Are You Still A Marketing Consultant If Nobody’s Consulting You?

After resolving to give up Fred-dom cold turkey I had an immediate relapse, for which I was swiftly punished by the Great Retrogrouch On High:

I’ve been pleased with the Donnelly LCVs. However, they are not all-season tires by any stretch, and it’s particularly foolish of me to be riding them this winter. See, we’ve received a shitload of snow this year, and most of it has melted over the past few weeks, leaving glacial deposits along the side of the road that result in fingernail-shaped cuts like this:

My tires are now riddled with them, and my hedonistic decision to ride fancy tires during the “off-season” has gone from decadent to inconvenient as I now seem to flat every time I ride them:

The lesson here is to ride sensible tires and save the race tires for racing or racing-adjacent activities, but you already knew that.

In the wake of this indignity I beat a hasty retreat to my Rivendell, and on Sunday mornings I increasingly enjoy short, slow* rides through the Bronx:

*[Even shorter and slower than usual, which is saying something.]

The quiet of the city on a Sunday morning fills me with the same sense of contentment and promise as does a still lake or a tightly-wrapped sandwich–placid, and yet bursting with possibility. On this particular ride I passed a ramshackle cottage (I don’t even know what “ramshackle” means, I just know it’s a word you always use with “cottage”) that once belonged to a Mr. Edgar Allan Poe:

I then continued to the mighty Bronx River–the only “real” river in New York City, I might add, the others being salty marshes and tidal estuaries and stuff:

You wouldn’t know it from my poor photography, but this bridge matches the colorwhey of the Hilsen almost perfectly:

Here’s the boat launch, and one of these days I’m gonna launch a damn boat onto this river:

Most people probably go with kayaks, a.k.a. “the fixie of the sea,” but I think the nautical equivalent of a Rivendell would be a wooden rowboat:

Should be no problem storing something like that in an apartment.

Speaking of Rivendell, they are arguably the progenitor of what is currently the cycling world’s most fashionable niche, that being the steel bikepacking/gravel/rando-informed/plush-tired go-anywhere bicycle. See, there was a time when new bike companies sought urban street cred, but those days are gone, and the zeitgeist is now characterized by an urban/rural inversion: messenger bags and bike polo are out, flannel shirts and meandering camping trips are in, and Instagram feeds curated by people who ride for days on end in dirty merino underwear abound.

As this “adventure”-oriented trend continues, more and more companies are appearing to supply these would-be adventurers. To be clear, the ascendancy of versatility and riding for riding’s sake is in all respects a good thing; furthermore, I applaud anyone with the temerity to start a bike company, and wish everyone even tangentially connected to bicycle retail nothing but financial and emotional success.

At the same time, this theme of retro-inspired go-anywhere bicycles is now on the verge of becoming a formula–and one that’s becoming increasingly easy to replicate, if the endless stream of product on certain websites is any indication. (Choose a name, source some parts from MKS, Panaracer, and Nitto, et voila!) In fact, you yourself may be interested in starting such a bike company, and if so I’ve gone ahead and created a comprehensive branding and marketing guide for you:

Gilding The Flannel: How To Start Your Own Adventure Bike Company

The Name

First, you’re going to need a name, for it is from that name that your inevitable success will flow. Remember: sleek and urban is out, rugged and rural is in, so you want your marque to reflect this. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Chawchomper
  • Cudmuncher
  • Bootshank
  • Barnfarmer
  • Mudbunion

Whatever name you choose should evoke the sound of gravel beneath your tires, and dust on your tattooed calves, and stopping for water breaks at a creaky pump on someone’s farm–and yet underpinned by the certainty that when you’re done you’ll find yourself back in your fashionable neighborhood.

Tech Specs

It’s absolutely crucial your bike boasts both dated design elements and thoroughly modern features that are completely at odds with each-other. For example, if your bike features a 1-inch threaded steerer–which it absolutely should, since 1-inch threaded is the new 1-1/8” to 1.5” tapered–make sure to counter that with Boost spacing in the rear. You’ll also want a threaded bottom bracket and a square taper spindle, but just make sure the frame has disc brakes and internal routing for a dropper post.

Similarly, be sure to maintain an inverse relationship between shifters and derailleurs; the former should always be ancient, the latter should be state-of-the-art. The current standard is of course to use bar-end friction shifters with wide-range clutch derailleurs, but to set yourself apart your brand should really take the concept all the way by pairing a rod shifter with an XTR electronic drivetrain. Or just get a Rohloff and pull the cable by hand.

If your bike looks like the unholy spawn of a Rivendell and a Jones then you’e on the right track.

Wheel Size

Today’s rider demands preternatural comfort on a nearly infinite variety of terrain, which is why your offering should be compatible with as many wheel sizes as possible. If a potential customer asks you, “What wheel size does this frame accept?,” your answer should be, “Yes!” At a minimum, wheelsize compatibility should run from 29+ to the ability to accept a 12-inch wheelset with a 4-inch tire. (Sure, for the latter you’ll have to use wheelbarrow tires for now, but Surly will be introducing a production version called “The Handtruck” soon.)

Bosses And Braze-Ons

It goes without saying that your frame needs to be able to carry the full complement of bags and cages. This means frame bag, top tube bag, stem bag, handlebar bag, seat bag, bottle cages on each fork leg, two on top of the downtube, one under the downtube, etc. Anything less than that and your bike is essentially naked.

Of course, lots of bikes already accept all this stuff, so how to set yours apart? Well, if you think there’s no place left to mount a bag then you’re not looking hard enough. With creative design, you should be able to mount luggage to both hub shells, each crank arm, the underside of your pedals, beneath the bottom bracket, the few millimeters of exposed bottom bracket spindle on each side of your crank… Indeed, your disc brake calipers alone could carry several milliliters of fluid if fitted with teeny tiny little bottle cages. Think outside the box! (Which box? The box you’ve managed to mount on your handlebars somehow, silly!)


In today’s digital world, marketing your product has never been easier. Take it from me: people will do anything for free bike product, so leverage this by recruiting influencers who will write ride reports and post Instagram stories featuring your bikes. However, this approach is not without risks, and in these touchy times all it takes is a single gaffe for your brand to be banished from polite Internet society forever. Therefore, make sure your influencers are sufficiently “woke,” and that they follow the current ride report style guide, no matter how seemingly mundane that ride might be. (e.g. “After mounting the spoke bags on the Mudbunion Sowtwat, I headed out for a shakedown ride outside my parents’ house where I live, and I’d first like to acknowledge that our cul-de-sac was built on the ancestral lands of the Blackfoot peoples, as well as my own racism.”)

Also, going fast is not only uncool, but it is also deeply ableist, so your influencers should go out of their way to prove how slow they’re going and how often they stop for stragglers at all times. Forget “Party Pace,” we’re talking Stunned Tortoise here.


That’s it, you’re now on the path to success! Happy to try your bike when it’s ready, by the way. I’ll do anything for free bike product.

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