Passion transforms good gear into great gear. At the co-op, we’ve created a different way of igniting that passion: putting our members at the center of everything we do.
Being an REI member means you’re part of the largest consumer co-op in the nation. You’re one of 16 million co-op members and 12,000 employees. So when our design team set out to dream up an entirely new line of bikes, it was the obvious choice to tap into our member base to help us build it. We call the process “Cooperative Design.”
“Cooperative Design is the idea that we are designing product not just for our members, but with them,” explains Amanda Amyx, senior design researcher. Design research is nothing new—it’s smart business to ask consumers what they would like to see on the market. What makes our process different is our wide base of members, all the way from novice to professional in any given activity, and staff who are experts in their fields.
Our Cooperative Design process for Co-op Cycles began with a fact-finding mission for our existing cycling brand, Novara. The feedback we received about our 35-year-old bike brand turned up a brutal truth: The brand wasn’t what our community was looking for. It was time, members said, for us to align our bikes more closely with the values of the co-op.
What exactly happens when you tap into the best part of REI—the members and staff? You get bikes that truly share the values of the riding community that uses them. And tapping into our co-op meant intensive research. Our designs insights team gathered data and opinions from our expert base by going to members’ homes, stores and on trips with our resident experts.
The team performed hours of in-home interviews, relying heavily on visual props. We gave members the tools to tell us what they needed and wanted out of a bike.
“It’s not a quantitative survey, it’s about qualitative, empathetic understanding. When we spend three hours in our members’ homes, shopping and riding bikes with them, we understand their needs better. We love it, too,” Amyx explained.
We asked members to choose images representing how they feel when they ride their bike. They chose an image of a bearded free spirit drifting his steel-framed, drop-bar, bag-laden bike through gravel. This picture ended up becoming our muse as we built Co-op Cycles.
Paul Calandrella, director of product strategy, said, “The takeaway for the team was Co-op Cycles has license to throw the endemic cycling rulebook out. It became quickly apparent that Co-op Cycles is not about the lone athlete, suffering to wring one more watt out of her carbon-fiber super-bike. Co-op Cycles is a community of individuals, each with their own definition of the way they like to ride, and a shared sensibility for freedom.”
But we didn’t stop with members. We also went to our staff, including our retail staff, Outdoor School instructors and adventure guides—watching them interact with members, asking about their opinions and heading out on group rides together.
This work unearthed another groundbreaking insight. Amyx told us, “We met so many people that didn’t want their bike to look masculine or feminine. They wanted a color palette that reflected their aesthetic, not their gender. The idea in the industry is that if we make a women’s bike, we are for women. But it’s less of the product having a label, and more a way of fostering a community.”
What we ended up with was a brand of bikes with a very human story, a community-centric set of products that don’t always fit into existing industry-defined categories. Co-op Cycles are bikes as diverse as our member base, because our diverse co-op was at the center of their creation.
Our bikes are of the people, by the people, and for the people who love exploring the world on two wheels. We trusted in the genius of our community because we believe that by working together we can create bikes that are greater than the sum of their parts. And given the success of the process so far, the co-op will continue to use Cooperative Design far into the future.
We poured everything we’ve got into fulfilling a simple promise to you: Every bike we make is a bike worth riding.
Mountain: When fat tires and dirt trails combine, it’s magic—plain and simple. These low-maintenance, fun machines have proven technologies and upgradability that’ll let you dial in a ride all your own.
All-road: Road bikes for the adventurous, who know the ride shouldn’t end just because the pavement does. Built strong and right, these bikes provide true versatility from pavement to gravel and beyond.
Adventure: Made for loaded tours in ever-changing terrain, these are the bikes from which great stories come. Each model is purpose built, fully rackable and ready to roll wherever you want to take it.
City: Ditch the car and start living, people. Commuting, errands, beer runs and nights out are all made better when done on two wheels. Being part of the solution has never been so much fun.
Kids: When you’re a kid, your bike is your freedom. Start ’em out right with sturdy and reliable bikes that will take them from training wheels to singletrack in no time.