During a week when the problems of the Irish Bicycle Industry, have rarely been off the front pages, some good news has finally started to emerge.
Ireland's largest bicycle manufacturer - County Down Bicycles of County Down, - which employs a staff of four full-time and two part-time workers, plans to launch a new model in time for mid-February. The company had been struggling to reverse declining sales of its 'Sturdy Shopper' model within an increasingly competitive market. But it now hopes to become a leader in innovative design, and cutting edge technology.
The inspiration for the new model came to County Down's head designer and senior spoke fitter, Mr Shaun Plasterboard, while he was watching television at home one evening. "I had been watching television at home one evening," said Mr Plasterboard. "I tend to watch it at home as there's not a television at the bicycle works, and the evening is generally the best time, as that's when I tend to be at home... Except when I'm in the pub. While I was watching the television, - in my home, not in the pub you understand, a travel programme called 'Tour de France' came up. Normally I'd switch over, but the batteries had gone in the remote, so I watched it; The programme that is. Not the remote. Anyway, there were all these lads riding bicycles around the countryside, and I noticed that none of them had rear reflectors; The bicycles that is, not the lads. Well. It was a revelation! And so when I went in to work the next morning, I mentioned it to the boss."
Until Mr Plasterboard's inadvertent discovery, it hadn't been realised that if the company marketed their machines as 'racing bikes' there was no legal requirement to fit rear reflectors, thus saving material costs. Further research revealed that bicycle pumps, saddlebags, shopping baskets, chain-guards, dynamos and bells could also be discarded.
It's hoped that the new 'Sturdy Shopper Sport' - a much lightened version of the original 1934 design, will herald a 'new dawn' for Irish bicycles.
"This is a new dawn for the Irish Bicycle," said CEO Mr Shaun Plasterboard (no relation). "Our material costs should reduce by 10%, and if sales take off, we hope to employ an extra part-time handlebar aliener. Although we still have some concerns over the death-threats we've received from the Irish Guild of Saddlebag Producers.
The Stock Exchange closed ten points down on yesterday's trading.