Demonstrating the best of business ethics and their deep commitment to cycling, at Interbike 2009, HP Velotechnik announced a slight price DECREASE for 2010.
2009 StreetMachine Gte, base price: $2,590 (USD)
2010 StreetMachine Gte, base price: $2,390 (USD) (With the same specs on both bikes. _NO_ component downgrade.)
This is extraordinary.
Generally, in all areas of business, whether it’s bikes or sofas or soilant green or milk, every year, manufacturers increase prices to reflect inflation on raw materials, labor, real estate, shipping, etc. To gain marketshare, factories sometimes choose to NOT raise prices one year, just to slightly undercut their competitors.
With foreign companies, who may benefit from fluctuating currencies, they can get “secret” double benefits from better exchange rates along with the typical annual increase. No one would have thought twice if HPV raised prices 4% due to inflation. Or left prices static to encourage customers to buy their products. However, what THEY did, was LOWER prices on some key models.
Why? Their explanation: the better exchange rate between Euros and dollars meant they were making a bit more money on each bike sold. And they’re willing to pass back that benefit to the people who buy and ride their bikes. In other words, quite simply, they lowered prices BECAUSE THEY COULD without impacting product quality.
What other business in the modern world would extend themselves in a similar way?
Does that mean they may raise prices again if the dollar strengthens? Possibly. Either way, 2010 is a good year for buying HPV products.
The economy is tough in The States right now. Not many of us have $3000 or so to spend on an HP Velotechnik. However, the overall cost/benefit of buying a high quality bike remains in favor of the bike: overall, the bike will save you substantial amounts of money.
There is no better time than now to get rid of the costly burden of a car — or the extra car — along with your gym membership — and replace them both with a Street Machine or Grasshopper*.
You’ll save time that you’d otherwise spend on your commute plus the time spent at the gym. You’ll save money on car costs. You’ll be more fit. Your heart will be healthier. And you’ll be a lot happier. I can almost guarantee it.
* I do continue to think Volae’s are darn good too, and an incredible value.
Fall is always a time of change in my business, where bicycle sales start to fall off, but the new bikes and bike technologies begin to arrive. At the same time, the creative side of my business begins to pick up, as if everyone is madly catching up on the time lost during the hot summer months.
The weather is better — cooler — for riding and hiking, though the leaves are beginning to fall, hiding the potholes and glass shards and making the wet, oily NY streets yet more slippery. However much I like Spring, Fall may be my favorite time of year. The time of change. And “change” is always a nice place to be. Besides, with bike sales falling off, I suddenly have more time to ride again, and that is so nice, indeed.
Today I took time to study the details of the HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx: the frame and clamps and springs and braze-ons and the myriad of quick releases and the other details that make these bikes the masterpieces of engineering that they are.
People often ask what could possibly be the difference between an excellent bike, like a Volae, which is really everything a person could reasonable want from a road bike, and an HP Velotechnik, which might be two or three times the price and triple the wait for special orders.
Although the question falls into the category of “you simply have to own one to understand,” today, an explanation began to vaguely take shape: it’s in the details of the darn thing. Unfortunately, this is a used cliche, but it’s perfectly apt.
HPV engineers have thought carefully and intelligently about each one of the tiniest details. There is nothing misplaced, neglected, forgotten, misaligned. Quite simply, it seems to me, the HPV team set out to create the absolute best human powered vehicle that their collective intelligence could fabricate. And they succeeded.
Everything seems perfect. Everything is easy. Everything is right. Everything is complete. But, it’s a complex piece of machinery. The user manual, for the bike alone, not counting the manuals for the lights or suspension or Magura hydraulic disc brakes, is 72 pages long (in half letter-sized format). And that’s only the English language version. But it’s easy to read and it’s useful; it’s not merely a marketing piece in disguise. It’s a manual, truly written for the rider. And, as I looked through it, I realized how well it answers many of the questions new riders have. Not all bikes are this complex, but it would be nice if every manufacturer invested in creating a user guide like this. If nothing else, a good manual helps remind riders of the importance of taking care of the bike and how to recognize wear and tear. (Photo of table of contents for Grasshopper fx manual, below.)
There’s only one way to describe the Grasshopper fx: it is a masterpiece. There are other great bikes, Volae’s Century ES foremost among them. But of masterpieces, there are very, very few.
