Importing European touring bikes to U.S. Stupid idea?



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Art Winterbauer

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Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort" bikes along the lines of
those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in the U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of
opening a small shop to import and sell a few models in a university town here. The town has
extensive biking trails and I think folks might like to have a utility bike for running errands
and the like.

Obviously, since no one is importing such bikes, I think there must be a very good reason. Any
guesses why such a venture would be foolish?

Some similarly styled bikes that reader Yannik pointed me to were:

http://www.utopia-fahrrad.de/ http://www.batavus.nl http://www.pashley.co.uk/ http://www.sparta.nl/

Being a hardened pessimist, I'm especially interested in hearing from other pessimists.

--Art
 
Art Winterbauer <[email protected]> wrote in news:[email protected]:
> Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort" bikes along the lines of
> those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in the U.S.

Here is a USA company that specializes in high quality commuting bikes: http://www.breezerbikes.com/

fyi - there's an interesting article in Bicycling Magazine this month about Joe Breeze and why these
kinds of city bikes (designed for commuting and shopping, not recreation) are much more popular in
Europe than in the USA.
 
>Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort" bikes along the lines of
>those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in the U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of
>opening a small shop to import and sell a few models in a university town here.

Trek appears to be moving into this market:

References:

http://www.bicycleretailer.com/bicycleretailer/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1775856

and

http://www.bicycleretailer.com/bicycleretailer/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1921956

Regards,

Chris Neary [email protected]

"Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Bicycling combined all the
elements I loved" - Adapted from a quotation by Charles Lindbergh
 
>Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort" bikes along the lines of
>those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in the U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of
>opening a small shop to import and sell a few models in a university town here.

Trek appears to be moving into this market:

References:

http://www.bicycleretailer.com/bicycleretailer/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1775856

and

http://www.bicycleretailer.com/bicycleretailer/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1921956

Regards,

Chris Neary [email protected]

"Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Bicycling combined all the
elements I loved" - Adapted from a quotation by Charles Lindbergh
 
x-no-archive:yes

"Art Winterbauer" > Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort" bikes
> along the lines of those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in
the
> U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of opening a small shop to import and
sell a
> few models in a university town here. The town has extensive biking trails
and I
> think folks might like to have a utility bike for running errands and the
like.
>
> Obviously, since no one is importing such bikes, I think there must be a
very
> good reason. Any guesses why such a venture would be foolish?

Bianchi has some comfort bikes in their line. Maybe other makers do, too.

Maybe you have just overlooked that comfort bikes are already here and there is no need to import
European ones.

Pat in TX
 
Art Winterbauer wrote:
> http://www.gazelle.nl http://www.utopia-fahrrad.de/ http://www.batavus.nl
> http://www.pashley.co.uk/ http://www.sparta.nl/

One of the things I'm noticing is that all of the comfort/city bikes that don't use deraileurs have
full chain cages. Why is it that we can't even get them in the U.S. when they appear to be fairly
common in Europe? They seem perfect for a utility/commuter bike. Full protection from water and dirt
is a good thing. I'm tempted to attempt an import myself.

--Bill Davidson
--
Please remove ".nospam" from my address for email replies.

I'm a 17 year veteran of usenet -- you'd think I'd be over it by now
 
>Here is a USA company that specializes in high quality commuting bikes:
>http://www.breezerbikes.com/
>

If you want pay too much for basically a cheesy cruiser type bike and support some jiker who thinks
he invented mountain biking. I'd never buy such a bike as it has a limited use. There are other
bikes that can be made to do many jobs and still be fun to ride.
 
Boy, even in a university town (where I live), I can't see many people wanting to pay, say,
$600-$900 for a 45lb tank with 5 speeds and a coaster brake that looks like something Grandpa
might ride around his condo in Florida. There are some number of old profs riding around on bikes
that look like those here, but those guys tend to buy a new bike and a new Volvo every two or
three decades.

"Art Winterbauer" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
> Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort"
bikes
> along the lines of those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in
the
> U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of opening a small shop to import and
sell a
> few models in a university town here. The town has extensive biking trails
and I
> think folks might like to have a utility bike for running errands and the
like.
>
> Obviously, since no one is importing such bikes, I think there must be a
very
> good reason. Any guesses why such a venture would be foolish?
>
> Some similarly styled bikes that reader Yannik pointed me to were:
>
> http://www.utopia-fahrrad.de/ http://www.batavus.nl http://www.pashley.co.uk/
> http://www.sparta.nl/
>
> Being a hardened pessimist, I'm especially interested in hearing from
other
> pessimists.
>
> --Art
 
Art Winterbauer wrote:

>Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort" bikes along the lines of
>those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in the U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of
>opening a small shop to import and sell a few models in a university town here. The town has
>extensive biking trails and I think folks might like to have a utility bike for running errands and
>the like.

