Monday, June 16, 2014

all4Cycling Pit Stop Vending Machine – Part 3

For some final research on Part 3 of the all4cycling Pit Stop vending machine series I stopped by Melbourne Central shopping centre to check on any new developments in the bicycle vending machine that, according to my predictions, should be just about taking Melbourne by storm. However, what I discovered in the alleyway with the fake street art where the vending machine once stood was both disturbing and confusing:

Since first coming across and singing the praises of the all4cycling Pit Stop vending machines earlier in 2014, they seem to disappearing at an alarming rate. Here’s what’s happened to the machines as per the locations listed on the all4cycling website:
1. Café Racer, St Kilda – machine still, as yet, unconfirmed (due to it being on the wrong side of the Yarra River – Melbourne’s version of the Berlin Wall).
2. Masters Home Improvement, Hawthorn East – machine still, as yet, unconfirmed (due to a severe intolerance to discount home improvement warehouse super-centres).
3. Southern Cross Station – machine removed due to low interest.
And as of last week:
4. Melbourne Central – removed and replaced with Asian Property Investment stand.
Clearly, whatever exposure The Private Cyclist has generated for all4cycling is not working. Perhaps the old adage “all publicity is good publicity” no longer applies in this age of rampant social media?

The thing that I find most disturbing about the disappearance is that the location where the all4cycling Pit Stop vending machine once stood (as a silent ally in the fight for increased cycling convenience), was now occupied by an information stand for a Chinese property investment group called Ironfish who claim to “make your hard earned money work harder for you”. Very disturbing, indeed.
"Ironfish invites you to an exclusive Property Investment Info Night with Joseph Chou (CEO and founder)."
If there’s one thing I hate more than exclusive Property Investment Info Nights, it’s realising that the exclusivity of the invitation was only limited to the subset of the entire world’s population who happened to walk past the banner in one of Melbourne’s busiest shopping centres (or visit their website).

But perhaps I am being too cynical? Maybe I could learn something from Joseph Chou’s incredible story of “Migrant to magnate: A journey of success - $4000 to $25 million dollars”.

More importantly – could this seminar arm all4cycling’s business development team with the tools to fight back against the very property investment company who pushed them out of their location at Melbourne Central? The irony of such a strange business circle of life would surely not be lost.

According to the banner signage, Joseph Chou’s story is a true rags-to-riches tale. He has managed to build a property empire worth $25 million dollars (that’s dollars² by the way, not regular dollars) since 1991 when he came to Australia “with just $4000 in his pocket”.

Anybody who has ever travelled overseas can surely appreciate how driven, calculated and skilful this man must have been to successfully evade the scrutiny that a pocket full of cash draws from the cheerful officers at the port of disembarkation.

I wonder if he’d bothered to exchange it for Australian dollars before leaving Beijing, or whether he had hidden $4000 worth of Chinese Yuan Renminbi in his pockets.

In 1991, the average exchange rate was AUD1.00 = CNY4.15 (today it’s about 5.84).

With ¥100 being the largest denomination, this means a minimum of 166 banknotes, which must be difficult to disguise.

Joseph Chou must have had, quite literally, very deep pockets in order to sneak this past customs.

My point is, that you’ve got to admire Joseph Chou’s ingenuity and I see no reason to assume that just because he’s spent almost 25 years building his property empire from scratch that he wouldn’t be happy to reveal his secrets to you and the exclusive list of other invitees (passers by) at his evening seminar. If all it takes to build a 25 million dollar-squared property portfolio is a few choice tips from Joseph Chou (and 25 years of your life) then I imagine there will be a huge rise in property magnate numbers by about 2040. Best to get in early.

Obviously, I was hooked, and immediately passed this exclusive invitation on to my friends at all4cycling. After all, if it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have had any reason to be in that fake street art alleyway in Melbourne Central. I figured that it was the least I could do.

I quickly booked my seat at the Melbourne seminar, held on Wednesday last week, and was treated to a nice surprise on the website:

First 10 clients to register will receive FREE copies of Joseph’s inspirational book “From Bicycles to Bentleys”.

I’m assuming that the title of the book was just a bad literal translation from Chinese, and that it should actually read, “By Bicycle to Bentleigh” – Bentleigh being a popular residential suburb in south-east Melbourne where there are, no doubt, countless good property investment prospects.

The appearance of this book was a godsend – I would use it as a segue when I approached Joseph Chou at that evening’s seminar. It would be a useful tool to evoke memories of his happy childhood cycling the streets of Beijing, and convince him to surrender the Melbourne Central real estate currently occupied by his Ironfish stand back to the all4cycling vending machine. It was a stunning and coincidental sequence of realisations that led to this beautiful plan to restore some balance to the cycling world.

Astute readers will have noticed that Ironfish also targets Chinese-speaking investors.

The header on their banner describes the company in Chinese characters – 亞太集團. I have been assured by a Chinese-speaking friend that this correctly translates as “Asia Pacific Corporation” despite the fact that when taken literally, each character translates to Asia – too much – collect – round/lump.

