Friday, November 2, 2007

Bicycle Marketing: The Inconvenience Truth

Judging from the comments on yesterday’s post, people have strong feelings about Mission Bicycles, their product, and their marketing approach. I too will admit I’m underwhelmed. But it’s not because they’re charging $950 for a ticket to ride the “meh” express. Rather, it’s because they’re not taking it all the way.

Whether Mission Bicycles succeeds or fails remains to be seen. But I’m certain of one thing: if they built this bicycle (emailed to me recently by a reader) instead and charged $500 or so more than they are now their success would be assured:

This completely absurd parody of a parody of a fixed-gear is the way you sell a bike. You may have heard the old expression about selling the sizzle, not the steak. Well, in bicycle retail, you don't sell the ride, you sell the crotch pain. Sure, you may draw certain conclusions from looking at this bike, such as: it’s ugly; 700c + 650c = moronic; and it’s completely useless unless you’re this guy:

In fact, you can only do two things on this bike: 1) let everyone see the waistband of your underwear; and 2) look like you’re having your lower intestine searched for condoms filled with cocaine. But this bike dares you to ride it, and that’s what people find irresistible. Like any other fashion accessory, a bicycle needs to be expensive and uncomfortable. Nobody with any style wants something that’s easy to get and easy to use. The affluent man-on-the-make doesn’t want a woman who’s interested in him, and he doesn’t want a bike he can ride. He wants a model who can barely stand him and he wants a BMC Time Machine in the garage with the price tag still on it. So if Mission Bicycles wants to sell bikes to trend-conscious urban sophisticates, they shouldn’t be offering semi-impractical milquetoast bikes for just a few hundred dollars more than they’re worth. They should be selling S&M chairs on wheels for a price that would make a Sheik balk.

Just look at The Great Trek Bicycle-Making Corporation, one of the most successful bike companies in the world. They got it perfect with the new Madone:
This bike tells discerning consumers exactly what they want to hear. Can I choose my own headset or bottom braket? No. Can I use a non-outboard bearing crank? Nope. Can I use a different seatpost? Sorry, I don’t think so. Can I maybe slip a fender between those sexy chainstays? Not on your life. And just like the urban sophisticate’s model girlfriend, bikes like the Madone will make you spend a lot of money on them and then leave you frustrated with a long piece of hard plastic in your hand. Oh, and they don't age too well either. And that’s what people want in a bike.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

green.

Anonymous said...

Zabel

Anonymous said...

podium!

GhostRider said...

Is that the Grape Ape? If so, bravo! If not, it looks like I'll have to go back to remedial pop culture class. Dammit.

guero canadiense said...

Hilarious, sad & true.
I think I may have seen something like that green Marquis de Sade custom on Queen West in Toronto yesterday.

@ghostrider: yes, that is Grape Ape.

Richard said...

Why pick on Trek. Just about everybody, from Specialized, Isaac, BH, Look, etc. are making bikes that cannot use "old school" bb's, seatposts, loose bearings, etc.

I've ridden the new Madone and actually like it. But despite the fact that I can "pro deal" it, I still like my old steel bikes better.

But marketing says "ride what the Pro's ride!"

moSS'r said...

Incredibly insightful into what cyclists want, yet are afraid to GET!!

onespeedbiker said...

BSNYC,
The Mission Bike follks have been talking elsewhere, including the Road Bike Review Folks

http://forums.roadbikereview.com/showthread.php?t=111365

Elluded to but not confirmed is the frame actually is an IRO frame. Zack from Mission Bike confirmed this along with the fact that the bike could be bought, paying retail for all the parts for only $100 over their MSRP. I have a friend who runs a bike shop in town and he has confirmed that no one wants a pre-assembled stock bike. He has has considered hanging a frame in the front of the store and offer the stock bike as a custom package. The whole point behind the Mission bike seems to be marketing the "OurySuginoMKSIzumiVelocity" bike for those who don't have the mechanical savvy to build it themselves. and that may just work.

