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2020 A Christmas Letter

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And that’s a wrap.

I remember seeing the sunrise over Point Walter on 1 Jan 2020 and thinking how great this year would be. All the clichés about 2020 being the year of focus and clear vision were buzzing around in my head. 2019 had been a fantastic year for me in which I’d made a few big changes in my life. It’s nice to dream big. The year kicked off with a wheel building course in early January. I’ve been running this course every year since 2014 and gain a lot from the practice of teaching. I’d hope to run a lot more courses this year, but it wasn’t to be. January and February marked the peak of the summer cycling season as enthusiasm of the Tour Down Under spilled over into the local bunches. There were plenty of wheels to be built and repaired. The year was tracking along well.

And then there was March. COVID19. A global pandemic that disrupted everything in its path and will no doubt will be talked about for many years to come. For the first time in my life I saw shops running out of tinned food, pasta, flour, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Panic had erupted. Within a few weeks we went from having closed borders to closed schools. ‘Unprecedented’ was the word. As a small business I really didn’t know how things would play out. I put in all the protection measures to allow me to continue trading. I was extremely fortunate to have a lot of space in the workshop and I was able to manage customer interactions at a distance. On the custom wheel building side of things there was a noticeable downturn, however my repair work seemed to be just enough to keep me afloat.

As we came to winter I kept busy focusing on the work that was still coming in. I changed my hours so I could get home earlier to be with the kids. This was a positive change and I’ve kept these hours. During the lockdown, there were a lot of changes in habits and behaviours. Consumer products from kids’ bikes to home trainers were suddenly sold out, as people worked out how best to stay sane and healthy during this time. I kept riding my bike (solo) on weekends and came to really enjoy this, taking some more adventurous rides in the Perth Hills. In mid-winter I was interviewed on a Canadian cycling podcast about my work and my thoughts on the bike industry. Lockdown was connecting people from disparate parts of the world.

By June, many of the lockdown restrictions had been rolled back in Western Australia. By a miracle, luck or good planning, we seemed to have escaped the virus (for now) however the wider social and economic contagion had spread. It was around this time that I noticed consumer confidence had come back. It wasn’t just kids bikes and home trainers. People were buying new bikes again and even custom bicycle wheels. By July, I was booked in advance for a couple of weeks and this continued to be the story of the second half of the year. It was a great problem to have, but even in this unprecedented ‘bike boom’ I was still having a lot of problems. For one thing, my business was never really designed to scale up, and my focus on precision workmanship was never about taking short cuts. I could only really work longer hours as a way of managing demand. I developed a (bad) habit of running a double shift, working a regular day then going back to work for a second shift after the kids were in bed for another 3-4 hours. I did this sometimes 5 nights a week. Another challenge was managing so many inquires. Do you have this? can you fix this,? how much? If I had 20 phone calls and 10 emails a day, it could be guaranteed that I’d only spend half my day on the tools doing ‘the work’. It felt like I was stuck in a negative growth spiral.

The benefits…. Having been fortunate enough to have had a positive turn around in my industry, I was able to target some big ticket items that had been on the agenda for some long time but un-budgeted. In September I received my second Morizumi Spoke Cutting and Threading machine which now allows me to cover all gauges of bicycle spokes, including 12g and 13g spokes that are commonly used on electric bicycles wheels. In Spring my partner Pia also came to help on two days week. I was struggling as a one-man-band and I am massively grateful for all her help and support.

The final few months of 2020 disappeared in a flash. What became apparent quickly was that the flip-side of the new bike boom was that demand had outstripped capacity. Product shortages had become the norm across a wide range of product categories. The time spent chasing stock was exhausting. A number of products that had been successful for me over many years were no longer available. We were all drinking from the same well. In a game of musical chairs many suppliers and retailers were going to be left out. The Covid bike boom was a global phenomena.

Coming into Christmas I am exhausted. The entire bike industry is exhausted. Adrenal fatigue. I’ve taken a break from social media because it feels like a bit of an unhealthy addiction and a poor substitute for ‘living’. I feel very fortunate to be living in Australia and to be working in an industry that has boomed during this time of hardship. If there was one lesson from 2020 it was that when shit hits the fan, people still cared about cycling, as an incredible way to feel alive and connected with so many people and places. I hope that this lesson is remembered for years to come.

I am hugely grateful to all the customers and industry partners who’ve supported Melody Wheels in 2020. It’s been a bitter-sweet kind of year. We’ll see what 2021 brings.

Covid19 and workshop health and safety

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We are committed to taking care of your health. We also have great concern for the most vulnerable people in our community that are at risk of contracting disease. That means we are taking precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please consider the following if you plan to visit our workshop:

  • Start with a phone call or email – this will limit the amount of time you need to spend at our workshop.
  • Please DO NOT visit if you or someone you have contact with is sick.
  • All visitors will be asked to wash and disinfect their hands upon entering the workshop.
  • Please keep a healthy distance (at least 1.5m) – sorry no handshakes, fist pumps, or high 5s.
  • Please limit what you touch – wheels, components, accessories, and other surfaces.
  • Payments by BPay or Bank Deposit are our preferred payment methods. We ask for no cash payments.
  • All wheels coming in for service or repair will be cleaned with an alcohol-based solution before and after repair.
  • If you are bringing children to visit, we expect them to follow the above guidelines.

Riding a bike is good for your physical and mental health, and we want everyone to keep doing it. For now, we will remain open and continue to refine our approach as required.

Thursday night workshop series

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This September will see a return to our springtime Thursday night technical workshop series. Whether you’re a D.IY. home mechanic or simply want to have a better understanding of your equipment, these workshops are not to be missed.

 

Workshop 1: Hub servicing fundamentals, Thursday 13 September, 6-8pm

This workshop provides an overview of hub servicing for those interested in taking their bike maintenance to the next level.  Participants will gain an understanding of the three different types of bicycle hub designs (cup and cone, slip-through axle, shouldered axle hub), as well as the general  understanding of processes and tools required for bearing replacement and preventative maintenance. FULLY BOOKED

 

Workshop 2: Wheel truing basics, 20 September, 6-8pm

The workshop covers the basics of wheel truing for home mechanics. It covers the fundamentals of wheel truing including radial and lateral truing, dishing, and balancing spoke tension. It will also cover some of things you might need to get out of a jam with a road-side wheel repair or emergency spoke replacement. FULLY BOOKED

 

Workshop 3: Setting up tubeless, Thursday 27 September, 6-8pm

Love them, hate them? Not sure? Setting up tubeless wheels can be a consuming and messy job. This workshop will cover some key tips and tricks we use to make setting up tubeless easy the first time. PLACES STILL AVAILABLE

Cost: $15.00 (refreshments and snacks provided)

Places are limited (Max 5 persons per workshop).

RSVP at info@melodywheels.com.au