28 April, 2014

Our Tribe is Shrinking

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Bicycle Leadership Conference in Monterey, CA. This an industry event where various bicycling industry big wigs (I was the smallest wig) attend seminars, network, eat really good food, and enjoy the beautiful setting.

There was the obligatory leadership seminar by mountaineer Chris Warner, whose theme seemed to be that bad leaders get caught in avalanches and freeze to death. The e-bike panel discussion was more interesting than I would have thought. I enjoyed a talk on "best practices" by Mandi McKay of Sierra Nevada Brewing, so much so that I had a couple of pints of their pale ale that evening.  But the two seminars that inspired this post were entitled Youth: The Face of Cycling's Future and Statistics: What Are We Seeing in the Numbers?

The youth seminar can be summed up fairly quickly. Fewer and fewer kids are interested in riding bikes. That almost certainly means that there will be fewer cyclists in the future. BMX bike sales, as an example, are down about 25% and that's how many kids get started. That's a trend that certainly worried the attending owners, CEOs, and managers of the bigger bike companies. On the bright side there are some great programs to introduce kids to our sport. I was particularly impressed by the presentation from the founders of Little Bellas, a mentoring program for girls on mountain bikes.

The statistics seminar was presented by Leisure Trends, a market research firm that compiles all sorts of detailed numbers on all sorts of sports. There were lots of slides and discussion of trends, but the upshot was that bike sales were generally down in all categories, except mountain bikes, in 2013. Road bike sales declined over 13%. So far 2014 has been a little better, still negative growth overall, but positive trends in MTB, lifestyle/leisure, transit/fitness, and even children's bikes.

It was interesting to see 26"-wheeled mountain bike sales are dropping like the proverbial stone, while 29ers are doing well and 650b MTBs are taking off. Each bike category was sliced and diced with sales channels, price trends, inventory-on-hand, and other metrics examined. Many looked grim.

I am also concerned by reports from our staff who attended the North American Handmade Bike Show. They report far fewer steel and rando-style bikes and many more carbon fiber. This may be because the show was held in the southeast. As one VOer put it, "people seemed more interested in expensive race bikes than in practical bikes."

Fortunately, these trends don't seem to have a huge impact on VO. Though the bike industry, as a whole, declined by over 3% in 2013, VO experienced modest growth last year.

I'm not sure of what to make of all this information. Are declining sales simply a result of unusually bad weather in much of the country for the past year and a half? I suspect that may be at least partially the cause. Or are people, especially kids, really losing interest in cycling? It seems that cycling is rather cyclical, no pun intended. We've seen the 70s bike boom, the 80s MTB boom, a fixie craze, everyone suddenly interested in touring, Lance inspiring the road racing boom. Another thought: are all the city bike share programs causing urban cyclists to no longer buy their own bikes?

With all this swirling in my brain I hopped in a rental car and drove down through Big Sur to one of my favorite towns, San Luis Obispo. There I hung out with my buddy and major bike advocate, Eric. We cycled around town a little, ate some great food, and talked about cool bikes, old cars, real estate, and tried to figure out the best place on earth to retire. It might just be SLO, especially if you like bikes, fine local food and perfect weather. One of the things that's great about SLO is the cycling infrastructure. It goes a long way toward promoting biking. Eric also gave me a tour of the surrounding countryside, wine country, which I found much prettier than Sonoma or Napa. If you want to do an organized bike tour in the area, he recommends supporting this new company.

Anyway, please share your thoughts on the future of cycling in the comments.


Anonymous said...

I'd be very curious to hear a little about what was said during the e-bike panel.

I commute on one that's built up from an old Tom Kellogg frame and a number of your parts. It's perfect as a car replacement for hauling cargo and kids, in warm weather when I need to arrive presentable to work and meetings, and for days when my legs are already spent from a good workout on the road bike or I'm a bit under the weather.

cafiend said...

As a kid in the 1960s I started out as a transportation cyclist. My parents were happy to let me ride my bike to school and to play at friends' houses.

When other kids started getting weird little bikes like the Sting Ray I was not drawn to them. Why give up my 26" three-speed for some dinky thing with tiny wheels that would make me work too hard? My concept of cycling was always as a way to get myself around. The fact that it was fun just came along for the ride, so to speak.

