By Sal Ruibal
I was reading the New York Times today about how internet proliferation was going to destroy the ionosphere when my new iPhone5 made a noise that sounded like a whale fart. "Whale fart" is a real ringtone and when I hear it I know my old friend Brownie is calling. Brownie, not the "heckuva-job-Brownie" of Hurricane Katrina infamy but just as destructive, had picked up a tip that Trek was going all-in on 650B and I should buy some penny stock shares of a Chinese company that had cornered the market in the machines that turn auto crash wreckage into hoops for 650B mountain bikes wheels.
I used to be a business editor for a colorful national newspaper and learned early on that a whale fart in China can quickly magnify into a cash tsunami if you play your cards right. If Trek was betting that 650B (also known by the code name 27.5) is the next big thing, a small investment today could make me a billionaire, or maybe just get me in the positive column in my check register.
"There are about a hundred million bikes riding past my window every morning," Brownie said, gasping from the fumes from an ethanol spill that backed up into his toilet trough. Once he saw a dozen dead and bloated pigs bobbing in his skyscraper apartment's swimming pool. It was a wedding celebration of some sort.
"I figure if only 20 percent of riders switch," he said, "I could net about six billion yuan."
I still wasn't sold. If I switched, I'd have to buy a new bike and create a whole new persona for myself.
As a 26-incher, I had history on my side. History in this case being a collection of partially-built bikes hanging on the basement wall. If I went 650b, I'd have to buy all new used bikes. After much pondering, I decided that the real play was in tubes. If I could corner the market in 27.5" X 1.4" tubes, I'd have a niche to scratch. Tires take too much time to develop and make. Tubes are just like making baloney skins with long nipples.
But then I began to worry. What if Trek is wrong? They have a great track record. Well, yeah, there was the Greg Lemond thing and the Lance thing and the Contador thing, you know. And what about market research? I commissioned a former NSA worker who is temporarily out of a job and living in a Russian airport to create a chart that would define the characteristics of a 650b rider vs. a 29er rider. This is what he came up with.