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Media Release, April 1, 2017: “Depends” Brand to Become Official Ironman On-Course Adult Diaper.

International personal health product conglomerate Kimberly-Clark today announced a new strategic partnership with Ironman World Triathlon Corporation. The five-year title sponsorship will feature a new version of the world’s best selling adult diaper, “Depend”, called “Depend Endurance 140.6”.

“This new partnership benefits every participant at Ironman events” Said Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk. “From elite athletes who don’t have time to stop for natural breaks to back-of-the-pack athletes for whom on-course restroom facilities may be inadequate.”

Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman/WTC told media at the launch event on Friday, “The Ironman participant demographic is shifting. Ironman triathletes are graduating to older age categories and creating a new demographic of super-active geriatric participants. This partnership with Kimberly-Clark and the industry leading Depends brand is a natural evolution of the sport. It serves all parties now, and into the future of Ironman.”

World Triathlon Corporation, the parent company of the Ironman brand, is rumored to have sought the co-branding deal as a way to further reduce on-course race production costs at events by reducing the number of portable restrooms, or “porta-johns” that must be rented for each event.

“Our lead portable, on-course restroom vendors are charging from $150-225 per porta-john for single day rental. Those costs add up over the distance of an Ironman event. We typically serve over 150 portable restrooms on-course for the run portion of Ironman alone. If you do the math, allowing participants to manage restroom needs where and when they want to adds convenience, performance and efficiency. This partnership is the definition of win-win for participants, event managers and Kimberly-Clark” said Ironman officials.

As an additional benefit to Ironman participants, the new Depends Endurance 140.6 will be included in entrant goodie-bags and available for sale at race expos, online and from select specialty triathlon retailers. “Athletes will have advanced access to the new, aerodynamic, lightweight Endurance 140.6 version of Depends prior to race day” Depends project managers told media assembled at the launch event.

Along with the new partnership Kimberly-Clark and WTC/Ironman have announced several sponsored pros who will compete wearing the new Depends Endurance 140.6 on-course sanitary garment. Julie Moss has been named official spokesperson for the brand and the captain of the new Ironman/Depends S.H.A.R.T. sports marketing initiative.

At the release event Ironman Hall of Famer and SHART team captain Julie Moss told media, “S.H.A.R.T. stands for ‘Sponsored High-performance Adult Race Team’ and is all about blowing out the personal limitations of aging. The Ironman/Depend SHART athletes will redefine what it means to age in America and participate in endurance sports.”

Ironman athlete Moss, WTC President Messick and Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Clark all quipped, “The Ironman motto is, ‘Anything Is Possible’, and when athletes are wearing Depend 140.6 Endurance, an athlete is ready for anything, and stops for nothing. It equips our participants for a new level of performance.”

 

 

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

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According to an e-mail sent to sponsored athletes last night and reports on social media, Computrainer, the innovator of the computerized indoor ride simulator, is closing.

Reports indicate an e-mail was sent to sponsored athletes late last night. Phone calls to the company, Racermate, and its sister company, Floscan, were not returned as of this hour. In a phone call with a representative from sister company Floscan, who asked not to be named, early Tuesday, February 28, this reporter was told “I don’t know what is going on over there [at Computrainer].”

A copy of the e-mail received by tomdemerly.com via social media reads:

“It is with a heavy heart that those of us here at RacerMate must tell you that we are closing the doors on CompuTrainer. Technology and competition from larger companies have both eaten into the marketplace. As a small company with the premier indoor trainer in terms of performance and durability, we have found ourselves in a place where we cannot continue. It has been a marvelous 40+ years and we have enjoyed sharing in the victories and friendships we have made along the way.” [signed]

Chuck Wurster, Vice President

RacerMate Inc.

Seattle, WA

Voice mails left at Computrainer’s extension contained the message, “Please don’t be surprised if it takes several days to return your message.”

Computrainer is related to Floscan, a company that provides aviation and maritime fuel flow monitoring equipment.

