Monday, February 28, 2011

Bicycle Shopping: What Do We Expect?

Last week, I wrote about my sister's search for a basic, comfortable roadbike and in the post I explained that she is looking for a "normal" bike - That is, for a bike that is neither vintage, nor classic, nor lugged, nor artisanal - just a regular bike in the sense that one could walk into a bicycle shop off the street and buy it for a reasonable price. Once again I thank you all for the feedback, which was immensely helpful, and I will post an update regarding what bike she ends up getting. But on a separate note, I was intrigued by the category of replies that "pathologized" the way I described my sister's criteria - a few even questioning whether she ought to be buying a bike at all under the circumstances. Those comments made me think about expectations when it comes to bicycle shopping. And frankly, I think that "we" - i.e. those of us who are "into" bicycles, and especially into classic and vintage bicycles - can be out of touch with what people who "just want a bike" expect. Here are some of my observations about first time bike buyers' expectations that I've gathered from personal conversations and reader emails over the past two years:

It's too complicated
I think it is accurate to say that most people off to buy their first bicycle as an adult initially expect for the experience to be fairly simple. They envision being able to walk into a bike shop, to ask for some advice, and to walk out with a nice shiny bike. And I don't think that this attitude makes them "lazy" or "not committed to cycling." I think it is an entirely normal and healthy attitude. Unfortunately, hopes for simplicity are all too frequently crushed as bicycle shopping turns frustrating. The bicycles suggested at bike shops are often uncomfortable or otherwise unappealing, and the customer does not know how to express what exactly does not feel right. Purchasing a bicycle should be simple. But I believe that both bicycle shops and the industry at large are out of touch with what customers actually need.

It's too expensive
I receive lots of emails from people looking to buy their first bike, and the figure $500 comes up over and over again as the upper limit of their budget - regardless of how well off the person is. While that expectation is unrealistic, I think that from the customer's point of view - assuming that they are not familiar with the industry - it is reasonable. Once they get to know the market a little better, chances are that they will come to terms with spending considerably more on a bike than they initially expected to. I blame this discrepancy on the industry and not on the customer being "cheap." In theory, large manufacturers could churn out attractive and functional bikes for $500, but for a variety of reasons, they do not.

I don't want to be a bike expert, I just want to ride
I hear this one repeatedly, and I agree. Wanting to buy a bike should not require one to become an expert in bikes first. There is a difference between cycling and being "into bicycles," and it is perfectly normal to be the former without becoming the latter.

The fact is, that those of us who enjoy customising bicycles, building up bicycles from the frame up, hunting for rare parts and refurbishing vintage bikes, seeking out unique and unusual bicycles that are only available in specialty shops, and so on... are not in the majority, and I think we need to respect that. Most people - even those who are excited about cycling - just want to go to a "regular" bike shop, buy a bike, ride it without problems, and fiddle as little with it as possible. There is nothing wrong with that, and I think it would be misguided of me to try and convince everyone I meet that my preferences are "better." And in fact I don't think they are better; they are just different.

I would venture to say that a large percentage of would-be cyclists in North America are turned off from cycling by the discrepancy between their expectations and their actual experiences, when it comes to buying their first bicycle. And it seems to me that rather than blame the "victim," it would be more useful to rethink how the bicycle industry approaches potential customers. I have spoken to way too many people at this point who've told me that they'd love to cycle but are having terrible luck finding a bike. And that just isn't right.

65 comments:

  1. Velouria, I love this post. I am a longtime and regular cyclist and I regularly read your posts for the opinions and expertise you and your active community of commenters share. I love to see the passion for vintage and other beautiful bikes.

    But I am not a bikie (if that's the cycling equivalent to a foodie). And I don't want to be. I want to ride my bike and I want it to work without endless fiddling and fixing.

    And a healthy bike culture needs both kinds of riders (or all kinds - there are surely more than two flavors.)

    What I've seen in countries where cycling really flourishes are not roads full of bike fanatics. But roads full of people who ride bikes. Period. For whatever reasons that they do. And those reasons usually include that it's simpler, cheaper, more pleasant.

    I love what you do on this site. I love your strong aesthetic sense and your ever increasing expertise and experience. I love your constant search for something better. But I also love that you don't make an orthodoxy of it.

    Three cheers for Lovely Bicycle!!!

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  2. I agree with you and think it is a pity that it should be so. It seems to stem from a mismatching of perceptions all around - the aspiring cyclist has generally not ridden since childhood and probably somewhere in the back of their mind still harbours a perception of a bike being a 'toy' and so $500 would certainly seem to be an upper limit to spend. And at that price point - or rather well below it, since that is where the buying will usually take place - the bike and riding experience that goes with it is unlikely to foster an interest in spending more and getting a better bike.

    And then there is the shop - too often staffed (as are most shops of all sorts these days) by adolescents who haven't a clue about the products they sell, or else, if it is a specialty shop, by know-it-alls will come across as elitist and start talking in jargon and upgrades and put the buyers off.

    And some are just plain crooked. There was a person writing in to a forum over here in the UK a few days ago - a new cyclist amazed at the cost of things and ready to give up already; his shop was urging him to buy new hubs and cassette and chain on a bike less than three months old - the old ones, they said, had worn out. He was assuming that buying all these things were part of a bicycles normal running costs!

    Information is the answer. But alas there are very few intelligently presented articles I see written (at least here in the UK) that are directed at new buyers - generally the writer is a brand new and dare I say it, clueless, cyclist who has spent the weekend tooling around London (or trying to) on the new suspension mountain bike someone has sold them, and then writing some vaguely humorous puff piece about the experience. That's it. Very little - if anything - is ever written in the mainstream press (or even in cycling magazines, for that matter) by experienced and knowledgeable cyclists and aimed at newcomers to cycling, and bicycle buying.

    And while there are no doubt plenty of knowledgeable cyclists who would be willing and able to write such pieces, there are few editors interested in running them

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  3. Might be interesting if the bicycle industry took some inspiration from the auto industry and made more widespread practice of leasing bicycles.

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  4. Lets's not even get started on the attitudes of "typical" LBS employees to newbies, particularly women.

    I went into a bike shop in Denver last week- a cooperative and fairly low key place to buy a rack for my SIL's bike and the guy was TOTALLY patronizing- this despite I knew all the lingo and was looking for a particular part.

