Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bicycle Retailer

I always read Bicycle Retailer through squinted eyes, as if looking at a highway accident or a surgery on film. I want a filter of eyelashes to soften the impact of what could be a gruesome sight.

The bike industry supports cycling the way Ducks Unlimited supports waterfowl. If you want unsuspecting ducks to blow away, you have to support their habitat and well being. No sense having pollution and urban sprawl kill your feathered friends before you get a chance to shoot them.

There are actually some cyclists in the bike industry. They're either the ones whose companies fold up because they care more about the product than the bottom line, or they transfer their former racing ferocity into business competition and ride their competitors into the ground.

Sometimes change represents improvement. Sometimes innovation is good. But a business is looking for income. A substandard product, aggressively marketed, can displace a good product building its reputation slowly, a rider at a time. There aren't that many discerning riders. We don't have that much time.

The bike industry rates the health of the sport by how much money consumers are spending. That's crap. The health of the sport is measured by how often people ride, how many places they can ride, how much they want to ride.

I ride a lot. I spend little. Most riders I have known over the years spend their time on the road or trail, not in the bike shop. Sure, we all like some nice new goodies once in a while. Sure, we might need to replace something we broke or wore out. But even when the money's low, the mileage is high. I will ride.

The industry does not notice riders like me. We don't represent a pot of gold to them. But riders who ride are the ones who maintain cycling's place in traffic. We're out there, being seen. Ignored, we still perform a vital function maintaining the activity on which the industry feeds.

They're servicing cyclists the way the bull services the cow. As stewards of our mechanical needs, they're doing a miserable job. They keep jacking up the potency of the crack, dressing the harlots in more outlandish fetishistic attire, to try to get more chumps to throw down, when they should be concentrating on solid things that last.

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