I have a bad habit of valuing anecdotal evidence more than I value data. Maybe it’s that I hew more verbal than mathematical. Maybe it’s that it’s easier to support opinions with other people stories and opinions than it is to run stats and do real analysis.
So when I tell you that road bike sales are down, that’s only partially based on the numbers I see in BRAIN. In large part I’m telling you what shop owners are telling me, and what I’m seeing in my own work.
We seem to be in what I call Second Wave Gravel, a surge in sales of dirt road, drop bar bikes at every price point. How big and how real this surge is, I don’t have good numbers on. Muddying the water further is the fact that such a large segment of the traditional road market has gone to disc brakes. To parse the data accurately, we need to know what tire sizes people are running. Yes. That’s right. We’re down to defining categories by tire size.
The story you hear to explain why road bike sales are so soft now, is that people want to get off the road. They are tired of battling with car traffic, or at least they’re tired of thinking about cars. Better to be off on a dirt road in the back end of nowhere, where you can just pedal.
What I think may be happening additionally, is that less savvy road cyclists aren’t really sure what the industry is doing with road bikes. Those who might have been thinking about an upgrade are confused about whether they should be getting a bike with disc brakes and electronic shifting, or sticking with rim brakes and mechanical gearing. All the early adopters, and there are a lot of them, adopted those technologies already, and now the second wave, who should have come in behind are hesitating, riding their bike another season or two before they commit.
I’m guessing. I don’t have data.
This week’s Group Ride asks, are you graveling? Or are you still fully and wholly committed to the road? Do you foresee a future in which you don’t own a bike with rim brakes? Are you buying now? Or are you waiting to see what shakes out?