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  5. In the Netherlands,
    lots of people ride bikes
    but they are not "into" cycling.
    They want a bike that is complete
    and ready to ride. They do not want
    to choose lights, locks, mudguards, etc
    and worry if they will fit.
    The bike shops understand this.

    However, in the USA/UK/Australia
    (to name a few countries I have experience with)
    bike shops are run by sports
    cyclists for the most part.

    Also because so few
    of the general public ride,
    there just aren't may people
    around to ask advice from -
    other than people who are "into"
    cycling. So it gets complicated...

    John I

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  6. Well said Velouria.

    I'd wager part of the problem rests with big box stores like Walmart and Target who've been selling consumers tank-ish ill suited mountain bikes as general steeds since the 80's for $150 and under.

    There are some extremely strange and ill conceived notions about cycling in general and what a bike is in the USA.

    I'm curious, if you were in the Netherlands or somewhere in Europe where transport cycling is the norm, how much in equivalent US dollars would one have to spend for a basic bike with fenders and a rack?

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  7. I don't see why $500 is an unreasonable limit. (I am way into biking, and would spend much more than this on a new bike for me). For a new cyclist there are lots of bikes that run $500 or less. They are not light, and do not have what we would think of as "good" components. But they will last years, with decent maintenance.
    Looking at bikesdirect.com (I understand the bike shop price will be something more than this, but it is an easy source of prices, and an inexperienced cyclist could buy a bike from there then spend say $50 to have a bike shop set it up), I see Windsor Dover 3 for $319.95 with Shimano/aluminum frame in the area of comfort bikes, for example, and $399 for the Motobecane Mirage Sport (aluminum/Sora).
    Those are both decent bikes (there are lots of other choices), and properly sized I don't see why they wouldn't work for lots of people.
    Sure, they won't last forever -- but ride them for a few years then spend more if you want to. You will know much more about what kind of bike you like by then.

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  8. Jon Webb - $500 is not an unreasonable limit. But it is an unrealistic limit for the kind of bike they want for that money. Those who have not been to a bike store for a while expect $500 to buy them close to top of the line, whereas the kind of bike you're describing they'd expect to cost in the $100-200 range.

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  9. I see. Yes, I still remember the Raleigh Professional IV for $449 (I memorized the price and all details of that bike.) Top of the line for under $500. Those were the days...

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  10. Ha. I also remember the price of my last bicycle before I bought the Pashley in 2009. It was $135, back in 1994.

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  11. Great post, Velouria.

    This is, I think, why many would-be cyclists end up at Walmart or Dick's, rather than at a bike shop. It's a simple experience. Not too many models to choose from. Most, if not all, of the bikes are $500 or less. The salespersons tend to be courteous and not intimidating, although they may not be very knowledgeable, either.

    Ideally, someone who knows nothing about bikes, except that he or she wants to ride, ought to be able to walk into a bike shop, be asked questions about what he or she wants (rather than being told what he or she should want), be shown suitable models in his or her price range (which admittedly, might have to be expanded a bit), and be allowed to test ride some of them. There is one shop in my area that is like this. In the others, if you aren't a "real biker" and you don't go in knowing what you are looking for, you aren't taken very seriously. My wife claims to have this sort of experience every time she walks into a hardware store -- which she rarely does, anymore.

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  12. Jammy Straub said:

    >I'm curious, if you were in the Netherlands or
    >somewhere in Europe where transport cycling is
    >the norm, how much in equivalent US dollars
    >would one have to spend for a basic bike
    >with fenders and a rack?

    On the Dutch Halfords website
    199 Euros, or 274USD:

    http://tinyurl.com/4qq8cv9

    Racks, mudguards, lights, basket, full chaincase...

    Here is the bike on the UK Halfords webite
    that is closest in price.

    http://tinyurl.com/4hxolzw

    Full suspension mountainbike....

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  13. Allow me to repeat what I posted in the first thread about your sisters needs......
    ******************
    "Walt D said...
    Velouria said...
    "She thinks that I "know about bikes" and doesn't understand why I can't just tell her which bike to get. I am out of my depth and at your mercy!"

    Tell her the truth as strange as it may sound. That truth is learning about cycling is a journey not a destination. Explain to her that her very best advice will come from an honest bike shop when SHE tells them what she needs and why.

    Advising a relative, or close friend, is fraught with danger since whatever happens , good or bad, will be your fault no matter what. That is why it's best to point her at a bike shop and slide outta the way. :)) Heck, I won't even advise any of my sons on which bike to buy 'cause it never works out since we are different people!!!!"
    **********************
    The truth here , and you did spot if Velouria, is that consumer education about bicycles in America is really not geared to the average citizen rider. The whole industry is way to specialized which often shows when the sales person at the average bike shop simply can not connect with this type of customer.

    It's a fact that non- cyclist still remember that bicycle of their youth that was a "kids toy" where quality or purpose didn't matter. That is why I said for her ,with your help, to find an HONEST LBS that would work to understand HER needs not what they wanted to sell her.

    Heck, as you know that even on "Bikeforums" the most common question is "what kind of bike should I buy?" To me that is a damning black mark against the whole bicycle industry for not doing a better job educating the consumer.

    So I'll repeat again my advice......
    YOU help her find a good honest,honorable, bike shop to help guide her to a bike that is at least middle of the road to her needs. Then step back to let her choose what she thinks will work.

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  14. Jammy Straub said...
    "I'm curious, if you were in the Netherlands or somewhere in Europe where transport cycling is the norm, how much in equivalent US dollars would one have to spend for a basic bike with fenders and a rack?"


    I have seen no-name traditional Dutch bikes (not Gazelle or Batavus) with fenders, chaincase, dressguards and so on, for as little as 150EUR for a single speed coasterbrake bike, new. No idea whether they are any good, but they are available.

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  15. Before we "rediscovered" bikes, I remember thinking of them as entirely recreational devices. I still do to an extent. I also didn't know anyone with whom I could go riding and I always imagined bike buying to be a social activity with a group of your friends for a particular purpose. "We'll take a lot of rides in the park along the river this Summer" kind of thing.

    Oh, and my biggest concern wasn't even sharing the road with automobiles, but getting flats all the time. I don't know why I was so concerned with getting flats, but I recall conversations with cyclists 10-15 years ago where I would suggest my newest idea for flat prevention.

    Weird, but that's about all I remember from my adult bike-related experience before I became the "hardcore" "all-weather" "expert" cyclist I am today.

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  16. I also remember the price of my last bicycle before I bought the Pashley in 2009. It was $135, back in 1994.

