Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2007 - The Year of the Bicycle?

As we say bye-bye to the stale ol’ 2006 and welcome in the shiny, new-car smelling 2007 I wonder if this will be the year of the bicycle. For so many years I have patiently waited for it, but have never seen it.

I feel that 2006 was pretty good for the bike industry. The mainstream press has given more time to bicycles and the bike related products but as gas prices stabilize and winter sets in I wonder if people are going to ride to work less and think about bikes less.

My curiosity has been trying to figure out what the next big thing for the bike industry is. In the late 70’s it was road bikes (thanks Breaking Away) and in the mid 90’s mountain bikes were everywhere. Remember the days when you could make any mountain bike part out of 3D violet anodized aluminum and it would sell like crazy? What is the next trend that will bring that to the bike industry?

I have had the lucky fortune of having worked in both the ski and bike industries and it seems that we are both looking for the same thing. The bike industry has not had a big industry trend since the mountain bike (Razor scooters don’t count) and the ski industry has not seen a large-scale surge since the advent of the snowboard. They have tried to make a push with snow-blades, tele-boards and my favorite non-sport-sport, Nordic Walking. Even with a bit of mainstream press in the NY Times, Nordic Walking is failing miserably in the US. Americans just don’t feel that they should have to buy $50.00 poles to go for a walk.

Fixed geared bikes are gaining in popularity but yearly sales estimates are only about 8,000 units in the US.
Cyclocross? Possibly. If you are serious you have to buy two bikes.
Big-hit bikes? Not likely.
Singlespeed-29er-full suspension with 3.4” tires and disk brakes on the front only? Doubt it!

So, as an industry, what are we doing to bring the next big thing to the market? Is 2007 going to be the year of the bicycle?

Posted by Karl Wiedemann at 7:59 AM

19 Comments

  1. Blogger mail order posted at 9:06 AM  
    I'm going to go out on a limb and say none of your picks. They all involve niches of the sport. They're all 2nd or 8th bikes, not primary bikes. It's like saying carbon fiber is going to revive the industry.

    And man, would I love to root for 'cross. It's really growing, but it's just taking people from other disciplines, for the most part. Anyone buying two bikes is not buying them at shops or buying them at all.

    I'd like to think it was some sort of commuting technology advance, but no way. Not unless we get conquered by the Dutch this year.

    I hope it's a professionalism of the industry. Concept stores and the rise of stores like Cadence in Philly. It'd be nice to be taken seriously. And to make a living at the shop employee level, which is it's own cycle of violence.
  2. Blogger Karl Wiedemann posted at 9:13 AM  
    I would love to see a commuter advance also. I think the Shimano Coasting project has some legs but the bikes are a bit pricey for the typical US consumer. I also love the BioMega product out of Denmark (http://www.biomega.dk). Shaft drives, folding frames and integrated locks. But are they practical for the US?
  3. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 10:06 AM  
    Mail Order- I'd marry you if you were a girl and I wasn't already married!

    Excellent observation, excellent. I agree with you totally. I sell bikes in the niche categories and I love and support them, but I know they are not going to be maintainable markets with big growth for the industry. For my brand they are great and are improving the bottom line, but I am such a small player that all sales are really good for me.

    The industry has to embrace the less glamorous side of the business, which is things like commuting bikes and other less sporty segments, and support that because real and sustainable growth will come from there. We have an aging population that needs exercise and cycling is great for that. There is more potential for sales growth there than any other segment of the market.
  4. Anonymous bryan posted at 10:36 AM  
    Friends of mine have already bought or are planing on buying a 29er mountain bikes. So it sure seems like 29ers are going to be big in 07, but now that I think about it, they maybe wont hit their peak for another 3-4 years. Its like High Def TV (HDTV). Broadcasters fully embraced it about 7-8 years ago, and now we (consumers) are finally ditching our old standard def tv for the new toys of the future. Sales are huge for HDTVs now. Could this could be a similar growth pattern for 29 inch bikes?

    I would like to see clothing be big in 2007. I think the industry is way over due for lifestyle clothing that captures a younger more contemporary look for cyclists. Dressing like a clown is so 80's... and went out with M.C. Hammer.