I keep searching for a comparison, something that most of us can relate to. What is this like? What is this extraordinarily good, and that many of us are blessed to have experienced? What is wonderful and fascinating and perfect in a way that — surprisingly — is calming?
Try this. Imagine the most perfect day of your life, the day when everything goes your way. Imagine every ingredient of that perfect day. Imagine the feeling of total perfection of the day, as if everything fits snugly and perfectly. It’s the day we each aspire to obtain, but by all rights, can not ever exist. It is unreachable within the imperfection of life. Or, if it happens, it’s by chance; a fluke; an oddity that could only happen once.
Or, maybe it could happen, if you could only control each and every detail of the day — or, rather, by entirely giving up control over every detail of the day. A day, built entirely of flow, and peace. A day of such evenness that you feel thoroughly alive, eager, alert.
The Perfect Day is the nearest description I can offer for this bike. And, like the perfect day, it oozes life energy. Some things are so fine you don’t dare touch, taste or use them; they’re intimidating; what good is a bike that’s so beautiful that you’re afraid to ride it? Grant, from Rivendell Bicycle Works, wrote a piece in early 2009 describing exactly this phenomenon; that of the conflict between pride of ownership and fear of usership. What’s so wonderful about a Grasshopper is the way it embraces you, instead of intimidating you. You just want to ride it, no matter where or how. I’ve even zip-tied a plastic milk crates to the rack, like the cheapest ghetto cruiser, to carry heavy junk across town. I treat it like a truck as well as like a sports car. It just wants to go.
For me, the Grasshopper increases my yearning to take it on a trip; it feels like a good companion, for you can see and feel all the attention that has gone into making the bike complete. It’s a bike with soul. It’s a good friend in those quiet moments.
In this way, like anything that is extremely well made, it transcends its existence of merely being a bike. Truly, it is a vehicle, a vehicle for experiencing some of the richness of life.
Oh, by the way, all those on-line “experts” who say it’s heavy and slow? Don’t believe them. Ask for a photo. They’re probably weak and out of shape. It’s an aerodynamic frame, goes as fast as you want, and weighs only about 7 pounds more than my Brompton folding bike. Heavy, my eye.
In case you were wondering what it looks like when HP Velotechniks arrive, here’s a photo.
These are the first of the 2010 HP Velotechniks, ordered at Interbike 2009: a Grasshopper fx and a Street Machine Gte, both with a full commuting and touring fit-out. The SM has HPV’s new seat (photo below).
Thinking inside the box:
Since mid-August, they’ve already ridden about 250 miles, some of it on some pretty long and hilly rides. What’s particularly remarkable and pleasing for me, personally, is that his wife hadn’t ridden a bike for some 15 years due to a back injury. Now, they’re out riding 75- and 65-mile days together!
His note also reminded me that customers wonder if it’s truly as easy as I say to take the bike apart with the SS Couplings and reassemble it. Indeed it is, as “A” (name and initial changed) writes me:
>> We have also mastered taking it apart and putting it together in a few
>> minutes. This has been a great savior. Otherwise I have no clue where
>> and how we could have stored the bike. The two parts also easily fit
>> in the back of our car and we had no need for a rack.
>> We are very happy with the investment and have had a great time riding
Most people who consider buying either Rans’ Screamer or Seavo (especially in the more expensive but practical TR (travel) versions that I prefer to sell) think long and hard about the investment. Since I spend a lot of time with each customer, I believe I experience nearly as much “sticker vertigo” as they do. Though I feel confident about the product and thoroughly enjoy tandem riding myself, I can never be entirely sure how a couple will adapt to tandem riding. Will they discover, as my wife and I have, that it’s a wonderful investment in a relationship?
I thought readers might appreciate seeing my note to him, below, after he told me how well it’s been going.
Thank you so much for the update! I really appreciate it. This is wonderful news — that you’ve been able to get in so many miles, have mastered the SS Couplings, everything. Perhaps I’ll get that bungee cord sometime in the spring, no rush on that for me.
