I think it's partly weather, but also the industry itself. Keep in mind the weather has not been terrible everywhere.
There isn't much money in the industry, as ElViento pointed out, but there seems to be a growing split in pricing and availability. On one hand it seems that prices for equipment is just going higher. Not too long ago a top-tier bike would have been in the $5,000-$6,000USD range. Now it's common place to hear of pricing in the $8,000-$9,000USD range (MSRP of course). Medium or low-range bikes of decent quality have also gone up in price.
Sure there are counter arguments such as:
-the margins aren't very high, major manufacturers are simply trying to minimize their losses
-price of raw materials is high
-labor costs have gone up
-(related to labor costs), costs for marketing, distribution, engineering, etc:.
...but then we look at an industry which has done comparatively little in the way of ensuring that they can continue into the future. Sure there are some efforts of giving to larger advocacy organizations such as "BikesBelong" and others (using the United States as an example), but even the people in Wahington DC will tell you that national efforts are ineffective and the advocacy starts on a local level. Local orgs need support... but there is little of that from the industry applied to the local level. So then what happens? With a growing population, a competing car industry preaching "safety" and "affordability" you are not having enough progress in terms of better road/trail/infrastructure conditions that would support new riders. With less and less new riders out there each year, you'll get two things: a population of people who can afford the high-prices and consider cycling 'the new golf' often tending to carry the same elitism with it, or a population of people who will stick with what they have and save money. In between, we're losing the accessibility of cycling...
Which brings it back to soccer: the most accessible sport in the world. The top companies in that sport give a lot of funding and efforts to encourage growth for the future... they fund orgs which increase accessibility, access to those who want to participate, rights for equality in sport, etc, etc, etc. The pay-offs in the short term are small: it's not like Adidas, Nike or Puma will get a lot of press for sending balls, nets and shoes to small populations or helping to fund a summer camp for at-risk kids or supporting women's leagues, but the long term pay offs are massive for the entire industry. They get some press, but comparatively little versus the amount of effort they put in.
I'm simply not seeing that long-range foresight from the bike industry, to be honest. Sure there are years that are positive, but overall if there are no serious, sustained efforts to invest in the future beyond a company's own particular sales, then the industry as a whole will suffer. Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, and so on, throwing their logo as 'sponsorship' to a local team or event under the guise of "we're supporting a non-profit org" isn't doing sht for the future to be honest, especially when those races and events take place in the middle of nowhere, some weekend at an empty business/industrial park, with little exposure to people beyond the racer's immediate family and friends.
Heck, even the USAC - the very national sanctioning org in the US that absolutely thrives on all of their licensed athletes reaping the benefits of access to roads and trails gives absolutely NOTHING to any advocacy organisation on any level. What the hell is that?! Just another example of an industry which is not making much, if any, efforts to invest in the future. There are a few minor examples... Tern, for example, makes a concerted effort. I think they actually 'get' it. Saris, too, makes a huge effort on the local level.
Anyway, that's how I see it and am tying it all together.
|| Other projects in the works.