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Was BTW day, now why recumbents aren't more common

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Old May 16th 11, 04:22 AM posted to rec.bicycles.tech,ba.bicycles,alt.rec.bicycles.recumbent
Tºm Shermªn™ °_°[_2_]
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Default Was BTW day, now why recumbents aren't more common

On 5/15/2011 9:55 PM, Mike Jacoubowsky wrote:
wrote in message
On 5/13/2011 4:59 AM, Duane Hebert wrote:

But there is a trend in Montreal that is starting to concern me. I
for a rec ride yesterday morning and in 2 hours I actually saw 3
Now I'm nervous.

Wow, must be a Canadian thing, like poutine. Recumbents have become
rarer and rarer in the U.S.. It was a cute fad, but the disadvantages
of recumbents, especially for vehicular cycling, are so overwhelming
that most of the owners went back to regular bikes. This caused
recumbent manufacturers to go out of business. Recumbents are great
for long distance touring, with several key advantages, but you see
fewer and fewer commuters using them.

Recumbents have a legit place in the world, and it's a larger place than
they currently occupy. The problem is that they're different. Different
enough that the typical bike shop has a tough time understanding them.

Or in many cases, wanting to understand them. Especially among younger
employees who are mostly working there to get wholesale prices for their
racing activities.

No problem, you can learn. But then comes the biggest issue. The typical
recumbent customer already knows the product backward& forward. He or
she (it's almost always a he)

That is because women have trouble growing the requisite beard that is
required to properly ride a 'bent.

has researched the product and knows every
little detail. Great! Well, not for the typical salesperson, who is
intimidated by someone who knows more about a product than they do. It's
OK for the customer to know some things a salesperson doesn't; a good
salesperson will recognize an opportunity to learn and become... a
better salesperson. What a concept. Yes, we learn from our customers.
But let's say there are 10 relevant things about a particular recumbent,
and the customer understands all 10 of them and the salesperson maybe 2.
That creates a very uncomfortable situation, to say the least.

I would think it would be easy. Write down what the customer wants, and
sell him/her exactly that.

Me? I have no problem recognizing a customer who knows more about a
subject than I do, and engaging him or her on a different level (as in,
what can I learn here?). And I have no problem with referring them
elsewhere if I can't provide the solutions they need, or would provide
those solutions very inefficiently. It doesn't bother me dealing with
such people, but I've been at this game for 36 years and have
accumulated people skills and a recognition that what I don't know (and
can learn) exceeds what I already know (and can teach). That's not

This is a very long way of explaining why it's so difficult to sell a
relatively-niche product in a mainstream bike shop. Many mainstream bike
shops have tried to sell recumbents, and failed. Trek made a very nice
(especially for a first try) recumbent, the R200, but it was a disaster
because they marketed it through their mainstream dealer base, a very
tiny percentage of whom were comfortable with the product (and its

The R200 was too expensive, had the suspension on the wrong end, had too
upright a seating position and too low of a bottom bracket, and was sent
to market without the chain handling sorted out.

The last several hundred R200's were sold mail order, un-assembled, and
for about 1/3 the list price. [1]

So as much as I would like to believe that there's an inherent
commonality (and thus ability to sell) in all-things-two-wheeled,
evidence shows otherwise. Recumbents are best sold by shops specializing
in recumbents.

Indeed. I would recommend *against* a LBS selling 'bents, unless they
want to commit to the point of becoming a specialist shop.

Which leaves you with the issue that, recumbents will
never get popular until they are easy to test-ride and buy and get
serviced, but unti lthey get popular, they won't support enough shops to
sell and service them.

Another problem is that the 'bents that are easy for a 'bent newbie to
ride are typically lower performance. Those with higher performance are
also easy to ride (if designed properly) once the rider adjusts
mentally. This adjustment is often the hardest for the experienced and
skilled upright rider who tries to ride a 'bent like an upright -
relative cycling newbies often do better.

For the awkward and clumsy, 'bents are actually *easier* to ride, once
the mental adjustment is made. Starting and stopping in particular, are
much easier on a 'bent than a traditional upright.

[1] Probably not with Trek's approval, but I am not at liberty to say more.

Tºm Shermªn - 42.435731,-83.985007
I am a vehicular cyclist.

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