That transportation aspect is what has dropped out of the modern childhood experience in this country. Various fears, both legitimate and exaggerated, keep parents from encouraging children to transport themselves as soon as they can pedal and understand the rudiments of traffic safety.

Car-based infrastructure has further cut off young riders from early experiences as independent cyclists. I would get on my bike and ride anywhere. Some places were better than others, but drivers expected to see kids on bikes going about their business.

Maybe it took a bad turn in the 1970s when drivers suddenly had to deal with a lot of adults on bikes, as the child cyclists of the '60s didn't want to give up the habit. The drivers who had out all that behind them resented these overgrown kids clotting up the roads. Grow up! Get a car!

I still think of the bike as a way to get from place to place, not just to ride on a closed course or segregated recreational venue. It's a fantastic way to live. As the population ages, a lot of people could benefit from taking it up, both physically and economically. But because they're not young and spry enough to duke it out with a hostile or indifferent motoring public, most of them won't. And the children who kept riding as adults from the '60s to the '70s, who now want to continue as long as they can into old age for all the good reasons still have to duke it out with that hostile or indifferent motoring culture.

JP said...

Biking will be increasingly popular in cities as they make more cycling infrastructure. City cyclists love practical bikes - cargo+fenders+dynamo lights+non-greasy drivetrain. That market will do well I expect.

Outside of NYC, I would expect that the bikeshare is a supplement for most people, not a bike replacement. I love bike shares and support them enthusiastically. I use them frequently in Boston, even though I own several bikes.

The changing wheel sizes is a faddish issue to me. All the wheel sizes work just fine. Really. I switch from 16" to big 700c, and they all work great when set up properly.

I think the future is belt drive. I just made the switch, and it's absolutely wonderful. It has its downsides, but a clean drivetrain is an absolutely beautiful thing.

Anonymous said...

I live in the San Francisco East Bay Area, deep in the suburbs. And I see fewer and fewer kids riding anywhere. I used to ride my bike all over town, and now living in the exact same neighborhood where I grew up I would never let my kids ride along the same roads. Maybe the roads aren't any more dangerous (or maybe just a little more crowded and drivers driving a little faster), but I think also us parents are probably more paranoid now.

Bob Hague said...

I think cafiend kind of hit the nail on the head here. Cycling needs to be viewed less as a sport and more as a viable transportation option - particularly for young people.

Anonymous said...

In my large DC organization I advocate as a rep for cyclists. Over the last 18 months the car parking program has voluntarily given up three (highly coveted) parking spaces to bicycle parking (with space for about eight bikes in each space). So, despite obstacles, daily cycle commuting is growing where I work. On the downside for the bike industry, 70+% of the bikes are recycled high-end bikes from the 90's and early 00's (with a few VO parts sprinkled around, not including my full VO build). It's almost like a fetish of thrift (coming from some highly compensated people). On a positive note, maybe a third of the riders are hip kids under 26 (we have a big program that ends at that age) riding cool (old) bikes to work daily. There are also two bikeshare stations nearby that are emptied daily. Whatever small proportion of the total work population this represents, it's growing fast and multiples of what it was just five years ago. And the commute to work is congested with bikes. At a stop light, I have one either side of me. On the other hand, I see very few teenagers on bikes in any part of the city. I'm not sure why that is: hovering misperceived risk averse parents or just a lack of coolness?

John Ellsworth said...

Interesting. Driver's license rates are down for kids, too, if you believe the car mags. What're all these people going to do to get around, in a few years?

I'm trying to plant the cycling seed in my kids, but I don't think either has even once just grabbed their bike and gone for a ride or over to a friend's house, like I used to. Traffic, iPods and computers, social networking -- much has changed.

VORS said...

Velo Orange,
Like your article and think I can help draw you out of most of your doom and gloom.

I am the Director for the Virginia Off Road Series. We have 20 mountain bike events across the state. We also work with other cycling oriented organizations across the state. On the youth side of the equation check out what we have going on in Virginia. First and foremost, the VAHS MTB Series(Virginia High School MTB Series). They host youth races in the Spring with up to 130 youth riders per race! VAHS will be starting up an NICA League in the Fall. Also there are youth race series in Roanoke and Williamsburg. This year, we, Virginia Off Road Series, have started our Youth Champion Chase. The youth in Virginia are coming out of the woodwork and hitting the trails in large numbers in these parts. Hope that brightens your day some...

