Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Perfect Storm: Understanding the Bike Boom


Like it or not, bicycles and cycling are enjoying a giant media moment, and yesterday’s post is a good example of that. Since we seem to be in the midst of another bike boom (at least in terms of cultural popularity and media attention), I think it’s crucial to understand why this boom is taking place. For one thing, by understanding it we can make the most of it. More importantly, though, we can also take measures to keep out some of the interlopers who seem to be hopping aboard for the wrong reasons.

To that end, I set to work on devising a formula to explain the bike boom. Despite having no mathematical or scientific ability and only limited intelligence, I’m a strong believer in formulas, mostly because I think they look good. Here is my almost-assuredly incorrectly expressed Bike Boom Formula (or BBF):




This is how it breaks down:

Credibility (C)

Cycling has a lot of mainstream credibility now. This credibility is threefold:

It’s Fashionable

I don’t know if tight pants are back in style because they’re easier to ride bikes in, but one thing I do know is that fixed gear fashion is hot, hot, hot! (Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that it’s lame, lame, lame.) I mean seriously, it’s at the point where I see people wearing rolled-up jeans, cycling caps, and Fabric Horse U-Lock holsters with no bicycles anywere in sight. (And yes, I’m the sort of person who goes outside and looks.) I’m sure some of these people simply haven’t yet realized their bikes were just stolen, but that can’t be the case with all of them.

It’s Politically Correct

When confronted with a crisis, people love nothing more than to take meaningless action. It makes them feel like they’re doing something to help, even though they’re not. For example, what’s the first thing people do during any type of emergency? Stockpile bottled water! Hey, I've lived through emergencies, and the only thing I regretted not having more of was beer. Similarly, according to Al Gore we’re now in the midst of an environmental crisis, so people are “going green.” This apparently involves buying certain expensive gourmet foods over others and attending benefits, lectures, and screenings put on by people who travel by private jet. Oh, it also involves bikes. Not riding them necessarily, but just generally evoking the imagery and ethos of cycling. Whatever.

It’s a Lighting Rod to a Tasty Demographic

Al Sharpton knows that if you want to reach a bunch of young, privileged, liberal people there’s no better place to do it than at a cycling event. It doesn’t even matter if what you’re selling has nothing to do with cycling--especially when it comes to Critical Mass, which is comprised of crusaders in search of a cause. Just think of Critical Mass as a big stoop sale, and Sharpton’s some guy who drives up with a car full of stuff and asks, “Hey, can I put some of my things out too?”

Relative Accessibility (RA)

As a sport, cycling can be expensive, but it’s not that expensive. Especially if you’re wealthy. (As we saw yesterday.) Yachting is expensive. Auto racing is expensive. Polo is expensive. (Horse polo, not bike polo. Bike polo is dorky, but it’s not expensive.) Cycling, though, is a perfect sport for the rich dabbler because it really doesn’t cost that much to walk into a shop and fully outfit yourself with top-of-the-line gear. Sure, when I say “doesn’t cost that much” I mean low five figures, but when you consider that even a used yacht costs over half a million dollars you can start to understand what I mean. You have to be really rich to dabble in that. So especially now, when the very rich want to continue to appear very rich even while their fortunes are shrinking slightly, cycling is a logical choice for a hobby.

Of course, the fact is many of us are resentful towards these people. To that end, in light of the unveiling of the new Dura Ace, I call upon Shimano to set a retail price of $250,000. (Campagnolo and SRAM are sure to follow with their top-end groups.) If high-end cycling becomes competitive with yachting price-wise then we should be able to shake some of these people off. Ultegra and lower can remain “reasonably” priced. There’s pretty much no difference between Ultegra and Dura Ace anyway, so real cyclists can just opt for Ultegra, but the ultra-rich crowd looking to get into a lifestyle sport cheap will probably decide the price of entry is too high and can instead go shopping for polo ponies.

High Gas Prices (HGP)

Credibility and Relative Accessibility by themselves are not quite incendiary, but when you factor in High Gas Prices the mixture becomes highly volatile and the reaction is explosive. Indeed, Streetsblog reported recently that there’s a bike shortage in New York City, which is being attributed to people buying bicycles in the face of rising gas prices. Of course, the reality is that bikes are the bottled water of the energy crisis, and like that water they will probaly just wind up sitting in the basement, but for the moment people are buying and so we have ourselves a bike boom (BB).

