Thursday, December 20, 2012

Big Bicycle strong arms little shops

Ever since the mountain bike boom attracted lots of money to the bike industry, big manufacturers have been  squeezing small independent shops. During the 1990s we were threatened by every one of our major brands with the loss of our dealership if we did not increase our preseason commitments and dollar volume in their brand. And they haven't really let up much since the bottom dropped out.

What Big Bicycle does not acknowledge is that the small independent shop in a rural small town is their far-flung outpost, the vital capillary in their great circulatory system. If they want to cut off the blood flow, they'd better expect to lose the limb to gangrene. People will show up on vacation needing a proprietary part and be stuck because Big Bicycle tried to take a greedy grasp of the market.

Cannondale did it to us. We dropped them when consumer demand dwindled to the point where any floor stock from them was dead weight. That left our local, and any visiting, Cannondale owners high and dry if they needed Headshok service or any of Cannondale's other corporately-controlled widgets.

Specialized threatened us with it several times when they started getting big for their britches in the mountain bike boom. Most recently they did it again, and this time the shop took the bait. Our territory rep told us this was it. He couldn't run interference for us on this anymore. He told us we had to place that big bike and parts order or kiss the line goodbye.

Personally I would have said goodbye. I hate to be pushed around. But Specialized is our last large name.

We declined to open with Trek because of their heavy-handed policies. Who do these bike companies think they are? Pharmaceutical manufacturers? They made the mistake a couple of decades ago of thinking they could act like computer companies and get people to junk their barely-used stuff for newer, faster models that did more tricks. The problem is, bicycles don't get faster. The engine has not changed. You can make it lighter (at a cost), but the engine will adapt to the lighter load and simply relax more, thank you very much. Pretty soon the Big Hill feels like a Big Hill again. Headwinds still suck the life out of you. You get wet when it rains and you worry whenever you lock the thing and leave it in a public place.

I'm not sure what we're going to do with a couple of cases of comfort bike 26-inch tires that weigh about 30% more and cost 50% more than our previous offering. If they last 50% longer we will sell fewer of them. If not we will look like scum for selling them.

The helmets look okay. The gloves are fine. But the seat bags, while interestingly designed, look cheap and flimsy. We also had to buy a bunch of wheel sets. Kids! Start jumping your bikes off big drops and slamming into curbs again!

The rep who talked us in to this left the company immediately afterwards, but I bet it wasn't because he flimflammed us into buying bushels of crap we'll have trouble selling. More likely it's because he didn't do it sooner and more often to more accounts. But of course no one will discuss it. Confidentiality and all that.


Steve A said...

My own irritation is ten-speed rear cassettes and the chains that wear out in no time. I have changed the chain more times on my cross bike in four years than on all my other bikes put together since I first started riding back in the Stone Age.

cafiend said...

Oh yes indeedy. I have stuck with 8-speed bar-end shifters set on friction.

adventure! said...

If those Specialized tires are anything like the ones I've had (once, mind you), you will sell them faster, as they last 50% less than they should.

Portland still fumes about the Stumptown/Stumpjumper brouhaha.

rlove2bike said...

Thanks for the insight. I sure I am not alone here in blog land that do not know of the heavy handed tactics and pressures put on shops.

Thanks for the post,