Patrol 472 - First Ride

Patrol 472 - First Ride

Screaming.  That was the first thing that came into my mind when I saw the neon green Patrol 472.  After more than 20 years of riding a hardtail bike, my quest to find a 650b XC dual suspension bike had brought me to this sturdy looking dual suspension bike. Exciting.

 I wanted the black paint but this was literally the last size L that I could find.  So I was stuck with the color but it soon grew on me. 

I wanted the black paint but this was literally the last size L that I could find.  So I was stuck with the color but it soon grew on me. 

Going Local

The Indonesian brand Patrol is an offshoot of United Bike, which has been designing and producing bicycles since 1991.  In the past, I would had never considered buying from local brands.  I was heavily influenced by the international cycling scene. If the top professionals didn’t ride them, they weren’t good enough for me.

Fast forward today, there are now several bike manufacturers in Indonesia that have built up their brands through good products and marketing.  When I was in the market to get a dual suspension 27.5 bike,  Patrol appeared to offer a solid line of products at reasonable prices.  It also helped that a good cycling buddy rides a Patrol and he has never doubted the quality of his ride.

The 472 is part of Patrol’s XC dual suspension series.  Designed with a  short chainstay of 435mm, the bike should be lively on bendy trails.  A 70 degree head angle and 73.5 degree seat angle makes the 472 relaxed enough to tackle downhills while still maintaining its ability to climb well.  

Upon inspection, the build quality is top notch.  The welding is very smooth and the paint job is immaculate.  Suspension is handled by a RockShox Recon Gold with a Fox Float CTD BV.  

The bike came fitted with a 10-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain mixed with a Deore triple crankset, but since running a 1x system on 2 previous bikes, I am completely spoiled by the simplicity of not having a front derailleur.  I took this as the reason to upgrade to a 11 speed 1x system, outfitting a Shimano SLX single crank with a 34 tooth chainring along with Shimano’s massive XT 11-46 cassette dinner plate and topping it off with an XT 11 speed rear derailleur and and XTR shifter known for its precise shifting. I used a KMC X11.93 chain to connect everything.

For wheels, the 472 came with DT Swiss 444d Alloy rims laced to Novatec D881 and D882 hubs, my first time with this combination.  The 444d rims measured at 18mm inner width, narrower that I would like, especially when going with tires that are 2.2 and up in width.  It’s too early to tell how the Novatec hubs will do but for now, the spin is quiet and smooth.

There aren’t many 27.5 XC dual suspension bikes now in the market as brands are going back to 29er models for cross country and marathon racing.  However, based on my riding style and the courses that I tend to ride, the 27.5 looks to be a great fit.  Plus, I wanted a bike that I can break down into 2 parts for travelling.  More on this later.

Getting ready to hit my favorite trail in the neighborhood, the Maxxis Crossmark 27.5 x 2.1 stock tires needed to go.  The Crossmark will probably be good for hardpack use but the rainy season has just begun so I will be relying on a beefy Maxxis Forekaster 2.35 on the front and a Maxxis Beaver 2.0 on the back.  I might have an issue running with the Forekaster on the narrow DT Swiss 444d rims since Maxxis recommends 30-35 mm inner width rims - I’ll soon find out.  

Slippery When Wet

R0012831.jpg

My test ride on my favorite trail at the University of Indonesia forest was wet and muddy.  A bike is as good as its tires and pressure, and the Forekaster and Beaver combination performed extremely well.  As advertised, the Forekaster shed mud easily while the 2.35 size provided ample amount of grip and the slim 2.0 Beaver felt right at home in the mud.

With the right tires on, the 472 was agile as I had predicted.  The geometry was spot on, letting the bike accelerate, manage turns and take on slopes without any hesitation on a muddy wet day.  It was also one of the easiest bikes to lift up the front wheel, making it easier to go over roots and rocks.  

Since it was wet, I had to take it easy through the turns.  I will have to wait for the track to dry out to really compare against my carbon hardtail 29er but judging from the way the bike was able to slither through the windy trails, there is a good chance that this bike will live up to my expectations.  

Green Mountain Growler Ride

20170803_194518 (1).jpg

This was it.  A trip months in the making: a cycling journey with a couple of high school friends to explore a bikepacking route legendary for its trails and craft beers: The Green Mountain Growler.

The 5-day trip covered 248 km through the rolling hills of Vermont, including 6,467 meters of climbing and around 70% of unpaved roads with some class 4 roads thrown in for fune.

Bikepacking is similar to bike touring, but a different method of carrying your gear is required. My friend Dave, riding his classic Trek 520, was using a rear pannier system and a front handlebar bag while Chris, riding a Salsa Fargo, opted for a Revelate seat, top tube and handlebar roll on bags. We put our bottled water, food, and other important items right in front of us.

