The Odd, the Bad and the Beautiful

March 13 2013

It seems like there is a wave of bike-related news, events and random occurrences recently. Is it just me, or is there some increased gravitational pull around this two-wheeled, human-powered machine?

I’ve been fortunate to work in and around the bike industry for over 20 years. Our clients have ranged from Scott, Orbea, Yeti, Schwinn and Giant to Pearl Izumi and recently, Shimano. Some of the most talented and passionate individuals I’ve ever had a chance to work with, I met through my association with bikes.

A few weeks ago as I was on my way to Japan to meet for meetings with a bike industry client I was struck by the wild swings of positive and negative cycling news.

On the financial front, there were articles about (their words, not mine) designer “grandma bikes” in the Wall Street Journal and one in the Financial Times with a multiple page article about UK-based Rapha as a prime example of how to build a brand. As much as I can’t hazard a guess at why the dignified WSJ chose to have the grandmother-based, sub-market segment journalism take up lines of current news, I can see why the new way of launching a high-end apparel line would hit the radar screen of the FT. It all seems to validate the trend that anything and everything about bikes and cyclists is relevant to a wider segment of the informed public, for better or worse.

On the flight to Japan (or was it back?), there was a movie titled Premium Rush. The ultra-thin plot was based on bike messengers in New York City…and their tattooed, coffee shop barista girlfriends…and drug money. I can’t say that I recommend spending your time or hard-earned dollars, pounds or Euros to watch this cinematic effort, but it does point out that bikes (and the characters that surround the culture) are seen as modern-day outlaws worthy of a feature-length film. I will reserve judgment on whether or not this is good for the sport long-term (or the movie industry, for that matter).


And then there’s Lance “pouring his heart out” about his use of performance-enhancing drugs to win 7 tours. I’m not sure why he chose Oprah as the channel to share this news, but I guess I’m glad it is out in the open. I hope it is the start of the healing that Pro Cycling needs to focus on being a viable, if quirky, sport.

 


On the consumer front, ubiquitous brands like Levis and H&M are making street clothes that are bike-inspired for the new breed of urban cyclists and people that want to look like they ride bikes. Everything from cycle-specific jeans to full-on, three-piece Savile Row-style suits (very nice I might add) will hopefully signal a shift in how people view bikes. Let’s hope cycling can be seen as a viable alternative to the car, a way to get to work, not just a leisurely weekend activity.

 


From the sublime to the ridiculous we have the dichotomy of Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt (R) stating that bike riders pollute more than cars. According to Orcutt, a cyclist “has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider.”

I’ll let that last tidbit sink in as I focus on Denver recently hosting the 2013 National Handmade Bike Association Show (NHBAS). This is the showcase for small, craft bike-builders and oddballs (think home brewing plus welding and you will get a sense of the attendees and clientele). The “craft” part of the equation is truly amazing. In this world of carbon fiber, titanium, bamboo (yes, really!) and Chromoly steel, the gods truly live in the details. Even being in the industry for 20-plus years didn’t prepare me to absorb half the nuance that was embedded into these one-off showstoppers. NHBAS is hosted in a different city every year. If you get a chance and have any curiosity around the art and craft of bike building, drop by for an afternoon. You’ll never look at the Schwinn/Trek/Specialized/Giant resting in your garage quite the same. If you are considering bringing one of these beauties home with you, make sure your MasterCard is in hand before you go. Perfection like this doesn’t come cheap.

That’s the wild and crazy industry and sport that I love!

Mike Miller

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