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  1. #1
    Senior Member CrankyOne's Avatar
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    Would selling transportation improve declining bike sales ?

    Not just transportation bikes but the idea of riding a bike for transportation and not just recreation?

    Why Are Bicycle Sales Declining (for the 14th year)? | streets.mn
    "Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt." - ATL Urbanist

  2. #2
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link. FWIW, I don't think bike companies should give up on selling bikes for recreation to casual riders, but it may be a problem of marketing and culture, as well as getting folks past the big box throwaway mindset. Put another way, non cyclists feel intimidated when they go into bike shops, and find themselves going to big box shops where they get poor quality bikes that are not much fun to ride. Shimano tried and failed to address this problem with the coasting program a few years back.

    As for selling bikes as transportation, it is potentially viable in urban areas and very old (pre WWII) suburbs and maybe very new suburbs built around the new urbanism, but for a lot of folks living in areas developed from WWII until recently, it still isn't feasible for the masses of people. Finally, bike companies could get serious about selling practical bikes to the next generation of cyclists (Kids), though we need a culture shift so kids would be encouraged to ride their bikes to school, like they did back in the 1970s. IMO, the choices for families looking for sensible kids bikes are faced with poor quality low end bikes, and on the other end, very limited choices from the bike companies.
    Last edited by MRT2; 07-30-15 at 11:08 AM.

  3. #3
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    If you ever go used bike shopping you will realize there are enough bikes. If there is a problem preventing people from cycling, that's not it.
    Genesis 49:17

  4. #4
    I love the rolling hills. ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    I think they're right, for the most part. They're still overlooking the obvious thing that gas is too cheap in this country for most people to consider alternatives to driving. (Just an observation, it's not meant to be prescriptive. )

    Agree with @MRT2 that it would take a culture shift to get more people biking for transportation. It's strange to me that while most companies put a lot of research into expanding their market share and making inroads into untapped markets, bike manufacturers aren't pursuing the transportation cycling market more aggressively. I guess they're making enough money selling "toys" not to care too much. Put in other words, people interested in transportation cycling come to them to see what their options are, there doesn't seem to be a big push from the companies to get more people riding to work and the grocery store and such. Advertising has a big influence on culture, after all.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
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  5. #5
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    Decline? Not in the Boston, MA area. Huge increase in riders in the last 3 years or so. Much more in the way of bike lanes, hub bikes ever expanding and other bike shares booming all over the US. So not technically bike sales, but bike riders using hub bikes. That's my take. Plus support for more bike lanes( everywhere) and the former and current Boston mayor. Just because bike sales are declining doesn't mean there are less commuters. Sales of what kind of bike? Road? Mountain bike/ etc. Those bikes sold in 2005 might just need a tune up and new tires. I see more commuter bikes in stores and more bikers out everywhere.
    Last edited by Leebo; 07-30-15 at 12:53 PM.

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    Senior Member rmfnla's Avatar
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    Modern business principles are often not realistic in terms of market behavior.

    Managers and investors can make all the demands they want but that doesn't affect reality...
    Today, I believe my jurisdiction ends here...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Cyclosaurus's Avatar
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    Almost every time I take my folding bike on a multi-modal commute I get positive comments, questions, etc. These are people who are very interested but didn't even know such a thing existed. Whenever my wife and I go out on our cargo bikes, we get people stopping us, asking us all about them. All manner of guys, from blue to white collar, are always ogling my Bullitt cargo bike and I've even had dudes yell "cool bike" from pickup trucks (which generally is the most bike-hostile demographic in my experience). There is a big, untapped market for bikes besides the usual carbon race bikes and BSOs in the toy aisle of Target.
    Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve. -Popper

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    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    I think the shops respond to the market and not the other way around. In places where transportation cycling is popular, there are more shops that have transportation related products and expertise. Shops can't create a market that doesn't exist but it's possible that some are blind to what's going on and are missing potential sales.

