Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Way

Been doing some reading, emailing, thinking, dreaming lately about how to get more people on bikes. The pundits and industry insiders are starting to talk about non-endemic marketing experiences and reaching out to the non-traditional cyclists to grow the market. That’s well and good, but how do you do that?
I've worked at half a dozen shops, been in hundreds, and there are obviously things that work, and things that do not. Sadly, I think most bike shop experiences aren't all they could be for many shoppers, and the 'culture' that surrounds them often is weighed down with an air of exclusivity. That exclusiveness can give some shops a feel of community and authenticity for those in the circle, but for those on the outside, it can make you never want to go back. I’ve been on both sides of the counter, and I know how it can get in the heat of the summer.
I think more folks could get into cycling, but to do that, we need to find a way to get the bike under them without making it seem like a lifestyle change. Not everyone wants to view the bike as a tool of the revolution, and some of us do. More people on bikes is going to be inherently good.
So you are asking, “what are you doing about it?” Well I’ll tell you, I’m opening a dialog about it, sound off.

What would get more people on bikes and out of cars?


P-lip said...

My uncle commutes 20 miles (round-trip by bike) year-round, but he's had bad experiences in every bike shop in the Madison area, why? Why?? It's because all of his miles are on a $300 Trek hybrid bike, and he wears a hoodie, sorels in winter and a carhart suit, not Assos bibs and whatever else is trendy, hip, cool and "functional." He says nothing makes him happier than to be on his bike, and yet, none of the shops have welcomed him. I don't know why. Sadly, too many customers are judged before they even open their mouths.

Or maybe it's because many Americans want everything to be easy, and cycling isn't always easy, and cyclists are tired of making accomodations for folks who want a wider saddle.

yooperjb said...

Powell, couldn't agree with you more. Man I look back at how things have changed. How at one time I saw myself amongst a scene, drafting behind the likes of mike b., dave o, kit crockett, and of course frank louis. I yearn for those days and wish everyone could experience them. Or do I? Where would I begin to define such an experience, or what later became this lifestyle. I've tried elsewhere and come up short. I look around at what the circle of inclusion has become, see myself amongst it again, and slowly pedal on past the scene. I've been to your (scene) meetings. I heard your ideas. Maybe at one time in my life I would've talked to you just because of that cool cars 'r coffins sticker on that sick fixie you bought off of ebay. The meeting consisted of ways to make biking 'cool' so everyone would hop on. Sad fact is rashes on your taint, grease under your fingernails, and a flat tire in the middle of nowhere just isn't that cool to most. I left that meeting with one comment, "shouldn't we be focusing on how bikes can be tools rather than 'cool'"? I mean this is arcata right? It's going to be a rough road ahead and sadly that road wont start at the hinges of a bike shop door.

elspondo said...

"You know who the last teacher was who rode his bike to work here? Kelly Wernette!"


That's what it took for me to understand. If I let that beautiful World Traveler with the "bikes don't pollute" sticker on it be my primary transport, I'd be considered the crazy guy.

Perhaps I'm generalizing, but I think the grand majority of Americans see riding bikes as being for kids, and guys in spandex who shave their legs. Or maybe they see riding as something to do when spending a week each summer in that quaint little town on Lake Michigan and wouldn't it be nice to rent a couple bikes, honey, and go for a ride up the coast?

It's a mixed bag and I think jb's right: after the Revolution you'll be just another member of the establishment, and that's not cool.

Until then, we have to contend with the fact that, unlike Scandanavia, the daily flow of our lives too spread out. We live far from our jobs, our favorite stores, restaurants, ... it's an lot of aweful sprawl.

I learned a hell of a lot Kelly Wernette and I wish he wasn't just known as the crazy guy.

When I can, I ride to school. So what's that make me?

djonnymac said...

Bike riding isn't a revolution because revolutions aren't this much fun!

becx said...

Tis true that not every bike store has a welcome atmosphere--sad but true. I'm well known in the racing/advocacy community and can't say I feel happy to be in any bike store in Madison. Makes me want to run a bike dealership just to show how much better it can be if your staff smiles and says hello (even once in awhile).