The Canyon Conundrum – How to Buy Your Next Bike.

The Canyon Conundrum – How to Buy Your Next Bike.

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.

About Ian

From first time riders to Olympians, Ian has helped thousands of athletes achieve their cycling and triathlon goals. Ian develops much of the Fit Werx fitting and analysis protocols and is responsible for technology training and development. He is regarded as one of the industry leaders in bicycle fitting, cycling biomechanics and bicycle geometry and design. He is dedicated to making sure the Fit Werx differences are delivered daily and provides Fit Werx with corporate direction and is responsible for uniting our staff and initiatives.

Find out more about Ian Here

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2 Responses to The Canyon Conundrum – How to Buy Your Next Bike.
  • Eric

    Hmmm, full disclosure. I don’t own a Canyon but the wife is considering picking one up to replace her Madone. I agree with your conclusion. There will be (and are) massive downstream effects at bike shops of people buying more gear/bikes online. I love my LBS and try and get all my work done there.

    That being said your “servicing Canyon” section seems a bit misguided. Some of my points are a bit tortured so I apologize ahead of time.

    1) Our cross bikes and wifes Trek were bought at LBS. They “theoretically” get free tuneups for life, but to be blunt “you get what you pay for” and they were all quickies.

    2) My road bike is a custom built frame from California. Using same logicI should buy a $700 toolbox and do all work on it myself or contact Velofix?

    3) My LBS is a vendor of A, B & C are you cheating on them if you buy brand X from a different LBS? Should you only bring that bike into a dealer of that frame?

    4) What if you don’t want a 54 or a 56cm gravel bike with disc brakes which is what they have in stock ?? A 50cm womens bike… or a 61cm road bike.

    5) Its a brave new world, when I was racing in my 20s I certainly wanted to retire and own a bike shop.. That concept scares the crap out of me now. I think you just have to floor the customers with service and not just upsell the 2019 version of something

    Ending rant… and I do like your blog BTW.

    -e

    • Ian

      Thank you for your comments Eric. They are truly appreciated.

      I think one thing that is is often not fully understood is the many different types of bike shops and bike fit studios that are out there. I wasn’t saying that you should just support your LBS. In fact, our business depends on you not always supporting your LBS; many people travel many hours (in some cases days) to work with us. There is a difference between supporting a LBS and supporting a dealer based network. There is also a difference between supporting consumer direct bike companies and supporting dealer network based bike companies. This is what the downstream effects you referred relate in the article – consumer direct brands vs. dealer network brands.

      I agree that you get what you pay for in most cases. This is why we offer a complimentary first tune-up and then minor discretionary adjustments in the future on your bike if you buy it through us. We don’t offer “free tune ups” for the very reason you infer – no one can do a good tune-up for life on a bike they sold and stay in business.

      Custom bike sales are an important part of our business. We actually played a role in the popularization of the custom bike, which then led to consumer direct builders competing with places like us directly. That could be an entire article on some of the similar implications to shops like ours if everyone buys their custom bike direct. The point is, regardless of whether it is a custom bike or a production bike, where you buys matters. Shops like us depend on your bike business to offer our mechanical, warranty and fitting services. We can only support at the level of what we sell. We have yet to figure out how to just be a service center for items bought elsewhere sustainably; we can’t afford to employ extra skilled service staff who are here just to service product we don’t carry or sell.

      I may not have done a good job explaining my point in the article regarding your third point. I was trying to say that, in the case of brands like Canyon, it is more about the model of business you are supporting than the actual dealer or your LBS. If consumers want bike dealers to be there to service bikes and stock bikes, they need to buy brands that support bike dealers and not on-line only brands.

      In the case of your fourth item, this is where we feel the industry is often backwards. You should go to a dealer who provides quality fittings and they should fit you in advance of getting your new bike. Don’t worry about what they have in-stock. Worry about whether they are good at bike fitting, bike design and bike selection and whether they offer quality brands. Get fit first. Use that information to figure out what bikes actually fit you well and then they can order a bike for you that is built to match your needs before you take delivery. The result is a bike that fits you well from the start, is the right category of bike and size. This approach also saves most riders money and time down the road, as they don’t need to make changes nearly as often, and allows us to guarantee that someone will be satisfied with their purchase. We’ve been selling bikes this way for 17 years and firmly believe that this is the right choice for giving riders the right bike and the right fit with the greatest consistency. More bike dealers are “getting” this approach as they realize that they can’t inventory everything and that they need to change their methods if they are going to provide additional value, help people get the right bike and stay out of inventory trouble.

      I agree with you completely on your fifth point.

      Thank you very much for posting your thoughts and I hope that this helps clarify the points the article was trying to make. As you said, it is a brave new world, but we do all play a role in what the future holds and we speak to that each time we pay someone for something.

      Enjoy the ride!
      Ian

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