Bikes Are Bullshit
So now the weather’s finally getting nice, and I’ve been thinking about ways to finagle more outdoors time — an important thing, when your career basically forces you to stare into a monitor 8-12 hours a day. I was walking to the Metro the other day when I noticed several bike paths that run right by my apartment…
And I think: I should get a bike. I could explore those bike trails, use it to get to class rather than drive my car, and maybe use it for part of my commute too (biking to the Metro instead of walking). And since my car is finally paid off, I’ve got some extra money every month to play with, so I can afford to shell out a little.
With all this in mind, therefore, I dropped by a local bike shop this weekend to take a look at what’s out there. Friendly Bike Shop Clerk and I start talking, and I tell him that I want a basic, no-nonsense starter bike for use around the neighborhood and light commuting. He says "Great! Let me show you a few" and walks me through the pros and cons of three different models…
… that all cost $500.
Yes. Apparently an "entry-level" bike these days costs five hundred dollars. That’s American dollars, too, Jack.
Now, $500 may not be a lot to you, but it’s a lot to me — especially for something that would be frighteningly prone to theft. I don’t want to drop five bills on a bike and then have it go walkies on me a week later.
So I was a bit surprised to discover that $500 is basically where bike prices start these days. And they go up pretty quickly from there; you discover rapidly that the $500 bikes aren’t what real cyclists buy. Real cyclists buy $1,500 bikes, and then keep a wad of hundreds in the waistband of their bike shorts to throw at any plebeians they pass on the bike path: "Here’s some money, kid, go buy yourself a real bike."
If you can stomach the cost, there’s then the matter of choosing a type of bike. When I started looking, I thought a bike was a bike. Wrong-O! There are something like 46,000 categories of bike to choose from. There’s road bikes and mountain bikes, "comfort" bikes and "hybrid" bikes, "commuter" bikes and "touring" bikes. There’s "urban" bikes and "city" bikes — which are not to be confused with "town" bikes. And that’s not even counting the huge array of high-end bikes for the cyclist who’s busy sawing one of his balls off so he can be just like Lance Armstrong. The only thing you won’t find are cheap bikes — unless you are willing to buy disposable crap at Wal-Mart that’ll rust through before you get it home.
How the hell is a newbie supposed to find their way through the proliferation of categories? It’s as if the marketing arm of the bike business was the Judean People’s Front. (Splitters!)
I’ll probably end up swallowing hard and buying one of those god-awful "entry-level" bikes; I’ve been scouring Craigslist for a cheap used bike, but no good candidates have popped up. But the whole process has been sufficiently disorienting that I wanted to throw it out for discussion. If you own a bike, how did you find the right one? Can something that costs $500 truly be called "entry-level" with a straight face? And if bikes are so freaking expensive, should I do the logical thing: quit my job and start selling bikes???