Something on the back cover of the most recent edition of Australian Cyclist magazine (the only one I read, mainly because I don't have to pay for it) caught my attention. It was an ad for a bike shop in Sydney by the name of Woolly's Wheels, but it wasn't the business name that caught my attention as much as their slogan: "The commuting and touring specialists".
That ad has been running for a while, but to be honest, it's the only one I can ever remember actually using that particular angle to advertise bikes. The majority of bikeshops these days seem keen to promote the "sport" of cycling. Generally the advertisements fall into two categories, depending on the type of bike they're trying to sell.
If it's a road bike, the focus will be on speed and weight. Generally it will mention that it is the most spanky thing on two wheels because, supposedly, if you ride it you'll be faster than anyone else. You'll generally get photos of road racers in all their spanky gear crossing a finish line with their arms waving in the air.
Of course, if it's a MTB, they'll target the "extreme sport" market. The suggestion being that this bike is made exclusively to stand up to any punishment you can dish out to it. You'll see people riding down the side of mountains or doing some other clever trick, never mind the fact that very few people will ever be able to pull it off.
Of course, there are other types of bikes, but I've left them off for the moment because it's generally these two bikes that get all the ink. So where is all this going you ask?
I honestly believe that the advertisers are doing a disservice to cycling by concentrating on such a narrow focus. People will rightly argue that they are doing their job (i.e. selling their bikes), but they seem to be ignoring the biggest potential market of all - the non-cyclists.
Think about this: how many times have you ridden to work and had people compare you to Lance Armstrong (I know I have!). Maybe you've suggested to some non-cycling friends that they'd like to join you on a ride and their response has been something like "Oh no, I'm not fit/spanky enough (strike out whichever doesn't apply) to do that!"
We seem to have allowed this advertising to create too many images of what a cyclist "should" aspire to be. I believe that as many non-cyclists who are thinking of taking it up are put off by this aspect as by the perception of danger (it's been covered elsewhere often enough... if not, well, I'll write a piece on that next week).
Now, admittedly, touring and commuting aren't for everyone, and riding to work probably isn't sexy enough to catch the attention of the masses, but what about the sheer joy of simply riding? What about the freedom it provides? The opportunity to enjoy the scenery? The greater interaction you have with people around you (yes, it's true). These all seem to have been totally forgotten in the rush to be the fastest or the most extreme.
I've seen many car advertisements focus on the "pleasure of driving" - why can't bicycle advertisements do the same?
Can anyone shed some light on this?