The Computrainer indoor ride simulator revolutionized bicycle training by projecting performance telemetry on a screen in front of riders while a load generator varied resistance creating a realistic ride simulation indoors. The system also enabled riders to “compete” with each other in a virtual environment and to ride against themselves from previous performances saved on a computer that controlled the Computrainer.

If reports are accurate, contributing factors may include an unusual, non-retail sales model, low profit margins, service intensive products and the introduction of other computer controlled ride-simulation “smart” trainers into the competitive space from companies like Tacx and Wahoo Fitness who have a dealer network and existing distribution at the consumer level from brick and mortar retailers.

While this report remains unconfirmed from Computrainer as of this hour, the inability to receive or return sales and service inquiries throughout the first half of Tuesday, and reports of the e-mail announcement sent to sponsored athletes have surfaced on social media.

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

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Disc brake road bikes, new tire sizes, new brake caliper brake placement, new models, new categories, new components.

The cycling industry has a spastic obsession with newness

The belief is that, to keep cycling compelling for consumers there must be a continuous flow of new products, exciting products.

But not necessarily better products.

In an incident today in Stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour top professional rider Owain Doull of Team Sky told reporters his left shoe was sliced clean through by a disc brake rotor in a crash. Doull sustained additional cuts he attributed to the sharp-edged disc brake rotor from the racing bicycle of sprinting sensation Marcel Kittel of the Quick-Stop Floors pro team. The two were involved in a crash near the race finish; a common occurrence in fast, bunch sprints.

Disc brakes on road bikes have been a new feature for three years. The jury is still out if they are better. This latest exhibit does not bode well for the future of disc brakes on road bikes, and it isn’t the first time.

Gregor Brown of Velo-News.com wrote this today following the Abu Dhabi incident:

“It was not the first time a rider has accused disc rotors of inflicting damage. At Paris-Roubaix in 2016, Movistar’s Fran Ventoso claimed that a large cut on his lower leg was caused by a disc rotor used by the Roompot team. That assertion has been disputed, but Ventoso stands behind the story.”

The sales pitch is often something like, “Everything is going to disc brakes!” and “Cars use disc brakes, discs work better in wet weather.” But there is a contrarian argument to be made that disc brakes are a feature without a benefit, or, at least, not a benefit commensurate to their attendant drawbacks.

In a balance sheet format, disc brakes look something like this:

Advantages:

Better wet weather stopping performance than caliper brakes. Greater tire clearance at fork and rear triangle facilitating wider tires on disc equipped bikes. More frequent use of structural thru-axle wheel design for better lateral stiffness. Removal of braking surface from wheel rim allows new rim shape designs.

Drawbacks:

Reliance on disc-brake specific wheels. Difficulty maintaining adjustment of brake calipers relative to wheel brake disc. Slower wheel changes compared to caliper brakes. Difficulty moving wheels from one bike to another due to tight tolerances. Heavier weight. More expensive. Fewer wheel options for disc brakes. New maintenance requirements, especially with hydraulic disk brakes.

So the question for consumers is, do the drawbacks outweigh the benefits? Another attendant question for consumers is, “Was there anything wrong with caliper brakes?”

In fairness, road calipers have had decades to evolve. Brake surfaces, rim profiles, brake calipers, brake levers, brake pad materials and brake cables for caliper brakes have been evolving ever since they were invented in the late 1920’s. That is a century of technological evolution in favor of calipers.

Conversely, disc brakes are new to road bikes compared to calipers, and the technology is not quite ready for prime time. If it were, the incidents with rider injuries, complexity surrounding wheel changes and maintenance wouldn’t exist.

During the past two decades when the bike industry introduced a few ideas that made it to market when they arguably were not mature we saw an increase in service and warranty related inquiries. These included, most notably, bottom brackets following the move to press-fit bottom bracket formats.

And the bike industry has a dismal record of owning its bad judgment unless compelled to do so via litigation, usually in the form of mandated recalls or personal injury lawsuits. Until those things happen the pedal is to the metal on selling new innovations with an often-subordinated regard for technical merit, let alone safety or integrity.

Solution: Do a Better Job of Selling What Already Works.