Of course, the aftermath of the boom remains to be seen. Is this just the beginning, or is it the Apocalypse?

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

Win!

Anonymous said...

d'oh.

genersal lsmenedd said...

zing zang

Anonymous said...

chain broke

OpenYourEyes said...

bottom bracket snapped

wishiwasaxel said...

wishiwasmerckx - your post about Survivor; perhaps the funniest thing i have read in the comments

techb3 said...

the "gh" is silent in the equation. bb=crahgp technically sounds like bb=crap thus explaining the situation both phonetically and mathematically.


i kinda felt bad seeing sharpton in that video at critical mass..

Anonymous said...

I feel bad every time I see Sharpton. But, then again, I guess that's what I am supposed to feel.

sprider said...

Hey, Al Sharpton doesn't ride a fixie?

Off topic, but something else we have to put up with;
http://tinyurl.com/5etgjh

Kark said...

Brilliant!

Snob, you do for Mathematics what the Sex Pistols did for music.

The message being that anyone can do it. (and should) That talent is no longer the prime requesite, that passion and determination can make up for abysmal ability and your demonstration will no doubt revolutionize (and water down) the Math community.

Perhaps if it sinks low enough, even I can pull myself up onto that garbage scow. It'll probably have started shipping water by then, but thats o.k. cause if even for a short time I'll get a chance to be part of a 'scene' and I'll have you to thank, so hats off!

techb3 said...

i hear sharpton is going to appear at an art show in williamsburg too.

OpenYourEyes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BikeSnobNYC said...

Kark,

I am the Robert Mackey of math.

--RTMS

Anonymous said...

Historically tight pants and short, narrow skirts come in style when the economy turns down -- because they take less fabric.

scott said...

There is a couple I see tooling up and down the local drag on brand new matching Wiliers on matching Zipps. They seem to hit up about a 2.5 mile loop and then stop for espresso. I want to tell them to buy some Campy wheels because, clearly, they need at least one product whose manufacturer begins with 'C' and ends with 'o'.

erik k said...

THIS THIS IS A DECLARATION OF WAR!

Splic said...

Uhhh... PORTLAND PISTA-DEX!

http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/bik/703721490.html

$900??? This surely is a sign of a worldwide bike shortage if the "soggy bike capital" (is that what you called it?) has the demand to drive prices up this much.

Anonymous said...

Erik K --

That's awful! Horrific!

Anonymous said...

re: anon 1254,

i didnt know britney road fixie...

smartypants said...

If this truly is a BB (big boom), will it be anything like a BB (big bang?) If so, will all our bikes get sucked together into a single point, then explode splendidly, spewing new types of wheeled matter and life across the universe?

veloben said...

Erik K,

If only the link was one of your photoshopped beauties. Read the story yesterday. This and the recent, more hostile and intentional attack of cyclist in Oz is deeply disturbing.

I hope the uptick in attacks is just proof that random does not mean evenly distributed.

O' Reilly said...

good one ...
my compliments:

>>
Similarly, according to Al Gore we’re now in the midst of an environmental crisis, so people are “going green.” This apparently involves buying certain expensive gourmet foods over others and attending benefits, lectures, and screenings put on by people who travel by private jet.
>>

Strayhorn said...

While walking at lunch through downtown, I saw a guy on a very nice Cervelo TT bike. Even though it's kind of awkward to do the stoplight thing when your shifters and brakes are at the end of aero bars, I had to stop and pause in admiration because he had not one, but TWO Campy waterbottles in one of those behind-the-saddle cages.

I kept hoping one would fall out so I could dash and snag it. I like my totems as much as the next guy, but I can't afford $119 each.

veloben said...

Smartypants,

Current thinking is that 'dark matter', the drek littering (your preferred cycling venue here), will keep the universe of cycist from collapsing in upon ourselves.

New theory holds that instead we will continue to move apart in ever smaller self-organizing clumps.

urchin said...

Certainly the best one-liners I've ever heard on the green phenomenon and on Critical Mass, all in one post!

Hold Fast, mates... if we just continue to treat them with disdain and maintain an elitist stance, the tide of cycling newcomers cannot but diminish...

This ellipsis thing is addictive. BGW is a pusher.

