What does Frost bike, Bionx, Revolution Bike and Guido have to do with one another? This weekend in Minneapolis the giant bike parts distributor Quality Bicycle Parts is hosting Frost Bike for their independent bicycle sellers at their company headquarters in Bloomington MN. Just so happens my local shop, Tommy T’s is closed as the sign says he’s off to Frost Bike 3/18 (his typo) this Saturday because he is attending. Won’t be the first time that this one man shop is closed when I need something. I’ll have to talk with Tommy about extending his hours this year. Possibly with my wife out of town with her new job and me with weeknights alone I might have Tommy consider having me keep the shop open for him till 9 pm on weeknights. We’ll see.
So, with my daughter in town I went on a dinner grocery run to Uptown and figured to stop in at a bike shop or two. I took my usual commuter route as far as the Lagoon and then headed north towards Recycle to check out what’s new. Recycle continues their reputation for selling over priced used bikes but has added a twist and just got more complicated. They now are carrying a new line of bikes, Origin 8, that cost the same as their used line. Go figure this business strategy, it’s cannibalism s one O one. I can’t understand how they continue in business. Then I’m on my way to Penn Cycle at Lake and Lyndale. This is interesting. I immediately buy a wicked awesome tail light that blinds so on Monday as I ride home those honking cab drivers will have something to see. Then I head upstairs for a look see to witness what appears is a guided tour. I catch on quickly when this dude announces he’s from Revolution Bikes in DC. Seems Mike H is in town for Frost Bike as I put two and two together. I say from across the room that “I’ve heard of his shop”. Something about bike sharing. Mike sidles over and I introduce myself and give him a card and tell him I’ve got a bike outside he should see. As I’m leaving Mike follows me outside to see my prototype REV 2. I can see he is not in the least impressed. He says, “must have a big house” referring to my statement that I’ve got 4 prototypes set up. Who the %uck keeps 4 bikes in a house anyway? I don’t live in a frat house.
Mike walks away and as I’m unlocking my bike this dude with a Ferrari Red bike needs a hand with filling his tires with air. This is funny sort of and sort of typical too. Experience meets green. This dude is from Sicily and his name is Guido. He’s a PhD candidate in engineering and is riding a brand new bike his wife bought for him off Amazon. He doesn’t know the first thing about airing his tires. I remove the air hose and see his Presta valve isn’t open and he needs an adapter to fit the air hose. Did I say Guido was an engineer? So I take my adapter off my wheel valve stem and extend a courtesy to pump up my pisano’s tires, both front and rear. It’s awkward seeing Guido take off down the sidewalk wobbling, doing his best to fit his shoe into a toe clip. And what does BionX have to do with this mash up? That is what I can’t figure when I go to the Frost Bike seminars page on their website. Bionx is a kit to turn your bike into an e-lec-tric bike. And my thinking is why does the bike industry persist in this fashion to make bicycles something other than self propelled? This I have blogged about frequently as my disdain for heavy user unfriendly bikes. Granted in countries where there is a growing elderly population that utilizes bikes all their lives an e-bike extends years possibly to the joy of two wheel mobility. But, the United States does not have a target demographic for e-bikes. This is a gamble that the house, QBP, has stacked the deck and the losers are any sucker who is betting they will profit from BionX. The better gamble would be to get uninitated riders like Guido into their shops for some one on one consulting.
When the bike industry focuses on profits from high end customers and fragmented segments instead of standards that benefit new bike riders there will be marginal customer service, archaic business practices and gimmicky concepts to lure the uninitiated bike riders into one time sales that leads to frustrated users who give up bike riding when the going gets a little tough.