Cycle consumerism

Timmy B posted an excellent comment the other day on my “My kind of Cycling” post (thanks Tim!).  To avoid quoting him out of context here’s the full comment:

As I said on Karl’s blog: I can put my hands up to being guilty of dismissing the “other” kinds of cyclists (MTBers, lycra-clad speed demons etc.). I have drunk the Copenhagen Kool-aid, for sure.

There’s definitely a sense of wanting to change the status quo, though; we have car dominance overall in the UK, but within cycling the emphasis in most bike marketing is on MTBs, lycra, lots and lots of *kit*.

I, like quite a few others, would love to see more cycling-as-transportation, for health and traffic congestion reasons. It’s the lack of mainstream emphasis on this that causes us to shout loud, I guess.

Keep on cycling, in whatever form :)

“Anyone who rides a bike is a friend of mine” — Gary Fisher

I like what Tim said and I agree wholeheartedly, but it triggered some more thoughts in my brain.

Now, occasionally I like to play devil’s advocate somewhat.  These aren’t ideas that are fully thought through, or even that I agree with, they are questions to stimulate further discussion.

We live in an age where pretty much everything’s commercialised; where, rightly or wrongly, “lots of *kit*” is the norm.  Here’s some thoughts then:

  1. Isn’t it good that we have lots of cycling kit so that people who are gadget-lovers can get a hook into cycling?  Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the boom in mountain biking…it’s a chance to acquire more “cool stuff”?  A mountain bike appears to be a much greater status symbol than a road bike, a commuter, or a tourer, even though it may be less suited to everyday use.  Why is that?  Because it has more of a gadget factor?
  2. Don’t we also want identity through our stuff?  As I think Karl’s post pointed out the other day, we tend to see differences rather than similarities.  But I also think we strive to be different – to fit in with a particular class or group.  Isn’t “a-to-b” cyclist, or “chic” cyclist just another form of cyclist with an associated set of behaviours and paraphernalia? And isn’t it, again, rightly or wrongly, a group that people are trying to fit themselves into to differentiate themselves from other types of cyclist?

Given that the above might be true, what things would you design/invent to encourage more use of the bike as a means of transport.  What marketing might we do to elevate the status of the everyday city/commuter bike?  How do we get to a state where owning something like a Pashley or, for that matter, any sort of bike with panniers and mudguards, is “mainstream” and “cool”? (I know we think it is, but do others?)

Of course, the aim is to get people cycling whatever their bike is like and whatever they might have in their wardrobe, but I can’t help thinking that fashion…”kit”…”stuff” helps us get there.

Imagine a Nike Bike.  Or an Apple iBike.  Or celebrity-endorsed cycles?  Hey, I’m not a marketer…you’re ideas are almost certainly better then mine.

Perhaps, in short, the bike needs rebranding?