Daniel Meers Anti-cyclist take down

Posted by & filed under Cycling.

Gold Coast Bulletin journalist (I use the term with a great amount of licence and some degree of mirth) wrote an anti-cyclist rant the other day.

Here’s my riposte. It’s sad people still write crap like this, think like this, and publish utter crap like this.

Update 19 December. James May of Top Gear fame agrees with many of the points I make (and others have endlessly made) below. Read his article

Notably, James says:

I’m perfectly familiar with all the regular objections to bicycles and the cult of cycling, but they’re all just cant, really. Cycling has long been hijacked for political ends, but so what? It can be ignored, like the BNP. I get annoyed with people who bought a bicycle three weeks ago and now present it to me as if they’ve discovered the cure for all society’s ills. I know what they’re good for, and what they’re not good for. Among the latter is carrying a new refrigerator. Unless you’re Chinese.

Cyclists jump red lights and ride across the pavement, but so what? Cyclists are pedestrians really, since they are leg-powered. They’ve just added a few levers and cogs to improve their own efficiency.

Bicycles should never be regulated, they should never be subject to road tax, they should not require third-party insurance and competence to ride a bicycle should not be tested. It tests itself, because if you can’t do it, you have a crash. Bicycles are the first rung on the personal-transport ladder and should be free at the point of use. I’ll champion the bicycle until I’m worn through to the canvas.

All italics are my comments.

The rant

THE time has come to declare war on cyclists.

Wait, what? War? What do you mean, war?

They should be forced to register their bicycles, have insurance and be subject to breath tests.

Registration is a stupid idea. Please explain how this would ameliorate your anger or any of the problems you mention below. I’ve thought long and hard about registration and about the only reason for it is so people can identify cyclists.

Many people just hate cyclists and I could see the case where people would maliciously report cyclists where nothing wrong was done.

Do you ever see that happening with cars? Not really, no.

Really, there are so many compelling points against registration, but it appears you didn’t look into them.

Most cyclists DO have insurance. Most cyclists will be covered by some form of third party insurance like TAC (Vic), a driver’s green slip (NSW) and so on.

I’m not sure why even mentioning insurance, registration or breathlyser tests is even relevant, but hey, you’re having an angry white man rant (as in “Shit Angry White Men say” rant) so, it’s cool man.

The more you say, the sillier you look and the funner this becomes.

Book them when they hog half the road and motorists can’t get past. Book them when they cut motorists off at roundabouts. Book them if they are outside the bike lanes and book them for having a pack mentality.

In Victoria, you are only allowed to ride 2 abreast in a car lane. If police don’t enforce that law, that’s a police/enforcement issue.

Additionally, cars are required by law to not pass cyclists whilst in the same lane. Obviously this isn’t practical and most cyclists are pragmatic and accept that cars will whizz past rather close.

Just give us 1.5m ok? No one wants to not get home to their loved ones because hot head idiots like Meers can’t be patient (or ride or walk the 3km to their friend’s house).

Notwithstanding all that, I agree with the contention that cyclists where possible, safe, practical and reasonable, should ride single file on narrow roads to aid motorists’ journey (as is the case in the Esplanade in Broadbeach).

I also agree no one – motorist or cyclist – should cut people off at roundabouts. In a cyclist’s case it’s just plain silly and putting your own life in danger.

I’ve seen cyclists do some really silly things and can understand motorists’ fear and trepidation around cyclists. My mum just can’t handle being near them. People will be people and do silly things whether in a car or on a bike so we just need to drive and ride defensively on the road to mitigate risk.

On pack mentality – you are joking right? Isn’t that a bit like the pot calling the kettle black?

It’s not illegal to ride outside bike lanes, as far as I am aware. In any case, Daniel, in many, many cases, it’s unsafe to ride in bike lanes. The reasons for this are manifest.

But yes, everyone should behave courteously on the road. Bikes and cars alike.

Enough is enough. They are running the roads and it is downright dangerous.

This comment makes you sound downright stupid. Cyclists are about as close to running the roads as Melbourne Footy Club is to winning a premiership.

Honestly, this is just plain dumb.

Police and the State Government love giving themselves pats on the back for statewide traffic operations. Stopping speeding and drink-driving and lowering the road toll, but nobody ever mentions a word about cyclists.

Yes, they do.

The problem here is cyclists are disproportionately represented in crash statistics and deaths when involved in any sort of accident. Seeing as it’s a hard ask to get motorists to change their tune quickly enough, police DO target cyclists.

Melbourne in particular often targets poor cycling behaviour.

I’d know. I’ve seen it.

Obviously you haven’t or else you’d not make such (another) stupid comment.

They are a law unto themselves and they know it.

No, we’re not, and no, we don’t.

The other day in Alstonville, a 60 year old cyclist was riding in town and a loon in a car got out, pushed him over and assaulted him.

I could list dozens of other like cases, but probably none where it’s the other way around.

Or, I could list all the times I’ve been run off the road on my bike, when riding defensively and minding my own business.

I sure showed those motorists who was boss!

Their arrogance on the road can’t even be measured.

You’re right, it can’t. Because there is no measure for arrogance.

There’s also no measure for shit journalism.

As a journalist, I often get asked what politicians, sports stars and celebrities are “really like”.

Nobody, I repeat, nobody shares the arrogance that cyclists have.

Did you just write this?

People are people. Whether they ride a bike, play AFL (some of them seem arrogant), write newspaper articles – some are arrogant, some are not. Some are capable of great journalism, some are not.

Each morning I go running. OK, some of the power walkers overtake me running, but I still run.

I meet a friend at her place every morning which is about a 3km drive from my home.

It takes me a good five minutes to get there.