On the 26 front.... think of the restaurant business.... when a new restaurant opens everyone flocks to it in the first six weeks because its new and fascinating. 29'rs and 27.5's are the 'new' kids on the block and all the hype. I believe all wheel sizes have their place on the trails.. Its just a matter of the trail, style of riding to find the right wheel. So sales will dip in the 26 range but believe sales will come back and normalize over the other wheel size(exceptions to this line of thinking is what direction manufactures go such as Giant going overboard on 27.5 but that can have consequence as well)

Carry on and have a great ride

Unknown said...

Sobering data, especially for those making a living in the industry.

But it would seem to run counter to many studies and articles that measure bicycling activity (rather than sales) and seem to show an increasing rather than a decreasing trend.

Per chance did this come up during the presentations or subsequent discussions?

Here are two examples of what I'm referring to:



Crmodgeon said...

Father of two boys. The world is far more hostile to children riding bikes than it once was, and a child's day far more structured. And even in the best circumstances, kid's bikes today are very unstable at speed. As crappy as many stingray bikes were, they were nothing if not stable going downhill. But kids need both places to ride and the freedom and safety to chose it for themselves. Kudos to Soma for their Bart and Lisa model frames. There should be a kid's bike lease program as a retail option. Lighter, better quality bikes, gently worn, that fit kids perfectly, traded in for a better fit as they grow. Parks should have pump tracks. On the transport front, bike shops and e-bike proponents should be on the same page. It's not a competition; it's a measure of civility and fun.

Krusty Walk said...

The ibises biz over here in the uk seems to still be on the up


Jimmy790 said...

Anonymous from DC makes a good point about folks riding cool vintage bikes. My pride and joy is a '92 Trek 790 hybrid (lugged steel) with a lovely Grand Cru rear wheel (front wheel has an electric motor or they'd be a matched set :)

I'd say there's a gap between new bike sales and "cycling interest". How many new bike sales go to folks who ride a couple weekends and then banish the bike to the garage only for it to emerge 5 years later when they move and want to sell it? That was a result of previous bike booms, everyone had a bike rusting away in the garage but no one was riding for transportation. It could be that vintage bikes are just a component of our current bike boom that bike manufacturers will simply have to deal with. Bicycles are pretty durable, there's really no reason to need to sell millions and millions per year. I own six bikes, only one of which I bought new, all the others I picked up used. Maybe someone should analyze the Craigslist Effect? Seriously, get those statisticians to estimate the number of bikes posted daily to CL in several major metropolitan areas, that's bound to be having an impact on new bike sales. If VO saw minor growth last year while new bike sales were going down, that's an indicator. Vintage bikes are cool.

On a totally different note, most bike salespeople suck. Seriously hardcore suck. Things I've been told by salespeople: everything but carbon fiber will be uncomfortable, anything less than Shimano 105 is junk, etc. I've gone in asking for a specific part and had the parts counter guy try to push me to buy what they happened to have in inventory instead. Now I buy my frames used and new parts online. I get awesome bikes that I love and never have to deal with rude bike shop staff.

Crmodgeon said...

By way of argument, let me propose that maybe the "complete bike" retail model may be shrinking to make way for custom builds a la the VO enthusiast online model, a budget Rivendell approach, or in a boutique environment a la Handsome Cycles, not out of fashion but customized usage. In other words, a more modular approach. What is the most important aspect of a bike? Isn't it fit? Followed by wheels and gearing suited to the task and a stem/handlebar combo that balances comfort and efficiency? Aren't traditional brands and the bike shops they support becoming like network television, needing to adapt to an increasingly splintered market? VO is able to moderate such a dialogue because it has developed intelligently in response to its market, and Grant Peterson has fed the dialogue for a long time. In contrast, much of the industry comes across as simply arrogant, right down to my beloved LBS. Innovation in a mature industry such as bicycles is misplaced and should be replaced by budget-friendly individualization and service.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing especially hostile about today's driver as far as I can see. I have been a "serious" (mostly transport) cyclist for 40 years, and I can tell you the environment has never been so good for cyclists.

