We interviewed CIE member Emerson Delcourt, Bikes Innovation Leader at Decathlon and member of CIE's Cycling Innovation Network Expert Group to hear and share his thoughts of the future, challenges and inspirations in the cycling industry.
1. Can you give us a brief description of Decathlon?
Decathlon is a sporting goods design and retail company, present in around 60 countries. It’s one of the biggest design centers in France with projects in about 85 different sports and accessories, i.e., hiking, tennis, cycling (of course), hockey, etc. What’s leading the company today are the products and the people: we focus on intrapreneurship, which gives us the opportunity to innovate. If you believe in a specific project that makes sense for the company and its mission, you can build on your idea, business plan, and team to bring it to fruition. It’s a good mix between energy, pleasure and responsibilities that leads innovation development culture in the company.
2. What cycling trends are you most excited to see by the year 2030? By 2050?
The trends I see are around transforming cities – a lot of cities are making their own transformations with new mobility and new sustainable solutions for mobility. I see these as challenging trends, which are helping transform these cities and it’s something I push a lot in Decathlon. The world we see today was built around the car industry, not only the current role the car plays, but also the layout and organization of cities (and even countries). I think one of the most challenging trends is how to enrich these new mobilities, including bikes (but not only bikes) and I think it's opening creative paths and ideas to test, explore and implement new solutions. That’s one trend that you can feel today, but it’s also a big challenge.
That main challenge being that there are a lot of different doors, and you need the opportunity and ability to open those. Sometimes people and users will say, “yes this is the right door, this is what we need!” But other times, it could be too difficult or not useful at all. We need to think about how to do things in different way: we’re transforming cities, the layout of cities, the product, but also the way we produce these products, especially considering the challenge of sustainability.
3. What do you see as a major challenge in the cycling industry, and how can CIE play a role in overcoming that challenge?
I think the main challenge, in my point of view, is building alliances – we need to be able to co-build these transformations with different actors. I like to believe, inside and outside of Decathlon, the target is not the growth in terms of market share, but in making the cake bigger for the entire cycling industry. We need to build alliances inside, but more importantly, outside the cycling industry because this industry alone doesn’t have all the competencies. For the industry to grow, we should be looking outside of the industry to discover and import new competencies and technologies.
I think sometimes in the cycling industry, we’re too focused on the bicycle and too little on changing the minds of users. With that I mean there are possibly new startups that are analyzing the needs of users and creating products in a different way. We need to promote and support those startups with high potential and be open to hybrid solutions. There are a lot of questions that we don’t yet have the answers to! CIE’s role needs to be to push for collaboration inside and outside the industry. It’s easy to collaborate with the people around you, but sometimes to build these bridges between people that are 1000 kilometers away, you need to implement a certain energy to secure these relationships.
4. What or who in the cycling industry inspires you?
I’m really impressed and interested by Canyon [Bicycles] – they have a completely different business model than Decathlon. Even though we share a common DNA when it comes to some of our products, it’s really inspiring to see how they push new concepts through a different business model. On a general note, I'm also inspired by a lot of new companies and startups proposing new concepts and alternative solutions, sometimes outside the scope of the standard bicycle. Companies like CAKE, ONO, and Moustache are proposing alternative solutions and new ways to use and view the bicycle. The bicycle is over 200 years old, and yet we’re producing and assembling them today as we were 100 years ago. It’s inspiring to see these new hybrid modes of transportation, i.e., cargo bikes, scooters, etc., and companies creating and exploring alternative solutions for mobility, but they’re also redefining what a bicycle is, even if it isn’t your typical bike.
5. Describe in 5 words how cycling is saving the world.
We challenged Emerson to describe in only 5 words how cycling is saving the world:
Curious as to what Emerson and the innovators at Decathlon are up to? With a mission to get as many people as possible on bikes and scooters in a sustainable way, discover the recently announced Magic Bike here.