Too Many 29"ers? A Counterpoint

In my last post, I shared the view held by some that the mountain bike market place has too many 29″ers. I also shared some of my views as to why it might seem that way and how the 29″er market might actually grow to some small degree from here. The post caught the attention of many, including Fisher’s and LeMond’s Brand Manager, Travis Ott. Today I present some of Travis’ thoughts on the subject of 29″ers and market saturation.

Travis doesn’t believe the market place is full of all the 29″ers it can handle. He offers this alternative: “Rather than say the 29er market is saturated, I’d say the market is maturing. You can no longer throw a big wheeled bike out there and expect a bump in sales. You need to bring something special to market.” Travis goes on to say that Fisher is working hard to do just that, pointing out the introduction of Genesis 2 geometry for 29″ers as an example.

Some commenters were curious as to the ratio of 29″er versus 26″er sales. Travis offers this viewpoint from Fisher, arguably the only company with a comprehensive line of both wheel sizes.”Right now, Fisher 29er hardtails outsell 26â€? hardtails at the $500 price point and above. For example, the $950 Cobia outsells the $820 Tassajara and $730 Piranha in terms of volume. That’s great, but it also tells me, there’s probably room for growth in full-suspension where Fisher’s HiFi 29 sales don’t approach the 26â€? HiFi sales. Will the HiFi 29 sales ever exceed 26â€? full-suspension? (I’m) Not sure, but I think we can have more parity in full suspension sales. ”

I mentioned “budget priced” 29″ers as an area that is lacking representation and that sales figures for 29″ers could be boosted in this category. Travis has this to offer on that subject:
“As the market matures I agree with you that lower price point 29er sales will grow. You have two audiences now. The 29er zealots and the 29er newbies. The 29er zealots read the book, saw the movie, got the t-shirt, and are buying their second or third (or fourth or fifth) 29er. They’ll be the ones shaping where the 29er market grows and (are) the ones we need to listen to. That said, 29ers have (hopefully) reached a point where casual mountain bikers will consider it as a viable first bike. 29â€? wheels are no longer the freak show. They’re accepted and in my opinion will help a lot of people enjoy mountain biking, especially now that we’re knocking down past objections to 29ers (slow handling, won’t fit a small rider, tire selection). So I do agree lower price points will continue to see growth. ”

Another comment we recieved yesterday was on the subject of the European 29″er market, (or lack there of!) Travis says, “I also agree with one of your readers who posted that there’s room for growth abroad. No brainer. (We) Need more 29ers in Europe.”

It would seem then that there is another way to look at the future of 29″ers. A maturing market place that requires manufacturers to step up their game in terms of what is offered in their line up is something I think we all look forward to. More and better features, handling that is dialed out of the box, and better pricing due to sharpened competition. A new focus on lower priced, entry level 29″ers and a push to market 29″ers in a better way in Europe. All things that can be done to help 29″ers not only take a valued place in mountain biking, but also increase their share in the market place as a whole.

Thanks to Travis Ott, Fisher and LeMond Brand Manager, for his opinions and participation in this forum.

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No Responses to “Too Many 29"ers? A Counterpoint”

  1. Joe Says:

    plus, cars suck and 29r’s get zero miles per gallon

  2. Maxrep Says:

    The first clue that indicates future 29er growth, is the fact the big wheeled bikes command a higher retail price than their similarly equipped 26 inch counter parts. This is only possible due to demand.

    The second surge in sales will likely come in 2008 as stores become more 29er savvy. Both bike shop owners and their employees have polished presentations when it comes to selling the old standby – 26ers, but are not necessarily as comfortable in offering the 29er option. This scenario is changing now. In store 29er selection has also been a past issue. We are now entering a time period where the general public can be introduced to 29ers on the showroom floor, with salespersons who understand the benefits of the 29er. Up until this point, online info has largely been the key factor for the growth of 29ers.

  3. rockhound Says:

    Joe,

    Zero miles per gallon? Don’t you mean infinite miles per gallon? Actually, I think someone determined that the fuel you eat worked out to be 633 miles per gallon on a bicycle.

    As for the original subject matter, I can see 29ers becoming more mainstream for those who don’t really ride off road simply because 29ers are like glorified hybrids. They’re basically “hip hybrids” in a sense.

  4. Daniel Says:

    „(We) Need more 29ers in Europe.â€? – Big words! But look at the price policy of Fisher/TREK Europe! If you convert the MSPR of the Superfly (3299 $) into Euro you will get 2.336 €! Compare that to the €-MSPR which is 3.699 € (almost 60% more expensive than in the USA!!!!????) and wonder why they don’t sell a big number of 29ers in Europe….

