Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Trek's Trail Less Traveled

The recent product launch of Trek's new "69er" line up signals a major departure from what was expected by them. Many had guessed that Trek would jump into the 29"er market to reap even more of a growing market than they could with just the Fisher brand. Instead it seems that they have struck out on a maverick course.

To be sure, the bicycles are well done. The frames are high tech marvels of aluminum, forged under hydraulic pressure into multi shaped tubes. The graphics are subtle, the paint spot on. Even one of the models drive trains reflects modern tastes in it's 1 X 9 configuration. The bikes are going to look great on dealers floors, no doubt about it.

However; these race level steeds are going to have an uphill battle right out of the box. Not only are they $1400.00 and up, but they are in a market segment that faces stiff competition from lots of traditional and big wheeled bikes. The traditional bikes; bikes that are "safe" in racers and consumers eyes and the 29"ers which have a growing number of curiosity seekers based upon years of grassroots growth and evangelism, for lack of a better term. The 69er concept enjoys none of these benefits in the eyes of the public.

Then you have the dealers, who have just barely gotten on board with the 29"er concept and are now asked to stock yet another type of mountain bike with another wheel format altogether. Getting the dealers on board will be a challenge. See Gary Fisher circa 2002 for a great example of how dealers have traditionally been slow to accept a new format in mountain bikes.

Finally, you are looking at a concept largely driven by one company that has a minimal existing support base and a huge lack of understanding by most of the mountain biking public. Not to mention the fact that history doesn't paint a very bright picture for Trek, judging from the failed attempts of the past to bring mixed wheel formats to the mainstream. All one can say now is, "what if ?" What if Trek had introduced a 29"er? I'm guessing it would have been wildly successful right out of the box.

The 69er? All I can say is, "God bless it's pointy little head!"

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