Improve bike sales with commuter appeal

    Ray Keener, a long time bike industry sales consultant, wrote up his creative ideas for Commute By Bike on how bike retailers can capitalize on increased interest in bike commuting. Keener writes for BRaIN and runs the Bicycle Leadership Conference. Visit his website GrowthCycle.

    Ray also recently developed the Selling Coasting retail training tool. Selling Coasting trains bicycle retail employees to encourage new riders with bikes equipped with Shimano’s Coasting drivetrain. There are now 19 Coasting bike models from seven manufacturers.

Think in terms of eliminating barriers to entry. When nearly all Americans contemplate riding a bike to work, their first thought: “I can’t do that because…” Take away the because!


Have a staff meeting and make a list of all the reasons regular folks don’t ride to work more often. Help your people realize what these barriers are. They may not have thought of many of them, because they’ve already figured out ways around them (sponge baths, panniers/trailers, lights, fenders, knowing how to fix a flat and make minor repairs, etc.)

Display a built-up commute bike with all the accessories (rack, fenders, panniers, lights, kickstand, lock) and a big sign: Let Us Make YOUR Bike a Commuter! Most “new” commuter cyclists don’t know that you can make them a bike any way they want it. Don’t limit yourself to displaying commute bikes built by the manufacturers, let folks know that ANY bike can be a commute bike!

Cargo trailers! Get a Burley Nomad and fill it with groceries, a change of work clothes, a laptop carrier, etc. Trailers are a great answer to the barrier: “I can’t carry all my stuff.” Not a B.O.B., the Burley is way better for novices. Lighter, more stable, more visible, easier to load, more weatherproof, easier to walk with.

Make sure you have route maps on hand and prominently displayed. Again, most novices only think in terms of where they drive. “I don’t know how to get from work to home on my bike” should never keep folks from riding. Offer a link on your website: Route Finder, like MapQuest. Where do you live, where do you work, let us show you how to get there!


Get involved with your city’s bike program! Make yourself available for meetings. Push for better bike routes and transitions in your city. Make sure your city bike people are aware of Bikes Belong and all the sources for Federal funding. Pester your traffic engineers to attend bike training conferences. Don’t just complain, get involved. YOU can make a difference!

Do commute clinics at your largest local employers. Don’t wait for them to call you, call them! Focus on the common entry barriers. Take a fully loaded commute bike and demonstrate what everything does. Hand out route maps and discount coupons. Work with facilities managers to provide bike racks and showers. Make your own market!

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0 thoughts on “Improve bike sales with commuter appeal”

  1. Noah says:

    I’ve been saying this for a while. Most bike shops already have all the stuff they need to build up a commuter bike display model using a bike that’s not factory equipped for such. I’ve even said that dressing up a used bike with accessories is a good start, because you can put a bike out there that’s obviously meant to be used daily, make your profit on the included accessories and still manage to provide a commute-ready bike for a reasonable price.

    This article is full of awesome, and I will be sending it to pretty much everyone I know in the IBD industry.

  2. Siouxgeonz says:

    That doesn’t solve this one “I can’t because I don’t feel safe.”

  3. Siouxgeonz says:

    That doesn’t solve this one: “I can’t because I don’t feel safe.”

  4. bikesgonewild says:

    …great article w/ some intelligent thinking behind it & noah’s got a solid cool idea there also…

    …& miz sg…that’s something that can only be solved through the use of the personal equipping of safety gear (everyone has their own thought on, or can learn what is appropriate) , teaching folks a sense of empowerment on the bike & in which case, simple experience helps to some degree & having people understand that utilizing caution (but not fear) is one of their best tools because perception is a big part of the cycling equation…
    …i say that knowing full well that the area i live & ride in is probably “better” than most despite the very high vehicle traffic content…

    …anyway, good thoughts…

  5. Adam Lorenz says:

    Now, I’ll admit from the get go that much of what will follow is simply the words and thoughts of others that have become my ‘own’…

    I’d first point people towards G-Ted’s posts on his blog back in October ’07. He did a little 3 part posting on commuting and what I’ll call the commuting mindset.

    Being a shop rat for the past 7 years, I’ve seen my share of ‘attempts’ to pursue promoting cycling. Unfortunately the case in most shops, instead of promoting cycling as a whole, time, money and resources are only focused on promoting the shop or the current sale. Not that the two shouldn’t go hand in hand, because they should; there is just a huge fear by smaller shops of losing the sale to the ‘competition’.

    As Ted gets into with his posts, I to believe that there is an interest into commuting but very few address it correctly and that starts at the top. Most of the major manufactures release ‘commuter’ bikes that start at price points that only appeal to the shop rat or hipsters. I believe the $300 price point is critical in reaching the ‘potentials’ Some thing that is affordable and reliable, less is more. Hard to do but possible.

    Employers themselves might also be the key to making such a shift happen. Creating incentives or locker room facilities available because let’s admit it, Americans have a complex with being clean.

    I do believe we are coming into a time where more and more people are open and want to get into ‘purposeful’ cycling, it’s only if the industry is willing to adjust to make such a change happen.

  6. siouxgeonz says:

    Oh, I almost forgot.


    I ride to work. In the winter that means it gets dark.

  7. bikesgonewild says:

    …adam…i would suggest that in order for the “commuter” bike to be successful, as w/ both road & mountain bikes, it needs to come in at a full range of price points…a $300 bike will appeal to some as will a $2,000 bike to others & as we’ve seen w/ road & mtb bikes, people may find their “own” logical need to upgrade when they get further involved in the activity…

    …& you’re right, the industry needs to better embrace the concept w/ proper promotion, not just cater to a “safe” segment…but that being said, there is a tremendous financial investment in being at the vanguard of any new direction…that can be the making or breaking of a smaller company, so caution is a safeguard against ruin…

    …one of the reasons i have so much respect for joe & connie breeze in their efforts to promote cycling as a lifestyle & as a means of transportation in particular is simply because they see it, they believe in it & therefore they’ve dedicated their business to that end in order to promote that concept…the big companies dip a toe in the water & monitor the activities of the ‘joe breeze’s’ of the cycling world & when they’re sure there is money to be made “now” they will invest…

    …thanks to the visionaries, wheels will always be rolling…

  8. MikeOnBike says:

    Re: “I don’t feel safe.”

    Unfortunately, the cycling industry and cycling advocates have done a very good job of convincing people that cycling is unsafe, unless you have this piece of equipment or that place to ride. Conversely, having the equipment or the place is the only thing you need to be safe.

    That message isn’t too much of a problem with recreational cycling where you can drive to a “safe” place to ride your bike. But it’s completely impractical for commuting where your trip begins and ends on a bike, and goes anywhere and everywhere.

    It’s going to take a lot of work to undo that impression of cycling being unsafe.

  9. irbikes says:

    How many of YOU bike commute?
    I have instant credibility with customers when I start talking about what I use. It gets even stronger when I talk about what the other folks in the store use. The more of us that commute, the easier it is to convince others that it can be done (even through a cold Michigan winter.)
    Clinics are great to promote your store as the place to go where the people know – but if the guy doing the clinic doesn’t commute, why should anyone else?
    Listen to your customers and work with them to solve their commuting problems. Each of our staff that commutes has their own method / bike / style / equipment. We use that to help our customers find what works best for THEM. I don’t care if they ride an old Schwinn Varsity, a mountain bike, or a tricked out single speed (all used at our store). I just want poeple to ride more.
    Lastly, let them know it’s OK to only ride 3, 2, or even 1 day a week. It’s a start. And once they see how easy it can be, hopefully they will ride more.
    Do what you sell! It’s more fun!

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