Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Commuter Bikes: They've Got It All Wrong! Part II

I had an interesting comment left from yesterday's post that I had a reply to and found out my comment wouldn't upload to my own blog! Well.............anyway, I figured I'd just turn it into a regular post. So here you go. The first bit is an excerpt from the comment that I wanted to respond to. My response will follow.

"No matter how bikes are marketed, sooner or later people come to the realization that it's sometimes WORK to ride them. Wind in your face, rear-end is gonna initially hurt, trial and error equipment preference 'til you sort it all out, legs are going to feel like rubber-bands, you're gonna show up where you need to go sweaty, it just might take you longer to get there, might get lost on the way trying to figure out a good route... but oh so gratifying cause you did it on your own and you did it.

The best commuter is comfortable, ugly, preferably inexpensive, something you don't really care ALL that much about, and is reliable. When riding your ugly but trusty bike, there will be days when commuting might just suck. Hmmm... how would you go about marketing that? "
ken y

First of all, "ken" goes into the physical complaints that a new user might have in regards to riding a bike for utilitarian purposes. Well, I would submit that a very large percentage of "cyclists" go through this ritual every spring. Pain in getting back into "cycling shape" is common, and most of the customers frequenting the shop I work at go through it. Every year. So yeah, there is that physical barrier to cycling that a lot of us that have tried the sport know about. The thing is, we're talking about folks that have not ridden bicycles for a long, long time. That's the point behind the Coasting idea. That's the people Shimano is supposedly trying to market to, and that's the market they are missing, as I pointed out yesterday.

These people haven't got a clue as to what will or won't hurt. They are all still in their cars. Yes, they would find out that there is a physical price to pay for riding, but if the payoff is good, the pain will be worth it. Even "ken" alludes to some of this when he writes "... but oh so gratifying cause you did it on your own and you did it." The sense of autonomy and practicality have to be seen in the activity for most to deem the physical part worth it as a utilitarian form of transport. That and the rising price of gas will no doubt start to motivate more and more to consider a bicycle.

However; my point yesterday was that the bicycle we have to offer is aimed at what "cyclists" deem necessary and not what new users feel they need, or are comfortable with. The Coasting bikes are close, particularly Raleigh's offering, but still way too expensive and too complex. (Fix the wheel attachment situation, for one thing) The bike needs to be like a wrench, hammer, or screwdriver: nothing flashy, complex, or task specific, just a tool that's easy to use and own. This is also something that "ken" touches on in his comment that I agree with.

Now as for the marketing of this: well let's just say that it could be done. It has to be done in a very different way than we see in cycling today though. What I see is cyclists preaching to cyclists. We don't need that sort of inbred marketing strategy. We need to talk to the guy in the Hummer, the gal that uses her car to drive down the street to pick up a pack of smokes, and to the kids behind the gaming consoles. We need to find a way to make riding a bike make sense to them from a utilitarian standpoint, not a cycling one. Make users first, the cyclists will happen later. That's my take.

Blog News: Here's a couple of new sites that I found really interesting from a cycling and personal standpoint. First up we have a couple of guys challenging themselves to go "car free" in the month of November. The site is still under construction, but this could be cool.......really cool! (It will happen in the month of November in Michigan and Iowa, for crying out loud!)

Secondly, there is a new bike shop being "born" here in the Mid-West. Take a look to see what a fellow big wheeled nut has up his sleeve here and follow the progress.

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