WTF happened to bicycles?

Posted 2008.05.21 0.00 in Sports

Seriously. I haven’t been much into bicycling since I was a kid. I was the last one amongst my friends to get a 5-speed, and back then, that was the bees-knees of cycling. Sure the guys you saw at the Olympics had 10 speeds and 12 speeds and whatnot but that was the cutting-edge technology. Us normal folk just went over to Canadian Tire with our parents to pick out a $150 or $200 5-speed and then we were just all that. Then, when I was 18 or 19, I bought myself a (small) motorcycle and after that bicycles were just very, very lame and seriously uncool. Like, bicycles were only for little kids who weren’t old enough yet for a (motor) bike.

Fast-forward to modern times and my motorcycle is in storage (it was old when I got it, now it’s an antique and I can’t get it insured — it doesn’t help that I never got around to even getting a motorcycle license, for the 5 or 6 years that I drove the thing.) Now I’m 30-something and health is an issue, along with the environment and all that jazz. So I think I’ll get a bicycle. I’ve got lots of bike paths around, and I’m less than 10kms to work so it’s not unreasonable to think someday I could actually get there on a bike.

So — WTF happened to bicycling, in the past decade or so? The only ‘cheap bikes’ you can get are broken or stolen, and everything’s 21 speed or more, there’s not one but two shift levers because they put gears on the bit your feet work as well as the gears on the back wheel, and bikes aren’t just built by one company, all the bits come from different specialty shops. Then there’s 4 or 5 different ‘kinds’ of bike and you have to pick the frame and the wheels and who knows what else.

I was just thinking to go to the bicycle store, find a cheap-and-cheerful one on the display rack, and get on with my life… well ok in the end I managed to do that, but clearly the bike-store people think I’m some kind of uncouth savage who clearly has no appreciation for the finer details in cycling.

Oh wait. They’re right – about the appreciation thing. I don’t want to start training for competition (street, dirt, mountain, or otherwise). I just want to pedal around the block FFS, not on some 3-day expedition.

So I got a bike, some no-name cheap frame that is probably made of whatever metal is 3-years out of fashion. I picked it because it had the redeeming quality of being the right shade of purple. I did pick the thicker knobbly-type tires because I want to not care if I am riding on pavement, grass, or dirt. I got the exact kind of gear shifty dealies that were exactly right for my style of cycling — based on the fact that they were already attached to the frame that was the right shade of purple.

I don’t recall exactly how much my new (purple) bike cost me, but I do remember it was more than I was planning to spend. I’m pretty sure it was at least a little bit less than my motorcycle had cost me back when I was 18 or 19.

Now, I will confess that this all happened about 2 years ago – but it’s all fresh in my mind because I was just at the bike store again. They didn’t recognize me from my previous visit, so I was able to avoid being treated like an ignorant uncouth cycle-hating savage — at least for the first 53 seconds, and then I started talking.

See, I had been told that you could get a little metal stand that propped the back wheel up off the ground, so you could use your bike like an excercise bike. The idea, alledgedly, was that you could save money by not having to buy a whole nuther bike – that doesn’t actually go anywhere – to plunk in the living room infront of the TV — and you had the added advantage of working out on the same bike you would actually ride around outside on, so the right muscles would get tuned to the right bike. Or something.

So I ventured into the bike shop and looked lost till the salesguy came to see me. I described what I was looking for in the exacting technical terms that I knew it as — a metal thingy that propped up the back wheel so you could ride it indoors for excercising. Amused, he told me that it was called a “Trainer”. Yes, I exclaimed as if I knew that and the word had only momentarily escaped me, I wanted to buy a trainer. He led me over to the one he had on display, for the low low price of $400.

Four hundred dollars. For a metal thingy that props up the back wheel. Now I don’t remember exactly…but I’m pretty sure that my actual (purple) bike did not cost $400 (it might have, but if it did, I have suppressed that memory.) What I do know is you can get a pretty kick-ass reclining excercise bike at Canadian Tire for only $200. (Don’t ask how I know this and do not look at the fancy device I use to dry clothes on.)

Now, the $400 dealie is the top model. He has another one for the low low price of $200. I remark that for $200, I could in fact acquire an entire complete excercise bike.

If only I had a camera.

The confident, slightly condescending, knowledgable smirk on his face was… it was just incredible. And the way he said “No, you can’t.” – I mean, I don’t have any special telepathic abilities or anything, but between the smirk and three little words, I knew exactly what had happened. Again. I had revealed myself to be an uncouth savage cycle-ignorant doofus.

Clearly anyone who thinks they can get an excercise bike for $200 is probably the kind of putz who would ride around on a cheap (purple) bike and not even be mortified to be seen in public on a bike that cost less than $1000. So, the sales guy now knows exactly what kind of person he’s dealing with, and I now know that I’m in over my head. Lost, struggling, I do the only thing I can: I ask if I can see the cheaper one.

Only, they don’t have it in yet. One’s on order, it’ll be here tomorrow or maybe even later today. He asks if I’d like them to call me when it’s in. Oh yes, I brightly respond, please do. I leave my name and phone number. So I leave the bike shop, confident that they think I’m an ignorant putz, and also figuring that I’ve probably agreed to spend $200 on a metal thingy to prop up the back wheel of my (purple) bike.

My (Purple) Bike!
My (Purple) Bike – no metal thingy yet though.

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