Saturday, 5 July 2014

Why We Do How We Do.

The BDop Cycling Co. is located in Taiwan. All of our products are designed and proudly manufactured in Taiwan by established manufacturers who use quality tooling, who invest in R&D and have stable, experienced workforces.

Aside from doing the right thing why should this matter?

It's simple: Consistent, reliable products delivered to our customer's doors at a fair price for all involved fast, fast, fast.

Our vendor’s employees are paid a living wage which includes full medical and dental benefits that are among the best in the world. This is no small statement. Don't take my word for it. Do a quick search on government run health programs and you will see that Taiwan is at or near the top by anyone’s rankings. This matters to the employees of our vendors and this matter to me. 

Combined with a living wage this means that the labour turnover in Taiwan is nowhere near the roughly 10%~20% annual turnover seen in China. Seriously, how can a factory maintain consistency when they are continually training a huge percentage of their workforce, a workforce with skills ranging from very little to none, from scratch? It's not possible.

When I started this company I made the conscious choice NOT to source products from Mainland China. Aside from any ethical or political issues I or our customers may have had, it boiled down to wanting to sell consistent, reliable products. And, more importantly, if I did discover a problem with our supply, I was only a short drive away from the factories I work with. I could show up any time, with little notice and get things sorted. No muss, no fuss and no dog and pony show by vendors with something to hide.

Just what do I mean by consistency? I know that the bearings in our hubs are ALWAYS the ones I specify and not cheap Chinese bearings. I know EXACTLY what materials are used in all of our products and I know that they will not be changed to lower quality materials, without our knowledge, to save a penny. I know that the processes we agreed to during product development will be the ones used during production without any 'short cuts'.

I know that the colour of a hub today is going to be the same tomorrow, next week or next month. I know that the machines used to make our products are top quality and are maintained and calibrated as they are supposed to be to deliver the same spec every time. 

I know the designers and engineers we work with. I have shaken the hands that make the products we sell. I know that the vendors I work with are investing in R&D in a constant effort to improve their products and not simply 'knocking off' products that are a pale imitation of the real thing without any of the sweat that goes into creating something of value.

This is what it means to actually be hands on in the design manufacturing processes and not just a reseller of parts unknown. 

This matters to me and I believe it matters to our customers. The down side for us is that there are increased costs for these benefits. It is one I am willing to pay and I believe, to a point, it is one our customers are also willing to pay. In short, I have chosen to not participate in the race to the bottom.

The goal of this company is to offer consistent products at a fair price and to put in the work required to constantly raise the quality of our products and the level of our service. And although we may make mistakes along the way I believe it is the right path for us and for our customers.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Brain Over Brawn - A Race Report 15 June 2013

Well, it's been about a year and a half since I pinned on a number so this morning was met with a bit of trepidation. However, after 25 years of toeing the line, once I parked the team car all the old habits came back but this time, without the pressure.
Instead of having to herd cats (organize my team mates) all I had to do was get myself prepared. Instead of organizing a master plan for every possible contingency I rode the course and came up with a simple plan involving me, myself and I.
The course was a 5km square (sort of) with a head wind along the back straight and a cross wind on the final stretch. It was about 400+ meters from the final corner to the line.
In the old days I would have considered attacking into the corner, driving the outside foot into the ground and carving a ridiculous final corner giving me a gap and momentum and then nailing it to the line for all I was worth.

Not today.

It was too far and I am too olde.

Instead I decided to mostly sit in, position myself about 6~8 going into the final corner and then it would be game on for the money.

Bang! We start and immediately a small group goes off the front. It's a pretty short race so this wasn't as silly as it seemed especially since they had team mates in the bunch willing to slow a chase.

We rolled around for a few laps and I stuck my nose in the wind a few times to blow out the cobwebs and to stir the bunch a bit so that the gap didn't get too crazy. It worked the charm and I managed to get others to keep the move in check.

