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The Next 100 Years:
The Shop Owner/Mechanic's View
By Andy Wallen, aka Andy the Mechanic
If Nostradamus had ridden a bike, this is what he would have predicted for the 21st century.
I shall organize my cycling predictions into three areas: those of business, sport, and technical innovation.
They tell me that we are in the midst of outstanding economic growth. Maybe for all but those in the cycling business. It's bad and it's going to get worse. More people who got into this business are going to learn what The Bike Exchange (no relation to this site) just learned the hard way. Even with 21 stores in choice locations, you cannot sell bikes at 28% when your cost of business is near 40%, not for very long, anyway. Twenty-one stores belly up and over $8 million in unsecured credit. If a guy this big can't do it, how on earth can the smaller shops expect to?
Schwinn will continue to be sold every five years, and eventually wind up back in the hands of the Schwinn family, who will bring back 40 pound frames with Schwinn approved parts, for twice as much money as a lightweight, Shimano equipped Taiwan bike. This marketing scheme will replace the obnoxious, offensive ads that the previous two buyers have employed.
Bike.com will actually start selling stuff. By then, everyone will have forgotten who Lance Armstrong is, and will have tired of this e-commerce thing, but Bike.com pushes on.
Americans will continue to slip in the racing world, in spite of Lance Armstrong's tour triumph. I hate to break it to you, but Lance did not race Ulrich or Pantani in 1999. Most people in this country have no idea what the tour, or any other big race is all about. Our kids are overweight Playstation addicts and it's not safe to let them ride to the playground, so consequently, the bike industry and America's hope to be competitive in bike racing suffers. Lance was accused of doping because he used a cortisone butt cream, and we let athletes in this country get away with cocaine, steroid, and butt cream abuse, and pay them individually more than an entire European team. What can you expect? For every Will Frishorn or Floyd Landis, there are 10 Daryl Strawberrys.
Downhill will evolve into Mad Max DH, where lances and spears will be added to 12-inch travel, 90-pound motorless motorcycles, and body armor will be just that.
UCI will continue to stifle equipment choices, which will greatly enhance the new Schwinn's 40-pound racing bike sales. Still unable to detect EPO, the UCI will enforce a 35% hematocrit limit, providing new opportunities for anemic athletes. By 2006, they will will have developed an extremely accurate test for butt cream.
UCI will press on with enforcing weight limits, archaic frame designs, 36-spoke wheels, etc., but this is America, and we don't care. I (seriously) believe that full suspension will develop to the point that top roadies will embrace it. We are very close to eliminating the weight penalty, and the handling advantages for both road and mountain bikes are undeniable. I think that we'll also see increased travel in lighter weight packages on cross country bikes. I think it's possible to develop a chainless "plasma drive" bike with infinite gear choices. (I really don't know what plasma is, but I like the sound of it). In the near future, the Shimano Auto D idea of computer controlled automatic shifting should become more widely accepted and available. Somebody ought to put auto D on a recumbent.
By the way, I think recumbents will become almost common within five years, as bicycling rag will do another impotence horror story that proves that holy saddles are actually worse on those male parts than traditional ones.
Strange and useless products will continue. Just when you thought the screwy crank (biopace, or powercam) was dead, even as I write this, a company is pushing the benefits of a crank mechanism that allows you to go forward by pedaling backwards. I think we all should have one of these. If any of these predictions come true, I think I'll get out of the business and open my own psychic hotline.
Happy new year!
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