A new bike store on the US West Coast gave design firm Adaptive Path the chance to create an entirely unique cycle retail experience from the ground up. Henning Fischer talks us through the processes behind developing a brand new bike shop environment...

CHAIN REACTION: One giant leap for retail?

Mission Bicycle, a new San Francisco-based seller of single speed bicycles, has built a growing business around assembling single speed and fixed gear bicycles for the urban commuter.

The company began as an online business in 2008, where customers could select components and colours to add to a stock bicycle frame.

In 2009, Mission Bicycle asked design firm Adaptive Path to help create a simple retail experience that would help customers to assemble their perfect, custom bike.

The process involved interviewing cyclists to understand their needs and expectations of a custom bike retail experience. It also included clearly articulating the Mission Bicycle process in a way that aligned with cyclists’ needs and expectations. Finally, it involved sketching and generating experience concepts quickly.

Adaptive Path met with San Francisco cyclists to question them about a variety of topics such as buying a new bike, the bike shop experience and how they would describe themselves as riders. Once the team understood the role of the shop’s signage system, they began to sketch out concepts to illustrate the bike parts selection procedure.

The team divided the shop space into a series of stations to guide the customer through the process of designing a bicycle. The stations included: the frame, the wheels, the cockpit (handlebars and seat), and the drivetrain. Each section provided a bit of information to the customer as they worked their way through the space. The intention behind the guided separate spaces was to increase the customer’s comfort level within what’s usually an intimidating technical process.

To help customers understand the basic steps of building their bicycle, the team designed easy-to-understand instructions. They used jargon-free language and icons in line with Mission Bicycle’s minimal and modern brand aesthetic.

The retail space also needed wall mounted displays for the frames and wheels (these two components couldn’t be displayed on the tables due to space constraints). The team chose a museum-like presentation with small, discreet information sheets and a tiled colour selection chart.

Table displays were also a focal point of the shop space, with the light table used to display the different components for the cockpit and drivetrain. Adaptive Path designed table displays to show where on the bike components belong, what colours they come in and what’s important to consider when making a selection.

In order to tie together the different display pieces, Adaptive Path designed a Build Kit for customers to literally sketch their ideal bike, guide them through the stations, record their choices and to have a receipt. The content of the worksheet matches the stations, and the team designed it so that it can be filled out by either a staff member or a customer.

After the three-month project was completed, Mission Bicycle opened its retail shop at 766 Valencia on May 16th 2009. The shop has been an immediate sales success and has helped Mission Bicycle establish itself as a new and vibrant player in the San Francisco bicycle retail market.

You can see more online at MissionBicycle.com and http://www.adaptivepath.com/blog/category/mission-bicycle

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