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Credit Crunch, pt 2, plus some bike fit & bike race stuff

- It’s pretty much impossible at this point to not obsess about the cratering of global economy, and how it relates to the bicycle business. We discussed this at length in our previous What’s New posting. Since then, a few interesting tidbits have come to light:

  • Caisse d’Epargne made global headlines last week thanks to its ill-advised derivative wagering investments. Its $807mm loss was referred to as ‘a trading mistake.’ Their Chairman, CEO, and CFO all resigned a few days ago. The CEO issued a statement of amusing insincerity: ‘This loss was the result of the market’s exceptional volatility during this period and of a violation of instructions. Nonetheless I accept full responsibility of it.’

    Without getting into a discussion of whether the job of CEO includes building systemic safeguards against billion-dollar ‘mistakes’, the bigger question here is this: Who at Caisse d’Epargne was the major advocate of cycling team sponsorship? Here’s to hoping it wasn’t their now-ex-Chairman, ex-CEO or ex-CFO. Can you imagine being the person defending team sponsorship when your company is making billion-dollar boo-boos, is getting an emergency audit, and must now join a group of 6 French banks in offering $10.5 billion in debt to the French Government?

    Our esteemed colleagues over at Cycling Fans Anonymous are rightly freaked out about the future of big-money cycling sponsorship in the face of cycling’s raging doping epidemic. We’ll leave that subject matter to them. But we’re starting to have equally frantic concerns over what impact the implosion of the global economy will have onto sponsorship.

  • Is this auction indicative of the souring retail economy? Or is it unrelated, and instead proves that the new owner of VeloNews is focused strictly on media, not retail? There’s no clear answer. But given velonews.com’s emergence in 2008 as a journalistic equal to cyclingnews.com (or is VN.com, in fact, now higher-up in the cycling media food chain?), and the fact that VeloNews will transition from 22 issues a year, to strictly monthly -- is this auction just part of a bigger streamlining plan?

  • Another casualty. These are authentically good people -- John Cobb and Dave Bunce -- who must now move on to different things. Beyond the difficulty of getting new product placement on bike shop floors, another challenge for Blackwell was likely their strategy of focusing on the Tri marketplace. The idea of being actively involved in a sport where grown men choose to ride ‘while wearing a halter top, armwarmers, and bikini bottoms’ is off-putting to us as a matter of pure principle. But more important than principle is economics: We firmly believe that the Tri marketplace is the most overrated segment in the bike industry. Nobody believes us, but our crystal ball (and it’s a good one) indicates that it’s a significantly smaller segment than purported, and that it spends less (and less frequently) than purported. And for those who disagree -- please, please, please continue to focus on them. And their halter tops.

  • I love this story. It’d be great if BRAIN chose to bird dog Specialized and Trek on the Asian credit market issue they bring up in the final sentence of the story. But the juiciest bit is this: ‘Both Specialized and Trek cautioned dealers about doing business with second- and third-tier suppliers who may now be in as robust health as they claim to be.’ OOOOOOOHHH! We love gossip! Names some names! Who are these dubious suppliers? There’s nothing like unsubstantiated fear-mongering the titillate the imagination. Please tell us who we’d best avoid…

- This video of Dave Z is stupendous. His Steven Wright persona comes across best in video. It’s from the Varese Worlds. Just awesome.

- Kelly Benefits gets ready for the Downers Grove US Pro crit. There are those who believe Michelin tires aren’t optimal for high-speed cornering when they’re brand new. There’s an exterior sheen, according to some, that impedes their grip when they’re Kilometer 0. Is it just an urban myth? We dunno. But it’s interesting to see how the believers prepare…

- Bike fit commentary #1.Michael Barry of Team Columbia is the sage of the pro bike race scene. His commentary is unmatched for its insight and for the quality of the prose. Read this article and dig his comments about bike fit. I was ROFL. He is exactly right, but it’s sacrilege in the bike biz to articulate this: High handlebars don’t just look silly, but the make the bike ride poorly. An off-hand comment undercuts a nationwide obsession with minimizing saddle-to-bar-drop. Love it.

- Bike fit commentary #2. Adam Hodges Myerson knows his stuff. He’s won field sprint stages of the Milk Ras. He’s won nat’l championship CX titles. He’s a sincerely nice guy. Read his article and in 3 minutes you’ll know CX bike fit forever.

- Highlight of 2008 pro bike race season happened this past Sunday in the single-most underappreciated one-day race on the calendar. Team Columbia’s Craig Lewis got 11th on a day of absolute carnage at the Tour of Lombardy, aka the Race of the Falling Leaves. It’s his best-ever one-day race result, and maybe his best result ever. Props to Craig. This portends awesome things for the ’09 race season.

Katusha- Speaking of the 2009 season, here is a spy photo of the Team Katusha Ridley frames will look like. The days of Tinkoff Yellow & Black are done. Now you get White & Black. It looks sweet, though we dig Cyrillic and hope the frames might get more of it when the season rolls around.

– News from Competitive Cyclist: We’re now fully loaded in Campagnolo Super Record 11 and Chorus 11. For some reason Record 11 is still touch and go availability-wise. Shimano Dura Ace 7900 is now looking like mid-November. Other cool recent additions include the 2008 Rouleur Photo Annual, and the sweet Rapha Belgium Knee Warmers.

– One other recent change -- one I hope not to regret (!) -- is the fact that you can now leave comments on these What’s New postings. See below. Just like other blogs, you can comment, respond, etc, in any way you see fit. Please be gentle.