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Burke says he's 'bullish' on industry as BLC gets underway

Published March 15, 2023

DANA POINT, Calif. (BRAIN) — As the Bicycle Leadership Conference got underway Tuesday night several keynote speakers noted it's been a tough year for the industry. And much of the chatter among attendees focused on the ongoing inventory oversupply facing most bicycle suppliers.

But John Burke, Trek's president, speaking to more than 250 attendees at the PeopleForBike's conference said he's never been "more bullish" on the industry's future.

"I continue to be really bullish on the bicycle industry," he said, noting that three factors give him hope. The bicycle's place in improving the environment; its role in easing big city congestion; and the bicycle's potential for improving the health of a rapidly increasing population of obese Americans.

"Forty-two percent of Americans are obese," BURKE said. And while the federal government focuses on issues like addiction and other maladies, obesity is a major health issue that fails to get as much attention.
Trek played an instrumental role in helping PeopleForBikes develop into the broad-based organization that it's become. But Burke said the industry needs to do more despite a $13 billion federal infusion into biking and walking infrastructure. Company executives need to pick up the phone and ask PFB leaders, "How can I help?"

And companies — big and small — need to pay their dues and help raise money to boost the association's impact. "Who will do the work? Everybody needs to be involved. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the industry," he said, referring to an unprecedented influx of federal, state and local funds to improve cycling.

Chris Speyer, REI's vice president of merchandising and co-op brands, echoed Burke's theme. "It's really difficult times," he said. But the industry needs to balance its short-term issues with long-term gains. "We all go further if we talk together," Speyer said.

Tuesday night's dinner kicks off two days of seminars at the BLC ending Thursday. A key seminar will look at a variety of market data and how best to plan for an uncertain future. Speakers from Circana (formerlly called the NPD Group), which provides sell-in and sell-through data to PFB members, and a consultant from S&P Global will highlight how the industry should think about the future using market-driven data.

Another seminar looks at e-bike regulations and risk. The seminar is a follow-up to last year's panel with PFB's outside legal counsel, Erika Jones, and Matt Moore, PFB's general and policy counsel, bringing the industry up to date.

Other seminars include "Bridging the gap: building equity in cycling." Bonnie Tu, Giant Group's chairperson, will discuss how brands like Giant's LIV can help the industry be more inclusive. Other sessions will look at the impact of gravel biking, sustainability and investments and acquisitions.

Topics associated with this article: Bicycle Leadership Conference

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