Brad

Clayton said...

above all else, the madone's just look ridiculous. they're seriously ugly bikes.


and i feel kinda bad for the panning the mission guys received. especially considering i participated.

leroy said...

BSNYC --

I think you may have overlooked part of the charm that green bike. The angle is clearly designed to keep us older riders regular. Studies show that exercise in certain positions is just as good as fiber.

But as for the Madone, I confess. I covet my friend's Madone. There, I've said it. Oh the shame.

Ringo said...

that new madone needs some bigtime BSNYC hate.

erik k said...

haha the shame of loving a treck..
I guess the adjustable integrated seat post is cool unless of course you want to travel

Tom Ritchey said...

Who wants a moustache ride?

Brian said...

Hey, if you're just cruising around there's nothing better than a comfort stroller, but if you're going to do some serious road riding, you might as well use what the pro's use, or at least a similar design. They're built to balance, speed, acceleration, and comfort all in a lightweight packag/aerodynamic package. I freely admit that I love my Specialized Tarmac even though it can be pretty punishing on oiled and chipped country roads.

todd said...

Wow. I can't believe that bike has so many "friends" on Velospace. Impressive for the two wheeled equivalent of a toothless hunchbacked chick on myspace.

Strayhorn said...

I have to admire the honesty of:

Front wheel:
650c Formula hub laced to some random machined rim

Saddle and Seat Post:
Crap

Pedals and Chain:
Crap

Think of how Craigslist would be improved if sellers were this forthright. And, in the great tradition of Craigslist, no size was given - although on this bike I guess it would be pointless.

aaron said...

That green abortion-waiting-to-happen looks suspiciously like a Havnoonian. If only Harry knew what was happening to his old frames. The horror...

Niki said...

Hey, that bikes can be used for pursuit races in the US until January 2008!

Anonymous said...

I ride fixies and have seen a lot of dif bikes, but never once have I seen anyone ride a bike like that grape ape monstrosity.

How do you RIDE that thing?

It looks like the bike equivalent of stripper heels. Its only job is to perk your butt up for ten minutes until you have sex.

On a side note, Chopper on Drunkcyclist was in New York while you were in San Diego getting Mexican food.

http://drunkcyclist.com/wordpress/2007/11/02/i-went-to-ny-and-all-i-got-was-this-really-smelly-t-shirt/

He had an interesting observation on New York bikes.

Sprocketboy said...

Hmmm--it appears that Bike Snob NYC is actually Grant Petersen, judging from the comment on the Trek. "Those pneumatic tires? A passing fad!"

Anonymous said...

The Podium today, what a lineup...
That's the only reason I read this stupid blog anymore, to see who took the Green Jersey.
Just kidding before any of you asshats take me seriously.

Anonymous said...

Whats up with the retards who type First! and Podium!?

spokey dokey said...

The new Madone is the M3 of cycling. To a certain portion of the population it says " Oooh, he spent a lot of money on a racing machine, he must be fast" To another portion it says "Douchebag", and to the freinds of 1% of the owners, it says, "Why did Dave buy a douchebag vehicle, he 's cool"

Tom Ritchey is effing funny.

Heaumer001 said...

anonymous 1:26:

It's not too late for you to get a girlfriend.

Seriously.

Clayton said...

at least the m3 looks good.

clayton said...

wait. no. the m3 comparison is totally wrong. the madone is like a yellow lamborghini. Maybe even a convertible. sure it has the ability to go fast, but most of its drivers are complete asshats more concerned with prestige than performance. and as is the case with the lambo, I am sure there are bikes with better performance for the same money.

the M3 might be more comparable to something like the jamis eclipse. slightly overwrought, but sill practical and handsome.

man-oh-man I need less downtime at work.

VeloStrummer said...

One Sweet Mustache Ride:

http://image.blog.livedoor.jp/chiromaro/imgs/c/2/c21c5d45.jpg

Anonymous said...

that Zabel post killed me. excellent! Still smiling. Same goes for Tom Ritchey.

quaffimodo said...

