The gyms have been flooded with new recruits. Grocery stores filled with more shoppers buying fresh fruits and veggies. Crockpots have been dusted off and work fridges overflow with lunch containers from those who have resolved to make their own lunches once again. Who can blame them? There is nothing quite as intoxicating as the idea of fresh beginnings. A clean work surface upon which to build the newest, latest, and greatest version of yourself.
It’s usually at this time of year deep within the cold and damp confines of the midwestern and northeastern basements that riders stare at the walls, pounding out intervals and imagine what this new year will bring. Alliances are formed. Lunches shared as discussion of local crit domination smothers the mood like a nice thick gravy of the sort that they are no longer allowed to enjoy. I’ve seen it happen year after year. So much so that I started sharing the observation by simply repeating, “the best laid plans of December and January are but distant memories come the mid-race prime sprints of May”. To me it’s always been one of the greatest illustrations of that old boxer axiom – “everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.”
Yet without these plans of domination, hard fought victories or even mild success the winter itself can turn these otherwise normal riders into crazy and ranting middle aged men and women in lycra who are just 1 more Sweet Spot interval away from wanting to throat punch their coach. It’s our focus. It’s our Zen if you will.
While it’s pretty obvious that the last few years here at PSIMET have been spent leaving the chamois in the bag, bike at home, and with torque wrench in hand it doesn’t stop me from being burdened with the same annual migration towards reinvention. Normally these grand ideas can be quickly interrupted by emergency tire gluing for National or World Championships for cross or talk of who has jumped from which team to another team or which race isn’t returning for the new year. This time seems different though.
The industry has been going through a lot of changes. The whole market was down roughly 20% last year. The distribution system as we have grown to know it here in the US is on the precipice of complete demise. It has been known for a long time that there really isn’t much money in this industry. Continuing pressures from different global locations combined with massive improvements in logistics have proven that in order for any business in this industry to survive or thrive they must look at any means to eliminate a link in the chain. For shops this is the idea of eliminating the middle man. For Distributors – it’s eliminating the shops. For the OEMs – it’s eliminating everyone and going consumer direct.
Trek did it. Rumors are they’ve had systems ready to go for years. Giant isn’t too far behind. They invested a great amount in consumer direct systems as well. Specialized can’t be far behind either. They have all gone to concept stores and flagship stores. This is again a way to maintain their brand message and control all product making it unique and a non-commodity in their eyes thus preserving the margin.
Distributors – mainly QBP have been taking their own line. Notice how Q has bought up tons of bike brands, added warehouses in other parts of the country, had their CEO who built the company on the promise of protecting the IBDs step aside, set up offices in Taiwan to source new and proprietary product or for licensing? Ever noticed how just about every single LBS/IBD (local shop) in the country is addicted to the drug that QBP has been pushing? Ever wonder how much debt most of these shops carry with Q? I have proposed for a few years that is is every intention of QBP to in essence take over the IBD channel by assimilating shops as “Q” branded shops in exchange for some sort of debt forgiveness/concept store rollout. They will then and in addition go consumer direct on most of their product. They will no doubt also cut off any shop that doesn’t fall into line with the Borg. They will do it all while convincing the IBS that it’s in their best interest.
When I would pose that a few years back people laughed and thought I was nuts. Now they are starting to see it and I am finally having people that have worked closely with the Q organization flat out confirm it. They will be your next Performance Bicycle. Maybe through all of this there will still be a special niche for IBDs in major markets but alas I fear those days may be behind us.
So where does that leave us? We’re too small for anyone in this industry to really notice us or even to care what we think. That’s just about exactly where I want to be. I have the opportunity to build while remaining unnoticed. So with my trusty pen and journal I have spent the better part of the holidays and the new year creating the change. Creating the “new” so to speak. Planning for the domination that is to come during the upcoming season. Only in this example the training intervals to shed the fat come in the form of cleaning up the shop and pushing out old to make way for new. That’s right – it’s Garage Sale time.
Take a look at the latest listings (if they’re still there) and jump on what you can. They tend to quadruple my site traffic when I post them and they tend to go quick so if you want them you better buy them quick. Besides it gives you a nice excuse to put off that next interval for a little bit longer doesn’t it.