Monday, October 29, 2007

Commuter Bikes: They've Got It All Wrong!

(Picture Credit: Image snagged from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News site)
Rant Mode: ON...Okay, that's it! I've had enough and I ain't takin' it no more! This silly notion that if you make a "commuter bike" and offer it for sale it gives you some sort of "green credibility". Bah! I ain't buyin' this load of crap. Take a look at this image. It's a Chanel commuter bike, yes....that Chanel! You know...."Chanel No. 5"? Yeah........whatever!
And while I'm on the subject of these so called "commuter" bikes, who the heck is buying these things and actually commuting on them? C'mon, these rigs cost waaay too much money for the average joe that might actually get something out of commuting, or have to commute. The name "commuter bikes" is all wrong too. What is that anyway? "Commute" sounds like something you do at church, not anything I'd do with a bicycle, well, not legally anyway.
No, the industry has it all wrong. These self congratulatory "commuter/urban" rigs are cool bike freaks! But let's be honest, a bike freak would ride to work on a Schwinn Typhoon if it was thought to be cool by his buddies. No, we're looking to get people out of their shiny metal/plastic/rubber boxes and out on something human powered with two wheels, or we ought to be. A "utility" bike, a bike that is practical, useful, and most of all cheap! That's what we need. A $250.00 rig that has sensible design, (read: not some funky Trek Lime modernistic take on two wheeled transpo) a dead simple drivetrain, (read: single speed, or at most a 3 speed internal geared hub), and is made with a coaster brake or a good canti set up. Something a step above "mart" bikes and maybe made from aluminum or high tensile steel. Fenders, kickstand, and reasonable, long lasting , tough tires. Sound heavy? Sound un-cool? Sound stupid? Good! Because bike geeks won't like it, and they shouldn't.
Who this bike is for are the people Shimano said they were after with the Coasting group. Great concept, bad execution. Don't get me wrong here. The Coasting stuff is super cool and fun to ride, but that's the problem. It appeals to bike people, and bike people don't need the "Good Word". We already "get it". It's the people out in those gas guzzling cars that we need to get on bikes, and they don't really care about what we care about. A bike has to be seen as something useful, advantageous to use, and practical to own. What good is a Coasting bike for riding to work, getting a gallon of milk, or to just cruise around on if you get a flat tire? Not too many people would have the first idea of how to get the wheel off of the thing.
So, get off of your "high horse", you industry wonks, and figure this thing out. Heck, the bikes going out to World Bicycle Relief have more common sense than a Coasting bike, a European fully decked out commuter rig, or for cryin' out loud, that Chanel bike! Lets get a dead simple, easy to maintain, cheap bike for the masses. Make like Henry Ford did with the Model T. A no frills, get er duuun rig. Build up a pool of "utilitarian cyclists" and then see your market base expand. Make ordinary people into users first, "cyclists" second. That's my take.
Rant Mode: OFF!

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