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Getting more butts on bikes

Old 03-12-19, 01:12 PM
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Getting more butts on bikes

So in another thread someone mentioned that bike sales have declined for the past 15 years. I decided to check in on the numbers for last year - and bike unit sales are down by 10% year over year. About 2M bikes were sold last year. 12% of Americans bike regularly.

Bike shops generally target and sell to the N+1 crowd, but if the number of people with bikes is decreasing and they don't have N, how do you even find a potential N+1 candidate.

So why is that the bike industry seems to over-index on getting existing riders to get more bikes and decrease the usage per bike vs finding net new people to get bikes. And why is the industry so focused on selling the bikes that are the most useless for the average rider (though gravel bikes seem to be a really good compromise in terms of being a really practical option for more rides. As well as "endurance" bikes. And of course a "hybrid." Although it seems like the new "All Road" bikes is basically what hybrids aspired to.

So here is the question - how does the bike industry get more net new butts onto bikes?
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Old 03-12-19, 01:38 PM
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The reason why is because the second and subsequent bikes, most people are spending more than they spent on the first one. Escalation, normalization, and all that. Very few shops are willing to invest too much effort in the initial '1', because most people will buy whatever is cheapest or they can justify is an appropriate amount to 'make them ride it', seldom or never ride it, and never buy another bike.

How to generate more people starts with supporting youth and recreational cycling, both in trying to make it seem safer and possibly youth / rec competitive - BMX racing, BMX competitions, etc. Even if BMX isn't a mainline of a given shop, I see on here and IRL plenty of people switching from flatland/park BMX to road cycling in their 20s or early 30s.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:00 PM
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Assuming that the premise is valid:
The more bikes one ownes, the more likely one is to own more bikes.
Put simply, the vast majority of people own 0 bikes and are likely to own 0 in the future.
Someone who owns 1 bike is likely to buy another, and someone who owns 10 is very much more likely to buy another 5.
It's a logarithmic curve.
Good business sense says to focus profit efforts on the customers that are buying profit friendly items, not the ones you must invest effort & cost for low/marginal profit items.

In a vacuum, this quarter or next is an individual business' only consideration. This is where industry or trade associations come in to play. It's their job to benefit industry as a whole & they would best do do by pooling efforts to grow customer demand.

For the most part, lycra costumes & racing bikes don't appeal to most folks that aren't fitness nuts on a bandwagon. Often times that image is an active deterrent to many. Lance Armstrong derisions by non-cycling come to mind as a regular ocurrance to this very day. The industry trade groups should focus on the health benefits & utility of cycling as a valid & normal activity for all of the socio-economic strata that is also fun & a useful way to get around. Do the grunt work on hard to reach customers that individual players can't or won't. But they don't & here we are.

Luxury is defined by how well your box insulates you, poverty is defined by how in the elements you are & nobody, anywhere in the cycling industry is trying to counter that narrative in a coordinated manner.

Even in the car industry it is understood that every dollar spent on advertising isn't a dollar spent advertising your car. It's advertising a car. It's convincing customers they need a car to begin with. All car makers understand they all benefit from car advertising. The hope is that when a customer succumbs and agrees they need a car, the marketing that worked, the marketing that made the best connection to the customers identity happened to be yours. What does "sporty" mean? As a car salesman, everyone wanted a "sporty" car. So I put them in a sports car & dropped the pedal to the floor. I lost more sales than you could imagine & the ones I got all left in 4 cylinder econo-boxes. They were told they wanted "sporty," so that's what they asked for. The advertising worked.

There is no cycling industry wide general advertisment practices like other industries. No Cannondale vs Fuji fighting it out 30 seconds at a time between sitcoms or the evening news to best match or connect to customer identity. Heck, even 3M & Boeing advertise on t.v....As if Joe Consumer is going to buy a $100,000,000 airplane.

So here we are, cycling as a whole is down 10% in sales.

Last edited by base2; 03-12-19 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:13 PM
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The fact that bikes have skyrocketed in price over the last 20 to 25 years hasn't help any. When I was getting into it in the mid-'90s one could buy a Specialized Rockhopper with nearly full Alivio for $400. Now a bike with an Acera drivetrain is pushing $1000. That's just plain nuts, IMO. And that's why I would rather buy a used bike and fix it up.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
Assuming that the premise is valid:
The more bikes one ownes, the more likely one is to own more bikes.
Put simply, the vast majority of people own 0 bikes and are likely to own 0 in the future.
Someone who owns 1 bike is likely to buy another, and someone who owns 10 is very much more likely to buy another 5.
It's a logarithmic curve.
Older rich people with bikes are going to die off, and there will be no one to fill the coffers of future N+1 people. And also at some point N will be enough.

