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Q&A, October 28

If you’re a faithful reader of our What’s New section, then you’re probably aware that we’ve added some standard blogging functionality that allows readers to post comments. (Scroll down to the bottom to see it.) We appreciate the feedback, the questions, and the de facto effort at dialogue. Today we’ll try our best to answer the questions and comments from our last posting --

- Now that you’ve got the Campy 11 gear in stock, what’s the plan for keeping some of the older 10 gear goods on the shelves (like cassettes)?

Unless you stop to really ponder it, it’s hard to appreciate how much change Campagnolo has gone through in the last few months. Most obvious is their introduction of Super Record and 11-speed in general. From a technology standpoint the evolution of Campagnolo componentry for 2009 is astounding. Even though Shimano’s hype machine has been going bezerker for the better part of six months about Dura Ace 7900 (while, ironically, releasing a total of $0 in new product to the marketplace), Campagnolo chose to be quiet about 11-speed ’til it was ready to sell. And now that we have it here, we can assure you that it’s serious innovation.

What’s been given less attention, though, is the fact that Campagnolo has -- for the first time ever -- instituted a Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) policy. Basically this takes looseness out of Campagnolo’s pricing structure. Distributors must advertise pricing to their dealers at a set price. Likewise, dealers must advertise pricing to consumers at a set price.

Our feeling here is that 2009 Campagnolo MAP is appropriate for new-for-2009 components. Where things get a little more complicated, though, are on pre-2009 components, such as 10-speed Record and Chorus. Many of these components have gone unchanged since ~2006, and in anticipation of 11-speed many distributors blew out 10-speed at astonishing prices this summer. We bought a lot of it, then put it on sale at a proportional savings to our customers. For example, there was a point a few months ago when we were selling Record 10 Ergopower levers for $289.99. We weren’t selling these at our cost to get rid of them. In fact, we were making our standard margin for Campagnolo (which isn’t saying just a whole lot…) What’s different now, though, is that Campagnolo MAP policy has been put into effect. And what’s the net impact here? Those same Record-10 Ergolevers have a retail price of $550.00. No, that’s not a typo. Same levers. Same distributors. Same Competitive Cyclist. But the price is now 2x.

So, to answer your original question, how much 10-speed will we be stocking? Not much, since the 11-speed equivalent is identical in price. For wear-prone components that are only compatible with 10-speed -- cassettes, chains, and Ergopower internals -- our gameplan will be to keep a bit of inventory on hand to keep our dedicated 10-speed customer base in good shape. But you’ll see some price sensitivity on our part. By that, I mean we’ll likely only carry either 2008 Chorus-10 cassettes or 2009 Centaur-10 cassettes, not Record-10. Why? The technical differences between them are minimal, but the price difference is in the $100′s of dollars (e.g. MAP on a 2009 Record-10 cassette is $365.00, while MAP on a 2009 Centaur-10 cassette is $110). We’ll have Record 10 chains on hand, and Record Ergo index gears & index springs. But all in all we’re pretty focused on 11-speed, and the pricing structure of Record-10 makes us doubly so. Let us be super-clear here: We support Campagnolo’s MAP policies 100%. But the head-scratching MAP of pre-2009 Campagnolo will cause us to carry very little of it.

-Are you gonna get any warming ‘embro?

We spend too much time reading and re-reading the embrocation reviews compiled on the right margin of the Belgium Kneewarmers blog. Mad Alchemy, in particular, tantalizes us. You’ll likely see some more options soon. One question for all of you, though: Do you remember that Eddie Murphy bit from Raw or Delerious about ‘Brut, by Faberge’ and his grandmother catching him washing, um, himself in the sink? Every time I think about warming ‘embro, I think about that skit…If only I could find it on Youtube.

- No more Colnago? Whassup?

Correct, we are out of the Colnago business. It was a painful decision, and it was strictly a business-based one. Few brands are as sentimentally powerful to us as Colnago. In fact, no single bike purchase ever meant as much to me at the C40 I bought back in ~1997. I still daydream about those little Mapei cubes on the top tube and imagine riding at 50kph with elbows akimbo like Andrea Tafi. But in the context of business, daydreams kill.

Colnago makes beautiful bikes. Alex and Ernesto Colnago are fine people, as is the CEO of the US Colnago distributor, Manfred Krikke. When a group of people this good-hearted can’t manage a way to be mutually successful in selling something, that’s when the warning sirens go off. We heeded the warnings -- they’ve been blaring at us for awhile now -- so we’re moving in a different direction. No hard feelings or axes to grind here. We sincerely hope that Colnago finds a way -- someday, somehow -- to fulfill its potential destiny to be the Ferrari of bicycles. That’s been their ambition for many years, and they’re probably the only brand in the market capable of summoning the sufficient romance and technology to make it happen. If you’re dead set on buying a Colnago, our recommendation is to contact International Bike in Boston. They are the most capable Colnago dealer in the US, and they’ll provide a level of service equal to what we (strive to) provide here at Competitive Cyclist.

- …Sure [triathletes] are different to roadies but roadies are equally odd and significantly more conceited. I could go on but then I would just sound like you. By the way, is Cervelo by chance your number one selling TT bike? Would that purchaser perhaps be a triathlete? Since this ‘market’ is so small should you refrain from stocking them??

Yes, Cervélo is our best-selling TT bike. Yes, roadies are significantly more conceited than triathletes. Please recognize, though, that that’s a point of pride, not something we’re ashamed of.

- I really would like CC to put the actual weight of the Deda Newton alloy handlebars in your description. 209 grams? Not close, even in the smallest size. Honesty in listed weights reinforces your credibility as a respected LBS.

Great point. Thanks for bringing it up. Your comment has triggered a lot of conversation here about what we can & should do about providing real product weights vs. manufacturer-supplied weights (which is what everyone in the industry uses). Expect to hear more from us on this in the near future. Also, just so you know, a size 42cm Deda Newton bar weighs 251.744g.

- Am I missing something on the link to Michael Barry’s bike fit commentary? perhaps the wrong article is linked, or is it mysteriously between the lines?

Hmmmmm. Maybe I’m wrong, but it looks to me like his comments got toned down from the first time I read it. I went back to the article and it reads a lot more tame than it did the first time around. I think some bowdlerizing went on at VN.com. Interesting.

- And in our never-ending attempt to read the tea-leaves of the global financial collapse, and what impact it might have on the bike market, did any of you catch the Wall Street Journal article from 10/24 titled ‘Reliance on Exports Now Hurts Asia’? It’s an eye-opener. We now count 3 factors that in theory should force a significant price drop on bicycle goods: (1) The unprecedented gain in strength of the US dollar vs. the Euro. In the last 3 months we’ve gone from 1.6/1 to 1.25/1. (2) The drop in the price of oil, which should greatly decrease the cost of shipping goods to the US market. (3) The increase in manufacturing capacity for Asian-made goods. When will we see price cuts from our vendors? Not before Christmas, we bet. But as consumer spending continues to fall -- and if the US Dollar continues its strengthening -- we’d be shocked & amazed if we didn’t see it by early next year as wholesale revenues go flat or go in reverse in comparison to 2008.