Interbike organizers are planning the floor space for Interbike 2006 and they're urging exhibitors to renew soon. 2006 Event Guide advertising rates are not available yet, but it should be interesting to see how much difference there will be between last year and this year. Here are the factors I see impacting the bicycle industry this year.
The Tour of California will compete with the Torino Winter Olympics for sports media attention next month. With Lance Armstrong retired, it should be interesting to see what kind of interest there will be this summer in American cyclists like Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie, along with Americans George Hincapie, Tom Danielson and Jason McCartney on Team Discovery.
Last year's TdF coverage also introduced Americans to world-class non-American athletes like Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and Tom Boonen. Will most Americans remember these names in 2006 when Team Discovery competes in Europe?
I don't follow competitive mountain biking much but the waning interest in the sport seems to continue. Recreational interest seems steady, but I don't know how much goodies like "dual control," high-travel suspension, disk brakes and 29 inch wheels translates into increased sales for the industry.
A significant portion of American society isn't interested in competitive or fast cycling. They just want an activity that's fun but not too strenuous. With more news about obesity, a lot of once-sedentary Americans are turning to bicycling as an activity to get the heart beating. 2005 saw increased interest and sales of cruiser or casual style bicycles.
I think bikes and accessories for commuting and utility use will be absolutely huge in 2006. This includes trailers, lights, fenders, bags and clothing and zillions of doodads. Cyclists -- especially utility cyclists -- love doodads, and 2006 will see growth in this area.
Interest in environmental issues is growing strongly, inflation is outpacing wage growth and will continue to do so this year, gasoline will hit new highs this spring, and public transit is becoming standing room only while fares continue to increase. All of these will motivate commuters to drag out their old Schwinn Varsities, and a significant number will "upgrade" to something new and shiny.
Industry insiders, I'm interested in your thoughts. Is cycling a growth industry for 2006? What about your segment of the market? Why or why not?
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Cycling absolutely will be bigger this year. Look at all the press stories about bike commuting when fuel prices spiked last fall, and look at all the people who took to the streets when NYC bus drivers went on strike. All that attention serves to make bicycling a more acceptable pasttime and alternative to driving.
I think there is waning interest in mountain biking from an XC race perspective, but outside of that, mountain biking has taken on a renewal of sorts. Check out the number of 24 hour and ultra-distance/ endurance events that have cropped up recently. Add in X-terra and related events and you can see an upswing in the interest in these types of events and the machines needed to compete in them.
As far as 29" wheeled mountain bikes go, they are starting to make more of an impact. Several new additions to the marketplace are scheduled to be made by mainstream cycling companies. New components to support the wheel standard are being introduced, as well. I do not think that this would be occurring if the companies putting their money into it thought the 29"er wasn't making much of a dent.