Good business sense says to focus profit efforts on the customers that are buying profit friendly items, not the ones you must invest effort & cost for low/marginal profit items.
Service revenues are growing. IT would be nice to seem more shops offer a trade up program, like with cars. And partner with other shops offering cheaper used bikes. Getting a first cheap bike that is useful can lead to you jumping on the N+1 bandwagon. Maybe consumers are itching for a give 1, get one model for bikes.

In a vacuum, this quarter or next is an individual business' only consideration. This is where industry or trade associations come in to play. It's their job to benefit industry as a whole & they would best do do by pooling efforts to grow customer demand.
20 years of declines means that the industry is really dropping the ball on paying attention to customer sentiment.

For the most part, lycra costumes & racing bikes don't appeal to most folks that aren't fitness nuts on a bandwagon. Often times that image is an active deterrent to many. Lance Armstrong derisions by non-cycling come to mind as a regular ocurrance to this very day. The industry trade groups should focus on the health benefits & utility of cycling as a valid & normal activity for all of the socio-economic strata that is also fun & a useful way to get around. Do the grunt work on hard to reach customers that individual players can't or won't. But they don't & here we are.

Luxury is defined by how well your box insulates you, poverty is defined by how in the elements you are & nobody, anywhere in the cycling industry is trying to counter that narrative in a coordinated manner.
I'd counter that with luxury is the option to choose which box you want and have multiple boxes for multiple purposes. But the bike industry is remiss in ignoring all of the existing people riding regularly - who can trade up in the future.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
Older rich people with bikes are going to die off, and there will be no one to fill the coffers of future N+1 people. And also at some point N will be enough.


Service revenues are growing. IT would be nice to seem more shops offer a trade up program, like with cars. And partner with other shops offering cheaper used bikes. Getting a first cheap bike that is useful can lead to you jumping on the N+1 bandwagon. Maybe consumers are itching for a give 1, get one model for bikes.


20 years of declines means that the industry is really dropping the ball on paying attention to customer sentiment.



I'd counter that with luxury is the option to choose which box you want and have multiple boxes for multiple purposes. But the bike industry is remiss in ignoring all of the existing people riding regularly - who can trade up in the future.
Oh, man, I was editing & added a bunch. But yes, I don't disagree. I'll add for clarity that being "of means" means the choice of insulated box. I think we're on the same page.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:38 PM
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Is some of this related to the rise of stationary bikes? I was thinking that a lot of fitness activity that used to be outdoors is moving into gyms, treadmills and cycles being the most obvious examples.

Just a few years ago, I think people would laugh at the idea of someone dropping $2 grand or more on an indoor exercise bike.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Doctor Morbius View Post
The fact that bikes have skyrocketed in price over the last 20 to 25 years hasn't help any. When I was getting into it in the mid-'90s one could buy a Specialized Rockhopper with nearly full Alivio for $400. Now a bike with an Acera drivetrain is pushing $1000. That's just plain nuts, IMO. And that's why I would rather buy a used bike and fix it up.
Yes, prices have gone up, but it is hard to say how much.

In the early 80's, a good used road bike would be about $300. I assume the quality new ones were around $1000.

So, now in 30 or 40 years, prices on new bikes have gone up 2x or 3x. Prices on used bikes have bumped up some, but not that much.

Of course, there is a huge divergence happening between department store bikes and top of the line bikes (road, MTB, etc), but perhaps those differences were always there, but now there is greater interest in high-end bikes.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:51 PM
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As far as new sales, obviously it is driven somewhat by people actually on the bikes.

However, I assume it also goes in leaps and bounds following technology.

So, say 90's introduced mainstream brifters.
2000's and 2010's introduced mainstream carbon fiber.
2010's introduced 11-speed, and in the case of Shimano, made all of the 10s wheels obsolete.

2020's... 10 speed road hydraulic disc?

At this point we're in a bit of a lull that there is very little that would make current riders head out and buy a new bike, and many good reasons for new riders to hunt for good used bikes, say made in the last 10 or 15 years.

We're quickly heading to an era when there will be plenty of rear sprockets... to the point that many manufactures are going towards reducing the number of front chainrings.

I could imagine that manufactures have to work hard to make owners of old bikes get excited about buying new bikes.

There are millions of good used bikes out there. And websites like Craigslist (and now Facebook and others) have been game-changers at bringing old bikes to the people.

And, of course, websites like E-Bay brings components and more specialized items to the people.

