Friday, April 20, 2007

Morning Recap of Yesterday

What I added yesterday, I typed just before heading out the door. Normally, I am at my best in the morning after having ridden to work. But, yesterday I had just dropped an email to a Friend for which I had possession of his bicycle. Not one to make my pile look too large, it is good to show Anika that I have at least made some effort to make it dwindle.

I was late out the door headed home from work, but not a big deal since I had actually received approval in the form of email earlier in the day that said: "Hope you had a great ride - take the long way home - it's glorious out!"

Well, I didn't actually take the LONG way home, but I did throttle back the pace and really did enjoy the ride. There's something about riding in shorts and a t-shirt all that much more fun. Some of those raw winter days really SUCK by comparison.

It was so nice outside and I was riding my bike, thinking about bikes. Since I had written and put some thought into the whole Shimano Coast thing, I was thinking about why people don't ride bikes. Given my route across town, I see an interesting cross-section of people. I saw a comparatively high number of cyclists yesterday since it was such a glorious afternoon. I saw two guys (one of which I knew) unloading their bikes from a car at Theo Wirth park to go ride off-road on the trails. Then passing down Glenwood, I saw two guys riding beat up old 10-speeds carrying large trash bags.

Then, I pass through a section of subsidized housing. I saw someone pulling out from the parking lot (who obviously must not have been able to see me through his blacked out windows because he almost hit me.) I thought to myself; "people think that I have my priorities all messed up because they think I spend a disproportionately large sum of money on bicycles?"

Okay, how about this person driving an Infinity Q45. "starting at $49,950" and this was no base-model-stripper. I'm certain that the cost of what appeared to be at least 20" wheels certainly surpassed the cost of any of my bicycles. Hmmm... I'm not passing judgment on the person driving this VERY expensive vehicle, but I did use this opportunity to justify or rationalize my expenditures. I could write a lot about my opinions concerning this particular housing development and the cars that I see parked there from overnight. I'm sorry, if someone has that kind of money to dump into an automobile, they shouldn't be living there, or they should spend an equal amount of time cleaning up the trash from the street as they do polishing their cars.

Sorry... but that one REALLY bugs me.

Continuing on my ride home... I approached the UofM campus where I saw a couple more students on bikes with large back packs. Closer to home, I saw a group riding in their matching TCBC cycling jerseys.

Of all the people riding, only a few were using bicycles for transportation. The rest were "recreational" riders. There's your problem Shimano. I think that people look at the bicycle as a piece of recreational equipment. To use one otherwise is indeed intimidating. I would challenge anyone who reads this (if anyone does) to walk into ANY store offering bicycles and find a bike ready to go out the door that would be suitable for transportation.

For the average person, walking into a bike shop is going to be an overwhelming experience to begin with. Take a walk into an Erik's sometime and the 3-tier racks of bicycles. Then talk to a sales person who is going to begin showing model after model pointing out meaningless differences between model numbers on this component or that. If not completely awe-struck and the person does decide to buy a bike, they will then be inundated with suggestions for a helmet, shorts, lock, pump, tools, shoes...etc. Wow, makes me dizzy.

Having worked in a shop for 15 years... I am just as guilty as all the other sales people. Price-point, size, styles, colors... there are a dizzying array of bikes to offer customers. Even for the knowledgeable there are too many choices.

What people really need is a shop set up strikingly barren by comparison to the current environment. 3 bicycle models, maybe several sizes each with a very small selection (maybe only one) for bikes ready to go. An ala-carte menu if you want special colors or component swaps and clear-pricing... "Your color choice - 6 weeks, +$300." "Rohloff Disk brake hub option - 2 weeks, +$1500" :) These special options would likely only be requested by more seasoned riders purchasing an additional ride. Otherwise, a customer could walk into the shop (like they would Target of Walmart to pick up their Murphy) and pick out their own bike.

The low-price model would be Small, Medium, Large. 3 speed, coaster brake, fenders, collapsible basket, powered blinky tail light, battery powered headlight. Ready to go. Ideally, this would be in the $250-$300 price point. 15-minute assembly, basically no maintenance bike.

Middle-priced model: XS, S, M, L, XL, 8 speed, caliper or disk brakes, fenders, collapsible baskets, blinky, shimano dynohub up front. Not sure how I would also differentiate the middle priced model, perhaps more stylish? Ideally, hit under the $600 price point.

Deluxe model - Variety of options and configurations as more of an ANT bike. Nicer racks, bags, fenders, etc.

The TranSportation shop would offer these bikes ready to go... no extra hype. They'd come with a free Bicycle Transportation map of the twin cities. We'd host regular classes and evening social rides, offer suggestions and solicit opinions on different routes around town. Offer printed queue sheets and turn-by-turn maps for commuter routes. Some of these services could be fee-based, but the whole success of Geek squad to me demonstrates that people are willing to pay to not be over-whelmed.

I'll have to give this whole idea some more thought... maybe not share those though as I am giving away my million-dollar idea... ha ha ha. I gotta shower and go to my interview.


Tex69 said...

Good points on the lack of transportation bikes or equipment. I made the same point in my blog a week a go or so, that my local fav LBS is full of great people, but the point is to sell road bikes and mt bikes, with some BMX and hybrids thrown in. None ready or really to be ready w/ fenders, pannier, lights, generator hubs, etc. I think they're afraid to sink $$ into inventory that will never come back to them. That's why we must keep on the roads and show others it can be done.

this verdant country said...

I am considering dropping the Breezer line at HC because they are difficult to sell unless I slash prices to unsustainable margins. It pains me to do it, because these bikes seem to fill an important niche, but they are not that great for business. I think the problem is that such bikes are too feature-laden ($$$) and confusing for novices, while not appealing to more experienced riders who have learned to get along by accessorizing more standard bicycles.

Blog Archive