I have now embarked on a new leg of my research. I am now looking at ways in which we bicycle manufacturers can rope in new business by attracting those who either only cycle occasionally or do not cycle at all. So far I have been trying to pin point some of the possible deterrents associated with cycling. According to my own personal anecdotal observations so far, bicycles are often endorsed by individuals who have an affinity with the mechanics. Unlike other modes of wheeled transport such as Cars and Motorbikes, the quest for a bike as desirable object appears to have been largely ignored.
Today, my research took me onto the blog bicycledesign (which is proving to be an invaluable resource so far). Today I discovered a post that was perfectly timed, as far as my research is concerned, by product designer Mark Sanders. Sanders, as well as being involved in general product design, has been responsible for some rather radical bicycle designs in the past, teaming up with radical (and sorely under rated UK inventor) Clive Sinclair. Sanders argues a case for a Blue Ocean market (the untapped market potential of non cyclists). In this respect, he falls in (by his own admission) with Trek’s major strategy – bringing cycling to the masses by improving accessibility and convenience.
Interestingly, this article is full of good research points and includes a link to a pdf document by technology company AMD. The document’s main function is promote its own products but also gives some insight into how Trek designed its easy to use, accessible and friendly product Lime.
Lime, which enables consumers to select their most desired colour on the website, features a new (enough) product by Shimano – Coasting Group.
The notion of an automatic gearing system that targets non cyclists is not one I had heard of before. This product was given a soft launch, initially in Portland in the US before being introduced to more cities.
A review of the system that appears on BikeRadar points out that
“The only drawback I see to the Coasting concept is the need to use a 10mm hex wrench to remove the wheels. Sure, IDEO did a great job, but it’s a bit of a stretch to think most people want to lug around a hard-to-find tool if they get a puncture. Granted, the same could be said for the 15- and 14mm bolts found on similarly priced cruisers, so it may just be nitpicking on my part. Catering to the newbies will take more simplistic engineering, which has always been the challenge.”
I think BikeRadar hits the nail on the head. The last thing someone wants to be faced with when they enter into their high-convenience small car (whether that be a Smart, Mini or Beatle) is the engine. Simplicity and convenience are the two watch words here.
Meanwhile, Mark Sanders’ approach to bicycle designs, aimed at this ‘Blue Ocean’ demographic, are very interesting indeed. His first bike, the Strida, is a concept inspired by the baby buggy. Following this, he endeavored to come up with yet another simplified version, collaborating with UK inventor Clive Sinclair to come up with the X-Bike, an even neater solution yet (sadly this never went into production). As both Sanders and Sir Clive remain light years ahead of their time, it is hard to judge whether this bicycle is a major achievement for humanity or merely another object of folly but certainly this minimalist solution must be given some praise. My own view is that these designs constitute a tremendous achievement functionally, but emotionally it remains to be seen whether a blue ocean unfamiliar with cycling will warm to them.
Sanders is of the opinion that folding bicycles are the way forward and I would be inclined to agree with him in many ways (as would Wayne Hemingway) but if there is one thing I have learned over the last few months it is that there is no single solution that will dominate the bike market. It is very unlikely that we will see another craze like the BMX or MTB – both of which began as low tech means of fun.
Eco designer and co-founder of Red or Dead, Wayne Hemingway shares some of this thoughts on sustainable design and right towards the end of the film, mentions their new range of fold-able bikes; designed especially for property developers.
Is it possible that next year we could be saying good bye to the craze on fixed wheel and European heritage bikes and hello to the more practical foldy? The latest front cover story of Bike Biz seems to think so, listing over a dozen of the market must haves.
I see a possible trend developing in this area and certainly Hemingway (with his finger on the pules) may have preempted it. If you’re living in a city like London or Paris and you haven’t quite got the space to swing a cat or a bike, a good solid folding bike may provide solutions.
Designed by Max Night design, this bike was originally intended for Intersection Magazine. Quite obviously this is unlikely to appear in your local bike shop any time soon but it can actually function; as demonstrated in this video here.
