Lately I’ve been hearing rumours that some bike brands are starting to tentatively step away from the rigid one year model cycle that sees complete new ranges being launched every twelve months. To be honest I’m absolutely thrilled to hear this as I’ve long believed the one year range flip to be detrimental to retail bike businesses. Don’t get me wrong, I get as excited as the next bike nut to see new technology and new ranges - I’ve enjoyed travelling over to Eurobike in Germany and spending hours walking around looking at brands we’ll never sell, oohing and ahhing over new frame designs, new paint schemes and some new way of routing cables.
But the long lead in, post launch, of some models and the fact that the industry launches just as the Northern Hemisphere is heading into winter (generally August/September is the norm), means it can be March of the following year before some models are available. By June, if a model has been successful, it’s sold out because at that stage production of the ‘New’ model has probably already started. This has happened this year with some key models from Giant - we have phone calls almost every day now from customers all over the country trying to track down a Defy 3 or Avail 3 from the 2013 range. Explaining that the current model is now sold out for the year by June is not always an easy task.
Other factors can also play a part. The prolonged spell of bitterly cold weather during March and April this year somewhat ‘grounded’ the collective cycling community and suppressed demand for new bike purchases and upgrades to carbon by existing owners. This means most shops - including our own - are sitting on surplus stock of carbon bikes that we might have expected to be sold by now. Along comes Shimano and announces 11 Speed Ultegra, making the current stock of 10 Speed Ultegra models ‘old’ immediately. In fact Shimano’s unstoppable train of groupset upgrades across all its platforms - road, mountain and leisure - is one of the biggest problems facing the industry. No sooner have we gotten used to ‘New’ 105 than there’s an upgrade, a change of colour or a total redesign.
Cervelo (not a brand we sell) have just announced a new system of rolling launches that will see models introduced at different times and allow some models to have a longer lifespan. Trek are also heading in this direction and it makes total sense. Entry and mid level models simply do not need to be changed every year- mostly its just the paint that changes. A two year cycle would give shops - and wholesalers - the confidence to invest in more inventory, offering better continuity of supply and eliminating the fear of being left stuck with expensive unsold stock. Now we just need Specialized, Scott and Giant ( the largest producer of bikes in the world ) to follow suit and we might end up with a more sustainable model from which everybody benefits.