“Coasting” Is Also Bullshit

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s noticed that the bicycle industry’s sales story to potential new riders is a bit… lacking: Shimano, one of the big makers of bike components, has plowed a non-trivial amount of money into an initiative called "Coasting" to address that very issue.

One blog describes the point of "Coasting" this way:

Shimano is trying to get people who don’t ride bikes to start riding bikes. They hired an outside company to study the industry and find out why people who can bike don’t bother. The outsiders figured out that gears are confusing, and the people who sell bikes are an exclusive lot that isn’t too willing to help newbs work their brakes and oil their chains.

So now Shimano is trying to affect a major shift in the way bikes are designed and sold—and they’ll make a boatload of money if it works out. Of course, if everyone in the country starts riding their bikes, then I think Shimano’s entitled to Microsoft-style cash.

Coasting is trying to make cycling accessible and fun. Their bikes don’t require much maintenance, and they come with automatic transmissions and coaster brakes.

Yes. Their big insight into why people don’t ride bikes is that it’s too hard to ride a bike. Which explains why you never see kids on bikes, right? ‘Cuz it’s too hard.

One of the first bikes released under the "Coasting" initiative is the Trek Lime. Like all "Coasting" bikes, the Lime’s key selling points are a low-maintenance design and a Shimano-designed automatic transmission that eliminates the need for the rider to shift gears. It also has some nice design touches, like an underseat trunk where you can stow your keys or your iPod.

So how much does this bike, designed specifically to entice people who aren’t currently cyclists, cost? Take a guess.

You’re right!  The answer is: $500. Or, more specifically, $579.99.

I don’t know how much Shimano paid that "outside company" to determine that the reason The Masses aren’t strapping on bike helmets was that shifting gears was too hard, but I could have answered the question for them for free: for someone who isn’t a passionate cyclist, $500 is too fucking expensive, nifty automatic transmission or not. Especially for something that faces a serious likelihood of being stolen out from under you.

They’d have been better served throwing out the technological gimcrackery and lickable design and focusing instead on making a simple, rugged comfort bike that they could sell for less. My uneducated guess is that most middle-class people have a $200 barrier in their minds for purchases; anything above that becomes a Major Purchase and requires a whole array of complicated rationalizations to justify. So getting product underneath that psychological ceiling would have moved a lot more bikes than "look, no shifting!" would.