Posted by: nickgerlich | November 13, 2007

Lime Light

Imagine the challenge of developing a new product for consumers who are not current users, yet by fluke of a shared childhood culture nearly everyone already knows how to use. In fact, it is said you can never forget how to use it. But for many people, by the time they reach adulthood and embrace the shiny metallic car culture so iconic of America, they have forever hung up this product. Where the rafters beam, and the spiders spin.

But that didn’t stop Trek Bicycles from developing Lime for nonriders. It is simple. It is sleek. And it is comfortable.

Trek LimeIn other words, pretty much everything a nonrider could want…aside from possibly a motor.

Trek, like most bicycle manufacturers, had spent much of the last 20 years focusing on racing machines and the racers who ride them into the ground. But let’s face facts: the overwhelming majority of cyclists are never going to ride like Lance Armstrong. Even if they can afford to dress like him or buy one of his signature bikes, there are many degrees of VO2 Max separating us mere mortals from the American king of cycling. Shaving your legs does not make you climb any faster.

And what about the rest of the population? Feeding the fantasies of Armstrong-wannabes is one thing, but for those who want only to ride around the block or maybe (I am crossing my fingers here) a quick trip to the grocery, Post Office, or the real office, you do not need a bike manufactured of the latest unobtanium components. No, a simple steed that requires no owner’s manual or an aftermarket Dummies book is all that is needed. Trek, to their credit, recognized the flattening market (pun intended) for high-end bikes, and decided to go for the broader mass market with Lime. You know, the folks who probably would not be caught dead in Lycra, and the only finish line in their horizon is the threshold from the driveway to their garage.

Trek has incorporated a simple yet elegant drivetrain from Shimano, the Japanese component manufacturer known equally well for its cycling and fishing products. Their three-speed automatic shifting gear system is pedal-powered, and based on the velocity of the bike. This is plug-and-play at its finest…just get on and ride.

The built-in kickstand is a plus for suburban cruisers who take a quick break (or is it brake?) at the ice cream shop or park, as is the chain guard to keep unwanted grease from your pants. Padded grips and a saddle that flips up to reveal a storage compartment are the icing on the cake.

And the candles are the interchangeable plastic “peels,” available in slew of colors. The chain guard, grips, hub protectors, and more can be customized so riders can create their own unique bike.

And how has the market reacted? So far this year Trek has sold about 10,000 of the various Lime models, which are all priced in the $500-600 range. That’s not exactly enough to write home about, but it is encouraging. With gas at $3 or more per gallon, it wouldn’t take long to pay for this cool ride. If it goes to $4 next spring as many predict, the payback would be even faster.

Of course, the hardest part is simply getting out the door. But allow me to offer some motivation. After riding your Lime, you can return home to have a Corona with a lime on the rim, because, as we all now know, “A pint of beer is better for you after a workout than water, say scientists.” Don’t believe me? Click here.

Dr “Forget Carbon Credits…The World Wants Beer Credits” Gerlich

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