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Bikes from CB2

Commuter 24 1050

CB2, the younger, hipper sister store of Crate and Barrel, is the latest housewares and furniture retailer to jump into the bicycle business. Their first two bikes are ‘omafiets’ style and were created in collaboration with Republic bikes (the same company that Urban Outfitters teamed up with for their bike offerings last year). I kind of like the way these new CB2 bikes look with the custom bright yellow (at least when they are new) Kenda balloon tires and red accents on a traditional glossy grey frame. The Abuela (women’s model) features a skirt guard and front and rear racks, while the men’s Abuelo model has only a rear rack. Both bikes include bells, fenders, kickstands, and 3-speed Nexus drivetrains with chainguards.

I am curious to hear what some of you think of fashion and home décor retailers dabbling in the bike business like this. Personally, I am happy to see new channels of distribution for bikes. With their physical stores and online presence, CB2 is probably reaching many people who would never think to walk into a bike shop. If some of those people decide to buy bikes while they are browsing for new patio furniture… that is a good thing. I don’t really see this as direct competition for local bike shops, and perhaps some of those shops will benefit when it comes time to service these bikes, or when these new bicyclists decide that it is time for an upgrade. But enough from me…tell me what you think about bikes from places like CB2 and Urban Outfitters.

Speaking of bikes and décor, I want to point out Beg Bicycles, which I found via a recent Design Sponge post. In addition to nice traditional bikes, they make baskets and some really nice leather accessories. They have a blog too, so check it out and follow along.

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  1. Richard Masoner March 29, 2011 at 6:29 pm -  Reply

    There’s something really really weird to me about targeting a young demographic with bikes called “grandma” and “grandpa” (in Spanish).

    • Nick F March 29, 2011 at 11:33 pm -  Reply

      The dutch bikes these are styled after traditionally have names meaning the same thing (in Dutch.)

  2. Impossibly Stupid March 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm -  Reply

    My only question is whether or not they’re designed more for riding or for looking at. I prefer the stylings/customization options the UO offerings have, from a purely visual perspective. These seem like nice enough $500 bikes, but I don’t think I’ve seen a surge of “pretty” bikes on the streets. It really comes across as just something hipsters might decorate their apartments with to look green/active/trendy.

    • Nick F March 29, 2011 at 11:53 pm -  Reply

      I think most genres of cycling have a long history of being designed to be looked at as much as to be ridden… it hardly seems fair to call out these bikes.

      Unless you think dozens of man-hours spent carving lugs and polishing chrome means most italian steel frames are just for decoration as well?

      • Impossibly Stupid March 30, 2011 at 10:25 am -  Reply

        The difference being, of course, that people still ride those old bikes. Masterfully crafted, yes, but they were built to ride. I’m simply questioning if this kind of “commodity style” has any real utility, or whether they’re mostly form without function. I doubt I’ll see people riding these specific models in 20 years, because people don’t seem to be riding them today.

        • Nick F March 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm -  Reply

          The same thing can be said of the department store bikes that knocked off Raleigh 3-speeds in the 70’s ( Free Spirit, Western Flyer… etc…) They were, without a doubt, commodity “me-too” bikes, but nonetheless as a bike mechanic in NYC I’ve serviced more of those in the past year than I care to count.

          I’m not saying those, or these, are great bikes, but they fill a (very large) niche that certainly gateways people into cycling and cycling advocacy. Dismissing them because they have questionable authenticity seems a little elitist and close minded, particularly considering that these frames were probably build in the same factory in Changzhou as many other companies’ bikes that you wouldn’t even consider passing judgement on.

          Like it or not, a mediocre bicycle is an easy thing to make and a hard thing to destroy- I’d put money down that 20 years from now CB2 “me-too dutchies” will be bought and sold by trans-genic hipsters using neurally-embedded quantum computers to find each other on craigslist.

          Alright, maybe I wouldn’t be that specific with my bet.

          • Impossibly Stupid April 1, 2011 at 6:02 pm -  Reply

            I’m not being dismissive, but simply realistic. As I said, these seem like fine additions to the sub-$500 market, but that doesn’t mean people will buy them, and it doesn’t mean people will ride them. I’ll believe your viewpoint when I start seeing these yellow-tired beasts appearing in bike racks.

  3. skeptical March 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm -  Reply

    I think it’s great, though I wish the hip couple in the picture were wearing helmets.

    • nicolas March 30, 2011 at 4:54 am -  Reply

      Superb trolling. Almost fell for it.

      • skeptical March 30, 2011 at 9:48 pm -  Reply


        • nicolas March 31, 2011 at 4:21 am -  Reply

          There are a million other bike blogs out there where you can go start the helmet debate for the billionth time. Please do.

          • James Thomas March 31, 2011 at 9:15 am -  Reply

            Be nice, Nicolas. I have no problem with skeptical’s comment…and I certainly wouldn’t call it trolling. He is simply making a comment on the choice that CB2 made to picture models without helmets. I personally have no problem with people riding without helmets if they choose to, but all opinions are welcome here, and it is relevant to the way they have chosen to market the bikes.

