Blue Ocean Chronicles 2
It’s All About Im age!
Ever talk with a non-cyclist about bicycles? Even casual conversations can be very illuminating once you get past more their indifference.
lanes, perceived safety issues, weather, etc., are mostly beyond the control of the bicycle industry. While advocacy groups and sponsorships of bike lanes are important, they are hardly core industry activities.
This is where we start to hear some home truths. One core, catchall word I often hear is “image.” Many people simply want to keep their own identities, which they express through their clothes, cars and other subtleties of modern life. But cycling, at least as our industry now defines it, doesn’t fit with most people’s self-image.
That leaves the bicycle itself, which we do have influence on. We are fairly good at the engineering side of bicycle design. After all, we obsess over the enthusiast’s craving for efficiency: weight savings measured in grams and speed boosts measured in tenths of seconds.
My 18-year-old daughter’s main reason for not cycling is image. She likes wearing “everyday” clothes, and doesn’t want to be one of those slightly weird, odd-one-out characters who wear fluorescent Lycra clothes flecked with mud. There is a sort of chicken-and-egg dilemma about getting non-cyclists to try bicycles. For example, bike
But the other side of design, the image, or “cool factor,” needs a closer look. We need to look at image in conjunction with great engineering. And we need to focus on non-enthusiasts like Anna, the subject of yesterday’s column. Our current practice of offering crude (but clever and efficient) engineering, plus a new paint job and this year’s branding campaign, soon will no longer be enough. Just check out what is happening in other product areas. How
would Apple approach bicycles? Making bikes “cool” to non-enthusiasts could be the “egg” which leads to their expanded use. This eventually could reach a tipping point that would necessitate more bike lanes, which would in turn make cycling safer, which would in turn attract more non-cyclists. For glimpses of what the world could be like if a large percentage of people rode bicycles, look at the cities of Copenhagen, Milan and Amsterdam in Europe and Portland, Davis and Boulder in the United States. Then look at products that appeal to non-cyclists, like the Gocycle, iF Mode, and other folding bicycles; e-bikes; covered bikes; cargo bikes; recumbents and velomobiles.
A paradigm shift—from cycling as a hobby for enthusiasts to mainstream transport for all—would make the mountain bike “revolution” appear to be more like a small hill. When I started talking about these ideas, I had expected the industry—made up mostly of sport-loving, cycling enthusiasts—to tune out my message. On the contrary, most agree with me! But we are in a bind. Most profit margins come from our “Red Ocean” markets of core enthusiasts. That leaves little resources for us to explore “Blue Oceans,” despite their promise. Tomorrow: Cycle Chic is Très Chic MARK SANDERS
Products like these may not suit traditional enthusiasts. But they may better appeal to potential “Blue Ocean” customers and current car dwellers.
MARK SANDERS IS AN AWARD-WINNING DESIGNER OF BICYCLES AND OTHER PRODUCTS, WHICH HAVE SOLD IN THE MILLIONS. HE IS ALSO A VISITING LECTURER AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE AND THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART IN LONDON. HTTP://WWW.MAS-DESIGN.COM/
THUN LAUNCHES 'VELO COMFORT' WEBSITE BB cartridge expert Thun – a maker of quality components for urban bicycles and pedelecs – has launched a new website for end-users explaining the philosophy and advantages of Velo Comfort, the highly regarded component set for pedelecs. Go to WWW.VELOCOMFORT.COM to find out how the system stands for quality, service, sustainability and safety.
Published on Mar 16, 2011