Because at 5am the streets of Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise are filled with cyclists. They ride in packs, big packs of 20 and they take up the whole road in their lycra gear.

I’m stuck sitting on 30km while they ride.

Wait, you DRIVE 3km to a friend’s house to exercise? Really? I don’t know what to make of that. Apart from the fact you’re probably really lazy.

I know what to make of your vignette. It stinks. Ok, so you get held up by cyclists. Whoop de doo.

In any case I think it’s awesome cyclists are out at 5AM exercising. Rather than driving at 30km/h to their friends house to go for a walk.

As an aside I reckon you could ride to your friends house at 30km/h.

Why mention lycra? Irrelevant.

And technically, you’re not “sitting” if you’re doing 30km [sic].

They know I’m behind them, yet they make no attempt to move.

If they’re riding more than 1 abreast, I agree, that’s just rude.

A couple of times you consider passing them, but it’s too risky.

If I was to knock one over it would be my fault.

Yes, it would. Not sure on your point here. Perhaps you’re saying you should be allowed to play cyclist skittles?

Why do they do it?

Why do people open fire in primary schools and kill people. Why do people drink drive, hit pedestrians and kill them? Why do people speed? Why do people run red lights? Why do people write shit journlism?

It’s a people problem. Not a cyclist problem.

Because they damn well can.

No arguments there because you actually made sense.

Authorities let it happen.
See above.

The two-wheeled, arrogant, lycra-clad people look at motorists as if they are invading their territory. It’s plain wrong.

Quite often you’ll find that cyclists DO feel like you’re invading their territory.

Most cyclists have probably had a close shave with cars and are HYPER SENSITIVE about their safety.

Plus, if you yell at us when you go past, our first reaction is “What is this dickhead yelling?”.

There’s a rogue peloton of cyclists abusing fellow road users and screaming to wake sleeping residents as it barrels through Surfers Paradise every morning at 5.

Woken residents who return fire with yells of “shadup!” are subjected to tirades of abuse from riders as they blast along narrow Garfield Terrace.

So, we talk. Worse things will happen. I doubt they’re rogue. They’re just people out for a ride.

I doubt people are out abusing people. If they’re yelling at road users, it’s likely for a reason. If you’d ridden in a group before, you’d know what I mean.

I could go on about rogue motorists doing burnouts at midnight, drink driving or street racing, but I won’t. Oh wait. Food for thought, at least.

“It’s like something out of Lord of the Flies,” said one resident.

I strongly doubt that.

The above story is a daily occurrence on our streets and nobody seems to care.

That’s not true. You care about it. Perhaps a little unhealthily, but you care.

Police need to start cycling operations. Make them too scared to do anything wrong.

They already do. And in any case, it’s not a case of making people scared, most people DO do the right thing (same thing goes for motorists).

Now, the cyclists will argue there aren’t enough bike lanes on the Gold Coast. Council and government don’t provide them with the facilities to ride.

I don’t know where to start with bike lanes.

Most bike lanes are poorly implemented and dangerous.

Plus they give people like you reason to complain. If they popped up everywhere I can imagine you’d be beating your “I’m sick of all these bike lanes being built” drum.

Having said that, if councils built bike lanes in appropriate places and built them properly, most cyclists would use them (have you been to Melbourne?).

In any case, it’s just not practical to have bike lanes everywhere.

If the police did their job and cracked down on the cyclists for a while motorists might get the roads back to themselves; after all, they were invented for cars.

Oh man, did you really write that with a straight face?

Bikes have been around since the early 1800s (cars came decades later).

Check Wiki for a start. This website is also a good place to learn.

Police have many more serious things to worry about than these so called Lord of the Flies cyclists who are exercising and causing journalistic conniptions.

Bicycles are just as big a danger to road safety as some of the other driving crimes which contribute to serious accidents.

How did this get past your editor? This is pure drivel. Skin and bones cyclists on bikes weighing under 10kg versus 1-2 tonne metal cars travelling at 40-100km/h.

I assume you didn’t do physics at school. Nor have you ever been hit by a car on a bike. Nor have you seen the result of a car colliding with a cyclist.

Driving on a busy road trying to dodge cyclists when cars are coming in the opposite direction is one of the most dangerous things you could do on a road.

Again, how did this get past your editor? There are plenty more things you could do that are exponentially more dangerous, like:

  • Running a red light
  • Drink driving
  • Speeding
  • Failing to give way then hitting someone
  • Passing someone on double lines

I didn’t even try that hard to make you look foolish there. That’s like serving an underarm lollipop up to Bradman. THWACK! Hit for six.

Yet police do nothing about it. Start an operation and if it doesn’t work, ban bikes full stop.

Ban cars full stop for 6 weeks. Then ban bikes. Let’s see what has a bigger effect on police resources, crash statistics, hospital admissions and ruined lives.

Hint: it won’t be cycling that’s the issue.

Enough is enough. Motorists need to start manning up and being vocal about the issue.

Roads are for cars, not bikes.

Wrong. The first roads – private – were paved for bikes. Bikes came before cars. Bikes have as much right to be there. You can file this with “cyclists don’t pay road tax”.

Again, refer this website to fix gaps in your knowledge.

Make some noise people, win the roads back before something really bad happens.

And believe me, it will.

Yeah, start throwing bottles at us, bricks too, or running us off the road, or whatever else you feel like. [Note: that is sarcasm].

Wrap up

Articles like this make me sad.

They make me sad as some people actually nod in agreement and some even start thinking about taking action.

The roads are dangerous enough – for everyone – without unnecessary road rage caused by shit journalists writing bullshit articles in bullshit newspapers.

