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Mark Sanders’ keynote presentation in Taipei

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I don’t know if I mentioned it beforehand, but Mark Sanders was a keynote speaker at the Taipei Cycle Show yesterday. He spoke about his work as a bike designer, but the primary focus of his presentation was, in his words, “how alternative and universal bike design may be a help in attracting more people to bikes as transport.” Basically he talked about the idea of designing for the vast blue ocean of non-cyclist out there, a subject that many of you will remember from his guest post on Bicycle Design. According to Mark, the response to his keynote presentation was very positive… certainly news that I am glad to hear.

Carlton Reid created an online flipbook version of Mark’s Powerpoint presentation (and the same thing with the speech notes here). Whichever way you choose to view it, I recommend taking a look. It is great that Mark made this presentation to industry leaders at the show, but it is even better that it is now public for everyone to see.

You may remember that Mark was one of the jurors in the recent Bicycle Design commuter bike design competition. Some of the ideas that we discussed as a jury while reviewing the competition entries were reflected in his presentation. You will even notice renderings from a few of the finalists shown on slide 21. Pretty cool! I really appreciate the fact that Mark took this opportunity to share his perspective on the subject of transportation oriented bicycle design with the audience at the show. Let’s just hope that the industry was listening.

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  1. Ron March 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm -  Reply

    Mark Sanders is a successful person in the industry and people can learn from his way of thinking. No doubt about it.

    But more than a few times on this blog, James… the metaphor ‘Blue Ocean’ is being repeated over and over again. I do not care so much to the fact that Mark (or you) subscribe to blue ocean philosophy as much as the drawbacks of the book he referred to in his previous guest post.

    I read the Blue Ocean stragegy book and quickly dispelled it as another one of those ‘management guru’ books whose authors start out with a unique thesis, conduct some flawed research, and then make attributions about successful companies that in the end will support their ideas. Using flawed analytics to explain things post hoc, the authors will have you believe that they found the miracle solution to helping any company prosper. Then they ask you to replicate their formula for success through stupid jargon and nauseating phrasewords. Business is a complex world to be in, and its not easy..and I reckon a fair number of these guru books are geared towards people who don’t want to think on their own or are increasingly busy to sit down and take a good look at what’s happening in their company. And trust me, all it takes is one such person reading this book on a short plane ride, thinking he has all the answers. Thats all it takes to bring a company down. But the authors of the book will ofcourse, keep generating profits from book royalties, speech appearance fees, classes, tutorials what not.

    I like everything Mark is doing at the moment but I caution him against believing in false notions and trite business philosophies that appear in a new management book every year. (Ofcourse, if one management guru book had all the answers, there would hardly be a need for more. Sadly, that’s not the case.)

    Blue Ocean Strategy lies with a pile of other junk in my house..with the likes of Good to Great, Built to Last etc.

    Don’t let others do your thinking for you. Thats all I have to say.

  2. Human_amp March 19, 2009 at 7:18 pm -  Reply

    Hey Ron
    its not about the book (I only think 1st 2 chapters are worth reading) its about a brilliant metaphor that, like it of not describes the current bicycle industry – which glamorises sport, speed, sweat, and all that testosterone stuff ….. which actually puts off A LOT of folk.

    I dont think it is realistic to ‘convert’ the other 80++ percent to our religion.

    Agreed bike design is only a small part – but hey, that’s what this blog is about, bike lanes and getting to critical mass as in holland are probably more important.


  3. James March 19, 2009 at 7:25 pm -  Reply

    Ron, I haven’t read the book, but I probably could have in the time it took to read your lengthy comment. Seriously though, I am generally not a fan of trendy feel good business books either, so let’s just forget the book and the phrase for a second. The point is that the bike industry in this country IS still primarily recreation focused. Sure, the industry is changing, but there are still many bike shops (the point of the industry that end users come in contact with) that are not very welcoming to those who don’t yet ride. That is just one part of the problem, but surely you see that.

    I don’t know Ron, I don’t really think you are addressing the content of the presentation or Mark’s original post. You just seem to be off on a tangent because you didn’t like the book. No one is advocating a shift away from recreational or racing products. If anything, products for new market segments will only grow that business in the future. That is what the idea is all about.

  4. James March 19, 2009 at 7:50 pm -  Reply

    Mark, didn’t see your comment while I was typing mine.

    As much as I love the sport/racing side of cycling, I do see how it can be off putting to some. Last year, I walked into a shop (not one of my local ones) full of teenage employees talking about last weekends race, while visibly frustrated customers on the floor were being completely ignored. I like to think I was better than most, but many years ago I was one of those young bike shop employees who wanted to talk about racing all the time. A little training would go a long way in that regard, but I guess I am getting way off topic. as you stated, this blog is about bike design, so I’ll save the rest of my rambling on that subject for a more relevant post.

