No really, what do YOU know?

A customer came in to the shop today. He’s one of many over the years to tell me something stunningly inaccurate, laughably so—only the laugh must be withheld in the interest of compassion, since the would-be comedian is not attempting humor with the statement. “This is a pretty nice bike.” he said, nodding toward a bike he brought in for a tune-up. He was referring to what I would have called a “hunk of junk on wheels.” I had seen the exact model of “bike” before. A customer GAVE us two of those bikes because they were clogging up their garage. They, “just never rode them.” It was a situation where it’s the thought that counts, because it was in reality no better than giving us two bags of garbage, “because we want you to sell them and make a little money.”

They seemed to be “like new,” which in this case is a misleading phrase that might lead one to believe the bikes were in “good shape.” Actually they were barely used junk. It’s no wonder the owners found things to do other than ride them. They were likely clueless to the fact that there is a huge difference between what some of us call a “bicycle shaped object” (BSO) sold at discount stores and a real, ride-able, bicycle-shop-quality bicycle.

But people who don’t know bikes don’t know that.

I know bikes. I can spot a BSO from a distance, but people that don’t know bikes don’t even recognize one when they’re riding it. This is incomprehensible to me, but there are certainly things that I don’t know, about things that I don’t know… like golf. If you showed me bags full of shiny new clubs, I would certainly be able to spot quality differences in machining, fit and finish (which many discount bike purchasers don’t seem to have an eye for), but beyond that I have no clue. You could hand me the cheapest one to swing at a ball and perhaps I’d even make contact with it propelling it some distance. But, since I have no experience beyond “putt-putt” golf, the action would mean nothing to me. It looks like a club, and I was able to move a golf ball with it, and it’s shiny. I guess it’s a “pretty nice golf club.”

I’ve often mused about professional bicycle racers. They are paid to ride really nice bikes. I wonder how much more they’d have to be paid to race on a BSO. I wonder if any pro rider would, even for money, be willing to subject themselves to the complete lack of fun that riding a BSO would offer. I think it would be interesting to watch a race where pro riders were all on BSOs and recreational riders were given pro-level bikes. What would happen? Would a BSO even make it through one stage of the Tour de France? I’m pretty sure it would not. Could an elite pro racer manage to hang with an average Joe (known as a Fred in the bike world) in such a race? I doubt it, but I’d like to see it proven. There’s no question that there would be many injuries to the pros due to the misfitting of these “one size fits all” “bikes.” Perhaps seeing the carnage from such a race would be a wake-up-call to the average clueless bicycle consumer, that just because something looks like a bicycle it is not necessarily worth riding.

I’ve heard the illogic many times. “The bike was a great deal, it was a third of the cost of the cheapest bike at a bike shop.” So if a piece of rancid meat cost less than an edible one, is it a good deal?

What do YOU know? If it’s bikes, then you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know bikes, then you’ll be better off not pretending you know anything about them. And I won’t pretend I know anything about golf bats.

At WTB, we don’t mind chatting with people that don’t yet know bikes. It’s very satisfying to see the light bulb come on when a person understands for the first time the difference between BSOs and a real bike. And it’s even more satisfying when a customer rides a real bike for the first time and appreciates the difference. “Well, what d’you know!?!” they exclaim, “You were right. This IS fun!”

  1. I think it works the other way too – I ride a folding bike which is not always a BSO (when it’s folded), even though it rides great. I guess it goes to show that you can’t always tell from looks alone.

  2. So pretentious. Some people can only afford BSO. If they are not riding often, it doesn’t matter so much since they won’t be putting the same wear on the BSO as you are I would on a ‘bicycle shop quality bike”.

    Besides, isn’t it better to have more riders on the road?

    “More RIDING, less DRIVING!”