Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012 NAHBS :: Sneak Peek

We've been crazy busy getting ready for our niche's big dance, The North American Handmade Bicycle Show, or NAHBS for short.

The bikes are loaded onto the truck, and we'll be under way shortly, so here are a few teaser shots until the big reveal at the show next Friday:

I look forward to seeing many of you out in Sacramento.



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Embro :: The Kind You Sew

Ever wished that you could tag your favorite hat, jacket, bag, or wubby with the IF logo? Well now you can. Steve at Black Sheep Design came through with these high quality 3.5 inch embroidered logo patches. Iron them on, or stitch them, or both, if you're a belt and suspenders type.

Get yours here. If you see one of these out in the wild, please send photos.

Tag Away,


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Red Storm Passing :: It's All Rainbows and Unicorns

Ah, the inter webs and social media... they help give your voice wings and thus even the tiny can raise their volume and be heard.

A fine gentlemen from SRAM rang me up this morning and took the time to explain the circumstances surrounding the launch timing of the new 2012 Red group.  I mean gentleman in the sincerest sense.  I'm certain that he had better things to do with his day, but that he took the time to follow up and explain to me what was going on in a direct and fact based manner was much appreciated.

Simple answer is that they had production delays which pushed out the planned December launch date until now, and unfortunately, it is not likely that parts will arrive in time to make it through the distribution system and on to our NAHBS bikes before they have to be on trucks bound for Sacramento.

Perfectly reasonable, entirely understandable.  Even if it was BS, and I don't believe that it was, at least it isn't an excuse that demeans the small builder.

This whole brouhaha could have been avoided if this was the approach from the start.  The take away for me just reinforces the notion that a direct approach to a difficult situation is always best.

It also reinforces my commitment to never allow anyone to tell us that we aren't deserving of having the best.  I'm sure that sounds a bit silly to some, especially when placed in the narrow context of a conversation about parts to be hung on a bicycle frame.

But this was about more than that, and I struggle to articulate what it was about to folks that don't get up every day and obsess about small details.  I found a kindred spirit in this regard with Richard, but as things on the inter webs go, there has been some online chatter from folks with no skin in the game, but lots of keyboard courage, implying that this was all about ego.  Apparently these online commentators believe that Richard and I should have just sucked it up and moved on.

I've pondered that a bit over the past few days. Is it egotistic to be maniacal about the little details?  Is it wrong to be obsessed with how perfect your product looks?  I don't think so.

I believe that as soon as you allow someone to tell you that you aren't worthy of the best... well then you aren't worthy. I believe that our customers expect us to be obsessed with the little things and I believe that we have an obligation as professionals to never stop caring about the small details that add up to something more than just another consumable product.

So, crisis is over, the Red Storm has passed and I'll be the one proudly displaying my bikes with last year's Red(ux) prom dress, unless of course the new one miraculous appears in time.

And you know what? I think that we looked pretty sharp in last year's Red(ux) dress.

Thanks for listening, thanks for the encouragement, and thanks SRAM.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Red Tower :: Party Like It's 2011... or not?

Apologies in advance for bringing you something other than titillating bike stuff, but IF, and every other small builder out there has been told by the Red Tower that we are not worthy of having 2012 parts in, well, 2012.  Instead, we're supposed to party like it's 2011, and accept it.

My pal Richard Sachs broke this story in the most eloquent fashion in two blog posts earlier this week:
Leap of Faith
This is Leap Year

Like Richard, I have been a long time supporter of SRAM.  I like the product, both the way it works and the way it looks.  I like the fact that they are the underdog, the newcomer, the interloper against the heritage of Campagnolo and the precision of Shimano, and I like the fact that they are the home team, based in Chicago.

So, earlier this Fall, just like last year, they made us a generous offer to purchase kit at reduced prices for our show bikes to be displayed at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), coming up the first weekend in March.  That's March of 2012 to be clear, the current year of 2012... you know, the one that we are in right now.

