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Manufacturers Amp Up Design Aesthetic

Published May 14, 2008

BY MEGAN TOMPKINS

VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Inspired by component options, bike brands are getting bolder with their color choices and putting more emphasis on matching bike colors and decals with components to create a coordinated package.

That effort is designed in part to attract a crossover consumer entering mountain biking from other action sports and lifestyle activities.

“Less consumers just accept that a bike should have silver spokes and black rims,” said Pete Stace-Smith, PR and marketing manager for Norco Performance Bikes. “Those coming out of another sport like snowboarding are looking at options and if our bike is more cosmetically appealing, there is no question it does have a percentage of the decision.”

Stace-Smith said Norco product managers are putting more thought into the cosmetic side of mountain bike spec. Norco’s not alone as more original equipment manufacturers are working with component makers to incorporate color and graphics themes throughout a bike.

“We’re seeing bike manufacturers looking to tie products into bikes so it looks like a uniform piece—the fork, rim and brake color and graphics package ties into their graphics and industrial design trend,” said Joel Richardson, marketing manager for Hayes Bicycle Group.

The New Black. White is the new black when it comes to bicycle components.The industry has taken the color cue from the computer and gaming industry, which traded its industrial look for a clean white aesthetic that Apple popularized.

White mountain bike parts will likely attract consumers familiar with the color in technology applications. In addition to standing out on bikes, the color may have a psychological effect.

“Bikes have really been spec’d with blacks and greys and metallics, so white is a huge contrast,” said Richardson. “It is very clean and light looking. All bikes in all applications have been very weight conscious and white does have a lighter look to it.”

Hayes offers its Stroker trail disc brakes in pearl white, and offers white options in its Manitou fork and Sun Ringle rim lines. It also is offering a wider array of custom color options for OEM customers.

SRAM at Sea Otter showed white handlebars in its new Truvativ line, and white and purple paint options for its new AKA stem. The new color, purpletrader, runs across the SRAM brands in a Rockshox fork, Truvativ pedals and Truvativ stems.

“There is a bit of cross-pollenization to color treatment with different brands,” said Eric Schutt, mountain bike PR manager for SRAM.

That consistency across a family of component brands makes it easier for product managers to carry a color theme throughout a bike.

Steve Parke, general manager and vice president of marketing for Ritchey Design USA, credits white with helping to revitalize the Syncros brand. Two seasons ago Syncros introduced stems and bars in a white powder coat.

“We relaunched the brand and white helped us gain attention—it was a fresh color in a sea of black components,” Parke said.

Tube Tattoos. Beyond color, bike brands are putting more sublimated designs on frames that tie in to decals on forks and bars. Syncros for 2009 introduced “grunge” graphics—red, black, white and gray tattoo-style artwork, on its bars and stems.

“The paradigm of having all black parts seems to be opening up to other cosmetic options,” Parke said.

“We’re seeing some of our OEM brand partners and suspension fork companies starting to play with graphics on fork legs.”

Haro has used white components and coordinated graphics on its dirt jump and urban bikes for spring, and will introduce more fashion-inspired looks this fall. Jill Hamilton, MTB/adult bike brand manager for Haro, credited component makers’ willingness to share artwork and color pallets.

“We’re doing a color match with Syncros bar and stem. Marzocchi lets us do it with their graphics as well. It looks so tied together and so awesome,” Hamilton said.

Norco has matched decal designs and colors in its Six series of freeride bikes and Shore series of hardtails. Stace-Smith said the aggressive color choices and stenciling doesn’t work for all users, but appeals to the freeride and dirt jump audience.

While Norco derives ideas from the snowboard, skate and motocross industries, Haro finds its graphics inspiration from the BMX realm.

“Right now in BMX it’s fashion over function,” Hamilton said. “We’re definitely seeing a trickle over into the mountain bike side.”

Hamilton said color and styling deliver more value to the consumer without adding much cost to the overall price of the bike.

“With the price increases we’re facing it’s been a real challenge offering consumers more for their money,” Hamilton said. “It gives us a tremendous advantage when our bikes look so put together and so balanced.”

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