The sad thing about this is most motorists are awesome toward cyclists. I’ve lived and ridden extensively in Melbourne and in the Byron hinterland and motorists especially up here are awesome. Almost always a wave.

Perhaps it’s a city thing.

Daniel Meers appears to have never ridden a bike on the roads before, so I’d like to invite him to come for a ride with a bunch of us to see how respectful and law abiding we are, and to see how motorists treat cyclists on a general basis (good, usually) and exception basis (very ugly).

I doubt he’ll take me up on this though as it’s easier to just be angry.

Then again, maybe he just looks crap in lycra and is jealous.

Note: 1000 people agree my article is crap but then I am not a journalist.

Cycling race administration in Australia needs fixing

Posted by & filed under Cycling.

I copped a semi-dressing down over at Cycling Tips (again) the other day over some comments I made about the poor state of cycling administration in Australia. My comments were misinterpreted as having a go at people where what I was actually saying was the system and framework (particularly grading) is broken.

With the Tour of Bright once again run and won, the inevitable talk on the Cycling Tips blog was about the unfairness of the grading and handicapping system (there isn’t one) in the Tour of Bright and by extension Australia. Note, this isn’t the Alpine Cycling Club’s fault. They run a great event. It’s the administrative framework driven by CA and state bodies that’s the problem.

I’ve previously made the case on Cycling Tips (even going so far as to sketch out how it could work including algorithms and more) that there needs to be one in Australia, and the comments in that blog post clearly show I am not alone in my thinking.

Wade made the case that I ought to stop complaining from behind a computer and go talk to CA and the state orgs. I’d counter and say that it’s clear CA/state orgs have a problem in this regard and it’s up to them to manage the perception of their failure. When it’s clear that there is a perceived problem from constituents, it’s up to an organisation to address this.

This is the 3rd or 4th year in a row I’ve read comments from people really annoyed at the whole grading system in Australia.

Here’s the problem

Cycling Australia is a monopoly provider of licenses for cycling in Australia with state organisations doing whatever it is they do (presumably being caretakers and custodians of the sport in the respective state).

As far as I am concerned – and perception is reality – there are a few problems:

  1. Licenses are really expensive – there is little to no transparency to what the dues pay for. My perception is there is little value in the $300, because I have no idea what the money goes toward so it seems expensive.
  2. The overarching grading and handicapping system – well, there isn’t one (see reader comments about Tour of Bright – note, this isn’t the Alpine Cycling Club’s fault)

Let’s look at these in depth a bit more.


Where I live, in rural NSW, wages and job opportunities are much more restricted than in the cities, where the majority of cyclists (and readers of websites like Cycling Tips) live. Living in those cities confers a very warped sense of what is realistic in terms of cost of living and what sort of money folks have to spend.

Where I live, people don’t have thousands to spend on cycling, a fact that one of the commenter’s in this comment stream seemed oblivious to.

Further, I know for a fact that some people where I live don’t race because it’s simply too expensive. $300/year for an elite license, on top of race fees, is pretty hefty. Compared to a car license, which is around $150 for 5 years in NSW ($150ish for 10 years in Vic), and lets you drive a car where you want, when you want.

Note: my mate Chris just pointed out you can’t really compare car licenses to bike licenses as there are a lot more cars. That might be a fair point, or may not.

As a result, the local clubs really struggle to get numbers and therefore justify holding races.

** PAY ATTENTION HERE, THIS IS A KEY POINT -> This isn’t a healthy situation, as it doesn’t really help cycling grow, and potentially discover the next superstar.


In golf clubs, each year your dues go to the club and it’s very clear how much of the fee is for membership of the club, Golf Australia affiliation fees (which includes insurance and is about $12 from what I can tell), the national handicapping system (member cost about 2.50 a year) and other fees.

The actual fees for affiliation to GA and having a national handicap entitling you to play anywhere are very low, as are insurance costs.

After 5 years of racing I still don’t know what the circa $300 (elite license) for a CA annual license is for. All I know is it could be for sanctionining road races (what does this even mean or involve), insurance and presumably administration costs at the head office.

I know it lets me race and I get some emails from Cycling Australia. What else does it get me?

Monopoly provider

I am a free market kinda guy in a true Hayekian sense (actually that’s not strictly true, the Austrians wouldn’t agree with my support of programs like Medicare) and the idea of a monopoly provider of race licenses is abhorrent.

By having a monopoly provider of licenses there is no competition. That means no competition to drive costs down, no competition to deliver measurable benefits to members and no incentive to deliver benefits to clubs.

The solution

As far as I am concerned, there’s a simple solution.

  1. A CA license should be for a nominal affiliation/admin fee like in golf only. As far as I am concerned this shouldn’t be more than $50/year (it’s 50GBP in the UK to race). This fee should include an amount to administer a national handicapping system. This fee may or may not cover sanctioning of events. Sanctioning could be optional and racers can be made aware what a lack of sanctioning means (e.g. bring your own insurance or whatever). (You can see how murky the waters are as I am completely ignorant of what the fees pay for.)
  2. Introduce national results and grading database – all clubs must submit all results.
  3. Possibly let clubs handle race licensing and entry fees. This would truly provide them with sustainable revenue and introduce competition into license costs. People could join clubs and race where they get best value for money or join clubs for whatever reason they wish (like they do now). The clubs could get creative and package up X number of races prepaid at a discount and so on. I can think of a bunch of things they can do here.
  4. Clubs could even PAY people a nominal amount to marshal and pay commissaries (who do an awesome job for no money). Many clubs have a lot of problems not having enough marshals and having to offer all sorts of incentives to get enough volunteers. The Northern Combine in Victoria offers half priced race fees all year if you marshal once. If you raced 15 times, the club is forgoing $150 in revenue. Across 10 people per race. Across however many races per year.
  5. Clubs could offer insurance in their license, or let you source your own. If your license does not include insurance and you turn up without insurance, you cannot race. If the clubs could get a good deal on group insurance, and offer it cheap enough, they could still make some money on it.

