Road Bikes = Innovation Constipation

Let’s face it! Road cycling suffers from innovation constipation. Thank goodness for mountain biking. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have tubeless tires, thru axles, disc brakes, more compliant bikes frames etc. in road cycling. So why is road cycling so slow to adopt innovation?

I think it is because bicycle manufacturers and shops use road racing as their model for marketing road bikes. How misguided is that? That’s like car manufacturers and dealers saying every driver wants a NASCAR race car, while in reality most drivers want utility, work, economy or luxury vehicles. Fortunately, the auto industry realizes that performance cars are only a small portion of the market.

Let’s take it a step further. What do you think of when you think of a road racing cyclist? I think of digging in and enduring pain to gain a competitive edge. In fact, many racing cyclists call their indoor training area “pain caves.” Who thinks that’s fun? It’s just what you have to do to be competitive. So why is the industry using racing type bikes to draw people into cycling?

Come on! While the industry is incestuous, with many former racers drawn into the bicycle industry, not all buyers are wanabee racers so don’t view them like they are. There is a resurgence in cycling now and the new buyers aren’t inspired by racing. Don’t blow it! Cycling needs to be fun and exciting. So sponsor fun and exciting events for everyone rather than mostly competitive ones. Sponsor rail trail openings, community rides, e-bike events and even endurance events that offer cycling opportunities to former noncyclists. Get innovative in your product and marketing. Look at Zwift.com for example, and find more cycling events to interest Americans in cycling rather than new forms of cycle racing. Or die a slow and painful death.

Ken Whittaker


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