The breakaway

Better Bikes, Better Rides: Using Tech in Surprising New Ways

To win races, the Trek-Segafredo professional cycling team has to be faster, stronger and more strategic than the competition. Trek the business is no different. Like many cycling companies, Trek is using technology in creative ways to improve the strength, speed and safety of its bikes, which has earned the company its global reputation as a leading  provider of high-quality performance bicycles.
But to truly achieve a leg up in an increasingly fierce and competitive market, Trek is also using technology to better understand and meet the needs of its customers. It’s a long-term strategy that will be the catalyst for expanding the business above and beyond its current 130 global retail stores into new markets, while taking it in innovative and sustainable directions.

Better Bikes, Better Rides: Using Tech in Surprising New Ways

To win races, the Trek-Segafredo professional cycling team has to be faster, stronger and more strategic than the competition. Trek the business is no different. Like many cycling companies, Trek is using technology in creative ways to improve the strength, speed and safety of its bikes, which has earned the company its global reputation as a leading provider of high-quality performance bicycles.
But to truly achieve a leg up in an increasingly fierce and competitive market, Trek is also using technology to better understand and meet the needs of its customers. It’s a long-term strategy that will be the catalyst for expanding the business above and beyond its current 130 global retail stores into new markets, while taking it in innovative and sustainable directions.
Trek CMO discusses technology

Trek CMO Roger Gierhart
Credit: Getty Images

Stronger, Faster, Lighter
For any growth initiative to be successful, Trek first has to give customers a product they want — and in the world of cycling, speed, safety and security always top the list. Trek is using technology to make sure its bikes score highly on all three.
“It’s all about weight,” says Roger Gierhart, Trek’s CMO and vice president of supply chain. “To stay competitive, we need to achieve the maximum strength and ride quality with the least amount of weight.”
To ensure that its bikes are both extremely strong and not much heavier than a laptop, the cycling company is using technology to strike just the right balance — usually adding between 800 and 1,000 pieces of carbon per frame to keep its bikes both light and durable.
Bike safety is another critical issue. To make valuable improvements there, Trek is making sure riders are well-lit, equipping its bikes with an attachment system that allows them to seamlessly add lights without having to buy a separate module. And for its Bontrager brand gear and clothing, the company is evolving biomotion technology that draws attention to moving parts, such as on feet and legs, that illuminate the rider with fluorescents during the day and reflective material at night so that they are easily spotted from the road.
Yet as the Trek bikes become more intelligent, they also become an increasingly attractive target for thieves. To boost security and theft prevention efforts, Trek is implementing bike location technology — like a “Where’s my iPhone,” but for bikes, Gierhart says — as well as an automatic, integrated bike locking system, both of which will be coming down the pike in the near future.
“We want to make riding safer for everybody,” Gierhart says. “And I think by truly understanding what the consumer needs, we’ll be able to grow the business.”
A Personal Touch
But making sophisticated bikes with the latest, cutting-edge technology is only part of the equation. Another, of course, is effectively understanding and reaching its customers.
For Trek, that will mean using data effectively — and in entirely different ways. Currently, consumers interact with Trek in multiple places — the website, the store, a demo event, an independent retailer — where they can peruse and buy Trek bikes. Yet none of the places where the business touches customers are actually connected — in fact, much of the data about those various interactions lives on static spreadsheets.
“So, the real challenge is, how do you connect all those isolated data points, so that when the customer is coming into a store, we would already know that they have three mountain bikes and just bought a road bike,” Gierhart says. “That’s the real opportunity.”
That’s where Splunk is helping. Connecting all of its data silos will help Trek understand its multiple touchpoints and garner new insights about its consumers, better positioning Trek to provide a more personalized experience, zeroing in on what each customer wants, to compel them to keep coming back.
And it doesn’t stop at just providing customers with the right bikes, although that’s a big part of it. Trek also plans to use technology and data to give customers a better overall experience with each new bike, from the moment they buy it. That includes offering services to all levels of bike enthusiast, not just experienced cyclists.
“Historically, stores have really only catered to the high-end enthusiast,” Gierhart says. “If you’re not living in Lycra all week, they tend to look down on you. That’s not how Trek treats its business.”
To better reach those demographics, Trek is working on a program, the Trek Ride Club, that compiles bike routes based on customers’ individual needs — a family with small children, for example, will be interested in different bike routes than a mountain biker or semi-pro cyclist. Data can then be used to find and map ideal routes for riders who range from novice to pro, and even help rate the trails based on their quality, steepness and required skill level.
“You’ve now bought a bike, and instead of sending you out the door, we should be sending you off with 20 great bike rides in your areas — and that’s all data,” Gierhart says. “It’s really about how we can solve the consumer’s problem. How can we make them enjoy their bike more?”
About the Author

Stefanie Hoffman is associate editor of the Splunk-Trek newsletter, The Breakaway. She covered the Tour of California live at the Morgan Hill and Pasadena stages.