Coasting the new Cruising?

Posted by chdot on April 2, 2007

RAleigh Coasting
Raleigh Coasting, photo

Unless you’re an obsessive follower of the world bike business and associated blogs, you may not have seen the words Shimano and Coasting close to each other. Shimano is well known for innovation and marketing, so there’s a whole generation of people who think that Shimano make bikes – in the same way that PCs are ‘made’ by Microsoft. Shimano makes components not bikes, Microsoft creates software not computers. (Curious factThe Apple Macintosh was nearly the Apple Bicycle.) Not since the heydays of Raleigh has any company tried to manufacture all the parts of a bike.

Shimano makes bike (and fishing) bits to make money. Over the years the company has pushed innovation and novelty, with mixed results. Some wait excitedly for the next XTR groupset, others wonder why they can’t get spares for the bike they bought not many years previously. Shimano has undoubtedly increased the frequency of occasions when ‘replace rather than repair’ is the only option.

But its business success isn’t just due to built-in-obsolescence and market dominance. Shimano has also been at the forefront of ‘growing the market’ by encouraging more people to cycle. There can be no doubt that many people who hadn’t cycled for years were pleasantly surprised by easy-to-use index gears and effective brakes. But there are still people who don’t cycle! One reason seems to be that some people want simplicity. The steady move from 10 speed to 30 geared bikes has benefited many and confused others.

As America’s Bicycle Retailer reports – “Based on about 50 interviews….consumers wanted their bikes to require zero maintenance, be practical to ride in street clothes and inexpensive” – a tall order.

One response by Shimano to this challenge is the new Coasting groupset. Shimano has teamed up with several bike manufacturers to create simple, stylish machines (so far Trek, Raleigh and Giant have produced models) and has just begun to release them in America. The initial plan was for them to be available in selected cycle friendly cities, though the recent giveaway on the Ellen DeGeneres Show may mean the strategy has changed.

It’s unlikely that any of the machines will be on sale in the UK. Part of the simplicity is a single back-pedal brake. These are common in the rest of Europe, but almost unknown here. More complex is the automatically changing three speed gear. Whether this will require “zero maintenance” remains to be seen. Nor are the first machines “inexpensive”, generally the dollar equivalent of £250 – £300. They are selling, so once again Shimano’s mix of innovation and marketing scores a hit. These bikes will definitely be ridden, (more so than many ‘traditional’ American Cruisers), and will attract people to ‘cycling’. It will be interesting to see what the result of this ‘experiment’ is, and whether those involved will take note of the words of the Trek boss, below.

There is a special web site. Heavy on Flash, light on content. Some of the entries for the 365 Days of Coasting are truly bizarre. This is the first day of the year.

LOTS of photos from

Bicycle design is likely to make a showing at the 2009 version of the Six Cities Design Festival, perhaps with a small exhibition at the Museum of Scotland.

One Response to “Coasting the new Cruising?”

  1. James Coutts said

    Like the sound of the new bikes! JC.

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