Well, time marches on and the bicycle business does as well- some times it's a march to a better place.....some times its a march away from what it is at it's core- a community of people. What has been taking place in the last decade with many bicycle companies has borne some pretty rotten fruit, at least in my view. What transpired in and around the starting of this century has been the gobbling up of companies by larger conglomerates. The companies that have been eaten up were -in the beginning -manifestations of a few people's ideas and passions. I know a lot of these people and their dedication and selfless acts have made the bicycle business and the community at large a lot richer - I'm not talking about money....I'm talking about many forms of "better".
What has gotten better is trail and land access- that's a win/win as people get to ride places where they couldn't for years , those places remain public parks so that they cannot be subdivided into luxury lots with McMansions protected by tall fences and electric gates. Also what has gotten better are the products- bikes, suspension, helmets, shoes, shifting.....just about everything one can think of bicycle related has improved due to passionate people in companies that reward inspiration and dedication. I think that people in the future might look back on the late '90's and early 2000's as a great time in the bike business.
Things are quite different now. Large holding companies over the last 10-20 years have gobbled up many of the best companies in the bike industry - of course promising to carry on the passion and original direction of the companies faithfully. Pretty much the opposite has been happening. These large holding companies have been taking local California companies and slowly bleeding them of capital and employees. Many of the local companies that started here in the Bay Area have been dismantled and moved elsewhere and the employees who were responsible for making the companies successful were given their walking papers , or given ultimatums such as "move to such and such city across the country or lose your job". To me this makes no sense, but to the holding companies it makes all the sense in the world- cut costs , maximize profit , dismantle underperforming departments and centralize operations. Good corporate strategy but a complete disemboweling of an industry that is not run so much profit as it is run on passion.
Many of my friends worked for the companies that got bought out, run into the ground and gutted, relocated and basically euthanized. It , to me seems such a total waste and a humiliation of the people who have made their life about the betterment of the bike industry and community. I used to see these people at trade shows, riding events or just chance encounters around town- they, like I were part of the local flavor of the bike world. Now, most of them are out looking for work and are likely to leave the bicycle industry for good- not because they want to- it is because the industry left them. It took what they had in ideas, sweat and years and put it all out on the curb to be taken away to the landfill. This really has torn the heart out of much of the community that I have known for more than half of my 68 years-over 40 of those years trying to be as good at what I do as the people I know in the business......or at least they were in the business. Maybe the good days are gone forever- I really hope not. What can bring back the type of companies that created most of what we appreciate about cycling ? Not sure that I have any good ideas but I have a few friends who do........