    Since the inception of Evomo 2 years ago, I have seen at least 4 other companies born with similar goals of providing well designed, fashionable clothing - casual clothing for the bicycle industry. This could be a prelude to good sales for product that is not a normally stocked item for the LBS... they should take their cue from the local skate shops where clothing is a integral part of the consumers identity. People, athletes (your customers) love to show off what they do... clothing is an excellent way to broadcast your individuality.

    ...and on a side note. Is it just me or are bikes hella expensive now. After I got back from Interbike I was just looking at new full suspension xc bike and they seem to unbelievably expensive. As well, 2 of my friends just got single speeds, and paid almost $2000 for them (all rigid). Heck, thats what I paid for my current full suspension and its got 27 gears and disc brakes!
  5. Blogger James posted at 10:56 AM  
    Karl, Biomega does make some great bikes, but they are somewhat of a premium, “designer” brand and the products are priced accordingly. Still, I think that many of the features found in those bikes could be practical for the US market. If only the average person knew about products like those.

    I think that part of the problem companies have marketing commuter bikes in the US is the perception of those bikes at the retail level. Transportation oriented designs in the U.S. suffer from an image problem and are less likely than trickle down race products to get the average bike shop employee excited. Of course there are exceptions, but, in general, bike shops are full of recreational or racing cyclists who have a hard time separating their own vision of the perfect bike from the bike that might be just right for a particular customer. Things are changing and I hope to see even more bike designs on the market soon that target first time bike commuters. I think that type of product will be the next big thing in the bike industry, but, to make it happen, the designers and marketing people in the industry will need to put themselves in the shoes of people who don’t eat, sleep, and breath bicycles. When you are a serious bike enthusiast like many of the people who gravitate toward the industry, sometimes that is hard to do.
  6. Blogger Karl Wiedemann posted at 11:26 AM  
    I would love to challenge the bike industry to come up with a commuter friendly bike for under $199.99. Imagine if states offered rebates based on how many days commuted? States are offering nice rebates for changing houses over to solar and using Energy Star products. Why can't they offer tax benefits for cycle-commuters?
  7. Anonymous Phil posted at 3:29 PM  
    The problem is that we keep looking for a killer app, I think those days are gone.

    In reality the killer has always been the one that won't go away, and the one noted hera by all commenters - working bikes, bikes used as transport etc.

    Sure it ain't sexy but the potential for growth beyond niche products is immense. And yes, that signals an invasion by the Dutch.
  8. Blogger Fritz posted at 5:22 PM  
    Dudes & dudettes, I'm still seeing a lot of commuter and cruiser bikes in the bike shops, and people seem to be willing to shell out more than $200 for these bikes. This isn't just in Santa Cruz, either.

    I don't know if it's the economy or if other factors figure in and I don't know if the trend is regional or national, but the LBS owners that I know tell me 2006 was a good year for them.
  9. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 2:02 AM  
    My vote is urban/commuter type bikes... folding bikes in particular. Not that I have a bias of course :)
  10. Blogger Karl Wiedemann posted at 6:29 AM  
    I love that there are many more commuter bikes in the shops but we need to find a way to appeal to the masses. I am not saying Big-Box, but IBD selling to the masses. I don't think a Bud-drinkin' NASCAR fan is going to plunk down $450 on a commuter bike even though he wouldn’t think twice to spend that for one of those Dale Jr. leather jackets.
  11. Anonymous IB Rich posted at 12:19 PM  
    I think Phil's comment on our waiting for a killer app to sweep up the industry to the next level is spot on. New gear and innovations in bike technology are vital to the health of the industry, but I believe that advocacy issues are just as important in growing sales.
    The "milestones" that have been credited here with sparking growth, "Breaking Away", the mountain bike, even Lance in the last 10 years, have all worked by changing the public's preconceptions about bikes and what they could do on a bike.
    We, as an industry, really need to focus on growing the visibility of, respect for and "acceptability" of cycling in our culture among the group that Shimano has targeted with their Coasting project: not people that walk out of a bike shop without buying, but people who aren't even thinking about bikes or about buying a bike.
    The Bikes Belong Coalition, here in the US, is doing a great job. Is your company a supporter/member? The League of American Bicyclists organizes the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC each spring with the BBC. Are you going? It's a powerful lesson in how our government works as you meet with your Senators, Representatives and their staffs in the US Capitol and promote bicycling interests. While many passionate bikers attend the Summit, we need more industry support and presence.
    Many companies in the industry have realized the importance of advocacy to the industry and their future bottom lines like Trek, SRAM, Planet Bike and Ritchey. I know their are many others, my apologies for not picking yours...
  12. Anonymous Al posted at 7:02 PM  
    I think that for commuting to be the next be thing, it will need a combination of things: 1) tax breaks/incentives for people to ride to work and/or employers to promote/support bike commuters 2) local communtities to support/promote the bike commuting - especially in smaller towns and the midwest and finally (and not necessarily my favorite but it has worked for hybrids) celebrities getting behind the movement.
  13. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 8:13 PM  
    Al- good points. However, the main thing we need more than anything else?