I deal with Scouting parents all the time. Many are nervous wrecks, people who are afraid of pretty much everything.

Look around, most kids spend little time outside doing much of anything. There's a darkness in this country and we need to fight it: Fear is conquering all.

JohnM said...

Cleveland, Ohio: Kids don't ride anywhere, especially not without an adult nearby. Mine included and I set a positive cycling example.

The bike racks at school are not fully occupied. They were overflowing in the olden days.

As noted, it seems kids don't do much of anything without an adult, other than text and (video) game. I don't know what to do about it, since Mark can't go ride riding with Luke if Luke doesn't ride. And they both seem to really enjoy those games.

Alternatively, I see many times more commuters (okay, the base was low). In all kinds of weather, day and night, year round. In the snow. Yikes.

As for "racers" in logo-spandex? Generally older than me, and my first bike had a Bendix kickback.

Sometimes I feel it's like when I go to the airport: "Where are the young people? It's all the same people I've been flying with for the last thirty years?”

Traffic is an issue. What do we have in the US - 250 million cars? It had to be less than half that when I was a kid, along about the same time as some other posters. I took some very long rides in the 1980s on country roads that would today be speedways.

If I sign up for a supported ride of some sort (charity, country tour, etc.), it's often well-sold. So lots of folks still ride. (But nobody's on lugged steel.)

I don't know what any of this means. It's just what strikes me.

I heard a great slogan recently: "Melancholy is incompatible with cycling."

I hope my kids find the joy of riding at some point.

Laurence said...

I will try to keep my input short. I am the owner of a new, small shop, so I don't have any good old days to reminisce to. The obstacles I see to greater bicycle use local to me are the following; 1) electronic diversion, 2) price prohibitivity (made up word) 3) community involvement.

Electronic diversion (smart phones, TV, game systems, probably more but I don’t care to know about them) seem really to preoccupy peoples time, adults or youngsters. People, including me at times, forget how amazing the outdoors are. As a result, it is up to us, those who know about life outside of the slow suicide of electronic diversion, to organize and involve the less knowledgeable. It's work, but worth it.

The cost of a relatively decent made bicycle these days seems somewhat price prohibitive. I say this again, as a small bike shop owner. The uninformed customer sees it this way, buys a poorly manufactured, poorly equipped ("...but it's has Shimano parts!" ), poorly assembled bike at Walmart, Target, or wherever, rides it once before they find it's like pedaling a tank uphill, on a level surface, then it breaks, and it costs as much, or more, to get back to "working" order, as best as that can be at that level. They then proclaim cycling for kids, and it's back to motorsports or the couch. I would love to see a renaissance of the light weight 3speed city bike, at a more reasonable price point, like Linus' offerings, but at 60% that price.

Lastly, it's incumbent on community members like myself, the small shop owner (as it is in our business interest) along with bike advocacy groups, health groups, fitness groups, etc, to share the bike gospel. Included would be bike education to address safety issues as has been mentioned, for cyclists and drivers, fantastic events for bike mounted individuals, and a development of a “bike culture” in each community.

I am personally excited to see the offerings that manufacturers like VO have, a product I sell with pride for many reasons, and feel we are living in a new golden age of bicycles based on the amount of choices in types of bikes we have available to us today. Social media really does a good job sharing what available out there, but I think the next step is to help to facilitate the fun.

we like to food said...

Sales don't necessarily correlate with ridership.
As a commuter, I haven't noticed any decline in cyclists out there -- in fact, quite the opposite. Perhaps the high-volume product vomit of the major manufacturers is backfiring and people are starting to settle on quality merchandise that lasts for years rather than a fashion chariot that lasts a season. I've had the same three bikes for seven years, only upgrading or replacing parts as needed and even then, the frames were all used.
One of the reasons I think VO is doing well while others' numbers are down is that it serves affordable quality to a particular niche which doesn't have too many options in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the input from the NAHBS; that's a shame. Just when I thought practical rando bikes were making their way, it would be a let down to see such a thing fall to the wayside.

Thank goodness for VO and a small handful of others; otherwise I'd have a difficult time finding a frame that fits 32mm tires and is NOT a CX bike. Even here in a city as Chicago, most shops are very carbon and race oriented.

