|An early Niner RIP-9: The company is reportedly being sold to an investor group.|
Of course, Niner Bikes made their name on the 29 inch wheel, which they famously championed early on and stuck with doggedly although 650B wheels and plus sized wheels became more popular within the last five years. The company even stayed out of the fat bike craze, much to their credit, I might add.
So, was this devotion to a single wheel size killing the company? Apparently not. According to "BRaIN", in this story published today, Niner stands in good stead financially. However; it appears that they cannot fund new R&D, new product lines, and yes, that means e-mtbs, which are the hottest selling bicycle in Europe by a long shot right now.
Added to this is that I have read or heard somewhere that Niner sells more of its gravel/all road/CX bike product than it does the mountain bike stuff. This isn't due to a dogged devotion to 29"ers, but most likely it is just what the article in "BRaIN" is saying- a lack of engineering and product development capabilities. This hinders growth and innovation on their mtb side, and also it affects the ability to diversify. (So, yes, maybe Niner is thinking they cannot compete the way they want to with the limited array of products they offer now.)
Interestingly, the "BRaIN" article closed out with this quote from the Chapter 11 filing:
"With a recapitalized balance sheet, the Debtor will be able to, among other things, hire the engineers and product managers necessary to design bikes for women, to begin offering kid’s models, to create electric mountain bikes, and continue to increase models with different wheel sizes. The Debtor also believes that by enlarging their omnichannel footprint they will be able to increase brand awareness and engagement, ultimately leading to substantial revenue growth."
Note the word "omnichannel". Of all the things coming out of this news story, this reflects what I think is going to be the most weighty of impacts. Not only for Niner's future, but the cycling industry as a whole. We won't be buying cycling stuff in the way that we once did anymore, nor in the way we think will will. It's going to look radically different before all is said and done.
Still, as I posted earlier today, it is the "pie" that needs growing, not the "how you sell it" that needs fixing so much. Unless the industry can entice people to ride by making safe places to use bicycles, then how you try to sell them will not make much difference.