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Can Lycra Shops Become Lifestyle Shops?

Published February 19, 2009

I was talking yesterday morning with Tom Petrie at Velimpex, who was so fired up from a recent trip to Holland that his excitement practically reverberated across the phone lines.

While visiting Dutch accessory brand Axa Basta last week, Petrie visited a local bike shop. Of the 400 bikes on the shop floor, only a handful were road and racing bikes. The majority were fully outfitted European-style city bikes.

Petrie described the experience as a real eye-opener—and one he hopes to share with dealers on the Surf-On Tech Tour that kicks off next week.

As a self-professed apostle of city bikes, he sees them as the next evolution of bikes in the United States. But when I asked whether he believed U.S. bike shops would convert, he admitted that was the $64,000 question.

It recalls a conversation I had at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market with Tim McSpadden, Timbuk2’s resident marketing guru. As a San Francisco resident since 1993, McSpadden is intimately familiar with urban cycling culture.

He said he’s seeing a trend of more people parking their car and choosing the bike instead, particularly in dense urban areas.

As a result, he said more shops are popping up to cater to that customer that wants to trade in their car. And, he added, that’s creating a divide between fixie shops and Lycra shops.

Despite the potential to cater to a growing user group, bike shops have been slow to make the switch to cater to lifestyle-oriented cyclists. For now, most remain focused on bikes for recreation not function.

It begs the question: Can shops re-orient themselves to service a utility bike customer? Can Lycra shops become Lifestyle shops?

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