Finally, bikes for sale in DWR

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Look what I saw this morning when I opened my latest Design Within Reach catalog; Biomega bicycles for sale on the first two pages. Not that I was surprised. I mentioned not long ago that the DWR store in Dallas had a discussion about transportation-oriented bikes. Biomega bikes were the focus of that discussion, so that was a hint of things to come. Also, I have mentioned DWR several times on this blog. Bikes have been appearing as props more often in the catalog’s application shots lately.

When I first started receiving the DWR catalog about 7 years ago, I loved it. I ordered a lot of furniture for the exhibit work I was doing at the time and I felt like the catalog was a great design resource. Back then, I never expected to see a bike for sale along with the modern and mid century classic furniture. Lately though, I came to realize that a catalog like that would be a great channel of distribution for bikes that are targeted toward design savvy, urban consumers. In a 2005 post, I wrote this:

Marketing an expensive bicycle to people who are not bike enthusiasts would most likely require some different thinking. It would also require exploring new venues for advertising and possibly different channels of distribution (In urban markets, I can see people buying bikes in a high end contemporary furniture shop or a design oriented accessories boutique)

Yes, Biomega bikes for sale in DWR seems like a good idea to me. Whether you like their bikes or not, you have to admit that Biomega is doing a great job of catering to a market that many bike companies have ignored until recently. I wish them well with this partnership with DWR. Check out the bikes here.

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12 Comments

  1. michael April 25, 2007 at 12:24 pm -  Reply

    James,

    You make an interesting point. I think Biomega has always been caught in this Catch 22 position of having a radical product with no effective channel to reach their target demographic. The kind of person that would buy their product is exactly the kind of person that would be put of by your average bicycle retail environment. To be fair many IBD’s are getting smart to this and have bought their stores into the 21st century but they are still in a minority. The challenge now for Biomega is not to estrange their established IBD’s while still developing this new channel. It will be interestingto see how this evolves.

    Michael.

  2. Phil April 25, 2007 at 2:31 pm -  Reply

    I’m undecided on the innovativeness or importance of this, but here are some issue to consider.

    I think the two primary factors in getting non-cyclists to use a bike are (1) looks nice and (2) easy to ride. I think for most people, looks nice isn’t hard– decent lines and not ugly paint are all it takes. Easy to ride means they don’t have to fiddle with 30 gears, changing gears is simple, and they can ride in normal clothes.

    From a functional standpoint, this isn’t innovative. A shaft drive isn’t any better than a chain and a chaincase, and more expensive. Automatic shifting is probably appealing to some people, but I think this is mostly as compared to a complicated NxM gear setup, rather than a simple single chainring and 5 or 8 internal gears. Most bike shops probably can’t or won’t work on the SRAM hub if it has a problem, which I imagine would be more common than with something like a Sturmey-Archer internal hub.

    It’s also expensive for a non-cyclist. Trek’s Lime with autoshifting is about half the price. (I’m pessimistic on the autoshifting trend, since you still have to pedal it). I’m not saying it’s overpriced, since the SRAM hub and disc brakes put up the price, as does their lower-volume production. The person who might spend $1200 on a couch I think is much less likely to spend the same amount on a bike, until they’ve already ridden a lot and know the value it brings.

    Just a few things to think about.

    I also don’t actually like the design. I think oversized aluminum tubing is clunky, the disc brakes mess up the clean lines of the spokes, and the shaft drive makes it look like it’s missing something.

  3. Anonymous April 25, 2007 at 5:23 pm -  Reply

    I’m not familiar with this bike’s drive, but historically, shaft drive bikes have been a disaster. They always appeal to non bike savy people as a seemingly ‘new’ way to get rid of dirty chains. Bicycles flex, and are essentially very unprecise. A chain can accept misalignment, flex, ect ect. A shaft inside of a frame member can’t and it has proven fatal for shaft drives since the turn of the previous century. It is also heavier, more expensive to produce and to maintain.

  4. James April 26, 2007 at 11:47 am -  Reply

    Michael, you are right. It will be interesting to see how the US Biomega dealers react to this. There really aren’t all that many shops that carry the brand, so we will see. It is not too different form bike brands that sell in independent bike shops as well as major catalogs. Litespeed in Colorado Cyclist comes to mind.

