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6/15/2005

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Just Riding Along moves to TypePad

Please note that this blog has moved to http://just-riding-along.typepad.com.

Pleaser remember to update your feeds as well.

Why am I moving from Blogger to TypePad?
  • TypePad has more powerful features like categories, domain mapping, unlimited authors, trackback and more.
  • I want to have experience with all the major platforms to expand my knowledge of blogging


6/14/2005

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Crooked Cog Network

Check out the just launched home base of the first bike blog network, Crooked Cog.
  • Is this guy the future of the bike media?
  • Will his network be a good place to put advertising dollars?
  • Will his ability to zero in on popular niches prove successful?
With the success of his Blue Collar MTB blog, I wouldn't bet against him. Stay tuned for an interview with Crooked Cog's founder, Tim Grahl.

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An opportunity for Trek

(I have added explicit credit to Bicycle Retailer for this story)

According to Bicycle Retailer, Trek has hired a new marketing guy. I wonder if he's blog savvy? I'm sure he reads blogs, but does he really understand them?

I hope he's at marketing meetings, pounding on the table, telling everyone how they should lead the way in the bike industry with a blogging plan. He should be telling his bosses that Trek could build some serious brand equity and momentum with bike enthusiasts by embracing the blogosphere and joining in a direct conversation with their dealers, reps, partners, customers, and prospects.

The "View from Waterloo" was a good try, but it's not a blog.

Will Trek take the lead and become the first mega-brand to jump into the blogosphere? And, if they do, will they do it right? Or will they miss the mark and cement even further their reputation as a big, corporate brand that's more concerned with taking over the world than connecting with their customers.

Trek should identify 2 or 3 key employees and/or brand evangelists, get them up to speed on blogging and let them loose with a new Trek blog.

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Yakima Road Warrior Tour needs a blog

Yakima is in the midst of a grassroots initiative to spread the word about their brand and connect with their customers. The only thing missing is a blog.

A blog would be the perfect complement to their efforts. They could use it to promote upcoming stops on the tour, post pictures of events, share feedback from customers, and give people a behind-the-scenes look at what they're doing.

A blog would also allow Yakima's marketing department and PR company to show the higher ups what they're up to and justify the budget for this program in a tangible way.

(hat tip to BicycleRetailer.com)

6/13/2005

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Richard Sachs team sponsorship up on Ebay

Just saw this over at Veloworks:

Cyclocross Team Sponsorship up for Auction

An excerpt:

CYBC/Richard Sachs riders have been chosen to be on the U.S. National Team roster for the Cyclocross World Championships on at least 5 occasions.

For the first season since 1998, the team is without a major outside industry sponsor to help financially.

Therefore, team sponsor Richard Sachs has listed for auction on eBay the opportunity to be a presenting sponsor for the 2005 cyclocross season.

Click here to view the auction.

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iXi bikes for Tony Award presenters

Since they were on The Today Show last year, I've been watching iXi Bikes. They're making some noise with their super compactable, belt driven bikes and now I see this release on the wire.

I don't know about you, but I tend to get excited whenever famous people ride bikes.

Here's an interesting quote from Jeff Greenstein, iXi's Sales and Marketing guy for the U.S.:
"we're inventing a new category for modern transport, Compact Cycling. More people on iXis will create increased visibility for viable alternative modes of transport."
I don't know if I'd call compact cycling a new category, but I respect Delta's efforts in working the celebrity angle for some good exposure.

6/12/2005

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MTBR and RSS

I've been a big fan of MTBR since using their product reviews (checked yours lately?) while doing some new product research for Chris King back in 1998. For marketing geeks like me, all those unedited reviews are an invaluable source of feedback from real users (of course, they could be fake reviews, but that's another topic).

I recently asked Gregg Kato about how RSS is figuring into their plans. His response was that they've already got feeds for most of the site. You can see all the available feeds for MTBR (and the other Consumer Review sites) on their RSS List.

Someday soon I hope to see customized RSS feeds available for individual brands. That way, I can subscribe to my client's feeds and easily keep track of any new reviews on their products. Gregg says they're working on that as we speak.

Of course, the ultimate would be to get RSS going in their forums. It would be great to be able to subscribe to feeds of certain topics and better yet, brand names and keywords. Can you imagine getting an RSS feed of every post that includes your brand or certain keywords you'd like to monitor? That would be a very powerful tool for marketers and consumers. They've already got a great forum search function, but RSS would be much easier and more efficient.

6/09/2005

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Will carbon fiber shortages hurt the industry?

BraIN and BikeBiz have recently covered the worldwide shortage of carbon fiber. For the bicycle industry, this will have a number of ramifications as prices potentially skyrocket due to high demand and low availability. What will it all mean?

A number of things come to mind for me, since I am working on bringing my company's first all-carbon bike to market. We've sweated and toiled over this new bike and we're very proud of it. Fortunately we've already got standing orders with our factory, so we will hopefully be impacted minimally. However, just like everybody else in the cycling industry, we don't really know.

