Whew! We just got back to Chicago from the Interike tradeshow. For a retailer, it’s getting harder to get at-a-glance view of our industry, as it’s undergoing a splintering, and the once almighty industry-wide Interbike is getting supplanted by smaller regional shows. Many major US bicycle suppliers are sitting out, and therefore it’s difficult to pinpoint major trends happening in conventional bike design and offerings.
That doesn’t mean we can’t spot at least some strong trends: the good, the bad and the ugly.
First, the good.
(We’ll tackle the bad and the ugly shortly.)
Cargo is HUGE!
As urban families, adventurers and micro-trepreneurs scale down their car dependence, they are increasingly turning to high-capacity cargo bikes, and several companies have stepped up to meet the growing demand. Though only a handful of cargo bike makers were present at Interbike this year, their commitment to this form of transportation is evident in the scope of their offerings and creativity of their booth displays. The most notable players with tremendous design energy were:
Yuba Cargo Bikes
Spanning cargo bike options to meet a wide range of needs and price ranges, including a $999 full size longtail Mundo workhorse, cruiser-like compact Boda Boda, front-loader Supermarché, and several e-assist models, Yuba stands poised to literally change the way families move around American cities.
The designer behind this brand, Benno Baenziger, was the brain behind the phenomenally popular Electra Bikes, and his new cargo bike company is infused with the desire to make simple, functional and well designed bikes for everyday transportation, utility and adventure.
Though primarily known for their folding bikes, Tern is blazing the trail in the compact, electric-assist cargo category with the phenomenally popular (and easy to store) GSD.
Adventure is everywhere
About a decade ago, urban cycling began to dominate the industry, and its impact on product design was evident everywhere from bikes, to bags and apparel. That is currently being edged out by adventure biking and bikepacking, and that sensibility is spilling over into the urban market as well. Crossover products, such as gravel bikes, which are equally at home on urban streets and unpaved fireroads, are the new standard, and many hybrid bikes —the staple of urban commuting— have taken on adventure characteristics, such as smaller, higher volume tires, disc brakes and mounting eyelets to extend their cargo-carrying capacity.
This is great news for the bike consumer, because it’s increasingly possible to have a do-it-all bike for about $1000 or less.
The Noble Profession,
Raising the professionalism standards for bicycle mechanics is an extremely welcome trend, as the barrier to entry has traditionally been very low, and there are almost no established industry-wide standards. Organizations such as Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association and United Bicycle Institute are working to change that, and to increase the competence and professionalism of the bicycle technician. Additionally, companies such as Efficient Velo Tools and Wheel Fanatyk, that manufacture premium quality specialized tools to aid bike mechanics in the performance of their trade, help raise the profile of the profession.
An interesting development, and one that — in my opinion — is long overdue, is the arrival of companies that offer a more personal, semi-custom buying experience to the bike buying public. The best of these companies realize three things: (1) most customers typically want more color choices, fit and customization options than what’s available on a typical bike showroom floor, but are not prepared to shell out in excess of $2000 for a custom build, or more for a fully custom bike, (2) the assortment of bikes on the showroom floor that the shop owner had to select in advance, trying to anticipate what potential customers will want to buy, may not be the best way to meet the diverse needs of those customers, and (3) at the same time, a full-service bicycle store (not the internet) is still the best and safest place to purchase a bicycle with included professional assembly and skilled follow-up maintenance service.
In response to this, companies like Roll Bicycles offer a streamlined selection of modular bikes: a quality bicycle frame (available in several sizes, and a step-over and step-through configuration), that can be ordered in a choice of attractive colors and finishes, and outfitted with several different component packages for sport, city or adventure use for a set price of $750, with a couple of limited upgrade options available as well. The bicycle shop stocks a few representative models, and the customer may not walk out of the shop with their new bike on the day of purchase, but in about a week they can take delivery of a fully assembled bike outfitted to their preferred specifications.
At Cosmic Bikes, we’ve been using this process with Brompton folding bikes for many years, and it works very well in balancing what we as a shop have to carry in stock, and getting the customer the exact product they desire.
Stay tuned for….
Interbike impressions: the Bad and the Ugly!