Friday, July 4

Clever Cycles and the emerging cargo bike market?

Clever Cycles just opened in Portland this spring selling all manner of European / Dutch style commuter and cargo bikes (via import) and already they're closing! Why? Because they underestimated demand and are running out of stock.

Yes, we’re taking a vacation in the middle of the so-called bicycling season, 28 July to 11 August. Why? Because we expect to be sold out of nearly all our most popular products! We’re out of many of them already. (Bakfietsen? Xtracycles? Child seats? Certain Bromptons, Retrovelos etc…) It’s a combination of some of our suppliers being sold out themselves, and others being simply too far away for timely resupply. Sales have exceeded our most confident hopes; thank you!

There's nothing that sucks worse then not being able to meet the demands of brisk business. For most stores this would be like doing away with the Christmas season. :(

Time to state the obvious: Nearly all Clever Cycles models are imports and that is the problem. I smell an emerging market niche opportunity here for american bike manufacturers to fill this market demand which is just starting to evolve.

Ironically while SUV and truck sales are crashing in the american car market cargo bikes, the "SUV of bikes", *may* be the next big thing.

Some solutions that are filling this category.

1) xtracycles - advantage: xtracycles can be added to most bikes / disadvantage: adding an xtracycle requires the skills and tools of your average shop mechanic.

2) baby / cargo trailers - advantage: versatility, easily added or removed from most bikes by an individual of average technical knowhow / disadvantage: trailer wheel width can make riding cumbersome on bike paths and in traffic

3) Cargo bikes - advantage: simple & stable all in one bike / disadvantages: can be costly + some 3 wheel models can be to cumbersome (wide) for city or suburban streets.

Personally I'm placing my bets on the long john design (pictured below). It's maneuverable, has a relatively simple (non patented) design that has been in existence for almost a century, is very stable as the loads sit very low, can handle very heavy loads well, and the cargo is out in front of you where you can not only see it but see over it. Best of all it rides very similar to the average american bike. Oh, and they transport one or two kids very safely, which is a big plus for young families. Not only great for weekend events, but you can go ahead and take the kids to school or daycare and then proceed with grocery shopping, errands or on to work.



Some more thoughts from clever cycles are below.

We are reluctant to present bicycling for transportation as a response to hardship, because it is a pleasure and privilege.

It's "style over speed". See my last post for more info.

But gas prices are on so many lips, we can’t pretend that they have nothing to do with this year’s blistering business. Word is that some local bike shops who sell car racks and bikes appropriate to them aren’t doing so well. Easy driving is over. Few of our customers are refugees from rising motoring costs, because we live in a city. But everything’s connected, and even urbanites have family, or friends, or enemies of friends hooked on the “freedom” of driving. Too many of them live in cities, too.

Some or our customers are extending the trend lines and seeing a near future in which utility biking is less a lifestyle preference than a key element of their own economic well-being. Others are awakening to an ethical awareness distinct from the usual environmental, quality-of-life, and political considerations of not driving: the growing scarcity of motor fuel imposes an obligation on those who don’t need it not to use it lightly. To our way of thinking, this includes most households in places designed before and without cars: places like Portland. But lots of people actually need to drive, or rather have arranged to need to quite extensively for as long as they can see. Naturally, we want our farmers to have motor fuel, and industry, and freight, and mass transit: there is a difference between enough and too much. But for mere personal or family transport, for those of you in human-scale places, not incapacitated by decades of forfeiture: reclaim the legs and lungs of your ancestors for your one and only life ON YOUR BIKE!
More info at the original post: Clever Cycles > Clever Cycles closing

See also: High Gas Prices Cause Bike Shortages in N.Y., The New York Sun

3 comments:

Scott Mizee for npGREENWAY said...

CORRECTTION

Clever Cycles opened a year ago last spring. They have already celebrated over one year of successful business.

Thanks for posting the article!

Scott Mizee for npGREENWAY said...

Sorry, I should have stated what I was offering the correction for. The first line of the article is incorrect when it says:Clever Cycles just opened in Portland this spring selling all manner of European / Dutch style commuter and cargo bikes (via import) and already they're closing!

Aaron Valdez said...

I rode an old Schwinn 3-wheeler last weekend and had a blast. It's a low-speed affair but you've got a basket for groceries and it's super maneuverable without having to worry about falling over.

I'm not sure if we'll (Grand Rapids MI) will ever get nice bike lanes since more than half the year we're under snow. One can dream.