>Obviously, since no one is importing such bikes, I think there must be a very good reason. Any
>guesses why such a venture would be foolish?

I'm not sure what the Bicycling article cited elsewhere in the thread suggests, but I think the big
reason has to do with the nature of North American cycling culture.

There's no real culture of utility cycling here. Cycling is primarily a sporting activity, like
skiing or hiking, and most cyclists in North America would rather, for utility cycling purposes,
make do with a bike designed for sporty riding (be it racing or touring) than get a purpose-built
utility bike that could be used for, say, light touring in a pinch. If this NG (along with magazines
like Bicycling) is any indication, the average American cyclist thinks nothing of putting a lot of
thought into kitting out a bike, searching out appropriate frames, wheels, tires, and (if need be)
racks, fenders, and lights. For most of the European (well, Dutch) cyclists I know, putting that
sort of thought

car without an engine, doors, or trunk.

Trent
 
On Tue, 12 Aug 2003 00:50:13 +0000, Chris Neary wrote:

>>Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort" bikes along the lines of
>>those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in the U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of
>>opening a small shop to import and sell a few models in a university town here.
>
> Trek appears to be moving into this market:
>
> References:
>
> http://www.bicycleretailer.com/bicycleretailer/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1775856
>

Villiger (the brand Trek just bought) do make fine bikes. We have two of them at home and are happy
with them.

http://www.villigerbikes.ch/modelle/defaultmodelle.htm

I don't know, however, if Trek will sell them in the US. One comment is that here these bikes
are sold fully equiped (lights, rack,...), while in the US you seem to buy "naked" bikes then
add options.

Beautiful touring bikes are also made by Koga in NL:

http://www.koga.com/uk/index.asp

Jacques
 
>Villiger (the brand Trek just bought) do make fine bikes. We have two of them at home and are happy
>with them.

>I don't know, however, if Trek will sell them in the US. One comment is that here these bikes
>are sold fully equiped (lights, rack,...), while in the US you seem to buy "naked" bikes then
>add options.

Well, if you had bothered to check the second URL and followed the reference to the Bike Gallery
site (www.bikegallery.com), you would have seen that Trek is in fact test marketing bikes equipped
just as you state.

Chris Neary [email protected]

"Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Bicycling combined all the
elements I loved" - Adapted from a quotation by Charles Lindbergh
 
> Well, if you had bothered to check the second URL and followed the reference to the Bike Gallery
> site (www.bikegallery.com), you would have seen that Trek is in fact test marketing bikes equipped
> just as you state.
>

...Ooops !
 
Chris Neary <[email protected] > wrote in message
news:<[email protected]>...
> >Villiger (the brand Trek just bought) do make fine bikes. We have two of them at home and are
> >happy with them.
>
> >I don't know, however, if Trek will sell them in the US. One comment is that here these bikes are
> >sold fully equiped (lights, rack,...), while in the US you seem to buy "naked" bikes then add
> >options.
>
> Well, if you had bothered to check the second URL and followed the reference to the Bike Gallery
> site (www.bikegallery.com), you would have seen that Trek is in fact test marketing bikes equipped
> just as you state.

I'm glad to see this. That's a great store, I bought by Burley d'lite trailer up there while on a
business trip and saved about $150 over what the Bay Area stores were charging. Knowing that shop,
I'll bet that they pushed Trek to let them try to sell these bikes in the U.S.

Too bad only ONE store in the whole country sells these Trek's which apparently are normally sold
only in the Benelux region. Adding options to naked bikes is okay--where can I buy chain guards (the
answer is nowhere).

Giant has similar bicycles that they sell only in Europe, i.e. see:

"http://www.bike-shed.com/products.php?plid=1-0-18-214"

200 UK pounds (including VAT) but lights are apparently not included. The steel model is only 165
UK pounds.

Trek is really gouging on these bikes considering the componentry and what similar bikes go for
overseas, but they have a real niche.

I looked at the Breezer, but the Nexus hub doesn't really thrill me; part of my commute is quite a
steep hill on a trail that goes under a freeway, and I want the lower gears.

I'd rather fly to the UK or Benelux to buy a bike. It's not that much more than a trip to
Portland these days, and there is no charge for a bike on the airplane internationally. The net
cost will be less!

