Interbike Perspective - Industry Life Cycle

This post wasn’t really planned, but after talking with the crew, reading Kid’s take earlier in the week, and getting comments and emails about Interbike, I thought I’d share a little bit more information about the bike industry and Salsa. My hope is that you learn a little and may even grow to appreciate some of the things that we do here in Salsa land. To understand where I am going with this, you first must understand where Salsa fits in this industry. I’m going to take an incredibly simplistic view for the sake of this blog entry. I’m sure some would argue my categorization.

The bike industry is comprised of the following:

Inventors - I’m grouping all the crazy ideas here, bike or not. These are the crazy folks selling off road tandem recumbents with a detachable unicycle, off road landing parachutes that use Endomorph tires, and underwater baby joggers. You name the crazy somewhat bike related inventions and they fall in this category.

Custom Builders - These are the folks that offer true custom built bicycles to your specific needs, wants and desires.

Parts and Accessories Brands - These companies typically don’t produce bicycles or frames. They products parts, accessories and clothing. Salsa is in this category.

Specialty Brands - Tandems, recumbents, etc

BMX - I’m grouping all BMX related folks here. BMX is it’s own industry.

Small Brands - These are the folks doing some form of mass production, but in small production runs. Overall sales range from 500-5000 frames/bikes per year. Folks often call brands in this category “niche” brands. Currently, this is where Salsa fits with our frames and bikes.

Mid Size Brands - Mid size brands produce 5000+ frames per year. I don’t know the top limit here. Maybe someday I’ll find out.

Big Brands - Think Trek, Specialized, Giant etc. May offer some form of all of the above categories.

Each of these categories have a place in the bike industry. In some weird way, we all depend on each other. I’ll use the 29” wheel size as an example.

In the beginning, a 29” wheel was a crazy idea brought on by the inventors and the custom builders. I know there has been a lot of talk about who invented it, but in my mind, I credit Wes Williams of Willits because he really fits the inventor persona and early adopter profile. I like Wes too and really respect his designs. He also talked my ear off one day and I was so darn excited after talking to him, I had to try a 29er.

As with all new inventions, it takes a big leap and a big investment to get products produced. This is where the big brands come into play. They are the only ones with the capital and resources to take an idea to the masses. Fisher stepped up and differentiated themselves from the other TREK brands as well as Specialized and Giant.

Thankfully, not all folks wanted a mass produced aluminum bicycle. The custom builders had a hay day and small and mid size brands jumped at the opportunity. Parts and accessory companies started producing components targeted at this new found category.

At this point 29ers are a pretty legit category. P&A, small, mid and big brands are all producing good product in this category. Now what? Well, typically one of two things happen.

1) New inventions that start this life cycle over. Say 650b,69er or 96er. How about 32” or 36”? Lots of custom builders showing 650b bikes at Interbike.
2) Proliferation to other small, mid and big manufacturers. Heck, this year we will also see big box stores with a 29er.

Throughout this cycle, every category keeps a close eye on what the others are doing. Friday Interbike is like a who’s who of the bicycle industry. The crowds have settled. Many folks are hung over and not at the show in the morning. Everyone is checking each others stuff out. I love seeing who comes to the Salsa booth to see our latest creations, colors, style, etc. I can tell you, we see A LOT of industry folks in our booth. I’ll also be honest, we look too. Sometimes it is just friends and the tone is appreciateve and respectful. Other times its not because frankly, the industry is filled with brands and people that just aren’t that good with coming up with their own ideas.

In some cases if you have a good idea, color or concept, you can expect imitation within 12 months. I won’t name names, but this year I saw a mass produced cheap Casseroll, 1x9 29ers were everywhere, painted to match stems on mass produced bikes, and traditional panel paint jobs like we’ve been doing for the previous 3 years. I’m not saying these are total rip offs, I’m just saying that good ideas end up migrating to other brands. Good ideas are good ideas, right?

Thankfully, Salsa has managed to carve out a place in this industry and we continue to find our own little niches to exploit.

In the end, I came home from the show convinced we have more opportunity than ever. I’ll even go on record as saying that I believe we have at least one really, really good new idea for a new bike model or part that just isn’t out there…yet.

Stick with us for the next several months and you’ll see some great new stuff that we did not show at Interbike. We are intentionally not showing new stuff until it’s closer to being ready, thus giving us just a bit more time before our ideas move on.

Thanks for reading. This is my take and I’m sure some might have other perspectives of how we all interact and depend on each other. It’s just my take.

Have a great weekend. Hope everyone is enjoying the fall and riding as much as possible.

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Jason Boucher

Jason Boucher

Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.


 Fontosaurus |

Wow, you guys have really piqued my interest with the “we have at least one really, really good new idea for a new bike model or part that just isn’t out there” remark.<BR><BR>The cool thing is, it’s original new ideas like that that are what drive innovation—it seems like everything moves in cycles and then something comes along and shakes up the market and forces everyone to rethink how their existing products work.<BR><BR>Case in point, unrelated to bikes:  the iPod.  Prior to the iPod, computers were just another appliance that you used for the Internet, to have your kids do their homework on, and to play games.  Maybe balance the checkbook.  The iPod changed all that by making the computer the center of the entertainment system, and then creating a halo of related products like the iTV.  And now everyone is trying to follow suit, be it Micro$oft, to the hobbyists slaving away on Linux.<BR><BR>Great ideas change things.  I’m convinced that the idea for the 29” wheelset on an MTB probably came from cyclocross bikes, and while a 29” MTB isn’t revolutionary, it’s still pretty awesome.  I’m convinced that Trek’s OCLV carbon forced everyone to re-think what a carbon bike could be.<BR><BR>I’m hoping you guys raise the bar for everyone—first because I’m a pretty loyal Salsa customer (bought two this year!), and second because your innovation forces everyone to follow suit, and that benefits everyone that rides.