While the bike industry has done a great job of introducing “new” it has mired itself in an increasing number of sales narratives.

For every new innovation there needs to be a new sales case, new sales materials, new web assets, new sales and distribution channels and new marketing materials. It takes time and resources to develop those assets, and they cost money. It makes sales conversations longer on the floor of the bike shop on Saturday morning. It may not increase sales, but it makes it longer to complete sales. There is simply more to talk about.

An alternative solution exists in other industries where price maintenance, dealer cooperation and better marketing of existing products along with more judicious management of the supply chain has maintained product quality, profit margin and customer satisfaction.

Perhaps the best example of maintaining profit and demand for a static, non-evolving product is the diamond industry. Despite the rising supply of diamonds (there is actually a surplus) and the introduction of nearly indistinguishable synthetic diamonds, prices for diamonds have consistently risen. The diamond industry has created an emotional perception of worth although all other metrics suggest diamond prices should be falling.

The bicycle industry has not mastered any version of this perceived value equation. It is consistently undercutting price and negotiating a seasonal “surplus” of inventory that has conditioned consumers to buy previous model years at discounts. While some bike brands have reduced the emphasis on model years this has resulted in sometimes-stale offerings since the marketing narrative was not supported vigorously enough within the bike industry. They forget to sell. But they remember to invent new shiny things.

When the bike industry begins to focus on the job of selling rather than the novelty of making shiny new things then product quality will improve and profit margins will follow. And, most importantly, consumers will get a better, safer, more valid product instead of just the latest shiny thing.

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It’s become the script for releasing new high end bikes: tease with media “leaks”, stage a rollout with attendant theatrics, segue into “hard science” with slick videos of wind tunnel testing and release a thick “white paper” of empirical engineering speak. Follow-up with ad nauseam debate about which bike is fast-est, light-est, aero-est or best-est in internet forums. Every bike brand in triathlon has done it.

There are two problems: The script is tired and people care less and less.

“Superbike” is an overused term attached to any bike sold with cliché marketing hyperbole. The reception to “superbike” introductions among social media and triathlon forum users has become decidedly lukewarm this “superbike season”.

There are a few reasons why:

  1. You’ve Heard It All Before. 

If every new superbike introduction claims to be the fastest, lowest drag, most developed in the wind tunnel and “best-est”, every one of them is wrong except one.

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An actual race car aerodynamic engineer, who knows about science, talks about bikes. Again.

The arguments for the designs are circular and never resolved. No one ever wins. They are no more than claims, and the claims all sound so similar they get lost. So people stop listening. It’s great argument, but bad marketing. Consequently for all the hot air that is moved online and in person very few of these bikes are actually sold at full retail.

  1. The Superbike is Increasingly Irrelevant. 

Triathletes are getting slower and finisher rates at large events are dropping. Between bizarre weather events at Ironman and other factors people are having a tough time just getting to the finish line, let alone shaving two minutes off their Kona bike split- a race almost no average triathlete does. There are more beginner and middle of the pack athletes now- races are filling from the bottom, not the top. The new generation of superbikes is not relevant to them. They are too expensive, too difficult to maintain and designed for average speeds the bottom 95% of new triathletes never ride at.

The bottom 95% of triathletes have needed new product offerings in the $1500-$2500 range for a decade now, and there have been almost none. That is a missed opportunity for the bike industry.

  1. The Superbike Feeds an Ugly Stereotype. 

If you wheel a superbike into a transition area and don’t finish at the top of the podium you run the risk of becoming a harsh parody: the conspicuous consuming triathlete dandy, the girl or guy with more gold cards than gold medals.

Superbikes have become a statement that infers hubris and elitism to some, and that doesn’t always have a positive ring. It isn’t “inclusive” in tenor. The outdated perception that having a Superbike is necessary to be taken seriously has become an economic barrier to entry in triathlon, and new participants are increasingly rejecting it. But bike brands have not latched onto this opportunity.