  5. Michael Says:

    I’m no market insider, but I am an economist who rides a 29er. It is far too early to be even slightly concerned with there being “Too many 29″ers” and “market saturation” is an unknown at this point; it couldn’t possibly be anything else.

    Economic pies, be they markets for Q-tips, 29ers or the GDP, are not and never will be static. The 29er segment of the bicycle industry is an infant. Guitar Ted refered to buyers resting in two camps, the zealots and the newbies. That comment alone should wake us up to the fact that the market is in its infancy. I’d argue we can expect a middle group to mushroom in coming years deriving from new members to the cycling community, 26er to 29er converts, riders adding to their arsenal, as well as DH’ers, roadies, weekenders and who knows else contributing to growth.

    Maxrep suggested that our LBSs will be another catalyst. Isn’t this the truth! I brought the first 29er my LBS here in Japan has ever seen (in person) and this shop is wall-to-wall high end mtb. The shop owner just got back from his yearly visit to Interbike and was pretty stoked about what he saw. He knows more about what is going on with 29ers and people here listen to what he has to say. Enthusiasm is contagious and enthusiastic customers tell their friends, co-workers, frankly anybody who’ll listen! (we’ll be able to buy some of these bikes on ebay in a couple of years with only “storage scratches” on them!

    Also, you never know when you’re going to see a shiny black Vassago hanging on the wall of some sitcom stars wall causing sales to blow through the roof. Cyclecross is taking off too, so should we anticipate marktet share assaults from our (semi) road bike counterparts? I’d argue that as cyclecross grows we’ll see more 29ers ‘in the race.’ Did Lance in his seven strokes of greatness steal from the MTB world or did he increase the size of the pie? There is no question he got more Americans than ever on a bike – all kinds of bikes. Funny thing, too, while Lance was really popular here in Japan, having a Japanese rider spend a year on Lances’ former team caused a huge spike in sales of road bikes – I was once a roadie too!

    29ers are a long ways from figuring out just what they are and where they fit in the bicycle industry and when you add some new dish to the menu, your going to attract new diners. Vassago seems to be one of those companies pushing the envelope rather than testing the waters. Their newest frame designed for shorter riders will again expand the market. How so? As in the sitcom example above, you never know where market expanding forces will come from and this will be just another alternative when couch potato Bob decides he needs a bicycle.

    For the record, I love my Jabberwocky! If you are a potential market-expander contemplating your options I highly recommend it!

  6. Captain Bob Says:

    What about this comment, “There are too many 26ers out there.” Look at a company like GT (not G-Ted). They have been out there for a long time and now finally have a pretty sweet bike line-up for 08. for 26ers. But only two 29ers? Come on. That Zazkar comes in carbon and aluminum and is so sweet but only in 26in. They have five really nice 26ers (hardtail) and two 29ers which neither of them are a real xc machine. Sure you can race anything but you know what I mean. Just my two cents.

    There are so many companies heading in the right direction but it almost makes me laugh/cry to see the companies that just flat out don’t get it. They either only offer one or two bikes and some of them do not even offer a 29er at all.

    As for shop owners…… They use to not have an option for what wheel size to offer so when a customer comes in their options were a road bike, mtb or a kids bike. Now they have two wheel sizes competing for the same market share. It’s exactly what the front and full suspension bike did to the rigid and hardtail bikes. It gave customers another option for basically the same type of terrain. Then the shops had to explain the pros and cons to the customer and hopefully they make the right decision.

  7. Kris Says:

    FWIW, GT has the Peace, a geared Peace, and the Marathon 29’er. At the current time, and considering they are only in year 2 for big wheels, I applaud them for the efforts. The Marathon is a very well spec’d dual suspension 29’er for arouns $2K! Can’t fault them for that.

  8. Matty Says:

    Counterpoint to your counterpoint though. I feel like the 29er market is saturated, but its saturated in all the same stuff, the mid level, do all mountain bike. Its that hardtail that you want gears, but it also has an EBB or slider dropouts. Its that single speed you want but it also has a hanger on it. Also with that, Its all mid level componentry, the obsenely high end, outside of going custom, is pretty much non existant outside of a small handfull of bikes. the basis of my arguement goes like this, and it potential for market growth. How many carbon 26er bikes are out there, damn near every company has one. how many carbon 29ers are out there, i can think of two, the alma and the superfly. How many pro race stocked fully’s are present in the 26er industry, again every company has one. 29ers? Im having a rough time thinking of one that comes full XO or full XTR, without going custom or building your own.

