Special LiveBlog Event: Reading the Speedplay Ad

I love reading Velonews, for two excellent reasons. The first is to marvel at Lennard Zinn, their Technical Writer. Did you know that he now writes the entire magazine, front to back, every single issue? It’s true! Sometimes, because he starts to feel a little bad, he uses a pseudonym, but trust me: Lennard is writing it.

bibshorts.jpgThe second reason I read Velonews is for the ads. I love the ads. Like the one of the guy in the bibshorts, shown to the right here (click the ad to see a larger version).

Looking at it, I can’t help but wonder:

  • Did the photographer not understand that bibshorts are for biking, not running?
  • Does “Design to follow the bio-mechanical movement of the rider” mean what I think it means? Specifically, that since these bike shorts — like all bike shorts — are made of stretchy fabric, that when you move, the bike shorts will also move? Wouldn’t it be awesome if they somehow neglected to include that feature and instead created bike shorts that were perfectly inflexible? They’re bike shorts and a body cast!
  • You’re going to call out the “Gel leg gripper” as a feature? Really? I mean, if you’ve really run out of things to talk about but still need to fill up space, it’s customary to say “Much, much more!”
  • If your shorts are all about the details, you may want to consider this detail: your leg gripper is having a tourniquet effect on the model, so that the part of the leg above the gripper is ballooning out dangerously. How soon ’til it pops? We can only speculate.
  • I hesitate to bring up this final point, but the bibshorts model seems undecided about where to put a certain part of himself. Whereas most cyclists go either left or right, the model has gone with vertical. Or perhaps he’s just really excited about getting work. Or maybe it’s a feature of the shorts?

The ad then finishes up with the peeled-up cross-section of the chamois, which I believe is required for inclusion in all bike shorts ads by the powerful Bicycle Ad Consortium (BAC).

I Am Not Afraid of A Challenge

The VeloNews 2010 Buyer’s Guide (thanks for all that guidance, Lennard!) is chock-full of ads I love. I look at them, learn serious, important things about the world of cycling from them, and move on.

However, there is one particular ad that has defied me. That has not allowed me to observe, snark, and move on.

It is the full-page Speedplay ad on page 39 (click the ad to see a larger version):


Yes, that’s really the ad.

When I first saw it, I panicked. Then I turned the page. Then I turned back. Is this really an ad with a full page of text?

And not just text, but white-on-red text?

And not just white-on-red text, but in a tall, cramped font?

And not just white-on-red text in a tall cramped font, but all rammed together in a single, extremely wide paragraph?

Yes, that it what it is. Which makes me think: they do not want anyone to read this ad. It is so long and horrible to look at that Speedplay must have some reason for not wanting anyone to plow through the whole thing.

Like, maybe buried somewhere in there is instructions on how to find Jimmy Hoffa. Or the location of a vault containing untold riches. Or a recipe for an indescribably delicious key lime pie.

Regardless, I am confident that nobody, to this point, has ever read the entirety of this ad.

But I am going to, right now. And I am going to liveblog the experience.

The liveblog begins now.

05:30 – I’m settling down with the magazine. I’ve got a bowl of cold cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats) and half a grapefruit to sustain me. Will it be enough? I do not know.

05:35 – So far, I have discerned that Speedplay is serious about making the best pedals. Which is good news, because I do not want my pedal manufacturer to go about making the best pedals in some kind of jaunty, devil-may-care fashion.

05:42 – The next sentence has had me scratching my head in confusion for the past seven minutes: “We obsess about speed, power, biomechanics and security.” Who, in this case, is “we?” Do they mean everyone at Speedplay? Or just the guys who created the ad? Or are they trying to draw me in with them, to make me part of their “we?” I’m not ready for that kind of commitment, Speedplay.

05:47 – I just realized that both the Speedplay ad and the bibshorts ad mention biomechanics. Which causes me to think: “biomechanics” is the “ipsum lorem” of the bike ad world. I wonder if the BAC enforces the use of the word “biomechanics” in every ad. I intend to investigate. Later.

05:58 – Speedplay evidently, in addition to speed, power, biomechanics and security, also obsesses over user-friendliness, function, comfort, and durability. This causes me to wonder a few things.

  1. Does Speedplay obsess about other things, too? Like, perhaps, having a complete Pokemon action figure set? Or always drinking the same brand of soda, no matter what? Or putting their clothes on in a certain order? The fact that they obsess about this many things indicates to me that they probably obsess about other things too.
  2. Assuming (quite reasonably) that Speedplay is in fact obsessing over a whole crapload of stuff, have they considered that perhaps it’s time to get help?
  3. Isn’t “function” really just an umbrella term for all the other things they’re obsessing about? It seems that they can maybe take this one off the list. This could be an important first step toward being less obsessive.

06:06 – Speedplay has now stopped telling me about the things it (they?) obsess about. Now they have moved on to telling me things they want me to see, know, feel, and so forth. For example, they want me to know that they have rethought pedals from the ground up. Which — since pedals don’t really ever touch the ground at all — seems to indicate they have more re-thinking to do.