Sure enough they came back on the bell lap and then it was 5km to go.

The wind had been picking up and I knew that the finish had a decent cross wind so I needed to come up early out of the final corner to get the inside position. This was no problem but it was all about getting into position before that.

I had actually been concerned about my pack skills since it had been more than a year since I'd ridden with more than 3 or 4 people but ten pedal strokes in and I was surfing to the front through the middle of the group, working guys off wheels and keeping myself sheltered.

Since we caught the break as we heard the bell the group had throttled back and was spreading across the road. There were a few surges but without someone taking control we ran the risk of going into the final corner curb to curb.

On the headwind back straight the pace picked up and I needed to work myself out, move to the outside and find a wheel to take me where I wanted to go. And I did. I saw a train forming on the right and I rode it to the front much to the chagrin of the sprinter I took off the wheel.

Going into the final corner I was 6th or 7th wheel. I popped up early and got the inside line. Then the sprint began in earnest. There were only 6 of us out of the 80 or so with a shot.

I stayed seated, hooked my thumb over the Campagnolo paddle and began spinning up the gear, shifting, spinning up and shifting again all the while sliding from wheel to wheel in the cross wind and towards the line.

I never even got out of the saddle.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Cough, Cough...a thick layer of dust.

I've had it in the back of my mind to update this blog but the reason I haven't gotten to it is the same thing that has kept me off the bike to a large extend over the last two years; A young son and a young business which are both huge time suckers.

Last year was the first year since 1985 where I didn't start a single race. Not one. And it was weird, really weird. Although I kept very busy with other things I had the phantom ache of something lost.

The business has grown up and my son is a little older now meaning I can carve out some time for myself again. It won't be the kind of time I had a few years ago but it should be enough to get reasonably fit and do a little racing.

To that end I have a short circuit race on Saturday. I am over-weight and under trained. Even though I may have dreams of jumping away in the last 200m for the win most likely I will spend my time hiding in the bunch hacking up a lung.

I just hope I don't embarrass myself...

If I can pull that off it should be enough to motivate me to train more. The good news is that at 49 yrs olde they have let me out of the Elite group (full of kids and Continental Team riders) and I should be sucking the wheels of guys much closer to my own age and ambitions. That should prove interesting.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep the rubber on the road and my lungs in my chest. That's not quite the mindset I'm used to racing with but I'm sure once the gun goes off reality will set in and I will be able to focus on my more modest goals.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Cycling Faux Pas and Other Shit I Miss.

Over the last two years a growing family and business has supplanted my time on the bike. I ride less.

I also drink more. There could be a correlation but who can say with any certainty? Really?

Anyway, a Canuk winning the Giro and other recent interwebs events finds me thinking about being in the thick of a racing season and how far away I am from that now. The good news is it finally makes me want to ride.

I think that's the hardest thing about being an older racer (or just Olde) is that it's just so bloody time consuming and it impinges on everything else you do that it's impossible to sustain that into middle age.

That's a long, hard stare.

So here, in no particular order, are some of the Faux Pas I may have experience with. This list will certainly continue to grow.

Glasses inside helmet straps. I done it. Sometimes on purpose. There has been considerable sleep lost over this one.

Equal tire pressures in both front and back tires. Well, there's a red line on the gauge so I pump to there. If I needed two different pressures pumps would come with two adjustable red lines. Think about it.

A saddle bag. I hate packing my jersey pockets full of tubes, levers, patches, tire boot, spoke key and mini allen tools every time I ride to the 7-11for beer - I mean train. I lash that junk on my bike because if I put it in my jersey it's easier to see my spare tire. No-one wants that.

Recording my AVE SPD. I download a bunch of stuff from my PM but I have never made a special spread sheet to record my AVE SPD. Perhaps this is why I never went pro.

Aero bars. I wish I'd left them on my road bike. I only used them for a short while on my road bike until our TT bikes were ready but, since I am older and much slower now, I could be seeing time savings like nothing I've seen before. That stuff could be really paying off now!