So, I bellied up to the bar and ordered kit for all five of the bikes that we will have on display next month. Within days of placing my order, one of our customers who is tight with folks from the Red Tower had procured a new, yet to be released, Red group, and had displayed it on one of our bikes... weeks ago.

I immediately rang up our contact at SRAM, and inquired about getting the "new" Red for the order that I had placed, and was told that no one at NAHBS would have the "new" Red based on being "fair".  I said that it was not my place to be concerned about what the other exhibitors had on their bikes, and that I wanted to be sure that IF had the latest and best SRAM, since we support the brand and want to show up with only the best.

Fast forward to the past week, and the new Red is all over the inter-webs.  Luminaries and VIPS were riding it in Majorca, and distributors were already sending out offers to place orders against their incoming allocations, scheduled to ship in the next few weeks.

Clearly, had the Red Tower deemed us worthy, not just IF, but the rest of our little niche, they could have reserved at least a few dozen of those groups to ensure that our 2012 NAHBS bikes had the new kit.  But, as it turns out, they did not deem us worthy.

I'd been quietly having an internal hissy fit over the whole ordeal, progressively getting more worked up as each new tweet or web article hit the interwebs extolling the features of the new and improved Red. The thought of building out our best show frames in March with what was now, by virtue of the SRAM PR machine clearly last year's prom dress, was weighing heavy.

On Wednesday morning when I received Richard's first blog post, I sent him back a reply with my regards for his eloquent, and public statement of exactly how I was feeling.  When I got to the shop later that morning, I was admiring Richard's courage for speaking his mind in public, so I thought that I'd try a bit of diplomacy.  I forwarded his post to the Red Tower, along with a plea that surely they could find a few groups to make available for NAHBS.

I received a call back, and once again, I was presented with the "fairness" argument, along with three other lines of logic.  First, NAHBS is supposed to be all about the "frame", and that it would just be a distraction to have the new parts on it, and second, the Red that we had been sold was in fact carrying over unchanged until September of 2012, and thus it was still current product, even though they would be calling it, wait for it... "SRAM Red - 2011(Black Edition)".  Third, and this is where the smelly stuff ends and some semblance of the truth starts to emerge through the fumes, they needed all of the available new kits for the VIPS in Majorca, the previously mentioned allocations to distributors, and the OEM's with the big order pencils that would be at the upcoming Taipei show.

As a business person, I can understand the last bit, and almost respect it.  That doesn't mean that I agree that it is a smart business decision.  I explained to the Red Tower that I had once been in the position in my previous life of managing new product launches and allocating scarce units.  I explained that my philosophy based on that experience was actually quite different from the one currently being pursued by SRAM. We always allocated hot new product to customers with the most influence, not necessarily those with the most cash.  In other words, don't mistake cash for cachet.

I went on to plead my belief that our customers, and those of our colleagues who show at NAHBS, are often the most influential and discerning cyclists in their respective little cycling worlds, and that those little microcosms add up to some serious numbers. I firmly believe that you focus on cachet first, and the cash will follow.

Alas, all to no avail.

The Red Tower has allocated it's units, our ilk didn't make the cut, so what of it?  Should I care?  Should I dump the investment that I made in SRAM parts to recover the $ and scramble to move on to something else? I really don't know, but it sucks to be told that you don't matter.

So, I'm left pondering.  One thing that I do know for certain is that putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change the fact that it still a pig.

XOXO, Red Tower.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Team Scheme :: IF Grassroots Racing

A few months back we played around with a new team paint scheme for our dedicated cadre of Grassroots Racers.  Norcal crazy man Ron Shevock was kind enough to let his ti Deluxe be the test mule, and here are some pics of an increasingly rare 26" steel Deluxe with the team green and yellow treatment.

What I like the most about the stripe placement is that you don't see the green and yellow unless you are behind the bike, where most of Ron's competitors find themselves.

I said that this one was rare because we are only making a handful of 26" frames these days, it's all gone 29er.  Lest we lament the demise of the 26" wheeled MTB, raise a glass to this one, and to all of our Grassroots Racers out there flying the green and yellow flag.