I’m guessing that in this context, the too much collection of round/lumps refers to a group of business interests and not the bulging gut of a once-fit cyclist who, having discovered the secret to success and wealth, traded in his bicycle for a luxury car, sedentary lifestyle and one-too-many indulgent dinners at Melbourne Chinatown’s award winning HuTong Dumpling Bar.

Unfortunately I never received my seminar info – perhaps the event was already a sell-out by the time my last-minute registration was received. But I do secretly hope that one day a copy of Joseph’s book might miraculously appear in my mailbox – I’ve been looking for a better bicycle route to Bentleigh for some time now.

This completely thwarted my plan for re-instating the all4cycling vending machine but I decided to continue reviewing its products anyway, because, well, I want to keep the dream of a bicycle spare parts vending machine alive – if only in my imagination.

So here’s Part 3 of the all4cycling Pit stop vending machine product review series.

Part 3

Cateye Velo 7 Cyclocomputer - $32
The venerable Velo 7 is a cycling computer of substantial historical significance. Back in the days before fancy GPS-based cyclo-computers, Cateye was the dominant player in the market. The Velo 7 provided all the key functions like time, trip distance and speed, and was bundled in to a compact and reasonably-priced package.

You can read more in this article about the history of cyclo-computers and power meters.

Cateye seemed to miss the boat in terms of the shift towards GPS-based computers, and nowadays it’s fairly uncommon to see their somewhat antiquated devices on modern performance bicycles.

While priced at an attractive $32, in the world of cycling gadgets, the consumer market has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to spend hundreds of dollars more on advanced devices that can display a myriad of different variables and also allow the data to be recorded, uploaded to the Internet and then used to impress other likeminded individuals

That said, Cateye is now struggling to regain some traction in the expensive-cycling-gadget market with some more advanced models including the GPS-enabled Stealth 50, which retails for around $300.

Anyway, the fact is that any cyclist willing to make a significant monetary outlay on one of these more advanced devices isn’t going to buy it from a vending machine. Investments like this usually rely on months of careful deliberation, weighing up of different options and lengthy discussion with a trustworthy vendor – before the actual purchase is made via an unknown seller on eBay.

The fairly basic cyclo-computer stocked in the Pit Stop vending machine should be seen as more of an emergency fix. A cyclo-computer to get you out of trouble when you find yourself about to dive in to the Commuter Cup on a day with a roaring tailwind when you’ve accidentally forgotten to recharge your Garmin. Sure, you won’t be able to upload the results of your ride home from work to Strava, but this doesn’t mean you can’t revel in the glory of your ride via Instagram.

Camelbak Podium Bidon - $10
As far as bidons (or water bottles go), the Camelbak Podium definitely includes the most proprietary, advanced and cutting-edge technology available. It’s certainly a big step up compared with the Dave Zabriskie water bottle (despite the latter’s historical significance).

As noted in my previous article, it would be an insult to even call this a water bottle – it is so much more. The Podium includes a self-sealing Jet Valve™ to eliminate spills, 100% BPA-Free TruTaste™ polypropylene construction with HydroGuard™ for better tasting hydration and a leakproof lockout mechanism.

If you’re anything like me then you would have lost count of the number of times that you’ve been caught out mid-ride, cursing your outdated and pretty much obsolete drink bottle. It’s comforting to know that those days are now over because you can stop off at your local all4Cycling Pit Stop vending machine and pick up a Camelbak Podium Personal Hydration System any time. That is, if you can find one. If these vending machines continue disappearing at the current rate, then you might be forced to go to an actual bike shop to get your CamelBak Podium.

all4cycling Crystal Jewellery & Keychain - $15 each

In Part 1 of this review series, I questioned “what would compel someone to purchase a bicycle-themed “crystal” necklace from a vending machine”, but after some further thought I dreamt up the following scenario:
You’re rushing in to the city from your home in bayside Melbourne on the evening of St Kilda Cycling Club’s Peloton Ball, widely regarded as one of the most glamorous events on Melbourne cycling’s social calendar (a close second to the annual World Naked Bike Ride). In a hurry and running late, you realise that you’ve forgotten to put on your bicycle chain link bracelet (or other appropriately themed accessory). 
But where once this would have ruined your entire night, you can now simply pop over to the all4cycing Pit Stop vending machine and pick up an imitation crystal bicycle necklace. With the evening now salvaged you can look forward to a fun night of socialising, bike-talk and awkward discussions about the finer points of tan lines and strapless dresses.

And while you’re at it, why not grab your partner a bicycle key chain for just $15? Hang on, $15 for a keyring? I’ll have to do a bit more thinking about this one.

If you’ve enjoyed reading so far, you’ll be delighted to hear that there are plenty more exciting product reviews to come in the next instalment of this series – let’s hope that there’s also a vending machine left from which to actually buy them – otherwise it all seems a bit redundant really.

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