    I think this happens a lot with people when they go into the Bike Shop of Today. All they remember about bike prices is what they paid 10, 20, 30 years ago, so of course it's all going to seem expensive! Even if to you or me it's cheap! That's probably why the Target special appeals to so many newbies.

    For example: I occasionally get folks who balk at my hostel's current bed prices, sometimes eliciting a reaction like, "When I last stayed in a hostel in 1987, a dorm bed was $7!" Because, y'know, things like inflation don't factor into hostel bed prices...

    Of course, one can buy used bikes, but most newbies are too scared to go that route, for good reason. The first used bike I bought in Portland I bought from a reputable shop because I wanted to be sure I was not getting a lemon that would fall apart on me in two days.

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  17. I definitely used fit the mold. $500 limit, not sure if I would cycle much, but wanted a good bike that would do what I needed, which at the time was a short commute. I visited several bike shops and all tried to talk me into different things and I ended up buying a mountain bike that didn't fit and certainly wasn't suitable for city riding. It was stolen in two years and I got a hybrid, which also didn't fit well. It wasn't until I started doing research and my own wrenching that I started to like bikes. I loved riding, but the mechanical side was too much hassle. It wasn't until I had enough dealings with the LBS that I learned to do my own maintenance and to educate myself about what is out there.

    Once alienated by bike shops, people go looking for their friend or relative who knows about bikes, who is more often than interested in some type of racing. I know that I did, I asked my brother, who got me on the hybrid. Now he's asking for my help with his next bike since I'm the only person he knows who's interested in utility cycling.

    A big issue as I see it is the contract system that most bike shops are a part of. About 80% of the bike shops out there sell either Trek, Cannondale or Specialized bikes, which have some decent urban bikes in their lineup but no shops carry them (just try to find a shop that carries the Globe line.) So they attract mechanics and owners who are interested in the racing lines and cater to those customers, alienating everyone who just wants a bike or selling them a hybrid :shudder.:

    Things are a bit better now as the major brands will have a few bikes branded as urban, but the trouble is getting the shops to stock them. The newest LBS close to me is a trek shop and they only have one Atwood and one Bellville in the shop. If they don't fit you, you're out of luck. Now there are two LBS here that stock something other than Trek, one is a Raleigh dealer and the other is what I've come to think as a 'real' LBS, where they take the time to find out what the customer needs. Unfortunately, they're newer and were originally the shop that started me on the road to mechanical proficiency before new ownership.

    The $500 was the maximum that I could spend on something that I was worried would get stolen and wasn't sure if I would use it, basically the maximum for a tool rather than a toy.

    My brother-in-law lived in Amsterdam for two years and spent $250 for what "A good dutch bike", lock, bell and lights. No branding to speak of but it worked for what he needed and had an integrated rack and chain case etc... He sold it for $150 when he left. Of course there are no hills there either.

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  18. I realize that I am basing this comment on my situation, but here it goes....

    $500 is half my mortgage payment. It's just under my food bills for a family of five for a month. It is more than my car payment. It is five times the cost of a bike at Costco.

    If you are just starting out and don't know how much you will ride or if you will stick to it, much more than that on a sport you may give up in two weeks is a lot of money.

    Unfortunately, if you start on a bike that isn't comfortable, you have to be really determined not to give up.

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  19. Erin B said...
    "$500 is half my mortgage payment. It's just under my food bills for a family of five for a month. It is more than my car payment."


    Yup. It is a lot of money, and I think it is reasonable to expect to be able to buy a good mass produced bike for that price. Unfortunately, there is not much on the market that will fit within that budget, especially once you add lights, a comfortable saddle, etc.

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  20. recently i went to the lecture given by the guy who travelled from zagreb (croatia) to damask (syria). on bicycle, of course. some guy in the audience asked the inevitable and so annoying question: how much did he spend on bicycle and equipment? i loved his answer that left many perplexed: "well, i spent 925 dollars for the whole trip."

    he bought his bike for around 220 dollars. just generic shitty shopping centre mountain bike. and it worked flawlessly on 4000 km trip. and he is not some great cyclist or something. the point is just to get the bike and ride it. we who are "into bikes" often forget about it, tangled in all the subtleties of components and frame geometry. of course, this things matter, but getting a cheap bike is not the real reason why people give up cycling. if you want to cycle, you can start with a crappy bike and love it. and for 500 bucks, well these are very decent bicycles for an average beginner. and yes, on average, bicycles here are more expensive then in the usa.

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  21. "In theory, large manufacturers could churn out attractive and functional bikes for $500, but for a variety of reasons, they do not."

    Companies like Linus and, to a lesser extent, Public have sprung up to fill this void.

    "The bicycles suggested at bike shops are often uncomfortable or otherwise unappealing, and the customer does not know how to express what exactly does not feel right."

    A couple of things: a new rider won't know what feels right and what doesn't unless he/she gets some miles in beyond the parking lot. Inevitably, anyone who "gets into" cycling just a little after their first purchase finds the original bike no so great.

    No one said you have to buy a new bike; a good community bike shop steers many young people to something that's comfortable with a no bs attitude. If it doesn't work out, sell for about what you paid.

    Living in the Bay Area I can't remember the last time I was in a bike shop that had a patronizing attitude. We are very lucky here, indeed.

    Jim

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  22. I started on a cheap old Trek 720 ... I don't even remember how much I paid for it, but it's solidly in that < $500 category of basic mass produced hybrid, and I was fine on that bike for years. The only reason why I sold it off was because I didn't want to do a 26 mile commute on it, but it was good for the occasional charity fundraiser century or rambling countryside wander, as well as bumming around the city.

    It's still the type of bike that I recommend to most newcomers eventhough, for a while, Trek strayed from that formula. The template that I look for is: hybrid geometry, solid fork, brazeons for racks and fenders, < $500. Add lights and a lock and check in again after a few months. See if they want a rack or a kickstand or fenders or a chain guard. Yes, it's a little more expensive to buy the pieces a la carte, but the sticker shock is not as massive, and they choose only the features that they're really interested in. Some folks don't care about fenders or a chain guard.

    I also sometimes wonder why bike companies can't turn a profit on a complete commuter bike that's less than $1000. I was watching this mountain biking documentary called LifeCycles that started with a neat montage of a mountain bike being built from scratch in a Specialized factory somewhere in Quebec, and it was fascinating watching robots doing things like truing wheels and cutting sprockets. Yes, a robot built wheel won't be as good as handmade, but it will be cheaper. Maybe it's that they can't automate the assembly and adding more commuter\transportational accessories requires more manual work increases labor which increases their cost?