Potential sticking points

If clubs handle licensing, what would stop clubs blocking people from other clubs from racing in their races in order to “incentivise” people to race at their races? Well, you could expressly forbid this in a club’s articles of association and CA could stipulate that all clubs must be affiliated in order to be an official club and expressly prohibit this type of arrangement.

Or, in a free market sense – a club would be silly to do this. If clubs survive on income from race entries, it’s in their interests to run awesome events and have people from everywhere enter. I don’t think the whole closed shop mentality would survive all that long.

My mate Chris also tells me that triathlon in Australia basically operates under the principals I describe above, and Triathlon Australia is cash poor. To circumvent this, and help fund a body that helps promote cycling, and as I mention above, a nominal amount can go to CA for licensing/admin/sanctioning costs every year.

I’ll be honest. Some people are self interested and aren’t interested in promoting cycling in Australia (and socialising costs). I am one of those people. I am happy to pay for racing on a user-pays basis.

By the same token, I am interested in making racing accessible to everyone particularly juniors to help find the next Cadel Evans (who could in all likelihood come from mountain biking where a license is much cheaper – why is that?).


Obviously, my suggestions won’t be perfect, they’re just my ruminations.

The key thing is deliver more benefit to members, grow cycling, keep clubs going and also to introduce a national grading database similar to golf.

As far as I am concerned, $300/year for a license to race – on top of race fees – is too expensive given the value I get which is why I stopped racing. This is one less person in B grade in my local club which already struggles for numbers which is further disincentive to others.

Chris mentioned above basically hasn’t gotten a CA license to race because he can’t justify the cost either (and Chris lives in Melbourne and is on decent money).

I’m not the only one who feels like that and that to me isn’t good for competitive cycling.

Mitt Romney was right.

Posted by & filed under Thoughts.

I read this blog over at Squashed, after Marco posted about it.

Here’s the much-quoted passage.

These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of people pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

I just don’t get all the kerfuffle over What Mitt Said.

There just seems to be a heap of confected hyperbole and manufactured outrage over what are, really, quite sensible comments.

How is anything in that even controversial? Assuming the numbers are right, he is spot on.

If someone is paying no tax, a message of “low tax, small government” does not connect. And a message of “tax the rich” does.

What he is essentially saying is: I cannot market to these people.

I don’t think that’s even worth raising an eyebrow over.

Here’s the deal with what Mitt said: He’s dead right.

MOST people are not self starters. MANY people DO think that the government should take care of them.

BUt here’s the rub.

The REAL reason most people have become that way is because governments – of all persuasions – have become even more pervasive in our lives. People have become reliant on churn – they pay extraordinary amounts in taxes (how is anything over 10% even fair?) and then rely on government largesse/pork barreling to get by (food stamps, middle class welfare). It’s a recipe for servitude.

I’d like to think that everyone wants a better deal. However, not everyone wants to WORK for it (I couldn’t even begin to guess at percentages on that one).

In Australia at least, we have:

  • Compulsory superannuation – the government doesn’t think I am responsible enough to use 9% of my wages for useful purposes. Like paying my house off. Instead, an enormous rent seeking industry worth AUD$2T (that’s Trillion) has been born. That’s a lotta lobbying power.
  • If you earn over a certain amount you either pay more tax, or get health insurance to avoid the tax. 30% of the cost of private health insurance is subsidised by Joe Public. Madness. And not competitive.
  • Thousands – THOUSANDS – of pages of Tax Acts supporting all manner of rent seeking, welfare and rebates.

I had to stop typing. I started feeling ill. Like I said – tax and churn.

And before you think I am some hard hearted rugged individualist, I’m not. I AM a libertarian and am somewhat of an individualist, to the extent that I know I can spend my money more wisely than the government – any government. I DO think there is a place for governments to provide some services: a self defence force (NOT expeditionary forces, though maintaining expeditionary capabilities like commandos and SAS-like forces makes sense), small taxation system, basic welfare net (I passionately believe in this), and some other infrastructure.

The sad thing is that for all Obama’s grand rhetoric, he is just the same as Romney. The American people have been hoodwinked into believing that the Democrats are for the have-nots and the Republicans are for the haves. It’s just not the case.

They’re both effectively puppets for corporate cronyism. I’m sure Obama and Romney are both nice guys – Vanity Fairs piece on BA portrayed him as very human – but the fact is, both parties serve not the people.

How else can you explain the massive transfer of public wealth to private banks during the GFC. I don’t hear those complaining about What Mitt Said, complaining about this. About how future generations have been co-opted into a high unemployment, high inflation future.

It stinks.

So before you go spluttering with indignation at What Mitt Said, remember – the rich aren’t the problem in America. Nor is Mitt. Nor is what he said.

If you need something, someone, to blame, blame corporate cronyism.

How to fix pro cycling

Posted by & filed under Cycling.

Pro cycling is terribly, terribly broken. It’s rotten to the core, and desperately needs fixing. I’m not talking cosmetic fixing. I am talking root and branch. I am talking about bone marrow replacement.

With Lance Armstrong’s refusal to enter arbitration with the USADA and his guilt now effectively settled, now is the time to fix cycling, properly.

I don’t want to discuss Lance Armstrong’s alleged guilt, you’re either with him, against him or don’t give a rats.

I want to talk about fixing cycling, because it’s so very broken.

