Shimano Learns a New Language


by Byron on Feb 20, 2007 at 8:46 AM

Shimano’s coasting line is profiled in United’s Hemispheres (of all places) and provides insight into the design and development effort they went through with Ideo. I met Shannon from Shimano and Anthony from Ideo at Interbike last year and like the article, they told me people wanted to enjoy the “simple pleasure” of cycling and modern bicycles were too complicated (later, I referred to the simplicity and ecosystem trend at Interbike as iPod influenced, where products are focused on solving problems and making something easy to do).

The coasting website has been updated, dealers still not there, but there’s def more to look at.

I’m not sure where coasting fits for the enthusiasts, or if it matters, but anything that gets more people cycling is good and Bike Hugger is down with that.

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There’s a decent article on the coasting project in the new Bicycling of all places—sorry I can’t find it on their god-awful web site. I dig those IDEO folks—talk about a dream job.

Anyway, when I first read about the project, I was a little bummed. Why was Shimano diluting to soul of cycling?

Then I thought about it a little more. Cycling can be many things. More parents that Coast mean more kids who may grow up riding bikes and may become serious riders (or at least grow up less fat). In bike-crazy places like the Netherlands cycling is just something you do to get around. It’s part of the landscape. Everyone who rides benefits from a great cycling infrastructure and aware drivers (since the drivers have less hostility toward riders that we see here).

I also think the IDEO folks are on track when they address the “attitude” factor at traditional shops. To show how new riders feel in traditional shop, IDEO dropped some bike execs off at Sephoria and made them buy face cream. The experience was humbling - the execs were very out of their element and didn’t like the experience.

I’d go so far as to say the shop experience isn’t even a great one for even seasoned riders. Case in point: I was at the bike swap this weekend and had one of those experiences myself. First of all, I’m no cycling rookie—I bought my first clipless pedals (the white looks) in 1985, I’ve worked in shops, I’ve raced some, toured some, broken some bones mountain biking, even experienced the indignity that is getting kicked in the face while wearing combo swimming/cycling clothing in that three-sport event—but I can still feel threatened by a “superior” shop employee or owner.

I was asking a certain shop owner some xtracycle questions and essentially got sneering replies: “I guess you could do that”—with unspoken message: “I guess you could do that if you are an idiot.” Sigh….

I’ll cut him some slack considering he’d probably been dealing with bike geeks all day and had his game face on, however my concern is that this shop has a reputation for being THE shop for xtracycles and in general a home of the bikes as tool culture.

I think one problem with shops that get the concept that cycling can be basic transportation is that they’ve copped a new attitude to replace the old spandex one, adopting an urban, tattooed, pierced style that, while definitely more approachable to messenger wannabes than black shorts and white socks, isn’t any friendlier to new, casual cyclists.

If the coasting campaign can do anything to make things easier for these new riders, I’m all for it. It’s not going to cannibilize any existing sales—no one says “gosh, I’m either going to get this Trek coaster OR this Colnago and a pair of Sidis.”

If “real” cyclists can hold their judgment on the cheese factor of the coasting marketing campaign a little while, we might just find ourselves sharing the roads with more bikes (and fewer cars).

Not a bad thing.

So, if I understand it correctly, “Coasting” is an automatic transmission for bikes? Low maintenance, easy to operate. I suppose it’s a good idea, but are the current alternatives really that difficult to operate? If people don’t want to deal with derailleurs, there are plenty of Nexus-hubbed commuter bikes out there. Don’t get me wrong—-anything that gets people using bikes in a practical manner is a good thing.

Coasting is an approach to bikes in the design, development, and retail experience. It’s like the Apple store within a store concept for retailers. It’s an integrated system to the bike centering around make cycling easier and it’s not intended for us, but people that aren’t cyclists now, but remember what the fun they had and want to just ride.

Coasting isn’t about the drivetrain, but for people that don’t know or care what that is.