  1. Triathletes Have a Voice Now, And They’re Using It.

The first superbikes were developed in a user-media vacuum compared to today. Triathlon specific social media was limited to specialty forums. There weren’t as many Facebook groups of triathletes. Social media outlets were more segregated. People couldn’t comment as readily to such a large audience. Bike companies had not wandered into the rough n’ tumble social media landscape to do marketing.

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Now bike brands are using social media for marketing. They’ve discovered the medium is harshly critical. That has blunted the older wide-eyed excitement surrounding new bike introductions with cynicism from contributors. It has made superbikes seem “less cool” and somewhat foolhardy.

  1. Most Triathletes Can’t Afford It, Even If They Did Want It.

The Gallup Daily U.S. Economic Confidence Index measures consumer sentiment about the economy. It has trended below negative throughout the summer with one brief foray into the positive that turned south as the election season heated up. Even if people do have discretionary income they have become increasingly cautious about spending it. They may be willing to spend $1500-$2500 on a new bicycle, still a substantial amount for most buyers, but spending above $5000 is unusual in a pre-election year with a divisive political environment. As a result these introductions above $5000 at retail are less relevant than they were in a stronger consumer market. 

What’s The Solution?

Glossy triathlon media is locked-step with their paid advertisers. They run splashy press releases within the hour of a new superbike’s release. This year the buying public hasn’t been as enthusiastic. They railed against it on Facebook and other media.

In an unscientific glance at the reception of one of the industry’s biggest superbike introductions this past week the tenor of 100 comments from four different Facebook user feeds showed 91 comments that could be characterized as “predominantly negative” while only 9 were “predominantly positive”.

The opportunity for the bike industry lies in the empty spaces, the categories no other brand is selling to: Entry level multisport bikes in the sub-$3000 price range.

While bike market segments like off-road have been diced up into multiple sub-segments by wheel size and suspension type the multisport athlete is stuck with two polarized choices: road bike or triathlon bike.

A value-priced bike that crosses from road to triathlon categories would add new bike buyers and eliminate perceived barriers to entry in triathlon. It would also create a more logical progression of products for customers to graduate to. It may actually help sell more superbikes.

The bike industry has done a bad job of asking what the rank n’ file triathlon customer actually wants. They never ask bike shop customers and end-user entry level triathletes what they are shopping for. As a result they are disconnected, and so are their product offerings.

When I worked in marketing at a large U.S. based bike brand known for triathlon bikes I never saw them survey consumers directly, in person or even with an online survey of what end-users wanted. They never asked customers what they wanted. They just went back to the wind tunnel year after year to blow smoke over another new $10,000 bike for a marketing video. Until the bike industry has the courage to change this tired script their wind tunnels are just more hot air.

 

 

By Tom Demerly of TACAIRNET.com

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This upcoming November 12th and 13th Nellis Air Force Base Air Show outside Las Vegas, Nevada will host the final flight demonstration of the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II, a multi-mission tactical aircraft that has served the U.S. Air Force, Marines, and Navy for 58 years. The Nellis AFB F-4 Phantom flight display will be the last time the U.S. Air Force flies the F-4 Phantom II in a demonstration, closing out 58 years of incredible history for the aircraft many people in my generation grew up with.

Aviation artist Mads Bangso of Copenhagen, Denmark has created several beautiful profile prints for AviationGraphic.com to commemorate the final flight of the Phantom, the “Phantom Pharewell” series. Two weeks ago I contacted AviationGraphic.com for several of these prints in two versions to bring to Nellis AFB with me for autographing by the last operational USAF F-4 Phantom pilots in history.

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AviationGraphic.com shipped my order in flat packaging, not rolled. That makes it easy to handle the prints for framing and display. They also arrive in perfect condition.

I’ve been a collector of aircraft profile prints for years, with some of my collection dating back to the era before the images were computer renderings. These early images were sometimes paintings reproduced for squadron rooms at air force bases around the world. They were extremely difficult to obtain outside the military flying community.

Today advancements in printing and illustration technology along with international distribution and the ability of artists to collaborate on projects around the world more easily have made aircraft profile prints not only easier to obtain, but also better quality and more accurate.

