How To Save The Recumbent Bike From Extinction: Part 3
In part 2 of this series I examined the possibility that the marketing effort around the recumbent has told the wrong story and in doing so has focused on the wrong target customer. I suggested that comfort bike riders were a better fit as a potential customer. The question remains about how to proceed in order to attract these riders.
Like all successful business models, it starts with the customer and how to serve the customer. You can only serve the customer if you know who your customer is and listen to what your customer wants. The comfort bike rider’s story concerning what they want in a bike, aligns well with the recumbent bike. You may think that the main issue is just that the comfort bike rider doesn’t know that the recumbent is an option. Unfortunately, it’s worse than that.
Comfort bike riders, for the most part, fall into the category of casual cyclists. The profile of a casual cyclist is one where the person learned to ride in their youth but doesn’t follow the latest bicycle industry news and trends. They may not be able to name the major bicycle manufacturers if those companies were not part of their youth. In other words, the idea of what cycling is and what a bicycle looks like was set in their minds long ago. As passionate recumbent riders we all took the initiative to learn how to ride a recumbent because we thought the machine was so cool that nothing was going to stop us from gaining those skills. A casual cyclist is not going to be as motivated.
The recumbent market needs more outreach. This is one of the major missing pieces from the recumbent’s marketing plan. Anyone who learned how to ride a bicycle as a child can ride an upright bike of any type, and does so without effort. The casual cyclist needs support in learning how to ride a recumbent. The community of recumbent cyclists, dealers and manufacturers need to facilitate this effort. Trade shows and rallies are fine but they are mainly insider events. You will not find casual cyclists at these events. And seriously, why should a casual cyclist consider doing something so totally foreign as learning to ride a new kind of bike without support? Even though the payoff for the casual cyclist is a bike that’s likely a better fit for their needs, it’s too high of a barrier to expect the casual cyclist to climb solo.
Perhaps this is another reason why the recumbent market has targeted the road bike rider for so long. Serious road bike riders are typically dedicated and determined self-starters. Not much would keep a road bike rider from learning how to ride a recumbent. With most road bike riders having hundreds if not thousands of miles of riding experience, the transition time from road bike to recumbent is small to non-existent. They would be the ideal customer if only the recumbent story matched theirs.
In any event, support for the casual cyclist needs to be a priority. The community of recumbent riders, dealers and manufacturers need to adopt a standard and consistent methodology for teaching casual cyclists how to ride recumbents and provide a low cost to no cost venue for doing that.
Impossible? Ridiculous? Hardly. There’s a precedent for successfully implementing this. When I say successful, I mean that the approach I’m talking about may well have saved an industry. We’ll have a look at it in the next part.