How To Save The Recumbent Bike From Extinction: Part 2
In part 1 of this series I examined the prevailing marketing strategy for recumbent bikes and some of the reasons it has not succeeded. One of these reasons has to do with the constant comparison of the recumbent to the road bike. I’d like to continue by discussing another way in which this comparison is misguided.
The effort to show how the recumbent bike measures up to the road bike has been mainly to convert members of the road bike tribe into recumbent riders. While this tactic has resulted in some converts, on the whole it has been a total failure. In light of the stories in which we invest when making our purchasing decisions, it’s easy to see why. The typical prospective and current road bike rider has little or no intrest in the recumbent story. Even so, the recumbent manufacturers and dealers spend much of their energy trying to woo road bike riders. Once again I see shades of that neglected child, hoping to measure up in their parent’s eyes.
How will the recumbent survive without new riders? The answer is that without new riders it won’t. The law of supply and demand require a consistent demand to justify a continuous supply. We’ve been seeing the result of low demand play out among the recumbent manufacturers. We now have fewer choices and it seems those choices continue to dwindle. We need more riders, but where will we find them?
Rather than court road bike riders, a more natural fit for a recumbent is the comfort bike rider. The comfort bike segment of the market has grown faster than recumbents, which is odd when you consider that recumbents are the most comfortable bicycles in the world. The story surrounding comfort bikes is more in line with the recumbent bicycle experience. Comfort bike riders see themselves taking a spin on the bike to enjoy the fine weekend weather and perhaps use the same bike to make a run to the store or even commute to work. Riding is recreational and social, done in street clothes without all the competition influenced trappings. The bike is a combination of alternative transportation and recreational machine.
How did the recumbent industry miss this natural fit? It has been too busy trying to be the road bike alternative and attempting to usurp the story of the road bike riders. All of the racing records in the world are of no use when you’re extinct. In the meantime the comfort bike segment has more than five times the market share of the recumbent.
If all of this is true and the recumbent market has the wrong story and the wrong target rider in mind, what can it do to change in order to avoid extinction? I’ll examine some possible answers to that question in the next part.