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Advocacy — the latest trend in the bike industry

Posted by on March 5th, 2008 at 3:21 pm

This story is part of my ongoing coverage of the 2008 National Bike Summit. See the rest of my coverage here.

faces and sessions at the Summit-7.jpg

Jay Ferm is the advocacy
man for Planet Bike.
(Photo © J. Maus)

There’s an exciting trend in the bicycle industry: more and more companies are putting advocacy in the job description of their employees. A few companies are even making it a full-time position.

Jay Ferm, who heads up the advocacy efforts of Wisconsin-based accessory brand Planet Bike, says “it’s definitely a trend.” He points to industry heavyweights like SRAM and Pacific Cycle (they own Scwhinn, Mongoose, and GT) as just the most recent examples.

Other companies who have made advocacy an official part of the job include Chris King Precision Components, Saris, Specialized, Trek, and others.

Quality Bicycle Products, a parts and accessories distributor based in Minnesota, was likely the first company to hire a full time advocate when they named “uber-advocate” Gary Sjoquist to that position. In a recent interview on, Sjoquist said, “Being able to focus fulltime on advocacy has been huge.”

When I asked Jay Ferm why this trend was happening now, he said it was likely sparked by Trek President John Burke. Burke drew attention to the industry’s lackluster support of advocacy efforts in a convincing presentation at the National Bike Summit last year (since then, he has established the One World, Two Wheels program).

But it wasn’t all Burke. “It’s really a lot of things coming together,” said Ferm during a break in the action at the National Bike Summit today, “Every year the problems that the bike solves just get worse, and more and more people are realizing it. Burke was definitely the spark, but the kindling has been there for a long time.”

Ferm says he’d like to see more organization among the industry’s advocacy-centric staffers, “I think having a some sort of professional organization would be great. Maybe we could have our annual meeting here at the Summit.”

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Todd BoulangerDavelocal yokelSHOpus the Poet Recent comment authors
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I think it\’s pretty simple, they are all trying to grow their businesses and advocacy is probably a better investment than advertising when it comes to reaching new customers.


I think there\’s more to it than that. Planet Bike, for example, offers free shipping to members of advocacy groups like BTA. If they were only interested in growing their business, they would give freebies to the much larger section of the market, the folks who don\’t support advocacy groups.

Opus the Poet

Does this mean that there is someone that will pay me to do what I\’m doing now on my own (non-existant) dime? I get paid to tell people that what they\’ve done in the past is killing their future? and i get resources to do it with? Somebody please tell me how to get one of these jobs. I haven\’t had a steady job since I got hit with the truck in 2001 and laid off from my tech support job in 2002.



Why advertise to customers when you can spend time making customers

local yokel
local yokel

The ideals of the 60s didn\’t hold up to the marketing. For every peace lovin hippie there were 30 head shops selling \’keep on trucking\’ posters and hookahs. Sincere ideals were co-opted by commerce. I sincerely hope that the kiss of advocacy isnt the first stage of the \’kiss of death\’. Big difference I see..( Ive been here for both movements..) is that the hippie movement was born of starry eyed idealism. There is no shortage of cynicism and \’show me\’ with bikeys. As exhibited above.

which is cool. watch out and make sure the bike movement doesn\’t get sold out by the townies.


Will they ever get beyond preaching to the choir? There is a rural/suburban blue collar population (aka \”rednecks\”) who forget all about bikes when they turn 15 and get their learners\’ permits.
I live in an area full of them–they have disposable income, they like the outdoors, they claim to be patriotic.
Who is trying to reach them? Talking \”clean and green\” is counterproductive–many working people equate environmentalism with unemployment. Appeal to these people with machismo and hyperpatriotism; \”Real men don\’t need motors on their bikes.\” or how about \”To hell with the planet, ride a bike for your country–the only good Arab is a poor Arab.\” or \”Ride a bike–stop financing Bin Laden.\”
Will someone please quit preaching to the freaking choir?

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger

Perhaps $5 gallon?! to the non choir will help.

I have been surprised over the last two years that it has taken so long and $103 a barrel to start drivers to mode shift…but it makes sense now in an article I saw in yesterday\’s NYT…that oil prices today are the same as they were during the last crisis ($40 when adjusted for inflation) and with a week economy (folks cannot borrow from their homes anymore to float their gas budget for the commute).

There have been some interesting news items…folks selling things at pawn shops for gas money and ads advertising buying blood plasma for gas money.

Then there is the sad daily news item…\’pump patrol…telling people where cheap gas is but not were the nearest bike shop or P&R is.