Check out this amazing site to learn more about new methods of bikepacking: Bikepacking.com.  

 

Rivendell: The Breakaway Brand

atlantis

To the average person, cycling brings up images of riders in body-clinging tights whizzing by at speed, an association shaped by team sponsorships and coverage of world-famous races such as the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.  The quest to shave off a few more grams in the service of speed is the holy grail of many a cyclist, and by extension, bicycle brands, who compete to deliver the newest, lightest piece of equipment, down to the nuts and bolts, with the implicit goal of beating someone's Strava time.  

In truth, not everyone fits the high speed ethos. Out in Walnut Creek, California, a bicycle company called Rivendell Bicycle Works has been making headway in the industry singing to the tune that good ol' reliable steel frames are the way to go. Clanking along with racks and baskets, fenders and mudflaps, Rivendell has carved out a loyal following and inspired a handful of gutsy independent brands to jump on the bandwagon.  Owner Grant Petersen, who prefers to sell merino wool clothing over Lycra, founded Rivendell after a 10-year stint as the Product and Marketing Manager of Bridgestone Cycle USA, where he was known for going against the trend.  While other brands experimented with suspension, Petersen released rigid steel forks for mountain bikes.  It is telling that the bikes he produced at Bridgestone are now sought after by collectors due to their unique characteristics. Today, he is considered as the leader of a new movement that prefers the strength of steel and feel of leather to the latest in racing technology.   In 2012, Petersen published a book titled “Just Ride,” which outlines his philosophy to cycling and prompted many to rethink their approach to cycling.

Petersen champions the philosophy that bicycles should be a natural part of our everyday lives. Leisure, comfort and exploration are more important being aerodynamic and lightweight. Due to his cult-like status in the bicycle industry, Petersen became one of the instigators in the industry, and people begin to embrace the idea that cycling does not have to be about lightweight equipment, speed and the race to finish. There is a place in the market for heavy, reliable bicycles to be ridden for pleasure or commuting.  The Petersen effect is now being seen with some in the industry following suit, producing steel bikes aimed at the  brevets, cross-country and camping market rather instead of for racing. A once untapped market of riders has found discovered a new way of cycling.  

Despite its success as a brand that is primarily marketed through word of mouth, social media and the internet, Rivendell has its own challenges such as keeping in supply and demand in check.  As a fairly small operation, the ability to have a large inventory and shipping out to customers on time is a challenge.  In addition, Petersen even restricts the parts that can go on to his bikes and has rejected some orders as he feels they do not meet his requirements.  This is a challenge for customers who are ready to commit to 1000K to 5000K bicycles.  His bikes are not cheap but then again, they are built to last.

Customers who gravitate towards Rivendell bikes are those who considers these bicycles to be the ideal extension of their lifestyle. These customers would rather buy from an experienced, retrogrouch like Petersen than from the giants.  And by the way, Rivendell also sells children's books, pine soap and hatchets.  Talk about challenging the norm.

To learn more about Rivendell Bicycles, click here.

Straight talk is best

 Photo by sinartus.com

Photo by sinartus.com

It seems that every line of work has its own set of jargon that is often spewed out during meetings so that the speaker can sound more impressive.

Let’s take the world of branding for example. Jargon-laden phrases abound, the likes of:

“We can leverage social media to have a meaningful impact on your business.”

Translation: We can use social media to help you grow and earn more money.

“Our aim is to increase the engagement level so that you will be able to measure the consumers’ sentiments in relation to your products and services.”

Translation: Our goal is to reach out to customers to find out who likes your products and services and who doesn’t.

Now imagine talking to your spouse and your kids or anyone in your circle of family and friends in the same jargon-laden manner: “It is mission-critical that we maximize our time together in order to achieve higher intimacy levels for meaningful outcomes and long term value add.”

My guess is that people will look at you as if you’re crazy (at least my spouse and kids certainly would). It would be much more effective to say to them, “Family time is important. Let’s spend some time together so that we will be closer as a family.’

Or even better, reach over and give your spouse a hug, or pick your kids up from school and take them out for an ice cream instead of saying anything; actions speak louder than words.

At the end of the day, jargon may have some added value (impressing clients and colleagues?) but plenty of miscommunication or misunderstandings also happen have a result. Jargon sounds impressive but a lot of times it is better to stick to good ol’ fashion straight talk.

To the point

tothepoint.jpg

There are about 20 major consumer banks in Indonesia. One commonality that exists between all of these banks is that most target consumers through a image that citizens of an emerging market want: an affluent lifestyle. Plastered on their billboards you typically find images of a family dining on a beautiful beach or a powerful business person walking down the ramp of his private jet towards his limousine. There is nothing wrong showing these images and I presume most people would not complain if this happened in their lives.

