Thursday, March 29, 2007

A call to advocacy

If you haven't watched it yet, here's Trek president, John Burk, giving a presentation calling for advocacy in the bike industry. It's the best 23 minutes you'll spend today.

That's the most inspiring thing I've seen in a long time and I feel it's the beginning of something grand.

It's hard to tell if my perspective is just skewed due to the fact that I watch the bike industry so much anyway, but it seems like we are on a verge of a renaissance here in the US. The overall "green" feeling growing across the country. Higher gas prices forcing people to look towards other means of transportation. And now, one of the biggest movers in the industry calling for an move towards bicycle advocacy.

For me, the part in the video that stood out the most is when John Burke confessed to not being interested in advocacy ten years ago and consistently turned away people asking for help. That kind of honesty is refreshing.

From there, the points about growing the number of people on bikes just a few percentage points will make the industry boom struck me as something I never had considered... but should have!

So here's my questions... What can I do? And what can you do?

We can give money to advocacy groups... but what else?

How do we start getting involved in my community? Where do we start? Should we be burning up the phones calling our local politicians? Or is there something else?

I'd love to start compiling a list of resources for people that want to get involved in their community to get more people on bikes. If you have some information, links, tips, ideas, etc etc. Leave them in the comments to get us going.

Posted by Tim Grahl at 5:19 AM 3 comments

Monday, March 19, 2007

DC follow up and a call to the Cycling Industry; (UPDATED)

As I mentioned about a week ago, I recently attended the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC with my Haro-family coworker Jill Hamilton.

Jill and I attended this very important lobbying junket as guests of Bikes Belong, the fine folks who work tirelessly to make sure that the cycling industry gets a voice at the legislative table. Along with the League of American Bicyclists, these two organizations work to put together the National Bike Summit.

This year's Summit drew around 450 attendees. People from all walks of the bicycle advocacy spectrum- industry, retailers, bike clubs, city, regional, state and national advocacy groups... you name it. Some were there to support Safe Routes to School, some were there to lobby for more trail access, others were there to get bicycle commuters the same sort of tax break/ incentives that other folks get for commuting by bus or carpool and then there were folks (like me) who were focused on the Complete Streets initiative. It was a very diverse group and all of us joined together for the greater good of cycling, in the broader sense. Altruistic as it sounds, it is the truth and I was very proud to be a part of it.

I don't know how it is possible to go to DC and not feel inspired by the sight of our country's legislative power in action. It was actually awe inspiring and this is coming from one of the least political people you'll ever meet. I still came away from DC with a new sense of energy and desire to work towards greater cycling advocacy issues.

You will hear me talk more about advocacy here and at that other place where I talk my fool head off. Advocacy is going to become a bigger focus for me, so I hope you'll put up with it. Here's the thing; too few cycling industry companies participate in advocacy and only a handful of folks showed up to the Summit. John Burke from Trek was there, Chris Fortune from Saris Group was there, Ariadne Scott from Specialized was there (along with a couple other folks) and Don Palermini from Bell Sports was there. There were others who were there and I apologize for missing your names, those folks are the ones I remember off the top of my head. Needless to say, industry folks were outnumbered quite a bit by the other non-industry folks. The non-industry folks do a fantastic job of making our lives easier, but it is time that we- as a whole- stepped up and added more to the efforts. Since I know that I get quite a few industry folks reading this site, I am putting out the challenge and invitation to be a bigger and more vocal part of the advocacy process. I am going to keep asking for more folks to become involved and I will be working on local and regional things that I can help with as well.

Think of it very selfishly, all you industry wankers (which I am one of); without the efforts of bicycle advocates, we will one day be without an industry to work in. Without safe streets for folks to ride on, they will not ride. Without safe routes to school, kids won't need bikes to get to school. Without trail access, our dirt-loving mountain bike friends will have nowhere to ride and no need for a new mountain bike. It's a very simple equation really. We have to work together, putting aside petty brand squabbles, to help provide a future for our industry. Let's face it, race geeks alone are not going to support an entire industry.