TL;DR - keep up the good fight.

Matt S said...

I wonder what happens as the years go on and the used stock of mass produced steel bikes dwindles. I became interested in modern steel bikes only after exploring craigslist's bike section for awhile. Riding a Grand Prix gave me the confidence to buy my first decent, old frame and put all new components on it. Riding and building that got me interested in companies like VO and Riv. Companies like that made me appreciate straight up custom outfits.
It's purely anecdotal but I feel like even in the last few years the Grand Prix' and Continentals that used to be the majority of the used market here dont pop up nearly as much, and now it's Panasonic and Cannondale. In another 5 years will it just be Specialized Rock Hoppers? I cant imagine that big box store models are going to sustain a secondary market, and without semi decent and well priced introductions into the world of steel bikes there will be much fewer people that appreciate them around.

Crmodgeon said...

Anon 9:58, you have it right about the climate of fear. The hostility I referenced was about all the impediments to kids riding, fear included. Among parents, escalating vigilance can rise to a fever pitch. Bike-like junk is also a form of hostility. No kid needs any more suspension than a fat tire provides. And a kid should be able to pick up his own bike. And the bike should be stored in a place where the kid can get it in and out independently AND keep it out of the rain. And a kid needs a destination. I used to ride to the corner drug store for gum and comic books or the neighborhood pool. Now drug stores are chains out on the highway and families must often drive to swim. In other words, many communities have developed with little regard to either bikes or children, and there are consequences to that myopia, and a child experiences it as a form of hostility. It makes me angry. Thank god I can ride my bike!

cafiend said...

We Like Our Food had a good point I've even made myself in my won writing on cycling and the Industry: buying bikes does not equate to riding bikes. When I go to a major city I see tons of bikes that have apparently been in use since the 1970s. No doubt they've changed hands, probably even clandestinely, but the bikes are still being ridden. In my own fleet, nothing is newer than a Traveler's Check frame I bought close to ten years ago, but I reconfigure the bikes as I need to, buying bits and pieces as necessary: dyno hubs, replacement rims, fenders, racks, upgraded brakes and whatnot. As someone who came into cycling in the 1970s in the company of mechanics and machinists I view the bike as the sum of its parts and as infinitely customizable. Mix and match! Modify! It's YOUR bike.

The Industry is fixated on sales. They need to move products. In the 1990s they chose the business model of cocaine dealers: sell expensive stuff that people replace frantically as it wears out frequently. They claimed the model was taken from computers, but what makes a bike faster is not the hardware, it's the operating system: meat that hasn't changed in thousands of years. The Industry needs to accept the concept of lasting value and figure out how to support themselves on it.

Anonymous said...

I believe straight stats of new bike sales are merely a small part of the equation... and maybe even part of the problem!? I understand the overall concerns over profitability, product development, marketing and all that to boost sales but like a poster mentioned above, I have also become rather discouraged with my LBS's over their approach and etiquette with sales and service. I have been driven more and more to DIY work and online parts purchases after too many frustrated trips to a LBS.
I own 5 bikes now. 1 was bought new as a teen and rebuilt or customized over the years, the rest accumulated used or salvaged and repurposed. I too take the thrift approach, in general, but likely spend more in parts than I would on a new complete bike. Thanks to Sheldon's articles and sites like VO I've learned alot and my bike tool and parts collection is always growing but I still try to defer to the professional mechanics for certain tasks, usually only to be disappointed.
Admittedly, I enjoy spending time in the garage turning a wrench and consider it a hobby working on bikes but I also try not to get in over my head and prefer to save time and get certain jobs done properly when necessary, but I find it's often easier said than done.

Example, I found a late 80's road bike that needed a new rear wheel (at least my LBS said so after I requested a truing and spoke replacement and was told it was beyond repair.) I already knew it had 126mm spacing with a 27" wheel before ever bringing it in. We discussed the specs and options/pricing and I requested a new 700c wheel with double-wall alloy rim and 126mm spaced freewheel hub. After numerous delays and lack of follow up on their part I finally got my order weeks later and ended up with a 130mm spaced hub with single wall rim.

Of course I went elsewhere... and ended up spending even more for a complete new wheelset delivered to my doorstep and did an even bigger overhaul now that this bike had been sitting as long as it had.

