You are here

Opinion from Jay Townley: It is time to move on!

Published January 29, 2019

By Jay C. Townley

As 2019 began, I was sitting in front of my computer contemplating the last 62 years that I have spent in the American bicycle business. They have been wonderful, exciting and adventurous years that have allowed me to participate in the majority of — and to study and observe — a whole era of the bicycle business in America from 1946 through 2018. A full three score and 13 years that has seen the evolution of the bicycle and its supply chains, distribution, retailing and use.

I have also watched my friends, acquaintances and total strangers struggling with the changes in the bicycle business as this era draws to a close. After 73 years some can't accept the bicycle business as they have known it has come to an end. Others are clinging almost desperately to the hope that everything will return to the way it was.

And some are looking forward to the new era of the bicycle business in America that is beginning!

Since the Great Recession a decade ago the bicycle market and business in America has been driven by the country's demographic changes, which are inevitable — and more recently by national and international economic changes and events.

The bicycle business and trade press have variously referred collectively to these and related changes as the "brutal truths," a term coined by a speaker at a trade event and used since then to refer to the core change agents that the bicycle business has not recognized or been able to come to grips with.

These same change agents clearly define the American bicycle market and business, making it different from the bicycle, including e-bike markets of the world.

Recent events make it clear that denial of the data and change agents and management by hope are not viable business strategies!

What those so desperate for a return to the past don't or refuse to recognize are the huge potential and opportunities of the new era of the bicycle businesses in America that are right in front of us.

Among those that are looking forward with excitement and enthusiasm to the new era are many different and some shared visions — but they all agree that in the future there will bicycles and bicycling, and there will be specialty bicycle retailers (or bike shops). They also agree that they just will not be what they were, but more exciting, interesting, different and, above all, fun to be part of!

After my 60-plus years in the American bicycle business, I am looking forward to the day-after-tomorrow, and what the future holds, and above all continuing the adventure and journey I started in 1957 in a bike shop in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It is time ... to embrace the future and move on!

Jay C. Townley is the resident futurist and a founding partner of Human Powered Solutions. He can be reached at

Join the Conversation