Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is the bicycle industry waking up?


Sent to me by a blog reader. From Salon.com, 05.22.07:

A bicycle built for a better world

At the Taipei International Cycle Show in March 2007, John Burke, president of the Trek Bicycle Corp., gave an address arguing that if bicycle manufacturers wanted to expand sales, they would have to do more than just focus on the old standbys of marketing and new product innovation. They would have to become evangelists for "a bicycle friendly world."

Burke, the son of Trek's founder, is an optimist. Looking at a United States plagued by obesity, traffic congestion, urbanization and environmental woes, he sees "an incredible opportunity" to sell bicycles.

But it won't happen by itself, no matter how many winners of the Tour de France ride Trek bicycles or how feather-light and ramrod-strong the newest carbon-fiber frames are. Creating a bicycle-friendly world requires hard work, government action, and money. And right now, says Burke, out of every hundred dollars the bicycle industry spends, only 10 cents goes toward advocacy.

"What we really need to understand is this fact: This is the fastest way you can grow this business and the biggest way that we can have an impact on society. Creating a bicycle-friendly world is a very good thing. The bicycle is a simple solution to a complicated problem." (Read more.)
This article goes on to make the point that bicycles are a globalized commodity; most bikes sold in the U.S. are made in Asia (the continent of Burke's speech.) And the author further talks of the bicycle as a resolutely contemporary product of advanced technology. This is refreshing; I have friends who dismiss bicycles as a noxious remnant of the horse-drawn carriage era, not a valid transportation mode in modern society.

Burke's address may be evidence of some modest shift in the bicycle industry. He may be among the minority of visionaries in the business--following a track first blazed by the likes of Joe Breeze--similar to hybrid car engineers in Detroit. The bike industry as a whole, however, remains very much in the business of selling recreational equipment.

This is a shame, because the commuter market is a ripe growth opportunity. With some modest fluctuation--say, following the inspiration of an American in the Tour de France--sales of road, mountain, and kids bikes are flat. The industry has tried to stay profitable by relentless pursuit of the pricier, more profitable whiz-bang doo-dad gizmo hyped in glossy magazines. Let's hope John Burke has more visionary friends in the industry than are evident now.

Visit: 'City Bike' Hot New Category at Bicycle Industry Show, Wired.com
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

2 comments:

SueJ said...

I'll figure even Trek is "waking up" when they do more than say a few words at a conference. THeir actual marketing and products are still, very definitely, *not* aimed at the commuter with any depth of knowledge of the practice.

clark said...

i bought a new bike recently, a cannondale. while the same criticisms you level on Treak may still apply [one bike shop owner i heard on the radio took both cannondale and kona to task for excessive support of bike racing], i am at least happy to find that cannondale still builds their frames in the US.