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AviationGraphic.com has fully 289 McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II prints available, representing every country that has operated the F-4 across all of its versions. It is likely the largest collection of F-4 Phantom prints anywhere in the world.

Researcher, aviation artist and expert Ugo Crisponi returned my inquiry to AviationGraphic.com and dispatched a collection of F-4 prints for the Phinal Phantom Phlight at Nellis. I received the F-4 prints, along with some other remarkable prints showcasing unique aircraft that will be at Nellis AFB, a week later via air from Italy.

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Commemorating the career of (then) Col. Robin Olds and Operation Bolo, this print features his portrait along with his F-4C.

The detail in AviationGraphic.com prints is impressive, especially on aircraft with panel lines, weathering, riveting and unusual stenciling. Color rendering is also rich and accurate. Research for the images comes for both photos and from visits to many of the subject aircraft in person so artists can experience coloration, proportion and exact look of an aircraft before it is rendered. This approach provides optimal accuracy for AviationGraphic.com’s over 70 contributing artists, including Ugo Crisponi and Mads Bangso.

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This close-up gives some hint of the detail, color rendering and weathering effects that make these prints so accurate.

Along with the final flight of the U.S. Air Force F-4’s, being flown in the QF-4E versions, many other unique aircraft available no where else in the world will be at the Nellis AFB Airshow. Nellis is the home of the Air Force’s “Red Flag” combat simulation exercise, a full scale aerial combat training exercise that simulates the opening few days of an air war between countries with sophisticated air forces. The simulated combat unfolds over nearly the entire western U.S.

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Since it is the annual host of the Red Flag exercise Nellis AFB is also the home of the elite 64th Aggressor Squadron, a unique Air Force unit that flies as “red force” enemy aircraft against U.S. and allied pilots training to defeat a sophisticated adversary. Artist and aviation expert Ugo Crisponi has produced some striking prints of the unique and colorful 64th Aggressor aircraft in their unusual livery.

Nellis will also host some unique Remotely Piloted Vehicle displays from the nearby Creech AFB where RPV combat missions are flown all over the world. I ordered a print of a General Atomics RQ-4 Reaper drone to take to Nellis also to see if I could get a flight crew to sign it.

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Since I was ordering from AviationGraphic.com I wanted to add some unique prints of other aircraft you don’t find prints of from any other source. Two of these are the ill-fated F-104N Starfighter flown by test pilot Joe Walker during the tragic mid-air collision with an XB-70 Valkyrie in June, 1966 and a relatively new print of the elite Jordanian Special Operations Command UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter used at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC) outside Amman, Jordan.

There are a number of excellent aviation profile print publishers now including the original Squadron Prints, Aircraft Profile Prints and even smaller, one man art houses like Ryan Dorling Military Litho Prints. Each one of these produce beautiful art but  AviationGraphic.com has the largest variety of subjects, especially international, and the largest number of artists of any of the publishing houses. I’m thrilled to bring these prints to Nellis AFB with me in November for aircrews to autograph.

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

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It took three days for me to write this, because writing this makes it real and I didn’t want that.

Robert F. Dorr is dead.

Dorr was “an author and retired senior American diplomat who published over 70 books, hundreds of short stories, and numerous contemporary non-fiction articles on international affairs, military issues and the Vietnam War. Most recently, he headed the weekly “Back Talk” opinion column for the Military Times newspaper and the monthly “Washington Watch” feature of Aerospace America. He is also on the Masthead as the technical editor of Air Power History, [1] the journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation, and was Washington correspondent for the discontinued Jane’s World Air Power Journal.[2] He has appeared as an expert on numerous CNN, History News Network, C-SPAN and other local and cable television programs.”

That is from his Wikipedia page. I was too upset to write out my own accounting of his work so I just copied those words. That is what he was.

But this is who he was:

Robert F. Dorr was a humble and quiet man who became vast through the written word. The funnel of his imagination brought knowledge, inspiration, entertainment, education and excitement to readers around the world. He truly opened up new worlds from his pages.

Dorr combined the lessons of history with the most novel aspects of literature and entertainment. His lens focused the stories of an entire world experiencing an entire era. He told them like no other.