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  23. Velouria said...
    Erin B said...
    "$500 is half my mortgage payment. It's just under my food bills for a family of five for a month. It is more than my car payment."

    Yup. It is a lot of money, and I think it is reasonable to expect to be able to buy a good mass produced bike for that price. Unfortunately, there is not much on the market that will fit within that budget, especially once you add lights, a comfortable saddle, etc.

    *************************

    This is when a person moves to second tier markets i.e. used bicycles sold by bike shops or reliable private parties.

    Not everyone can afford a new bike nor does everyone need a new bike when so many good to high quality bikes populate the second tier used market.

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  24. Re used bikes: While personally I agree (obviously), I don't think this option is for everybody. Buying a used bike is complicated for someone who is not already into bikes, and there is a big chance that the person will simply abandon the project half way once they discover that the bike shop that originally said they could update the bike cites component incompatibilities and so on. You have to know what you are doing to some extent with used bikes, or you can end up spending the money for nothing.

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  25. Compare and contrast buying your first bike with buying your first camera. :-) I used to hear the same thing with cameras 10-15 years ago when film ASA couldn't be dialed up as it can now. The camera and the user had to manage it. Now people expect their gadgets, phones, cameras, TV's, cars to manage themselves. Bikes just aren't like that.

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  26. Amen, amen, amen. On all your points, Velouria. Well done.

    It seems to me that if I can walk into Costco and for $300 walk out with a massive and solidly built barbecue grill, I should be able to buy a reasonably good bicycle for a similar amount. To the average consumer, a bicycle appears to be closer on the spectrum of complexity to a crock pot than to a computer.

    As for the failure of the bicycle industry to focus on these customers, one of two things is at work: either the number of these customers is lower than our experiences with them suggest -- which is very possible, given that we enthusiasts are likelier to hear these tales than are others; or, there is industry-wide short-sightedness and poor research among bike makers.

    My money would be on the former. I suspect that somewhere in a bike manufacturer's conference room is a Venn diagram showing that the population that wants a sub-$500 bike and the population that happily settles for a department store bike overlap almost entirely.

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  27. Velouria said: "Buying a used bike is complicated for someone who is not already into bikes... You have to know what you are doing to some extent with used bikes, or you can end up spending the money for nothing."

    I don't quite buy that argument, simply because A) you can get a good used bike so cheaply that it really doesn't matter if you make a mistake, and B) old bikes are not complicated machines. My first two bikes ('70s Schwinn and Peugeot) cost me less than $25 each, and neither needed anything more complicated than new tires or brake pads. I didn't know much about bikes at the time -- I'd just heard that those were good brands, so off I went. Sure, you can later get obsessive about fixing them up, and getting exactly the right setup for your needs -- but if you just want something to ride around town to try it out for a while, there's no need to get finicky. I think the real problem is that some people don't like the idea of being seen on a bike that they think others would perceive as a junker. That's a social problem, not a problem of knowledge.

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  28. BG - I don't think it matters whether we buy that argument. If a person says that something doesn't work for them, then it doesn't work for them. Many of the emails I get are from readers telling me about their experiences with bikes, and many a time I've felt guilty when a reader followed my advice, bought a vintage bike, and was out $200 with still no bike to ride as a result. Lots of things can go wrong, like the bike can look fine to the untrained eye but in fact the wheels are bent or the drivetrain needs to be replaced. Also, not all bike shops are competent at fixing up old bikes.

    (Oh - and I don't know where you found those bikes for those prices, but at the moment in Boston you'd be lucky to find those bikes for under $200 in anything resembling good condition. )

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  29. I forgot, why are we concerned that non-riding folks can't buy a good bike for under $500?
    If the unthinkable happens, and millions of Americans want good utility bikes, suddenly they will appear.

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  30. "I suspect that somewhere in a bike manufacturer's conference room is a Venn diagram showing that the population that wants a sub-$500 bike and the population that happily settles for a department store bike overlap almost entirely."

    I would tend to agree with this. Markets do change over time, but any bike company that doesn't make what people want to buy will go out of business. If the majority of buyers want bike "X", bike "X" is what you will see in the shops. The industry is by no means perfect, but you can be sure the big companies didn't get to where they are by ignoring the marketplace.

    Todays "practical bike" market segment is a good example of how markets shift. Ten years ago you couldn't give away a retro-vintage 3-speed. Nowadays people will line up around the block and pay a premium for such a bike.

    It's not a conspiracy, it's the free market at work.

    While I'm ranting ;), my feeling is that all too often enthusiasts and advocates fall victim to the "my favourite bike should be everyone else's favourite bike" mentality. I've seen it first hand more than a few times. (and as much as I hate to admit it, I've been guilty of it too).

    Another point to consider is how many of you actually tell the bike manufacturers what you'd like in a bike? Trust me, they would love to hear from you. I'm serious about this. Market feedback - not just sales numbers - is very, very valuable to companies. Same goes for bike shops - let 'em know what you want to buy.

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  31. I was this person you describe 3 years ago. I hadn't been on a bike since I was 14. Little did I know (at the time) that the LBS's want to sell you a bike fit for racing. And if you aren't interested in that, well, they don't have anything for you.

    This still chaps my buns. These days, all the LBS's know me and I give'em an earful about not having anything for a regular guy looking for something comfortable and fun. Mostly, it still falls on deaf ears, but one local shop has made addditions to their "fleet" after I reasoned with them and said there are more people out there like me and no one is servicing them. Slowly they are beginning to come around.

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  32. Mr. CrankyPants said...
    " 'I suspect that somewhere in a bike manufacturer's conference room is a Venn diagram showing that the population that wants a sub-$500 bike and the population that happily settles for a department store bike overlap almost entirely.'

    I would tend to agree with this. "


    I don't agree. Just over 2 years ago, I too thought that $500 ought to be enough to get me a "really nice" bike. Not a department store bike, but a nice one. Once I realised that I was wrong, I weighed my options and, reluctantly, adjusted my expectations. I still thought it was scandalous that the kind of bike I wanted was priced at over $1,000, but nonetheless I decided it was worth saving for. I think my experience parallels the experiences of most of my female readers.