Cycling is bigger than one person. Lance doesn’t define cycling, nor does pro cycling define cycling. We the fans define it. Our feelings when we’re coasting along define it.

My first memory of bikes was my dad pushing me along our gravel driveway.

Then it was of my first BMX and smashing around our paddocks.

Then it was of my Northern Star which was a horribly embarrassing rip off of the Malvern Stars which the local kids in Manangatang were riding.

Then it was of my Norco MTB, then Avanti, then my first roadbike, then my next roadbike, and the next and only then did I get interested in the TDF – around the time Lance was retiring, Zabel was still battling Robbie and O’Grady for green jersey points and a young Cadel was with Team Telekom.

I watched as Lance pulverised Jan. I watched as Robbie headbutted his way to endless wins. I watched as Cadel got better and better but never good enough. I watched, from the road, as Lance returned. The addiction grew more and more intense.

Peurto didn’t dull the desire to ride, or watch the pros. Nor did the endless individual transgressions. Despite desperately wanting Floyd to be clean, we all got burnt. Rasmussen, Kohl, Valverde, Basso, Contador, Danilo. The list was endless.

We became numbed to it.

But deep down, we asked: When will this ever end?

And here’s the problem – I don’t think it will.

Cyclists as pawns

I’ve always viewed riders as pawns. No one forced them to dope (you could use the jump off a bridge analogue) but hey, I get why they did it. Everyone was. And being a pro was a dream for these guys.

But, let’s distill doping into what it really is – it’s f$cked up. And as my favourite band Propagandhi says, “Ordinary people do fucked up things, when fucked up things become ordinary.”

But, leaving all that aside, there comes a time when we must move forward and that time is now. Making excuses up for riders forever does cycling no good.

So, the apologist agenda must stop. No more aping yesterdays heroes and forgiving doping, because it was ordinary.

No, a line must be drawn, and I think the Lance debacle is the catalyst for that.

The real issue isn’t the pawns. The pawns can, and will, stop, once the pressure disappears (remember, I’m not an apologist for doping). I think once this pressure, and the rotten remnants of yesterday’s agenda, are removed, our heroes can be heroes once again.

Nope, the real issue is the poison still in the system. Those who cold heartedly cheated the system, cheated the fans and who have never admitted fault. We’ll get to them shortly.

Forgiving the honest

Guys like Dave Millar? I have respect for him. Admitted fault, did his time, and now, on the face of it, is true digs. Even Floyd eventually fessed up (have you read Floyd’s interview with Kimmage? Read it, now!. It’s telling that Floyd says the only thing he’d change in his career is not the actual doping (remember, everyone did it) but the fact he didn’t fess up straight away.

There’s not enough of this straight up honesty (Schleck, anyone?).

Doubt over the current peloton

Now, we’ve got guys like Basso, the Schlecks, Valverde and more still in the peleton and winning races. These guys have never admitted fault, or their admission was, I think, hollow.
Sure, some of them have done time, but it’s not like they ever fessed up.

What this does is cast doubt on everyone. How can I even be sure Cadel was clean? I mean, Cadel is the balls. I think the man could never be anything but down the line, but, it makes you wonder.

So, with this overriding doubt, and with some riders never having confessed, this pall of doubt hangs over the peloton like a dark foreboding chill.

Dirty at the top

Moreover – and this is the biggest problem for me – there are still people who were allegedly DEEPLY involved in illegal practices still advising or directing teams.

It’s almost incontrivertible that previous DSs, doctors and more who all presided over, or were deeply mired in, doping empires are still in the sport.

This is unacceptable. They must be banned. Doesn’t matter who it is. I don’t care if it’s a team ping pong coach.

The way forward

The way I see it, cycling has only way forward from here

  1. An amnesty for any rider who ever doped to come forward and tell all. Tell everything.If you’re ever linked to a previous doping event after this amnesty shuts, and your link is proven, you’re gone from cycling forever.

    Hey, Mr Yesterdays Pro, you doped. Fess up. Tell all. But from here on in, there are no more excuses. What you did was wrong, you cheated the fans, you cheated cycling and now you need to make amends.

  2. Someone – ANYONE – holds an inquiry into all the people whose names have cropped up as being linked to doping. Bruyneel, Riis, hell I don’t care if Aussies, Zabel and others are implicated. Anyone and everyone who has been shamefully hiding away – no one is immune from this. Anyone like this who is in, or was in, some sort of team support or leadership capacity (doctors, trainers, DS, etc), must go.
  3. The UCI needs a total and wholesale investigation and colon cleanse. The amount of detritus that appears to be in the system is shocking. Just reading about alleged goings on – and I do mean alleged – particularly as it relates to Armstrong is just a shocking indictment on an organisation that is supposed to be a custodian of our sport.
  4. The apologist treatment of past transgressions must cease.

The sport needs a wholesale cleanse from top to bottom.

Otherwise what kind of message are we sending to the kids.

Moreover, how can we EVER be SURE that these people aren’t perpetrating further doping? Truth is, we can’t, nor can we ever be, until this stain is removed from our beloved sport forever.

Bike shops: “The Internet is unfair”

Posted by & filed under Business.

Another day, another bitch session from bike shops unable and unwilling to move with the times.

The Australian Retailers Associate has come out and stated that the BSC Bikes failure is due to online shops domiciled outside Australia being able to avoid GST.

The most generous characterisation I can attribute to that line of thinking is that it is stupid at best, or blatantly dishonest at worst.

They go so far as to call for protectionist policies including – wait for it – a special internet shop levy.

Here’s a message for the ARA: You are being very, very, silly. And disingenuous. And you’re not helping your constituents.

