According to my LinkedIn, it’s eight years since I joined BikeBiz. And I’ll admit, at times, when opening press releases promising how product X will change my life in a totally unique, never seen or done before way, it feels like it could have been double that. But something invigorated me this month – the cynicism for marketing lingo temporarily gone.
I feel that there’s reason for optimism. Sure, there’s a lot of superfluous creations (sorry, I haven't tried it, but really?) and ‘standards’ kicking about, but in some cases, you can feel a genuine improvement. Perhaps it’s because, as a trade title, we tend not to ‘review’ product as such, instead letting the retailer make an educated decision on what’s the real deal. But, once in a while, we too try product and, in a way, the greater intervals in between help me personally gauge what is a genuine improvement and what is marketing guff (as if it wasn’t obvious 99 per cent of the time).
It feels like the UK electric market is beginning to move in that there’s visibly more on the roads, even in relatively rural and flat Hertfordshire. In fact, specialist in the field EBCO just this week told BikeBiz that it is 70 per cent up on turnover year on year.
"We're not a patch on Mainland Europe," said Paul Stanforth, "but the dealers are embracing the bikes in greater numbers and the market is now shaping up to be what we predicted it may be all those years ago. The advances in design are really opening up the demographic too. Young people are really keen to have a go."
Design-wise, very few resemble the eyesores of old. The mid-motor is transforming handling and efficiency and for a gradually improving price and serviceability for the dealer. The emergence of “speed pedelecs” (see Kalkhoff within link) further adds possibility to this still evolving sector - though this is an area that requires some discussion on classification with the DfT.
"I'm personally keen for speed pedelecs to remain classed as mopeds," said BA president Paul Stewart when speaking to BikeBiz last week. Even so, they'll take up no more room on your shop floor and will often retail for a handsome price tag.
It’s early days still, but at first I had assumed, like many other sceptics, that the 27.5+ wheel standard would be a flash in the pan test by the industry to add a few impulse buy sales. Charge, among others, thinks not, having committed heavily for 2016. I too now challenge you to tear one down some rooty singletrack and not come away grinning from ear to ear, curious whether there’s room in the shed for a +1.
Crowd funding too is beginning to show its worth. More award-winning products than ever are beginning life as humble projects seeking production funding. It’s genuinely interesting to see which creations go viral and as such, are instantly recognisable as either a sure fire seller, or laughable in their design. The internet, in particular social media, may be cruel, but it’s also an incredibly precise tool for trend watching.
Even if it’s often challenging to make a decent living in the bike trade, at least when it’s time to roll home, we’re doing so aboard some truly incredible machines.