            • nicolas April 1, 2011 at 3:47 am - 

              OK, let me reboot here (I apologise for being aggressive – I just don’t like “HELMET!!!11” to be injected into everything we ever talk about on bike blogs): let’s forget the substance of the helmet debate for a second, as skeptic and I obviously disagree there. This is not about “helmet choice” or whatever. Your post was about the possibilities for developing bike ownership and ridership offered by different bikes being sold through different retail channels. I don’t need to tell you about the blue ocean thing; those bikes are blue-ocean-focused. I think that’s great for bike culture, and probably good for the brand. Honda selling motorbikes at Sears and launching their famous “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign is an obvious point of reference here :
              So my point is this: getting regular people to buy those bikes and ride them, i.e. putting more asses on more saddles more often, won’t happen if the people on the promo pictures wear helmets. To me, that’s the end game for bike advocates. I would personally be disappointed if they’d put helmets on their models, and I couldn’t really rationalise it. What do you guys think?

  4. Nick F March 29, 2011 at 11:46 pm -  Reply

    I think the color scheme is kind of awful… McDonalds, anyone? Really, as a business strategy, it seems like somewhat of a risky move to do an initial offering of bikes in such specific colors.

    Nonetheless I too agree that it’s probably a good thing overall to have bigger stores selling decent bikes to a market that is likely unreachable through traditional bike shops.

  5. David H March 30, 2011 at 2:59 am -  Reply

    That picture was on the cover of the CB2 catalog that came in the mail–it definitely caught my eyes. As for the color scheme, it works well for the spring season and it matches the rest of the colors that CB2 is rolling out. They usually do bright, sunny colors for spring (lime green, yellow, light blue, etc.). I love it when new bikes show up in unexpected retailers–even if they are just rebranded or minimally customized. J.Crew’s men shop in NYC had a custom bike in the window, and so did the Equinox gyms. Most important, if a store put in nice touches in the bike’s design, it makes their other products just that much cooler.

  6. Mick Allan March 30, 2011 at 5:35 am -  Reply

    Two recent industry surveys here in the UK identified ‘retro’ bikes as one of the fastest growing sectors. As cycling increases in our major cities it shouldn’t surprise anyone that other retailers, even those with no previous association with cycling, want to cash in on the sales boom. As an industry are we happy for bikes – roadgoing vehicles – to be assembled by people with no training? What happens when a poorly assembled bicycle fails? Who’s going to fix it when it breaks? The girl who dresses the manekin? These people aren’t selling bikes because they believe in bikes but to make a fast buck. And the people who will suffer will be their own customers.

    • Matt March 30, 2011 at 10:28 am -  Reply

      When a seam rips in a piece of clothing, you don’t take it back to J Crew (or wherever you bought it) to fix – you take it to a tailor. When a bike sold by C&B has something wrong, people will take it to a LBS.

      In terms of “assembled by people with no training”… these bikes don’t look that complicated, so there’s not too much to screw up really badly (ie in a way that would be dangerous). Compare this to a Walmart/Target/other big-box store where the bikes have “shocks,” 21-27 speed drivetrains, disc brakes, etc – and are still often as not assembled by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

      Is this ideal? Probably not – but it’s no worse than what many other stores are already doing, and it’s portraying bikes-for-transportation in a positive light. I say that’s a good thing.

      • Mick Allan March 30, 2011 at 11:05 am -  Reply

        I think bikes should be assembled to an internationally accepted standard by people with recognized qualifications. The problem with bikes-in-boxes is that they actually damage millions of people’s perception not of cheap bikes but of cycling. Ride a poorly assembled BSO from a supermarket and you’ll come to the entirely logical conclusion that cycling is slow and incomfortable, that the brakes don’t work and the tyres don’t stay inflated.

  7. Johann Rissik March 30, 2011 at 11:51 am -  Reply

    If the bikes are being bought to ride then great.

    If they are being bought as fashion accessories then it’s consumerism and that sucks just like any other consumerism, bikes or not.

  8. Don Stevenson March 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm -  Reply

    I see this trend as an indication that the retail bike industry has allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the challenge. If these new outlets succeed, then the challenge becomes a threat. If they fail, then retailers may have little motivation to change, although there is the new boutiquey, third-place-style model such as Adeline Adeline and Mellow Johnny’s. When new outlets try bikes, they almost have to do so with a new model, since brands need to protect perceived value. Along these lines, I wonder why Specialized/Globe isn’t being more aggressive, although it is only March.

  9. greenobike March 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm -  Reply

    Uh, no, and I don’t think bike shops should start selling whatever crap CB2 sells either.

  10. Human_Amplifier March 31, 2011 at 8:01 am -  Reply

    Just back from a w/e in Amsterdam and Omafiets (and Opafiets – geddit 🙂 are used by EVERYONE (male, female, young & old). Notably, and a fairly recent trend, by the achingly fashionable Dutch. Omafiets have re-emerged as THE bikes to ride. .. my last trip there was about 5 years ago and there were a few mountain bikes on the streets – these seem to have largely disappeared.

    Also it is myth that Holland is completely flat – there are quite steep hills over every canal junction in Amsterdam. ‘dammers who have ALL ridden bikes since they could walk, just apply subtle speed and pedal pressure – and appear to just glide up and down these small hills. NOTE: no-one races – like runners amongst pedestrians, it is seen as impolite.

    For more pix of all this see the excellent amsterdamize’s pictures:

    I have seen the future of cities – it is transport by bicycle, in silence and it is SO civilised.

  11. Todd Edelman April 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm -  Reply

    What will a Crate & Barrel person know about how to fit a bicycle, possibly do a saddle swap, etc. Much better would for stores likes these (and others) to take their good intentions to the closest LBS and ask for some bikes and suitable signage for their displays with mannequins, etc. Interested shoppers would see the recommendations and walk on over to the stop.

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