Can I maybe slip a fender between those sexy chainstays?

just too funny for words.

bikesgonewild said...

...jeez, wonder how they're doin' over @ the mission bikes office this fine sunny, blue sky day in the sf bay area...

...after being raked over the tempering coals of bsnyc's oxygen fed blog-fire yesterday, they've either reached perfect malleability & can rise from that hellish pit & go on to success or they're lying em-brittled & shattered on the floor like a cheap taiwanese shop wrench...

...& ya, i know the green bike is impractical as hell, but as least if a top tube is gonna slope, it's goin' in the right direction for my tastes...just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

richard is a dummy

40x14 said...

Well put, bgw.

Fatty said...

I think I just witnessed the jump Fonzie...

alan-nyc said...

Don't know what the rationale for the new Madone is, but the entry-level, "old-fashioned" geometry '07 Madone is the best road bike I've ever owned. I like it more every time I ride it.

On the other hand, the more ridicule, the merrier; so keep up the good work.

SeattleM&M said...

I'm guessing the Mission Bikes guys are (a) none too surprised by the response here; and (b) not too worried that anyone in their target customer group is going to read the comments here.

Anyway, by marking the official demise of street fixie hipness, the Mission guys have provided an opportunity here to start the next bike fashion wave: buying ready-made fixies and converting them to 27-speed hybrid commuters!

Hi, I'm Rags said...

There are very few experienced bike consumers in the US. Working at a shop is frustrating and annoying. Designing and selling a new bike must be a nightmare.

Your comment about the relationship of pain to fashion is pretty funny. In a way, maybe it's a reaction to weekend bike path comfort bike and baby blue lycra crowd.

The good news is things seem to be getting better.

The bad news is that if all the youthful "fixie" riders start getting road bikes, they'll have to invent a cat 6 for aging wannabe racers like me.

Anonymous said...

bikesgonewild,

The mission folks set themselves up for the flak in the comments here (but yeah, probably won't suffer much for it). First the vague answer about the frame origins, then the inane "slippery slope" response ("A fender eyelet here, a brake mount there, and pretty soon you'll end up with with 27 gears, lazy-boy geometry [etc.]") Um, or you could just use a fixed frame with brake mounts on it. I guess it was a humorous attempt at dodging the question?

The real insight into their agenda is the part where he says "You can always toss a seat post mount or clip on fender if you're really in trouble": meaning people who are worried about those practical things aren't the target market of this bike anyway. Not a bad idea to cater to the under-served demographic of people who are beguiled by the trend but aren't inclined to building their own. The only unanswered question: is it a calculated business plan, or are they just as trend obsessed as the hipsters they're marketing to?

Jim said...

That fixie is the Freaky Olson Sister of bicycling.

bikesgonewild said...

...all good points, anon 5:17pm (jeez, i wish you anonoguys would give yerselves names, especially when you're obviously erudite & articulate)...anyway, where was my thought here ?...

...if they (mb) are just trendsters, then they're entering an industry thats not gonna support them, by virtue of the fact that they will have limited themselves to a fringe & that may be their downfall...

...i have no fingers on any particular pulse here, but a fix single, set up w/ not just eyelets, but fenders offered as an option for winter (ie; rainy) riding would make sense...
...while enhancing a winter riding experience, you're catering to a larger audience (still focused, still fixed, still hip) which makes sense...

...my point would be, don't just follow a 'hip' trend, expand upon it...practical, hip, cool looking bikes...you can still be hip but intelligent (fuck, if my mom could only hear me now)...look at some of the old english fix bikes w/ fenders & small classic bags...cool as all hell...

...i'll get off this & end in a minute, but first a personal indictment of what is becoming a blinder-ed & boutiqued sf bike culture w/ an example...

...sky yeager, a brilliant fuckin' bicycle mind, who used to have a great world view is now catering to the hipsters w/ her trendy 'sanchez' design...it's got a bottle opener (wow, i'm impressed)...wanna ride it in the rain ?...yer gonna get wet...way drop off the back...

