Ray Keener, one of the more-thoughtful and intelligent members of the bicycle biz, wrote a piece for Bicycle Retailer that, in a nutshell, says that Lance was not good, and potentially bad, for cycling. You can read his piece here; my response is below. –Mike–
Ray: You’re a reasonable guy and I generally agree with most things you write. But in this case it appears that you decided first that Lance was bad (or at best neutral) for the industry and then searched for facts to support that belief.
For example the choice of using 2009 for *any* forward-looking comparison is suspect. 2009 was a disaster for our industry but not because of Lance or doping scandals. It was a disaster for the world economy. Maybe Boulder got by unscathed but Silicon Valley sure didn’t. And if instead of 2009 you use either 2008 or 2010 you get a very different story. How different? About 20% different!
Participation figures are more discouraging, showing a downward trend in raw numbers of “participants” but these figures as well are suspect at least as far as our part of the industry is concerned. The majority of “participants” are not cyclists; anyone who has simply ridden around the block is considered a “participant.” If we were to measure miles ridden and participation in Centuries Gran Fondos and the various benenfit rides would the story be the same? I don’t think so.
Further you ignore the wane & wan of the typical product cycle and its impact on your numbers. The mountain bike had peaked and was on a decline and I don’t think many feel Lance had much to do with the fortunes & misfortunes of that part of the market. For what it’s worth my take on Lance’s value and sales in our stores are that it was significant for the first three years and after that was a benefit spread pretty wide among road bikes in general rather than specifically Trek.
There comes a point of saturation; the message to “Buy a Trek because that’s what Lance rides” is susceptible to so many people and then they’ve bought their bikes and you get a backlash effect of “everyone’s got a Trek I want something different.” Other brands found ways to capitalize on this including different value propositions (lower pricing for a given set of components and tell people “Our bike is just as good maybe better and costs less because you’re not paying for Lance!”). We felt both of those so please before anyone assumes that a non-Trek dealer couldn’t survive because they didn’t have Lance think again. The manufacturers and IBDs are smarter than that.
But it’s obvious that Trek has received great benefit from their association with Lance and it’s equally obvious that Trek is aware that Lance is not enough. Trek has put much of their profit back into advocacy and works entirely unrelated to Lance that should have a greater effect long-term on getting those “once around the block” folk to view their bike as a serious utilitarian vehicle.
To sum up Trek did not mortgage their future through supporting Lance and it’s entirely possible that without Lance during the 2000-2005 period (industry-wide) sales could have been substantially lower than they were.
Thanks Mike Jacoubowsky Partner Chain Reaction Bicycles (Redwood City & Los Altos California… not the mail-order place in the UK)