    Phil, I wouldn’t call this partnership innovative (I think that word is overused these days), but I do think selling bikes in this channel is a good idea, especially for a company like Biomega. I am not sure that the price is too high for the target market. A person who spends $1200 on a couch might not buy a $1200 bike, but take a look at some of those furniture prices. Many people spend $3000 or more on couches, $350 for video ipods, etc. If the bike’s design really connects with those fairly affluent young consumers, I don’t think price will be a deterrent.

    The reason I said “Whether you like their bikes or not” in the post is because I knew the shaft drive discussion would arise. This post is more about the distribution channel than the specific product, but you and the anonymous commenter are right. Shaft drive bikes have been around since the late 1800’s without really catching on. They are no doubt more complicated and less efficient than a chain drive system. Still, I have never ridden one of these bikes, so I can’t really comment. Keep in mind that manufacturing tolerances have improved since shaft drive bikes were popular over a hundred years ago. I still like good old efficient chain drive systems, but I would like to ride one of these before discounting the idea.

  5. Anonymous April 27, 2007 at 10:31 am -  Reply

    Point taken. And I’ll also register a name here shortly so as to not be ‘anonymous’. I think the fact that they are pushing a shaft drive as per my previous comments speaks to the distribution. The frame builders forum has some interesting comments on it as well.
    Bicycle: Tool for a better future, or design tchotchke?

  6. John May 2, 2007 at 12:23 pm -  Reply

    I was also pleased to find DWR is now selling Biomegas. Previously, the nearest dealer to me in Houston was Uptown Cycles in Dallas. Now if DWR would just start selling the Mark Newson designed Biomega…

  7. Thylacine May 21, 2007 at 2:17 am -  Reply

    But again, the Biomega bikes are designer rubbish. There’s nothing radical about them and by stocking them, NOBODY is appearing 21st century, all shops that stock them will appear laughable in the worst sense because they’re not urbane, they’re not innovative, and they’re not designed to get non-riders or even those thinking about getting into the urban cycling lifestyle actually onto bikes.

    Honestly, I think the sooner designers stop drinking their own kool-aid, the better.

    And I’m saying that AS a bike designer.

  8. Charles W. Day July 9, 2007 at 9:12 pm -  Reply

    Posted by: Peter | May 14, 2007 at 02:59 PM

    I would be very cautious about buying a Biomega. My own experience has not been good, especially about Biomega honoring their 3 year warranty. Specifically, about eight months after purchasing a Biomega Copenhagen, I started to experience a grinding noise coming from the pedal crank case, where the gears connect the shaft of the pedal with the drive shaft. What I observed was a wobbling pedal shaft, because apparently either the crank case cap was improperly fitted or not tightened enough. The worst part was trying to get Biomega to honor their warranty or effectuate a remedy. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t count on obtaining any support from Biomega. The bottom line: I regret having bought a chain less bicycle, but more so a bicycle made by Biomega. Choose another manufacturer.

  9. Anonymous April 12, 2008 at 8:54 pm -  Reply

    I just test rode the Schwinn Continental Electric which looks exactly like this..but with power. So this is clearly a design mode that has reached critical mass consumption. It has me convinced this is the solution to hills that would otherwise deter well-intentioned but injured or slightly out of shape middle age folks. The shaft drive and internal hub are smooth and the thing handles like my roadbike. There is no flex whatsoever. The lower stay is very beefy and there is some extra gusseting in the frame to further dampen any weakness. For me this drive train coupled with power produces a zero-maintenance, hill-flattening and well-handling machine.

  10. bumpe April 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm -  Reply

    Thylacine’s comments are interesting in light of the fact that I, for one, am a ‘non-rider’, now completely intrigued with the notion of purchasing…a biomega copenhagen. Its remarkable design, pure and simple, is the singular point of re-introduction. I would further beg all bicycle designers to avoid trying too hard to look 21st century- design archives are a veritable graveyard of what we thought the future should look like. The biomega copenhagen design offers up the one thing we hope the future will have – clarity.

  11. Anonymous May 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm -  Reply

    Phil:
    “From a functional standpoint, this isn’t innovative.”
    Me:
    That is true as ShaftDrive bikes have been around for many years.
    Phil:
    “A shaft drive isn’t any better than a chain and a chaincase, and more expensive.”
    Me:
    Oh, yea?!? then you come over and fix my bike when the chain comes off and gets jamed in the chaincase.
    Also.. I doubt the sealed shaft will rust and lock-up like chains when stored in damp or even wet conditions!

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