Tuesday, 8 June 2010


A woman goes into a car showroom in Australia:

Woman: Hello. I'd like to buy a car.

Shopkeeper: Yes of course. Over here we have the Formula 1 racers and over here we have the monster trucks for speeding down the side of a mountain.

Woman: Oh dear. Neither look particularly comfortable.

Shopkeeper: We do have these specialist "ladies" cars. The manufacturers take a Formula 1 car, install a slightly more comfortable steering wheel and then paint it an insulting "girly" colour like pink or lime green.

Woman: Well if it's designed especially for women, I suppose I'd better take one. I'm not sure I'll need that many gears. And do they have to be exposed like that? I might get my skirt caught in them.

Shopkeeper: Sorry. It's that or nothing.

Woman: I would like to be able to carry shopping home on it though.

Shopkeeper: A luggage rack? Yes. That will cost extra.

Woman: It also doesn't look like it will stop mud and water from splashing up my back.

Shopkeeper: Mudguards? Extra.

Woman: Will people be able to see me at night?

Shopkeeper: Lights? Extra.

Woman: Will it be safe when I go inside the shop?

Shopkeeper: Security system? Extra.

Woman: [Sigh]. Can't I just buy something that is comfortable, that I can carry things on, that won't get me dirty and that comes with all the things I need?

Shopkeeper: Yes but to get that you have to spend a fortune on the European model hidden over there in the corner.

Woman: How much is that?

Shopkeeper: A fortune.

It wouldn't happen of course. But in my experience, it's not far from what a bike buyer is usually faced with. The bikes that are sold here are very different from those sold elsewhere, particularly in European countries. In most cases, they come with dynamo lights, a chain guard, mudguards and a luggage rack included, and often even come with a built in lock. They generally have the low maintenance internal gear hubs too. We are starting to see that sort of thing here but it is only a trickle. Giant bikes make the Transend City:

and Trek make the Allant although that does not come with a chain guard:

Each to their own but I find riding every day is a pain with exposed gears and chain. Adding mudguards has made a world of difference but after a few days of rain, the grime hits the chain and you get that awful scratching sound knowing that your cogs are slowly being ground down. I should clean it more often but that is a pain in the backside. My next bike will have a proper chain guard and internal gears.

There is a theory that it is the general bike culture that determines the bikes that are sold. What is sold in Australia and the US is world's apart from what you get in the Netherlands. Cycling here is still sold primarily as a form of keeping fit or as a sport. Hence the expensive racers, lycra, etc in marketing. Nothing wrong with that of course but it appeals only to a particular crowd. You won't, for example, get teenage girls on their bikes to go out with their friends with that sort of marketing.

Things are changing though. There are most definitely more people commuting each day. Gazelle Bikes are sold here, as is the Danish brand Viva and, of course, the totally funky Vanmoof. A clever more recent design was on the Bicycle Design blog. Called the "Etta" and designed by Nick Foley, it's tall, comfy and has a big space for a shopping bag:

See the website for more.

No comments:

Post a Comment