However, it leaves me dark about the actual benefits that each bank offers. For example, it took me a long time to find out that some banks allow you to take out cash from any of their competitors’ ATM machines at no cost, and at other banks you can permit someone to pick up cash from the ATM within the limits that you have designated by using a string code. Yet others offer excellent overseas exchange rates or good exchange benefits.

The question is why do banks not showcase these functions but rather brand themselves as the bank that will allow your family to dine on the beach (just like everyone else)?  

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to dine on the beach and have a private plane. But to be honest, when I’m choosing a bank, that’s now what I’m trying to do. I’m really trying to find a bank that will make my life easier through its day-to-day facilities, preferably at lower costs. Can a bank make my life easier by allowing me to access the roughly 47,000 plus ATMs that are available in this country and not have to worry about surcharges for withdrawals? Yes, definitely. Will it also give me private jet for signing up? I don’t think so.

At the end of the day, do you want to sell a dream or do you want to showcase your hidden treasure and solve real problems?

I wouldn't know, sir

 Photo by sinartus.com

Photo by sinartus.com

The other day as I walked into a well-known international airline office to reserve our family seats for an upcoming international flight, I asked the customer representative whether the flights that we will be on will have electrical outlets.

“I wouldn’t know, sir.”

Why wouldn’t she know? She dresses as part of the organization. She is one of the many people who are on the front line dealing directly with the customers who are the sole reason why this airline exists. Surely it would not be difficult for the airline to brief their customer service representatives on the basic offerings of their airlines, especially when it’s being promoted on the company’s website.

I know from experience that the offerings on flights will depend on the aircraft model and type. Sometimes you get lucky and land a seat on the latest aircraft, offering the latest amenities, and sometimes you end up on an older one, a throwback to the 1990s. I would not have been disappointed to hear from her that the flights that I booked my family were the latter; that’s just life. However, I was taken back that the representative not only did not know but didn’t seem to care that I asked.

I believe consumers are no longer ignorant, especially those who fall within the top 20%. The promises that brands put forth in their marketing outputs are a direct challenge for the brands themselves. If you are a passenger who was seduced by beautiful photographs on the website showing personal screens and electrical outlets only to come onboard and find herself on an older plane with no personal entertainment unit and no place to charge your laptop, how would you feel?

It’s one thing to over promise and hope that most passengers who care land on your new aircraft but it’s another to not train and equipped your customers to know your products and services.

Care to wait?

Ducking into a store on a busy day, you’ve spent precious minutes looking for the things you need to buy. They are finally in your hands and you are ready to purchase until you see the long lines in front of the cashiers. Your heartbeat goes up and you start to question whether the items you have in your hands are worth waiting in line. In the end, you dump the items and leave the store. Sound familiar?

For busy businesses, it’s no joke. A vast body of research states that retailers can gain as much as 3% in market share by shaving off 7 seconds off the customer waiting time. Three percent may not sound like a lot but it adds up, especially in competitive industries such as fast food restaurants, and retailers are starting to take notice, following in the footsteps of brands like Starbucks, an early adopter of online payments and mobile ordering.

In 2009, Starbucks innovatively experimented with allowing customers to pay via a mobile application to shorten lines. The mobile application also allowed users to top off their cards digitally, check balances and collect reward points that could be later redeemed for drinks. Pushing the envelope yet further, in 2014 Starbucks made headlines by upgrading their mobile application to allow users to not only pay but place their orders over the app and pick it up at the designated store of their choice. According to a BI Intelligence report, the Starbucks mobile app is the most successful in-store mobile-payment app in the U.S., processing over $1.5 billion in payment volume in the U.S. in 2014 alone, accounting about 15% of their total North American sales.

In The Pink (http://shop.inthepinkonline.com/), a retail chain located in Massachusetts, took a different but equally effective tactic to reducing lines and improving customer experience. In the spring of 2014, the management took out the traditional checkout counters at eight of their stores and equipped the store clerks with iPad minis, transforming them into fashion consultants who could not only process a sale on the spot but could perform Customer Relations Management (CRM) such as checking customer’s purchase history and inventory check from other stores. In the 4 months after moving to mobile point-of-sale, Pink witnessed a 23% jump in same-store sales.

Starbucks and In The Pink are not alone in making the move towards digital to end the “waiting in line” issue. Many companies are now following in their footsteps in hope to decrease the waiting in line and increase their sales and their ability to focus on their customers in the most efficient way. Is your business ready to make the digital leap?