I worked briefly with Dorr as a beta-reader on his first fiction novel, Hitler’s Time Machine. Dorr was a non-fiction guy, but Time Machine was masterful work. It felt odd to exchange e-mails with him trying to make recommendations for changes.

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Dorr leaves behind a family to whom he was a fine father, husband and friends to whom he was a very fine companion around the world.

And we lose something priceless and rare.

I read excerpts from one of Robert’s books to my 93-year old mother. She lived through WWII in Seattle when my dad worked on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and the B-17 Flying Fortress, bombers used in the air war against Japan and Germany.

My mom lives in an assisted living home for seniors. I read to her in the pleasant downstairs lobby of her home. As I read Robert F. Dorr’s stories from Mission to Berlin other seniors sat down, listening to Dorr’s narrative of B-17 crews struggling for their lives in the thin, freezing air over Berlin:

“In another bomber of Lyle’s 379th group, 1st Lt. Carl L. “Kayo” Cook was minding his bombardier’s position in the nose and possibly feeling some temporary relief that his Fortress had not yet been hit. Cook had just written to his wife, the former Helen Kraft, in Pender, Nebraska, cheerfully reporting that he’d be home soon because he had just six missions left to fly. He was the father of two daughters, including one born just three weeks before on January 12, whom he’d never seen. Cook’s mother-in-law had recently remarried. The family was planning a big homecoming for him.

A fragment of metal, apparently from a flak explosion, punctured the Fortress’s glass nose, continued into the cramped narrow tube of the fuselage, and killed Cook instantly.

No one else in his plane was touched. Cook’s crew would make it home without him.”

One by one more old people sat down. Some looked at me as I read Dorr’s accounting, others looked at the floor. One man wearing a blue ball cap with “ARMY” scrolled on its ample crown stared out the window as I read. More sat down to listen.

“I remember that” my mom told me. “We didn’t hear about it at the time, but the telegrams came and later the stories”

The crowd of geriatrics, now about eight of them, was transported back through decades and miles and lives by Robert F. Dorr’s narrative. His words restored their youth, their fears, their heroics.

For a few minutes I saw the incredible worth and power of Dorr’s amazing work.

Dorr lived a life I idolize, envy, and aspire to. He was a diplomat, flew in fighter jets, and wrote stories and interviewed heroes and adventurers.

If I could have picked my father it would have been Robert F. Dorr.

I have a couple of his books inscribed to me by him. They seem to glow, feel warm.

I do not believe we die all at once, but a little at a time. And while Robert F. Dorr has passed away he is very much living for us through his amazing narratives. But I know that I have died a little too losing Robert F. Dorr, and I fell heavy under the knowledge that there will be no more stories from him, and no one will ever tell them like he did.

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By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com.

Felt FR30

Spy shots obtained at the beginning of the May 15-22, 2016 Amgen Tour of California have revealed a new Felt Bicycles road platform likely slatted for a 2017 season release.

The new frame platform, likely to be designated an entirely new lettered/numbered series, merges a host of design concepts from previous Felt designs such as the Felt “Z” series high head tube road bikes with the traditionally “long and low” Felt “F” series bikes. The result appears to be a road racing bike with a moderate head tube height and several new frame construction and fit features.

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This previously unseen Felt Bicycles platform photographed today at the 2016 Amgen Tour of California shows a new head tube configuration, greater differential from top of head tube to top of seat post and different cable routing from previous Felt road bikes. The fork also appears to have a unique carbon fiber lay-up resembling previous TeXtreme materials used by Felt in their FRD (Felt Racing Development) program.

The appearance of the fork crown and head tube suggest a new construction technique that retains a low, racy appearance with a short head tube but moves more material to the fork crown. This design provides additional fit options while improving comfort according to sources.

Cable routing on the new platform also appear different from previous Felt “F”, “AR” and “Z” series road bikes with cable inlets apparently going directly into the head tube of the frame.

There is no release date for the new platform that was seen in a generic paint and decal livery typical of Felt Bicycles’ prototype bikes from previous development programs.