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Why isn't the bike industry selling more lifestyle?

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Why isn't the bike industry selling more lifestyle?

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Old 08-23-16, 12:35 PM
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jade408
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Why isn't the bike industry selling more lifestyle?

I think in a lot of recent threads there has been discussion about inclusion in the bike industry and how biking can attract more riders and expand its base.

Today a lot of the bike industry marketing and innovation is driven by what the “pros” are doing and this means racing. This means lighter bikes and components, more “aerodynamic” positioning and lots of speed. This attracts a sort of aspirational rider who wants to go faster and show off the latest gear to their bike buddies. Not unlike the man who gets a mid-life crisis sports car.

Another group is the adventurer: the mountain biker. This person can either fall into the extreme sports camp or the outdoorsy person camp who hangs out at REI. This niche isn’t as popular as the wannabe racer in mainstream cycling and marketing but it is pretty visible.

In the past few years, there has been the whole hipster bike movement. This meant fixes and single speeds that are simple, customized and cheap. This was an area where the bike was sold as an accessory to the rest of your hipster life. It wasn’t so much about the tech that came with the bike but a vision that included a bike.

What there doesn’t yet seem to be is a bike lifestyle brand. I think the hipster/fixie movement came pretty close, it was part of a lifestyle package.

There seem to be a few newer brands that are working on building and aspirational lifestyle brand. Public, Linus, Shinola, and Rapha. They are putting their stores in hip shopping districts with boutiques and fancy department stores. They aren’t only selling bikes, but they are selling bikes as part of an overall lifestyle. They are active on social media telling stories about how their products fit in daily life for their customers.

Each of those brands has a different angle on it. Public and Linus are selling to people who live in urban areas and want to get to places faster. Shinola is looking for people with money to spend and values American made luxury. Rapha is bike enthusiast first, but branding themselves like other luxury brands, and also builds a lifestyle around their products with travel and cycling clubs.

All of these brands are pretty niche, but finding new and different customers the mainstream bike industry is missing and not targeting.

So my question is, why aren’t more of the mainstream bike brands doing this sort of aspirational lifestyle marketing targeting other personas of non-bike users. Where are their designer crossover collaborations? Where are the partnerships with compatible mainstream brands in other industries? Why aren’t they pitching a lifestyle where bikes play a large role?

I’ll liken it to the PC industry. Back in the 90s, all of the brands were selling speeds and feeds. There was no brand loyalty because every product sounded exactly the same. You’d type in your specs and pick the cheapest option. Of course today, with the race to the bottom, profits suffered and there was consolidation.

We have come full circle, and since speeds and feeds hardly matter for most users, brands are selling lifestyles to increase profit margins. For people shopping at the low-end of the market, price is the only differentiator. For those with more to spend they pick based on design, the brand’s message and aspirational lifestyle it sells.

Why isn’t the bike industry using this idea of aspirational marketing to find new customers? It is still in that speeds and feeds stage, and becoming less relevant to non enthusiasts. How can they sell a vision that makes a bike a core part of that persona's life?

What do you think?
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Old 08-23-16, 01:28 PM
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Do Electra and Breezer count as "lifestyle" brands? They've been around for many years and have decent sales.

Electra is now owned by Trek and available in some Trek stores. There's also Specialized Globe, which seems to be less successful.
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Old 08-23-16, 01:29 PM
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I think the industry has been selling the wrong lifestyle for a few decades

and even now, if you want a really good lifestyle bike, you have to build it yourself

they were building them in Paris in the early 40s - no gasoline, no cars


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Old 08-23-16, 01:37 PM
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Many of the "lifestyle" brands I've seen are upscale, where lifestyle apparently translated into "has lots of money to throw around".

The big brands have their city, comfort models that do the job at a much more reasonable price. And from what I've seen on the road they sell a heck of a lot of them.
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Old 08-23-16, 01:49 PM
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Uh oh. Someone used the "R" word.






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Old 08-23-16, 01:57 PM
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I think it is as simple as this, marketing costs money and bicycles are not cheap, so why add to the cost. You can add to the movement of getting healthy by eating right and exercising more but I don't see bikes getting a cult following, since riding one is work and people today are looking for the quick fix (like gastro bypass).

Bike riding is a pastime for most and not elegant enough for the rich and trendy. They want status and it's hard to get that when you panting and covered in sweat. I for one don't have an issue with any of that, but then again, I am already a cyclist.
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Old 08-23-16, 02:02 PM
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Advertising firms hire people who write advertisements that please the client..

You are not the client you are the target customer.
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Old 08-23-16, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by johnny99 View Post
Do Electra and Breezer count as "lifestyle" brands? They've been around for many years and have decent sales.

