Monday, August 27, 2007

Not all sweetness and lights.

With a big ride coming up I gave some thought to some new lights. Though I like my generator hub, something small and light and frictionless. A friend of mine VictimOfNoel (not his real name) has a set of the neat LED units from ayup which I quite liked. They come with a six hour battery and mounts etc which I thought would have been ideal for Audax rides. So I ordered some. Or at least tried to. Dearie gracious me.

First I had to endure their truly appalling website with it's shitty flash animation and bizzare design, which is not much fun over a dialup connection, trust me. Once I managed to find what I wanted it was impossible to find the exact price, because GST and shipping were added later in the process. Once I had ordered, I noticed the default shipping address in paypal was wrong, so I e-mailled them to ask if they could correct my error.

After a week of waiting for either a response to my e-mail or for my lights, I e-mailled ayup again this morning asking them to either confirm shipment of my lights, or to refund my money. Within 30 seconds my money was refunded. Shit! Even Tel$tra tries harder than that to hang onto customers. My refund was accompanied by a note referring me to a mass mailling they sent out during the week pointing out they were out of stock of some of the merchandise they were still selling on their website. No attempt to provide me with something different, no offer to ship something same day. Nothing.

I hate bad service. Even through their product is a decent one, they deserve to fail. I'll never deal with this company again and I recommend you don't either. During the week, I noticed this on a blog. Ayup manages to observe about four of these simple rules of how to shed customers:

1. Refuse to help when the customer is not happy with the product or service.

2. Ignore customers when they are standing there and it's obvious they need some attention. Better still, make sure you keep talking to your friend on the next register.

3. Push customers into buying stuff they don't need.

4. Lie.

5. Be rude and talk down to them. Do your best to make them feel like idiots.

6. Make sure you never have important items on your shelves.

7. Have only one or two people serving at peak times.

8. Display one price on the item, then charge a higher one.

9. Make sure your staff doesn't know how to do a simple transaction, like a lay-by.

10. Don't return phone calls or emails.

3,899km so far this year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bon chance, bon route

Around 10 hours from now, at 0500 AEST, the riders in the Paris-Brest-Paris set off on their 1,200km epic across France. I was hoping to be among them, but alas was not made of the same stern stuff - this time anyhow.

It's been my pleasure over the last 12 months or so to ride with some of the people going through their final nervous checks in Paris; to exchange messages of support over the web, or just to be inspired by them.

To all of you, but particularly Tim, Barry, Simon, Stephen, Peter, Mike and Amy: I'll be following your progress with best wishes from afar. To all of you, good luck. May the cycling gods smile.

3,768km so far this year.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cycling for the morbidly obese

I've started commuting again which has made me very happy, although my commute in Hobart includes a lot of traffic and indifferent roads. Still, it is mainly downhill on the way in, so I always arrive at work with a smile and enjoy the workout on the way home. Zooming through Taroona yesterday with the Derwent shimmering in the winter sun was just delightful.

I need the exercise because according to the body mass index I am morbidly obese. 103kg and 175cm means I'm a 35, well into the red zone. There's two reasons for this: firstly the body mass index is a crock of shit (a lesson for another day) and secondly, I am truthfully a little bit overweight. Or underheight. If I was just 25cm taller I wouldn't have to lose 20kg. Time for some stretches. Or high heels.

Interestingly, being such a porker might just mean I can't use Campagnolo products. Poor fat me. But then it's hard to know for sure. I stumbled across this on the web. If this is a question they get a lot, then possibly some of the people who use Campagnolo gear aren't too bright:

Q: Last year I weighed 80 kg and now I weigh 83 kg. Can I still use Campagnolo products, or am I too heavy?

Really dude? You're asking permission?

A: "There is no clear dividing line defining when someone is "too heavy" for Campagnolo products."

Well thank Christ for that. I've got 20-year-old Campag gear on my road bike and I don't want the cops pulling me over. Maybe they should think of bringing in a defining line - say 85kg. You don't want fatties spoiling the brand image.

But there's bad news too:

If you weigh 80kg or more, you must be especially vigilant and have your bicycle inspected regularly for any evidence of cracks, deformation, or other signs of fatigue or stress.

Now I've weighed 80kg or more for 20 years and ridden bikes all that time. I really thrash them too - jumping off gutters and bunny-hopping on narrow road tyres, riding on terrible roads. Never a crack or deformation has been seen. Who does this work anyway? Should I be off to the heavy vehicle inspection office? I mean really - these guys are component makers. What's going to fail? The derailleurs? Are the brakes not strong enough to fight the forces caused by speed times bulk? Are the levers going to fall apart in my pudgy hands? At least I've avoided making the mistake of buying Campagnolo products recently. Clearly they're not making them like they used to.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to buy a reinforced seatpost.

Photo top left is of my bike in the workstand in my shed as the sun sets over the distant Snowy Ranges. Yeah, life here is tough.

3,591km so far this year.