 Captain Bob |

Do I smell a Mamasita Single Speed?  <BR><BR>I hope I do.  :-)

 Jason |

I love the place you all have carved. Keep on carvin’! (would that make a good bumper sticker?) Nah.<BR><BR>Look forward to the next several months and seeing what comes out of Salsa land.<BR><BR>j

 MG |

That’s some great perspective Jason.  I like and agree with what you’re saying about the difference between innovation and imitation being at times a fine line.  <BR><BR>True originality is hard to come by when design elements, like panels, have been used, and reused, for decades.  The best you can do is to make it your own and give it the Salsa style.<BR><BR>I don’t know anything about what you’ve got coming down the pike, but I await it anxiously.  Giving your team the time to get it right before setting expectations with the marketplace is the right approach, IMHO.<BR><BR>My green El Mariachi went 1x8 tonight.  Well, it’s a derailleur cable short of being 1x8.  Tomorrow it’ll be done.<BR><BR>Have a great weekend!!<BR><BR>Cheers,<BR>MG

 Guitar Ted |

Jason, I know you know this, but I always do the same thing: Wes Williams- works at Willits. :) I get that turned around all the time.<BR><BR>Anyway, I agree with the posts here and eagerly anticipate the newest sled from Salsa-land. (No SS Mamasita, Capt. Bob! A 3” travel FS 29"er, right? ;) ) Anyway….keep up the good work guys! Recharge those batteries and we’ll be waiting patiently for the newest shiny bits that you produce whenever they appear. (Well…as patiently as we can!)

 Butcher |

Thanks GT.  Thanks for helping me out with the Willit’s thing.  It is now corrected.  <BR><BR>Regarding what’s next, I’d be happy with either of your or Captain Bob’s suggestions.

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 Joel |

I was hoping for an EBB in the Dos or Mama…..or maybe bigger wheels?  Maybe tires? <BR><BR>Please don’t do the full carbon thing….Bucher, hurry up and spill the beans!

 MG |

actually, a full carbon dos would be pretty cool… but i’d rather have a full squishy 29er first.  i need a full squishy 29er first…  please give me a full squishy 29er first!<BR><BR>does that give you any sense for the order of my priorities?<BR><BR>... but i just started dreaming about a full carbon dos, and i bet that wasn’t even joel’s intent.<BR><BR>i’m content with the el mariachi’s ebb.  it’s the only singlespeed i need…

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 Anonymous |

Here’s an idea for a great new complete bike offering from Salsa.  Salsa has always been known for making affordable, high-end frames with high-end steel.  That is why I personally own several Salsas.  However, Salsa correctly sensed that there was a market for affordable, yet good-looking and well-designed, CrMo road frames in the urban/commuter market.  Hence, Salsa offered the great Casseroll models (triple and singlespeed).  In addition to the Casseroll complete bikes, Salsa now offers Mariachi and Ala Carte complete mountain bikes.  Again a good move from Salsa.  These complete mountain bikes will likely be a hit with traditional ‘performance’ Salsa buyers like myself, who prefer the higher-end TTOXP or Reynolds 853 frames to the lower-end CrMo frames.  However, Salsa has demonstrated with the Casseroll that it is possible to make a superior CrMo offering for the ‘recreational’ type buyers who don’t require the higher-end steel.  So, my suggestion is this: in addition to the ‘performance-oriented’ Mariachi and Ala Carte, consider offering a complete Casseroll mountain bike with CrMo frame for under $1,000.  There are two caveats to this suggestion: possible cannibalization of Salsa’s higher end MTB offerings, and possible dilution of Salsa’s premium brand image.

 rick is! |

butch, that was good stuff that us non-industry types wouldn’t necessarilly think about.  can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

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 Anonymous |

good post.<BR>why i didn’t get a casserole. I looked for the Casseroll in the UK, buy via web early in the year, couldn’t find it( anyone reading - see Brixton cycles now they sell them, - real good poeple btw). I like the LBS but they are expensive, so ended up with a Surly Cross Check off ebay new at a good price. Yet I still want something more, Surly Travellers Check if they make it, I would be spending on it. Takes wide mtb and race wheels, depending on the terrain, i would like some front panniers on it too though. I’d use it as audax,all day, race and travel, the s and s couplings are all. Here in europe trains are a great way to get about but most can be tricky with bikes so s and s coupling is a way forward( folding bikes just don’t cut it for me). Would even be tempted to ask the local welders to make the rear able to take rohloff even, to save maintenance. Unless I lose the plot my a la carte will be done over for rohloff in the new year. <BR>Looking forward to the new products. You always have something very good.<BR>alex

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 Anonymous |

How about some new Salsa wool 3/4 knickers?

Homework help | December 6th, 2010

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