Let me start off by stating I apologize to any readers (both of you, I see your IP addresses!) for my laziness in posting this week. I normally at least see some rides on the street I can share or something else good happening in Richmond cycling culture but this week has been kinda weak in that regard and I’ve been slack. Either way hopefully a little extra post-age today will get you off before the weekend.
Awhile back (like totally 2008 dude) I guess some store in Manhattan decided to put tall bikes in their storefront and use cycling culture, specifically tall bike culture, to market their wares. Obviously, the bottom feeders who cling to this as their sole sense of identity along with black t-shirts, dogs on rope leashes, hopping trains, and panhandling across the USA took offense that someone who works for a living attempted to derail their underground cultural phenomenon by making it accessable to the masses and retailiated involving some sort of etching acid and the phrase “Bike Culture not for sale!” on the storefront windows. While I abhor most things consumerism I try not to get lost in the mess of it all and I wanted to point some of the out in today’s post along with a photo of the newest bike build. It feels appropriate as the bike in the photo is almost entirely comprised of bicycle equipment from Nashbar, and in fact is a Nashbar brand frame for their catalogue in the 80’s. At one time (maybe now even) bike Nashbar was chided as being the cause of emminent death for your local bike shop. This hasn’t actually happened yet though and as we can see here in Richmond the local bike merchandiser has actually become a burgeoning buisiness thanks in part to skateboards 2.0, the fixed gear bicycle. A couple things made me think about this topic one being the new bicycle I finally “curated” and the other being some commentary a bike merchandiser named Velo Orange had posted on their blog. If you’re not familiar with VO check them out as they sell a lot of nice stuff.
The point the owner of VO made in his blog post was that the importation of bicycle componentry from china and Taiwan isn’t detrimental yet benefical and affords the consumer with limited means the opportunity to purchase product that would otherwise be out of reach for them if we were restriced to American or European produced high dollar goods. I have a small quibble with that though. It’s my opinion that yes why should we pay more for the same product at inflated costs but what is being overlooked in this statement is all of the hidden costs associated with this type of consumption. Retraining for workers no longer working in manufacturing, the offshoring of American production, transportation costs and environmental degredation associated with transport, as well as social impacts of low wage production in third world locations are all costs bourne by us when we choose to pay less for cheaply manufactred goods. I would argue the costs are quite often higher but hidden from sight when making the purchase especially in the area of transportation costs where many of us are negating the environmental benefits afforded by cycling when factoring in the oil wars being waged to ensure cheap transport. At one time Trek, Cannondale, and others were only produced in the States but now production is moving away and the American manufacturing base is being eroded. Should Americans even be producting bicycles, a mainstream consumer good? Probably not but we should produce something and that should probably be something technologically complex where we have the advantage over less developed economies.
Bike culture was sold out a long time ago and I’m sure a lot of hipsters would agree it was when bicycles got gears and brakes. Technology will advance and has made some things better, but what it hasn’t done is lessen the degree of necessity to research and understand the true costs associated with the consumption we engage in. What was the death of the local bike shop 25 years ago (Nashbar bike catalogue) has been turned into employment for a couple powder coaters at a local buisness, machining work for my LBS, and a couple purchases of products from companies like Cane Creek of NC as well as Shimano of Japan/worldwide domination. While I can’t really quantify what this means in terms of my consumption what I do know is that in this instance I have a totally unique bike that all started with someones purhase from a mail order catalogue 25 years ago. See if you crabon fibre bicycle can say that in 10 years let alone 25.