    I tend to believe that the bikes people already own are more than likely suitable for transportation. Even if a bike has been sitting in a garage for a decade, for $40 to $60 they can bring to a shop and it will ride as good as new. There's just not a compelling reason for most people to spend hundreds on a new bike.

  9. #9
    Senior Member CrankyOne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
    I think the shops respond to the market and not the other way around.
    Perhaps. However... If Steve Jobs had done this we'd not have a number of useful electronic gadgets. If Elon Musk had done this we'd not have Tesla or SpaceX. If Jeff Bezos had done this we'd not have Amazon. If GM and Ford had done this we'd have a bunch of foreign cars on... Oh wait, they did respond to the market.

    I think the point is that maybe bike shops should do a better job of educating their customers on options beyond buying a hybrid and riding it twice a year on a local rails to trails thing.
    "Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt." - ATL Urbanist

  10. #10
    Senior Member CliffordK's Avatar
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    Interesting thought.

    It is not uncommon to see a question on the board:

    "What do I need to build a commuter bike".

    And, the answer should be to go down to the LBS and pick out a commuter bike. Whereas, the answers given are to go pick out XYZ bike, add fenders, snag spare tubes, pump, and etc.

    HOWEVER,

    What is also obvious is that each person's needs are different.

    I never biked in Amsterdam. But, when I was in Parma, Italy, there were city bikes everywhere. But the whole city might have been about 5 miles in diameter. So, the average ride might have been 1 to 2 miles. And, the city is FLAT.

    Perugia, Italy, on the other hand was a little hillier, and there were very few bikes.

    Here in the USA, distances get longer, and hills become significant. So, while a 1 speed or 3 speed klunker may work in a small flat town in Europe, it might not be appropriate for a cyclist's needs around here.

    A big part of the problem is to encourage people to choose housing and work locations close enough to reasonably commute. Hard to convince commuters to ride their bikes when they live 30 miles from work only accessible via freeways.

    For longevity, yeah, the old 3 speeds can take a beating. But, I put a lot of miles on my bike, and have for YEARS... ummm... DECADES. I do some maintenance here and there, probably should do more. But, the bike isn't some flimsy piece of tin foil that gets wadded up and thrown away.

    I think one of the primary things is making tires and wheels that can take a beating. That is what made the MTBs so popular in the 80's and 90's. Perhaps some riders dream of riding on trails, but most of the dept store bikes just roll over pavement, gravel, and the occasional curb.

    I've had a rack on my old Colnago for years. And it does carry more than a loaf of bread. Add the trailer and it can do quite respectably.

  11. #11
    Slow Recreational Rider TheManShow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    If you ever go used bike shopping you will realize there are enough bikes. If there is a problem preventing people from cycling, that's not it.

    So true like on Craigs list were some pretty good bicycle sit, sit, and sit. But part of the reason IMHO is that buyer have where I live a lot of choices. It is IMHO a buyers market.

    Some place like Portland or Seattle it is the oposite more of a sellers maket with small inventory, and many buyers.
    “Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.”-Jonathan Harshman Winters III (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013) American comedian & actor.

  12. #12
    Senior Member CliffordK's Avatar
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    Oh, another thought on declining sales.

    I'm not sure about price vs buying power over the years. But, once the price of an average new bike starts tipping $1000, it seems like a big chunk of change. But, I also know how hard it is to keep costs down.

    And there are LOTS of used bikes out there, some in good shape.

  13. #13
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    This article is lycra hate posing as thoughtful analysis. It's laughably easy to debunk. In the last 8 years, the industry has embraced city and commuter bikes. Every major manufacturer came out with a line. There are more commuting-focused bikes than ever available from manufacturers. And consumers have responded by not buying them. In droves. Specialized shut down its Globe line. The industry isn't run entirely by idiots. They tried this transportation bike thing. It isn't working that great. When people come into the local shop I sometimes cover shifts at, looking for an inexpensive bike, what do they buy? Hybrids. Hybrids fly out the door. The commuting bikes sell much more slowly.

