly not more. that we should be content with what we have and not clamour for new, just because we can. nobody i know will put a number on the lifespan of carbon fibre, but there are steel frames over 100 years old that still function as well as they ever did. once again, i might quote liam noble.

"But we only 'have enough' if we regard the final 'product' as the thing that matters. But it's not. Music's online availability, utopian perhaps in its early days, has removed the glamour of its scarcity. Rareness breeds value, but music is now lying half eaten in the street, a bag of chips discarded because the prospect of a sausage is a new taste sensation."

yes, i may be stretching credibility by matching his words about music with the cycle industry, but i like to think i can see some similarities. how many caliper-equipped road bikes are lying forlornly in the bike shed because the industry and the media imply that discs are the only sensible choice?

i think i need to get out more.

if you're interested, read liam noble's original post

friday 11 february 2022

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attention seeking

sram rival cassette/gear mech

as any of you who have attempted to purchase componentry from online retailers, or dropped in at your local bike shop for the same purpose, you might find that what you'd set your heart on, is not in stock. and should you be willing to order the part and await its delivery, there's a reasonable chance that you're looking at several weeks or even months. depending, of course, on what in particular you're looking for.

i recently needed to replace a rear derailleur, chain, cassettes with specific sprocket sizes and tyres. and where i would usually have maximized postage costs by ordering all the above from a single source, at the moment, i'm not even sure that's possible. it certainly wasn't for me. but when searching for several different components, it is somewhat infuriating that, while the item returns as a result of a google search, when accessing the website, it is listed as out of stock.

the reasons for this are numerous, but it seems, like several other industries, we've hit a perfect storm, where many factors have collided to make matters worse than they might have been. the factories which produce the majority of bicycle components, are based in the far-east, most of which suffered from closure and subsequent staff shortages due to the covid pandemic. sea-going transportation has suffered also, but while the eastern ports have all but returned to normal, there are lengthy queues on this side of the globe to unload at container ports that are struggling for space due to a shortage of truck drivers.

'out of stock' probably means it's not even in the country yet.

but cycling is a minority activity is it not, so surely the retailers won't be overly troubled by this situation? there's no pleasing some of us; we moan and moan that nobody pays any attention to cyclists, that we are an ignored minority, and then, when lockdown brought an upsurge in bicycle use, we now moan that we can't get stuff because there are more folks looking for the same thing.

but it's not just you and me who have noticed this change of fortunes. a couple of days ago it was reported that 10,000 bikes worth of shimano components had been stolen from a truck taking them to a czech bike manufacturer. the only boxes left behind contained low level componentry. the bike maker has said this will result in a delay of some models by up to a year, because there are no alternatives available.

but then there's the shoe on the other pedal, so to speak, where notice has been taken of dutch e-bike drivetrain specialist enviolo. in the face of global transmission shortages, which we have already discussed above, enviolo appears to have become an attractive proposition, in this case, by folks we'd not necessarily describe as cycle enthusiasts, but by the private equity company, inflexion. this would appear to be yet another example of the cycle industry drawing attention to itself, which, while things are on the up, must surely be seen as a 'good thing'.

according to reports, the cycle industry has begun to warm to drivetrain suppliers outside of the 'big two', shimano and sram. believe it or not, the current lead times for the humble bicycle chain have been said to be close to one year. and sunrace, owners of the sturmey-archer brand, have been making serious inroads into the cassette market, reputedly with customers less than concerned which particular 's', shop mechanics fit to their bicycles.

so even as the revolution appears to be failing, its internal machinations are suffering a major shakeup. maybe that's a good thing.

thursday 10 february 2022

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helmet wearing

my original career path had been that of the intrepid artist, moving to the hebrides to take advantage of the wealth of landscapes, dramatic seascapes and the relative peace and quiet in which to paint and draw. the dramatic part of that equation did not, however, infiltrate the village in which i live, offering the distinct benefit of a daily bike ride to reach the island's atlantic coast, where rugged coastlines promised years of scribbling. the regular pedal to the likes of sanaiagmore, for instance, took me along the considerably less-travelled route via west carrabus and coullabus, before heading across gruinart flats towards loch gorm.

the first part of that journey, past west carrabus farm, features a couple of steep gradients over roads that were less than pristine thirty years ago and are a great deal worse today, with gravelly descents in both directions. while traversing this almost daily route, in dawned on me that, were i to fall off on the gravelled corners, it could be hours or even days before anyone found me, should a head injury be the result. these were not busy roads in winter.

I decided, therefore, to avail myself of the new breed of cycle helmets to offer some protection in the event of a disturbance in the force. though i believe many mainland cyclists were on the receiving end of pointed jibes at the lycra covered lump of polystyrene on their heads, i suffered not at all. that's probably because cycling was seen as a distinctly eccentric venture in the first place, that velocipedinal accoutrements scarcely made any notable difference.

to this day, i still wear a helmet on every bike ride; putting it on has become an habitual act. i'm inclined to look upon helmet-wearing as akin to an insurance policy; i wear one, but hope that i never have to use it. thankfully, that has turned out to be the case (so far). in addition, modern day helmets truly weigh so little, that they incur no intrinsic hardship of which i'm aware. i'm embarrassed to admit that i have returned to debbie's on more than a single occasion in the mistaken belief i'd left the helmet behind.

however, i am not an advocate of enforced use; i do not believe britain's cyclists would be well-served or undeniably safer by having to wear a helmet as a result of legal requirement. let's face it, if you're hit side on by a volvo, a helmet is going to offer very little protection. but to return to my original contention, my helmet wearing is as a result of hoping to protect my bonce should i end up in a roadside ditch. forty-foot articulated tankers and giro aethers are, potentially, hardly the best of bedfellows. but it's not everyone who engenders such a laissez faire attitude, one way or the other.