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  33. I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I think there is vastly too much difference in cost between Walmart bikes and LBS bikes (their low end). The cheapest thing the LBS has is near $500 and the Walmart bike is $150. Nothing in actual manufacturing cost could account for this much spread. How can you explain it?

    I think most logical thinking non-bike persons believe this as well and are shocked when they go into the LBS for their first good quality bike. Many just leave as they think they're getting held up. They buy the Walmart bike instead and quickly grow tired of the poor quality mechanicals and setup, and decide biking is just not that much fun. This is a lose/lose situation for us all. Maybe there are too many middle men in the business model. Perhaps Raleigh had it right when they made everthing, from soup to nuts, in their own shop and quality was good and the product was reasonable.

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  34. LuckyChow99 - I agree. And I distinctly remember that being my impression the first time I visited a "real" bike store looking for a "nice" grown-up bike. I didn't know a thing about lugs vs welds or component quality, but I remember looking at the bikes and thinking "No, I am not paying $700 for this thing!"

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  35. People often ask me for advice or recommendations about what bike to buy. I'm afraid that having a house(and a barn and a shed) full of bikes hasn't made me any wiser about this than anybody else. I usually find myself recommending whatever bike I wish I could buy for myself and then hoping they find someone else who can REALLY help them before they write the check.

    The one situation where I think I can be helpful is when someone wants or needs a bike and has just about no money at all to spend. In that circumstance I find that we can usually get hold of a frame that isn't altogether unlike the ideal and that the parts bin sets a direction for the project from there, and creativity sort of rounds off the sharp edges of compromise. Viola! A bike!(I love bikes)and if the person for whom it was created approaches it with realistic expectations and goodwill than they will usually be happy enough with it till they can do better. Sometimes it really works out and they end up perfect for each other.

    I like my bikes simple and interesting, and out of necessity they really have to be cheap. The only way to make that work is to be willing to be accommodating. But I do wish I had a few thousand bucks to try the other approach.

    Spindizzy

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  36. My point was not that the readers or experiences you describe don't exist, but rather that their numbers don't appear to have reached the threshold for a meaningful manufacturer response. I don't doubt that you hear from frustrated would-be bike purchasers... I'm merely suggesting that if bike manufacturers could measure them and found that niche worth focusing on, they almost certainly would do so.

    Of course, markets and manufacturer behaviors change. I'd wager that as the current bike boom ripples through the market a bit longer and as the commuter bike category gains popularity, we may well see decent, fendered, light-equipped bikes at lower prices.

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  37. Mr. CrankyPants:

    It's worth keeping in mind that the operation of the free market is a bit more complicated and that the companies themselves play a role in creating the demand that they then fill. To oversimplify, there can't be good sales figures for a product that is not on the shelves where people go to find out what's available. If people don't know that a product exists or is possible, they can't buy it and won't look or ask for it.


    More generally, I advocate the "buy used" route, but admit that I got lucky. I knew when I got back into cycling that what I wanted was a road bike, and had looked into it enough to know that even a mid-range new bike was out of my price range as a student/barista. I benefitted from a good bike shop and having a relatively clear idea what I was looking for and roughly what it would cost (although I did underestimate by about 10-20% what my money would buy). I ended up with a first "good" bike that I intend to keep as long as its aluminum frame lasts and that is worth at least what I paid for it.

    I understand that I was lucky both in knowing a little bit and in having a good shop with employees that I have never seen pushing anyone towards inappropriate bikes (though I admit I don't know all the sales people). Still, my experience--with not even the $500 to work with--and the deals that I've seen on Ebay and craigslist have convinced me that someone on a budget needs to at least consider the used route.

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  38. Great, great post that makes so many points I think are often missing from the blogosphere. I haven't read through all the comments, but I agree that a vintage bike can be a crapshoot and that new bikes that fulfill the needs of a utility cyclist are very difficult to find at a reasonable price. Why someone hasn't filled this gap is hard to say. I don't agree with CrankyPants that the "sub-$500 bike and the population that happily settles for a department store bike" nearly completely overlap. I think a large percentage of those sub-$500 folks are probably not happy with what they get from the department stores, but aren't sure what to do about it because by and large there are not enough bicycle shops that carry a wide range of options for transportation bikes. Why that is -- whether it's simple capitalism, or a lack of imagination in the shopkeeper, or a lack of knowledge in the consumer to vocalize what he/she really needs -- is debatable but in my opinion the fact that there are few bicycles in that sweet spot of a price range that fulfill the needs of a group that is, if not enormous, at least substantial enough to be a worth marketing to, is not.

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  39. Lucienrau said...
    A big issue as I see it is the contract system that most bike shops are a part of. About 80% of the bike shops out there sell either Trek, Cannondale or Specialized bikes, which have some decent urban bikes in their lineup but no shops carry them (just try to find a shop that carries the Globe line.)

    I must be lucky. When I was looking for a new bike and explained my riding preferences and budget he walked me over to a Globe Vienna 2. He seems to have half a dozen Globes on the floor at any one time. Those are to go with his Raleigh Roadsters, Alleyways, and Detours.

    One of the reasons the manufacturers and dealers push the high end bikes is profit. Generally the high end items in any market have a larger profit margin than the low end items.

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  40. I guess then my question would be how do you propose to offer Pashley quality at Walmart prices and still stay in business? What's the business model that can make this happen?

    I'm not trying to be confrontational, but so often I hear & read the complaints about how everything is wrong with the bike business, but no one is coming forth with a workable solution.

    Low cost bikes are soundly rejected by as not being nearly good enough and in the next breath more expensive bikes are crucified for not being accessible.

    So...how do you make it work?

    How do you get:

    R&D

    Manufacturing

    Quality control

    Distribution

    Dealer network

    Warranty

    Marketing

    Replacement parts

    Documentation

    without paying for these things?

    What do you give up in order to get the cost down?

    Again, I'm not trying to be confrontational, but maybe the perceptions of the non-biking demographic are just not compatible with the realities of making and selling a decent quality bike?

    Even in countries like the Netherlands a good quality bike costs real money.

    Nor were Raleighs and Schwinns inexpensive bikes back in their heyday. Sure there were more expensive options, but there were many more much cheaper options. Cheaper in both price and quality.

    Huge volume is one way to get costs down, but the practical bike demographic seems determined to reject everything that isn't a retro boutique brand (OK - that was snarky).

    So what's the solution?



