08 March 2014


Two years ago, the yen-dollar exchange rate was around ¥77 = $1.  Recently, the exchange rate has moved in a range between ¥100 to ¥105 = $1.  This swift fall in the currency is intentional on the part of the Japanese government and the Bank of Japan.  The "en yasu" (cheapening yen) has many effects, including relieving some of the pressure on Japanese domestic manufacturers to shift operations abroad and thus at least slowing -- perhaps even reversing -- some of the "hollowing out" of the five previous years.  It also squeezes importer margins, as they try to hold the line on domestic prices to the extent possible.

But this is not a political commentary!  It is a commentary on bicycle component and accessory purchasing options!  

With the strengthening yen or "en daka" from 2006 through 2011, I found myself gradually shifting my cycling purchases offshore, coming to rely mostly on Wiggle in the UK and Bike24 in Germany, with a few purchases also from Excel Sports and Nashbar in the USA, and BikeComponents.de in Germany and others, when I need specific items.

Since I started doing longer rides, I have become a big fan of the 1000ml plastic water bottle.  MOB brought me a big red plastic 1000ml bottle when he came back from Europe in 2007.  My bike frames are large enough to easily accommodate the 1000ml bottles, and I am loath to carry water in a hydration reservoir on my back, so I like to use a larger bottle.

Eventually the red bottle wore out, and in late 2011 I got 2 large Eline Scalatore 1000ml white plastic bottles from Wiggle.  These served me well on long randonees, including in the hot and dry air of eastern Washington during the Cascade 1200.  They also have a nice profile of the Scalatore sportive, including the climb up the Stelvio I remember so well from Transalps past.

In late 2013, each of the white Elite Scalatore bottles sprung a pinhole leak, within a period of a few weeks. Too much heat, cold and road grit, and too many cycles through the dishwasher.

Where to get the replacement?  In Japanese bike shops I have never seen 1000ml bottles that fit in standard bottle cages.  The same for Japanese online shops.  So I looked online as usual, at Bike 24 and Wiggle.  

I was able to find the same model as before on Wiggle, but it was out of stock, and a bit expensive, at $8.70 ($7.65 with "platinum" discount).  

I decided to check Japanese online retailer World Cycle, just in case I could find another 1000ml bottle choice.  To my surprise, not only was there a 1000ml choice, but I could get the 1000ml Elite Scalatore bottles (in clear instead of white plastic), and the price was only 686 yen, or around $6.60.  14% cheaper than Wiggle's platinum price, and no need to ship 2 bottles full of air around the world.  The item was in stock and arrived within a couple of days.

If the yen stays at this level, or cheapens even more, then it will be possible to shop locally here in Tokyo and not pay a premium, or not much of one, for awhile.

Of course, there are still items -- clothing and bike frames -- where sizing forces me to buy outside Japan.

UPDATE:  As of early April 2014, Wiggle lists the Elite Corsa Scalatore 1000ml bottle on sale for only $5.65, though not currently in stock.  Advantage Wiggle. 

1 comment:

Ἀντισθένης said...

World Cycle is good. I got my Sugino 801d crankset from them, and lots of other components. I usually do it through their Amazon portal for the English, but one can go straight to them. Price seems to be the same.