Anonymous said...

speaking of bikes in the news, i'm surprised you didn't mention this. you hear about bikes being hit by car (and maybe you've experienced it) but you rarely see a picture like this


http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/06/02/mexico.bikers.ap/index.html

Patchverk said...

So how do we make the best of it?

Anonymous said...

Witnesses at the scene say the driver of the vehicle used inflammatory terms such as "fags" and "homos" and even muttered something about a "reality check."

t said...

I still have my bike from the last boom. Will be able to get a new bike cheap soon? How long do bike booms last?

daddo.one said...

if i see that friggin' picture one more time...

please! all my coworkers sent it to me, all my cyclist buddies sent it to me, now you guys...

..drive a car too - anyone want to send me pics of car/car accidents?

Daniel! said...

Historically tight pants and short, narrow skirts come in style when the economy turns down -- because they take less fabric.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

smartypants said...

t:

Until the rollerblade boom takes off again.

(Don't tell that guy from last week that I used the R word!)

daddo.one said...

and what the "F" is this:
http://www.hipsternascar.com/

Ski Bike Junkie said...

I wonder if I can get VC funding to open a bike shop.

techb3 said...

NVA stamped.

Anonymous said...

wow bsnyc, i'm not sure how to thank you... http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/mis/705922274.html
j

g said...

Tb3
Charlie don't bike!

Anonymous said...

It's the price of fame. My condolences.

Jim said...

I think it’s crucial to understand why this boom is taking place.

Maybe because heroin chic models, pet rocks, cutting yourself to get attention, Jerry Springer and goth kids already had their 15 minutes?

When confronted with a crisis, people love nothing more than to take meaningless action.

I practice P.J. O'Rourke's Emergency Crisis Catastrophe Action Plan, aka The Calvin Coolidge Rule: "Don't just do something... Stand there!"

Al Sharpton

Sharpton is God! Or am I thinking Clapton?

marypoppins said...

My dad has bottled water, pasta, beans etc incase of a bird flu epidemic hidden away in the basement, I have 15 bikes. Ready for anything

Sprocketboy said...

Snob, you are right about bottled water. When I lived in Washington, DC and there was a threat of a hurricane everyone dashed down to the store for: a) bottled water; b) white bread and c) toilet paper. This combination is baffling.

When I bought my Gitane Gran Sport with the Shrieky Mafac Racer brakes in 1972, I was at the crest of the last Bike Boom. I guess this one is going to crash right over me. At least when I got those new Dura-Ace shifters I will have the choice of two different cable routings? Apocalypse? More like Nirvana!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that was an entertaining post, but there's a simple explanation- read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

bikesgonewild said...

...overheard brunch conversation at a trendy manhattan bistro, outside under the cinzano unbrellas...

..."so bunny, i have to share a wonderfully funny little ha-ha w/ you...remember the other night when my 'crew' & i were down at the loft doing our usual tuesday evening cali chardonnay w/ cheeses of france hoopty ???...you did miss a lovely brie noir & a port salut to die for, love & those savages on the coast really do know their stuff these days...i digress...

..."so any way, bunny, about the time alphonse (he of the dwindling trust fund) suggested some evening we should do a "grapes of wrath, cheeses of nazareth" theme, which had us simply busting, dear old chad said lets grab our fixies & head to that wing-ding over in soho...

..."so, bunny, there we were all strut-y & mawkish & sharp in our skin tight jeans, little english school blazers & custom cycling caps...you know, just visible enough to make the next days fashion pages but sly enough to simply make everyone wish they were us, ha-ha, when who do you think i saw ???...

..."that's right, bunny !!!...that 'oh so provincial' bikesnob chappy...why he was still lurking about 'in town' i'll never know...perhaps he couldn't take that clunky-wunky bike of his on the train back 'over there', hmmm ???...

..."well bunny, a couple of the lads kept an eye on him & as sure as god is my witness or whatever, that poor little man went right outside & started looking around for our fixies...omg, bunny, he never once though to look in the limos, ha-ha, so he still thinks we're posers...just hilarious...

..."more tea, bunny"
...

BellaCroix said...

Wow... check this story (and especially the photograph out)... someone actually caught a photo of a car crashing into a peleton head on. I feel bad for the riders involved but it's still an amazing photo!

Link to CNN story

Anonymous said...

