INTERBIKE SPECIAL ‘‘Bicle goes Interbike’’ day 2

Day 2 of Bicle Goes Interbike 2018!

It's September, which means that Interbike is taking place. Of course, Bicle is there to talk with the industry, and report about it. This year we wanted to test two hypotheses: (1) we want to find out what the biggest differences are between the US and the European market, and (2) we feel that e-bikes and LEVs are not as developed in the US as they are in Europe. So, we headed out the talk with exhibitors and to find answers to our questions.

Day two

At day two of Interbike 2018, our quest continues. We spoke to so many interesting brands today that it's difficult to decide where to begin. Let's just start at where we took off today: Yamaha.

A Little Irony

Yamaha was the first to make power assist bikes, But ironically enough the world knew them mainly from their e-bike systems. Drew Engelmann, Sales and Marketing Manager at Yamaha, stated that ''in Japan the Yamaha e-bikes are well established. However, they are not the kind of people to brag about it and shout it from the top of a hill. It's a big challenge to get that message across the US market, but also across the world.'' Now Yamaha has indeed expanded to the US, and it looks great!

Although Yamaha is a very well known and a huge brand, they are humble. But it has to be said that one of their USPs is that in theirs design process they start from an e-bike point-of-view, whereas a large part of OEMs start from a conventional bike and adapt that to an e-bike, making the frame not optimized for e. Another thing Yamaha does quite well is that they have increased the motor's reaction time, making it way more accurate. According to Engelmann ''there is never a time that the new unit is not registering what the rider's speed is.''  This makes the transition more seamless, increasing the experience. A third improvements is that the drive systems are tuned to each and every brand. It is not that Yamaha delivers one drive unit that should fit every bike, they specifically tune it towards the OEM's frame measurements.

The reason why Yamaha chose for the US to sell complete e-bikes, is that they have been developing for the US market for over six years now. They have trained experts for the US market. They're big advantage is that Yamaha is a huge brand, making it very successful in the relatively short period of time they've been in the US market.

Influence by other industries and the notion of 'cheating'

Engelmann states that the influence by adjacent industries is quite common. At Yamaha it obviously happens. As an example, Engelmann gave the concept of ergonomics. in the 2000's it became an important topic in the cycling industry. Years later, the automotive took that idea over by, among other things, making handlebars more ergonomic. 

In the US, cheating is a commonly used word when it comes to e-bikes. However, Engelmann states that it actually adds to the riding experience instead of it being cheating.  ''We are not trying to replace cycling as it is'', Engelmann states, ''We are trying to replace other thing you can do, tennis, golf.'' From that perspective, Yamaha is indeed enhancing fun and activity, instead of helping people cheat. 

Is wealth connected to using bikes as a sports product? 

During our chat with Ann Chen, Executive Assistant of President at Velo Saddles, we found out that this Taiwanese company started very early in the US. Chen told us that ''in the '70s there was a real mountain bike boom. Stella Yu (Owner and president of Velo) is a very good listener, and when she came to the US, she talked to a lot of people in the industry to hook onto this boom. We always try to satisfy customers and riders' needs. That is really deep in our Velo's culture.'' 

When we made a comparison to the European, the US, and the Chinese market, in which Velo is strongly represented, Chen stated that in the US riding is mainly about sports. In Europe, you have a smaller area, where it is easier to ride a bike from point A to B. In China nowadays, the bike is seen as a luxury good, to increase your health. But back then in China,  the bike used to be a cheap means of transportation. To compare, ''In the US'' Chen states, ''people are more used to driving cars. Moreover, the US is relatively rich, so bikes are seen as a sports product. As Velo, we have been trying to hit that point up until today, with a marketing that is focused on sports.'' Velo always aims at customers needs and by directly talking to the end user, Velo gets a clear picture of the user's needs.

This is a very interesting observation by Chen, where she links wealth to a different use of bikes. In short: it seems that in wealthy countries people tend to use bikes differently than people in relatively poor countries. Also, geography seems to play a part in the usage of bikes. Does make sense, don't you think?

People For Bikes

Just as yesterday, we have one item that is a little of topic: People For Bikes. This is a non-profit organization concerned with the question how to get people on the bike more often. They have launched an app where people can find routes to ride. People For Bikes works closely with several retailers across the US. When someone buys a bike there, they get the opportunity to get the app in order to increase the riding experience. It also helps the retailers increase their turnover. One shop in Arizona gets an extra 30.000 dollars every quarter due to People For Bikes. 

People For Bikes also lobby's for a better infrastructure for bikes in US cities, which is a growing success as the US government is investing more and more in a safe infrastructure for bikes. This is a very positive note to end the second Interbike daily report. See you tomorrow!