13 September, 2007

Links, Updates, and a Question

I've come across a few links you might find interesting:

As for updates:
  • Umm, those 650B Velo Orange fenders I said would be here in a few weeks won't. Why? I forgot to send the purchase order. Duh!
  • All the extra long Honjo fenders and hardware are still expected at the end of the month.
  • We've ordered some neat little clips that allow you to add bag loops to any saddle. Think these will sell well?
  • We are getting highly polished 45mm x 700c stainless steel VO fenders. They will cost under $40 with all hardware.
Finally a Question:

Recently, as VO continues to grow, we've been air freighting some products from Asia to keep them in stock. Air freight is the most environmentally damaging way to move goods, and expensive. Transport by ship is the best way, followed by train and truck. So I'm thinking of making it a VO policy to only use ship and, train, truck transport, except for samples and , occasionally, very light goods. This would mean a longer wait when we run out, but a much lower environmental impact. It might also help keep our prices a bit lower. Plus, I'm getting better about ordering stuff far in advance. What do you think? Would you be willing to wait longer knowing the goods were being transported in a more responsible way?

47 comments:

Michael S said...

Chris,
I think it's fantastic that VO is at the point where it can order things far in advance and trust the demand will be there. Cheers for you and your attempt to make velo orange more vert.

Anonymous said...

I like instant gratification as much as the next guy, but I fully support your low-impact shipping idea!
I would also suggest using only USPS for shipping US orders. I think you do this already. The mailman comes to my house everyday no matter what, so one more package won't make much difference, but UPS or Fedex have to make a special trip.

Anonymous said...

Chris - will the Honjo shipment include hammered 49mm 650B fenders?

Thanks,
Clay

franklyn said...

I would totally be happy to wait for ship freight and lower the environmental impact

C said...

I say ditch the plane, stick to ship and train.

Anonymous said...

I fully support shipping products in the most environmentally manner possible. I think shipping via ship and train is a great idea.

I also think the saddle clips would sell quite well.

Ty said...

Yes, I would support transport by ship. I don't mind waiting. Uncertainty is what can create anxiety. So I would be completely fine with hearing "you'll get it in 6-8 weeks", but I wouldn't like so much hearing "you'll get it in 1-4 months"

Anonymous said...

Yes the Letter Carrier comes to your door/box each day but, in any metro and suburban area I've lived in, the boxes get delivered by a different person using a small truck not unlike the UPS FedEx trucks.

I don't typically order my equipment and accessories weeks in advance of needeing/wanting them. I'd likley shop elsewhere if faced with a 1 month delivery.

Manufacture it locally, stock it, or ship it quickly.

tHeO

patrick said...

i would be willing to wait for sea-freighted goods. thanks for your efforts in this regard.

have you ever thought about making super-coverage fenders like they had on the old porteurs? I mean the kind that wrap around the sidewalls of the tires. I'll bet those are magnificently effective!

all best

patrick

Anonymous said...

Hold on - according to the following study, carbon dioxide emissions from shipping are 'double' those of aviation:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/transport/Story/0,,2025723,00.html

Anonymous said...

Sorry - here's a better link:
http://tinyurl.com/37929w

Don said...

Affirmative! Absolutely!

Joel said...

Most of the things I buy from you, I cannot get anywhere else. If waiting means better air, I am all for it.

Quick comment on Chouinard and his company Patagonia:

Much as I admire his work (he, his wife and some associates paid for a national park in Argentina almost the size of Connecticut), I feel Patagonia is not the company it used to be.

Much like Trek, it has gone from making wonderfully useful everyperson type products to either highly specialized technical gear or gear that is more fashion than sense. Also like Trek, a lot of the change started when Patagonia shifted from primarily a US manufacturing company to a US design company buying from the same Asian sources as its competitors.

For outdoor wear, I mainly buy from Filson. Patagonia's wool base layers (made in the US) are pretty good though.

C said...

When I worked at REI HQ we referred to Patagonia as Patagucci.

I hear where Joel is coming from though the reality of the matter is that here in the US we've lost the capacity to produce many of the more technical outerwear garments in the quantities needed. Small shops exist but they can't produce in large quantities and large factories exist but they don't have the ability to work with the newer fabrics. REI, Patagonia, North Face and many others have tried to find manufacturers in the US who have both the technical skills and capacity to create these garments in sufficient quantities and it just doesn't exist anymore.

It's not just a cheap labor issue. Most of these companies would love to bring production closer to home, especially given the issues with rampant piracy in Asia! I know North Face and REI are now having some of their garments made in British Columbia in large part due to piracy/IP concerns. It costs more but you don't have to worry about the factory cranking out one shipment for you and a second shipment for themselves to sell on the black market/e-Bay.

