Comment: Low maintenance bicycles - good or bad news for the independent retailer?

Will the workshop ever see the bike again and could selling extras become difficult?
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Never before have so many bikes been pitched primarily as ‘low maintenance bicycles’. It’s a trend you’d have thought would have been mainstream for some time before now, but with the developments in belt drive tech and the ever-increasing use of hub gears on many city bikes, a sub category seems to be spawning from marketing spiel.

Road.cc uncovered a new Brit brand specialising in just this territory last month – Milk Bikes of Essex. Describing bike maintenance as a “necessary evil of owning and riding a bike,” the founder, commuter Mark Meadows has set out to create THE bike for urban riding. The spec sheet of the first bike off the production line – the RDA – reads like a custom build too, with puncture proof tyres as standard, dynamo powered front and rear lights, Alfine internal gears, Gates’ carbon belt drive, mudguards included. The full works.

Upgrades are unnecessary, and hub-gear tuning and disc brake bleeding aside, the majority of maintenance work could be done by a savvy cyclist, perhaps even a newbie.

Whether or not this is a good or bad thing for the retailer, I’m yet to decide. You send away a happy customer, who will be unlikely to have any complaints and perhaps even recommend such a bike to a friend. So, such a build will sell well, if marketed right in store.

On the flipside, there’s very little scope to sell extras for that little bit more margin per customer. These bikes come with fitted guards and pannier racks, lights and occasionally bottle cages. What’s more, once built up, the workshop may not see the bike again for some time.

Working on the theory that happy customers spend more and discuss their positive experiences among colleagues and friends, I’m swaying towards the positive. If pitched to the customer as a investment in a reliable and long-wearing bike, sales should remain consistent, which in turn and based on the above theory, should benefit your business’ reputation.
Let’s face it, the majority who buy from a bike shop nowadays will have a mate who is a ‘bit handy’ with a set of allen keys. Commuters quickly turn into bike enthusiasts, especially in fair weather and they too can probably work out how to align a stem, or raise a seatpost.

If manufacturers really are about to invest in creating a ‘maintenance free’ market, will workshops suffer? Probably not. Reports seen by BikeBiz suggest the repair trade is stronger than ever. Such bikes could, however, revive a lagging shop floor.

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