Friday, September 24, 2010

Super-cycle Me

Man that's a sharp looking bike isn't it? Tribalistic colours and everything. Dual suspension. Wow. It doesn't get much better than that. I should get me one. I should get me two. And look.... only $259.99. It's a total steal! I could get me 15 bikes for the price of my one.

Yes but......

The theme of the week appears to be cheap bikes -- and, conversely, expensive ones as well (more on that tomorrow). I've had three conversations and one minor argument about the value of spending good money on a bike in the last couple of weeks. Because I ride and obsess about bikes and everyone knows it, I get asked my advice all the time about what to purchase. All I can say is this: If you don't want to spend a lot of money on a bike don't ask me for advice because if you tell me you would like to ride more regularly the first thing I am going to tell you is don't go to Canadian Tire or Walmart and you need to spend at least $1000 (regular price... if its on sale, that's a bonus). And if you tell me you are going to participate in a long distance charity ride the first thing I'm going to ask you is if you have a good bike, and if you don't, then please go back and read the advice in the previous sentence. Here are 4 good reasons why:

Big Mike on a Bike

My friend Mike who does the MS bike tour with us every year rides a lovely orange bike which automatically makes him cool in my eyes because he has great taste in bike colours. While Mike is NOT riding a cheap department store bike, he is riding a bike that is only about one step up from that (He spent about $399 on the economy end of a brand name bike. Even name brands make a lesser version of their high-quality-selves). This season he has put nearly 4000 km on that bike. [As an aside, I need to add that I have also put over 4000 km on my handsome Madone. Myself and another rider of an equally ultra light fluffy carbon piece of art agree that in terms of total energy expenditure, Mike wins over me in terms of mileage.] He recently took that bike into a very respectable shop in the city for a once over and when he went to pick it up the guy asked him, "How much weight are you putting on the back end of that bike?"

Mike, being the big guy that he is says, "What are you trying to say?"

But the whole back end of his bike is starting to sag under the weight of panniers and the weight of big Mike. Bikes like that are simply not built for big mileage (maybe 1000 km tops). Nor are they built to tolerate the weight of anyone heavier than a child. If you want to ride a lot, and it doesn't matter how fast you intend to go, once you hop on a quality machine you will never want to go back.

It's true that the difference in feel between a $10,000 bike and a $2000 bike is negligible (the price difference comes down to fancy components), but the difference in feel between a $200 bike and a $2000 bike is eons apart.

Lalalalalalala... NOT LISTENING

My friend Tom, who is also my office mate, plays the stock market, spends a gazillion dollars on home renos and beer, and drives his cars till they are ready for the junkyard, wants to buy a bike so that he can ride trails around his home which is just outside the city limits. He estimates that this trail system is about 40km long. He has his eye on some Sport Chek brand which will cost him about the same as Mike's orange bike but is still probably worse in quality..... He claims he rides these trails about 30 times a summer on his relic of a department store bike that he bought for $75 20 years ago. But he wants one of those dual suspension bikes.

Me: You don't need dual suspension for what you are doing.

Tom: Oh I know I don't need it, I just want it.

Me: You realize that isn't real suspension on those bikes and it just a bunch of crappy springs that look like suspension. You should go on the Alter Ego website. They have Norco brand REAL dual-suspension mountain bikes on sale right now regular $2500 for $1200. Apparently they are not going to carry the brand anymore so they are clearing them out.

He is intrigued. He looks. But of course the first ones he sees are the $6500 Norco mountain bikes which are not under as huge a mark down as the middle and lower priced Norco bikes. (This is a good bike store. Of course they also have very expensive bikes.) Then we get to the bike I was referring too.

Tom: That's a 2008 bike. That's not a markdown. That's depreciation.

Me: (At the point of exasperation) So what. It's still a thousand times better than some piece of crap Sport Check bike with springs for suspension. That bike will last you for life.

Tom: Well my old bike I'm riding now I've had forever and it's still perfectly good. And I pass people on expensive bikes on the trails. (Fat guys with no fitness). I'm not spending $1200 on some depreciated bike that will do the same thing for me.

Me: Ok. Just stop talking to me now. Don't even tell me what you plan to do. And don't tell Jason and don't tell Michael... (our biking coworkers) lalalalalalala NOT LISTENING.

I love Tom. He is the most easy going, generous, and helpful person I know. He helped me put my patio together this fall. But don't talk to him about bikes. And, I repeat, if you've never been on a good quality bike, you simply DO NOT know.

LBS: Cheers!

As a recent post alluded to, I am developing a nice relationship with the Local Bike Shop boys at Alter Ego. Usually I go there with a purpose. But I also like to go there to visit (usually I combine the purpose and the visit). And similar to Norm's experience on Cheers, it is nice to show up at a place where everyone knows your name. Now if they handed me a beer as I came in the door too, that would simply complete the experience.