Tim K said...

Those Blackbird photos are a treasure trove. Thanks!

As for Chouinard and Patagonia ... I think Chris is right. He has done some amazing things with the company and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a company that size such impressive ethical chops.

As for Filson...look out. They are now owned by an couple of private equity firms. The chairman is from Polo-Ralph Lauren and the President is a former VP, from, yep, Patagonia. They have plans to open a dozen or so retail stores...that usually means trouble. IMHO, once a company starts catering to the high-end malls in major cities...that's a nail in the coffin.

Dr. Hans Noodleman said...

I am fully in support of the no-air-freight policy. Thanks.

Yann said...

yes, i would be willing to wait longer.

Chris Kulczycki said...

We will have the 650B hammered Honjos.

Ships do pollute more in total because they carry a lot more cargo than planes, but they pollute far less per ton of cargo. I understand that river barges are the absolute cleanest way to move stuff.

Patagonia (Patagucci) clothes are worth the high prices to me because they use organic cotton and recycled fleece. About half my clothes come from Patagonia (all bought on sale) and I find they last almost forever and are always stylish in a rumpled, I don't care how I look, way.

Anonymous said...

I definitely support this. A slightly longer wait is definitely worth it. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris:
Yes ti those cute little add-on seat bag loops. I have no idea how large the market would be for them, BUT one of my riding partners and spouse will be riding in the Mid-Atlantic states in a month, and she wants to have some extra carrying capacity on her Ti-Carbon Fiber mix frame. And he doesn't like handlebar bags, so she's prelly much resigned to a seatpost rack and rack trunk Those little add-on brackets would give her a lighter option for carrying the rain gear and cold gear.

thefastfifty said...

According to the Chouinard talk linked to in the post, Pataguccigoni are having at least some things dyed in Portugal because that's where they could have it done their way. He talks about a river turned black from all the dye houses using the water and dumping it back untreated. Chouinard had them install something to treat the water before using it, and another one downstream to treat the used water.
So at least if you believe Chouinard, their manufacturing practices are driven by their quality/environmental standards and little else.
In any case, Patagocci seem to have reached a position where they can charge whatever they want and folks will buy it. That's a fine spot to be in, and good for them for exploiting that position less than others.

Thanks for the shout-out!

Alan said...

The sorts of products I buy from Velo Orange are never anything that I need immediately. Therefore having to wait a bit is fine with me.

An additional aspect of Filson and Patagonia clothing is the clothes last longer as they are of higher quality. The higher price is more than just paying for the brand name. Therefore, their life cycle is longer before ending up in a landfill. Most of my Patagonia clothing has been found in thrift stores and is in nearly perfect condition. When I find Filson products in thrift stores I sell them on ebay.

Anonymous said...

The comments containing a "willingness to wait" are often accompanied by an acknowledgement of "not needing the items right away (i.e. not really needing them)". If I ran a retial operation selling to such folks, I would make sure I've got inventory.

The customer commitment described here is unusual (suspect) and not likely the basis for a sustainable business model. If VO is to be a hobby, very well, the right subscriber list may sustain enterprise.

BpF

Anonymous said...

I'll buy a set of those bag clips!

Alan said...

"The customer commitment described here is unusual (suspect) and not likely the basis for a sustainable business model."

I disagree with the above statement. Some of the business practices at VO, surface cargo vs. air, may slow VO's growth, but I would not call them suspect in any way. I see the full disclosure as being up front and honest.

The products Chris is selling are simply not found in local bike shops and not easily, if at all, found via the web. Therefore a customer can not simply head to the local bike shop and pick up the same item. Given the unique character of most VO products I don't see a longer wait for items as being a hindrance to the business model. I estimate that most VO customers will be willing to wait for items if for no other reason that there are very few substitutes available. Good luck heading to your local bike shop and finding $35 alumiunum fenders.

VO is not a shop that will appeal to everyone and that is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

Any sneak peaks of the VO inverse brake lever design?

Thanks!

keithwwalker said...

and here's another link,
Cycling with Alex Moulton, blog:
http://blog.lemonedweb.co.jp/

I can't even read Japanese, but the blog is about a cute Japanese woman and her cohorts riding all over on Moulton bicycles. When they are not riding, their vehicle of choice is the Mini station wagon (complete with wood trim)!

Enjoy the photos, this month (september 07) they are in England!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I agree with the Guardian article, unlike automobiles which have 40 years of experience of emissions controls, ship's engines are unregulated.