Waving. I always wave. I don't care who you are. You're out for a ride and having a good time. I can muster a nod, wave or finger flick in your direction - accept for the tri-geeks. In all the years I've been riding not one has waved back. ****'em. I've had lots of folks who do tri's smile, wave, nod or flick back but not a single tri-geek has deigned to do so.

Carbon. I use it for everything. Frames, forks, bars, stems, rims, seats, posts, cranks and a bunch of component parts. I know it is a ticking time bomb and I must be delusional because I have yet to buy a CAAD 10 to use in the crits I don't do but this **** just keeps showing up at my door so I use it. This must be some sick kind of voodoo risk taking, gambling thing. I don't know. It's just not right because I know this stuff is just a bunch of plastic waiting to asplode and who knows how many I'll take with me.

I suppose it's my cross to bear.

Bents. I should really just own up right here. I'd love to try one but, to me they are like mopeds; They're both fun to ride until your friends find out. For the bents, I am ruined.

Mirrors-helmet or otherwise. I'm just to busy jammin' to my tunes on my iphone to bother with mirrors. They're too much of a distraction.

Bells. I had a metal bell with a solid spring and knocker on my FG/SS yellow Merckx with white full fenders that let out a single, crystal clear sound, that cut through traffic noise and carried for a block. I sold it with the bike. I loved the bike. I miss the bell.

I need a moment.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Why am I a Crazy Foreigner?

I started racing bikes in 1982. I was 3rd in my first race because I helped a team mate win. I won my next two races. The rest is a blurr.

But, before I could race I had to go to a “Learn to Race Clinic” where they taught me basic rules about riding in a group, how to corner in a group and a lot of other things that ALL riders in MANY countries learn before they are allowed to race.

I continued racing and became an Elite level racer. Then a crash broke my arm in 30 places and I spent a week in the hospital. I missed the rest of the season and lost my spot on the Elite Team I raced for.

The good thing was that I took that time to become a Certified Cycling Coach. This required going to school, tests, and coaching for a few years at each level until I was final given accreditation by the Canadian Cycling Association and the UCI. I did this while I was still racing so the knowledge was very helpful to me.

A few years after my crash (and while studying to be a coach) I had a good team, good sponsorship and was ready to have a great season. Then a crappy old Toyota ran me over and I was done for 18 months. This time it was VERY serious.

I came back to racing, got very fit and won a National Championship in 1998 but, by this time, I knew I was too old. I had been training with guys who would later become World Champions, win Olympic medals and be good professional riders so I understood what real talent was and that that would never be me.

The next year I moved to Taiwan.

When I first came to Taiwan all teams were given money by the government. They were city or county teams. I wanted to make a new team but, as a foreigner, I had to do it a different way. I had to do it the same way it is done in almost EVERY other country. I had to find sponsors and build a team. I was the FIRST person in Taiwan to do this. This was 1998.

Since that time I have made many teams, worked with many riders and sponsors. I have taught MANY riders how to train and race and I have taught many other people how to find sponsors, make a team and run a team. I did it because it is what I love to do.

Many of these people have now gone on to make their own teams and develop their own riders. Even though I now compete with them it makes me very happy to see how cycling in Taiwan has evolved to be like the rest of the world. Even though my role in this was very small I do feel like I had something to do with it and it makes me feel proud.

One of the things I have always tried to make my riders understand is that cycling in the rest of the world has been around for a while and that there are rules, or customs that ALL riders in ALL countries know. I have always hoped that any of our riders could go to any country in the world and ride with any group because they understand THE UNWRITTEN RULES OF CYCLING.

This has proven to be much harder than it seems.

As a foreigner, very often, people will listen to what I am saying and then ignore me because I am just some crazy foreigner who doesn’t understand how we do things in Taiwan. This is very frustrating for me. I may be crazy but I do know what I am talking about.

