Back in March, I wrote about Batavus coming to the US. Elegantly constructed Dutch commuter bikes, they seemed to be priced for the commuter cyclist who wants a bit of extra style and comfort, and can afford it. They’re now being joined in this limited market by Civia. New, and even pricier, with options that include a single speed, the Shimano Alfine group, or even a Rohloff, they’re approaching the pricepoint of a competitive road or MTB race bike.
These are not commuter bikes for the masses. Not that I’m suggesting it, but we can still get from point A to point B on a sub $100 X-mart bike. Realistically though, when the price approaches $800 or more ($3,000 for the Rohloff-equipped Civia) for a “transportation” bike, the market gets smaller. And that’s fine, as long as there are people out there willing to pay the asking price.
Sure, there are economics at work here – there’s much more profit potential in a bike that sells for a grand or two than there is in a bike that sells for a couple hundred bucks. But it’s how they arrive at that price that makes me question their market research. A friend in sometimes soggy Portland confirms that there is a desire for discs on transportation bikes, but doesn’t really see the need for a carbon fiber fork. I also noticed they have proprietary fenders. That’s all well and good, but what about people that want some really fat tires? 700×32 might not cut it. Same with studs for snow.
Both brands have some really nice designs, and they certainly have appeal to commuters. Will that translate into a commercial success though? Will these bikes be bought by serious commuters that demand more performance, as well as attention, or will they go to folks that ride them once in a blue moon, then park them in the garage until they’re sold on craigslist? It’s also interesting to note many of the major brands are offering up their own versions of commuters, (I’ll save that for a later post) at a much lower price.
I’m curious to see how this turns out.