Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 16th, 2007 at 2:04 pm
At the closing ceremony of the National Bike Summit, the Shimano marketing duo of Shannon Bryant and David Lawrence hit the stage to tell the story of Coasting.
Shimano embarked on this initiative five years ago when they teamed up with premier product design group IDEO. That was the start of on an unprecedented journey to research and then design a product -- and marketing campaign -- aimed to get America's 161 million non-cyclists riding again.
[I've covered this effort since last May. Browse archived reports and photos.]
Their presentations sparked a flood of questions and led to a vibrant discussion of the role of products, industry, and advocacy in turning more Americans on to cycling.
Lawrence was "embedded" with IDEO for six months to find out how their heralded "human-centered design" philosophy could help Shimano figure out why more Americans aren't riding. He said,
"We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of non-enthusiasts... to understand their lives and experiences"
He traveled to Phoenix, Palo Alto, Chicago, and Atlanta to do conducts interviews with non-cyclists. In the process, he learned several key lessons about them,
- They share many of the same feelings, and most of them remember the fun they had riding as kids.
- They see cycling only as a sport and competitive activity and have no desire for that sort of experience. They just want to ride.
- They want to escape from their hectic lives and enjoy time with friends.
- They don't want to learn new technology.
- Bicycling would be just one of many activities they would do with their free time, so they are price sensitive.
- They want to feel safe.
Lawrence and his team took all this information and tried to describe an "ideal experience". Conclusions reached from these lessons led them to "The Coasting Experience".
Here is a slide from the presentation that explains more:
After Lawrence's presentation, Shannon Bryant described her research into the bike buying experience of cycling novices.
She explained that Coasting's target market not only feel intimidated by bike shops, but that the thought of going to one to buy a bike, "wouldn't even cross their minds."
To illustrate this point she asked the crowd if anyone wore sunscreen. Nearly everyone raised their hand. Then she asked how many people bought it from the office of a licensed dermatologist. All the hands went down. How about Walgreens? The hands went back up.
Bryant wanted to compare a dermatologist's office with a bike shop. You get the point.
Shimano is trying to break down the walls between new (and potential) cyclists and the fun of riding.
To that end, Lawrence says they're using their website to, "build a community of people who are new to cycling."
A Q & A session followed the presentation.
I stood up and asked them to explain their views and research on self-sufficiency and maintenance of the bikes by the owner (I know from previous conversations with Bryant that they do not envision Coasting bike riders to do any of their own repairs).
Lawrence said this did come up in their research,
"When we asked people about changing flats and doing repairs they said things like 'my tool kit will be my cell phone.' Again, the bike is not the core focus, it's the experience...and the bike just enhances it."
We can debate the technical aspects of the Coasting component group (one person I talked to has concerns about the safety of coaster brakes), or the importance of self-reliance (I know some of you feel repairing flats is a rite of passage), but after hearing the presentation today, and seeing the discussion it sparked, I'm supportive of (and excited by) Shimano's efforts.
They're approaching the problem (161 million Americans who think bikes aren't for them) in a new way and their marketing towards newbie and non-cyclists is way ahead of anyone else in the industry.
I also appreciate how Shimano has started a conversation that challenges advocates to go further and reach beyond their base to convince those 161 million non-cycling Americans to get back in the saddle...and that it will take more than just bike lanes to do it.
[Portland's Bike Gallery just got Trek's "Lime" Coasting bike in stock last week. I hope to check one out when I get home.]
UPDATE: I took a closer look and did a short test ride of Trek's Coasting bike. Read the review here.