Is the trade overlooking the emotional connection to cycling and getting bogged down in the technical specifics?

Why the bike trade should ask ‘why’, not ‘what’

Is the bike trade overlooking the emotional connection to cycling and getting bogged down in the technical specifics? David Evans of Spin PR thinks so… 

Whether you’re an Apple addict or Microsoft man, the retail environment for consumer electronics is something to behold. Who hasn’t been drawn into a store whilst their ‘significant other’ shops? These stores are basically adult crèches. The retail model behind these outlets may be incredibly sophisticated but is based on a key principle, why they want, not what they want.

A bicycle retailer will battle to consolidate stock, reduce SKUs and keep focus. A computer store may have the same laptop with possibly three permutations. The last time I was in an Apple store I counted thirty laptops on display, but only three models. Imagine an IBD with that store environment.

Whilst in that same Apple store pretending I was the next Mark Ronson I was approached by a sales person who asked me a question, “Do you work in the music industry or just a keen amateur?” Now flattery aside, this is a ground breaking question. He wasn’t asking what, he was asking why. Do I need this piece of hardware as a necessary evil for my job or as a keen hobbyist? I could have been playing on Photoshop, Quark (if it still existed) or anything, the same binary question would still have qualified me.

So how is this of interest to the cycle trade? Well, here’s the pinch: We are all so focussed on categorising what people ride we’ve stopped asking why, and it’s the emotional why that will connect with a customer rather than the empirical what.

As a cycle marketeer I ask my clients why their targets want their products, not what. Do not look to engage with your customers on a technical level, that will follow. Engage with them on an emotional level. We pigeon hole the adrenaline rider as the downhill nutter, but who’s commuted in London and not felt their heart quicken as a white van pulls alongside, and it’s the adrenaline that keeps them riding to work. A dull desk job can be livened up by a seat-of your pants commute. Equally, a mountain biker may be more interested in riding to get fitter rather than exploring and hucking.

Road or off road is better replaced with endorphin or adrenaline. Below this will sit a myriad of permutations, but it’s the why you ride, not what you ride that needs to be the question that triggers the categorisation of riders.

So we need to look at our marketing on every level. It’s evolution, not revolution but when looking at store layout, graphics, advertising or PR, the tone of voice needs to to be based on why, not what. 

At a recent media ride out for a well known cycle brand I took some heat from the client for setting a ride that was, shall we say, a bit sketchy. Now what they didn’t know (but I did) is the journalists all erred on the side of the short-sharp-shock of adrenaline rather than the miles of endorphin, despite it being a road event. So why they rode was key to giving them the experience they wanted, which gave us the coverage we crave. Surely the same should be said for finding out why customers ride, not what they ride, to make the emotional connection and shift the products.

Spin PR is a specialist marketing and PR agency serving the cycle and outdoor industry. For more information visit

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