    @ apophasis

    I understand that you can't buy what is not on the shelves. My point is that for the most part what you see in the bike shops is there because it is what is selling. Yes, there is a push-pull relationship between consumers and manufacturers, but bear in mind bicycle history is full of failed products that tried to artificially create a demand. eg: Anybody remember the so called F1 bikes of the early eighties?

    As I mentioned earlier, 10-15-20-25 years ago you couldn't give away what we now call practical bikes, thus the manufacturers stopped offering them in any significant way (in North America in particular).

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  41. I think the bike industry needs someone like Apple Computer. A company that will focus on developing one or two really great models at a reasonable price, and then marketing them very aggressively and widely. A big reason why the bike industry is so efficient, with high prices and low value for the customer is fragmentation, or lack of standardization. Manufacturers waste time designing tons of different models with different options and the bike shops waste time trying to assemble and maintain them.

    Think about how different the average bike shop is from an Apple store. Apple makes only a few models of computers, but they carry them all in abundant stock and have numerous copies on display. Bike shops will show you a catalog of dozens of models, but rarely have what you want in your size. Apple stores are uncluttered and elegant and have great salespeople. Bike shops often have unprofessional employees and the stores are cluttered with tools and other gadgets. This is idiotic from a marketing perspective. (Nice to see Adeline Adeline defying this trend!) If the bikes a shop carries are reliable, then why are they trying to sell you tools? If the bikes are a good deal, then why are you supposed to buy so many expensive add-ons?

    Apple has been so successful because they make great product, product which is not just plastic and metal but the whole user experience, from viewing ads to having repairs done. But the bike industry (including bike shops) has done so poorly in managing the customer experience (from advertising, to advocating for good cycling infrastructure, to designing good showrooms, to providing reliable, utilitarian and standardized product) that it's no surprise so few people ride bikes.

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  42. Mr. CrankyPants said...
    "I guess then my question would be how do you propose to offer Pashley quality at Walmart prices and still stay in business? "


    Oh I am not suggesting Pashley quality. After all, Pashley is hand brazed and lugged in the UK. But ask Republic how they made this, which appears to be lugged including fork crown, and is equipped with racks, chaincase and dressguards.

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  43. "Huge volume is one way to get costs down, but the practical bike demographic seems determined to reject everything that isn't a retro boutique brand (OK - that was snarky)."

    That's nonsense and you know it. Most of the practical bike demographic (most of whom, almost by definition, don't currently ride bikes) have very little bicycle brand awareness.

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  44. Velouria - "Oh I am not suggesting Pashley quality."

    Why not? I thought the whole point of the industrial revolution? Like, mechanization? I'm gonna keep repeating this ad infinitum, but we CAN and SHOULD be able to buy Pashley quality bikes for $500. The reason we can't has more to do with poor management and lack of vision by bike companies, not "free market economics."

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  45. lyen - Pashley bikes are made similarly to this. You'd have to pay the workers slave wages to get that, and the paint, done by human hands for under $500. I would not be willing to build a frame for that price, let alone put together a whole bike.

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  46. Velouria - I meant Pashley "quality", not necessarily made using exactly the same techniques.

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  47. *disclaimer* I've not seen one person, but my work involves international manufacturing and I know how & why things cost what they do, so, I'll take a shot at how Republic does it:

    Internet sales = No shop costs. Buildings & staff are a huge expense.

    No repair support. If it breaks, mail it back & they'll mail you a new one. Quoted from the website "You will be responsible for labor costs associated with warranty replacements" This is not a user friendly warranty.

    Cheap components.

    Not assembled.

    How's the quality? Really? It may look like a Dutch bike, but is it built like one? Or is it just a BSO in disguise? Can you tell from just looking at it on the web?

    The fact that it's lugged means nothing. About a year-ish ago I bought a lugged steel Free Spirit 3-speed at a garage sale. I got it for $5 and paid $6 too much. It was, to be blunt, crap in every respect. Why did I buy it? Lord only knows...

    Is buying a $399 + shipping copy of a $1500 bike, online, sight unseen and that you have to assemble yourself (or take to a shop and pay shop rates to have assembled) really going to be a more attractive option to the first time buyer than a trip to the bike shop?

    Two years ago would you have bought your bike this way? Would you recommend your $500 bike buyer make their first purchase this way? I wouldn't. My feeling is these Republic bikes will be bought as fashion accessories and ultimately have the same fate as just about every other BSO.

    Which still leaves the question how do you provide a quality bike and buying experience for under $500 without sacrificing anything?

    @lyen - nope, not nonsense and yes, you know it. Have a look around the practical bike blog-o-sphere and it won't be too hard to find voices claiming (both bloggers & commenters) that you simply cannot, cannot ride to the store without a custom built steel frame, hand built custom racks, skirt guards, dyno hubs, chaincase, internal gear hub, wicker baskets, canvas & buckles etc etc.

    Maybe I am being too caustic - but that attitude is not at all uncommon in the practical bike world. Perhaps I should have said "a significant portion of the current practical bike advocate demographic seems determined to reject everything that isn't a retro boutique brand." I don't like the attitude, but it's out there.

    Believe me when I say I would love to see a sub-$500 quality bike out there. I just don't think you're going to get a fully loaded machine for that kind of money anytime soon.

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  48. One day the bike building robots will find this blog and get so upset... :)

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  49. lyen - But can you separate the two? : )
    Handbuilt bicycles are, in part, of better quality because of the techniques used.

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  50. Re the Republic Bikes...


    "Internet sales = No shop costs. Buildings & staff are a huge expense."

    Nope. They do sell them at retail locations - at Urban Outfitters shops. Unfortunately, the Boston UOs don't stock them, so I haven't been able to test ride one.

    "No repair support."

    That indeed sucks... but if you pay close attention to some bike shop policies, they are not much better.

    "How's the quality? Really? It may look like a Dutch bike, but is it built like one? Or is it just a BSO in disguise? Can you tell from just looking at it on the web? "

    I wish I could answer that. Readers email me every now and then asking me specifically to test ride this bike. I wrote to Public last year asking them to send one of the bikes to the Urban Outfitters in Cambridge, but they were not enthusiastic.

    "Would you recommend your $500 bike buyer make their first purchase this way? I wouldn't. My feeling is these Republic bikes will be bought as fashion accessories and ultimately have the same fate as just about every other BSO."