Something that is missing in Taiwan is MENTORS. These are older riders with many, many years of experience. In most countries these riders will ride with younger riders to teach them all the ‘unwritten rules’ of cycling as well as the basic ideas about riding, training and racing. Because racing in Taiwan is new (in many ways) there really aren’t a lot of MENTORS and new riders aren’t used to listening to the MENTORS that are here.

This is a problem.

Here is the point of my post.

Recently, I have had a few bad experiences where I have tried to help people and it has gone badly. This isn’t just about riding but other things as well. It has really bothered me.

Tonight I watched a friend crash his bike during a training race. It happens but it is never good to see.

Later, a rider made a slightly dangerous mistake. It was a mistake I have been trying to tell people about for a while but, as a crazy foreigner, no-one wants to listen. It wasn’t that big a problem (I was expecting it) but it meant I had to use my brakes through a corner when I really wanted to attack instead. It just pissed me off.

I got a little angrier with the rider than I should have (and I feel sorry) but I have been trying to teach people about this corner for more than a year and NO-ONE will listen to me. The thing is I am right.

The UNWRITTEN RULES of CYCLING tell me that I am right.

All of my coaches and PROFESSIONAL RIDERS I have known in my life tell me I am right.

The years I spent learning how to be a COACH and the years I spent coaching other riders tells me I am right.

But I am just some loud, crazy foreigner that doesn’t understand how we do things in Taiwan.

So I got angry. Really angry.

Then, some of the riders on teams I have helped, some of the riders on teams I have sponsored, coached and taught how to make and run their team laughed at me. They made fun of me. They mocked me and talked to me like I was an idiot. They made me even angrier.

And sad.

All the years and all the things I have done for so many riders were pissed on in that moment.

And then they kept laughing at me and mocking me.

And I got even angrier and more upset. I was told I was being rude, that I should calm down.

I know I was rude to the first rider I yelled at (and do feel sorry) but now it was far too late for me to calm down. All of the things like this that had happened in the last few weeks came together and I was far too angry, far too frustrated to calm down.

But now I am calm. Now I can look back and see my mistakes. I can also see the mistakes of others. I can also see the lack of respect for a MENTOR.

Right now I find it hard to imagine that I will ever coach, train or sponsor another team or rider in Taiwan. I have worked hard for 13 years and tonight I was rewarded with laughter and mocking.

Maybe I am a crazy foreigner after all.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Stage Racing for the Elderly

I've been tossing around a few things lately and one of them was to throttle back a bit for 2012. I've had the hammer down for 3 years and it's starting to take it's toll.

When they announced a SR where one of the stages and the TTT started 15 minutes from my house I have to say I was pretty pumped. It was to be my second "A" race for the year but...things have a way of not playing out the way they're supposed to.

Day 1

The First race was a circuit race on the same course we hold our weekly World Championships. It's a flat, windy 8km circuit with a mix of good road and some chopped up bits I'm quite fond of. There's even a technical 120 deg corner in there that I like to use to put the hurt on the kids.

Our race was Saturday afternoon in the blistering sun which was good because Saturday morning was also the first soccer practice for my 4 1/2 yr old son. To be honest I don't know who was more excited about soccer, him or me.

I got up at 5:30 to take care of some email, woke my son up at 7:00 to get him dressed, packed the cooler, got him fed and picked up another coffee for daddy. We took the scooter to the soccer pitch where I watched him run around and wonder what the coach meant by 'out of bounds", I mean there was plenty of grass and he had the ball so why shouldn't he just keep going with it while the other kids chased him?

With soccer out of the way we went home, played with lego and I loaded the team car for the quick drive to the race.

During the team meeting I laid out the game plan. The goal was to do nothing until the first break went and stuck and then to put Gavin in the second serious move. The secondary plan was to set me up for the sprint with one of my team mates acting as a lead out. The ultimate goal was to get as many points as possible towards the series overall.

