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  1. #1
    Sweet Ocean Cloud SD45T-2's Avatar
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    Default The cycling industry's elephant in the room

    Jill Missal is the founder of GearGals.com, a site dedicated to the (sadly) often marginalized population of women who love the outdoors.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill Missal
    The venerable Rick Vosper wrote about the elephant in the industry – the cycling industry that is. You know what it’s like having an elephant around; it’s that thing that is glaringly obvious yet has no immediate solution so everyone just ignores it. The cycling industry’s elephant is that the industry has undergone essentially zero net growth in the last twenty years.

    Zero. Small ups, small downs, but essentially has stayed exactly the same. It was a 6 billion dollar industry in 1990 and it’s a 6 billion dollar industry today. That’s right, every company out there is just fighting for a share of the same dollars. No blue oceans, no new markets, no innovation, nada, nothing.

    Depressing, eh? If you’re a bike retailer or bike shop owner or have any ambition to make it big in the bike industry, you bet it’s depressing. You’d have to steal market share from either another small retailer, or battle it out with the Big Guns of which there are only a few. You’d have to beat out an enormous juggernaut of a company like Specialized to get any of their market. Good luck with that.

    The reasons behind this lack of growth seem mystifying to some. To me, they are fairly obvious. The bike industry never changes, never evolves, never involves new markets or offers anything different than what it’s got. Consider the outdoor industry, which has grown and expanded to provide something for just about everyone. Not the bike industry – it struggles to change the consumer, not offer the consumer what she wants. So it doesn’t grow.
    The cycling industry keeps telling me I want to wear garish, skin tight, unflattering and horrendously ugly spandex clothing covered in company logos. It tells me I want tall socks and shirts with insane pocket configurations and zero sex appeal. It tries to convince me that arm condoms make more sense than long sleeves.

    It tells me that full-length bib pants are practical and I shouldn’t mind stripping naked on the side of the road to pee because my cycling pants are basically overalls. It tells me that the very things that can make riding easier and more convenient are so hopelessly uncool that I should be snubbed, made fun of, ignored, or practically shot dead for using them. Think hydration packs, flat pedals, non-spandex pants, loose-fitting clothing, shoes that can be walked in; you name it. If it improves the experience, you’re a shameless nerd and the cycling industry doesn’t want you.

    Again, if it sucks to ride a bike because it’s uncomfortable, and, say, you don’t like dislocating your shoulder trying to get a snack out of the pocket inexplicably located at the small of your back, you won’t continue. If you are snubbed by other participants in the sport and urged to do things that make your experience not as enjoyable, you’ll find something else to do.

    The cycling industry just cannot accept that the bulk of the potential market does not want to look like they’re wearing a sponsored sausage casing. They want easy access to food and water. They want to wear what they’re comfortable in. They want to do it the way they want to do it. Instead of finding ways to embrace that market, the cycling industry keeps churning out ugly and nonfunctional clothing and actively ridiculing those who would dare to alter the “look” of cycling. There are only so many people who will wear stuff that looks like that, and that’s the current limit of the cycling industry. The industry puts more energy into convincing me that I want to wear long socks than it is in making the socks I would want to buy. It’s backwards. You can’t control the consumer, you have to give the consumer what she wants.
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  2. #2
    this is my winter song EJCC's Avatar
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    +1 to all of this. Especially marketing. (In my experience -- I don't cycle nearly as much as others you've tagged here)
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  3. #3
    Sweet Ocean Cloud SD45T-2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EJCC View Post
    +1 to all of this. Especially marketing. (In my experience -- I don't cycle nearly as much as others you've tagged here)
    My best friend is an avid cyclist (way more hardcore than me) and he's been very irritated with the industry for a long time. He knows people (both male and female) who are somewhat interested in cycling but not willing to pay an arm and a leg just to get their foot in the door. It seems that for the most part manufacturers have little interest in trying to offer decent, affordable, entry-level road bikes to get new people to join the community.
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  4. #4
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    I am not sure I'm the same type of cyclist as the people described in the quote you provided. For me, it is about 95-99% transportation. Veeeery occasionally I'll go on a pleasure or fitness ride.

    I dress in business casual (per my program's dress code) for my commute and don't wear special shoes, just flats or dress boots or something. Occasionally heels, if I'm giving a presentation or something.

