Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 23rd, 2010 at 10:02 am
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.
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.”
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.
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.