A lot of bicycle marketing is based on the idea that we ride bicycles to stand out from the crowd, whether that crowd comprises 1) people who don’t ride bicycles, 2) people who ride bicycles but not nearly as fast as we think we can, or 3) people who ride bicycles but not nearly as nice/light/sophisticated/rare as the bicycle being sold.
Buy my bicycle. It’s different. You don’t have to be like everyone else.
Here’s the thing: from a transportation standpoint, it would be helpful if we as riders were all a bit more alike: riding on the same side of the road, encouraging others to ride safely, writing a letter to a government official who doesn’t understand that yes, we do happen to pay for the roads, being able to fix the occasional flat tire.
Different is exciting, but exciting things are almost always optional things. Hydroplanes are exciting, but you don’t need a hydroplane. Affairs are exciting, but your spouse doesn’t need an affair. Drugs are exciting, but you don’t need to take drugs, except possibly for that thing on your back. (By the way, could you get that looked at?)
Following that reasoning, the exciting bicycle is the optional bicycle; you don’t need it. You want it. If you can afford it, you should have it, but society doesn’t care whether you have an exciting bike. Society tends to care about things that it can’t easily do without. Things like clean air, food, water and a minimum of cooperation. Boring things.
In the U.S., more of us need to see the bicycle as one of those boring things. One of those indispensable things. It isn’t. It could be, in some places it’s getting to be, but for the most part, it isn’t. I’ve heard the bicycle is pretty boring in the Netherlands. I wish it were as boring here.
In the transportation space, the boring bicycle is truly remarkable. It is available, economical and always useful, not least because it is supported by a transportation infrastructure that simplifies the task of getting from A to B. (That’s why I brought up society. Society creates, or doesn’t create, suitable infrastructure.)
A review of the literature suggests that continued survival of the human race doesn’t require a great deal more excitement. Excitement is noise, shiny surfaces, distraction. Excitement is yelling squirrel in a crowded dog pen, the 24-hour news cycle, people doing horrible things to other people.
On behalf of civilization, I say we’ve been there and done way too much of that. What we need going forward is time to reflect, time to discuss and time to create. And bicycles. A whole bunch of mind-numbingly boring bicycles.
Think of it as a challenge, marketers. When you get tired of hawking helium-filled egos and carbon-fiber decals, try selling boredom.
I know it will dent my overall argument, but I can’t think of anything more exciting than your possible success.