It is no secret that these are tough times for the cycle industry. The Covid bubble has brought to the surface all the problems of a very long production and distribution chain that now finds itself with full warehouses, a lack of customers, and idle liquidity for almost a year. And, if liquidity is lacking, everything comes to a standstill, starting with the parts deemed superfluous.
One of the big problems in our industry has always been the lack of analysis of numbers, something that is now in the light of day after it was believed that Covid’s turnovers could go on forever. I know it sounds absurd, but I can assure you that until the end of 2022 there were flourishing companies with forecasts that to call rosy is an understatement. The numbers were not even analyzed when it came to investments in promotions and marketing. If you tried to ask what the return on investment was on a pro MTB team, the most common response was a shrug. “So does everyone, so we do it too.”
When passion is mixed with business, it is difficult for things to go well, and our industry is full of enthusiasts who, however, when faced with an excel sheet, panic. And panic is the word of the coming year, 2024. We see it beyond measure from the teams closing and the athletes left stranded, starting with two-time DH world champion Danny Hart, still without a team. Suddenly there is a realization that the best way to save money is not to have a DH (or enduro) team that costs hundreds of thousands of Euros per year between salaries, travel expenses, and race entries, but without knowing whether these costs are justified or not.
Not only that, by hiding competitions behind Discovery’s paywall the races have less visibility, reinforcing the argument of those who claim that a racing team is a difficult expense to justify. Also because on the other side we have tons of cheap visilibity given by websites, Youtube channels and influencers. Considering also that companies are pushing more and more electric bikes, in themselves vehicles aimed at an aging audience with little interest in racing, it is hard to see a dawn for racing.
Sorry for the athletes, but I personally find that it was only a matter of time. The current crisis in the cycle industry has accelerated what is a process that began with the electrification of cycling. One can also try to move racing to electric, but neither XC nor DH are disciplines that make sense with a motor. Enduro is trying with power stages, which are technical trails done at full power that almost no ebiker will ever attempt in his or her lifetime. It is not for nothing that the enduro races with the most starters are those with easy climbs, made meaningless for competition by motors and batteries.
The positive side of all this is that mountain biking is more alive and well with ever, even without racing. So many bikers have discovered that you can take the epic Sunday ride with friends, with no starting number on the handlebars, with or without a motor. And in the end, that’s why most of us love to ride.