Monday, October 10, 2005

Importing

As most of you will be aware, I'm partial to importing MTB bits when the price is right. As many questions are often asked on forum's about importing goods, I thought I'd spread the word based on my experiences.

Why ?

If you're looking for exotica or hard to find goods within the UK then it's an obvious step to look elsewhere and the US market can offer substantial savings. Many of the products used on MTB's are developed by American company's, so acquiring these nearer to source saves money. German or British goods are often more expensive in the US so it's often best to look for goods on a national basis. The US market is also very competetive and retailers often have heavily discounted goods in order to attract customers.

Retailers

Both Chad at Red Barn Bicycles and Larry at Mountain High Cyclery are very competitive (knowledgeable too) and between them there's not much that they can't supply. Currently, their web presence is minimal but a quick email or phone call we soon see you straight.

Other generally cheap online options are; PricePoint, Nashbar, Performance Bicycle, Beyond Bikes, Green Fish Sports and Jenson. Most of these offer frequent discount or coupons, the latest of which can be acquired here.

Speedgoat are also worthy of a mention as their website contains comprehensive product info. Go-Ride is often worth a look. Wrenchscience and Competitive Cyclist also have good websites including "bike fit" calculators.

Importing

Is actually very easy and pretty exciting as you get to track your order as it roams the globe. There aren't any special tricks to learn or documents to complete but a few points should be noted.
  • Import duty and UK Vat are charged at 4.5% and 17.5% respectively if you're ordering components, or a bike in bits.
  • Duty increases to 15% if you import a ready build steed.
  • Duty and Vat are charged on the foreign cost of the goods, plus shipping before converting to GBP and calculating to import charges.
If you import from the US then I'd recommend using USPS which in turn will automatically employ Parcel Force within the UK. USPS Global Express allows you to track the consignments to UK customs where upon you'll acquire a PF tracking number. The goods are then usually held at a local depot for you to pay the outstanding charges. However, note that PF will charge you extra for their involvement.

My experience with Fedex was much less straight forward, which is ironic as they're a dedicated door-to-door option. You're able to track the consignment with a little more accuracy than with USPS, however my parcel was left at the airport will no warning of charges that needed to be settled before it's release. Fortunately, I caught this promptly online and chased 'em up throughout an entire day before the goods were eventually dispatched. I then also received an invoice for the outstanding payment 35 days later ! So don't use Fedex if you're in a hurry. Oh yeah, they also overcharged me !!!

Some peeps seem to have managed to escape import duties, although I haven't, which makes the goods really cheap compared to the UK MRP.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Which Perch ? - Fizik Gobi

Finally, I've found a perch that appears to fit "my" butt better than all earlier incaranations.

Although I've only ridden with it for a dozen-ish rides it's already getting rave reviews, enter the Fizik Gobi. It's quite a pricey little number to buy at UK mrp (£75ish) but they occassionally pop up in the bike classifieds, for mucho less - which is where I sourced mine.

My earlier saddles incl'd a couple of cheap Specialized Body Geometry's and WTB's but none were truely comfortable over a couple of hours riding. With the advent of my new ride I took advice and opted for the WTB Shadow which was a minor improvement but still had me looking for excuses to get out of the saddle. However, it did highlight that it's particular shape was pin pointing a couple of spots on my sit bones which prompted me to investigate alternatives with a slightly different shape. The smooth contours and "hammock" style of the Gobi are now working wonders for me and the flexi wings apparently mould to your particular contours even more over time so my grin should increase as they sag !

The 270g Gobi weighs in a teeny heavier than the Shadow it replaced at 210g.

Verdict; Although cheap, gel filled saddles may look comfortable initially IMO you'd do much better experimenting with different shaped and sized perches and keep the gel to a minimum.

Nor does cheap imply comfortable... Posted by Picasa

Which Light ? - Light & Motion ARC

It's that time of year again when the darkness takes a hold over most of our day and we need to dig out those lights in order to keep riding. I did this a couple of months ago and found that my good ol'DIY bodge-it, halogen unit was even heavier than I remembered at around 5lbs. I've happily run this 20w puppy for at least two winters but msTurner looked shocked when I approached her with it, "okay, okay, I'll look for something else."

A few magazine reviews and hours of web browsing later presented me with a couple of options. Upgrade my SLA (sealed lead acid) battery to NiMH (nickle metal hydride) which'd be much lighter. Wait until LED's are more powerful and then go shopping. Purchase a lighter NiMH powered system, probably with halogen bulbs. Or take the plunge and opt for a bright HID (high intensity discharge) unit with a light L-Ion (Lithium Ion) battery. Much depended on the £'s but I also wanted a replacement that'd be a significant improvement over da bodge.

I contacted my trusty suppliers in the USA and Chad came back with favourable prices for JetLights and Larry with Light&Motion. Price hunting in the UK just turned up the old adage; "rip off Britain" but manufacturer's worth a mention are; Lumicycle and Rush. The US run MTBR website provided a very useful insight into most options available and I especially appreciated the light beam comparisons, the specification table is also handy.

Time was tickin' on and the L&M ARC was starting to look like a decent option for me. I also understood that Larry was making an order in the very near future so I took the plunge and request one be sent over the pond. Why'd I select it ? The HID bulb isn't off the shelf with the standard casing and uses their own reflector which gives an excellent long range spot yet stil with ample floodlight spread. The battery is tiny (rumoured to be made even smaller soon) yet has a runtime that will suffice for long evening jaunt's. If I do need to carry another then it's so light that I'll hardly notice it in my backpack. It's also been well reviewed, should provide ample light, is compact, charges fairly quickly, simple to use and light weight. Plus msTurner seemed to like ! Although the charger came with a US mains plug it uses a standard old school "kettle" style cable which was easily swapped for a UK equivalent. The L-Ion ARC weighs in at 1.2lbs, around 4lbs lighter than my trusty ol'DIY jobbie and is so much neater. It also only cost half UK retail at approx £220 (incl'g shipping/duty/VAT) compared to £450...

In use the system is very easy to setup and was mounted up with any problems. The bar clamp will fit both standard and oversize bars and the screw fitting clamps up to any tension you want - I usually have it a little on the loose side so that I can dip the beam and it's also less likely to get damaged in a crash. The L&M mount also incorporates a break away mount to help save the bulb in a crash and if you look deep in the box it also comes with a helment mount - which I've not tried yet. On the bike, just a single plug fitting is needed which looks secure and weather tight. The lamp has two settings; 13w (60w halogen equivalent) and 11w (40w equiv) which don't provide a great deal of difference to the light yet give another 30-45mins burn time.

On my first few rides the harsh, white light emitted from the HID seemed odd compared to the softer, yellow halogen lamp. However, the brightness is most definitely the biggest improvement and has to be seen to be believed. Some don't like the spot of L&M but I thinks it's great for those high speed Millenium Falcon speed runs thru the woods. It helps you to spot that log or low branch long before it comes as a BIG surprise ! As my night rides are typically less than 2.5hrs I've had no problems with the battery running down and tend to leave it on for the duration, even during stops. HID lamps have a relatively short life which is greatly reduced by switching on/off repeatedly, plus then take a few sec's to warm up after each off.

Can it be improved ? Overall, I'd say that it's a crackin' little system that allows you to ride into the darkness almost as fast as during daylight. It might just have one possible short coming as I'd actually like to see a reduced low power setting so that it'd be more useful on the road. At the moment I tend to swing the lamp down and into the verge. Having said that, the relatively high settings are great for getting lazy drivers to dip their main beam if you swing your ARC across their bonnet !

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