20 March 2009

Taipei Cycle Show 2009

My report from the IFMA Bicycle Show in Cologne 2005 was one of the writings that prompted me to open this blog. I am happy to continue this tradition today by reporting from the Taipei Cycle Show 2009. Note: I will add photos and links later. View this article on Blogger (not Facebook) to read them. Here's an unsorted list of the photos.

Technical part:
  • The most interesting thing first: A Taiwanese inventor presented a dynamo that attaches to the outside of the rear hub. It takes up just the space opposite of the sprocket or cassette which is an empty gap on most bikes. This little elegantly solves the upgrading problem for hub dynamos: you don't need to replace the entire front wheel anymore! Instead, it takes five minutes to take off the rear wheel, attach the dynamo to the wheel and put it back in again. Another advantage: the force-bearing function of the hub is decoupled from the dynamo which makes the entire set-up more robust. Serial production of this innovative bike part should start soon and I can't wait to see it on the German and Canadian market.
  • General assessment: most bikes on the show were sport bikes (who I find rather boring) and in typical Taiwanese style there were many small-wheeled (20 inch) bikes, folding, but also non-folding. There were also small-wheeled electrical bikes.
  • I asked at some booths where there product was actually made and the answer often was "China" (meaning the mainland, of course), but there's still a lot of production in Taiwan, most of it concentrated around Taizhong. Most companies at the show were Taiwanese trying to sell their products to dealers and assemblers around the world. But there were also a few import bikes. I remember the trikes from Hase, Germany, and the US-made sport-utility-bike Surly.
  • One company had a gear-hub on display which resembled the F&S Duomatic made in Germany a couple decades ago (more about the history on hubstripping.com). It has two gears, one 1:1, the other 1:1.3, and switching takes place by back-pedaling. However the prototype on display did turn very heavily and neither me nor the salesperson was able to actually switch it into the other gear.
  • Sturmey Archer's newest product is a a three-speed hub without a free-wheel. That is, it's a multi-gear, fixed-gear hub. Some people will find that very cool. I found very cool that the very old Englisch brand "Sturmey Archer" is actually now part of a US-Taiwanese company and has lots of production in Taiwan. How did I not knew before?! Wikipedia had it! Wikipedia also informs me that a similar product was also offered at sometime in the last century...
  • One company offered a less than $100 US upgrade kit for bicycles which allows both pedals to turn independently of each other. As applications they mentioned people in physiotherapy who can't move both feet simultaneously and kids that want to show off. One way to use it is two move both feed in parallel, both up, both down, or to use one only foot and rest the other, or two move both feed up and down on the front half of the pedal-circle, not using the back half.

Non-technical part:
  • There was a special bicycle parking area marked in the motorcycle part of the underground parking. In Taiwan it is normal to have a separate parkings and separate lanes and parking entry/exits for scooters because they a so many. It is also normal for cyclists to use the scooter infrastructure, because there is so much of it. Now, the sad part is that they were actually only very few bicycles. Maybe eight bicycles and over a hundred scooters! Unfortunately, the cycle show takes place at the Nangang Exhibition Center and this is quite far from the Taipei city center. Personally, it took me little over an hour to bike there from my place.
  • It was very interesting to talk to very different kinds of people: 
    • A German engineer, who designed a product together with a German colleague and has it produced in a factory in Taiwan. So you two guys make a living on that business alone? Yes, he replied. And he doesn't need Chinese for the job. He even showed me a Chinese learning program for his iPhone, but said that he was too busy with work to learn Chinese.
    • A Taiwanese inventor whose eyes were shining when he talked about his invention. Quote (own words, from memory): "When you invent something, it's so hard to find somebody to produce it for you! In the end we had to get our machines, make all the special parts and then assemble the bike with the remaining components bought." - "Yes, I know that," I replied in Chinese and the Taiwanese inventor smiled brightly and poked me saying "Oh, you speak Chinese!" Apparently this made him happy, and guess what -- it made me happy, too! (My "I know" refers to the stories of the Brompton inventor and David Hon which I have read... and I guess it's the same for many other now famous inventions.)
    • A sales girl who said that I am the first East German that she ever met and how much she like the movie "Good Bye, Lenin". I said that she has probably met other East Germans before, without knowing they are from the east, and how much I am surprised she likes that movie because I thought it is something especially made for Germans. (By the way: other Taiwanese have also mentioned this movie to me; I think that this tells us something about Taiwanese mentality. I might be that Taiwanese are aware how much society has changed recently and that not all these changes were good. But maybe I am just making this up, because I feel that way myself...)
    • A Chinese or Taiwanese salesperson who had to let an important customer wait to answer my question and then was upset to know that I am just a private visitor without business card. I am planning for a long time to get some Bike-Pirates Business Cards... *sigh*
  • I met Thomas Lösch at the Dahon booth, but didn't manage to start a nice conversation. ;-)
  • I missed the test-ride of electrical bikes which was a lot of fun at the IFMA. It was supposed to last until three o'clock, but was already over when I went there at 2:15. Overall many booths were packing up during the last hour, so I didn't stay to the end either. 
  • I had lunch at the German-run bistro of the exibition center. The sausages, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes really tasted like in Germany. And the price was also on a German level. About three times more than for similar Taiwanese food.
At the end I biked home, sorted through the photos (luckily not too many), wrote this report, and keep wondering if the bicycle industry would be viable career option for me...


Raw Restoration said...

Really nice report, capturing both industry highlights and the flavor and feel of attending the show and interacting with people there. 幹得好!

Robert Jack Wild said...

And here are two interesting Swiss views on the show (auf Deutsch geschrieben!).
Taipei Cycle Show 2009 - Erster Eindruck und Was macht eine erfolgreiche Messe aus?

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