Shimano seems to have the idea that Americans wish to pay more for their parts and supplies, but I'm not convinced this is actually the case.
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Old 03-12-19, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Is some of this related to the rise of stationary bikes? I was thinking that a lot of fitness activity that used to be outdoors is moving into gyms, treadmills and cycles being the most obvious examples.

Just a few years ago, I think people would laugh at the idea of someone dropping $2 grand or more on an indoor exercise bike.
I don't know, that is a good question. I wonder how many "indoor cycling enthusiasts" have bikes and ride them.

It definitely has changed, they used to market spinning to people training for triathlons. Now it seems like the new spinning is marketing to former yoga bunnies. (Obviously there are some exceptions). And they even encourage buying your own SPD shoes. Maybe that's the new market. People who go to cycling classes and already have the shoes!

I occasionally go, but I plan to go more often as it is a convenient workout option for me. A studio a block from my office was doing a sale. It feels nothing like riding a bike but hey it'll help me to keep pedaling while I am waiting for my bike build.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
As far as new sales, obviously it is driven somewhat by people actually on the bikes.

However, I assume it also goes in leaps and bounds following technology.

So, say 90's introduced mainstream brifters.
2000's and 2010's introduced mainstream carbon fiber.
2010's introduced 11-speed, and in the case of Shimano, made all of the 10s wheels obsolete.

2020's... 10 speed road hydraulic disc?

At this point we're in a bit of a lull that there is very little that would make current riders head out and buy a new bike, and many good reasons for new riders to hunt for good used bikes, say made in the last 10 or 15 years.

We're quickly heading to an era when there will be plenty of rear sprockets... to the point that many manufactures are going towards reducing the number of front chainrings.

I could imagine that manufactures have to work hard to make owners of old bikes get excited about buying new bikes.

There are millions of good used bikes out there. And websites like Craigslist (and now Facebook and others) have been game-changers at bringing old bikes to the people.

And, of course, websites like E-Bay brings components and more specialized items to the people.

Shimano seems to have the idea that Americans wish to pay more for their parts and supplies, but I'm not convinced this is actually the case.
Ideally, bike shops shops should connect people who like bikes. I am happy to see more shops diversifying into more community oriented things. We have a shop that doubles as a coffee shop and sponsors weekly social rides. They don't really sell bikes. They have a service center and do custom builds. Our transit agency has been opening up "bike stations" aka valet parking near transit that offers service and a few practical bike accessories in a shop format. Park you bike, pick up a pannier and install a rack while you are off at work.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
And websites like Craigslist (and now Facebook and others) have been game-changers at bringing old bikes to the people.

And, of course, websites like E-Bay brings components and more specialized items
That is a solid point on the availability & searchability of the second hand market. I wonder how many new bike sales happened over the pre-internet years because the prospective buyer never heard about that used bike across town.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
Ideally, bike shops shops should connect people who like bikes. I am happy to see more shops diversifying into more community oriented things. We have a shop that doubles as a coffee shop and sponsors weekly social rides. They don't really sell bikes. They have a service center and do custom builds. Our transit agency has been opening up "bike stations" aka valet parking near transit that offers service and a few practical bike accessories in a shop format. Park you bike, pick up a pannier and install a rack while you are off at work.
Perhaps run an internet cafe and WIFI hotspot... so people can plunk down in the bike shop and order parts online?

Portland had a bike shop that thought cyclists liked beer, so they sold beer and bikes. And, in general all was OK until the government stepped in and said that beer and bikes don't mix. The problem, of course, being beer catering to the over 21 crowd, and bikes catering to everyone.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
That is a solid point on the availability & searchability of the second hand market. I wonder how many new bike sales happened over the pre-internet years because the prospective buyer never heard about that used bike across town.
Maybe there should be a Bike Genius Bar in the shop. While some of you are bike experts and google ninjas - not everyone is so inclined. For a small consultation fee to help you find the parts, and of course a traditional service center.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:11 PM
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I can understand the lack of interest in cycling nowadays. Most kids are not allowed to ride bikes unsupervised anymore except for maybe on their block. Not much adventure involved in that....or all that much fun depending on where you live.

By the time I was 7, my friends and I rode bikes to school, all over town, around vacant lots, to lakes to go swimming, etc. There was no limit on where or how far I could go (as long as I was home for dinner). For years that was my only transportation and it occupied a lot of my childhood. As an adult, going back to cycling was pretty natural. I felt comfortable on bikes, didn't mind working on them or worry about riding in traffic, etc.