So here is my challenge and my invitation to my fellow members of the cycling industry; stand up and be heard! Lend your voice to the chorus. Contact your local Congressman or Senator and let them know the things that are important to you (and not just about cycling). Don't just let "somebody else" do the work for you- roll up your sleeves and get a little dirt under your nails. Here's one more immutable truth; when it comes to DC, money talks. If the industry stands united and says "we need this", then we're much more likely to see some results. Think a bicycle commuter tax break doesn't apply to you? Think again... those commuters by a lot of product, from bikes, to tires, to fenders, to lights, to new helmets, etc. If they have a monetary incentive to ride their bikes, and not just the "think green" incentive, more folks will get out and ride. Add safer roads to ride on into the equation and that potential pool of money-spending commuters gets even bigger.

Please join me in trying to make a brighter future for our much beloved industry.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

(Short UPDATE; I realize that the mandate for Bikes Belong is to lobby for the cycling industry and they do a great job. Tim Blumenthal, the Director of Bikes Belong, is the former Director of IMBA and has a history of getting things done. Things are getting done with Bikes Belong as well, but my point is that the industry needs to work closely together and form a coalition or trade group that lobbies for change as well. We need to be able to put aside differences and work closely to further protect our industry and its interests.)

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Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:26 PM 1 comments

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Heading to the National Bike Summit.

This coming week, I will be in Washington DC attending the National Bike Summit, along with my coworker Jill Hamilton (the Haro MTB Brand Manager... and one time contributor here... who might come back... no pressure...). Jill and I will be attending the summit as "sponsored guests" of Bikes Belong, serving as representatives of the cycling industry. With no sense of false modesty or "build up", I am extremely excited about this and very honored to be going. I, along with many, many other people (way more qualified for the task than I) will be going to help further the causes of bicycle advocacy in the US. If you've read my posts or comments here and elsewhere, you might already know how I feel about the need for greater cycling-friendly infrastructure in this country. The industry needs the infrastructure to survive, but cycling as a whole needs it as well.

Anyway, here's the deal; you got something you want said to the folks in DC who hold the purse strings? Then let me know and I will do my best to carry your ideas all the way to the folks who might actually be able to do something about it. I promise nothing other than the fact that I will do my best to express your comments and/ or concerns. Most people know that I am pretty darned passionate about cycling and this industry. I'm pretty sure there will be more than one occasion when I get told politely to shut the hell up... as if I can. But I want to carry your ideas as well. Sorry for the short notice on this, since I leave first thing in the morning Tuesday, but get me your comments here or directly to my email (tjackson at masibikes dot com). I will be in DC until Friday, so you have a few days to get to me before I get to them.

I'm looking forward to raising my hand and my voice to try and improve the state of cycling in this country. I will have great company while I'm there too, so you are in good hands.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

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Posted by Tim Jackson at 7:32 PM 4 comments

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What do women really want?

Graham at Go Clipless asks us to play brand manager dressups for a day in an effort to answer the unanswerable. Exactly what do women really want?

If the clothes are conservatively designed, there are women that will want them to be sexier. If the colors are too dark, they may be seen as too masculine. If the choices are the same as for men, they will not be seen as special. A conundrum to be sure.

So what would you do? Play cycling product manager for a day. What's your strategy to approach this market, whether you are male or female?

This is good timing because I had an interesting and wide ranging conversation yesterday with a wonderful 50's + woman about this exact topic, and about what influences her bicycle buying choices.

I think I know what women want.................!?!?

She and other women I talk to on a regular basis about this do not want pinks and baby blues, however most of them are roadies and that's where I'll focus this conversation.

The specific conversation was about a Sarah Ulmer Brand full carbon Ultegra WSD machine that was accented with pink, white and silver, the bike was an out of the box fit, but there was no way she could get around the pink. I suggested we blacken it up (seat, tape, post stem) in an effort to de-emphasize the pink even though there wasn't a lot of it. No way.

The feedback I'm getting is that the reference points of this kind of female cyclist are the men they ride with in the bunch, they are absolutely influenced by them simply because they are almost always in the minority and as such want what the guys are having. They don't want to stand out as girly, they just want to fit in and be one of the boys.

This is not an isolated conversation, and as a result, my conclusion is that this particular market want the same bikes, the same clothing and the same accessories in the same colours as the men, just cut and designed for women.

So, as brand manager for a day, I'd like to design every womens high end product to look just like what the men are using.

((I'll take my brand manager salary in a dirty brown paper bag of $100's - just hang around the phone booth at the corner of Main and Central and wait for the phone to ring.))

Update: Smithers has a nice thread going on this, with comments from actual women (gasp!) like Mrs Smithers.

Posted by Spinopsys at 6:57 PM 12 comments