I took a highly informal, unscientific survey of the largest U.S.-focused bicycle manufacturers’ websites to see how they classify their bicycles. What I found may say something about the current state-of-mind of the mainstream bicycle industry in America. Here’s what I discovered:
- The top two categories are Road and Mountain.
- Most of the bikes filed under the Road category are carbon and aluminum racing bikes, with the occasional smattering of transpo/utility bikes in the mix. In many cases, the category could easily have been called Racing.
- Mountain is frequently broken down into sub-categories such as Hardtail and Full-suspension. Depending upon their target market, some manufacturers list Mountain before Road in their menus.
- At one time, Hybrid was a catch-all phrase for any bike that didn’t fall into the Road or Mountain categories. A few companies are still using the Hybrid moniker, though it appears to be on the way out (the term is conspicuously missing from the Trek website).
- Urban is a relatively new category that’s gaining steam. In looking at the bikes listed under Urban there doesn’t appear to be consensus on what qualifies a bike for the category.
- Most manufacturers break out their bikes into gender and age categories. Typically there’s a main category targeted at men (though it may not be listed as such) and smaller Women and Youth sub-categories.
- I didn’t find a single major company that lists Touring as a product category. In years past, the two main bike categories were Racing and Touring. The advent of Lance Armstrong, combined with the rise of the mountain bike, virtually eliminated Touring from the lexicon of the U.S. bike market.
- Beyond that, you get into a variety of names unique to each manufacturer. A few examples include Multi-street, Lifestyle, X-road, Bike Path, Recreation, etc., etc.
I was surprised to find Commuting and Utility mostly absent as categories. We’re definitely seeing more bikes designed to be used for these practical applications, but it appears the major manufacturers are still primarily marketing their bikes as recreational equipment. Perhaps the mainstream U.S. market is ready for the bikes, but not quite ready for the idea of bicycles as tools for transportation.