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2011 Year End Awards, Part II

Road Sign Of The Year

This one has been a perennial favorite. But this year it got pipped out at the line:

Favorite Sign

Corporate Suicide Note Of The Year

‘…JRABS has reported violators, and will continue to do so. I have to do what I can to protect my business and the local economy.’

The only thing more disconcerting than the prospect of Chain Reaction and Wiggle gaining more US bike marketshare in 2012 is a US bike retailer reporting his own customers to the feds for buying from them. Rather than playing the role of the Stasi, I’d suggest to JRABS to find a way of gaining the loyalty of those people. Don’t obsess about the sales you didn’t get. The road to sanity in retail comes from thinking about your customers in terms of lifetime value.

Bike Porn Of The Year

There have always been idols. But the way in which we look at our idols nowadays is all new. Social media makes us almost too intimate with the stars. Do we really need to know that Fabian Cancellara was sick in bed during his mid-December trip to London?

Etienne de Wilde was a Belgian bike race mega-star for 20 years. Rather than making an awkward tribute video on Youtube or a worshipful Facebook page, two Belgian fans took a more traditional route in making a career retrospective. One of our employees was at the Grote Scheldeprijs a few years back. Like an over-eager missionary brandishing pamphlets, the author literally stuffed one of these glossy Etienne de Wilde books in his hands.

Histor-Sigma. Soren Lilholt. Guido Bontempi. This is porn at its best. Not the throwaway stuff you get for free on the internet. The kind you’re eager to look at again and again. Would I pay for it? You know it.

Blog Of The Year

It’s beyond question that The Inner Ring is the preeminent cycling blogger in the English language. He provides once-per-day-or-better frequency of postings. He takes complex issues and provides laser-guided analysis with only the fewest words necessary. Then there’s the mystery around his identity. Based on his disciplined writing style and expertise, it seems almost certain that he’s someone with a journalistic background. Context suggests that he lives in France. But unlike the early days of Bike Snob NYC, Mr. Inner Ring doesn’t make a meme out of his anonymity. His focus is the sport, not himself. Even though we spend a not-inconsiderable sum advertising on Inner Ring, ours is a dead drop relationship: We wire money to an account about which we know little and we exchange emails that are courteous up to the point where names are revealed.

Campagnolo Vince!Another blogger we enjoy is Patrick Brady’s Red Kite Prayer. In reading RKP I’m often reminded of the days of yore when Campagnolo coined the phrase Quando La Tecnologia Diventa Emozione -- ‘Where Technology Becomes Emotion.’ RKP is at its best when it focuses there -- at that magical place in cycling where what we feel is inseparable from what we’re riding. Based on the fact that in 2011 Brady hired long-time cycling scribe Charles Pelkey, and has even hired the beginnings of an ad sales force, we should expect to see a more far-reaching RKP in the future. I can’t wait.

One side note on RKP: Perhaps you saw that Outside Magazine recently ranked it the number one cycling blog. Flattering as that title may be, it was cheapened by some of the minor placings. ‘Adventure Journal’ as number two? ‘Bangable Dudes In Pro Cycling’ as number 4? Has anyone read Outside in the last decade? (The waiting room at the doctor’s office doesn’t count.) Their blog ranking is a reminder that I’d sooner read People Magazine for book reviews than look to Outside for anything cycling-related.

Other great blogs include Michael Barry’s always-fascinating Le Metier, Velogogo, Ciclismo Espresso, Gary Boulanger’s Thinly Sliced, Generously Served, and the Italian Cycling Journal. And surely there are others worthy of RSS’ing.

While trying to make a final judgment about the Blog Of The Year, I can’t escape one truth about blogging circa 2011: Not long ago I mistakenly predicted that social media would kill off blogging altogether. I posited that the ease of pulling the trigger on a 30-word half-cocked thought was irresistible compared to the hard labor of chaining together multiple coherent paragraphs.

I stand corrected. Not because there’s a hardcore online literati that won’t let coherence die. Rather, social media showed in 2011 what a wildly growing organism it’s become. Platforms have divided and divided again in a lunatic fission. Much of it perishes, but the platforms that stick, such as Posterous, give the creative class fascinating ways to express its love for cycling.

The Blog Of The Year is a function of exactly that, the platform in which we consume it. In its bowdlerized form it’s known as ‘Yay Cycling.’ Its original name is a bit more NC-17, ‘fuckyeahcycling.’ It’s run on Tumblr, and what’s so crazy here is that during the race season the posts are too frequent to manage them via RSS or Twitter. Oftentimes 20 posts come one after another. I actually unsubscribed from both this summer because of the way their postings clutter those formats. But when paging through it using Flipboard on an iPad, Yay Cycling is visual ecstasy. The profound truth of Marhall McLuhan’s statement that ‘the medium is the message’ resonates here. Thanks to the fascinating collision of traditional blogging and new school social media, Yay Cycling is our 2011 Blog Of The Year when read in Flipboard -- and in Flipboard only.

Yay Cycling on a Flipboard

And an obituary for a blog that went MIA awhile ago. We all know Joe Parkin hasn’t contributed to Six Years In A Rain Cape in over two years. But adding insult to injury, it seems like the domain got hijacked. American dreams of Belgium will never be the same.

Ad Of The Year

Who amongst hasn’t bought a baker’s dozen of Cateye taillights and simple wireless computers over the last decade? Perhaps no company in the bike industry gets more frequent repeat purchases. Yet no company is also as lacking in a compelling brand identity. Big props to the Moxie Sozo ad agency in Boulder. They took the most reliable-yet-boring company in the bike industry and gave it sparks of personality. There’s only so much a print campaign can do. And whatever that is, Cateye got it.

Cateye

Another great ad came courtesy of Europcar. They leveraged the enormous goodwill of Thomas Voeckler’s super-human fight in the 2011 Tour de France with this memorable full page ad (one that was nicely analyzed by the Inner Ring, by the way.)

Voeckler

But the winner in 2011 Ad Of The Year is clear. And I’m a lucky guy because I get to work with the people who dreamt it up. The award goes to HuckNRoll for its homage to viral internet humor. And, as a side note, you should check out the Salsa Mukluk. I’m awed by how many Huck sells. Maybe it’s the charming ads.

Salsa Mukluk

Ice Cube