    So a pleed to companies out there, stop giving us do all, market safe bikes. Sombody, anyone do something that blows my dress up, because for the first time in my life i dont want to buy a bike after interbike and im not jazzed up about going to a bike shop to see new stuff.

    PS the team that won the national 24 hour race and and the chequamegon won it on a 29er carbon single speed. Please, introduce something like this (i know he had a geared bike with a chain tensioner on it) and restore my love gauking at cool stuff again. Carbon Singlespeed with EBB.

  9. Seve Says:

    Reply to Matty,
    Jesse won the Cheqfat on a Gary Fischer Ferrous, not the carbon bike. Not sure how he was tensioning it however, could have been a White Eno, Singleator, or even a proto GF with EBB. Check out his race report at http://www.twinsix.com. In the first couple photos, though small you can tell it’s the steel deal.

    My take on the 29er market is that it still remains the fastest growing mtb market out there. Sure there are quite a few people converting from 26 to 29 but there are also plenty of people that have kept mountain biking at arms length because they were unsure of their bike skills. With the additional stability of the bigger wheels it inspires much more confidence than previously available with the 26 inch platform. In speaking with people from different regions at the Interbike ODD, it does seem that 29’er support is still relatively regional with the midwest and east coast leading the charge. That is not to say that people aren’t riding them out west, it’s just not considered as quite a viable alternative as we do here. Looking at what people are racing on will tell you at what level 29’ers have been accepted by local crowds. Once you see the fast guys showing up with 29 inch weapons then you know that the local/regional markets are maturing. Until then, it’s going to be a small cult following of people trail riding or perhaps a second or third bike.

    29 & Single,

    Seve
    Mpls, Mn

  10. John Wm. Says:

    Matty: 29ers are relatively early in their life cycle. The market is hardly saturated. The reason that “market safe” bikes are introduced initially is that they don’t know how large the market is or will be. My first 29er had horizontal dropouts (with d. hanger), tabs and cantis, and 132.5 rear spacing. It could be set-up a zillion different ways.

    I’m still not sure how my current 29er could have been better designed — I have only ridden about 500 miles. I built my own with XTR and lots of carbon fiber — I have the bike of my dreams.

    At my bike shop here in Texas, everbody still gawks when it’s in. I’m sure this wouldn’t be the case in San Fran., Boulder, or Madison. But for the majority of the country, 29ers are new stuff. Magazine articles help, as do the trade shows.

    As more X0 and XTR bikes (with carbon bits) come in for service, they’ll realize that dollars are being left on the table. The shops will start bugging the reps and the reps will bug their bosses. If this happens enough, we’ll get our jazzed up tricksters.

  11. Kid Riemer Says:

    This is a fun one, eh?

    Random comments:

    The 29’er market is not saturated anywhere yet.

    29’ers will eventually take off across the pond in Europe. Why? Because they work well. They work well here and they’ll work well there. It will just take another year or two and some curious folks that love bikes and aren’t afraid of trying something different. They become the influencers (and yes, I know there are many in this role already!)

    There are a lot of unknowns with regard to where all of this ends up. Play along with me here as this is just a fun way to think about this:

    There is a place where people eat their food with two pieces of wood, also known as chopsticks. It has been that way for thousands of years. One day someone makes a metal fork. It cost a lot to make because they had to make some new machines to manufacture it. The metal forks don’t fit into the special chopstick holders because the chopstick holders weren’t designed for them. Everyone knows how to work the chopsticks, but the forks are new to them. They don’t know what to think. Eventually some people try them. The forks work too. Some prefer the chopsticks and some prefer the forks. Tradition says use chopsticks.

    That’s a super simple version the the introduction of the 29’er. Except that the introduction of the 29’er is far more complicated than introducing a fork into the land that uses nothing but chopsticks.

    The introduction of the 29’er needed real forks! The kind you ride. And hoops and treads and all kinds of good stuff.

    29’er zealots need to be patient. Things will continue to progress. The market will make and find its way. It has already come an incredibly long way in a pretty short time in my opinion.

    Remember to ride your bikes!
    Kid

  12. Guitar Ted Says:

    Great comments guys! Thanks for the considered and insightful opinions. So, I think it’s safe to say that the folks that are saying there are too many 29″er bikes in the marketplace either (a) don’t see the forest for the trees and/or (b) are talking about the existence of so many single speed/do it all bikes.

    It’ll be interesting to watch it all unfold as we ride our fat tired 700c wheeled rigs in the coming years.

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