  5. Kiwehtin March 19, 2009 at 8:15 pm -  Reply

    This was a very good presentation! I’m letting other people know about it – thanks for putting it up!

  6. Ron March 19, 2009 at 9:23 pm -  Reply

    Mark (human_amp):

    Okay. So you didn’t read the book. My bad. But the terms originated from the book and according to the book’s definition, they are designations for competition based market (strategy, competition) vs non-competitive, uncontested, new growth opportunities.

    You use red and blue to classify the species of cyclists and behavioral patterns of both the industry and cyclists. I don’t want to pee in your soup. Agreed that this ‘Red’-‘Blue’ ocean thing is catchy primarily because its easy to visualize some basic ideas. But does your application of it describe the entire spectrum of cyclists?

    In one way, its vague, and funny. In my observation, I have seen good number of cyclists who are weekend warriors on the local race circuit but also use the bike as mode of transport or as a way to earn wages on other days of the week. How do you propose we call this bunch of cyclists? Perhaps mixing Red and Blue waters should yield us the secondary Violet and we should drown them in the Violet Ocean? But you don’t take the Violet Ocean into account in your presentation ideas so there goes a pie containing a potential market.

    As a stretch of the previous point, are you also implying that you will ignore, not innovate, and not choose to design for the Red Ocean – the typical ‘Alpha male race horse’ according to your definition? Isn’t that limiting your scope?

    Its also good to see alternative sides to a viewpoint. For example, can you say with certainty that your Strida club in Taiwan and elsewhere in the world is a Blue Ocean, which is composed of unsporty people, people who don’t admire the ‘cool’ factor, and women who don’t want to sweat it, and people who don’t care about uniforms? What if they were educated about ‘uniforms’ and made to try it and see the comfort it affords as opposed to negative outlooks? Then they might change their perceptions and you cannot call your Strida club a Blue Ocean anymore…oops.

    Bottomline is this. Here is book that is a very controversial one and a very limited explanation of markets to begin with. Second, application of its vague Blue-Red Ocean definition makes the cycling market seem like a black and white paradigm where you can confidently say that this pie of cyclists do this and this…and this pie of cyclists definitely do this. Those assumptions must be checked against observations, reactions,and people’s personal feelings..even across cultures.It may be that in America, the United Arab Emirates or Singapore for all you care, the Blue-Red concept doesn’t necessarily apply.

  7. Human_Amp March 19, 2009 at 10:53 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ron,
    well yes and no 🙂
    Yes, I condensed some complex points into an 18 minute presentation.

    I did read the blue ocean book all the way thro’ still only recommend the 1st 2 chapters but that’s not the point. The metaphor stands – just look at the numbers…

    …. the proportion of non-cyclists to cyclists, in the USA that is someting like 23m out of 300m or well under 20% (note: approx depending where statistics are taken from). And I, as you, and others feel the 80+ % are missing out on probably man’s best transport invention … the bicycle … (or human amplifier).

    So what to do ? … ‘preach’ how good it is ? ‘enthuse’ (like any hobbyist would about his/her chosen hobby/sport/past time …. or even religion ?) how great it is ? … mainly to other enthusiasts ….. and hope the 80+ % will join ‘the club’ ??

    My view is we must LISTEN more to the 80+%, see the world, and in particular our favourite means of transport, FROM another POINT OF VIEW. Listen to why they do not even think about doing what we do.
    “bicycles for enthusiasts or for people who cannot afford a car”.

    Even casual conversations with people who are not cyclists are SO illuminating, especally when you get past most people’s indifference. This is where we start to hear some home truths …. and a core, catch all word is ‘image’. I believe Many people simply want to keep their own identity, normally expresed by clothes, cars and all the subtleties of modern life. There are also obviously practical issues like safety, weather, hassle, etc. but using my 18 year old ex-cycling kid daughter, these are excuses to justify her central reason for not cycling – image: cars, wearing ‘everyday’ clothes, being and odd one out …. all the reasons society uses to stick with the crowd.

    I don’t know the answers, but I do know there is both a social and business opportunity for positive change.

    Most fascinating since my presentaion I expected the industry, (who are largely made up of typical sporty males) to pretty anti this message, (using similar points as ron). But on the contrary – they agree !, but face a double bind that most margins come from ‘red ocean’ markets, and particularly at this time of overstock, they depend on us core enthusiasts to provide much needed business, leaving little resource to push into pink thro blue oceans.