    There are much larger cultural forces at work, forces that swamp a few weenies on road bikes and the frankly insular marketing of the bike industry. Regular people don't see the ads encouraging you to get the latest fast road or mountain bike. In the 1970's, we had the bike boom and millions upon millions of crappy 10-speeds were sold. These bikes were not that great for commuting. They were sold without fenders, they weren't that comfortable, but bikes were in and linked to environmental concerns and so people bought them. Now there are still tons of these bikes around, on the used market, and if someone needs a bike, they're good enough and a lot cheaper than a new bike. In these lean economic times, it's going to be hard to move expensive retail goods like a new bike shop bicycle.
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  14. #14
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    Is cycling in decline, or just bike sales? Everything I've read recently suggests a rise in bike use.

    A glut of adequate bikes seems plausible. In addition, "transportation" is exactly where you might prefer a bike that rides OK but looks too crappy to steal. It's hard to make a new bike that meets that requirement.

    Maybe there's a difference between a "commuter bike" as a marketing category, and as a bike that people actually want. Perhaps one misconception has to do with transportation versus recreation. Those are just not separate things for me.

  15. #15
    Senior Member bmthom.gis's Avatar
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    FWIW, I have a feeling that a lot of people who would potentially use a bike as transportation are scared off by having to ride in traffic. I have two friends who live maybe a mile and a half from the office. Both have bikes, one of them has ridden in like twice. The other thought she would but tried riding out and was scared off by cars. Instead, despite being roommates going to the same office, they both drive 2 miles each way.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
    Perhaps. However... If Steve Jobs had done this we'd not have a number of useful electronic gadgets. If Elon Musk had done this we'd not have Tesla or SpaceX. If Jeff Bezos had done this we'd not have Amazon. If GM and Ford had done this we'd have a bunch of foreign cars on... Oh wait, they did respond to the market.
    Jobs, Musk, etc created something new, or at least they made you believe it was something new. Few people are going to perceive a city bike as something radically different from the bikes they've ridden before. Apple, Telsa, and Amazon also had far more advertising and marketing dollars to convince people they needed or wanted what they were selling. I don't watch much TV but I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial from a bike shop. They don't have the cash. Even the larger chains pretty much stick to radio and they don't talk much about specific products. I see adds online, but I see them because they are targeted at people like me who buy some stuff online or visit cycling related sites. But this is why targeted adds can fail. I haven't bought a brand new bike in 20 years.

    What happens in the shops isn't so much the problem (other than maybe sticker shock). It's that people aren't going to shops in the first place. I do think that there are shops that are missing the boat, but they will see more sales in transportation accessories than they will city bikes. Lets say a customer does buy a city bike that has everything on it that you'd want for most transportation purposes. Lets say it has a nice reliable IGH (3,5,7, or 8 speed), has hub lighting and the whole works. When is the next time that shop will see the customer again? Not for a long time. Not a lot of innovation happens in the city bike world that would bring a customer back in 3 to 5 years later for a new bike.

    Now, you're not going to see your average hybrid owner come back very often either, but the high end recreational bike customers tend to want the new stuff more often than others. So I can understand why bike shops tend to cater to these folks. It makes sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
    I think the point is that maybe bike shops should do a better job of educating their customers on options beyond buying a hybrid and riding it twice a year on a local rails to trails thing.
    If a customer wants to spend $500 or less on a bike for the occasional trail ride, the bike shop isn't going to be very successful convincing them they should spend $800 or more on a bike to ride to dinner or the farmers market instead. Especially since the $400 hybrid can be used for the same purpose.