Electra is now owned by Trek and available in some Trek stores. There's also Specialized Globe, which seems to be less successful.
I don't think they are marketing themselves that way. And here is what I mean.

When was the last time you picked up a non-biking magazine and saw an ad for a bike brand? What about an ad with a of any form of bike?

Bikes in mainstream media are pretty rare. I know that Anthropology and Urban Outfitters have done some special bikes for their hipster audience.

I'll pick on Electra, as they are probably a really good example of a brand that could do something different.

What if Electra decided to collabo with Chicos? A special edition bike aimed at Chicos customers: middle aged women who want comfortable and "stylish" clothing. Sounds a lot like what Electra sells right? What if they did a series of concerts in the park with appropriate local artists, tips and tricks on urban cycling and matching outfits. Or the Chico / Electra / Nantucket travel adventures.

Maybe another brand does a series with Parenting magazine talking about parents who ride with their kids, do school drop off duty and so on. Feature moms who bike to soccer practice or whatever.

A brand like Linus or Public bikes could work with Lucky Peach magazine on a series of articles about cooking and eating by bike. They do a tour of the local Chinatown or specialty stops to gather ingredients for their recipes. The imagery would be food focused, but have glamour shots of people shopping by bike.

I feel like now things are pretty insular. Bike makers are only marketing to people who are already no bikes and go to bike stores, but not the rest.
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Old 08-23-16, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
I think the industry has been selling the wrong lifestyle for a few decades

and even now, if you want a really good lifestyle bike, you have to build it yourself

they were building them in Paris in the early 40s - no gasoline, no cars

It is sad about that because these bikes are so practical for so many types of people. But the industry focuses so little on this idea of a practical multi-purpose bike. N+1 only works when N>0. If you can't even get on the board, there is no way to get to N+1.
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Old 08-23-16, 02:18 PM
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in San Antonio, all the trendy bike shops in the downtown urban revitalization sell nothing but lifestyle bikes.
Most of the same businesses have suburb shops that sell nothing but road and mountain bikes, and maybe their original uptown shops that sell some of everything.
Blue Star Bike Shop


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Old 08-23-16, 02:21 PM
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What's a "magazine"?

Speed sells & sex sells, a product that proposes to deliver a fit healthy lifestyle sells.
That would be to customers interested in speed, sex and/or health of course.

And then there are cyclists.

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Old 08-23-16, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
It is sad about that because these bikes are so practical for so many types of people. But the industry focuses so little on this idea of a practical multi-purpose bike. N+1 only works when N>0. If you can't even get on the board, there is no way to get to N+1.
that's why steel bike boom bikes are still very useful project platforms and there are some LBS that it's like swallowing sand when they see one


if the industry can put it in a pigeonhole, they can sell you N+1

and there's a really nice microbrewery at Blue Star...

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Old 08-23-16, 02:29 PM
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I have a guess: the people that want a bike like that are quite happy going to Target and buying a $99 cruiser, and you are never going to compete with that.

Detroit Bikes make some nice bikes that fall in that category, too, for a far more reasonable price than Shinola. I've actually been very tempted to buy one, now that I live in a lazy lake town, if I can't figure out how to get my three speed hub back together
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Old 08-23-16, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
in San Antonio, all the trendy bike shops in the downtown urban revitalization sell nothing but lifestyle bikes.
Most of the same businesses have suburb shops that sell nothing by road and mountain bikes, and maybe their original uptown shops that sell some of everything.
Blue Star Bike Shop
This is common locally. They hip new neighbohood always get a hip bike shop fairly quickly. I don't see bike shops in malls though.

Most bike brands aren't actually thinking beyond the bike shop! Bike shops still attract people already interested in bikes!

I am picking on Public, because they are local for me, and I think they have pretty genius marketing. Any "hip" place doing a raffle, Public seems to offer up a bike for a prize. Especially in their first couple of years.

I have seen special Public bikes in unexpected places. They had a special edition bike in Gap's local flagship store. Or maybe it was Banana Republic. Anyway, they had the mannequins posted up near or on the bike in the front street facing windows. Several bikes were placed all over the store. You could even buy a couple of models directly from the store. They maybe had 5 bikes total in stock. The tags had info on how to find out more about Public. And when you were looking for jeans, you might have left with a bike.

