Thursday, February 16, 2012


I bumbled into the bike industry because I did not want to take part in the destructive economy. I wanted to support games any number of people could play. I wanted to sell and service something I did not need to be ashamed of in any way.

The bike industry in the 1990s proceeded to act pretty shamefully, but they seem to be getting their scruples back now. Some of them, anyway. It's still one of the best games in town. Alternative energy is another one, but it threatens the establishment even more than the idea of a bunch of people happily using bikes for transportation, so it has attracted more sabotage from the established energy economy. Beside that, bicycling offers benefits right now to anyone who will take it up. Those benefits only increase as social and political forces begin to support it rather than neglect or oppose it. It's cheap to start and rewarding to continue.

The work itself does not always tax my ingenuity, so it's a good place to think the kind of big thoughts I've always enjoyed. The money's not great and I will certainly die an agonizing death if I get any kind of serious illness, even a treatable one, but it's a bit of a war effort. I hate that it has to be that way, but humans always test each other's commitment by seeing how willing the other side is to face death and destruction for what they believe.

War is the wrong metaphor. It's a long non-violent life by example in a world where coercion has been the norm for centuries. "Do it or I'll hurt you. Do it or I'll kill you," have been accepted arguments throughout human existence. How often has someone advised you to stop doing something if you know what's good for you? Yet you still see recruiting ads for the armed forces. Talk about something that might not be good for you!

"That's different," the argument goes. "You're serving a higher purpose." So trying to make the world a better place to ride a bike isn't a higher purpose? You're more likely to do that by promoting the idea that niceness is better than fierceness and by working on fun, durable equipment and holistic traffic planning than by saber rattling and cranking up the paranoia. Not to say that we don't, regrettably, still need sabers and people to carry them, for the moment. But view that as a small (and hopefully shrinking) aspect of the whole equation.

I wanted to live in a world where every traveler was a good guest who found a warm welcome. I still do.


kfg said...

"I bumbled into the bike industry because . . ."
Yeah, pretty much.

"The bike industry in the 1990s proceeded to act pretty shamefully . . ."
I saw it coming and bailed, I'm afraid. It didn't help that the only pro shop (Ben Serotta's under new management)in the area decided not to take me on because I was "over qualified."


" . . .but they seem to be getting their scruples back now."

I've been thinking about getting back in as a simple/city bike specialist now that those are becoming popular again, but then I think some more and think not.

" . . .it has attracted more sabotage . . ."
Weeeell, less sabotage than "co-opting." Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but you can get all the solar and biofuel you want on the open retail market.

My favorite biofuel is called "Gouda."

"I will certainly die an agonizing death if I get any kind of serious illness . . ."
People ask me what I'll do if I get sick.
"Die," is the (obvious) answer. From their reactions you'd think the idea had never occurred to them.

But after all, dieing is easy; pleasing customers is hard.

cafiend said...

There's a thriving bike culture and business outside the visible retail sector. It might serve to keep the industry honest. Independent mechanics and fabricators will keep making and recommending simple bikes for as long as we can buy or scrounge parts. For now I lazily take advantage of my industry connection while making a nuisance of myself by harping at them about disposable crap that punishes customers for their trust.