So the racing vein continues: a little over a week ago I finished what might have been the most grueling single-day bike ride I’ve ever done: the Tahoe-Sierra 100, a decidedly-ambitious 94 mile mountain bike race that I completed in just under 11 hours. I wish I had a better story to accompany this, other than to simply say “whoa, that was hard.” but as far as the race itself went, it was a monstrous, well-supported slog through some very nice Tahoe scenery. Along the way I scared a rattlesnake, I helped a co-worker limp to an aid station, and on the drive home, the roof rack came off Scott’s car and went crashing down the freeway at 75MPH, all three S-Works bikes firmly still attached. Thankfully, in each of those cases, nobody was seriously hurt. And now that my 100-mile MTB effort has been checked off the list, I’m not sure I have any motivation to try anything like that again. Bring on cyclocross, with it’s 60-minute races and post-race beer and all the related rabble rousing! And no more roof racks, I now have trust issues.
I’ve now checked off Mountain Bike racing, road racing, and cyclocross racing, all in a single season. So much for retirement, eh?
In other news, we launched an entirely new iteration of the Specialized Riders Club at work last week, a project on which I had invaluable help from many people, both at work and outside it. The short version of the long story was that the Riders Club site I helped launch 4 years ago had become a bit of a ghost town – nearly everyone had moved to Facebook, and it was clear our direction wasn’t serving our community particularly well. Conversely, we’ve grown a ton in the Facebook/Twitter/Youtube/RSS world, but there was no single place where you could go to see it all, so we built it: one single page that aggregates all our social content, as a doorway into the Specialized culture, offering existing fans an easy way to keep tabs on us. Trouble is, because we’d never actually seen this done before, and because we couldn’t find a pre-built solution to aggregate the content in the way we wanted, we had to build it in order to try it out. We have no proof in advance that this is going to work, beyond our own intuition. But if it works, it leads me to a question: as brands increasingly work hard to be present in all these different online spaces that extend well past their own website, why hasn’t anyone else thought to pull them all back together? Or has this happened, and we just missed it? And the bigger question, one that we’re wrestling with now: of the myriad ways to measure this effort, what’s the best way to do so? It’s not a trivial question, because standard web traffic metrics here are unusually unreliable. If someone uses this site to become a follower on twitter, and a fan on Facebook, and then bookmarks one of our RSS feeds, then the site has clearly done it’s job as we’ll be communicating (and hopefully interacting) with that rider on a regular basis in the future. Yet they may rarely, or never, return to the riders club site. Site metrics would only count them once.
If you’ve got any thoughts on this question or the site in general, or related comments, or questions, please do write and let me know – I’m definitely curious to hear the opinions of both bike industry and non-bike-industry people on this one.
Moving on to other other news, Intel recently made headlines when they started shipping “crippled” computer chips that are designed to work at less than their full potential, and customers can unlock the secret powers of the chip they already own using a $50 code that they subsequently buy at the retailer. Note that the computer chip itself didn’t’ change; it was just told that the ransom was paid, and it’s now allowed to work at it’s full potential. One bike industry equivalent of this has been available for quite a while from the guys at iBike, who make bike computers. Their basic iBike sport model is *exactly* the same as their iBike Pro, but with key features disabled, and for $249, you can unlock them. One could argue that this allows someone to get into the world of riding with their bike computer at a more reasonable price, and they can conveniently upgrade later, and there is truth to that. But that still can infuriate an owner if they ever end up feeling like they’re being held hostage. And it’s when this idea of “if value, then right” goes any further that things get pretty absurd. Imagine if you had to pay for the right to put slicks on your old MTB, or add new disc wheels to your carbon Tri bike. As the argument goes, since you didn’t originally buy it for this purpose or in this specific configuration, this ‘new use’ must have new value to you, and thus, the original bike manufacturer should be allowed to charge you for that. This falls clearly into the realm of “doing things that make no sense to customers”, and when you do things that don’t make sense to the people you’re trying to serve, you end up like the telecoms or the insurance industry, hated by your own customers, and quickly abandoned as soon as a viable new option shows up.
My only point is one I’ve said many times before: Dear companies of all shapes and sizes: Please do things that make sense to people. It’s a pretty basic, yet powerful rule.