Another shop flat out told me not to rebuild my old MTB when I requested a new headset installation and fork swap. Perfectly good frame cleaned and fully inspected, mind you, with a modern threadless front end so it's not as though I was asking them to service something they have never seen before. These shops all offer and promote a la carte bike service but are simply too focused on new bike sales and their racing clientele to consider they are actually discouraging future sales and alienating their own potential customers.

z-man said...

IMHO the only sales that are down are new bikes at the retail level. The same market exists that existed in the 70's, only now you don't see a bike (mostly) hanging, unused in the garage. It goes on eBay and/or Craigslist etc.

youcancallmeAl said...


Anonymous said...

To get kids and younger people to ride, we need the road infrastructure built to accommodate bicycles. I live in northern NJ and there are no infrastructure for cycling so on my commute to work, I hardly ever see another cyclist. On a good day I might see 5 and that's it. My commute is 34 miles round trip into Newark Airport, lots of new bike lanes but no other towns surrounding Newark are set up for bikes.

Another thing that bothers me are the bikes sold are mainly for racing, Grand Fondos and Mtn biking. Try to get a bike made for commuting, shopping or touring.

When I show up with my Rando bike in a club ride, the first thing the other riders want to do is pick up my bike and say it's heavy.

Not to be a meanie about this but a lot of the cyclist in general are snops and really don't get it.

So to expect to see a younger generation come into cycling may be not happen unless infrastructure are established, training to ride on the road should start when cyclist are young instead of doing bmx or some type of trail racing. And drop this racing mentality (weight weenie obsession) and start ridng realistic, more useful bikes.

Skewered Left bicyclist addict said...

I think cycling is more popular than ever,the difference is pragmatic instead of LA wannabe. Commuting and using a bike for errands has been on the rise. Part and parcel why your business has not had a decline. Following was a local article on the cycling boom. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/San-Francisco-bicycle-boom-follows-bike-friendly-5060338.php

Riggs said...

Read the April cover story in The Atlantic about overprotected children and risk. Very illuminating. And I agree with bike shop criticisms. They can't make money selling quality bikes in the face of big box stores. Schwinn Varsitys required saving your money to purchase, and once you bought it you couldn't kill it. Sub Tourney level Chinese is cheap to buy, but not worth repairing.

And how about the "you need a 100 buck bike fitting " scam? Kids need an eyeball fit fit and they are done. It worked for decades. "You need clip in shoes" and on and on. Its disturbing sales and disturbing consumerism.

Demographics are against sector growth. Fewer children, movement from burb to city, and tech driven education don't help. A child not riding a bike is an impoverished life if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

My children love to ride. But I have noticed a level of hostility from car drivers that I don't remember from my childhood. Even in my family neighborhood, we have had annoyed motorists honk and yell at my children when they were riding on the road. And by road I mean the slow speed roads in a subdivision. Most of these motorists are only a block from their houses, but are angered over having to slow down (slightly) for kids on bikes! -Tony

Anonymous said...

Oh come on. When I was a kid, people used to yell at me and throw things at me. You're more aware of it because they're your kids. If anything, drivers are far more friendly and aware than they used to be (that's not to say that they're friendly and aware, just more than they used to be). There are so many more cyclists in my town than there were 10 years ago, the city has put in bike lanes down town, and is going to be destroying a driving lane to put in a dedicated cycling lane separated from traffic with a median. The idea that the world is less bike friendly than it used to be is just absurd in my experience.

Sean in Edmonton said...

Many of us from "Generation X" who are now into cycling never spent much time on bikes at children. Generations before mine used bikes a mode of transportation when they were children. My parents recall riding bikes to school and riding to the drug store to get ice cream or milkshakes at the counter and riding bikes to the drive-in where they snuck in to catch movies without paying.

I did have a bike when I was young, but I only rode it up and down the driveway and around the neighbourhood. There simply were no destinations to go to. Living in the suburbs meant that everything was far away. Going to school required a 45-60 minute bus ride. There were no child-friendly places to meet with friends for a soda or ice cream or a movie nearby. And I didn't have any friends in my neighbourhood anyway. We all caught different buses and went to different school, so I never really knew any of them.