They also work with boutique hotels and sell them a couple of branded bikes for guest use. I am sure it is pretty cheap for both parties, and I am sure a few people have went to a hotel and gone home and ordered a bike. The local hotels with the bikes just leave them outside during the day for some on sidewalk advertising when not in use.
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Old 08-23-16, 02:38 PM
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As has been mentioned elsewhere, there really aren't a lot of "lifestyles" in the U.S. that include bicycles. Bicycles can either be accessories, mostly for young people, or toys for the wealthy. As was also mentioned, most cycling involves getting sweaty, which is considered a negative in most "lifestyle" lifestyles."

Commuting by bike for a lot of people in a lot of the U.S. involves a lot of work and some risk, and a lot of compromise (very very few places offer showers, lockers ... forget bike lockers. A lot of places view employees who bike to work as inconveniences, because they are always washing up in the men's room and worrying about safe places to lock their bikes and store their gear ... and on rainy days .... )

As for buying PCs or anything based on "lifestyle" commercials ... I don't know how anyone else feels, but to me all those commercials are transparent crap. And if someone tried to sell me a bike by telling me that "Love ... that's what makes a Trek" or any of those "our bikes will make you sexually attractive, successful, make your kids cute and smart, and make your house bigger and your lawn greener, and the whole world will be happier" I would respond the same way I respond to all such advertising and change the channel.

One thing about selling tablets or smartphones or whatever ... people Will use those things and often. Bicycles ... you simply cannot use them very often Unless you are willing to commute via bike, and for anyone with kids who need rides and who works anything close to normal hours, that is a non-starter. So ... bicycles are automatically leisure/luxury items, except everyone has ridden a bicycle and no one associates that experience with either leisure or luxury.

Even if enough idiots fell for the ads (they fall for the other ads) and bought bikes ... the reality would hit home right away. One flat tire, one popped chain, one snapped cable ... one unexpected cold rainstorm ....

Cycling may be relaxing, but really it only helps one relax after the ride. Relax too much while riding and you get hit. And cycling can be mentally relaxing, but it is still physically demanding. Except for the very elderly folks who circle the neighborhood at 5 mph on their cruisers and trikes every evening, I don't see a lot of people "relaxing" while riding.

Cycling is athletic .... or at least physical ... and it can be a good family experience----for the lucky few. For a lot of people, there really isn't anywhere to ride with a family which includes maybe toddlers or young children, maybe with training wheels, who cannot handle traffic whatsoever, and once the kids get older, dawdling along at 3 mph might not be much fun ... and then they are old enough not to want to be around their parents anyway, and cycling is a great way to escape the parents ...which might not be a great sales pitch.

On top of that, for much of the nation cycling is a half-year activity at most for most people. Most people won't ride in the rain, and forget cold rain, ... I won't ride in snow, though maybe if I had a fat bike with studded tires ... (too many crashes on ice and at my age, crashes are never minor.) For most, cycling is a fair-weather activity, and for many an after-work activity ... so shorter daylight hours also work against the sport ...

I am not seeing what lifestyle cycling supports, or is an essential part of, or how cycling could honestly be sold as a part of an "aspirational" lifestyle ... without selling sweat and some grime and chain grease. Too many one-time buyers who would realize the realities and quit---and complain to their friends at work and at social events.

I don't know how it works in Europe---I think a generally lower standard of living (possibly as a result of two world wars,) much smaller spaces and denser populations, tiny cars and expensive fuel, work to make bicycles and scooters more practical there, and the added practicality helps overcome the sacrifices needed. Also, when populations are dense, getting out of the city is important, and if that can be done on a bicycle, the bicycle suddenly equals freedom. In the U.S. with its endless suburbia ... one could ride for several hundred miles southeast from Boston and never "get out of the city."

if someone here really can work it out and change the way America views bicycles, fantastic. When i started riding as an urban commuter the phrase "bike lane" was nonsensical---it didn't refer to anything. Now there are not only bike lanes, drivers sometimes respect them. If a lot more people cycled, cycling should and could become easier and safer----wow, imagine secure bike parking outside stores and factories, and maybe even showers and lockers at work? Phenomenal!

Get to work, you guys. Make this happen.
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Old 08-23-16, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
that's why steel bike boom bikes are still very useful project platforms and there are some LBS that it's like swallowing sand when they see one


if the industry can put it in a pigeonhole, they can sell you N+1

and there's a really nice microbrewery at Blue Star...
We have a few shops doing brisk business rehabing bike boom bikes into all-arounder bikes they sell for $400+. It plays well to the upcycling crowd, the utility cyclist crowd and the hipsters.

