Friday, October 14, 2005

It's Friday!

Well, the dialog from a few days ago about the bike industry and gas prices has produced a lot of great points of discussion. If you haven't seen the comments, go take a look.

One comment in particular that caught my attention comes from James Thomas (check out his blog too, by the way- good commentary there too);
I agree with you to a point. Yes, I like commuting because it is “free” riding time that I would otherwise have to spend in a car. I personally would much rather be on my bike than cooped up in a car even if they were giving gas away. I also agree that most Americans are a bit lazy and are not likely to change their driving habits long term until gas prices get a lot higher than they are now. Still, I think the bicycle industry is at least partially to blame for not doing enough to get average people on bikes. Most companies are happy to market their flagship road and mountain bikes as expensive high performance toys. As the owner of several expensive bikes, I have no problem with that. The problem is that all of the less expensive bikes are styled to look like trickle down versions of the racers. People may buy them, but they don’t necessarily ride them once the newness wears off. Anything that varies from the racing bike inspired model is considered to be “uncool”. As trivial as it seems, the coolness factor can make or break any product released in this country no matter whether it serves its purpose well or not. For example, since scooters have already been mentioned, look at the popularity of the new retro styled Vespas. Many people are happy to ride one of those down to the corner Starbucks. They are also probably willing to park it close to the outdoor seating for everyone to see. The same people wouldn’t be caught dead on an old Japanese moped that serves the same purpose. Though they are essentially the same product, Vespas are considered cool and mopeds are not. If any of the big American bike companies were willing to get their marketing muscle behind some cool transportation oriented designs, I believe they would find a steadily growing group of young, progressive users. Nobody can instantly get average Americans of all ages to ride for transportation (and as others already pointed out, our cities are not geared for it), but it certainly seems like the industry should be looking to expand its market base by opening the public’s eyes to transportation cycling.

There are a lot of good points in there, as well as in other comments left in that particular post. Obviously, I am happy to see so much dialog taking place about this because I love this stupid industry, probably too much, and I look forward to seeing more people on bikes, for life, and a healthier industry. Keep the feedback coming...

So this weekend is my best friend's birthday and I am making the drive to Los Angeles, where he lives, tonight so I can go on a birthday ride with him. Since he has a lot of riding friends up in LA, they are all going on a nice long birthday ride and I'm gonna drag my fat, tired, outta shape butt up all those hills with them. It won't be pretty, but it's his birthday and I owe him a ride in his neck of the woods since he rides down here with me regularly.

I hope all of you have great rides too...



steelrider2 said...

one point: cool bikes could only go so far because most of the lazy Americans wouldn't recognize cool if it bit them. So we'd have a bunch of cool bikes but still only a finite number of cool people to ride them

Now if the industry made a bunch of uncool bikes it stands to reason that more Americans would ride since there are so many uncool Americans. At least they'd have bikes that fit their level of coolness.

If you could make a Surburban styled bike for soccer moms now that would be great. I also think tinted helmet shields would help them...that way noone could tell who was sweating.

Perhaps a very sleek fat tire bike for the middle aged comb over guy who can't afford a sleek roadie.

If we had a bike that cost $500,000 perhaps Donald Trump would buy one....not to worry he wouldn't ride it...his comb over would act like a sail.

There is only a finite number of people that will ever commute via bike. So the bike indusrty's only hope is to develop the recreational side more. What made running so popular in the early 70's? What did it have a new rise in popularity in the mide 90's? People saw the benefit. The bike industry has got to expound on the virtues and benefits.

Maybe bike ride-in movies
Maybe coffee houses for riders only.
Should we have bike riding schools? We have truck driving schools.

steelrider2 said...

I've got it...

A tax incentive for riding a bike...coupled with an escalating obesity tax in 10 lbs increments...

James T said...

Steelrider2 said “There is only a finite number of people that will ever commute via bike”.

That is probably true, but I don’t think that we have reached that number yet. Many average people are interested in bicycling, but are intimidated a bit by the industry’s focus on the racing scene. Don’t get me wrong, I love bicycle racing. I have quite a few road, track, cross, and mountain bikes and I am always happy to see innovative new products developed for racing. My point is just that there is a market beyond racing and fast recreational riding that the industry could, and I think should, tap into.

steelrider2 said... point exactly. Commuting is not going to get it for the industry. Yes, there may be some yet discovered sub market that will buy a few bikes for commuting. Commuting by bike is a conscious choice. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, they would not choose to commute by bike, even if they could.

Recreation is where the industry must go to sell more bikes. To be honest, I don't think the person contemplating a bike purchase is the least bit intimadated by the racers. They understand that is way beyond them. You wouldn't decide not to buy a pair of running shoes just becuase you couldn't compete against the Kenyans in the Boston Marathon. The same for cycling.

Several years ago, my wife decided to start a bike group for some women who owned bikes but had never much ridden them. She posted signs in several bike shops and got a group of didn't matter "what kind of bike you had". It didn't matter "how slow you were"...what mattered was that they get out and ride. They rode for the sheer pleasure of riding...they didn't ride far and the pace was dictated by the slowest person. These women told others and the group grew. Most were over weight and most had no desire to even be a fast recreational rider. It was for exercise, fun and being with each other. Most of these women are still riding today...they are faster (relatively speaking), they have lost some weight...but most of all they are having fun. This is where the industry must go beyond what it already has. Not only that but cyclist have to support more cycling...we need to have a ask a friend to ride day...and not burn them out the first day or make them feel they must have a $3,000 machine to enjoy our sport.

Urban areas have got to develop more riding trails. Look at how the velodromes in this country have been brought back by those who care...frankly, we as cyclist are our own worst enemy but could be our best part of cycling. Let's not try to be so elite that we alienate those who might want to ride.

Stepping off my soapbox