...ok, i'm bike ranted out...good luck mission bikes, if ya really want it, & love ya sky, i'm gonna go ride my bianchi cross bike, the one you designed...

mr.complaint said...

A watermelon gorilla on the Champs!

Grape Ape? Maybe Burgundy. I'm googleing.

Does it get any better?

Joel said...

Responding to Brian: Paris-Brest-Paris is about as serious an amateur road race tou can get. Take a look at Jan Heine's (editor of Vintage Bike Quarterly) time this year. Then take note he did it on a 1950's era Alex Singer.

Pro bike race times depend a lot more on the athletic ability of the rider than the chops of the ride. A decent pro on a Sachs lugged steel bike will take a poseur - no matter how serious - to town on those carbon monstrosities.

Cycling Phun said...

Seriously man, I almost peed myself just a bit I was laughing so hard. The Grape Ape thing was just totally over the top funny. I do think the front wheel should be a stock wheel off a 12" kids bike, though.

Anonymous said...

I don't blame mission cycles for catering to a market, hey the world needs people to make ferraris, hummers and giant tucks just so men can say hey look at me i've got the smallest cock in the world!

but not knowing that they are doing it, now that's unforgiviable:)

Michael Waskom said...

well said.

clayton said...

bikesgonewild, to your point about market (audience):

two of the hippest folks i know, both of whom are transient individuals living on and off as vagrants while working on and off as actual messengers in various cities for over a decade, and who've been riding fixed for as long as they can remember - the platonic form to misson's poser particular - they both have full fenders and never ride without brakes.

bikenerd said...

the Zabel post - brilliant!

bikesgonewild said...

...clayton...i'll go out & ride my cross bike, on a muddy, rainy day cuz that's fun n' i'm gonna come home to hot soup n' a shower...
...but why let a rainy day in town keep you off the wheel if you wanna meet friends or shop for food n' stay dry ?...coupla fenders, some brakes, maybe a little gore-tex n' yer good ta go...
...at times, as i've gotten older, i find myself being the wuss i told myself i'd never become (just hopping into the car, kinda thing) but w/ the right gear, i don't let myself devolve into being a bike poser...
...thanks for the input...

Anonymous said...

There is no difference in the drop to those pursuit bars from the seat than on any track bikes with a drop stem and pista bars when you are in the drops. I'm pretty sure that bike was designed to have a 650 in the front (TT frame), too.

Jim G said...

The two best things about this post are

1) The Grape Ape's jacket perfectly matches the Green Bike.

2) You used the word "milquetoast"

Hoorah!

Anonymous said...

The bars on that green bike aren't really all that low if you compare them to the drops on a standard racing bike. Obviously, this bike is designed for someone who puts speed before comfort - not really my thing, but not bad in itself. Here in the UK we used to call bikes like this "funny bikes", and they were used in time trials. It would be stupid to use a bike like this in a city, but out in the countryside on good roads it would be fun for a while.

The bars just look lower because they don't have the tops.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tom Ritchie.
Heard any good REO Speedwagon lately?

meh-wee-uhn said...

No underwear. That's the trick to the ape bike.

Nick M said...

You've hit it on the button, you get left with a long gard plastic thing in your hand. Marketing is about selling people things they don't need, with lot's of built in wear. That picture of a 700/650 contraption thrown together with thirty bucks of parts in an hour is actually Quasimodo's bike. Or it could be Dolly Parton's, like you understand she needs a lot of top bar clearance to avoid getting her glories caught in the pedals.

Anonymous said...

the fuuny bike is cool!your "funny" jokes about it were pretty stupid,any of u guys would jump at the chance ti take it for a spin.

JackH said...

Lantern Rouge

bikesgonewild said...

...in life, dude, ya maybe but not here...& that will be confirmed after me...

Anonymous said...

The new Madone will in fact take outboard bearing cranks. That's what comes stock on it. You just don't need the bottom bracket. The bearings go directly in the frame.

Lifetime frame warranty negates service life issues, that is, if you buy it new.

GUZAK said...

I've got a name for that bike ---

The Liberator

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