Personally I think that there is a real market for bikes like this if they are priced only $150 or
so more than a bike without the fenders, chainguard, rack, and lights. These four options would cost
the manuafacturer about $35 in parts, but would cost the consumer about $75 even without the
chainguard. Then there is the hassle of installation for the consumer which is worth at least
another $50-75.

Has anyone added a rear rack to a "comfort bike" lately? Get out the aluminum flat bar, a saw, and a
vise to bend the aluminum, and a drill. The place where you attach the front of the rack is way too
far away to use the hardware that comes with the rack.
 
"Art Winterbauer" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
> Just how stupid is this idea? Not finding any European-styled "comfort"
bikes
> along the lines of those advertised by Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.nl) in
the
> U.S., I'm entertaining the notion of opening a small shop to import and
sell a
> few models in a university town here. The town has extensive biking trails
and I
> think folks might like to have a utility bike for running errands and the
like.
>
> Obviously, since no one is importing such bikes, I think there must be a
very
> good reason. Any guesses why such a venture would be foolish?

If too successful, the major bike companies would bury you. Trek and Giant both sell these types of
bikes in other countries, and as other posts in this thread have shown, one bike shop has somehow
gained permission from Trek to sell these models in the U.S.

But go for it. Momovelo in Berkeley does exactly what you are thinking of doing.
http://momovelo.com/bicycles.html

Meanwhile, anyone interested in a trip to Oregon or Amsterdam to buy a bike? We could make it a
group trip and get maybe get a group discount on the bikes. The airfares to Europe are
amazingly low.

I wish that one Trek shop in my area would be able to get these Trek models that The Bike
Gallery managed to be able to sell. Mike J, are you there?! There are a lot of bike commuters in
the Bay Area.
 
Art Winterbauer <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...

There are some dealers who deal in these, or similar--

Kettler has a few dealers in the States...and I was somewhat surprised to find them under "comfort
bikes" in the modell's sporting goods website <www.modells.com>.

But as many others will have noted, they will never take off. They're expensive, compared to 'plain'
bikes.....never mind that they come fully-loaded with everything needed for practical transport, but
the mass market doesn't shell out RealMoney for what it thinks of primarily as a fair=weather toy.
The sport market will shell out RealMoney for its toys--but a large proportion of these drive to
ride and wouldn't dream of actually using the bike to get around.

So that leaves...errr....

-Luigi
 
Luigi de Guzman wrote:

> Art Winterbauer <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
>
> There are some dealers who deal in these, or similar--
>
> Kettler has a few dealers in the States...and I was somewhat surprised to find them under "comfort
> bikes" in the modell's sporting goods website <www.modells.com>.
>
> But as many others will have noted, they will never take off. They're expensive, compared to
> 'plain' bikes.....never mind that they come fully-loaded with everything needed for practical
> transport, but the mass market doesn't shell out RealMoney for what it thinks of primarily as a
> fair=weather toy. The sport market will shell out RealMoney for its toys--but a large proportion
> of these drive to ride and wouldn't dream of actually using the bike to get around.
>
> So that leaves...errr....
>
> -Luigi

<grim slap of reality> that leaves... errr.... We, the Practical Cyclists Sorry Luigi, someone had
to say it. I went shopping for a fully kitted out Euro style commuter 3 years ago. Quit when I
realized it was a pointless exercise in most parts of N.A. - including the bicycle friendly city of
Vancouver in Beautiful British Columbia -(believe it, it is beautiful)

( Ilike the bike I bought though) Best regards, Bernie
 
In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] (Luigi de
Guzman) wrote:

> Art Winterbauer <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
>
> There are some dealers who deal in these, or similar--
>
> Kettler has a few dealers in the States...and I was somewhat surprised to find them under "comfort
> bikes" in the modell's sporting goods website <www.modells.com>.
>
> But as many others will have noted, they will never take off. They're expensive, compared to
> 'plain' bikes.....never mind that they come fully-loaded with everything needed for practical
> transport, but the mass market doesn't shell out RealMoney for what it thinks of primarily as a
> fair=weather toy. The sport market will shell out RealMoney for its toys--but a large proportion
> of these drive to ride and wouldn't dream of actually using the bike to get around.
>
> So that leaves...errr....