As it turns out, according to the article in BRaIN, the shortage primarily effects the carbon fiber that is used cosmetically on most bikes and carbon parts- that outer weave that you see when you stare lovingly at a carbon doo-dad. So if you are painting your carbon frames, you will probably see very little impact on your business (is one hypothesis). I wonder how many carbon bikes will be fully painted soon, rather than showing off the "black gold" it is made of.

Many makers are experiencing huge jumps in costs, upwards of 25%, for their carbon. This would logically mean that retail prices would climb. With as fiercely competitive a marketplace as we work in and the fact that consumers are getting so used to "cheap" carbon fiber now, I wonder if that will be true. I wonder, and I am really scratching my head on this one, will manufacturers be willing to ride this out by reducing their profit margins to remain price competitive? Will retailers live with lower margins as well? Will both work together to absorb the lower profitability of carbon? Or, and this is what truly makes the most sense to me for a healthy industry, will the industry work to educate the consumers as to the cause for the sudden increase in retail prices? I think that many consumers will understand what is happening and will live with the price increases that come, so long as they are reasonable.

Most experts seem to agree that the shortage, caused primarily by the aerospace industry, will not last forever. Can we all agree to live with what that means? Will the cutthroat pricing of the past slacken a little to reflect reality a little better?

Managing a brand that is bringing its first carbon bike to life, I am hoping that things will remain relatively stable. However, more altruistically, I am hoping that things work out for the health of the entire industry.

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BicycleRetailer.com: Release the content!

(*update: Realizing that many visitors to this blog may not be familiar with the bike industry, BRaIN is an acronym for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, the only magazine dedicated to covering the U.S. bicycle industry. I've also added the word "magazine" after BRaIN.)

Wouldn't it be great if BRaIN Magazine was available online, in a complete and searchable format? I'm no publishing industry expert, so I may be wrong, but I think this would be a great move for them and it would really make our industry better.

Here are some reasons I think BRaIN Magazine should post all their content online:

Reason #1 - Ease of Delivery
Sometimes I don't get my issue until more than a week into the month. People reference stories in phone conversations and emails and I have no idea what they're talking about. With full online archives posted in a timely manner, this would no longer be an issue.

Reason #2 - It's free already!
They can't say "we need the subscription revenue" because as far as I know, the magazine is already free.

Reason #3 - Blogosphere
When blogs reference certain articles, they could link directly to them. This would increase their page views (good for advertisers), and would be an easy way for them to join the online community.

Reason #4 - Serve the industry
The goal of BRaIN is to make this industry better by giving us a resource for information to make more informed business decisions. .

Reason #5 - Search
Google and other search engines love content-rich sites with plenty of inbound and outbound links. A BRaIN website with full archives would have a much better search profile than it does now.

Reason #6 - Cash money
Simply put, this small step would make VNU more money. More content = more page views = more visitors = more advertisers = more moola.

Reason #7 - Resource for journalists and the media
Media people live online. They're always trolling the web for story ideas and background information. Not only would more content help them with their stories but I'll bet they'd actually give the cycling world more coverage in the process.

Reason #8 - Email
Wouldn't it be great to be able to easily email your partners, employees, and your clients when you read a good article?

I'm sure there are more reasons, but this should be a good start. If you have others, or if you think I'm totally off base, send me an email. Or, better yet, leave a comment for the whole world to see.

6/08/2005

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Search seals the deal

If you own or work for a bike company and you're on the fence about whether or not to start a blog, consider this: If you don't, you're at the mercy of Google.

Simply put, Google loves blogs and other forms of Consumer Generated Media like forums and review sites. They get placed high in search results very quickly.

In many cases, a blog entry about a certain brand will be ranked just as high (if not higher) in Google than the brand's own, corporate site.

Blog and PR guru Steve Rubel pointed out that a Google search for "kensington locks" returned his post in the #3 position. And guess what, the post was all about their recent, Kryptonite-esque crisis.

Here's a bike industry example of the same phenomenon:

If you work at Raleigh and you're doing some search engine research and you type in "Raleigh m80" just to see what comes up....guess what the results look like? The entire first page is blogs and entries in forums and customer review sites. The third result is a review from a blog. This review happens to be pretty harmless, but it could just as well have been very negative (whether the bike warrants a positive or negative review is beside the point). The point is, this sort of thing will happen more and more as consumers start to lead the conversation and realize the power of publishing blogs give them.

The moral of the story is that the best defense is a good offense. Join the conversation, start a blog, empower your employees to join online discussions about your products and the niche they operate in, train them to become respected experts in the online community. BUT, do it carefully and do your homework, because without the proper etiquette and knowing the "rules of the game" you could get burned.

6/07/2005

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MSNBC partners with Bike Magazine

I just realized that as of last April, MSNBC has added a bunch of content providers to their stable including BIKE Magazine.

According to the official press release, they're adding Bike Magazine columnists to the "Active Travel" section of their website.

Right now, they're running this great article by ex-WTB marketing guy Mel Bearns.

Cheers to Primedia for this great partnership and I hope it leads to even more exposure for cycling down the road. Hopefully we see the other big cycling publishers like Hi-Torque, Inside Communications and Challenge leverage their writing staff in the same way.

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