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The Torqued Wrench: Industry apes

The Torqued Wrench is a look inside the mind of VeloNews.com tech writer Caley Fretz. Every other week he’ll tackle the rumors, trends, innovations, and underpinnings of the tech world — or something else entirely. You can submit questions to TorquedWrench@competitorgroup.com.

Cycling is a social industry, one dominated by a localized business model centered squarely on the local shop — a place that, when ideally run, is a beating heart of community; a spot for a wildly disparate group of people to connect around the one activity held dear by each. A friendly front sidewalk and public pump beget hours of communal group ride suffering; the shop is our clubhouse, our library, our lecture hall and our dealer, always ready to feed the habit.

Good shops, and brands, understand this community. It is no surprise that small brands still flourish here, within our homegrown and relatively obscure culture. Nor is it any revelation that brands that take advantage of the community within cycling, inserting themselves effectively into the consumer contact point that is the local bike shop, tend to be most successful.

This is all a roundabout route towards the topic of discussion this week: the 800-pound gorillas of cycling. The big dogs: the most powerful companies in our $30 billion pedal-centric industry; the brands that are at the helm, leading the rest of the industry, and therefore the sport. Their success here has been no accident; each effectively tapped into the aforementioned community — but that’s a column in and of itself (probably my next one, actually). This week, I’ll focus on identifying, de-mystifying, and putting into context the key players.

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