Women and cycling – survey
I have just put together a survey investigating women and cycling. If any of you visiting this blog cares to partake I would be very much obliged. If you don’t mind passing the survey on to any other women you know who’d be interested in taking part I’d be very grateful for that also.
Halfords have their own range of bikes covering to segments of the market. Halfords own label bikes stand to challenge the Raleigh line which traditionally have been sold in Halford shops.
Carrera is Halfords premium brand of bicycle and is most likely built in Taiwan (the heart of quality bike manufacturing). Carrera promises a robust and stylish product that is up to date with all of the changing technology and possess good attention to detail.
The names given to this range of bikes is derived from some mythology (Banshee – Zelos – Titan – Kraken -Griphon) and then some grittier urban titles (Cross Fire – Subway – Sparc – Blast). Halfords offer a childs equivalent of the adult bikes but do not deviate from the names.
On all of its variants, Carrera offers a clear and focused range of product. The graphic application on all of its bikes (colours and decals placement etc) is kept clean and consistent on all of its range. As example; Carrera always appears on the bottom two chain stays and on the down tubes, the name of the model always appearing on the top tubes.
Some of the road bicycles appear to match the Raleigh Spec (Virago vs Raleigh’s Airlite Carbonrace) however the price difference is that of two to three hundred pounds in Halford’s favour. According to some sources, Carrera is built by Merida. Carrera translated in Spanish is the word for ‘Racing’.
The Apollo brand is Halfords ‘bread and butter’ range (more likely built in the far east). Apollo offers a broad range of family and leisure bikes; everything from 5 years and up. Imagery used through out their brochure consists leisure seekers to amateur fitness; most likely road and light trails.
In this respect Apollo stands to be Raleigh’s greatest challenge in the domestic bike market. The Apollo brand also offers a couple of folding bikes aimed towards the commuter: one single gear with steel frame the other aluminium with a 6 speed Shimano gearing. Apollo’s children’s range of bikes are competitively with as much as £50 in the difference.
Unlike the Carrera brochure or the Raleigh catalogue, Apollo’s range is split into two brochures: one for adult the other for kids (helping to focus the brand much more). The styling of the typography used in the Apollo logo is kept geometric and simple (much like Raleigh’s chosen type style). The colours used are primary red and blue with a slightly deeper blue being used to differentiate the adults from the children’s range. The type face being used in both the Carrera and Apollo brochures is Helvetica with Helvetica light used in the Carrera brochure vs Roman or Helvetica 55 in the Apollo brochure. The paper stock used in the Apollo brochure is slightly lighter and feels slightly cheaper than the Carerra catalogue.
Speaking with a salesman at a local Halfords store, I was told that that particular branch had not stocked a Raleigh bicycle in some time and weren’t even aware that Raleigh had brought out an 08 line. Feelings amongst staff were generally negative towards the Raleigh brand and perceived Raleigh as being in decline.
I was informed that Raleigh do still offer one service on site at Nottingham which is wheel building. Halfords have in the past requested Raleigh to build a custom wheel but these wheels are not specific to Raleigh; are not a Raleigh product as such.
One of the family
Having had the chance to speak with a representative of Eurocycles in Ireland (owners of Raleigh Ireland), I was able to gain a slightly broader understanding of how Raleigh operate as a company abroad yet I’m still a little bit confused. Seemingly Raleigh Ireland is independent of Raleigh UK yet Raleigh Ireland still import all of their products from Raleigh UK. When asked what would stop ToysRUs from dealing Raleigh bikes I was told that it was ‘bit of a grey area’. Halford’s (who have traditionally always sold Raleigh in the UK) have recently set up in Ireland and are also selling Raleigh bikes along side their own-name brands. This leaves me rather confused indeed. Raleigh doesn’t operate like a franchise in the way that a certain chain of restaurants might and John McNaughton in international sales has explained to me that Raleigh are an international not a global company. So how does this work? Who is custodian of the brand? and how does Raleigh ensure clear brand values are being communicated in all four regions of the world? Recently I have started to see how the origins of Raleigh (right back as far as Frank Bowden) have always contained a strong sense of family loyalty. Today Raleigh’s brand personality and heritage (as illustrated in the ad in post _19) could be described as a family friend.
