Taking a strawman for a bicycle ride

Inside a book unopened in 25 years.

A lot of bicycle marketing is based on the idea that we ride bicycles to stand out from the crowd, whether that crowd comprises 1) people who don’t ride bicycles, 2) people who ride bicycles but not nearly as fast as we think we can, or 3) people who ride bicycles but not nearly as nice/light/sophisticated/rare as the bicycle being sold.

Buy my bicycle. It’s different. You don’t have to be like everyone else.

Here’s the thing: from a transportation standpoint, it would be helpful if we as riders were all a bit more alike: riding on the same side of the road, encouraging others to ride safely, writing a letter to a government official who doesn’t understand that yes, we do happen to pay for the roads, being able to fix the occasional flat tire.

Different is exciting, but exciting things are almost always optional things. Hydroplanes are exciting, but you don’t need a hydroplane. Affairs are exciting, but your spouse doesn’t need an affair. Drugs are exciting, but you don’t need to take drugs, except possibly for that thing on your back. (By the way, could you get that looked at?)

Following that reasoning, the exciting bicycle is the optional bicycle; you don’t need it. You want it. If you can afford it, you should have it, but society doesn’t care whether you have an exciting bike. Society tends to care about things that it can’t easily do without. Things like clean air, food, water and a minimum of cooperation. Boring things.

In the U.S., more of us need to see the bicycle as one of those boring things. One of those indispensable things. It isn’t. It could be, in some places it’s getting to be, but for the most part, it isn’t. I’ve heard the bicycle is pretty boring in the Netherlands. I wish it were as boring here.

In the transportation space, the boring bicycle is truly remarkable. It is available, economical and always useful, not least because it is supported by a transportation infrastructure that simplifies the task of getting from A to B. (That’s why I brought up society. Society creates, or doesn’t create, suitable infrastructure.)

A review of the literature suggests that continued survival of the human race doesn’t require a great deal more excitement. Excitement is noise, shiny surfaces, distraction. Excitement is yelling squirrel in a crowded dog pen, the 24-hour news cycle, people doing horrible things to other people.

On behalf of civilization, I say we’ve been there and done way too much of that. What we need going forward is time to reflect, time to discuss and time to create. And bicycles. A whole bunch of mind-numbingly boring bicycles.

Think of it as a challenge, marketers. When you get tired of hawking helium-filled egos and carbon-fiber decals, try selling boredom.

I know it will dent my overall argument, but I can’t think of anything more exciting than your possible success.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
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5 Responses to Taking a strawman for a bicycle ride

  1. woo says:

    In my opinion bike manufacturs have to do some of the promoting . Think about it how much it cost to have a team in the tour 10 to 12 mil euros , is that promoting the use of bikes ?The other thing i see is consumers think well i knead a bike well lets go to wally world . They get a bike that wont fit them, wont work, poor quality and they think how can someone ride a bike. Yes i get it not everyone has the money for a shop quality bike but im shocked at how many consumers can but still go to mass market and tell me man how can you ride a bike I cant do that

    • Are manufacturers still a big part of the tour? I guess Trek has a presence, but I remember when jerseys were dominated by names like Peugeot, Gitane and Motobecane. The tour at least alluded to the larger world of cycling. Now it seems more like NASCAR. It looks like something I’m familiar with, but none of the story lines resonate. Over the years, the legends of cycling became the gods of cycling. Now the gods have become aliens, and I can no longer relate. As far as bicycles and big box stores, what has changed over the past 30 years? Not much, except possibly the quality of the big box bikes has creeped up a bit. Still, I don’t think bicycle shops should spend time trying to attract big box shoppers. Better to provide outstanding service to the customers who come through your door than to waste any time or money on people who are looking for the lowest-buck option. Because that option isn’t–and never will be–offered by a bicycle shop.

    • woo says:

      many of those customers are not alway looking for lowest price . yes some are its shocking you should spend a saturday with me

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