Do you really want to “save” the bike biz?

It seems that every year the industry rolls out the next product that will “save” the bike business.  A product so great, so revolutionary that rabid throngs of customers will rush into stores all over the country.

Of course, it never really lives up to the hype.

The products always seem to appeal to niche audiences, and said products always are on the higher end of the price range.  The funny thing is that there’s a gaping hole in the offerings from the big bike companies.  Something that truly could make a very big difference in the health, and happiness of a large number of people.   As far as I know no one is addressing it.

Here in the midwest we have a population that skews……..larger.  I’ve lost count of the number of customers I’ve talked to that genuinely want to ride a bike.  They just don’t know where to turn.

The first inclination seems to be visiting one of the big box stores and just buying a bike.  This rarely ends well.  Lack of sizes, and poor components make for a bad experience that usually ends in the person giving up.

Buying a bike in a bike shop should be a better alternative.  The trouble is that the wheels spec’d on recreational bike in the $400-$600 price range are not sufficient to hold someone tipping the scales over 250 lbs.  This is the problem.  Could the customer invest in a bicycle that is considerably more expensive with better, more durable wheels?  Absolutely.  Trouble is most new riders aren’t willing to shell out $1500 on what may be their first bike since childhood.

You may be saying “So what?  Just sell them a bike.  Having a bike with sub standard wheels is better than no bike at all”.  Unfortunately it’s not that easy.

Let’s say that you’re the one in this situation.  You’ve decided to exercise, and you’d like to ride a bike.  You go to a bike shop because that’s where you get “good” bikes.  You may have had a couple of not so great experiences at bike shops already.  You explain that you would like a bike, but don’t think there is anything available that will “hold” you.

Now let’s say I assure you that said bike will be fine.  I may even provide a gentle warning you that there may be issues with the wheels, but they can be serviced.  You buy the bike, and within the first few months spokes start breaking.  What are the chances that you end up discouraged, and stop riding all together?  What are the chances that you are left feeling a bit betrayed by me for selling you something that should have “worked”?

I am in no way suggesting that larger folk not seek out the joys of riding a bicycle.  The point is big bicycle companies don’t think that this is a category worth spending time on.  For that they should be ashamed.

If they really want to “save” the bike business they will stop allocating all of their resources to high dollar, ever more complicated racing bikes and start spending a little more time on the other 95% of their customer base.