    Thanks very much for your comments,
    debate is good.

    must fly… m

  8. Rick Marland March 20, 2009 at 8:09 am -  Reply

    I found Marks slide presentation interesting and it covers most of the base requirements for bringing cycling to the masses. One of the more important points is “Image is critical”, which I totally agree with. How do you alter the perception of the masses that cycling is now “Cool” and “Approachable”.
    Take for example the Toyota Prius, this is not a pretty car, or a fast car, or really all that desirable in context of other cars available. But based on its “Green” credentials, and most important of all its celebrity backing and high profile exposure, it sold so fast that Toyota couldn’t make them fast enough. I think this will be an important factor for getting people interested in cycling, if it can make a Prius seem appealing then it can sell bikes to the masses.
    There are already some bike designs on the market like the Go-Cycle, IF-Mode and the A-bike plus others, which should be selling well and should have a much higher exposure to the non-cycling masses, but most people who aren’t interested in bicycles won’t have seen or heard of them. If the non-cycling masses don’t know something exists they won’t use it.

  9. James March 20, 2009 at 8:17 am -  Reply

    Ron said, “You use red and blue to classify the species of cyclists and behavioral patterns of both the industry and cyclists”.

    Ron, I can see your point based on the slides, but just to clarify, the data from that original post that Mark wrote came from statistics on cycling in the US from Trek. The blue section represents the roughly 160 million non-cyclists, red represents the 13 million casual and enthusiast cyclists, and a third purple section represents the 10 million who own bikes but rarely use them. Categorizing that way is fairly clear-cut; people either ride a bike or they don’t. That raw data has nothing to do with the type of riding those people do. You gave the example of a weekend warrior on the local race circuit who uses the bike as mode of transport or as a way to earn wages on other days of the week. Like anyone else who rides a bike, that person would fit into the red section of “casual and enthusiast cyclists”. As you know from reading my blog, I myself fall into many different categories or “species” as you said. I am a commuter, road racer, mountain biker, touring cyclist, etc. and I see no need to really distinguish between the different types of riding that I enjoy doing.

    The point of reaching out to new markets is to share that joy of cycling with those 160 million people (just using the numbers for the US) who do not currently ride at all. Once they start riding, they can explore all the different facets of cycling that most of us who read bike blogs already enjoy. I can’t speak for Mark, but the idea from my point of view is not to lump cyclists into categories…I see it as just the opposite. The idea is to introduce cycling to those who haven’t tried it for a variety of reasons (which is exactly why I am glad to see discussion on the subject).

    Rick, good point about exposure to the non-cycling masses. Many times I have shown bike designs like the ones you mention to some of my non-cycling friends and coworkers. They always seem surprised that they have never seen those designs anywhere. That does seem to be changing though. Interesting bike designs are getting a lot more media exposure in design publications and design websites these days. I see that spreading to mainstream sources too. Making cycling seem “cool and approachable” to the masses is a challenge, but I am pretty optimistic.

  10. Anonymous March 22, 2009 at 12:30 am -  Reply

    “Bike design may be a help in attracting more people to bikes as transport.” Duh, yeah, it’s called product development and/or market development. I like bike design, but it plays a small role in bikes-as-transport numbers when compared with infrastructure, laws, and taxes. Are Dutch bike designs really that different? What caused the bike boom last summer – new bike designs or $4/gallon gas? That said, if you asked the bike industry back in 1984 what the next big thing in bikes would be, they were probably focused on the Olympics and time trial bikes. In reality, the big new design that changed the industry came from a handful of non-industry guys in California riding fat tires on trails and dirt roads. Campagnolo dismissed mountain bikes as a fad and missed a huge opportunity. (Campy also almost missed the boat on index shifting.) Existing cyclists and new cyclists bought mountain bikes, all the bike companies developed “me too” mountain bikes, and eventually mountain bike sales surpassed road bike sales. With all respect, I think Mark Sanders is mostly out to sea. Those guys riding dirt in California were not thinking “universal” or “the other 80%,” they were thinking about what they thought was really cool and fun. The Long John bike on page 21 is not a new design. “Me too” refinement of a good design is better than a unique bad design. And while folding bikes are well represented by pictures of old and new designs, unless I missed something, there were no pictures of arguably the most innovative recent bike-as-transport design – the long tail Xtracycle cargo type. I also didn’t see any electric bikes. Folders will have their role, but cargo and electric are the next big thing.

  11. Human_Amp March 28, 2009 at 9:06 am -  Reply

    Hey Anonymous 1:30.

