Archive for the ‘Elsewhere in the world…’ Category

Just an 8 Tooth Cog in the Machine

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

8t driver (1)

This folks is an 8 tooth cog. These are the tiniest cogs in the bike world and probably in all of machine world too since a gear with only eight teeth is actually a pretty bad idea. The problem is that it’s not really round, it’s basically an octagon so it runs roughly as it’s effective diameter gets bigger and smaller between each tooth. In freestyle BMX though, such tiny cogs are handy because they enable making a useful gear ratio with a tiny chainring… one that won’t get bent in half when a rider smacks it onto a stairway railing or priceless sculpture.

Anyhow at times like this we at WorkCycles feel a little like that little 8 toother: Handy but basically just a minuscule cog in the giant financial machine. A handful of power brokers work the controls and we spin around, trying to do our thing. My understanding of such matters is limited but I read that the powers that be decided it would be good to turn on the presses and print a whole lot more Euro money. Of course the total real value of that money hasn’t actually increased; It’s just been divided into smaller units. In other words printing more money makes whatever money you already have worth less. I suppose the saving grace is that I don’t have any money to lose value.

Oh and then there’s that exchange rate thing, the reason I’m driveling on about this. Now with more, less valuable Euros in the world, a Euro becomes less valuable in comparison to other currencies. In our case the US Dollar is the issue because the parts of the world that make lots of stuff sell their stuff in US Dollars. WorkCycles bikes are NOT made in one of those countries but some of their most expensive parts are: gear and dynamo hubs, rollerbrakes, some frames, cranks, pedals and other smaller components.

eur-usd-exchange- apr-2015

That above is the relationship between the value of a Euro and a Dollar over the last year. One Euro is worth approximately 30% fewer Dollars than a year ago. Alternatively you could say that the roughly 25% of a WorkCycles bike’s contents purchased in Dollars now costs 30% more for us Euro money wielding Dutch folks to purchase. Being a little company competing against giants our profit margins are already pathetic. We wrestle each year with where to set our prices so that our bikes are a good value for end customers, our dealers can earn a living from their margins, and we can pay our own employees and bills. It’s been apparent that considerable price increases would be necessary and and making them suck is not an option we’ll ever entertain. We delayed the inevitable as long as possible and have finally pulled the trigger: As of April 2015 WorkCycles bike prices are increasing approximately 10% instead of the usual yearly increases of a couple percent. We’ll honor quotes with the old prices from March 2015 so if you have one of those in your hands you’ve got about three weeks to to say “YES! and get a great deal”. On bikes sold to dealers our margin is so small that the new prices unfortunately have to apply to all new orders. I’ll be mailing those out shortly.

That was the BAD news. The GOOD news is that WorkCycles bikes are now about 30% cheaper for those of you outside Euroland! We pack and ship our bikes almost everywhere (except when it competes with our active dealers). Here are a few examples of the more exotic or unexpected destinations for WorkCycles bikes in the last year or so: Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, Seychelle, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Singapore and Texas. Of course most WorkCycles end up in more predictable locales throughout Europe and North America.

With that out of the way here’s my four year old cutie doing what she loves best: riding her bike.

Amsterdamse Bos Bike Trip 2-2015.13

Bikes, Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Workcycles-Fr8-delivery-brussels-4

Bike transport is a constant challenge at Workcycles. People from all over the world mail, call, skype, tweet, facebook, flickr and visit to buy our special bikes but unless they live in the Netherlands actually getting that bike to them can be expensive. Customers are sometimes incredulous at what it costs to ship a utility bike or trike to their home in another country and sometimes respond with something like “But Chain Relaxion will send a crabon racing bike to me for €10.” Perhaps they will but that’s really a horse of a different color. That crabon, Campagimano equipped Pinarosa weighs less than a ciabatta and can be packed, wheels off, in a torsionally stiff, vertically compliant box the size of its compact geometry frame. Further Chain Relaxion ships about a gazillion packages per day so they get enormous discounts from the shipping firms who want them dearly as customers, and really aren’t all that flexible with high-maintenance, low turnover, little customers like Workcycles.
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Where’s Cargo?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Where's Bakfiets?

