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  • Writer's pictureMo Awesome

The Bike Industry is Dying a Slow Death. How Do We Save It?

The bike industry has been losing its soul for the last few years and it shows. The excitement around new model releases is waning and the buzz that once was around the launch of a new bike seems to be shrinking with every release. People don’t seem to get excited like they once did when a spy shot comes out of a new bike, or a leak pops up on the geo chart of a future model. Non e-bikes seem to be most affected here, something that the industry most likely is taking notes on. 



And maybe they have a reason to not get excited? Afterall, it seems like companies are celebrating 37 lbs enduro bike weights and jamming as many batteries as possible into one bike set up. Shimano is trying to convince people that we need automatic shifting, while Sram has you convinced that you shouldn't know anything about the mechanical operations of a derailleur. Rock Shox and Fox seem to be competing in a race to see who can pre-program suspension to take all of the guesswork out of suspension setup, allowing you to simply hop on your new bike and hit the trails. Plug and play is the new normal, taking any sense of  connection one has with their own bike and throwing it out the window, replacing it with an emptiness that is marketing. 


Fezzari la sal peak enduro bike
The reason I fell in love with mountain biking. A simple escape into nature!

E-bikes have shown they are here to stay and more people are seeing what the bike industry wants us to see. You no longer have to pay to play, well metaphorically that is at least. Now you can pay physically at the bike shop for a machine that gives you the ability to skip the grueling part about riding. My thoughts on E-bikes are still mixed, I see a lot of the advantages, especially for those with kids and limited time to get out on the trails, or those with ailments preventing them from getting out there. But we have to ask ourselves, are these the reasons e-bikes have become the priority of most bike companies and is the most crucial reason mountain biking was created being butchered with each watt of power electrically added to your bike? 


And who is calling any of this out? With the line between advertising relationships and saying your true opinion being blurred at most media companies, where does the responsibility to call out the bike industry lie? Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand advertising relationships are a crucial part of a successful business, and as someone who lives in a country that is home to small business success, I am 100% for it. However, as someone who also used to look forward to reading bike reviews, it's hard to ignore that some bike reviews now seem like a regurgitation of model specs, mixed with an over-analysis of graphs and charts. Sell me the bike, that's what I want you to do. I want to read a review and be stoked by the time I get to the conclusion that this is the right bike for me. Why does it feel like there's an emptiness in some of these reviews that I can't help but feel is attributed to a need to not rock the boat? Tell me how you really feel even if it's in a professional way to maintain a relationship. Sell me the bike or call out those that need to be called out, because if not you then who? 


This week Apple released the Apple Vision Pro. Virtual goggles that allow you to go about your day to day with 24/7 access to a virtual world to help you live your life. Afterall, without technology how could you survive? Is this the new normal we want? Or is this the new normal we are being sold? 


The same question can be asked to the bike industry. Why are you doing this? Why does it seem like the most freeing aspect of the sport, a simple machine with 2 wheels and some suspension, needs to be so complex? Don’t get me wrong, I love modern day suspension, geo, and material technology. But when the things that make our sport so special begin to be taken away, I have a serious issue with that. Mountain biking was created to be an escape from the real world and it seems like the bike industry is hell bent on bringing the real world with you on your ride. I don’t want to skip climbing, I want to suffer up a hill and reap the rewards at the top. I want to set my own derailleur so that when it breaks down in the back country I can fix it myself, and not have to rely on big brother SRAM to send me the most recent update to install so that I can get out of there. I want to know how my suspension works so that I can be more in tune with my bike. 


Now you might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with the bike industry? Well like I mentioned, the bike industry seems to be dying a slow death and I think one of the things expediting this is the lack of connection people are starting to have to their bike. It took me years to figure out how suspension works and while I'm also a bit ashamed to admit it, it also took close to the same amount of time for me to fully understand how to set up my derailleur. But when I learned both of those things, I felt so connected with the sport of mountain biking. The same can be said for all of the adventure rides I have been on. It took me so long to be able to do my first 10k feet of elevation in a single ride. So many times I had tried and failed, but when I finally got it, once again the passion I had for the sport grew. And the feeling of connection and excitement to the sport is something that is going to keep me mountain biking for many years to come, it's become who I am. 


However when you take that connection people have to their bike away, and instead you simplify everything for them so that the process is pay then play, you are killing that connection. You are cheating that person out of an experience that would have made mountain biking a deeper part of their life. Sure you might get a few quick sales from the turn key approach to mountain biking, but at what point do we put our apple vision pro goggles on, turn on the wind machine, and hop on our virtual mountain bike and call it a day? 


Now I don't want to end on a doomsday note. There is still hope for the bike industry and the sport of mountain biking. Pivot Cycles just released the new Switchblade and contrary to what most people seem to think they should do, they kept superboost. Clearly they feel passionately enough about it being necessary that they are not changing their minds, but rather doing things their way, and I respect that. Enve, with a customer base that is most likely to be able to afford a $15,000 e-bike doesn't have an ebike in their lineup at all. In fact they are jumping into the Tour de France with their Made in the USA Mele. The Radavist is doing insanely cool things for a media company, reviewing bikes I never even knew existed and they emit a stoke unlike anything else out there on their website. And after talking to quite a few bike brands, I'm stoked to share that it seems like 2024 is going to be a big year for the sport of mountain biking, with a lot of companies slowly getting back to their roots. 


So will the bike industry die? I hope not, because Apple Vision Pro goggles are $4000 and look insanely dumb.


-Mo Awesome



2 Comments


Kyle S
Kyle S
Feb 29

I could not agree more with this article. Well said, Mo! I have worked at a bike shop for the last 18 months, after switching career paths at age 30. My analysis of the industry is pretty well summarized here. And for crying out loud, could we PLEASE still get an XO mechanical build with Ultimate or Factory suspension?? Lol

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paquintan
Feb 12

Love 'em both emtb and mtb!

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