Friday 8 February 2008

The Press Discovers Cycling: "I like cleaning it."

Cannondale Scalpel

This week's announcement that Canada's Dorel Industries has purchased Cannondale has not gone unnoticed in the mainstream press. The Globe & Mail in Toronto did a piece today which I have copied below. Of course, it makes those of us who ride high-end bikes look a bit, uh, crazy. Of course, these are mountain bikers being interviewed in the article so they are already a bit strange. Mountain bikers that actually clean their bikes!

Why buy a Chevette when you can have a Ferrari?

From Friday's Globe and Mail
February 8, 2008 at 9:14 AM EST

Sandro doesn't want you to know where he lives, where he works or even what his last name is. He has a secret - a lie, some might call it - that mustn't get out.

But here it is anyway: Sandro paid $7,000 for a bicycle. Why the cloak-and-dagger act?
"My wife would probably kill me if she knew," he says discreetly from work. "I told her I bought it with my sister."

Like many big-spending weekend warriors, he fell for Cannondale Bicycle, a company whose bikes have been ridden to stage victories at the Tour de France and world championships in mountain biking.

"Why have a Chevette when you can have a Ferrari?" says Sandro, who rides a few hours a week during the warmer months to keep in shape.

On Monday, Montreal-based Dorel Industries announced a deal to buy Cannondale for about $200-million (U.S.).

Dorel already sells low-priced bikes to discount retailers such as Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart. The purchase was as much about acquiring a bike line as adopting thousands of Cannondale disciples who spare no expense on buying and maintaining their wheels.

"We see strong growth in this area, with the bike enthusiast who wants to buy his brand in a smaller store as opposed to a big-box outlet," says Dorel president and chief executive officer Martin Schwartz.

Sandro picked up his prized Cannondale Team Scalpel mountain bike ("the exact same model the pros ride") in December and carefully rolled it into the furnace room of his west Toronto home.

And there it remains, away from the cold and salt that might corrode the bike's $1,400 (Canadian) handmade French wheels or $1,500 front suspension.

"It pains me not to ride, but I go down to take a look at it now and then," he says. "It's aesthetically quite pleasing. I like cleaning it."

Michael Cranwell, general manager at Duke's Cycle in Toronto, calls himself a weekend warrior even though he rides a backup bike four or five times a week during the winter and races his Team Scalpel all summer long.

Last year, Cannondale invited him to its Bethel, Conn., plant to test its newest models. Since then, the Scalpel has become "near and dear to my heart," says Mr. Cranwell, who's as fastidious as a NASA engineer when it comes to maintaining his beloved wheels. After each race he disassembles the bike to clean and inspect each part. "I tend to be a little more anal than most," he says.

Aside from Cannondale, well-heeled bike nuts pay up to $10,000 for models from Specialized, Merlin, Litespeed, Serotta and GT. What about these high-priced bikes inspires such devotion?
Like most top-drawer manufacturers, Cannondale outfits its stock with premium components and lightweight frames. Unlike others, it has a reputation for experimental engineering. The Scalpel, for instance, features a front suspension that uses a single telescoping fork with 88 bearings. The Scalpel's whole assemblage of space age metals and carbon fibre weighs as much as two large laptops.

"They define cutting edge," says Duke's Cycle manager Mark Newman, lifting the sole 23-pound (10.5 kilogram) Team Scalpel left in the store. "Riders respect that."

A precision instrument on the racetrack, these pricey bikes don't necessarily make great commuter vehicles. For one, the lightweight parts won't endure a regular grind as well as heavier, less-expensive components.

And second, the Scalpel is worth as much as a decent used car, making it a prime target for thieves. "You do not lock this bike up outside," Mr. Newman says. "If you're dumb enough to do that, I would even consider stealing it."

It's possible to buy bike insurance, but it isn't cheap. Insurers demand about 10 cents of premium for every dollar of bike, putting the cost of insuring a high-end Cannondale at about $700. And when you own four bikes, as Mr. Cranwell does, the insurance costs become prohibitive. That's why he has a foolproof security system. "My bike can only be one of three places," he says. "At the shop, at home or underneath me."

When Sandro mentions to friends and co-workers how much he paid for the bike, he gets strange looks. "People are always asking what the difference is between my bike and a $200 Canadian Tire special," he says. "It's like night and day. Buying a bike is an art. If you buy garbage, you end up with garbage."

The dollars are in the details
The cranks are constructed from a rare, high-grade aluminum.
The wheels are handmade in France. Replacements run about $1,300.
The swing arms rely on the natural give of carbon fibre rather than heavy metal pivots.


andy said...

dude takes apart his bike after every race? lol. cannondale riders....what can you say?

Sprocketboy said...

I think it is more the fact that he is an engineer! Obsessive, at the least.

Donald said...

Yeah... I need to be more obsessive about my bike cleaning... but it's hard enough to find time to ride much less clean.