Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The year of the...

According to an on-line post from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, Giant has proclaimed it The Year of the Road Bike. Didn't that already happen? I'm sorry, but I would prefer that they, and others, proclaim it the Year of Getting People Off Their Asses Out of Their SUV's Off Their Cell Phones and On BIKES! Instead of spending what is likely millions of dollars developing more carbon road frames that only copy what others have previously done (oversized tapered steerer tubes and integrated bearing bottom bracket shells...yawn), why not save that money and develop bikes that ordinary folks might want to ride.

They also introduced (isn't that a fancy word to show off a new bike - ladies and gentlemen, I give you the (insert new bike model here) an enthusiastic round of applause) two other lines of bikes - the Avail for women and the Defy for anyone who doesn't race and is male - I suppose. According to Giant, these lines of bikes are "for road riders who want one bike that can do it all." They further stated that "the goal was to create a line of bikes that were light, stiff and more comfortable for the everyday rider." Wow, that's pretty revolutionary. Imagine how hard it is to create a bike that has ample clearance for 28c tires, a taller head tube than their pure racing machines and maybe longer chainstays. Then they probably slap a slightly wider seat and a taller stem and call it a revolutionary all-day-comfortable bike. Gotta be challenging for a product department. Okay, there is some sarcasm there. I'm sure the new bikes have ample sized "tubing" on the frames to show off the company's logos.

We don't need more cutting edge roadie bikes. We don't need more long-travel trail bikes. We don't need...well, actually, we don't need any of this. We want it, but don't need it. We do need more bikes that long-time auto drivers will understand. We don't need gimmicks. We don't need fads. I'm going to lay this out for everyone in the bike industry to read so it can potentially reduce your development costs because it's all here. No need to spend tons of money of focus groups. Just copy this and it's a sure winner. Ready....

What we need is this: well, besides availability, two models with the same basic spec.

Frame: Aluminum or steel - probably aluminum because it's aluminum and will be lighter than a steel frame that I propose at this price and it's easy for companies to sneak a hi-ten steel tube into a "crmo" frame. Make sure the frame has a nice tall head tube to get the bars up near the seat. New riders don't want to be reaching far and low for the bars. Double diamond and a Euro styled U-shaped frame for easy gettin' on. U-shaped frames are more likely to be ridden by guys who need an easy on frame than the traditional "girls" frame. Make sure the frame also has braze-ons that make rack and mud guard attachment easy.

Fork: Rigid chrome-moly with enough steerer to fine-tune the bar height. I might go so far as to say use a quill type stem so you can very easily adjust the bar height, but that might be too much. I'd be fine with an aheadset but with sufficient (2") of up and down adjustability.

Components: Alivio level is unpretentious and works just fine. Its 8-speeds are reliable and use a chain that is just a little stouter than a 9-speed's. Crankset with replaceable chainrings. Good seat - not some big ole fat cushy thing, just a simple supportive seat. Ergo shaped grips - they really are comfy if you don't wear gloves. Wheelset with good quality hubs. In Taiwan, you can get cheap hubs all day long - go the extra mile and spec hubs with either cartridge bearings or upgrade the cup/cone design to one with ground and polished races - very smooth and cup/cone hubs are easy to adjust and repack. Tires should be something is the burly all-road style in something like a 44c/1.75 size. I like the WTB All-Terrainisaurus. Pedals - make sure the pedals are a flat style (but not BMX/DH style) with good bearings. It would also be awesome if some form of a chainguard could be fitted that wouldn't rattle, rub, break. Handlebars - this is the key. Ditch the traditional mountain bike-like riser bar. Use an aluminum bar with about 50mm of rise and 24 degrees of backsweep like these from Dimension. Hmmm, come to think of it, DiamondBack has almost already created this bike in the form of the Transporter. Now if supply could be boosted...

What it shouldn't have: Suspension fork. Not necessary for a bike that is going to be ridden instead of driving. You'll be on the road or path. A suspension fork at this price is just a fancy pogo stick and adds unnecessary weight. Suspension seat post. Again, adds weight without any benefit.

Two models: One with 26" wheels for increased wheel durability. One with 700c wheels for better rolling. Depending on the road/path you travel to get to your job and the store, you have your choice of wheel size to get you there.

How much: $500. For the owner of an SUV, that's a paltry five fill-ups at the pump. Doesn't sound so bad when you put it in those terms, does it?

Okay, that's it. The formula for a successful bike that the bike industry needs. I've had several folks in recently way out here in West Marin who are considering riding a bike to work instead of their car. Most recently it was yesterday in the form of a teacher from the central valley who currently drives the 2-3 miles to his job as a teacher.

(What's playing: Fujiya and Miyagi: Ankle Injuries)


Guitar Ted said...

Hey Mike, I'm with ya all the way on that idea. Here's a couple more spec points to chew on that I think would totally make sense to the "SUV" pilots out there.

Make a "deluxe" model of the same platform you are talking about. Sell it with a rack, mud guards, kick stand, generator light......Oh! Wait a minute, Raliegh is doing that bike already- Detour Deluxe, but you get the idea here. Somebody over at Raliegh/Diamondback is getting it. I hope they stand to reap the benefits.

Finally, how about a return of Grease Guard for these rigs? I think it's about time.

Terra Linda Rider said...

Great writing, as usual. I'm with you on the need for basic bikes, without a lot of frills, that car drivers can wrap their heads around.

One of the gals at work drives a Suburban, but has been riding her bike to work lately. A Breezer Villager. The bike has everything the casual rider needs (rack, chainguard) without any of the frills associated with a mountain bike or higher end road or cross bike (sus fork, carbon bits).

With gas prices the way they are, I really hope ol' Joe sells a bunch of 'em.

Now if I could just get the fine citizens of Marin to build a bike path from Terra Linda to Novato, I'd be happy.

blackmountaincycles said...

G-T: You and I get it but it seems most other dealers don't. I spoke with my friend who is a Raleigh/DiamondBack rep yesterday after he read this. He said that as cool as he and I and you think the Transporter is, we are the vast majority as other dealers are more interested in bigger, badder suspension type bikes...Sad.

TLR: Thanks. Joe's done a great job with his bikes. Even though I haven't seen one in person, the Villager is a great sounding bike on paper - got all the right stuff. Might be time to revisit that one.

Now if the fine citizens of Marin could finish the Cross Marin Trail from Tocaloma to Pt. Reyes...

Charles W Cushman said...

I have been struggling with this problem for the last couple of months. I have wanted to replace riding my go fast bikes to work and around town with something more user friendly. The problem that I have run into is that work is nine miles away, but my errands are in a two mile radius. A classic dutch city bike would work great around town, but I need something faster to get me to work on time. A cross bike like the types made by Surly and Masi would be great for work, but they are not really designed to be ridden and street clothes. With gas prices the way that they are I am seriously considering buying both, it is just too easy to make up an excuse and jump in the car.

blackmountaincycles said...

A cross bike with racks/fenders and a little more upright bar like the Nitto Albatross type or On-One Mary bars (depends on the controls you want to use, I guess) would be my choice for a fast 9 mile commute and comfy around town getter. The Surly Long Haul Trucker, Cross Check, or the Salsa Casseroll would be my choice with a rear rack and fenders. Pants leg straps work great to keep them out of the chain. Or tucking pants into socks looks pretty good too.