From fixies to hybrids, there’s always the right bike
Ed Luciano has been into bicycles long enough to say with authority that it’s easier nowadays to get the perfect ride.
According to the founder of Mighty Riders, bike design has improved and manufacturers are offering a wider range of models, so practically anyone looking for a bike can find a good fit.
“There’s a lot more different products out there now to do a very specific job [so] that we can tailor the selection of a bike for a customer, rather than sort of selling them one tool to do every job,” Luciano told the Georgia Straight during a morning interview at his East Broadway bicycle shop before it opened for the day.
Although Luciano is no longer the kid who decided at age 17 that selling and fixing bikes was what he wanted to do, he still exudes youthful excitement when he talks about cycling trends.
“Maybe 10 years ago, you had your mountain bike, your road bike, and then your hybrid,” he said. “Now you’ve got your eight different kinds of mountain bike—your downhill, your cross-country, all-mountain with the various wheel sizes attached. You have your racing road bike; you have your endurance road bike; you have your gravel bike; you have your touring bike. You have your regular hybrid; you have your fitness hybrid; you have your comfort hybrid. You have your fixed-gear; you have any form of single-speed.”
Luciano noted that 10 to 15 years ago, most bikes were built around racing chassis that weren’t designed with comfort in mind.
“You put up with sore shoulders and numb hands and sore backs, not really realizing that there was a solution for it,” he said. “But those solutions were harder to find back then. Now frame design is exploding, and it’s easier to get somebody more comfortable on a bicycle now than it was before.”
That could explain why people are taking bikes almost everywhere.
“More and more people are taking their bicycles on their vacations. So touring bikes are very hot,” Luciano said. “Also in the last five or six years, with the rise in events like the GranFondo, you’re seeing more and more people on road bikes. So on two levels on the road, those are really taking off.
“And, of course, the utility side—more and more people want to ride their bikes to get to work,” added the bike enthusiast, who founded Mighty Riders in 1998. “So on those three streams, more and more people are buying those bikes.”
Sales by independent bike dealers across the country reached $250 million in 2010, according to the latest figures available from the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada. A total of 357,591 bikes were sold that year, up by three percent compared to 2009.
Luciano anticipates an increasing demand for electric bikes. “I think what it is is people want to have utility, the convenience of a bicycle without necessarily having to work that hard,” he said. “There is a convenience to the motor without getting into a car or motorcycle.”
B.C. driving regulations don’t require people to have a driver’s licence, registration, or insurance to operate a motor-assisted bicycle with pedals and an electric motor of up to 500 watts. You must be at least 16 years old and wear a bicycle helmet to operate one.
Based on an estimate by Pike Research, worldwide sales of electric bicycles were expected to top more than 30 million units in 2012, with China representing 92 percent of the market. According to the international think tank, markets in North America and Latin America are struggling with a weak distribution network and modest demand.
With the spring cycling season coming, bike shops aren’t just busy stocking new inventory. They’re also preparing to transition from the harmonized-sales-tax system to the provincial sales tax and federal goods-and-services tax system, effective April 1.
When the HST was introduced in July 2010 by the B.C. Liberal government, PST-exempt items like bicycles, helmets, cycling safety equipment, and essential parts had a seven-percent provincial tax slapped on in addition to the five-percent GST.
With biking items getting back their PST exemptions, Simon Coutts of Simon’s Bike Shop on Robson Street is happy for his customers, who will be saving some money on their purchases.
“I hope people will continue to shop until April 1,” Coutts said jokingly in a phone interview with the Straight. “Seven percent goes a long way these days.”
With more people able to get the bike they want, ridership is up, and that’s good news for shops like Paul Dragan’s Reckless Bike Stores, which has two locations in Vancouver.
“We do three times the amount of business in April than we would in January, and we do five times the amount of business in July that we would in October,” Dragan told the Straight in a phone interview. “But over the years, the winter business has become better each year.”