“What’s new?”, we ask. During shows and factory visits that’s the goal for us media types – to be among the first to cover the shiniest bit of kit before putting into words why a retailer or consumer should be investing in said brand’s goods.
The ground breaking items are always the ones to stack up the column inches and, with any luck, have enthusiasts checking their bank balances to see if today’s the day the dream bike becomes a reality. What’s largely overlooked and, yes, we’re guilty of it too, is the bread and butter bikes that sell every day up and down the country.
Going by the numbers of new cyclists on the roads, I’m starting to wonder why that is. What I can see on the ground is plenty of bikes that appear to be several years old, though in a good state of repair, which may go a long way to explaining why workshops up and down the country are so busy.
There is of course a keen interest in the development of £999 Cycle to Work bikes, particularly as many in this bracket revamp their catalogue with skinny, yet knobbly, tyres and disc brakes. Yet, to the uninitiated, the industry’s labelling and re-invention of various bike styles can do nothing to boost buying confidence. To the newbie, it’s a bike, for the road, or for the dirt path. On the shop floor, it might be a hybrid at sub £500 and a cyclocross bike at £999, with the only noticable difference a drop bar. For the buyer who hasn’t been into a bike shop for a while, the lines are getting blurrier by the model year. Mountain biking has become another can of worms altogether.
Far below that mark, in the £200 to £500 region where most of us once began, there’s seemingly not much content out there to assist the uneducated buyer in their decision. And who’s going to explain to those curious of an investment in performance why a ‘clipless’ pedal means you’re actually fixed to the bike? Can’t we just call them fancy shoe pedals?
To the advantage of the entire industry, the average complete bike sale value (and therefore build quality) is increasing gradually and, as such, there’s a real opportunity to perch the beginner on a saddle that won’t dissapoint them. That’s also increasingly the case with youth bikes, also too often overlooked by cycle media.
It can be painful to watch a non-cyclist attempt to make sense of handlebar tags full of industry jargon. So, since the industry loves a new ‘category’ isn’t about time we started making some noise about excellent ‘beginner’ bikes aimed at adults rediscovering the joys of pedal power? These are, afterall, the simple, reliable A-to-B machines that drive the business day-to-day.