Without wishing to provide thousands (thousands!) of examples of goods that are sold online for much more than a 10% difference (try 30-70%), I would like to point out that bike stuff online is a lot cheaper than 10% less than bike shops.

Go ahead, slap 10% on everything (everything) coming into this country. You know what it will do for online bike part sales?

Nothing. It’ll make a bees dick of difference.

As for the article itself – more specifically, the view points of the ARA and the shop owner – it is a stinking pile of self interest, whinging, protectionist rubbish.

Here’s a few rebuttals.

“The reality is all Australian retailers – whether they’re operating online stores, physical stores or both – are unable to compete on price or innovation with overseas retailers marketing products to Australian consumers.”

This is patently, inarguably, false. Here are a few examples.

  1. Price: Cell Bikes seem to be doing just fine. They’re super cheap, and get business. In fact I recently bought from them because they were cheaper than Wiggle and Chain Reaction.
  2. Innovation: Total Rush excels at customer experience, innovation (not price) and service: the seem to be doing very well.

The owner of BSC Bikes, Peter Hess, also blamed the store’s collapse on “unfair” competition from internet outlets.

Hess called for a special levy on internet retailers to level the playing field with local shops.

I don’t know Peter Hess personally, so I have nothing against him personally, but: Peter what a load of protectionist, left-wing, early-1900s bullshit.

He even goes on to say:

‘Retailers in Australia are generally being portrayed as rip-off merchants because our prices are higher than the internet,” Hess told Fairfax.

“But we base our prices on our local wholesale costs and our local rental costs.’

Which is it Peter? Wholesale costs and rents? Or “tax dodging” (the ARA’s words, not mine).

Your problem is one of fact and perception. People’s perception is reality. If they perceive you to be a rip off merchant (and judging by people’s comments in this Age article, they thought you were), then you are a rip off merchant in the consumers eyes, whether you like that or not.

Additionally, if you can’t compete on price, compete on customer experience and other metrics, because then, you won’t be seen as a rip off merchant, as you’re adding value in other ways.

Hess then goes on to say:

‘The solution for that, in my eyes, is not only add GST to online purchases, but add an extra internet levy to even up the prices and enable the local market to compete with the net.”

What this really means is: “We, for a range of reasons, including high rents, wholesale costs, and a 10% differential due to a GST cost, can’t run our business profitably. The customer should therefore pay a higher price to account for our unprofitable, unsustainable business structure. Rather than me taking responsibility for my own business and innovating and competing in an open market, I require a protectionist policy to protect me.”

Reading the quote above, what Peter Hess is calling for is a tariff, which is, as far as I am aware, anti-competitive and could almost be construed as price fixing (would the ACCC step in?). I’d love to hear from people who know if this is in breach of WTO rules.

From what I understand, BSC had 3 (that’s three) shops in a small footprint in the Melbourne CBD. How is that smart business?

I am sick and tired of people blaming a 10% GST differential for what is a combination of bad business management in a lot of cases (3 STORES IN THE CBD?!), high rents and high wholesale costs.

For the last time: you can add the 10% GST on to everything coming in to Australia. Apart from vastly increasing the compliance costs – which by the way, the Australian taxpayer pays for through higher taxes (this is called unseen or unintended consequences) – you’ll make no difference to your business’s competitiveness.

You’re not fixing the problem. You’re masking it.

This entire situation is what Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction. It is totally necessary to rid society of poor, unproductive business, so that capital can be deployed to where it provides the greatest service (to consumers and to shareholders/business owners).

Maybe all bike shops should be bailed out like car manufacturers? In 5 years time they’ll still be shoddy businesses and need another bailout.

More on the death of bike shops

Posted by & filed under Business.

Recently I wrote about why retail is failing, in particular the Local Bike Shop (LBS).

This week Brunswick Street Cycles (or BSC Bikes) suddenly shut its doors.

Reading through the article and indeed the comments provides a signal lesson in the dichotomy of views of both sides: retailers and consumers.

One comment, evidently from a LBS employee stood out for its incredibly close-minded (protectionist) and almost jingoistic thinking:

The blame lays with the customer, the shops and overseas websites. I have seen a customer get their ipad out and double check the package deal you have offered them to see if they can get it cheaper somewhere else, they literally want the shirt off your back. Competitors slash their prices so close to the margin to compete with each other that they have priced themselves out of the market (as seen with BSC). I’m not blaming sites like Chain Reaction, they run a business and are only doing what all the other bikes shops do to each other, the Australian customer has to be taught that by sending their money overseas they are damaging their own economy.

What’s disturbing about this argument is:

  1. It sounds like bike shops don’t like price comparisons.
  2. It sounds like bike shops think customers should shop local, because if they don’t, they’re damaging the economy.

What this person fails to understand:

  1. Customers are quite within their rights to price check – no one likes overpaying. Also, if the customer thinks they got a bad deal, they’ll have buyers regret and likely never come back to your shop (like my example with the Specialized helmet).
  2. Buying online doesn’t necessarily affect the local economy negatively. Why? Well, if I shop online and save 30-50% (a likely outcome with bike stuff), I now have more money to use as savings. This benefits the economy as the bank can leverage and lend my savings out. Or I’ll have more money to spend in the economy elsewhere – perhaps at the coffee shop, which means employment for someone, or, at the local bike shop on having parts fitted (is there more margin in labour?).

What’s also clear from the comments is that consumers ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to spend money on consumables locally (e.g. $400 Sugoi bibs in a shop, $150 online) when there is such a manifest price difference.

Retailers can cry till the cows come home about loyalty and whatnot, but consumers do not like to feel ripped off. They don’t feel ripped off online, and do to a very large extent in shops…

…UNLESS, that shop offers exceptional customer experience, rewards loyalty and so on.