My friend and former colleague Alex in Vancouver sent this picture of a Workcycles Cargobike buried under a tasteless display of kickballs in a Whole Foods organic grocery store. Wouldn’t it be better to just ride it, or maybe loan/rent it to customers?
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Japan: Runbike Racing & Other Underground Stuff

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Mitsugi runbike race 3 yrs final start
Start of the race finale. My boy P1 is number 14.

I’ve been in Japan with the family for the past couple weeks. We come here to visit family and friends, talk bikes, and help the kids practice their Japanese. Most of our time is spent around Hiroshima, Osaka and Kyoto and then during each trip we do some traveling to other regions. This is my fourth visit of three to four weeks each so I’ve now seen quite a bit of Japan. I enjoy my time here but don’t claim to understand much at all of what’s going on around me. It’s not just the language barrier; Japanese society is just enormously different from anything else I’m familiar with. It’s also quite private and discrete making it even harder to learn about why people do things the ways they do and why the country is put together the way it is.
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Would you rather not visit your Asian supplier yourself?

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Would you rather not visit your Asian supplier yourself?

I find all sorts of things in my Workcycles mailbox. Most is just work, a bunch is just spam to be marked and deleted and then there are mails like this one. It’s not really spam like the Nigerian money scams, the fake UPS delivery messages or the sex pill ads since somewhere I’m probably on a list of people of companies who do international business. But clearly it’s aimed for a different public, a different kind of business, a different kind of person; one who apparently knows quite well what it’s like at their “Asian supplier” and would prefer, thank you very much, to not have to experience it “again”.

Type “inspection partner” into Google and their site comes up on top: http://www.inspectionpartner.nl/ So they’re apparently real. It’s a Dutch firm and they do both product inspections and social audits. I suppose then they offer valuable services, but the means of communication leaves something to be desired. Or is it supposed to be confrontational? Or is it just a bad match of image and text?

It caught my attention in any case. Any thoughts from the audience?

Eurobike 2011: Lighter, New Decals & Screw Bikes for Normal Folks

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Eurobike 2011-298
Workcycles’ Tom Resink really does take much better pictures than I can.

Wow, I see it’s been almost three months since my last post here at BEM. I guess time just flies when you’ve two little kids running around, not to mention 15 employees, a few dozen suppliers, several thousand customers and a fleet of your own bikes begging for regular exercise. Somehow my blogging hobby just gets pushed to the back burner. I can’t even blame good weather and fun outdoor activities for my lack of writing activity, since the sun has mostly hidden behind a cold shield of clouds and rain since May. Heck, we had to go to the south of France for three weeks to find some decent weather!

But yes, we did make the annual pilgrimage to Eurobike in the famous Zeppelin City of Friedrichshafen, Germany again. And being approximately my gazillionth trade show visit I wasn’t surprised by much. Finding some cool stuff in the first few trade shows one visits is no great trick. That is, of course, assuming you’re actually at an expo for a topic you care about rather than, say, me going to the Office Furniture Expo. But that would be silly because I’m a bike nerd and not an office furniture geek, and though I have ideas for other businesses none of them have anything to do with office furniture aside from needing a place to sit and put my stuff.

But I digress. We went to Eurobike and despite searching quite thoroughly we didn’t find much that seemed “newsworthy”. In all fairness making headlines isn’t the primary goal of our visit. We go there because suppliers, dealers and other industry insiders from all over the world are also there. You get a better understanding of the people you do business with when you talk face to face. We explained to the owner of the Italian centerstand company that all of their new stands broke and he showed us improvements and asked to get some examples back. We exchanged business cards and then he ignored my emails. Over at Sun Race / Sturmey Archer we politely told them how a certain new shifter they’re selling is absolutely horrible, which we’ve since been in regular contact about and exchanging samples and vintage parts for inspiration. And sometimes your friend at A-Bikes connects you to somebody he knows at B-Bikes who knows a guy at C-Bikes who might be good to make the left-hand threaded, eleven speed spokes you need.
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Shanghai Workcycles?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

shanghai u lock

A couple weeks ago Matt Ransford sent me the image that inspired this post about the connection between transport bikes and colonial rulers. Accompanying the image above Matt writes:

“I’ve got another one for you, this time from Shanghai. It’s not as impressive in the photo as it was in person, but this U-lock had to have been at least 1-inch thick rebar. The removeable bar is hooked at one end and locked in the can at the other. The lock itself is a simple padlock, but it’s at the far end of that can so that you can’t get any leverage if you try to get in there with bolt cutters. Pretty impressively brute DIY solution.