I spent the race mostly fighting for position and leading one chase and making one bridge attempt to mark another rider but mostly I spent the laps calculating exactly where I would have to be over the last 3km due to the fact that the wind changed direction 3 times. Each lap I ran through it and confirmed my plan.

Coming into the last last I got into position and started looking for my lead-out. He was no-where to be seen. Everything had gone right; I had used positioning to easily move up and was sitting where I needed to be 250m out but without a wheel to follow to get me on top of the gear.

The next mistake was mine. I hesitated. As I waited I got shoved to the right and the sprint got away from me. Now I was mostly out of position but I still had the wind and a clean line to the finish. I eventually wound it up but had to settle for 5th.

Not happy.

We had 50 minutes and then the TTT.

I though I had planned my day to get the most done in the least amount of time. I thought I was oh, so cleaver. One thing I didn't do was get the food right. Total fundamental rookie error.

During the TTT I lost all power and even got dizzy near the end. It was a total write off for us.

Day 2.

This was a hilly course and we were racing in the heat even though we had a 7am start.

I got up a 4am after not sleeping due to a VERY LOUD temple celebration that featured a band and fireworks that never seemed to end and seemed to be right under my window. The last time I looked at my watch it was 11:30.

We lined up and bang we're off.

Based on how I felt the day before, my lack of sleep and the fact that this course featured never ending punchy 1km, 2km and 3km climbs I figured I was going to get shelled mighty early.  I even took the keys to the van so I could take a short-cut back to the van if it was very early in the race.

Our big plan had been for Gavin to do well but he flated about half way and that pretty much ended our day. There was no real Plan B.

Much to my surprise I was still in the bunch after many riders had been dropped as we hit the major climb for the day. It wasn't a huge climb. It only gained a few hundred meters in elevation but it had a steep section near the top and then several more steps until the decent. Then there was another popper and one more 2km climb before the final 10km flat to the finish.

I came off just as we hit the steep section and I chased over the popper and the next grinder all the way to the flat section with 4 other guys. Then it was just 3 of us and I was done. One of the other guys pretty much pulled us to the line so I let him drift 20m or so out in front of us so he could come across alone. Not that it mattered anyway.

At the end of the day we walked with nothing.

For the weekend we got a 3rd, a 5th and Team 5th overall. We managed to pick up some good points towards the season overall.

I went home, lay on the sofa and although exhausted, couldn't muster much more than a dose.

I had been doing a serious rethink about 2012 and this weekend may have been all I needed to convince myself that changes are needed.

I may shut down the team and ride for a club next year. All the work and time that goes into setting up a team, running it, dealing with sponsors, washing water bottles, packing the team car, unpacking the team car and on and on eats into not only my training time but also my life.

Throttling it back a bit may actually produce better results and I may even have more fun. Not to mention I need to make time to help my son understand soccer.

30 JULY 2011 Giant Cup

The race popped up on the calender a little late. It's a pretty good race media wise and it's always good to do well here.

This was a new course that is actually on an airbase across the street from the New Giant Taiwan HQ. As soon as I saw the course I knew it was a good one for me.

The course was basically a long thin rectangle with the start/finish coming after 2 hard and short left hand turns. The other end of the course detoured around some construction and has a few short sections in it and all the headwind.

I prerode the course and realized that I needed to be in position about 50m out from the last 2 corners. The long straight heading into the two final corners was on a landing strip divided down the middle by cones but about 100m from the corners the cones ended and you could dive down, into the corners and carry a ton of speed through the first corner turning the final two corners into one.

There were primes every 3 laps so I waited for the second one, when there were 3 guys away going for the prime and I jumped as if I wanted to bridge to them. Really I just wanted to test the line at speed and make sure that I was going at the right spot. Sure enough it worked perfectly and I came onto their wheels just as they crossed the line selling it the whole way.

