Lifelong worshipper of road cycling. Now dabbling elsewhere with lots of enthusiasm & mixed success.
Let’s Party Like It’s 1986
April 23, 2012
- 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:
*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.
‘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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.