Nowadays, parents get bikes for their kids but don't let them go anywhere and wonder why they never use them. To be realistic, playing a video game is more exciting than riding 100ft up/down the street. The result is they don't get the enjoyment from riding that others did. They don't learn how to fix a flat or deal with the most basic repair. Most importantly, they don't really learn how to ride. All this makes approaching a bike as an adult a bit daunting and scary.

Given that there are many options for exercise, its no surprise that people are not choosing cycling as much as they used to. Given all the choices people have, the cost of cycling (in time and money), I don't see it improving.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:13 PM
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Here the 1 bike shop has Craft Brewery Cafes and Pizza makers on all 4 compass points, NSEW within a few blocks ..

College town paired a tavern and a laundromat.....
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Old 03-12-19, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Ogsarg View Post
I can understand the lack of interest in cycling nowadays. Most kids are not allowed to ride bikes unsupervised anymore except for maybe on their block. Not much adventure involved in that....or all that much fun depending on where you live.

By the time I was 7, my friends and I rode bikes to school, all over town, around vacant lots, to lakes to go swimming, etc. There was no limit on where or how far I could go (as long as I was home for dinner). For years that was my only transportation and it occupied a lot of my childhood. As an adult, going back to cycling was pretty natural. I felt comfortable on bikes, didn't mind working on them or worry about riding in traffic, etc.

Nowadays, parents get bikes for their kids but don't let them go anywhere and wonder why they never use them. To be realistic, playing a video game is more exciting than riding 100ft up/down the street. The result is they don't get the enjoyment from riding that others did. They don't learn how to fix a flat or deal with the most basic repair. Most importantly, they don't really learn how to ride. All this makes approaching a bike as an adult a bit daunting and scary.

Given that there are many options for exercise, its no surprise that people are not choosing cycling as much as they used to. Given all the choices people have, the cost of cycling (in time and money), I don't see it improving.
Hmm interesting point. I am old enough where I spent my childhood biking the neighborhood. We didn't necessarily bike too far, but we did have all sorts of games on the block. And we would go over a few blocks.

When I got older we moved, and could only bike around the subdivision. But that also meant we could bike to the pool which was around a mile away. And biked to our friend in the neighborhood (she lived near the pool).

I dropped biking once I learned to drive. Picked it up for 2 seconds in college and then dropped it since I lived up a really steep hill. I just ended up walking. I tried it as a young adult, found it dangerous. I came back when the stars aligned - I was thinking about it and won a bike in a raffle. That was around 7 years ago now. I ride for transportation and brunch. Most of my friends do not ride.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
That is a solid point on the availability & searchability of the second hand market. I wonder how many new bike sales happened over the pre-internet years because the prospective buyer never heard about that used bike across town.
Or how many used bikes ended up in the county dump because it was't worth paying the newspaper $10 or $20 to advertise a $50 bicycle, with no guarantee that it would actually sell.

I used to be on an average summer weekend there might be a half dozen bikes listed in the classifieds (small city), of which the gem was rare.

Now there are literally hundreds for sale at any given time. Not that they all are "interesting", but a few are. And, if I want to travel, I can easily check out the markets for a few hundred miles around me... plus getting stuff shipped across the country or around the world using E-Bay.
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Old 03-12-19, 04:02 PM
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As a kid, I was riding on country roads. So, it was maybe 2 or 3 miles to my gradeschool which I'm sure I was doing in first grade.

It was maybe 15 to 20 miles to the city, that I started doing solo one-way, sometime between 4th and 6th grade.

I have a philosophy that kids should be encouraged to climb trees... but no kids of my own to test that theory with.
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Old 03-12-19, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Doctor Morbius View Post
The fact that bikes have skyrocketed in price over the last 20 to 25 years hasn't help any. When I was getting into it in the mid-'90s one could buy a Specialized Rockhopper with nearly full Alivio for $400. Now a bike with an Acera drivetrain is pushing $1000. That's just plain nuts, IMO. And that's why I would rather buy a used bike and fix it up.
bikes seem more affordable than ever to me, unless you are talking absurdly high technology.

