By Abny Santicola
We all know the phrase, "It's like riding a bike." And most of us have ridden or ride bikes. But is that all it takes to be considered a cyclist, or is there more?
According to a 2003 sports participation study by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), the overall bicycle riding population—made up of individuals 7 years of age or older who bike six or more times a year—numbers 36.3 million in the United States. But that's a pretty wide net. A truer representation of the cycling market is a group NSGA refers to as "frequent participants"—those who have biked 110 days or more during the year—which number 5.6 million.
A Fork in the Road
The two most recognized divisions within the cycling market are road biking and mountain biking. There are 2 million frequent participants of off-road mountain biking, according to the NSGA.
The similarities between the two groups can be seen when looking at subscribers of Bicycling and Mountain Bike, two cycling magazines published by Rodale Inc.
Bicycling subscribers are 70.8 percent male, have an average age of 41.7, and an average household income of about $85,237. Likewise, Mountain Bike's audience is 91 percent male, with an average age of 35.7 and an average household income of about $94,000.
Purchasing Power in High Gear
With a majority of cyclists earning in excess of $75,000 and NSGA data that shows total sports spending on cycling equipment in 2002 at more than $4.96 billion, this is a market worth reaching.
According to Bicycling, 94 percent of subscribers buy high-quality products even if they have to spend more; 77 percent buy from companies that support their interests; and 73 percent buy environmentally friendly products.
Thomas Pren, president of International Cycle Works Inc., says cyclists tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting technology. According to Bicycling, in 2003 its readers spent $434 million on audio equipment and video games, and have spent $686 million on PC systems.
A Wheel With Many Spokes
Cyclists interests extend beyond bikes to a plethora of outdoor activities.
As Chris Lambiase, publisher of Rodale's Cycling Group of publications, notes, for these subscribers, "cycling is their true passion, but they're avid participants in a litany of outdoor pursuits like skiing, snowboarding, surfing [and] rock climbing."
While the reasons for riding are a mixed bag, there are common themes that drive cyclists to hit the road or trail.
"It's an emotional escape from their day-to-day grind," says Pren. "If there's one word that most cyclists would relate to, it's the freedom that they get from that."
Fueled by a desire to feel free, cyclists tend to be prolific travelers. VeloNews, a magazine for cyclists who race, reports that 65.3 percent of respondents to its 2003 subscriber survey purchased airline tickets, hotel accommodations and vacation packages via the Internet.
Peddling Your Goods
So, how do you reach them?
Bob Lumpford, vice president of marketing at Chilcutt Direct Marketing, which manages several cycling lists, says cyclists are very responsive to direct mail and the Internet.
"Our internal research estimates spending via the mail and Internet to be $470 million annually using the Direct Marketing Association's assessment that the direct response industry accounts for 8 percent of total spending," says Lumpford.
NSGA data shows frequent cyclists spend an average of 14 hours per week on the Internet, proof that the Web is a solid channel to approach this market.
In fact, a 2004 Bicycling subscriber study found that of the 70 percent of respondents who purchased bicycling gear through direct response, 74.9 percent did so via the Internet and 68.7 percent purchased through catalogs.
According to Lumpford, while the companies that most frequently target Chilcutt's cycling-related lists are the usual sports-oriented suspects, such as fitness, diet, outdoor, extreme sports and adventure travel marketers, "one of the new categories of marketers we see testing into this market is fundraisers with environmental and health-related causes."
Aside from the Internet, catalogs and direct mail, other successful ways to capture the cycling market involve grassroots marketing, such as sponsorship of—or making your product visible at—the more than 5,000 cycling events across the country each year.
One way to do this is by getting promotional offers, samples, coupons, etc. into the "goodie bags" handed out at cycling events.
Leon Henry Inc. manages the sampling program for the Los Angeles Marathon/Acura L.A. Bike Tour, in which companies can include offers and product samples in bags distributed during the annual event. According to Marc Mirabella, senior account executive for Leon Henry Inc., past participants in the program include AOL, BMG and EarthBox, and common inserts are T-shirts, health bars and nutrition-related products.
Regardless of the medium, these active, affluent adults "enjoy products that combine style, versatility and performance, on and off their bikes," says Lambiase.
The following is a sample of lists available to reach this market.
Adventure Cycling Association: 120,160 members. Price: $80/M, exchange only. Call: Names in the News, (415) 989-3350.
Bicycling Magazine: 237,360 active subscribers. Price: $100/M. Call: Millard Group, (603) 924-9262.
Bike Magazine: 42,300 active subscribers. Price: $100/M. Call: Direct Media, (203) 532-1000.
Bike Nashbar Catalog: 242,836 12-month buyers of racing, touring and mountain bike products. Price: $90/M. Call: Chilcutt Direct Marketing, (405) 478-7245.
Bike New York: 119,124 24-month participants in the Great Five-Borough Bike Tour. Price: $85/M. Call: MKTG Services, (215) 968-5020.
L.A. Marathon and/or Acura L.A. Bike Tour Sampling Program: goodie bags distributed to 55,000 runners, cyclists and volunteers. Price: $45/M. Call: Leon Henry Inc., (914) 285-3456.
Performance Bicycle Catalog: 280,224 12-month buyers of apparel, gear, equipment, etc. Price: $95/M. Call: ALC of New York LLC, (212) 924-1300.
Supergo Bike Buyers: 179,636 catalog buyers. Price: $80/M. Call: 21st Century Marketing, (631) 293-8550.