    The only difference is how I wear my hair... can't really spend a lot of time doing a nice hairstyle if I'm gonna smush it under a helmet. So I've found a few 'professional' hairstyles that work with my hair and with a bike helmet, and I cycle through those for different days of the week.

    I do think there is a potential untapped market is for less hardcore people. A lot of people still perceive biking as a dangerous and hardcore activity. And there are certainly dangers. But there are ways that it can be very safe as well. Some infrastructural changes, which are certainly happening in many cities in the USA. There are also cultural mindsets, which are often embedded in people's ways of thinking (and by 'people' in this context, I mostly mean 'automobile drivers') which may take awhile to change. I think there's also a critical volume of cyclists on the road can increase awareness and result in drivers paying more attention and giving more care to the cyclists who share the road with them.

    I know it is a very controversial topic. And I've had many people in cars act extremely disrespectfully and dangerously toward me. People who, if they saw me in the supermarket, would probably smile as we passed one another in the aisle. Just this morning, pulling up to a busy street from the shopping center driveway, I was waiting at the intersection for a gap in traffic to cross to the other side and a lady in a sedan wedges herself to my right, driving up on the curb, pausing for a moment to glare at me, and then proceeding to make her right turn... is the glaring really necessary? That was a minor example of course. I've had people purposefully pass extremely close to me when there's a wide open left lane for traffic flow. People honking and yelling obscenities. And people blatantly avoiding my right of way at an intersection and almost driving into me head-on.

    Something happens to totally nice and normal people when they get into a 2000lb metal container and steer it down a paved surface. Cyclists in particular infuriate so many. It's at an irrational/emotional level.

    So there's that, as well.
    Quote Originally Posted by SD45T-2 View Post
    My best friend is an avid cyclist (way more hardcore than me) and he's been very irritated with the industry for a long time. He knows people (both male and female) who are somewhat interested in cycling but not willing to pay an arm and a leg just to get their foot in the door. It seems that for the most part manufacturers have little interest in trying to offer decent, affordable, entry-level road bikes to get new people to join the community.
    There are of course the very affordable bikes you can get at like Target or something, but I'm not sure that's what you're talking about here?
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  5. #5
    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    I live in an area of the U.S. with a big bicycling community. Most of it is for transportation, I only very rarely see people decked out in spandex. I do see plenty of women cycling in skirts, and sometimes a guy with a tie, which is pretty rad. A good chunk of these bikes are beaters, older road bikes and mountain bikes. I'm not sure why there's such an effort to blame an industry, as consumers we should have some balls and buy what we want and use products in the way that suit us.

  6. #6
    Sweet Ocean Cloud SD45T-2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gromit View Post
    I do think there is a potential untapped market is for less hardcore people. A lot of people still perceive biking as a dangerous and hardcore activity. And there are certainly dangers. But there are ways that it can be very safe as well. Some infrastructural changes, which are certainly happening in many cities in the USA. There are also cultural mindsets, which are often embedded in people's ways of thinking (and by 'people' in this context, I mostly mean 'automobile drivers') which may take awhile to change. I think there's also a critical volume of cyclists on the road can increase awareness and result in drivers paying more attention and giving more care to the cyclists who share the road with them.

    I know it is a very controversial topic. And I've had many people in cars act extremely disrespectfully and dangerously toward me. People who, if they saw me in the supermarket, would probably smile as we passed one another in the aisle. Just this morning, pulling up to a busy street from the shopping center driveway, I was waiting at the intersection for a gap in traffic to cross to the other side and a lady in a sedan wedges herself to my right, driving up on the curb, pausing for a moment to glare at me, and then proceeding to make her right turn... is the glaring really necessary? That was a minor example of course. I've had people purposefully pass extremely close to me when there's a wide open left lane for traffic flow. People honking and yelling obscenities. And people blatantly avoiding my right of way at an intersection and almost driving into me head-on.

    Something happens to totally nice and normal people when they get into a 2000lb metal container and steer it down a paved surface. Cyclists in particular infuriate so many. It's at an irrational/emotional level.

    So there's that, as well.
    There's a book about that: http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Drive-...0105124&sr=1-1

    The Oatmeal also had an awesome cartoon about how people on foot are nice to each other but if you put them in cars they become homicidal. Too bad I can't find it.

    There are of course the very affordable bikes you can get at like Target or something, but I'm not sure that's what you're talking about here?
    I'm talking about fitness/recreational long distance stuff like centuries/metric centuries.