Now that I'm older, I've followed many of my generation back to the city--where my parents grew up--and it is practical to use a bike as a mode of transportation. Hopefully one day when I'm able to afford children of my own, they will be able to enjoy the pleasures and sense of freedom that two wheels provide. And I know many others with similar childhoods who now feel the same way. So while the numbers you report may be stark, I since they we're at a point where things are changing.

Wes Ewell said...

To see the future of bicycling in the U.S. look to Europe, where many people ride rugged utilitarian bikes every day year round.
I think VO might be leading the future of recreational cycling with introduction of the Camargue, which is perfect for trail riding on any surface.

Anonymous said...

My teen's are 16 and 18. My son will occasionally ride my favorite loop with me. I think there are 2 factors. 1) growing up, I went from slot cars to cameras to bicycles. What else was here that was shiny and had gears and levers in the early 70's (unless your name was Jobs or Wozniak)? Today there are SO many other things to buy. own, and fiddle with. 2) Formal activities, from my son's fencing club to my daughters Ultimate Frisbee, and tutors for math, and AP prep courses, all demand being at a certain place at a certain time. Bikes just don't cut it as a practical transportation mode for them unless you live in Maybury. I wish it weren't so, but not so much that I would tell them not to participate in these things merely so they can serendipitously enjoy riding their bike some more.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know how regional sales are faring and whether overall participation in group rides is up or down. Sure, Johnny is probably asking for the new Call of Duty for his birthday instead of a new bike, but how does that Toys R' Us sale compare to bike shop sales? Around me (Indiana), I saw more bikers in 2013 on county roads than any other years. Seems like our roads here have the measles as new course markings appear at random intersections and then quickly spread. More Triathlons. More group rides. More club rides. It seems like adult biking is doing ok?

Anonymous said...

Great discussion. I dont think decline in riding among kids spells doom for the industry. Biking as a sport seems more popular than ever. Every weekend in the SF Bay Area there's a veritable spandex army on the roads,with a huge contingent of riders in their 50s and older. The industry is just starting to cater/respond to these older riders, who have $ to buy bikes and time to ride them. It should continue in that direction by offering bikes that are practical and comfortable, i.e. lower gearing. Taller head tubes, different handlebar options, wider tires, but that are still as light and fast. The industry's counterprogrammers are not going to sell a lot of bikes by chastising people for wanting to ride light bikes, and by categorically rejecting innovations like disk brakes and belt drives. The surge in biking's popularity among urban hipsters abd older people is going to (have to) sustain the industry for the time being.

Anonymous said...

Now I haven't read all of the comments above, but I'll weigh in anyway.

Comment (1): Kids may be losing interest, I'll trust the numbers on that, but young adults are picking up on bicycling big-time. Based on my totally non-scientific observations.

Comment (2): I don't think bike share programs are hurting the bike industry. Some like to refer to bike share as a "gateway drug" that allows lowers the barrier to entry for people who want to try riding without making a big investment. Also, municipally sanctioned bikes on the road are visible and recognizable symbols that bikes belong [SIC].

Comment (3): I think these are great times for bikes and people who ride them. I see lots of evidence--here is one piece: remember when bike shops carried only road bikes, with 700x23 MAX tire size, and mountain bikes. And fenders and baskets were anathemas, gathering dust in a back corner? It wasn't that long ago.

Anonymous said...

Mountain biking is taking off in my state primarily due to the work of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association [NICA] and their goal to make mountain biking a mainstream high school sport from coast to coast by 2020. Interestingly enough most kids that get into the program and start to excel at it will end up getting road bikes as a mean to help them train and get faster. This past season that just ended about 3 weeks ago, there were 3 leagues in California that totaled more then 1300 student/athletes of high school age. What the bicycle industry should be doing is working this organizations such as NICA to help get more kids on bikes because those kids are more likely go get their won kids on bikes and start a new bicycle resurgence in this country. Lastly, the significant decline in road biking can definitely be attributed to the fact that automobile drivers nowadays just seem really angry about pretty much anything. So I constantly hear about a cyclist getting hit by a car in cases where clearly the automobile driver was careless and irresponsible. Furthermore, the punishment for hitting a cyclist is usually less than a slap on the wrist.