Some time ago, Shimano and IDEO collaborated to find out why bicycle sales dropped significantly in the US between 2000 and 2005, even though industry profits were on the rise due to sale of high-end bicycles marketed to the elites. It turned out that while technological advancements such as lighter and stiffer frames, multi-speed gear shifts, carbon fiber etc. excites the experts, they may not appeal to the average Joe (who likely doesn’t know what a dérailleur is, and does not want to find out either). While pursuing high-tech advancement in technology, the bike industry had somewhat neglected the emotional connection with the average users and the amateurs:
The Shimano/IDEO design team conducted observation-based research, revealing a series of factors that influence casual cyclists’ interest and participation: 1) A better riding experience – many adults miss the easy, joyful feel of riding a bike as a kid; 2) Product platform – a new feature set was needed, with automatic shifting and less visible mechanics; 3) The purchasing experience – independent bicycle dealers need to learn to engage with a new customer base that may include more women, amateurs, and inexperienced bikers.
Enter Trek Lime (as seen above). I thought the design was a very good job that fit the target market they were aiming at. The first look brings about a sense of nostalgia – it has a classical look/profile, not much different perhaps from what your aunt may have passed to you when you were a kid. At the same time, it retains a modern and fun image, looks absolutely easy and familiar, and yet it was given some new technological innovations and twists.
It features automatic gear shifting – not unlike those found in automatic-gear cars; the mechanical parts are all concealed within, giving a cleaner and easier-to-maintain look. The saddle doubles up as a storage compartment for your little nifties – for those small stuff you don’t want to hold while you ride, for example. The tires are puncture resistant; at the center of the tires there are little colored plastic parts – “Peelz” is their marketing name – that can be interchanged for different colors (and possibly graphics in the future).
I’m not sure how successful this would be in lifting their mass-market sales – I hope it does well, as I do really like the execution of this whole program from the research to the end-product. From the insightful research that led to the key observations and design goals (IDEO, Shimano); to the bicycle’s design execution (Trek) in assembling the necessary technological innovation and parts to meet the user’s desire, as well as the styling that in my opinion nailed the brief; right up to the website itself – a clean, simple interface, with a casually-posed bicycle that invites you to explore it. They work hand-in-hand to remind and reinforce the idea of an easy, leisurely and fun bike.
Does it evoke the same in you?