I think it is genius to have those combo coffee/beer bike shops. If you pick a good location you can attract cyclists and non-cyclists easily. Come for coffee, leave with a bike!
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Old 08-23-16, 02:39 PM
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Most 60-y-o people I know who want to take a bike to the greenways, Public is a perfect bike for them. If they go downtown, they're going to haul their bike to a parking lot - they're not going to do like many of us who ride in 20 miles in and out of big elevation.
The reason malls don't work, is you need to be able to pedal in to your bike shop. And there should be coffee, helps if there's a microbrew nearby...
even good tacos
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Old 08-23-16, 02:40 PM
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Here's a "lifestyle" bicycle that someone bought.
What array of other lifestyle accoutrements would be appropriate to accompany such a statement of style?
Clown shoes?

-Bandera
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Old 08-23-16, 02:44 PM
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Selling a "lifestyle" bike? C'mon. Really? This is the silliest thing I have ever heard.

The big names brands sell bikes for all types of riding. Mountain bikes, fat bikes, comfort bikes, road bikes, fitness bikes and hybrid bikes. Different tools for different types of riding that have nothing to do with lifestyle.

I drink beer and I own a fat bike, a mountain bike and road bike. So am I...A) A beer drinking fat biker? B.) A beer drinking mountain biker? C.) A beer drinking road biker? or D.) All of the above.

Beer drinking is a lifestyle right?


Anything you see that has to do with lifestyle and biking is just marketing fluff.

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Old 08-23-16, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
I have a guess: the people that want a bike like that are quite happy going to Target and buying a $99 cruiser, and you are never going to compete with that.

Detroit Bikes make some nice bikes that fall in that category, too, for a far more reasonable price than Shinola. I've actually been very tempted to buy one, now that I live in a lazy lake town, if I can't figure out how to get my three speed hub back together
Considering optimistically 2-5% of the population uses a bike on a regular basis, you don't really have to "convert" many people to get more people on bikes and make an impact!

I like the Detroit Bikes and I wish them well. They don't have to sell all that many bikes to be successful! I know they are working on the next rev of NYC's Citibikes!
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Old 08-23-16, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
I know they are working on the next rev of NYC's Citibikes!
Cool, I hadn't heard that. They are doing New Belgium's bikes this year, too!
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Old 08-23-16, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
Selling a "lifestyle" bike? C'mon. Really? This is the silliest thing I have ever heard.

The big names brands sell bikes for all types of riding. Mountain bikes, fat bikes, comfort bikes, road bikes and hybrid bikes. Lifestyle is something you choose. Not something you buy into.
I mean selling a lifestyle that goes with the bike and make it fit into your daily life! Bike brands try to sell you a bike, but don't help you with the "context" on why you should use it.

Almost every brand sells a "lifestyle." Subaru is telling you you can have a practical car and go out and explore the world. Michael Kors sells an American Jet Set lifestyle. Bose wants to surround you in luxury sound.

Selling a lifestyle is just storytelling. Bike brands have been telling the racer story for the past 20-30 years and they have tapped out on potential users. Time for a new story.
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Old 08-23-16, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
Here's a "lifestyle" bicycle that someone bought.
What array of other lifestyle accoutrements would be appropriate to accompany such a statement of style?
Clown shoes?

-Bandera
Oh I think this looks like it matches perfectly with this company:
Desigual.com España

They should collabo! Fixies to match your outfit!
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Old 08-23-16, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Cool, I hadn't heard that. They are doing New Belgium's bikes this year, too!
Great profile from this week:
Making Bicycles in Detroit Is an Uphill Ride - The New Yorker
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Old 08-23-16, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
I mean selling a lifestyle that goes with the bike and make it fit into your daily life! Bike brands try to sell you a bike, but don't help you with the "context" on why you should use it.
Ummm...common sense? Or do we have to dumb it down and tell people why they should use it or buy it. The majority of us do it for exercise/fitness and the sense of adventure.

I bought a fat bike to ride in the winter because I thought it looked cool to do and I like being outdoors.

I bought a mountain bike to ride off road trails through the woods cuz I like to be outdoors.

I bought a road bike to stay in "bike shape" for the 2 above bikes cuz I can ride it from house most any day of the week.

I didn't buy a bike for some perceived lifestyle and most others I know haven't either.

Almost every brand sells a "lifestyle." Subaru is telling you you can have a practical car and go out and explore the world. Michael Kors sells an American Jet Set lifestyle. Bose wants to surround you in luxury sound.

Selling a lifestyle is just storytelling. Bike brands have been telling the racer story for the past 20-30 years and they have tapped out on potential users. Time for a new story.
Back away from the TV...they are sucking you in. I have never in my life bought any item based on some fictional lifestyle that the company is trying to sell you. I buy based on function, features and needs/wants.

Last edited by prj71; 08-23-16 at 02:57 PM.
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