IMO, ships can and do pollute much more than an aiplane does on a pound freight/mile basis.

Think about it, aircraft even though unregulated, have to be super-efficient in order to be economically viable.

Now if you can get a train to come from China, Japan and Taiwan to deliver the goods, I am all for that.lol

Anonymous said...

To Alan,

I did not mean to say that the VO business practice or shipping philosophy is "suspect". The "customer commitment" means that of the shopper who, in the internet age, can shop competitors world-wide for price and/or faster delivery and can be expected to be attracted to faster delivery.

If an eco-friendly business strategy attracts customers who truly are "willing to wait", that's great. But I wouldn't expect it to be a competitive advantage in the niche of high-end, hand-crafted, bicycles & accessories probably more often purchased by 40-50 year old white males who appreciate such goods and have the means to get what they want, when they want it, and for whom environmental consciousness is just a side story to the real motivation.

I'm generalizing of course. I realize some customers are younger and some are women. But I'd wager I'm not far off the mark.

BpF

c said...

I have an old Brooks Pro without bag loops and I would love a set of the bag loops

Anonymous said...

As long as those bag loops fit Carradice bag straps, I'd be in for 3-4 pairs.

Steve D. NYC

Rob said...

Chris,

Regarding the choice of shipping as it relates to pollution, what does your gut say? It's nice that you floated the idea, but I think most people shop at your store because they trust your instinct.

BTW, I like the topics I've noticed on your blog lately. I was out of the loop
most of August, and then in a mental fog
after PBP for a bit, but recently I've
begun to reconnect to the online discussion sources that interest me.

rob hawks

Tom Vogel said...

As first science officer Spock said, "After a time, you may find that 'having' is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as 'wanting.' It is not logical, but it is often true."....
I want to wait longer.

Anonymous said...

Fully support shipping by ship. Too bad there's not a pedal-power shipping option.

Mark said...

Chris, thanks for posting this question about shipping. I guess I agree (in this case) with "anonyme" about using USPS. As for overseas shipping, if using surface transport is available as an option, sure, why not use it.

Also, thanks for the cool saddle rail loops! I've been looking for a set of those forever. Will order a set.

markp

Gary said...

More than happy to wait for VO bicycling products if it means thatwe are acting more responsibly.

I have a couple pairs of the older British saddle bag attachment gizmos that fix to the saddle rails to carry a saddlebag. If rails aren't wide enough then Carradice bags don't set up well.
Better than not having the option of using a saddlebag though.
Gary Jacobson
Rosendale, NY

berg said...

RE: Keith w.

"IMO, ships can and do pollute much more than an aiplane does on a pound freight/mile basis.
Think about it, aircraft even though unregulated, have to be super-efficient in order to be economically viable."

You make or may not be correct, but it's not an option issue. It's a measurable comparison. I'll trust Chris's numbers; I'm certain he has investigated it throughly. Also, airplane fuel consumption efficiency has little or nothing to do with emissions efficiency.

Oh yeah, I need a couple of sets of the little clippy things.

CityBikes said...

re: Berg

Thanks for pointing out that MPG is not relative to kg of C02 per gallon. Little two stroke scooters get excellent gas milage but emit insane amounts of pollutants per mile. Same goes for lawnmowers, chainsaws, gasoline powered leaf blowers (most hated) etc....

Boats are slow, their engines consume a lot of diesel for a long time, but each container ship has many many many fold the cargo capacity of a jet.

Jets are fast, their engines consume a lot of fuel for a shorter period of time but can't carry that much.

As far as how much pollutants per mile travelled, I don't have that data. Neither do I have the data describing the amount of petro-chemicals consumed per mile travelled.

I would assume that a completely loaded slow moving boat could move a set mass of cargo with less fuel AND less emissions. But, I have no data to actually crunch the numbers.

I feel that the Guardian article played around with a select set of data, but wasn't that well rounded.

Anonymous said...

I see velo-orange elk hide bar wrap won the "contest" on bikesnobnyc

http://tinyurl.com/3y6xd7

see the bob jackson halfway down

Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding cynical how you get your products from Asia/Europe doesn't matter one bit in terms of air quality or impact. The plane is going to make the trip whether your small shipment is on the plane or not.

Anonymous said...

I THINK THE POINT IS THIS: NO MATTER THE SHIPPING COST (MONETARY OR ENVIRONEMNTAL), THE FACT IS MORE THAN A FEW PEOPLE LIEK RESPONDING TO AND OFFERING TOPICS POSTED ON THE vo BLOG.