    I can neither recommend it nor speculate that it is a "BSO" without at least seeing it in person. But I recommend that readers who live in an area where these bikes are carried in retail shops (according to the person I corresponded with, these areas are "New York, Atlanta,
    Portland, Santa Monica, Madison, Chicago, and Philadelphia, among
    other cities") check them out and find out for themselves if they are looking for budget options.

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  51. Veloria, I think the initial confusion on the post regarding your sister had more to do with some of us reading that she had a bike she didn't ride much, and wanted to spend a lot of money to get a bike to ride for this charity ride she's doing. If you'd said: "my sis wants a new bike to ride because she hates her hybrid and it's uncomfortable. She likes bikes that are new, and won't buy an older one," then I think that would have been easier to follow, and no one would have suggested she shouldn't buy a bike at all, or continue riding the one she has. It was more the impression that she wanted to spend a lot of money on a one-off thing. Once you'd clarified it in the comments, it made more sense to me.

    I started out with a $400 K-2 hybrid from REI. I thought it was gorgeous (and got many more compliments from random strangers than I do on my vintage bikes!), but I just didn't like riding it. I couldn't have explained that, until my kids started riding and that forced me to really RIDE the K-2. It was only then that I started thinking about why the bike was uncomfortable and handled badly, and started researching a better bike. Then I found your site, and the rest is history :). I paid less than your sister's budget, got a great warranty from REI, and bought exactly what I thought I wanted. But the bike was, to put it mildly, crap.

    The thing is, someone did mass-produce comfortable, practical, well-outfitted bikes. Raleigh made the Sports for that exactly profile: a person who didn't ride much, and just wanted a good regular bike. Even today, my Sports is supremely fun, handles beautifully and feels great. It certainly was not an expensive bike in its day, and they sold tons of them. Why doesn't someone basically make a Sports, and just put on a slightly lower cog and lighter rims? Because new riders have been taught to think that more gears = better, steel is too heavy, suspensions are necessary on every model, and that lights and fenders and racks are "accessories" to be purchased separately instead of integral parts of the bike. I think they believe all this stuff because they think that having a bunch of stuff that seems expensive and space-age is better than having the necessities that work. We like bling, even if it's useless bling.

    I think consumers in general are lazy (myself included). That's the nature of consumerism: see it, want it, get it, regret it. Until that changes, manufacturers offer what people think they want, consumers buy it, then they sell it on Craigslist to vaguely more savvy other consumers. Then they buy the same thing with different bling, and wonder why it isn't comfy.

    As to your sis? I still maintain that you could, if you lived close by, help her figure out what to get at the lbs better than some uninterested employee who is barely scraping by and who works there so he can get custom BMX parts for cheap.

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  52. snarks - I think that interpretation in itself shows a bias against a situation that I never described but some were all to ready to see. In that post I never wrote that she wants to ride the bike just during the ride. I wrote that the ride is in the summer and she wants to buy the bike asap so that she can start training - that alone suggests 5+ months of cycling before the ride even takes place. And I wrote that her stated budget was $500, but that I was skeptical she'd be able to stick to it. So...

    But anyhow, I agree of course that had I lived in the DC area I'd be able to help. I also (cautiously) agree about C-List, though I'd feel incredibly guilty if she bought a bike from a stranger as a result of my coaxing and there ended up being something wrong with it.

    I've wondered the same thing about the Sports: just copy the friggin geometry, don't do anything crazy like make it out of aluminum, and it'll sell like hotcakes.

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  53. Mr. Crankypants -

    "Have a look around the practical bike blog-o-sphere and it won't be too hard to find voices claiming..."

    Ha! When you say "practical bike demographic", you mean people who spend a lot of time in "the practical bike blog-o-sphere". But certainly, that's a very small group of people, who almost certainly already own bikes.

    I would define the "practical bike demographic" as all the people who would be interested in buying and riding practical, utilitarian, and economical bicycles if they were available along with the infrastructure needed to use them safely. I.e., the market for the product we're talking about.

    To me, you sound like someone in early 2007 proclaiming "No one will buy the iPhone because the smart-phone demographic seems determined to reject everything that doesn't have a keyboard, replaceable batteries, and upgradeable memory. Just have a look at what people are saying on Slashdot!"

    It's just silly to define a broad concept as the "practical bike demographic" as a small subset (found on the blogosphere) of a small group of people (the 1% or so that commute on bikes). It's amusing that you begin your comment with an appeal to authority and yet go on to write in exhausting puffs of illogic.

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  54. Great post! I love biking for fun and transportation but I'm not into the gear. I hate the attitudes so many have about getting top of the line bikes.

    I have been riding a $500 Raleigh for seven years now. I bought it new from a local bike shop. I typically bike under 20 miles at any one time, and it's been a great bike for me. Too many are too quick to dismiss a bike that's functional for the everyday biker. I've added a rack, fenders, and lights and get my bike tuned up every year, but it's been great for me.

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  55. (Oh - and I don't know where you found those bikes for those prices, but at the moment in Boston you'd be lucky to find those bikes for under $200 in anything resembling good condition. )

    Fair enough -- you have to get out of the yuppified cities to find those deals. I was in Western Mass. at the time, but I've since found similar garage-sale and thrift-store deals in small towns in central VA, upstate NY, and eastern NC. Basically, you need to look in a place where nobody else uses or wants a bike...

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  56. I don't know why I didn't think of this last week, especially considering that I've done it before.

    Go to Costco, Target, Whatever and buy the nicest bike that you like. Buying the nicest one should ensure that the components are not total crap. Then, take the bike to an LBS, and pay them to give it the once over. The LBS will probably charge around $40 for that, and the bike will ride better and last longer than assuming that the bike was properly assembled just because it was for sale. Big box bikes are almost never properly assembled.

    This way, a first time shopper can get something that they like, that should provide a decent cycling experience, for under $500.

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  57. My two cents: Some years ago, we bought several bikes from Target. Got great deals as we got in on hidden sales (price marked down in the computer, but not on the floor) Bought 3 bikes for 25 – 35 dollars each. Tried riding them and were very unsatisfied. To heavy, to hard to shift, not enough gears, etc… Eventually sold them on Craigslist for what we purchased them for. Then a couple of years ago my son bought a Bianchi (mid 80’s best we can tell) at a thrift store for 8 dollars. Some time later I was invited to do a duathelon (run,bike,run) and accepted. Since I didn’t own a bike, I used the Bianchi. I took it to the LBS and had them put new tubes and tires on it and generally make it rideable, cost 100 dollars. Did the race and enjoyed it a lot, and in fact bought myself a bike later the same year. My son still has the Bianchi and has converted it into a singlespeed. I did a bit of online research and visits to bike shops and ended up with Trek’s “fitness” bike (FX), which I’m quite happy with. Spent just over 600 dollars, tax included. Sometimes I just have to learn the hard way that: quality stays quality despite the years, and generally you get what you pay for.