    In the last year my best friend has gotten interested in randonneuring. Randonneuring - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  7. #7
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    Totally agree. Where I live it's like watching the Tour De France daily as the grey nomads get around in racing outfits to go for their morning cruise. I went into a bike shop recently wanting a basic, old fashioned cruiser. You know the kind with a naff basket on the front for your little dog and practically no gears. The kind of bike I used to ride as a kid, where you got on it in thongs and shorts and just peddled around town at your own pace. Nope, can't have that! That kind of bike gear is too slow, too heavy....blah, blah, blah. Yes but I don't want $300 cleats for my $200 cleat shoes that you basically cannot walk in. I want an old pushie, where you sit on it in a sundress and cruise down to the local shops for a coffee. Or where you load up your naff basket with shopping and stuff.

    Where did that go? Is this why normal people don't own pushbikes and get around town on them like they used to? When riding a bike now costs $1k just to get kitted up, not to mention you look like an absolute tool dressed like it's the Tour De France to go for what should be a slow and leisurely Sunday jaunt for a picnic.

    In Australia, I blame the whole must wear a helmet thing. Once that rule came in bike riding became seriously uncool unless you were an athlete. Rather than ruin the joy of riding a bike we should have just provided ways for people to ride not on a road with cars. I loved having a pushie when I was a kid. It was my means of transport and I'd still be riding today if I didnt have to put an icecream bucket on my head or buy stupid racing gear just to ride a bike.

  8. #8
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    I've only recently gotten into the notion that I want to ride my bike--more for practical reasons than athletic ones (though the idea is to get some exercise too), but bikes are this sort of odd mesh of things: they're super practical, and cheap and convenient transportation, and many cities and urban and country folk alike need them on a daily basis. They're never going out of style. In fact, people are doing really cool things with bikes all the time.



    Like turning junk parts into awesome rides, and contraptions like the ones in that video someone just showed me yesterday actually. There are more cool things like helmets that you don't need to wear on your head but still be protected so that riding is comfortable and practical.

    Hövding – Airbag for cyclists (don't look at the pricetag, you'll literally die.)

    Still... As absolutely necessary as bikes have been and will continue to be, how many times can we really re-invent the wheel? Bikes will probably continue to get cooler, sleeker, better, and hopefully made of better stuff as technology advances. But a bike is a bike. A cheap walmart bike, an ergonomic bike for people with back problems, or a Tour De France winning bike, it's all the same concept. Two wheels, and a chain and some pedals to move it around on a frame. It won't get THAT much better. So it serves the same plateau that all necessities have--I don't see diaper industries gaining TONS more money than is already out on the market--as people have babies they buy diapers.. and no more or less. It's the nature of the beast.

    I agree entirely with the clothing lines and such. That's actually not a hard thing to fix--someone just identified the problem... there are a LOT of fashion designers out there aspiring to be more than dreamers. Someone ought to just jump on that opportunity--to create different areas of biking clothes. Not much is needed.. Most people are NOT biking for the sake of sport. Most are biking for fun, or transportation. So why not lounge-wear biking clothes? Something someone can literally wear to bed, but wake up and jump on a bike to go get breakfast somewhere without changing clothes? Or sexy clothing that won't get wrapped up in bike chains or get in the way of pedaling. It's possible. The inspiration is there.

    And while I don't think any more people are willing to ride bikes than current lifestyles permit, and fluctuate and even out accordingly each year, I do think there is plenty of room to improve on the garbage and trash that's currently available revolving around the market. Plenty of hipsters would appreciate a line of clothing made for bikes but that don't look like sold-out garbage, plenty of posh ladies that want to look good in the city would appreciate a dress that you can easily ride in, and plenty of lazy people like me would appreciate a pair of sleeping pants that are designed specifically so that pedaling wouldn't be a problem if you decided to just hop on your bike for a while in the morning before you started your day.
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  9. #9
    Sweet Ocean Cloud SD45T-2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyuuei View Post
    Still... As absolutely necessary as bikes have been and will continue to be, how many times can we really re-invent the wheel?
    A whole bunch, apparently.

    One of the current sexy fads is wheels with carbon fiber rims. Carbon fiber is kind of slick so it reduces the effectiveness of the brakes because there's less friction. And if you are riding the brakes down a long hill heat builds up, which makes the wheels prone to warping, in which case the tire comes off and you crash. Some events have banned participants from using them for that reason. But at least they're expensive! I guess they make you faster by lightening your wallet.
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