06:09 – My cereal bowl is empty. My grapefruit is nothing but a juiceless rind, all juice squozen from it. And yet I am only 9% of the way through this ad. I shall fetch more cereal directly, and intend to open a 2-litre Diet Coke with Lime, which I will drink directly from the Bottle.

06:11 – OK, I think I can continue. Where was I? Ah yes. Speedplay wants me to feel how much lighter their pedals are compared to others. But then, alas, they do not actually make any comparisons at all. So I’m beginning to think Speedplay is toying with me.

06:14 – Speedplay is now telling me how aerodynamic their pedal is. Which brings up a question: Is there any cyclist, in the entire world, who is so fast and rides in such a perfect position that his pedal aerodynamics is a factor, but who also is not already sponsored? Honestly, in my entire cycling career, never has it occurred to me that I could have won a race if only my pedals weren’t holding me back so much.

06:17 – I think I should mention, by the way, that I actually do use Speedplay pedals. And I have for more than ten years. They’re fantastic road pedals and I highly recommend them. But this ad is making me think of switching.

06:20 – I am now on the fourth sentence in a row that begins with “We want.” I’m beginning to develop a mental picture of the Speedplay personality, and the two dominating attributes are:

  • Obsessive
  • Needy

06:24 – Speedplay apparently now wants me to measure their stack height to see how much closer my foot is positioned to the spindle for better power transmission. Which, frankly, seems like a lot of them to ask of me. Do they really expect me to measure the stack height on their pedal/cleat combination (like I have the equipment for that), then go do the same thing with other pedal manufacturers and get back to them with my findings? Measure it yourself, Speedplay. I’m busy right now, trying to make sense of an incomprehensibly long, obsessive, needy, and demanding ad.

07:18 – Sorry, fell asleep. I need to start crossing out the sentences I’ve read so I don’t keep losing my place.

07:23 – Speedplay has just told me, and I quote: “We want you to see how much further you can safely lean into a turn without scraping the pedals.” Which means, if I understand them correctly, that they want me to corner harder and harder until I either chicken out or crash on everyone else’s pedals, and then do the same thing on theirs. And once I’ve done that — well, of course I’ll be dead long before I complete this battery of tests, but suppose I managed to survive — I will ascertain that Speedplay lets me lean in much further.

Speedplay, I believe you are asking too much of your prospective customers.

07:40 – Been drinking too much Diet Coke. Had to take a break.

07:42 – Oh good, Speedplay has stopped asking me to conduct experiments that require sensitive equipment and an engineering degree, are life-threatening and reckless, or both. Now they want me to notice the stuff that is actually really good about their pedals: they’re double sided so they’re easy to get into, and they lock in nice and secure.

Which, you know, is what some people might call their “key differentiator.” And it might be all the information this ad really required. Really clever of them to bury it it in the exact middle of the ad.

07:49 – Speedplay wants us to see that their premium pedals use rustproof stainless steel and Ti components “for durability and aesthetics.” Which makes me ask: just your premium pedals? So your low-end pedals are going to be ugly, won’t last, and will rust? Sign me up!

07:59 – Speedplay, now into the final third of its ad, is telling us that the “pedal’s engagement edges are made of hardened alloy steel instead of plastic.” That’s nice, I suppose, but no more reassuring than if Trek said, “Our carbon fiber bikes are made of carbon fiber instead of aluminum foil.” Saying “we didn’t use crappy materials” shouldn’t be considered a selling point.

08:05 – I don’t think I’m going to make it. This is just too darned hard. Tell my kids I love them.

08:08 – NO! I will not quit! I am going to finish reading this ad! No matter what.

08:22 – I keep trying to make sense of this sentence: “We want you to see for yourself that Speedplay pedals offer an unmatched package of performance features and benefits but not at the expense of strength, safety, or functionality.” I’ve read that sentence nine times now, and just can’t figure it out. Do performance features and benefits usually come at the expense of strength, safety and functionality? Aren’t performance features and benefits part of strength, safety and functionality?

And most important of all, why do Speedplay pedals come in unmatched packages? Like, do they come with two left pedals, one of which is red and the other which is turquoise? And maybe only one cleat?

Please, Speedplay. Please start providing matched packages.

08:32 – Finally, I am at the last sentence: “We want you to know that we’re serious about making the world’s most technically advanced pedal systems.”

Hey, waitasec. That’s what they said at the beginning of the ad, just longer and more obtuse.

08:36 – I did it. I finished the ad. It took 3:02, but I did it. I pushed through, keeping my eye on the finish line and the glory that comes with it.

Sure, there were moments when I thought I was a goner. But I gritted my teeth and kept reading.

Someday, I will tell my grandchildren. And they will be proud of grandpa, and that he — and he alone — read the entire Speedplay ad.

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