You can get an aluminum Claris drivetrain road bike for $650 which is just over $350 from 1994.
A 9sp Sora drivetrain bike with discs and carbon fork is about $1000 which is $575 in 1994.

that tech and quality for those prices? Doesnt seems wildly expensive at all.


last fall I bought my first ever new bike(I've always built up frames and except for one, the frames have always been vintage steel) and I think its a helluva deal.
27.5" mtb with hydraulic brakes, 1x11 shifting, thru axles, air fork, and branded cockpit all for $875 total. That wasn't some end of season closeout either.



but yeah, I would much rather build my bikes up. I have one I'm working on now, a nice Columbus Tenax Schwinn Premis waiting for when i tire of any of my other road bikes. They cost less to build than new bikes of same quality, but it's usually because of used components.
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Old 03-12-19, 11:28 PM
  #21  
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I think part of what's hurting the market is the fact that nothing stays the same long enough for a new customer to learn about it. I think that's scaring new customers away. Brifters, disc brakes, carbon everything, through axles, electronic shifting--not all of these things are high-end and expensive, but we're seeing the manufacturers pushing them and supplanting simple and familiar technologies. Tire sizes, for the gods' sakes. And they keep on doing it, in what I consider a wrong-headed approach to marketing. They're selling speed and excitement, when, really, I think quite a few new customers are looking at buying a bike to get away from all the speed and excitement, or else they'd be buying a Suzuki motorcycle.

I don't blame the market for retreating; everything they knew about bikes a few years ago is obsolete and scorned and impossible to find repair parts for. And they can intuit that the same thing will happen to anything they buy today.
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Old 03-12-19, 11:53 PM
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I'll just put this here:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/...bicycle-sales/


https://www.statista.com/statistik/s...icycle%20sales
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Old 03-13-19, 12:39 AM
  #23  
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I'm putting all my Hope's on 3/19/19 when Trek changes cycling Forever!
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Old 03-13-19, 03:41 AM
  #24  
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My question, when I read this was who used to buy bikes who no longer does?

I think the answer is kids. And maybe next, older kids?

As @Ogsarg mentioned, bikes used to be numerous at schools, from elementary to high schools, because parents let kids ride. Kids used to be able to go miles and hours on their bikes ... now they "need" constant supervision or the bad people will eat them or something.

I recall when it seemed riding a bike stopped being just a thing, and became "uncool," when more high school kids started getting cast-off cars from their parents.

Is the the "lost market share"?

According to @Machka, the reason no one in the U.S. buys bikes is because all the cycle-buyers moved down under.

Who else stopped buying bikes?

As for N+1 ... most people will buy a cheap bike and that's it. Another group of people will be what we might call "entry-level," (Claris or Acera or Alivio) for $500 and be done because they have a sound, solid, functioning bike. Not until people are paying $1000-$1200 are they feeling the kind of enthusiasm which might make a $2500 or $3500 bike---or two or three bikes---make sense. And a lot of those riders probably can't afford a few bikes (once the spouse'n'kids thing happens, priorities shift.)

Some folks take up cycling, the way a person might take up fly-fishing or bowling or whatever---going on group rides, buying new bits of gear regularly, making the activity a frequent event. Those folks aren't in the least scared off by spandex.

Bike commuters are probably close to this group, because bike commuting isn't at all easy. Except for those few people who live within a few miles of their jobs, cycle-commuting involves dirt and danger and sweat and weather and flat tires and mechanical breakdowns .... and while cycling infrastructure is improving in a lot of places, it seems in a lot of places there are big enough holes that connecting safe routes cross-town of between towns can be a challenge ro an impossibility. But are fewer people doing this?

Which of those groups is buying fewer bikes?

To whom would you market "Bike, the Commodity" and "Bike, the Lifestyle"? Which group would you aim at to get maximum results ... and what would the message be. The general message, "Cycling is cool, cycling is fun, cycling is practical" probably won't resonate with most car-bound Americans.They see the nuts riding in traffic on the side fo the road and find them annoying and suspect their sanity. Sell the fun, relaxed recreational aspect, bt unless there really are a lot of MUPs connecting parks and such, no one will see where cycling could be fun and relaxing. Also, those people are likely to be just as happy with a $500 entry-level hybrid which would be "My Bike" for the next 20 years. Not a great target for advertising.

Ads aimed at kids .... well, until kids have disposable income it probably wouldn't matter, and once they got their first part-time jobs, cycling would likely be a last alternative. Cars offer a lot more freedom and a lot more options. A ten would likely buy a super-cheap bike and save up for a really cheap car rather than saving up for a decent bike. Hard to take a date out on a bike.

Who is the target audience for these commercials? Should the industry to to recapture some lost demographic, or try to convince people who have no desire to ride, that they should?

I am clueless on all this,. I am genuinely wondering hat you guys think about all this.
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Old 03-13-19, 05:45 AM
  #25  
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To me, the answer is pretty simple. Americans, as a whole, are fat and in comparison to most other countries, pretty well off financially. Fat, rich people, in general, do not like exercise and bikes are exercise. Why ride when you can take a car...Before anyone gets up in arms, I am an American myself...In my opinion, the fix has to be at the cultural level. We are trending that way but have a long way to go to catch up with more healthy cultures.

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