For the rest of the race I followed wheels while the Continental riders slugged it out. Lots of guys were getting dropped off the back because of the wind and the speed so I had to hide but also I had fight to keep a good position and not to get caught behind any gaps.

As usual us Olde Elite guys were thrown in with the Elite/Continental/National Team riders. I knew I couldn't out sprint the guys who had just come back from some decent stage racing but I was pretty sure I could finish near the front and win the Masters category.

Coming into the last lap I worked myself into position and was able to jump, set my line and come across for a win.

Considering the less than stellar fitness I have I was more than please to take a win.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Master Race, Pintung County 10 July 2011

Podium 10 july 2011

This was the first time I got to do a Masters race in ages. Very civilized, I must say.

The course was a flat,windy 15km loop around a harbour-recreation area. There was a pretty steep bridge that went over the entrance to the harbour. It was about 150m up and 100m down at about 7~8%. The wind was also right in our faces so I barely got over 60kph on the way back down.

It was a weird course because it seemed like there was only about 2km of tailwind and the rest was crosswinds of some sort or swirling headwinds.

Bang, we're off, a few minor attacks and we're swinging into the headwind for the first time. Still more attacks and a former team mate (Bo Zhuo) jumps away. I sit in about 10 wheels back and watch.

We go up the little bridge for the first time and a former sponsor jumps pretty hard. He crests but doesn't keep on it on the way down the other side. I push over the top, flick my levers on the way by and he slides onto my wheel.

I wind it up and we get about 10 seconds. I slide over for him to pull through and he sits on me. I keep my legs turning over but it's clear he isn't coming through. I know someone will soon, though. Sure enough two guys come across and I jump on them. We bridge up to Bo Zhuo who has been dangling all this time but the group is having none of it and they string it out to bring our silliness to an end.

A few more laps of this kind of stuff but I'd decided that I will go the last time over the bridge so I keep my position near the front but always on a wheel. It seems the quick pitch up and wind is the only place to really attack. It's about 4km from the finish and I like to get things going about that far out so the sprinters have to work long before we get to their sweetspot 150m out. Even if I'm positioned well at that point I don't have that kind of kick anymore.

I move into position about 1km before the bridge (we can see it from about 3km out). I get squeezed a bit but I lean on the squeezer and my space opens up again. We hit the bridge and everyone gets out of the saddle. The wind has been picking up and it gives us all a shove to the right. This closes the door in front of me a bit but I see Bo Zhuo start to nail it and I follow him through the front few guys over the top. I'm about to crank it up when I feel that there are a few other guys coming on my left (protecting me from the wind) so I pause to let them wind it up. I give Bo Zhuo a look and tell him that I will take him to the line. This is a C race for me and I've been a little sick so I just decided to make it as fun as I can.

We drop off the bridge and the road squeezes in. Bo Zhuo gets pushed off my wheel and I hear him say, 'Wait".

When we were team mates I used to be his lead out guy. He's got a helluva kick so it worked out well at the time.

Then I hear him say 3km so I know it's time to wind it up. I drop into the 53x13 and get on top of the gear. I slide to the right in the crosswind to give Bo Zhuo some draft but guttering everyone else behind him. I string it out and the elastic breaks 4 riders back. One guy jumps hard but I don't react. I just stay on top of the gear and focus on his back wheel.

We go up to him and past him and I can start to feel the last 10 days of being sick. The top end is starting to go. We're still 1km out and I give Bo Zhuo the flick that he has to go. Now. Sorry. But he doesn't go. We hesitate.

The two guys behind him jump just as a few more riders who made it across come by. Bo Zhuo slides onto them and I do, too. They get Bo Zhuo back on top of the gear and he jumps away from us all. I am very happy to see them move to the left side of the road. I surf up a few riders as they all fade and come across for 4th.

I was pretty happy with the result until I saw them give Bo Zhuo a new FUJI with Taigra for 1st place. I totally know someone who could have used that.

Oh, well.