    For that sale to happen, the customer would have to be pretty serious about wanting to use the bike for transportation before they even walked into the shop.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 07-30-15 at 06:35 PM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    Finally, bike companies could get serious about selling practical bikes to the next generation of cyclists (Kids), though we need a culture shift so kids would be encouraged to ride their bikes to school, like they did back in the 1970s. IMO, the choices for families looking for sensible kids bikes are faced with poor quality low end bikes, and on the other end, very limited choices from the bike companies.
    I agree. When I was younger I wanted to ride to school, and my parents went over all the reasons it wouldn't work. My district's middle school just removed the bike racks!
    so much Schwinn

  18. #18
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
    Perhaps. However... If Steve Jobs had done this we'd not have a number of useful electronic gadgets. If Elon Musk had done this we'd not have Tesla or SpaceX. If Jeff Bezos had done this we'd not have Amazon. If GM and Ford had done this we'd have a bunch of foreign cars on... Oh wait, they did respond to the market.

    I think the point is that maybe bike shops should do a better job of educating their customers on options beyond buying a hybrid and riding it twice a year on a local rails to trails thing.
    Allegedly Henry Ford said that if he had responded to what the public thought it wanted he would have built a faster horse.

  19. #19
    Senior Member CrankyOne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Allegedly Henry Ford said that if he had responded to what the public thought it wanted he would have built a faster horse.
    Exactly. (I'm not sure our fatality rate from horses would be any less. :-) )
    "Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt." - ATL Urbanist

  20. #20
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Allegedly Henry Ford said that if he had responded to what the public thought it wanted he would have built a faster horse.
    The difference between a horse and a car is pretty easy to spot for potential customers. The car was something newish and offered clear advantages (and disadvantages) as compared to a horse.

    Henry Ford made cars desirable and affordable enough that common folks both wanted them and were willing to part with their money to get them. A city bike doesn't do that for very many people. The difference between a fully equipped city bike, a comfort bike, and a hybrid are clear to bike enthusiasts maybe, but almost no one else. To many people I'm guessing, they're just comfort bikes/hybrids with lots of accessories.

    Selling the concept of using a bike for transportation isn't going to happen in a bike shop. The manufacturers and the cycling industry as a whole might be able to help do that. Something that is telling is that Trek's city bike (the Belleville) didn't sell well and was dropped. Same with Specialized's Globe. Both manufacturers are making electric bikes now. We'll see how that goes. Though I'm not currently interested in one, an electric bike does have a feature that very clearly differentiates it from other bikes which makes it more viable for use as transportation.

    It's also worth remembering that Henry Ford was a manufacturer, not a guy selling horses that decided to stock cars. Actually, early car dealers more than likely sold bicycles rather horses before getting into the car business. So the real issue is why someone should use a bike for transportation rather than a car. A city bike may help make that decision for some, but it's still a bike with largely the same pros and cons as other bikes when compared to cars.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 07-30-15 at 10:50 PM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  21. #21
    Senior Member CliffordK's Avatar
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    There are companies like Electra that are selling city bikes.

    All the beach cruisers and fixies might be another direction in selling city/commuter bikes.

    Quite a few other city bikes....
    Breezer Downtown.
    Virtue Encore 5M
    Motobecane Bistro
    Various belt drive bikes???

    They are all cute bikes in the bike shops, but bikes that I don't particularly pay attention to, so I'm not sure where they are showing up in the shops, and what price point.

    One of the problems may be that while forums like BikeForums.net cater to commuters, they may not be the commuters that buy city bikes to ride around the block. Although, I've been around plenty of people with beater dept store MTBs.

    And, the bikes I see chained up to racks around cover a huge gambit of bikes from beater MTBs to classic Peugeots, and occasionally my old Colnago. There certainly isn't a one-size-fits-all bike.

  22. #22
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    For those bike shops in areas with lots of foot traffic and display windows, it certainly wouldn't hurt to rotate a city bike in the display now and then. Or even just pictures of people sitting at an outdoor cafe while their bikes wait dutifully.

    That might prompt people to walk into the store that otherwise wouldn't with the thought of using a bike as transportation.

