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Let’s Party Like It’s 1986

Monterey- The Bicycle Leadership Conference (BLC) took place in Monterey, California last week. It’s an annual opportunity for industry leaders to take a tiny step back from the strictures of singleminded company loyalty to collaborate on the future of the industry. The heavy-hitters in attendance included John Burke, CEO of Trek; Stan Day, Founder and President of SRAM; Steve Flagg, Founder and CEO of Quality Bicycle Products; Bob Margevicius, Executive VP of Specialized as well as the executive management teams of their companies and countless others.

I was not there to valet cars. But as I sat alongside the titans of the industry and discerned the dominant agenda of the meeting, I came to understand the narrowness of Competitive Cyclist’s segment of the business. Having little to contribute, I played the role of silent observer.

The BLC focused on one core issue: How can the industry grow by harnessing the potential of bicycles as transportation in the United States? The urgency of the question comes out of a few key facts:

Ah....errr...

  • *The federal government has become dangerously fickle about extending its investment in bike transportation infrastructure.
  • *The unit economics of the bike industry are dire. While bike revenue has shown a steady year-on-year increase, bike unit sales remain flat industry-wide. Industry revenue growth has come from selling more carbon bikes and through increasing the price of those bikes. It is decidedly not from expanding our audience.
  • *The vast majority of cycling marketing is devoted to a niche market: The racer.
  • *The most influential cycling study of 2012 comes from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, titled ‘Four Types Of Transportation Cyclists in Portland’. These four types are:

‘Strong and Fearless’ = <1%
‘Enthused and Confident’ = 7%
‘Interested but concerned’ = 60%
‘No way, no how’ = 33%

Let’s set aside the fact that in Portland a pie chart apparently totals more than 100 percent. Rather, key in on the fact that our industry glamorizes the hardcore

I wouldn’t expect to see Quick Step and Leopard to suddenly lack in bike sponsors next year. But what you should expect is substantially more marketing and effort behind a new kind of advocacy. Not of the IMBA trail-access sort, but rather for cycling that doesn’t require lycra (or even baggies), and for the creation of more ‘greenways’ for safe commuting.

- Before attending the BLC I made a side trip to Palo Alto. ‘A Streetbike Named Desire’ is a fascinating store beside the Stanford campus. While it’s a bold retail experiment, a voice in my head tells me that $1,300 lugged Pashley city bikes and $280 leather bags, cool as they may be, aren’t ideal products for converting that elusive 60%.

A Street Bike Named Desire, Palo Alto

Stanford calling

- The BLC coincides with the Sea Otter Festival at the legendary Laguna Seca auto race track. I can’t imagine a more amazing venue. It sits atop a bluff between the ocean and enormous, green grass mountains dotted with the luckiest cows on the planet. The vistas from the track are breathtaking. The savage climbs on the road course and the wickedly steep trails make it ideal for the racing that literally surrounds the 300-plus vendors in the expo area.

I left Sea Otter amazed by the electricity of its atmosphere maybe because I’ve gone to industry-only shows for too long. Sea Otter’s buzz seems due to its inclusion of (really, its extraordinary focus on) retail consumers. Two thoughts wouldn’t let go of me. First, anyone who’s bike mad and hasn’t gone to Sea Otter must absolutely spend a day or two there. And, second, if I was Interbike, I would be freaking out about the energy of Sea Otter. It commands widespread industry presence. Because of its consumer focus, the Sea Otter brand may now be stronger than Interbike’s. Between that and the success of Eurobike’s ‘Consumer Day’, I don’t know how much longer Interbike can hold off the non-industry masses.

Vroooooom

California. Steinbeck. Oh man.

Sea Otter, some booths were on grass

Is it 135mm rear spacing?

Oregon plates, not a surprise :)

Flea market

BMC carbon 29er

Film

Best vehicle of Sea Otter

Rice cakes, fried rice burritos, oh man

- The Inner Ring is easily the best bike racing blog out there. Did you know it has a separate Tumblr feed for errata that doesn’t befit a blog post? It’s a must-follow.

- This should be an interesting film -

- Let’s talk about photography. Below you’ll see my favorite photo of the week. A few cocktails plus Google Images search often leads to found treasure. And, in case you’re a connoisseur of Alex Stieda, apparently Zinka colored sunblock is still available. Let’s party like it’s 1986.

Greg Lemond, Alex Stieda, Coors Classic

I complained about Jered Gruber’s Instagram fascination a few weeks back. Maybe it isn’t foot in mouth, but perhaps a few toes? This is one of my favorites from the 2012 Spring Classics season. Chapeau, Jered.

Liege Bastogne Liege, 2012

I’ve been discouraged from using that beautiful word, PRO. So describe it as you will, but note the way in which pros out on their knee and legwarmers at the outset of a Classic.

Legwamers outside the shorts

The indignities of the pavé are countless. An underrated one is the toll it takes on the cycling computer. Electrical tape seems to be the best countermeasure.

Dig the Garmin mount

Emily Maye is a new name to me. Her bike race photos are intriguing, even if it takes a bit of work to get used to the ’4ormat’ UI. Her Belgium Doubles series is a trip. Check it out.

- Katusha has had an interesting Spring. It’s a team with a challenged rep. The doping positives don’t help. And while Oscar Friere was heroic in Amstel Gold, perhaps the one name worth remembering (in a happy way) is a guy none of us have ever heard of, Maxime Vantomme.

- Bike porn is one thing. S&M-ish deviancy is another frontier altogether. (Yes, it’s safe for work.)