War with the Industry: We are the Problem
I have many bones to pick with the industry I love, I’m calling it a war - a war to get more butts on bikes, to get kids safer to adventure and for the industry to get their head out of the ground. First step was bike shops, the front line of the bicycle industry. Now to put more of a blanket across the complete industry, to everyone that calls themselves cyclist.
Here’s what I ask of you, as you are most likely a cyclist to read this blog…I ask you to take a moment and reflect on the thoughts I am bringing you.
How many sports interrupt everyone’s daily life?
Other than running, to a point, who’s “sport” stops the lives of the non-cycling population?
We talk about going after golf as a target audience of potential cyclist – golf has beautiful couses and ranges to practice our strokes
Runners can run on sidewalks
Baseball, soccer, lacrosse and football have fields with bleachers wrapped around
The Sport We Love Causes Chaos
We fight to share the road, should we be fighting to have our own roads, greenways and trails instead? Is sharing roads with 4,000 lb cars the smartest thing to do? Do bike lanes, only inches, from 55 mph roads make sense? Do we belong on roads over 35 mph as road cyclist or commuters?
I sit here writing this while watching the latest stage of the Tour de France. Beautiful, romantic and exciting. I also watch thousands of miles of roads shut down. The closest I can think of this that is non-cycling is that of the Boston Marathon at 26.2 miles.
What is Our Hope?
The bike industry “is flat” they say. Of course it is. My family worry about me when I go for a ride on the road. I’m not able to ride my mountain bike locally when it rains, and it has been raining on and off all week. The local velodrome is 45 minutes away. The closest greenway, 8 miles away, is 3 miles long.
When you look for our hope, look to your neighborhood. Look at all the bikes with flat tires in your neighbors garage. What would inspire them to ride? What does the venue look like?
Our hope is not for the next Lance Armstrong.
My hope is for organizations like Streetsblog, a blog about sustainable transportation and livable communities. Side neighborhood streets, planned development and creating safe ways to move around communities. That is how to get more people on bikes, out of the gym and out of their car.
Think About It
Next time you are out on the road, think about what is going on around you. Wave to that person that stopped for you or went AROUND you. You are interrupting their flow and their day. Just because you are able to be on the road, share the lane or take the lane, doesn’t mean you aren’t creating chaos out there. When we are riding 10 deep of 2 or 3 a breast, who is sitting patiently behind you in their car? Where did we go so wrong that we feel entitled to interrupting someones day because “we ride a bike”?
If your kids were in the middle of the street playing catch or kicking a soccer ball and a car comes down the road do you expect your kids to get out of the way or the car to stop?
War with the Industry: Starting with the Bike Shops
I have many bones to pick with the industry I love, I’m calling it a war - a war to get more butts on bikes, to get kids safer to adventure and for the industry to get their head out of the ground. The first battle in this war is with the small guy on the totem poll with so much power… bicycle shops.
Most bike shops forget at the end of the day they are the ones selling the bikes to the consumers. Marketing may have led the consumer to their door but they are the face of the bike industry. If they have horrible customer service or no foundation in the community there is a chance that the consumer won’t buy from them. The bike will be bought at REI, Dick’s, Target or even worse THE INTERNET. (Is that really worse than Target? Come on!)
Gripes with shops, I’m sorry if I offend
- When you aren’t busy on a Saturday it is your fault. You can’t assume or hope that people will walk in your door.
- Stop blaming the weather. Minneapolis has some crappy weather but they have embraced it and you see people riding in January.
- Putting things on sale in the store is only rewarding people walking in the door. You must tell people OUTSIDE your store about a sale to get them IN your store.
- Stop worrying about the haggling team racers. It is super cool to sell a $12k bike but not if you make $400 on it. If that is your business model I commend you and would probably want to visit. For everyone else, worry about growing that beginner cyclist. Empower them, teach them and they will respect you and spend tons of money with you over the years. The guy haggling you on the new Red brakes to get the best deal ever that he found on the internet…he isn’t making you money. Treat him well with great service and move on.
- Find your place. Not too many shops can be everything to everyone. Do you love mountain bikes? Do you shred hard core and everyone is astounded by your riding? Embrace it. Behind everyones back you make fun of roadies, so why try to be a roadie shop? Have more mountain bike rides, help your local mountain bike group. OWN IT.
- This goes with the above….Believe in yourself.
- Get out in the community. Some shops are already doing this. Bike shop owners, are you on group rides? Do you get out to group meetings or advocacy events? Are you pounding the pavement for Safe Routes to School or anything of the such?
- Build your community. Become friends with the other bike shops in town. Find what you all are good at and help each other.
- Make the bicycle pie bigger. Stop hating on the shop across town. If bikes keeping coming to you with bad tune ups call the shop and tell them. Why? To keep people from getting injured and to keep people from hating on bicycles. Yes, you may be making money off of it – but is that really how you want to make your money?? Figure the missing pieces in your community. Help get more kids on bikes, find a way to market to guys that would be buying golf clubs, make your local advocacy group stronger so people are riding bikes instead of joining the gym.
I love bike shops, but I am biased. Alone in my southeast territory I have roughly 380 bike shops. Now that is a movement ready to happen. Could you imagine – 380 business owners and all their employees coming together for one like cause? BICYCLES