If this helps people sleep better, makes a difference and/or translates to positive cah flow, ship any way that helps.

Ride on!

BpF

Jay said...

Chris,
Let me kow when the bag clips get in.I need a copule of sets myself.
Thanks,wjbonsai@comcast.net

Anonymous said...

I'd like a set of bag clips to fit a Brooks Pro as well.

Steve Palincsar
palincss@his.com

beth h said...

Although Velo Orange and other bicycle businesses (including mine!) are in the business of selling things to stay open, I'd like to put in a good word for reusing, recycling, making your own and/or doing without when and where applicable.

Caps, neckwarmers, and sweaters can be knitted at home, or sewn from square patches of "felted" (boiled) older sweaters that no longer fit.
Saddlebag loops can be fashioned from heavy-duty wire drapery hangers from the cleaners, bent to fit your saddle rails (I did this for a friend recently and they seem to work just fine). Saddlebags can be sewn from old backpack material or canvas bags, both found at thrift stores.

I'm not saying "Stop buying everything" -- that's not possible or practical when it comes to bicycles. But if we were all to think more about what's really needed, then perhaps we the customers could participate in some of the responsibility for utilizing less jet or boat fuel. All that's needed is for us to simply be more mindful about how and what we consume.

mpetry912 said...

I want to put in a plug for Patagonia here, while I understand about competitive market pressures and offshore manufacture to stay competitive – the former owner of Columbia Sportswear is a neighbor of mine, and we’ve talked at length about the decline of value added US manufacturing in favor of marketing flash. However, I feel OK about having Patagonia's place in the outdoor products world and the balance they strike between profit and social conciousness. Like Chris, about half of my clothes are from Patagonia, and they used to make a fabulous cycling jersey! I probably have a dozen of them, all from Ebay for under $20 apiece.

Last year I needed a new roller bag for travel and I bought a Patagonia which came to about 4x what I would for an el cheapo model. While I’m sure that the Patagonia logo is responsible for about $50 of the additional cost and maybe it even came out of that same big factory in China, I was happy with my bag and off I went on a big European road trip.

It was a nice bag but I shortly discovered the handle was balky. It would’nt retract into the bag, at the most inopportune times, like jumping into a cab on Avenida Diagonale in Barcelona. I was late for the plane, and it was only the steady stream of profanity that finally got the handle telescoped down into the bag.

Needless to say this sort of problem would be unacceptable in the el cheapo bag, but in my fancy Patagonia… kind of like a Campagnolo Record Ergo derailleur that won’t shift. I was at the ticket counter for my trip home, LHR to Seattle, fortunately business class, and the prettiest gal I’d seen the whole trip handed me my ticket with a smile, and the friggin’ handle would’nt go down.

Exasperated passengers waiting in line behind me shuffled and sighed. After struggling with it for 30 seconds I busted the handle off and send the thing down the carousel.

When I got home on SUNDAY MORNING I emailed Patagonia customer service and in 2 hours I had a reply, and a commitment to send a complete new handle. This was SUNDAY. On Tuesday I had the part, Fed Ex overnite, no charge, and I installed it in about 10 minutes and it has worked perfectly to this day (with the help of a little silicone spray lube).

So, ranch in Chile or no (and that was mostly Doug Tompkins of Esprit, not Yvon) I have nothing but good to say about Patagonia. They take care of their customers. Unfortunately, in today’s world, the low bid is king, and good customer service is one of the first things to go. But there’s a new paradigm in the world – Velo-Orange is an example – and conscious, savvy customers will send their business to the place where it is most deserved.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, Wa

ecovelo said...

Chris,

I fully support your efforts to ship products with less impact on the earth.

You might also consider offering 'carbon neutral' shipping options for customers, too -- several websites allow you to calculate your impact and buy credits to offset your emissions.

Keep up the good work!

patrick said...

hi chris

another thought i had, perhaps offer pre-ordering on things that you will ship by boat... for example, I would pre-order some 650B VO fenders if that was an option.

i was thinking about how even when I buy something and receive it instantly, it usually sits in the parts box for weeks or months while I find time to install it. so if, instead, I ordered it and then it showed up in a few months, well, I don't see how it would make a lot of difference.

Cheers

Patrick

Anonymous said...

Chiming in here a little late, but I'd certainly be willing to wait longer to get items procured in a manner that reduces environmental degredation. Discouraging air freight is a great idea.

Anyway, I've been patienty waiting for the VO water bottle cages for what seems to be forever and I'll sit tight until they arrive!