    Agreed Bike design (or product development and/or market development as you say) is not the only way of getting more people into cycling. (Bike friendly cities and the image of cycling amongst non-cyclists, as well as several other factors are all in the mix). But this blog IS about bike design – and to suggest that the story on bike design finished with mountain bikes, or has only a small role is rather ‘stuck in the box’ (or should I say mud 🙂 ).

    By this reckoning, Walkmans, CD’s or even MP3’s would be the last word in music listening – how could design improve these ? … this was the type of thinking about 10 years ago, a time before there was even the word ‘ipod’.

    I am not sure what the ‘next big thing is’ .. I do not like the term .. it implies a transient, non-permanent, fad. Bicycle use deserves better…. eg A paradym shift from being a hobby for enthusiasts, to being mainstream transport for all. Such a change would make the mountain bike ‘revolution’ be more like a small hill !

    I say ‘bring on’ new (or not so new) forms of bikes that help more people in their chosen lifestyle. Electric, Utility, velomobiles, folders and yes stuff that is just fun and cool ….. for all.

  12. Anonymous March 29, 2009 at 11:44 pm -  Reply

    Blue ocean observation: with hair turning silver realized need for more physical activity. Bicycling is attractive, but enthusiast bike design is challenging for 50 year old. Crank forward design allows bum to remain on seat when stopped with feet flat on ground. Blue ocean issue: enthusiast start and stop moves bum on and off seat.

    Strida design wishes: rear internal gear hub along with front dynamo hub providing power to LED light(s) and wider bum support. Likewise agree with 406 tire wish, including 2.1 inch width. Wonder if increasing length some between front and rear wheels could improve crank forward along with allowing bigger wheels and bit more weight on front tire? (while keeping easy folding design that rolls easily)

    Personally prefer varying gear ratios while trying to maintain steady cadence.

  13. MP April 4, 2009 at 11:32 am -  Reply

    In recent years there has been a tremendous shift in another specialty/consumer category: musical instruments and pro audio.

    Historically, manufacturers in the MI biz provided rich endorsement deals to to elite artists, and sold expensive product to a small but dedicated group of enthusiasts. Sound familiar? The big brands were Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Mackie, and many others.

    Recently (past ~5 to 10 years), new vendors have entered the game without big brands or big endorsement deals. Behringer, Ion, and First Act are just a few of the companies that have introduced new products to a mainstream marketplace at low price points – and grown quickly.

    There is a big debate in the MI community about whether or not these new entrants will act as “feeder brands” to build the community and grow the traditional marketplace for “high end” gear, or if these companies simply represent a fundamental shift toward lower prices and a more competitive marketplace.

    But the MI industry faces another challenge: Guitar Hero, Rockband, and soon a wave of new music “games” that appear to address a far, far, larger marketplace than any $199 or even $99 “guitar with amp” package at Target could ever reach… as far as the MI business goes, it turns out that most people are not interested in high performance – they are more interested in entertainment.

    I think there is a lesson for the cycling community in all this. Sanders is right – the cycling community stands much to gain from addressing the 80% of the marketplace that does not actively participate today. The question is: Will the major Asian manufacturers or their branded US customers recognize the opportunity to serve a much, much larger community of non-competitive consumers who are merely interested in enjoyment, rather than performance or even utility?

    These consumers shop at Walmart and Target and Costco, but the product offerings that reach them are merely watered down versions of the ‘performance’ products we find at the LBS – shocks and suspension for mountain bikes and too many complicated gears for road bikes. Plus a licensed paint job for the kids bikes (added cost, no functional value).

    What might be better would be to apply some of the observations of this blog re: universal bicycle design, simplification, cost reduction, and aesthetic innovation (evocative, though not purely functional designs) to attract a new marketplace – with easily attainable price points that still provide decent serviceability and satisfaction for the consumer.

    There is a huge opportunity out there. It’s unlikely that the incumbent brands will seize it – it’s too disruptive to their business model and margin structure. Sure, it’s conceivable that Trek could do a deal with Nintendo sooner rather than later – but unlikely. Just like Fender and Gibson watched in horror as a disruptive entrant took their lunch money…

    Unlike the MI business, the distribution pipes already exist to serve the cycling market – but the product that is offered in big box retail is merely a poor imitation of “elite” product.

    What if someone brought real design thinking to the table here? At the core of his thesis, I think Sanders is on target… the MI category has already proven it – there are more people playing Guitar Hero (and skiing, bowling, and playing tennis on the Wii) than there are new participants in the real (“non-virtual” ?) activities… cycling may not be as resistant to virtualization – and certainly not to substitution – as we like to think.

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