it seems that pedal me, a pedal-powered passenger and cargo service, has banned its staff riders from helmet wearing. their somewhat odd reasoning effectively states that anyone who feels it necessary to wear a helmet, is likely to take unwarranted risks as a result, and is therefore not welcome to work for pedal me. they also cited the potential harm that could be caused by their heavy vehicles and that they carry small children.


though previous research has claimed that helmet-wearing cyclists are perceived by motorists as less safe than their bare-headed peers, the evidence did not confirm that such a perception was borne out by any subsequent actions. but according to pedal me,"We know that increasing helmet wearing rates make cycling more dangerous per mile, and although there are confounding factors here, this indicates that overall they do not provide a strong protective effect in the round. otherwise the opposite effect."

the evidence for their somewhat profound conclusion may stem from a university of bath psychological study carried out by drs gamble and walker. their conclusions suggested that helmet-wearing cyclists were more likely to take greater risks when cycling, than those riding without. however, their results did not go so far as providing statistical, real world evidence. additionally, the study was conducted well over six years ago, during which time, car traffic has notably increased and helmet use has become arguably more acceptable in the interim.

i'm pretty sure that my wearing of a helmet has not led me to take unacceptable risks when riding my bicycle, and i can't say i've noticed less careful behaviour on the part of my sunday morning colleagues. and given that i have been known to sit in debbie's, supping froth, blissfully unaware that my helmet is still on my head, i really don't think that i, or many others, are consciously aware of wearing a helmet while negotiating traffic.

it is abundantly clear that helmets are not the ultimate solution to cyclist safety, but they do work, so i see no reason to bar anyone from wearing one if they want to. does the wearing of high visibility apparel possibly confer similar feelings of invulnerability? has anyone done the research? should we ban it from the cycling wardrobe just in case? are motorcyclists even more prone to feelings of recklessness, given that they've no option over helmet-wearing?

while i think it quite right that pedal me exert no influence against those who prefer not to wear a helmet, i think their banning of helmet use by staff members is not only myopic, but quite possibly, in breach of their civil liberties.

pedal me

very odd.

wednesday 10 february 2022

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prime development


i recently wrote about the problems experienced by peloton, makers and purveyors of an indoor exercise bike that comes with (for a cost) an online subscription to regular exercise classes, enabling the owners of such machinery to make the most propitious use of their purchase. along with several other, similar offerings, peloton experienced a notable downturn in sales at the end of national periods of lockdown, something which their chief financial officer admitted, for which they were somewhat ill-prepared.

part of the fall in their share price and profits was as a result of poor sales of the recently introduced treadmill range, perhaps proving, if nothing else, that runners are more resilient in the great outdoors than their velocipedinal counterparts. additionally, they experienced a product recall and the after effects of a widespread return to public and private gyms. and while we were all optimistically congratulating ourselves that the bicycle's era of importance had finally arrived, peloton were unfortunately similarly secure that last year's upsurge in business was bound to continue unchallenged.

however, as anyone who watches the stock market, or as i do, reads the financial pages of a daily newspaper (mostly for entertainment purposes you understand; i have little or no comprehension of international economics or corporate finance) will know, a downturn in the share price of what appears to be still a viable business, often leads to predators circling the wounded, ready to pounce and transform the result into another aspect of their own business. according to reports, two major players have been linked with a possible takeover of peloton.

amazon and nike.

though neither have been confirmed as involved in direct talks with peloton, of the two, you would have to think the better option to be portland-based nike. with previous years of experience in the cycling market, though their website currently lists no affiliation with the sport or activity, they would surely be more in tune with the exercise needs of peloton owners/subscribers?

amazon, on the other hand, certainly has the computing infrastructure to build upon and possibly improve the experience peloton's existing customer base, along with the possibility of offering an annual subscription as part of their current prime offering. what is missing from any thoughts of an amazon takeover, is any affiliation whatsoever with cycling. a bit like their offering of premier league football over amazon prime, their purchase of peloton would be entirely on financial grounds, and how many more extras could be added to jeff bezos' £400 million mega yacht, for which it appears necessary to dismantle an iconic dutch bridge to let it out into the ocean. (didn't they think of that at the planning stage?)

nike thoughts aside, there's no real evidence that even peloton had any real interest in cycling in the first place; it was simply a means to a commercial end. but that, in itself, is nothing new: louis vuitton moet hennessy don't own pinarello because the directors want to emulate alan sugar or tom pidcock. and i seriously doubt that abu-dhabi investment company, chimera, bought colnago in order to cycle to work. you just know that, if cycling as a commodity, takes a nosedive anytime soon, the boards of both lvmh and chimera will be shouting 'sell!, sell!, sell!' at the top of their corporate voices.

and in almost entirely unrelated news, industry news publisher, bikebiz, last week asked its followers on twitter what they thought of specialized's announcement of a direct-to-customer, online sales channel. could it be the thin end of the wedge for independent local bike shops? but before the results of this poll are known, the main concern surrounded the possibility that specialized might prove to be only the first to the party, with other companies following their lead. it transpires that it might not be the landslide we thought it might become.

one of specialized's main competitors in the cycle market, giant bicycles, has dismissed the idea in the usa at least, describing it as 'a slap in the face' for its authorised dealers. giant recognises that the current market has been shaped by those very retailers, and that the cycling experiene and continuing service can't be delivered in a box. reputedly giant inferred that those companies who opt for the direct-to-consumer model were never truly behind their dealers in the first place.

if ever there was a time to realise that we are not masters of our own destiny, it's probably now.

tuesday 8 february 2022

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