There's a definite (albeit small) commuter market, but I think this evolution is typical:

Phase I: ride what you got. Probably no rack, fenders, or lights. Most likely a rigid MTB with mild
knobbies, but could be anything from a road bike to a department-store FS. Phase II: evolved ride.
bike is probably a hardtail or rigid MTB, though a road bike is possible. Fenders, rack, and lights
are added as they become necessary. Slick tires get put on, completing a semi-permanent commuter
bike. Phase III: there is no phase III. If you've got an evolved ride, there's no great advantage to
a Euro-style city bike. You might like the tradeoff of fewer gears for a simpler 7-speed driveline,
but that's a pretty expensive trade.

--
Ryan Cousineau, [email protected] http://www.sfu.ca/~rcousine President, Fabrizio Mazzoleni Fan Club
 
"Luigi de Guzman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
> Art Winterbauer <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:<[email protected]>...
>
> There are some dealers who deal in these, or similar--
>
> Kettler has a few dealers in the States...and I was somewhat surprised to find them under "comfort
> bikes" in the modell's sporting goods website <www.modells.com>.
>
> But as many others will have noted, they will never take off. They're expensive, compared to
> 'plain' bikes.....never mind that they come fully-loaded with everything needed for practical
> transport, but the mass market doesn't shell out RealMoney for what it thinks of primarily as a
> fair=weather toy. The sport market will shell out RealMoney for its toys--but a large proportion
> of these drive to ride and wouldn't dream of actually using the bike to get around.

Yet in Europe, you can buy something like the Giant GSR Trekking bike for a very reasonable price,
165-199 pounds including VAT, which is about $200-250 without VAT. Actually the lower priced model
is a better bike since it is chromolly rather than aluminum. Fenders, rack, chainguard, are all
ther, but no light is included.

http://www.bike-shed.com/products.php?plid=1-0-18-214
http://www.bike-shed.com/products.php?plid=1-0-18-211

While the market for high end Eurobikes is indeed small, low end Eurobikes would probably sell okay;
people would feel that their getting more than what they get with a hybrid given the fenders, rack,
chainguard, all desirable features if you're not paying much for them.

Since there is little demand for this sort of bike in the U.S. the niche is served only by high
priced specialty brands rather than mass market brands. Yet if Giant exported these models to the
U.S. at comparable prices to what they charge in the U.K., they would likely be successful with
these models.

If Trek fails in their attempt to sell those Eurobikes at those prices then they'll claim that there
is no demand. But they are really charging a lot for those bikes considering the low end
componentry, the Kettler Traveller is a better deal at $1000
("http://www.giftwarehouse.com/9108.html") and it's actually pretty easy to get one. You can easily
get the price down to $850 which is still high for a Deore LX equipped bike, but still better than
the Trek T300 at a lower price.
 
"Ryan Cousineau" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...

> Phase II: evolved ride. bike is probably a hardtail or rigid MTB, though a road bike is possible.
> Fenders, rack, and lights are added as they become necessary. Slick tires get put on, completing a
> semi-permanent commuter bike.

Maybe one manufacturer could copy the auto companies and at least prep one of their hybrid bikes for
the additional equipment and offer it as an option package installed by the dealer.

i.e. Option package A, $200

Fenders Dynamo front hub Front and rear lights Chainguard Rear Rack

The problem now is that it's often not a very clean install of much of this equipment because the
frame isn't prepped for it with the proper braze-ons. You end up with funky clamps, cable ties,
wire, jury-rigged brackets, etc. I.e., I've installed rear racks on two hybrids, one Giant Cypress,
one Specialized Expedition, and in both cases the included mounting hardware was useless and I had
to fabricate my own brackets from flat aluminum bar; how many people want to deal with this?
 
"Luigi de Guzman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
> Art Winterbauer <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:<[email protected]>...
>
> There are some dealers who deal in these, or similar--
>
> Kettler has a few dealers in the States...and I was somewhat surprised to find them under "comfort
> bikes" in the modell's sporting goods website <www.modells.com>.
>
> But as many others will have noted, they will never take off. They're expensive, compared to
> 'plain' bikes.....never mind that they come fully-loaded with everything needed for practical
> transport, but the mass market doesn't shell out RealMoney for what it thinks of primarily as a
> fair=weather toy. The sport market will shell out RealMoney for its toys--but a large proportion
> of these drive to ride and wouldn't dream of actually using the bike to get around.

I looked at the website and have to disagree. They do not come with lights, so I certainly wouldn't
consider them to be fully loaded. And they certainly are expensive, at least to me. Of course, when
contemplating commuting in a true winter climate, such as Winnipeg, the thought of a thousand-dollar
bicycle is rather laughable.
 
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