The U.S. bike industry has been either indifferent or flummoxed by how to sell cycling to the masses. They’ve attempted to use the same approach and distribution channels they use for niche fitness and racing markets like road, mountain, and triathlon. This means very male and tech focused . It is a pity because selling the bike as a tool is what can save this slowing market. For the last decade, U.S. bike industry sales have remained stagnant while the American population continues to grow, essentially a market contraction. Many in the cycling industry have been disappointed that transportation cycling has not come good on its promise in the last years to boost sales. Selling bikes the way they always have been sold to a different market with different needs ain’t gonna cut it. To quote an ad campaign from another similarly challenged but eventually successful company, it’s time to “ think different .”
Reflective vests or this: which sells cycling better? Image courtesy of Amsterdamize. Click image to visit site.
It’s time to make cycling appealing again and get the bikes into new channels. Last week , I promoted a site called Rides a Bike where images are shared of Golden Age Hollywood on bicycles. Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious mentioned he has a similar series called Ride a Bike where he shares images of current day celebrities on bikes. I enjoy Richard’s posts, but what I’ve been struck by is that most of his celebrity pictures are distinctly non-glamorous. Many times they are paparazzi shots, but even so most of the time the starlets look like they are going to the beach or the gym. . . because that is what they are doing. The bike is a recreational toy, not an every day tool. Save the fashion for when you are exiting a limo or Land Rover, right?
The good news is that there still is glamor in riding a bike. For the past five years, Mikael Colville-Andersen has produced the excellent site Copenhagen Cycle Chic where he shares pictures of fashionably dressed people on bikes. Other sites have popped up around the world as copies. I find Amsterdamize to be equal in quality to the Copenhagen site. The author and photographer of the site was recently reflecting on his two and a half years publishing the site and share this great film called “Cycling” from Amsterdam in the 60s.
Take away the skinny ties and Mackintoshes and the scenes would be equally familiar today.
Insane Rush Hour In Netherlands
It’s time to get beyond bike lanes and public service announcements. These serve a valuable place in majority adoption of cycling, but they are not the whole picture. Roads alone didn’t sell cars. You needed places to go and an industry of auto manufactures and land developers to sell you on the vision. The Internet was around for two decades before it became ubiquitous with modern life. You needed a compelling reason to get online, whether it was connecting with friends, buying stuff, or looking at funny cat videos.
It’s time to create what is called in business talk “ the whole product .” It’s not just the bike or even the infrastructure. We need a compelling vision of a better life lived on two wheels. Who’s with me?