Consumer habits and expectations in general are changing rapidly. There is some good from this and some real challenges. In the bike industry, one of the biggest changes is growing media attention and thus interest in riders buying specialty bikes directly from the manufacturer. The most recognized brand on the market pursuing this method is Canyon Bikes. The German bike company has done a laudable job getting their product in the pro peloton, getting a lot of press and refining their process.
We get that Canyon Bikes (and other consumer direct brands) are attractive to many riders.
- They produce decent quality bikes that have been proven at the highest level.
- The owners of the company are savvy and smart people who have been in the bike industry a long-time. They are good at what they do.
- They have a cool web portal and they have a good selection of models.
- They offer many bikes at a lower price than what a similarly equipped model through a dealer network based brand offers.
This being said, Canyon is taking advantage of an infrastructure that was built upon the investment of others. Buying a Canyon makes a statement about what you value and who you value. It directly determines what services and providers will be available to you and other cyclists in the future.
We have always valued helping people make educated decisions about what and where you buy and providing insight into how the bike industry works. With this in mind, here is the reality of how dealer networks work in the bike industry and how Canyon relates.
How Dealer Networks Work
Bikes sold in bike shops consist of many competing brands. However, one thing unites all these competing brands and allows the industry and the support service structure to work for riders. That one thing is the support and creation of a bicycle dealer based model. Regardless of brand, the fact that there are bike shops across the country (and world) who sell “bike shop based brands” is what allows you to get your bike, regardless of brand, serviced just about anywhere.
With very few exceptions, bike shops depend on bike sales to exist and to offer related mechanical and fit services. If the “norm” for bike purchases becomes a consumer direct model, you will see bike shops, and their service and support, disappear. If you don’t have any need for a bike shop, you may think good riddance – there have always been some not so great bike dealers. However, if any of the following are of value to you, buying from a bike dealer is the only way to make sure that these things exist in the future.
- Independent dealer advocacy with a manufacturer in the case of a warranty or other issue.
- Being able to buy parts (cable, tube…) in a pinch.
- Bike fittings from a place that has the inventory and experience to help you set-up a bike to match your position correctly.
- Priority service from trouble shooting a finicky power meter to fixing “mystery” creaks and broken shifter cables right before your event.
- Parts inventory to support service work (tune-ups, wheel builds…) and the brands sold.
- Event support, creation and participation from shop staff.
How Consumer Direct Bikes, like Canyon, Sometimes Takes Advantage of the Bicycle Dealer Network
Brands supporting a dealer network based model are the backbone that supports the entire bike industry. Without dealer based bike brands, there would likely be no Canyon. If your thought is, “I can take my Canyon to a shop to have it serviced and fit.” You are basically saying, “I’m going to bring my own wine, beer and steak into a restaurant and have them prepare and serve it to me.” That sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? Why doesn’t it sound so ridiculous when it comes to a bicycle?
Dealer networks have reciprocity. If you bought your Cervelo in California, we’ve signed and agreed to make sure we support you and the product. We don’t do that with Canyon – Canyon hasn’t asked dealers to sell their product. Instead, their model works to eliminate the dealer from the transaction and to capitalize on the fact that a support network was built by the rest of the industry.
In the natural world, this type of activity would be labeled “parasitic”.
Where Should a Canyon Bike be Serviced?
By the owner.
Where available, Canyon’s current service partner could be used. Velofix.
While many dealers currently will service a Canyon at the moment, the day could come where the industry draws a line and says, “We only service bikes from dealer network based brands.” Why? Because shops simply won’t survive if they become nothing more than service centers for brands that they don’t sell.
Conclusions on Canyon and the State of Bicycle Retail
One thing is for sure, change will continue to happen in the bike industry and in the world in general. Retail formats and concepts that worked well just a few years may not work well in the future. Manufacturers and retailers will continue to try to create strategies to help provide what consumers want. What remains to be seen is how conscientious consumerism manifests itself. Will more people actively think about the broader implications of what and where they buy in the future or less?
Whether it be bikes, stoves or cars, if you want the services, products and support that dealer network based retailers provide, these businesses need you to voice your support by buying the brands they sell and doing business with them.