Interbike: Puma looks for respect as a bike company

Posted by on September 23rd, 2010 at 10:02 am

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Puma Bikes at Interbike.
(Photos © J. Maus)

I’ve been following Puma’s entry into the bike world with some interest since the release of several models back in June. My interest is because of Puma’s position as a popular global shoe brand with a strong foothold in the urban market. As such, they’re taste-makers to some degree. So, what if they used that leadership to get more people excited about bikes? Mainstream brands embracing bikes is a good thing — isn’t it?

But what if Puma is just hopping on the latest trend, hoping it leads to more shoe sales? Is the whole thing a publicity stunt? Bike-washing perhaps? I stopped by the Puma Bikes booth at Interbike yesterday to find out.

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I chatted with Jonathan Robert, Puma’s U.S. Market Manager. He said they are absolutely committed to bikes, and not just because they’re a cool urban accessory. Interestingly, Roberts was candid about their failures with bikes in the past. Their initial foray into the bike industry started five years ago when they sold a bike designed by Biomega in their shoe stores. Roberts says that plan turned out “horribly.”

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But, not only is Puma still selling bikes, they’ve doubled-down and have launched a growing line which — with their new “Mopion” cargo bike — includes six models.

Roberts isn’t shy about saying he sees bikes as an accessory to the urban lifestyle. “Bikes aren’t just a sport, they’re about a lifestyle. People identify with their bikes, it’s a piece of fashion.” He also adds, like their shoes, Puma Bikes are about a solid mix of function, style, and design.

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I warned Roberts about the backlash from some people about thinking of bicycles as a “piece of fashion.” He said his only hope is people, “Just accept the bikes for what they are, and respect that we are trying to do something good.” Despite five years of dismal sales of their first bike, he said the fact they’re still committed to the bikes is a sign that they’re much more than just a sneaker company that sells bikes. “We love bikes. That first bike did horribly and we’re still in it.”

Roberts said they’ll no longer sell bikes in their shoe stores and they are actively seeking to build a network of bike dealers.

To create and develop the bikes, Puma works closely with Danish brand Biomega. The Puma bikes have a strong focus on urban style with features like bold color schemes, cargo capacity, and foldability to fit into small spaces.

Judging by the depth of their commitment to the industry, the expansion of their line-up, and their interest in creating a dealer network, it seems — for now at least — like Puma Bikes is the real deal.

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12 Comments
  • Avatar
    Whyat September 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Those are some interesting bikes. Nothing against steel framed fixed gear bikes, but I’m so glad that those Puma bikes are an alternative to MORE steel framed fixed gear bikes.

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    Paul Cone September 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I used to have a coupla pairs of Puma shoes made with hemp, that I bought at the Mall of America about ten years ago. It struck me as innovative and forward thinking that a mainstream shoe company would do that, way back when. (Unfortunately they discontinued them.)

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    Mixo September 23, 2010 at 11:05 am

    How are their bikes? Are they well designed? or focused on the style and design and essentially throw away? I always find it interesting when a brand branches out into a market that isn’t their core. I bought a Burton ‘DJ Bag’ for something like 40$ 8 years ago. That thing was unbelievably well designed, and bulletproof. I was honestly not expecting that kind of luggage quality from a snowboard company. What kind of bike quality do we get from a shoe company?

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    BURR September 23, 2010 at 11:42 am

    shoes and bikes are both about rubber meeting the road.

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    Ha September 23, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    From the puma funk bike designer notes.

    FREE/FIXED GEAR SWITCH

    Be part of an urban fixie culture or be reasonable…

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    dabby September 23, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Actually, PUMA’s modern bike ventures (before selling actual bikes) was support of a group of NYC messengers, named Team Puma?

    They received sponsorship through a series of track races, which if they won would support their efforts to travel and race track more, while still working on the streets.

    I know they enjoyed it while it lasted.

    I also know that PUMA’s have become my favorite shoe for riding with platforms.

    Not to mention another shoe I have, the PUMA Volvo Ocean Race sailing shoes, possibly the finest shoes I have ever owned.

    I would not however, consider one of this line of bikes for purchase…

    Screams to me of trying to be instantly way to functional. And way too dutch…
    Makes me want to hurl” This is America Damnitt” into the toilet bowl.

    Maybe they should stick to sponsoring cyclists with cash, and just making shoes.

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    Simon September 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I saw a mountain bike made by Hummer one time. Total P.O.S.

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    George Hayduke September 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Anything that gets people out of their stupid cars is a good thing.

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    Richard Masoner September 24, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I think it’s too bad their abandoning the model of selling bikes in their shoe stores — in a bike shop, they’ll just be Yet Another Bike among many. People who visit bike stores are already interested in buying a bike. Somebody at the shoe store went their for shoes but may leave thinking of bikes.

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    Richard Masoner September 24, 2010 at 9:23 am

    gah, yes I can spell: s/their/they’re/

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    middle of the road guy September 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Mr. Hayduke,

    are you suggesting that every trip made by a car is stupid?

    Next time you are injured, perhaps your friends can take you to the emergency room by bike, instead of by car.

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    William Bendsen October 1, 2010 at 8:24 am

    William from Denmark here. There weren’t sold many PUMA bikes back when they first launched, but a fair number of them are still being ridden and kept in fair repair.
    For what it’s worth, their initial bikes passed the most important test – will it be used?

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