    Ready? Million dollar answer to all the problems right here;

    We need more/ better bike paths. No matter of incentives will bring people out of the cars just to do battle with other people still sitting in their cars. If they feel that they are in danger, they won't ride. Most cities have little to no infrastructure to support cycling as a form of transportation.'

    look at Portland, arguably the most bike friendly city in the US and they still have major concerns due to bike-friendly infrastructure. Just go to BikePortland.Org and read some of the threads there. Best bike city in the US and they still recognize a need for better bike paths, etc. And that's in Portland. Go to any other city and it is exponentially worse.

    IB Rich Kelly got the thought rolling here- we need to support the folks who advocate for the cycling community and we need to get involved locally to improve conditions for average commuters or it will never, ever hit that critical mass that we need to really make a long lasting impact and effect change.

    This is great stuff for another post...
  14. Anonymous MSB posted at 10:46 PM  
    I think this thread is suffering the typical brainstorm problem: starting with the wrong question. I'd suggest that it's not "What is the next trend that will bring [excitement] to the bike industry?", but rather, "What is the next innovation that will increase the number of people on bikes, and/or the frequency that people ride?". Growth does not come from some percentage of cyclists buying a second bike. Growth is when a golfer becomes a cyclist, and converts all his golfer buddies. Or when a couch potato heeds his doctors advice to exercise, and then chooses a bike over a gym membership, and tells everyone he knows.

    People will ride more, and the industry will grow, when we start realizing that 3D Violet parts were not a growth opportunity. They were a distraction, infighting that was an overall net loss with no sustainable benefit.

    The answer, I think, lies here somewhere: when is the last time you got someone else stoked on riding? What was it that made you talk about riding in a way that was so compelling so as to change someone else's behavior? The more we can do to make cycling (all forms) accessible (people can find it), conversational (people have a reason to talk about it in the context of a normal day), approachable (people, especially women, aren't intimidated by it), and interesting (people care about it) to a wider range of new people, the better off we will be.

    Dare I say it, but this blog is a perfect meta-example. No one decided to become a cyclist because of what's here. Us, we're all converts. And we probably all have a cross bike already. Hell, maybe two.

    Peace.
  15. Anonymous Al posted at 4:32 PM  
    Tim,
    Completely agree with you, that's what I was trying to get at with #2 but did not do as good a job as you did explaining it. I live with that issue every day, part of my commute is on paths, part on road. While it isn't a bad commute, there are several parts of the commute where I ride on the road along a bike path because our city requires a new building/development to include a multi use path along their property line (great idea), the problem is that they are not required to connect it to anything, just have it. So there are several 20,50,100 yard bike paths that start and end in the middle of a corn field because there are still areas to develop. You would have thought that the city council would have made the requirement to build a path AND connect it to the current path system or roads. If you have to go across undeveloped land, who cares - the next person who builds there should reimburse you for the costs you incurred on their behalf. Sorry to rant, but this really pisses me off.
  16. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 4:15 PM  
    Karl Wiedemann wrote: "Fixed geared bikes are gaining in popularity but yearly sales estimates are only about 8,000 units in the US.

    I don't dispute it (and it doesn't account for all the 80s conversions out there), but where did that figure come from? And by comparison, how many bikes are sold in a year?
    Thanks
  17. Blogger Karl Wiedemann posted at 12:02 PM  
    That stat was from a movie on Bicycling.com called "getting fixed". http://rodale.typepad.com/bi_audio_blog/2006/12/getting_fixed.html. That figure if for new bikes, not conversions.
  18. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 2:22 PM  
    Lot of talk about the "dutch invasion" on here...didn't Electra just come out with a commuter bike called the Amsterdam which looks like those classic european models?
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