Keywords: bike industry,u.p.

Random Q&A

Gerard Vroomen - 11-Oct-2016
Every now and then (and more frequently lately), I get requests from magazines to give my thoughts about any number of topics related to cycling and bikes. Market trends, professional cycling, etc.

I usually answer these, and not just because for a company that doesn't do any marketing, this sort of exposure is helpful. I also do it because there are always questions I would not have thought about yet (or recently) and it's an opportunity for me to be inspired to starting thinking about it. Which then leads to who knows. "Insert pensive photo here"

But the way this stuff works, usually they ask 20 people so only 5% of my thoughts make it into print, and sometimes not even in a sensible way. So this morning, after writing a few answers for a journalist again, I thought: "Why not put the answers here, for everybody to read?" Maybe there's something of interest for you there. So here we go, and I'd love to hear your thoughts since these are not necessarily global truths, they are just my truths.

1. What are the biggest trends you see in cycling right now in the following categories? Please elaborate. 

a. Amateur Events
A move away from racing and even from timed events and towards “just trying to finish”. In a way, amateur racing has NEVER been popular, when you look at the percentage of cyclists who ever race. But while very few raced, the only alternative to racing was riding with your friends. Then granfondos came along, not a race but still competitive, although a large portion of participants also view it as a “just trying to finish” event.

And now we have all variations on the gravel theme, which for the most part are even less competitive and more “just finish” focused. Even a “competitive” gravel race like Dirty Kanza, when you tell people you did that they always ask “did you finish” but never “in what time”. All of this also points to a second trend in events, away from pure road and toward gravel or a mix of road and gravel.

b. Product Development
The current trend in road bikes is one of marginal gains, so marginal it doesn’t do anything for the customer. Another Watt saved, 50g shaved off, who cares. So the real developments are elsewhere, in gravel for example. You see the road companies trying to adjust for that, but with tweaks that make little sense. Hence the whole “the new model now fits 28/30/32mm tires”, which is just a last-minute panic adjustment of normal road bikes to make them feel “gravelly”. But nobody who actually rides on gravel says “Ooh, I really wish I could put a 32mm tire on”. They are all looking for 40, or 45, or even 54mm tires.

c. Professional Racing 
Clearly people still watch, but with an (un)healthy dose of skepticism. Of course the skepticism is usually reserved for “the other guy” but still, that doesn’t make for enjoyable viewing. The funniest part for me about pro cycling is how everybody claims the model is broken. I don’t think it is. Yes, teams fold and some team owners lose money, but every year there are 200 riders at the start of every major race. The jerseys may change, oligarchs may have lost a few millions but so what?

d. Product Sales
Yes please. Oh, that's probably not what you mean. Too many me-too products, so when sales are down overall, the me too’s are down too. At OPEN and 3T, we only see growth. If the product is right, it doesn’t matter what the general market does. We also see that at trade shows, everybody is complaining that traffic was down at eurobike and interbike. Well, not for us, it was way higher than ever before.

2.  What industries outside of cycling do you look to for inspiration and why? 

Everything. And not just industries, everything is inspiration.Architecture, travel, art. Two weeks ago my mother broke her hip. Seeing her struggle, I got an idea for a better walker. Which just goes to show, ideas can show up everywhere.

3.  What is your favorite non-cycling product and why? 

How can I narrow down to one? But right now let’s say the Bellroy travel wallet. Brilliant design, works like a charm, I never forget my passport anymore as I always have it with me, the little pen looks gimmicky but I use it all the time, it’s very durable and the company is really committed to sustainability. On the other end of the scale, the IKEA Knopparp. A flatpack sofa, that’s pretty ingenious. The box it comes in is so small, I first thought something was missing. The one drawback is that it doesn’t sit that comfortably, but other than that, it’s really a great design!

4.  What is your favorite product from your brand and why? 

 OPEN U.P. and 3T Exploro. Because it gives people a new way of riding a bike, and that is not something you achieve very often as a product developer. You can make a better road bike, or a better this or that, but to create a bike that let’s people explore in a way they haven’t before, and often didn’t even know they wanted to, is amazing.

The feedback from customers who bought the bike because they thought “interesting” and then report back that it’s “absolutely amazing, never had so much fun on a bike”, that’s just incredible.

And then there is the THM Clavicula SE. Because it’s sheer art in carbon. Nobody - I would venture to say in any industry - makes a carbon part as elegant, intricate and functional as that crank. 

5. What cycling brand, other than your own, do you think is making great product and why? Examples, please. 

Harry vs Larry. I mean, with a name like that, how can you go wrong. I love the Bullitt. Or the Omnium Cargo, especially the mini, I love it. Or for the original manufacturing and great industrial design, the Mokumono. And last but not least, the product I use myself right now that I really love, the Weehoo trailer!

Comments & Questions

Hi Gerard,

Thanks for share your point of view. Very intersting !

Post #1 of 5. Posted by Andres Diaz on 12-Oct-2016 17:44:46 GMT in reply to blog [0<--1034]
Do you like a one by set up on your bikes? I currently run a 11x31 rear and 2X up front Di2
I finf in muddy conditions i get chain suck.
Post #2 of 5. Posted by irvin tremblay on 21-Oct-2016 11:10:27 GMT in reply to post #1 [1034<--1080]
Gerrard: I have use twenty different tire and wheel combo's on my OPEN. It rides, handles and acceleletates best with 650b wheels? On thos wheels I have tried several Compass tires, Schwalbe and Maxis. The two best are Thunder Burt Liteskin at 315 grams and Maxislite at 285 grams. Both are super lite, fast rolling and yough enough for gravel riding.

What set up doyou like for gearing? I and using 2X up from on a Di2 set up and a 11x32 rear. If I went 1X what would I use and what would be the advantage. I have had chain suck on the mud with the 2X
Post #3 of 5. Posted by irvin tremblay on 21-Oct-2016 11:44:02 GMT in reply to blog [0<--1082]
I'm not sure I can say it rides best with one or the other wheel size. Especially because the tire affects it so much, not only the treads that change the feel but also the effective wheel diameter that changes when the tire width changes, and hence that changes the trail. On my bike I have 1x with a 34t front ring and in the rear I have an 11-40 on the 700c and a 9-44 on the 650b. No particular logic on that, it's just what I had and needed at that particular time for the riding I wanted to do with those respective wheelsets. For me the advantage of 1x is the simplicity, it's easy to use, easy to clean, the range is enough for me and I don't mind the gear spacing.

And I just really detest front derailleurs, they are dumb and clumsy. A plate that pushes against the chain until it falls up, that's not high tech, that's Neandertech.
Post #4 of 5. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 21-Oct-2016 21:24:20 GMT in reply to post #3 [1082<--1092]
Hi Irvin, that should not be the case with a perfect chain line. Whats your front rings ?
Post #5 of 5. Posted by Andy Kessler on 24-Oct-2016 11:31:10 GMT in reply to blog [0<--1106]