It is known that both Frank and Harold Bowden ran their company with a paternal hand (2002, Rosen). Certainly Harold Bowden made it his business to get to know everyone on the floor on a personal level, thus keeping in touch with the man on the ground. Gregory Bowden illustrates the point that this style of management was deeply embedded in the culture from very early on
“Everyone knows that Raleigh is the largest cycle company in the world and although that is an admirable achievement on the part of the company , being a great size can bring with it certain disadvantages. Of these, probably the most serious problem is the danger of impersonality – that a giant company can begin to seem to be an enormous, faceless mass, a grey inhuman organism. This situation can and does exist in companies a mere fraction of the size of Raleigh, yet at Nottingham this is not the case at all and all the dealers and workmen I have met, give a strong impression that they are part of what can best be called ‘The Raleigh Family’. They feel that they belong to that family and they feel proud of it. This has been a tradition in the firm for many years now.”
Bowden goes on to explain that early on Raleigh had appointed a welfare officer who’s job it was to ensure the welfare of the workers dealing with problems that occurred both in and outside of the factory walls. Raleigh also employed a surgery with a staff of ‘ten nurses and ambulance drivers’. In 1936 Harold Bowden acquired a convalescent home for Raleigh at Sutton-on-Sea. According to Gregory Bowden, as far back as the 1890′s a group of men formed the Raleigh Athletic Club with an interest in sport and in the 1920′s some of the Raleigh workers set up an indoor gaming room with a fully stocked bar and facilities for ‘billiards and other indoor games’. Soon the two groups would merge to form, in 1926, the ‘Raleigh Athletic Club’ and in the 1960 Raleigh acquired a thirty-four acre athletics ground that included
“three football pitches, one of which is totally enclosed so that a gate can be taken, three cricket squares, a hockey pitch, a bowling green, four hard tennis courts and a fishing pond.”
Chris Richards (who’s image I have borrowed for this post) recalls his experiences growing up as the son of a Raleigh worker on the site RaleighChopper.info.
“Raleigh suffered a number of strikes in the mid 70’s, and a number of takeover bids in the 1980s which meant that the workforce had dwindled from thousands in the 1960s to just a few hundred by the time it closed its doors on 28 November 2002.
The place was not just a factory but a little family contained within itself, with 2 Social Clubs, offering dozens of sports to participate in your leisure time. It was the very pulse and lifeblood of Radford itself, and the lunchtime scene in the Social Club was one of hundreds of blue-overalled workers hastily drinking beer in a fog of laughter and cigarette smoke. My father had by then retired, but still knew everyone who passed his table on the way to the bar for their dinnertime drink. Some workers even came round to visit him each week, and he was still part of the pools syndicate ten years after he had retired!”
Chris Richard’s account serves as an excellent example of Raleigh family life but is no exception to the rule. These themes of unity, loyalty and commitment permeate the Raleigh story and exemplify part of the vision engineered and executed by both Frank and Harold Bowden. Both men showed themselves capable of playing the long game, fostering and nurturing a work culture that saw loyalty and commitment rewarded on both sides.
But this ethos also saw itself into other areas of Raleigh. Something explained to me further by John McNaughton when I spoke to him last was that certain design features associated with Raleigh (such as the Heron crank, the red and gold rimmed tyres) operated in much the same way. By building the Heron motif into the crank Raleigh could assure the costumer that what they were getting was the genuine article. Costumers now looking to replace parts of their Raleigh bicycles could be confident that what they were getting from their local dealer was not only Raleigh but one of many integrated parts that belonged to a concise whole. ‘Raleigh, The all steel bicycle’ Unity and Strength.
One final detail that’s worth mentioning here (and I’ve written on it elsewhere on this blog) is that Frank Bowden lent the Raleigh brand something else that forms a powerful association. The Heron, a bird that is known to be both patient and vigilant, originates from the Bowden coat of arms.