The store is separated from the workshop area by a half wall and usually somewhere behind this half wall is where I will find Dave. I'll stand and chat with him peering over the half wall as he works on a bike. Then he stops working and he chats too. And then eventually when my purpose is over and I am full on into visit mode, I feel bad and I say, "You're busy I should leave you alone," and then he will say: No, please. Take me away from my shitty bike. And sure, enough, more often than not, he's working on a Supercycle or equivalent.

There is something fundamentally wrong about companies that peddle (pedal?) hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shitty bikes a year most of which are rarely ridden and rust and collect dust collectively in our Canadian winter garage storage and the people stuck fixing them are the high end bike shop mechanics.

But then again, maybe that's the point. These bikes aren't meant to be fixed. They are meant to be thrown away when they are broken. These are disposable bikes meant for "one time" use. Which sort of, when you think about it, is paradoxical. If we are supposed to be riding bikes to help save the planet, then we should be riding bikes that have a long lifespan in order to not have them end up in a landfill upon their death.

The other night when I was visiting/trying-to-find-out-if-my-single-speed-could-fit-cross-tires Dave and young-Dan (there are two Dan's.. they are both kinda young, actually) were both working on a pair of shitty bikes in tandem. [Actually, Dan was working on the shitty bike. Dave was cleaning my bike with a rag to avoid working on the other shitty bike.] Dan had lucked out and got the full-out component replacement on a trashed looking Supercycle. It had $200 worth of parts dangling in various baggies from the handlebars. Isn't putting $200 worth of parts on a Supercycle equivalent to putting a Hemi in a Pinto?

Me: $200! Throw the freaking bike in the garbage and get a new one.

Them: We told him that. He insisted he wanted to fix it.

They tell me the story of this guy's plan. He's going to get a new better bike for himself in the spring (Yeah he's lying, I'm thinking) and he wants to repair this one anyhow as he's going to hand it down.

Me: Hand it down? Throw it out and buy a new Supercycle to hand down then it is the same price as the parts. And buy a good bike. Better yet buy two good bikes.

Dan or Dave (I can't remember which): OK we'll give you his phone number and you can call him up and try and talk some sense into him.

Me: Haha. If he won't listen you you he's not going to listen to me. I'm a woman. Guys like that don't listen to women.

So the moral of the story is. Save the sanity of your LBS dude. Buy a good bike. You'll also help save the planet because your new bike will last longer.

And if that doesn't convince you.....

Today I read a post written by a more well-read blogger than I and he poses four very highly reflective questions exploring the differences between one $7500 bike and one hundred $75 bikes (which is better?). These questions came to his mind while Looking at a  Bike Display in Walmart. I will attempt to answer his four questions here:

1. The $75 bike will only be 1% as much fun as the $7500 bike because it will only last one ride while the $7500 bike will last (barring no crashes) an indeterminate number of rides. After one ride the $75 bike will be bent out of shape and deformed by your fat ass and better used as a lawn ornament.

2. I would be troubled by the fact that the 100 $75 bikes will end up in a landfill after I discard them. Please, I'll take the $7500 option.

3. To be honest the 100 people on the 100 $75 bikes would be a far more entertaining and awe inspiring spectacle over the one rider on the $7500 bike. Nothing could be more entertaining than 100 people with no bike handling skills, on a group ride, on cheap malfunctioning bikes. The carnage would be awesome.

4. These bikes are most suitable for plant holders. Alternatively they might act well as table legs for a pair of end tables. Or as a light fixture hanging from the ceiling. They are pretty and meant for decoration. Walmart mis-stocked them in sporting goods. They should be in housewares or gardening.

Thank you for reading. If you didn't already suspect that I was a bike snob, I have now fully confirmed your suspicious. Snobbish and proud of it.


Terri said...

One of the guys from my LBS likes to go to the bike section in CT, and walk down the bike aisle, grabbing the front wheels of the bikes and spinning the handlebars.

Only one of my bikes cost me less than my van, and it was a good bike back in its day (about 15 years ago). For that matter, it's still a good bike now.

Carly said...

I agree with you 100%
Why would you buy a bike at walmart where you can also buy eyeliner, pillow cases, tampons and applesauce??
I can't believe someone was spending $200 on parts for a Supercycle. What a waste of money. The Alter Ego boys must see some pretty crazy stuff.
Is this post an illusion to a possible cross bike purchase??!!

Kim said...

Is it not the hallmark of a good cyclist that our bikes are worth more than our cars? This is not true of me as my car is still worth more than all my bikes put together but it probably should be true of me if I was smarter about spending money ;-)

Kim said...

@Carly. No Cross bike purchase for me this year for sure (next year is another year however).... I just happened to discover how much that loaner bike I have in my possession is worth today.... and it makes me feel nauseated and faint to think about it. But I'm excited too ;-)

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