Friday, June 06, 2008

A Million Bucks? What a Crock*

This is a bike that Koga has developed for Dutch Olympic hopeful Theo Bos. Koga claims they have spent a million US dollars developing this special one off bike.

I’m sorry I don’t buy it, all I see is just another carbon fiber bike. If this was new technology I might be convinced, but CF bikes have been around for twenty years or more, they were built for the Olympics in the 1980s.

It’s a bicycle fer Cri-sakes, not a Formula One race car; where do you get a million bucks. Give us a breakdown of where the million dollars went.

What about truth in advertising? Because this is what it is. You build a one off bike, and then you think of a number. Okay, a million dollars is a nice round figure.

Next, put out a press release saying you’ve spent a million developing this special bike that is so light a fart would blow it away.

The press and the general media, knowing sod all about bikes goes with the story.

When it comes to bicycle racing it is the strongest rider that will win every time. If Theo Bos is the best rider he would still win on a stock bike that anyone can buy.

Can’t Koga see that? If Bos were to win on one of their stock bikes, it would in the end sell more bikes. Because what they are saying is, our stock bikes are not good enough for the Olympics we have to spend a million dollars.

The smart thing to do would be to pay Theo Bos a million dollars if he wins the gold on a stock bike.

* UK translation: What a Crock = What a Load of Bollocks!

Footnote from Dave: Ooops! Koga not Kona, mistake edited. See first comment. Thanks Darren


darren said...

Agree with your sentiment, though it's Koga(-Miyata) who should be skewered, not Kona

jmgorman said...

While I agree that it is mostly marketing bs, let's look at what we've heard before from other manufacturers.

1. Molds for cf frames cost $100,000 or more, that is why Boonen and Diluca rode aluminum frames from their sponsors until the fit could be just right.

2. Wind tunnel testing can cost $10,000 per day or more.

3. The Euro (Koga's presumed natural currency) is spanking the dollar right now.

So, if Koga had to go through several iterations of the frame, if Bos spent many, many hours in the wind tunnel testing each frame, and if the PR consultant is a very good (read: expensive) one, total development cost could feasibly reach one million dollars.

Of course, what's the use if he doesn't win his gold medals.

And Theo Bos can kill it on a steel lugged frame. See his many videos on youtube racing Keirin in Japan.

Mike said...

I have to disagree with you on the importance of bikes in competition. Although you're completely correct for road racing and group start track racing but any kind of time trial, or pursuit, or even a match sprint are all won by fractions of a second. The drag from wheels and frame can make the difference between beating your opponent by 0.1 seconds or losing by 0.1.

Jim N said...

Dave, you're forgetting that $1 million is only about 27000 Euro these days.

Anonymous said...

Are those regular aluminum Sugino cranks and chain ring? If they are good enough for the 600000€ super bike then they are good enough for my 750€ Langster.

I guess that underlines Dave's point quite efficiently.

VintageSpin said...

It’s erroneous to attribute a win to any one factor. Did this rider win because he was on a Koga, or because he had organic granola for breakfast, or because he used the CTS training system, or wore Assos shorts?
That is what manufacturers do to sell their products, what gurus do to sell their “knowledge”, and where athletes’ superstitions and routines come from (don’t step on the white baselines, don’t shave during the Stanley Cup).
Sure if you add up all the contributing costs to reach this final product you can come up with any dollar figure (how far back in history do you want to go?). But then, why not consider all the factors contributing to an athletes’ win (from pedigree to life’s experiences)?
Because you can't package and sell that.

Anonymous said...

Come now...
Those wheels must run $10,000 each, and maybe the tires were handcrafted by elves.
Just two questions: Do track bikes have a weight limit as road bikes do?.. and... Is the bike laterally stiff and vertically compliant??
(whatever that means)

Anonymous said...

1 million dollars in business is not that much when you consider R&D. I'll be willing to bet even the large scale sweatshop-type frame makers like Trek spend far north of 1 million dollars to develop bike #1 from the production line. I think you're mistaken on all counts but it's nice to have an opinion.

Anonymous said...

If cycling is going to be about whose technology is best, as has been the case since the 80 Olympics, then it no more belongs as a sport in the Olympics than does car racing.

Redtaildd said...

There is also the psychological factor. If the other teams look at this bike and say to themselves, "That looks fast, we'll never be able to beat it, we can't match the money." They are probably right but not because of anything special about the bike. We cyclists are a very superstitious lot. We believe that saving a couple of grams by spending big bucks on our saturday group ride bike will put us at the front of the pack.

VintageSpin said...

