Restoration Hardware and Peak Used Bikes


by Byron on Feb 21, 2011 at 3:35 PM

I was looking at a Restoration Hardware catalog and thought, bikes from NAHBS should get featured in here with the same nostalgic flare

This is the bike that reminds you of grandpa’s house or the aunt that gives you cookies.

This basket was found in a dust bin of a long-since shuttered textile factory and for this limited edition newsboy bike, we’ve found a cache of stove piping!

With props for the craftsmanship and dedication, I also wonder how bikes will grow from an enthusiastic niche with such a determined focus on the past and the old. What other industry puts so much energy into ancient designs? Gary Fisher said it to me last week in a call, “We’ve reached Peak Used Bikes.”


Could place this bike in the pages of a Restoration Hardware. This one too.

Gary was admitting there’s not much compelling about a new old bike when you can get an old bike and that old bike is far more authentic. Furthermore, there’s no growth in old bikes. Builders are just taking market share from each other; especially, when the big companies get into the urban or city bike market. Where innovation drives other markets and companies, what drives a mixte, Dutch, or cargo bike? Don’t get me wrong, as the name of this blog implies, we love the bike, but also are concerned about the lack of innovation and stagnant marketshare. In the 5 years we’ve been blogging urban cycling, we’ve yet to see anything really move the needle with a new, hit bike (that excludes racing bikes).

@bicycledesign asked recently if the bicycle industry need new ideas. Well, sure it does. Last week in @fredcast’s Spokesmen 61, I said, “Safety Bike 3000.” What I meant was we need to challenge the industry to innovate and focus on safety as a core design objective. I don’t think there’s a significant milestone in bike design since the safety bike saved people’s heads from the penny farthing.

The reason I focus on safety is people get hit by cars and die and the number one thing potential cyclists say to me is that they’re afraid to ride on the streets and wonder how I do it. You know how. So do I, but they’re still afraid. We could take a queue from the car industry, where safety is in every marketing statement they make.

Really, what does a mixte or single speed from any company offer a cyclist that a bike from a pawn shop doesn’t? Certainly nothing with built-in running lights, proximity sensors, GPS locators, or run flat tires.

Finally, if builders are going to relive and recreate the past, please do it with some marketing flair like Restoration Hardware does for yogurt bottles.

A Hungarian scientist introduced yogurt to the United States in the 1940s. It is no surprise that the Hungarians also handcrafted the perfect yogurt bottle. We rescued these hand-blown glass vessels from 60 years of retirement, giving them new purpose as vases or decorative accents for home and garden.


Swap out the word yogurt for bike and there’s a catalog from NAHBS.

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I completely agree that bike manufacturers need a new approach - something to get people fired up about buying bikes.  However, I’m not sure if there’s much in the way of safety features that’ll do the trick.  After all, the bike is pretty safe in and of itself.  The most dangerous thing about a bike is that a car may run you over.  Remove the car and you have a safe ride - remove the bike and you’re still a flattened pedestrian.

Right. What I’m looking for is a killer app or at least looking at safety as a hook. Your point Carlton Reid also made in the podcast and it’s going to take some serious re-thinking to take companies with sports marketing in their DNA. Hard to reconcile climbing this carbon wonder up hills and flying down descents with riding next to cars on crowded urban streets. In Amsterdam, who needs more safety? They’ve got more bikes than cars on the road, but here in the States it’s the opposite.

This is a very true article, and I think it is very easy to close your mind off from possible developments that we could see in the cycling world. I think we take some inspiration, or at least hope, from the motorcycle industry though. A couple of decades ago, I’m sure people just writing off motorbikes as inherently unsafe and a nothing-you-can-do-about-it kind of thing. But today we’re seeing ABS becoming standard, bike air bags, rider air bags, carbon helmets, adaptive body armour. There’s real progress taking place in an industry that it’s very easy to say is hopeless, and I think we’re facing a similar problem in bicycle industry, but obviously there’s a lot to improve!

I think the ‘killer app’ for bikes is better city planning.  I made a recommendation to the city of Tacoma back in ‘04 or so that they close the downtown proper (UWT area) off to cars and only allow bikes, skateboards and the light rail through there.  My reasoning was that nobody was moving there anyways if they take a risk and rebrand themselves for the future they may be able to stem the flow of kids graduating and moving to Seattle.  I mean c’mon, how many cities their size have as many colleges as they do within their boundaries?  It fell on deaf ears, naturally, and they continued to give away luxury condo building permits (priced similar to Seattle, an infinitely more livable city from a condo dweller/walkers perspective) like kittens, thinking it a property tax abatement for the buyer was more interesting than, dunno, things like a grocery store you can walk to.  Anyways, I’m rambling.