The Montauk ride — 75 miles isn’t shabby at all given it seems you’ve barely begun to ride together. I have to assume it’s working out fine for “S”‘s back [name changed] (I sincerely hope I’ve remembered your wife’s name correctly) and I’m so pleased about that. And the 65 mile Escape with hills is a real accomplishment. I heard about the rain and slippery conditions on the Montauk ride and it sounds like a sane decision, to call it quits while you were ahead.
A note to remember, on a wet road, if you let some air out of the tires, you will give yourself a larger footprint, and a better grip, on the road. No flats this time, may I presume? 🙂
If you ever get a photo of the two of you that I can use on my site, please do share. I’d love to have it. Your note makes a great testimonial (again). May I use it???
I’ve been wondering if you switched in the new Captain’s sprint brace?? And, if so, how has this affected the handling and hill climbing?
On that hill climbing, this is a common challenge on recumbents. A few brief thoughts here (besides of course that it’ll get easier as you gain experience):
a) The Marathons are made for sturdiness and puncture protection rather than for speed. Marathon “Racers” are still sturdy and puncture resistant, but have lower rolling resistance and a softer ride. Schwalbe also makes a Marathon Supreme that has yet lower resistance and excellent puncture protection (for a price). That may make some of the hills easier. Marathon Pluses are “bullet proof” but have a lot of resistance. I recommend these folks for recumbent accessories: www.hostelshoppe.com .
b) When I was at Interbike this past week (the annual USA bike market in Las Vegas), I met with the manufacturer of Bionix. (http://www.bionx.ca/) This is a high-quality electric assist motor that only adds power in relation to the speed at which you pedal (no pedal, no power). But it can also recapture energy when braking and going downhill. It may be something to consider as an assist on the hardest hills. I am considering stocking them beginning next spring, but of course would do so earlier if you were interested.
c) Of course a larger chain ring or a cassette with granny gear could help, but then you have the low-speed balance issues to address.
I probably don’t need to remind you to resist the temptation to mash the pedals going uphill, since this can lead to knee strain. Also avoid the temptation to pull up too hard on the cranks when using clipless pedals, which can stress the tendons in the direction opposite that for which they’re designed. This seems to be a more common problem for ‘bent riders than diamond frame riders.
At Interbike, I had some great meetings, both with Rans and HP Velotechnik as well as with the manufacturers of components, like Velocity (who made your wheels). My Velocity meeting was rather interesting and although I’ve always liked their wheels, it gave me a new appreciation for their quality controls.
I also had a good meeting with the President/Lead Designer of Rans (Randy Schlitter). He has a rather nice new single short wheelbase ‘bent that I got to test.
At Interbike, I bought two ‘bents (singles) from HP Velotechnik, one a 20″x20″ (wheels) that folds (Grasshopper fx) and their StreetMachine Gte (26″x20″). These both have underseat steering and are everything you’d expect from German engineers. I also got to ride one of their tadpole trikes, which is pretty much a human powered BMW — a lot of fun. With the trikes, their unique design puts the rider high enough that your head is at about eye level with cars but is still stable. I’d like to bring in one or two models next spring, if economics allow.
And two of the new Volae’s arrived the other week. They are superb. Good components, good wheels, frames made by Waterford Precision Cycles in Wisconsin and a company managed by a “demanding but fair” president. They may be the best deal in high quality singles right now. One of the bikes has a travel frame that separates, not too unlike the Screamer TR; it arrives next week. If HP Velotechnik is like BMW, then Volae is like Toyota.
I met with a Waterford executive at the bike show to learn about the Volae manufacturing process and left thoroughly pleased. The bikes demand a lot from me in terms of customization but I couldn’t be more pleased to be working with this manufacturer.
A friend of mine told me to start writing a blog and e-newsletter instead of long notes to my customers :-).
Oh, last thing, I’m helping to coordinate some (free, casual) group recumbent rides starting next spring along with a ‘bent rally. I’ll post the info on my site (NYCRecumbentSupply.com), but I’ll also announce them to the “NYCBentriders” Yahoo group, if you wish to take part. Rides will be apx. 50 miles, more or less flat, with a picnic of some sort in the middle. Just a fun casual ride. (BTW, we’re using the NYCC ride library to choose routes, if you have any suggestions or requests from there. http://nycc.org/rl_db/home.aspx)
Good to hear from you, A. Very, very glad you two are enjoying the bike.
NYC Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.