There's an interesting article this week in that well-know cycling mag Business Week about the rise of non-racing "coasting" bikes:
The bike industry was blinded by a blip in sales of high-margin, top-end road bikes after Lance Armstrong's remarkable string of seven Tour de France victories. Sales of those expensive, high-tech marvels of modern engineering stabilized revenues, even as unit sales slid.
It's another angle on the story about Shimano sending bike salesmen to the cosmetics counter.
In the process, Shimano learned why people stopped riding. It wasn't so much that they were out of shape, or too busy or lazy. It was because cycling had become intimidating, something for hard-core athletes who love all the technical minutiae. "Everything had changed in bicycling," says Shimano's [David] Lawrence. "It had gone from fun to being a sport, and no one had noticed."
Sport and fun aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but I see what Lawrence is on about. It's easy to let it be all too bloody serious, and it can be intimidating when you're faced with bike shops that are
filled with workers who fawned over gear, had little time for customers interested in just plain bikes.
I don't think the industry can be blamed for pursuing the high-end, but its almost total neglect of people just looking for a simple, comfortable bike is pretty sad and short-sighted. If nothing else, the industry should see that a goodly proportion of people who stump-up $500 for a basic cruiser will catch the bug and soon be back for something racier and pricier. Talk about double-dipping! But if that easy entry-level is denied the uncertain buyer, then none of the future sales will follow.
I think my thoughts on this are borne out by the fact that
when Shimano rolled out a 15-city marketing campaign, [Trek, Raleigh, and Giant] sold out of the roughly 30,000 Coasting bikes produced.
People love bikes. Just give them something simple, reliable and cheap, and they'll jump aboard.
Good to see! I for one, have a back and backside to match, that requires comfort.
I also like to spare the people I meet the horror of an aging body in Lycra by wearing Netti Super Shy's thus still having a chamois to help avoid chaffing of a delicate posterior and any lightweight long sleeve shirt I have clean will work at the speeds and distances I ride.
I'm glad to see a boom in coaster bikes but fear things could go the other way. bikes turn from sport into a fashion statement. I think the emphasis needs to be to improve the components of bikes at the 00 level. People new to bikes usually don't understand these parts and they focus on the look, but in the end you want somethings thats going to last and keep people on the bike.
I went from a DF bike (6 years) to a recumbent (13 years) because of a blown out lower back. I just couldn't take the bent forward angles anymore. Am now considering one of the new cruisers for short, under 30mile, rides that I like to do with friends. We are not in any hurry as we have all day to enjoy the ride. What with a few food and drink stops thrown in. But will still use my "bent" for my long touring rides. Like the July RAGBRAI in Iowa USA. Ride on Ride on..........
I think the "bike as fashion accessory" is already here. Cashed-up "new golfers" are prepared to hand over up to 000 for the very latest and greatest racing bike plus all the team gear—they don't need it, but they can afford it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but it's not the only way to ride.
But Adrian is right: keeping it simple and robust it the way to keep cost down. People who want a basic bike need something that's reliable and low maintenance.
Lawrencia isn't my local bike shop, but I once bought a bike from them—and it was still doing regular service nearly twenty years later (I still have it, but it's retired). So, I've got to agree: their advice back then was right for my needs. I reckon I'll have to go the extra mile to drop-in and see what their service is like now.
Dave and Bob highlight exactly why the bike biz as a whole needs to be more flexible in the customers it's prepared to serve.