Matt”

I’ll add that it’s all the more impressive because such a lock can be made (and probably was made) entirely from scrap parts (the fire extinguisher can being the best part). That’s good design, as opposed to most of the pointless bike crap invented by professional designers.

shanghai workcycles transport

Just a couple days later Erwin van Doorne, also in Shanghai, sent me the above picture of his bike having a flat repaired. Translation of his Dutch explanation:

” Occasionally I get a flat tire (there is sometimes a lot of glass and metal on the road here) but for a couple kwai they patch your tire.

zài jiàn,
Erwin”

The bike is a Workcycles Transport 2-Tube and it’s outfitted as Dutch as can be, right down to the Bobike child seat and Dutch milk crate on the front carrier. The frame is 70cm huge so it’s a fair guess that Erwin would have trouble finding a bike to fit his 200cm or so frame in China.

Note that the bike mechanics are patching the tube with the wheel in place, just like we do in the Netherlands… but most of the western world seems to be unaware of. I particularly like their little, portable workbench to keep the tube and glue clean during the patching process.

Thanks Matt and Erwin!

Safety First! Hong Kong Style

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Workcycles rider Matt Ransford sent this photo from Hong Kong. He added that there aren’t many bikes to be seen in Hong Kong but those you see look like they’ve been around for a long time and they all have rod operated brakes. Thanks for passing that along Matt!

I seem to recall Hong Kong being David Byrne’s pick for World’s Worst Cycling City.

This delivery bike, with its big basket type front carrier affixed to the frame is just like old English delivery bikes. This, of course, was way back when it was still commonplace for tradespeople and delivery boys in the UK to move their goods about by bicycle. This connection is no great surprise given that Hong Kong was a British colony until recently.
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Inspirations and Hypocrites

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

the bird machine poster

The other day Tom called me from our Veemarkt shop to ask about paying the import duty for a mysterious package. It was a tube marked from “The Bird Machine” and clearly addressed to Workcycles. I also knew nothing about it so I asked Tom to have the TNT hold it until we could figure out what it was. A quick search found the website of, no great surprise… The Bird Machine. And right there on the home page was the above poster (called “Portable”) of a bakfiets with a tree in the bak. OK, we might not know anything about it but it’s clearly intended for us, and it’s most probably not a letter bomb or anthrax from a Bullitt or Metrofiet owner still angry about Josh’s Guest Post or some of the 154 following comments.
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The Cuddlebike (i.e. Valentine’s Day Special)

Monday, February 14th, 2011

cuddle-bike

A proposal for this bike design showed up in my email a while back and I let it hang around, figuring it’d somehow fit into a post, eventually. Just to be clear I periodically receive concepts and proposals for all sorts of bike-related stuff. Actually I get proposals for other things too but I won’t bore you with the details of how I’m going to get rich by helping out the heir of a certain deceased African despot.

Some of the bike proposals that have landed in my mail:

  • alternative drive systems since we all know how awful pedaling is
  • systems to charge all of one’s mobile devices by bike on the way to the office since electrical plugs can be so scarce at the workplace
  • Chinese made bakfietsen sold by the container-load, flatpacked. They cost about $100/bakfiets in case you’re wondering.
  • But after seeing the “Cuddlebike” a few times the idea began to grow on me. Admittedly one does have to first be able to look past the miniature size and crude construction of the yellow prototype. Wouldn’t that actually be fun to ride though (in a normal size of course)? With a long enough seat and treadles perhaps three of four people could ride it together. Perhaps it would be handy for blind or mobility challenged riders.

    Then I found the little mpeg video in the mail showing a much more developed looking version of the Cuddlebike. Kinda neat.

    cuddle-bike-2

    Interested? Then contact its inventor who claims, incidentally, that the Cuddlebike is patented. He’s looking for a manufacturer to take the product further.

    Kristian Brömme
    ak [DOT] broemme [AT ]hotmail [DOT] com