I think the BSC Bikes failure only serves to strengthen my case for a need for LBSs (and retail in general) to create more customer loyalty based on experience, subscription based transactions and better shop experiences.

Until they do, they’ll continue to lose transaction based purchases to online, and continue to blame everyone but themselves.

How to Fix Bricks and Mortar Retail (Example: Bike Shops)

Posted by & filed under Business.

Bricks and Mortar Retail (ex food and some other pockets) is dying. And everyone knows it.

Lots of shops or companies think the only way to survive is to put an online store up, but it’s not as simple as that. Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman is a great example of this flawed thinking.

The Internet has given everyone almost-instant pricing information for comparison – often instore. It gives people the ability to feature shop, without having to ask questions of a sales person, or worse, be bugged by them.

Retailers can no longer rely on hidden information, ignorance, apathy or people not wanting to drive around comp shopping to survive. Even a well-executed online store (hopefully designed for Mobile First) with clear pricing and features is no guarantee of sales.

Exclusive of food, everyone is under the hammer. Whether it’s bike parts, luxury goods, commodity items – whatever – people are sick and tired of being ripped off, treated like transactions, not having choice or worst, experiencing bad customer service.

Key reasons retail is failing

  1. Loyalty – shops are (in general) not driving loyalty or “sticky” customers/relationships.
  2. Simply too much choice online – often shops will not have what you need.
  3. Poor customer service – Myer is a great example here. Cost cutting in terms of reduced staff feeds into the problem.
  4. No online presence (with attendant price reductions).


Here are some observations I’ve made visiting lots of shops, reading many, many articles and from speaking to friends.

  • People are prepared to – and in many cases, want to – shop locally if the price difference is less than say 10-20% (depending on price sensitivity) and if the range is there and/or customer service is great (anecdotally, companies like Myer are failing manifestly at customer service).
  • People inspect products in store then buy online (there’s a solution to this problem) if online is say 10-20% cheaper – valid for bigger ticket items. That is, someone isn’t going to go home and buy a $10 item online if it’s $12 in a shop. If the difference is $200 though….
  • People will form a price floor using ebay or similar, which creates an anchoring bias to that price. Shops largely cannot compete (it’s at this point that I should note that an ebay presence for a shop would be most useful).
  • Shops are resisting the change – instead of embracing opportunity most are fighting a rear guard action or grimly holding on hoping “online” won’t last (tip: that’s CRAZY).
  • Online bike shops have great websites, lots of information, offer discounts for repeat buying, and have removed inefficiency in the market.

Of course, this is a gross summary and simplification of what is happening, but these core points are, I think, the major issue.

The strong Australian dollar of course affects the Australian market – the AUD at 0.33p would see Wiggle and Chain Reaction’s Australian market decline considerably, I suspect. But, these companies are crucifying shops in say the UK, too, largely to do with the reasons I state above.

Case Study: Bike Shops

Much has been written about the war between Local Bike Shops and online shops like Wiggle and Chain Reaction.

Cycling Tips had a great article about it, with lots of good comments.

Why are bike shops are an instructional example?

Traditionally, the cycling industry has relied on:

  • An oligopoly of distributors controlling pricing/availability (almost anti competitive).
  • In Australia’s case, a long distance from the EU and US, and a non-competitive dollar – the AUD is killing it now, and international freight is super quick and cheap.
  • A mix of transactional (selling “stuff”) and repeat services (bike servicing).

Case in point…

(Actually this story applies to two LBSs in Melbourne – both Specialized dealers. I went from one to the other, back to the first one with my loyalty.)

I recently ordered a new helmet from my LBS which apparently was on sale. I’ve spent thousands there.

I was sold on this helmet being super cheap as part of a helmet amnesty subsidised by Specialized.

The helmet was more expensive by 20% than online, even with the amnesty. Yes, I ought to have checked, but I also felt ripped off.

And stupid.

And regretful.

Like I said I should have checked online first, but I trust these guys to do the right thing by me. Yes, they run a business, but the business relies on goodwill.

For the bike shop, it was more important to sell a helmet to a loyal customer than to be honest with me – “hey, they’re 20% cheaper online” – solidify my trust and lock me in as a rusted-on supporter.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-uncommon situation – bike shops are desperately grappling with online competition and are trying to tactically make money whenever they can.

Problem is, from a strategic point of view, pissing off loyal customers is bad business in the long run.

Question is: How should they have handled this?

How to fix the bike industry (and others)

Caveat: it’s been pointed out that some bike shops (and other retailers) aren’t sitting on their hands, and I agree. So, it’s a matter of communication for these businesses: educating the consumer why they are different (and why buying locally is advantageous in some respects) and how they’re adapting to the new paradigm.

My personal opinion is that bike shops and to a very large degree, the retail industry, is ignoring a huge market: sticky customers.

I could write thousands of words on gaining customer loyalty (you’re better off reading people like Seth Godin, Naomi Dunford and their ilk) but at the very core lies an indisputable fact – with sticky and loyal customers, you can not only survive, but flourish.

Here’s what I’d do if I owned a bike shop:

  1. Introduce Annual Memberships: for an annual fee, you get X% off anything. No questions asked.
  2. Introduce Lifetime Memberships: make them say $5k or whatever, but make them lucrative (like 40% off). Maybe give them free parts fitting for stuff bought online
  3. Service subscription: for those who just want servicing (they buy online), introduce a monthly/annual service subscription. Gets you x% off services.
  4. Install in-shop computers allowing customers to order via Wiggle and CRC and others, using affiliate links. Have parts shipped to the shop, charge a premium to fit parts (I’d charge a premium to fit parts not bought at that shop full stop).
  5. I once had a grand plan to open a bike shop with cafe before anyone else, but that horse has bolted. Still, it’s a great idea. Coffee only, and some muffins/croissants. No kitchen (open a full cafe if you want to cook stuff).