No bicycle will make a person win a race any more than a cult “makes” a person do something. The athlete takes responsibility for his actions (and members of a cult also).
A special one-off bike doesn’t even allow someone to win. That is why winning competitions will never be scientific, reduced to facts and figures that can be replicated. There can never be a double-blind study done. Winning on a Koga doesn’t mean they won because they were on a Koga, yet the winner was on a Koga, thus the perception that it had something to do with winning. And that’s what sells brands and lighter components and keeps the markets going.
Sometimes our intuition is wrong.
You would think lighter bikes climb or sprint faster, but that has never been proven. It’s manufacturers’ hype.
It has and never will been proven lighter equals a win, or it would have to be stated that only lighter wins. That is an assumption made by gullible riders and racers, and they go to great lengths and expense to reinforce that, as Dave was bringing out.
Sport is driven more by marketing than science. And manufacturers will use science to support their products.
That doesn't make them any more essential to winning.

mpetry912 said...

I think this is indicative of where the bike industry is going. The marketing and business development folks are following the same "formula for growth" as the computer, home entertainment, and fashion industries (and I would argue that the bike industry is now a fashion industry), adding more features and more "tech" to everything from saddles to shifting.

And the public buys it! At least the cycling public. I know lots of riders who will think nothing of spending $200 for a carbon fiber water bottle cage (those 15grams will really help my climbing) but in the meantime they are 30 lb overwieght and their drivetrain (dura ace 10) looks like it got run thru the cat sandbox.

What the industry needs is to get more people on bikes, removing the barriers to entry. Most bike shops are now so over-focused on ultra high end geekery that the average person coming in off the street is totally intimidated.

Design exercises like the Koga are interesting, but have as much relevance to anything related to REAL cycling as the Bugatti Veyron has to driving.


Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA

Doug said...

"What a crock". I love that title. Nothing better than calling it how you see it Dave. Thanks for the reality check.

Anonymous said...

You would think lighter bikes climb or sprint faster, but that has never been proven. It’s manufacturers’ hype.

Sorry, but that is a load of crock. Acceleration is a function of force and mass. Increase mass and the acceleration achieved with given force is reduced.

VintageSpin said...

On Anonymous’ comment on lighter bikes:

Sorry, but that is a load of crock. Acceleration is a function of force and mass. Increase mass and the acceleration achieved with given force is reduced.

This is an accepted scientific principle. It is an assumption based on mathematics and observation. Name one accepted study that shows conclusively a racer on a lighter bike climbs faster, or a sprinter on a lighter track bike sprints faster. And it has to be a scientific study, not an assumption based on scientific principles.
My point is that you can’t name one scientific contribution that is absolutely essential to winning. What is the one thing a competitor has to have to win, thanks to the advancements of science?
And you can’t name drugs.

My conclusion being, it is the illusions created by capitalism that influences athletes more than anything real.

bikesgonewild said...

...great post & stirring of the waters, david...being kinda old school myself, i understand & accept your's the mind & the legs on any bicycle that will determine results (w/ in reason of course)...

...the scientific aspects certainly add to the equation but even august gentlemen like anquatil & coppi made statements that cycling is 98% mental when bodies are similarly well trained...(why do you think anquatil was such a dick to his greatest rival, poulidor)

...i.d love to know theo bos's real thoughts on the matter...not 'made for the press' sound bites but his honest feelings...does the supposed extra technology really give him a physical 'leg up' or does that extra bit of publicity actually add a psychological edge ???... that would be interesting to know...

Anonymous said...

$1m and they end up with a frame almost identical to the rebadged BTs they have been using. I think its a bit like the emperors new clothes.

Anonymous said...

I just can't get inspired by plastic bikes, no matter what kind of space research (because of?) went into their design. July's Bicycling mag has an article profiling 6 framebuilders: Sachs, Mike Flanagan, and 4 of our local Portland crew. Interestingly, though it was a photo spread, there was only ONE bike pictured. My guess is pressure from advertisers kept them from showing these gorgeous bikes and revealing to Buy-cycling's readers that for the price of a disposable plastic rocket you could have a far more satisfying custom build.

Anonymous said...

Dollars ain't what they used to be

Unknown said...

I agree that this is ridiculus for a $1,000,000.00. Would be like paying $1000 for a pair of Pearl Izumi shorts. Crazy!

Unknown said...

Hmm... "One MILLION dollars"... sounds like Austin Powers in the first movie.. or like advertising hype. OR... perhaps Koga has been nationalized by the Dutch government and, all governments being similar... This means that the bike cost as much as two toilet seats and a hammer... hmmm