April 26th, 2010

Reader of the week: Quinby

This week behooving pays tribute to our resident photographer, Quinby. 10 is not too young to appreciate the brilliance of an Alfine hub's ability to change gears at the lights, or to wear a Sunto heart rate monitor, or to generally recognize most things to do with bikes as being "so cool". Stopping for a thermos of tea on the trail is "so cool". The way you can ride all day and never feel tired is "so cool". New gloves are "so cool." The things I personally enjoy these days, are pretty much the things I discovered at age 10, and that Quinby is just discovering now, although in an accelerated manner, given his dad is more into his bikes than his beer.

Keep those awesome photos coming Quinby, and good luck with your first season racing. And every time you fall off, bounce straight up as you do so incredibly well.

Where did the prestige commuting bikes go?

In America or Australia, the cyclist who turns heads on the street, will usually be dressed as though for a world record attempt of some sort. That is because, in countries like mine, bicycles have for a long time been viewed as sporting equipment, if not merely as toys.

But advertisements from as late as the 1950s, plus other photographic evidence, tells us commuting bikes were marketed as prestige items, to adults, right up until some time in the 1960s when the scales finally tipped, irreversibly, in favour of car use. I say irreversibly, because once cars own the road, no way of taking roads back for bikes has thus far been demonstrated. Once a majority of voters are personally invested in a way of life that is dependent upon individual car ownership, history shows democratically elected governments are compelled to go on building roads and car parking. And once commuting bicycles were pushed off of the roads by motorised vehicles, two kinds of cyclist were left: those who can't drive because they are too young or too poor; and those who see cycling as some kind of sport.

Empirical studies don't exist to verify what I've just said. But evidence enough is in bike stores. In discount stores like K-mart, and toys stores like Toys-R-Us, those who cycle because age or a lack of money prevent them from driving, are catered for with $100 bicycles and cheap parts to keep them running, albeit slowly with squeaks. In specialist bike stores, whole sections are sometimes devoted to each sporting discipline, with $12,000 versions held up in each as a pinnacle of what one might aspire to in that style of bike.

Velorbis: the plushest retro city bike $2000                              Brooks and Brooks Brothers (well, at least I see the humour)

In Australia, Gazelle, Giant, Trek, Surly, and Electra are the main brands offering bikes for transport and utility, rather than sport and recreation. What I would like to see though, are 12K versions of each of these kinds of bikes, up on pedestals in bicycle stores. There is a little of that kind of thing on the shop floor of Cheeky Transport in Newtown, but even they could go further. I would like to see ultra high end commuting bikes with Rohloff Hubs, Titanium frames, those brakes Egor has on his touring bike, etcetera. The Velorbis was the best quality chic urban commuting bike I could find, but at just $2000 it stops well short of being the Rolls Royce that would truly behoove me.
If people could walk into a bike store get green eyes for a commuting bike, they would have something to aspire to other than bikes made for sport.