    Personally though I really resent a salesperson trying to talk me into something other than what I came into the shop for. So I'm skeptical of the idea of trying to talk people who wanted an inexpensive hybrid for recreational rides into buying a more expensive city bike for transportation instead.

    At the same time, I do appreciate a salesperson who at least appears to be looking out for me. So, if a customer wants a hybrid, says they intend to ride in the dark and even in the rain now and then, I see no problem with a salesperson saying that they can certainly buy fenders and lights for that hybrid, but a city bike comes with those things already. Even better, with the dyno hub they don't have to worry about batteries or charging.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 07-31-15 at 10:49 AM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  23. #23
    Senior Member jfowler85's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
    Perhaps. However... If Steve Jobs had done this we'd not have a number of useful electronic gadgets. If Elon Musk had done this we'd not have Tesla or SpaceX. If Jeff Bezos had done this we'd not have Amazon. If GM and Ford had done this we'd have a bunch of foreign cars on... Oh wait, they did respond to the market.

    I think the point is that maybe bike shops should do a better job of educating their customers on options beyond buying a hybrid and riding it twice a year on a local rails to trails thing.
    True, but you're talking about products or services which did not previously exist (in their current form that is, GM had the EV-1 and mail order has been around for a while); bicycles and the shops that sell them are already well established in the marketplace. Also, the marketing and business models are much different. Local bike shops cater to the boutique shopper looking for high end racing gear because there's more profit in a $9,000 BMC than a $1,200 utility or commuting bike. Also, there's no commuting or utility cycling events which can be sponsored (that I'm aware of, there may be a few here and there scattered around the country or globe I'm sure). This is responding to the market, it's just the nature of the business. I've seen a good handful of LBSs, which catered to the less expensive bikes including utes, commuters and cruisers, fold under what appeared to be economic pressures while the boutique recerboi shops around them survived just fine. Could very well be an anecdote worth nothing but at the least it's an observation.
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  24. #24
    Nobody mconlonx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    It's strange to me that while most companies put a lot of research into expanding their market share and making inroads into untapped markets, bike manufacturers aren't pursuing the transportation cycling market more aggressively. I guess they're making enough money selling "toys" not to care too much. Put in other words, people interested in transportation cycling come to them to see what their options are, there doesn't seem to be a big push from the companies to get more people riding to work and the grocery store and such. Advertising has a big influence on culture, after all.
    From the bike shop perspective, I see bike companies pushing transportation and urban bicycles in a big way. Many companies produce exactly the kind of transportation bikes that people say they need... but which consumers don't buy in droves. IGH, belt drive, fenders, and a rack? Sounds pretty ideal, but Trek dropped their Soho version for lack of sales. I'm real curious to see how their new line of commuter oriented bikes do -- Lync, with rack, fenders, built-in lighting -- or if they'll end up dropped from the line in relatively short order as well.

    As others have said: culture shift, probably as a result of other modes' cost increasing, and selling the idea of bicycles as transportation, not relying on bike companies to sell transportation bicycles.

    All this said, the Trek Allant series, with racks, fenders, kickstand, is my favorite and easiest commuter oriented bike to sell.
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  25. #25
    I love the rolling hills. ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
    From the bike shop perspective, I see bike companies pushing transportation and urban bicycles in a big way. Many companies produce exactly the kind of transportation bikes that people say they need... but which consumers don't buy in droves. IGH, belt drive, fenders, and a rack? Sounds pretty ideal, but Trek dropped their Soho version for lack of sales. I'm real curious to see how their new line of commuter oriented bikes do -- Lync, with rack, fenders, built-in lighting -- or if they'll end up dropped from the line in relatively short order as well.
    Yeah, from yours and a couple other responses, it sounds like I was too quick to judge the bike companies, when they have made good-faith efforts to promote transportation/commuting bikes. Perhaps it's because I don't spend a whole lot of time in bike shops that I didn't see it.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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