With the subscription products, who are these customers going to come to, time and time again?

Not anyone else.

You’ve locked them in.

And that gives you a lot more chances to get them instore and upsell them, or just be cool and build trust and loyalty.

Are you feature checking for online purchases?

I can understand the conundrum shops face when someone (a potential customer) comes in just to check out some features of a product, try it on, whatever, before heading off and buying online.

There’s no perfect solution for this, but possible solutions are:

  • Have a computer terminal instore, defaulted to your online store, with the product pages/online store/FAQs/whatever on screen (or printed off at the counter).
  • Don’t offer help for customers who aren’t members of your loyalty club.
  • If the customer wants advice, they need to join your loyalty club, pay for advice (cost comes off any eventual purchase).
  • Ask them up front – “are you feature checking for online purchases?”. If yes, assistance can be on a charged basis, trying stuff on is charged, or they join your loyalty program.
  • Offer discounts or price match online products for purchases where the attendants didn’t help. Mimic online.

Like I said, there’s no perfect solution, but shops need to sort out non-customers (feature shopping) from real customers.

Obviously, if you play really hard, you’ll piss people off, possibly missing a chance to convert them to an in-store sale.

Really, though, what are the chances of that? How many real customers will you really lose?

If I have already decided I am buying online, it’s going to take a lot (price matching within 10-20% depending on the total difference) to get me to buy instore. So, you may as well sack me as a customer, and free your employee’s time up to serve REAL customers.

The broader retail industry…

A lot of shopping is transactional only (needs based, wants based, buying specials). Walk in, buy, leave.

Shops are missing a chance to engage that customer.

Shops can rightly ask, if online prices at 30% or more cheaper, how can we drive loyalty, because consumers are so price conscious?

This is a valid concern, but is not an insurmountable problem by any means.

The answer lies in a range of innovations or changes in business model, strong cost (or margin) reduction, value adding, adding an online presence and more.

The answer is NOT a race to the bottom of the pricing curve (that makes the problem worse).

Interestingly, I think online shops are neglecting loyalty, encouraging consumers to be quite promiscuous in terms of loyalty.

I think there is a massive opportunity in subscriptions/memberships offering discounts and other things in return for loyalty.

The exciting thing is seeing what smart operators come up with.

Turns out other people think the subscription model has legs, too.

Reading on an iPad versus Laptop

Posted by & filed under Miscellany.

I just received an iPad2 months ago as a down payment for a project I am working on (more on that later).

One of the first things I did was load up NetNewsWire, iBooks and the Kindle App for iPad and start reading.

Whilst I used to love reading (articles, via Google Reader) on my iMac, and then on my MBP, I am now finding the iPad is the almost-perfect device for reading.

I tried to read some RSS articles the other day on a MacBook and it was a horrendously jarring experience, to the extent I just couldn’t read the articles.

So I wonder, is there something materially different about the iPad2 that provides for a better reading (and content consumption) experience. Is anyone else’s experience the same?

Perhaps the venerable Marco Arment could shed some light.

The Impersonality of Email Christmas Cards

Posted by & filed under Miscellany.

If I was running a business with a mailing list, I think the last thing I’d do is mass email1 a Christmas card. Seth Godin was way ahead of this, talking about it in 2003.

Businesses are taking something that ought to be highly personalised and sending something that is completely impersonal. I mean, if you meant it, why not hand write it?

I’ve just received emails from my old travel agent, my insurance broker and a few others. I don’t want, or need, Christmas cards from these guys. I pay them to do something for me, and that’s the end of it.

I don’t know what the solution is, but Christmas Cards are essentially broken. I still get joy from hand written cards from family members.

Who are the people in these businesses making these silly decisions to send email business cards? Lazy, impersonal and totally transparent.

Please stop.

1 Personalising a mail (like from MailChimp) doesn’t count.

Training for the Three Peaks Challenge

Posted by & filed under Fun.

With the 2011 Three Peaks Challenge upon us, I thought it might be useful to highlight the need for some training.

I’ll be doing the 2011 event and have adapted my standard race and L’Etape du Tour 2011 training for this event.

One of my friends tells me he is doing it, but hasn’t done any training. So, although the best time to start training was 2-3 months ago, the next best time is today.

Let’s clear one thing up: The 235km 3 Peaks is not a trifling ride. It is an absolute monster. It is equivalent to any of the Gran Fondos in Europe. The sheer amount of climbing, when combined with the long distance, will absolutely destroy anyone not adequately prepared for it.

Check out my 2010 L’Etape du Tour report if you don’t believe me. L’Etape 2010 destroyed me, and I am a reasonably able climber. L’Etape 2010 was only 180km. A ride of this nature will similarly consign an underprepared rider to the rubbish spin. It will chew you up, spit you out, and look for the next victim.

So, if you have not done any training, you need to begin, urgently.

Your training at this late stage needs to shock your body into over-drive. It is probably too late to do any climbing that will force a meaningful level of adaptation in your body.

Fortunately, I have a training plan that will help. Although it has been developed especially for Training for Etape du Tour, it can easily be adapted to training for the Three Peaks Challenge. The L’Etape du Tour is a climber’s sportif and so the training plan has been developed to strengthen riders for a bunch of hours wrestling the Grand Cols of France.

The profile of the Three Peaks is of similar scope to any L’Etape and so the L’Etape training plan readily adapts to the Three Peaks Challenge.

So if you need a training plan for the 3 Peaks Challenge, check out the TDF Tips Training for L’Etape guide.