    Who these days goes into anything new to them without doing online research? A new buyer doesn’t have to mean an uninformed buyer. I wouldn’t. I didn’t. By the time I was visiting bike shops I knew a bit about what was available, was looking at specific manufactures, and specific types of bikes. And had an idea of list prices, so there wasn’t sticker shock.

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  58. lyen  - I’m happy to have amused you. Lord knows we could all use some cheer in this cold, harsh winter.
     
    Our definitions of the “practical bike demographic” do differ. I’m referring to a group of cyclists that actually exists today. This existing group of cyclists, even a tiny 1% can and does have an influence on the demographic you speak of (potential buyers). That influence has the ability to create unrealistic expectations.
     
    The unrealistic expectation targeted by my admittedly snarky example is that one needs a fully dressed top of the line bike for even the most basic cycling.

    Feel free to insult to insult me if you must, but it won’t change the fact that snobbery exists in today’s practical bike world and it’s every bit the barrier to entry as it is in other genres. 

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  59. Oh man, I could not agree with this post more.

    Yeah, I'm "into" bicycles. I do goofy social rides, most of my friends are cyclists, riding a bicycle is part of my identity and the center of my social life.

    But people can and should ride bicycles without being "into" bicycles. Kinda like: I love my laptop computer. I find it hard to exist without the internet now. But I honestly have no earthly clue how much RAM I have or what my motherboard is or any of that. I only know that it's an Acer Aspire because it says it right there on the computer.

    My sister-in-law just sent me a message saying she wants to get a bicycle. She knows enough to know she doesn't want some "piece of crap" from a department store, but that's it. Her budget is fairly liberal, but I'm certain it's under a thousand dollars.

    For her the main considerations are: getting around, and carrying stuff. She lives in a hilly suburb with crappy public transit and is tired of it taking forever to get anywhere and/or bumming rides, and she can't afford a car.

    I'm pretty overwhelmed thinking about it, and I'm the one who knows more about bicycles!

    I'm hoping to have her meet up with me at a bike shop or two. I'm planning to take her to CityBikes, a local shop that specializes in secondhand bikes that have been fixed up, and generally sells to the transportation crowd. I might also have her swing by Clever Cycles and see how she likes the bikes there, but I worry that in the suburb she lives, she's probably better off with a lighter ten-speed as opposed to a Linus 3-speed. I definitely also plan to suggest she get upright handlebars, and if she gets a derailer to get (gasp!) index shifting, because she never rode a bike as a kid! This is all new to her! It's so exciting!

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  60. as a PDX local, I'd reccomend A Better Cycle on division as a good first stop, followed by citybikes. One's first bike is almost certainly the wrong bike for them a year down the road as they get stronger and more confident and learn what they like.* There's not much you can do about this, besides try to point someone towards a bike they will ride now.

    *unless their first bike is a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It's hard to go wrong with the LHT.

    I recently had this experience when my parents decided to buy bicycles. My dad bought a LHT, and is happy, and My mom bought some $500 on sale marin road bike, and is miserable because she is over 60 and is not really flexible or strong enough to enjoy a road bike. I'm working with her to find a bike which fits, but she does NOT want one of those "old lady hybrids" as she calls them. (if i can find a mixte to put upright bars on...)

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  61. Here in York, UK
    we have a program called
    the Bike Rescue Project:

    http://www.yorkrecycling.net/index.php?id=84

    They refurbish recycled bikes.
    You can pickup
    a nice vintage Raleigh for a song
    and you know the bike will work.

    This is a great place for someone
    to buy a bike. No sales pressure,
    just friendly advice.

    John I

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  62. How about the new Origin 8 Mixer mixte frame for about $200? With some patient purchasing on eBay, I think you could bring it in for under $500 complete. Do you know anything about it, Velouria? I've tried to get more info about brake reach, droupout spacing, etc and haven't been able to get a response...

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  63. To the comment "how much would you spend for a bike with a rack" in the Netherlands:

    I live in a village outside Groningen, NL. Wonderful used bikes are available on marktplaats.nl (like craigslist) for 50 to 100 euros. Fixer-uppers are often 20 euros.

    Brand new low end bikes are available at Hema or Halfords for about 200 to 300 euros. These are durable but cheap bikes- single speed or 3 speed Omafiets.

    The average bike new is 400 to 500 euros. Above 500 euros you start getting into serious touring bikes or moederfiets built to carry two children. Over 1000 euros you are looking at electric bikes.

    Last week I was looking at a lovely Peugeot used for 120 euros in very, very good condition. She was 15+ years old. There was a Koga Myata from the 80's for 200 euros, but she was originally a 1500 euro top of the line touring bike.

    Here you start off on a wooden bike at age 2. Most of the youth have 26" omafiets which are pretty cheap. After that.. the world is your oyster. You can pick just about anything.

    Rona

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  64. Peter from Cape CodMarch 6, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    A smart Bike Shoppe owner or Builder/Designer might read this and realize that there is a demand for the $500.00 or below product, and should fill this niche market, with good service, and build a customer base for future upgrading business. People want style, people want comfort, people want dependable products that they can adjust on their own. Look at the single largest growing market, "Boomers".

    I ride everyday in good weather, about 20 miles average. I meet wonderful people, I throw my bike on my car, and visit other towns and states to take rides. I do not need a $1,500 bike. I can afford one, but it is about the experience not the bike.

    With this economy, shoppe keepers need to get off their high horse, embrace those that enter through their doors, and make buying a bike a good experience, instead of waiting for that more money than brains customer to appear.

    Look what people ride everyday in other countries, bikes that are uncomplicated, have style, and last for many years. If the Dutch can do it, so can we.

    Sun is out, going for a ride on my $294.00 LL Bean bike. Enjoy your day.

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  65. I'm diving into this late, but you guys have missed the truth here. Bike shops can't make money off cheap bikes. They can't do it. The profit margins are too thin. They would have to sell dozens or hundreds of them every month- which isn't going to happen.

    Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any shop- and I get most of my stuff (and bikes) off the net. For just this reason.

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