Cycling Deaths in Italy

11 05 2009

One fatality a day, according to latest statistics

I’d like to say the news is a surprise, but it isn’t.

The newspaper La Repubblica reports this morning that the risk of death for Italian cyclists is 2.18%, higher even than the 1.96% attributed to the notoriously foolhardy category of the nation’s scooter and motorcycle users.

Dont worry about the colour, just get one.

Don't worry about the colour, just get one.

I have had my own death defying experiences, such as when a motorist tried to drive through me in front of my house. I could recount lots of anecdotes about pointlessly dangerous maneuvers, serving only to feed the fragile ego of the driver of a second hand Mercedes or BMW, but the basic problem is that cars go too fast here.

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Wilier Triestina dominates Cycling World Championships

29 09 2008

New World Champion Alessandro Ballan and Silver Medallist Damiano Cunego ride Wilier bikes to Glory





Things I like about Italy 1:

17 09 2008

The smell of the vendemmia (grape harvest)

Ciao paisani!

Ciao paesani!

If you get together a group of expatriates who live in Italy, all you will hear are complaints – complaints about the bureaucracy, the laziness, the bad driving, and even the food in this country. For a long time the main topic of discussion amongst the expats I met was the fundamental injustice of the lack of decent (ie. Heinz) baked beans around town. I am aware that this blog has not been an exception to the rule. To be fair, these are the same complaints that Italians tend to express themselves – except for the baked beans of course – but I never hear anyone talk about the pleasures of living in Italy. Sure there may be books on the subject but it doesn’t tend to arise in conversation.

Apart from all the inconveniences and dietrologia of everyday life, Italy offers remarkable aesthetic experiences – sounds, sights, and smells that you can not find anywhere else. One of the things I really enjoy every September is the hustle and bustle of the vendemmia (grape harvest). There are trucks, little Ape (the three wheeled Vespa truck shown in the picture) and trailers everywhere filled with fresh picked grapes on their way to the local cantine. The actual work of harvesting the grapes, as I recall from helping my father-in-law once, may be back breaking labour but the fragrance of the grapes as the trucks pass by on the roads is heavenly. Even when the acrid odour of diesel fumes and the increased traffic are taken into account, the grape perfume makes September the best time of the year to go cycling in the country.

Too bad I’m busy working on my final book revisions this year.





Italian Manufacturers Move Relentlessly Upmarket

14 07 2008

The business model for Italian manufacturers has changed completely in recent years. The introduction of the Euro, the first time in history that a country has simultaneously devalued its currency and priced itself out of export markets, coincided with the emergence of China as the new workshop of the world. Ten years ago, when I moved to Italy, my brother and I used to marvel at the stylishness and sheer brio of the clothes and housewares on offer at a department store chain like UPIM. Now even iconic Italian products like Moka coffee pots and pasta makers come from overseas for the most part.

Italian manufacturers abandon mass market products

While many companies have taken the “if you can’t beat them, join them approach,” as elsewhere, a popular business strategy of Italian manufacturers is to move relentlessly upmarket. For example, Bialetti has completely redesigned its range of coffee pots to separate them from the cheap copies of their traditional products. It’s unclear, however, whether the mass-market Italian shopper is willing to pay 10 times the price of the copy for a mechanically and aesthetically superior product. Recent market data seems to suggest they are not. Indeed, many stores where I lived have stopped selling them because they are too expensive.

The famous television producer Brionvega, notwithstanding a recent bankruptcy and frequent ownership changes, has persisted in moving upmarket. Why buy a regular tv when you can get a €2150 individually numbered oggetto d’arte? With its optimistic production levels of 199 sets per product, the current management is making the high-end strategy of the previous manifestation of the company look down-market.

Save Xenon and Mirage!

Addio cari amici

Addio cari amici

In the latest example of this strategy, the famous bicycle component producer Campagnolo recently announced that it is abandonning the so-called “entry-level” market for road bike groups to concentrate on the high-end and professional markets. The step comes after the company previously abandoned the markets for city bike and mountain bike components, giving competitor Shimano a de facto monopoly in almost every sector of the business. The groups Xenon and Mirage – popular for giving a touch of Italian flair on cheaper racing bikes -are on the way out.

Instead of Xenon and Mirage, Campagnolo will introduce the Spinal Tap inspired ultra-expensive 11 speed Super Record system:

These go to eleven, it’s one faster innit?

The hope seems to be that cycling posers will pay big money for one more gear, permitting the company to make up for much lower volumes by concentrating on higher margin products. Vediamo.

 





Giro d’Italia in Palermo

11 05 2008

Team Barloworld in Action

Cofidis on their way to 18th place

On Saturday life in Palermo ground to a halt for the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia, as the main cross city arterial roads were closed to allow the team time trial to take place. It was a rare sight to see the city streets free from traffic and, as an avid cyclist, it was a pleasure for me to attend a top level competition in Sicily.