Bike Snob,

Can we have a moment of silence for these fellow cyclists (a serious note on a funny blog).
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/world/sleeping-driver-ploughs-into-bike-race/2008/06/03/1212258801492.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news
/world/sleeping-driver-ploughs-into-
bike-race/2008/06/03/1212258801492
.html

Complete link

OpenYourEyes said...

bgw, you continually demonstrate a lush and fertile imagination. thank you for your contribution.

Erik K, eh, I think I could have done without that contribution. I like the photoshopped ones better.

RTMS, how can you remain anonymous when so many people pose for your taking of pictures? I think you'd better start going with the fake rubber nose, mustache and glasses bit before someone outs you.

Anonymous said...

Do none of you people read the comments above yours? That pic and story is linked in 10 out of 44 comments.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Regarding the tragedy in Mexico, one of the more unfortunate things about it is that the main reason it's getting so much attention is that there's a shocking photograph to go with it. Otherwise i'm sure it would barely have registered.

--BSNYC

bikesgonewild said...

...jeezus...i went from enjoying writing a fun post to having cold, ugly chills running down my spine seeing those photos...

...that is fucking abysmal...

g said...

Once again, BSNYC/RTMS makes the point that we are all thinking.
It's a shame that you are so accurate in this case, though.
I can't remember where I read about this first, but that site had the common decency to mention that the photos were too gruesome and just expressed their condolences instead.

Anonymous said...

That has happened twice in my area (Armpit, Florida) in the last several years. Once a drunk driver, once an older gent, both times crossing the road running head on into a group of cyclists.

On the other hand, people here hit things with their cars all the time; pets, cyclists, invalids in wheelchairs, it's just one of the many perks of living in Florida.

That and skin cancer.

JPB

mr.complaint said...

bikesgonewild

splendid and sublime!

also-

http://tinyurl.com/5b6hja

leroy said...

I didn't comment yesterday; weather was just too nice and I went for a ride. But I’ve been musing about BSNYC’s recent posts, the bike boom, the character building nature of suffering that Mr. Mackey is missing, and that whole fixed gear cliché culture thing.

I’m breaking in a new saddle, so I have time to spend trying to think of other things. But you can’t call that suffering. Not on a nice day even with a headwind. It’s nothing like suffering because there is a new bike underneath the saddle.

So I can say that if Mr. Mackey wants the real cycling/suffering experience, he needs to do what real cyclists do.

Inspired by BSNYC’s post last Friday, I spent Saturday afternoon on the Williamsburg Bridge, pretending I couldn’t fix a flat.

But not one attractive woman on a fixed gear bike stopped to offer help or anything else. (And I was wearing my best baggy jersey.)

The only interest I generated was from a nice out of town couple who asked me for directions to Peter Luger’s. Later, a passing poodle sniffed my tire disconsolately before determining it was not worth peeing on. Then it rained.

Mr. Mackey, you can’t buy that experience.

Or the knowledge that you can’t believe everything you read in Bust Magazine even if it is on the internet. Bike boom or not, it’s that kind of character building Mr. Mackey will miss in his quest to be a real cyclist.

And speaking of Mr. Mackey, that reminds me. Last Thanksgiving I over-ate and I think I may have what it takes to win the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Championship at Coney Island next month.

My coach says it’s not impossible, but I have to start training now. If I can get my ass really, really big, I’m sure my new saddle will break in faster.

erik k said...

openyoureyes, I wish that was photoshoped and not real, I almost didn't want to post it, but its a grim reminder for everyone you gota keep your head up

krazygl00 said...

mr.complaint, 4:04pm

Man, you can't make up this kind of stuff:

"Mr. Sugarman, a 49-year-old senior partner at an investment firm, was yelling things like "You go, girl!" and "Good burn!" in spin class"

I think Mr. Sugarman must be one of bikesgonewild's "lads at the loft".

bikesgonewild said...

...excuse me, but bunny's amore & his friends would simply cast an arched brow momentarily in the direction of 'that' kind of behavior & move on...

...w/ plans to be made for the coming hamptons season, cheeses, wines & foie gras to be tasted, expensive new fixie parts to be gotten to their mechanics, life is too full to be wasted on 'grunters & shouters'...

...unless of course it's one of "those" kinds of parties & the outside girls have been brought in & paid to do those 'oh so nasty' acts for the lads' pleasures...

...just sayin'...

Cameron said...

Speaking of bike shortage Note the date...

What's most amazing to me is that here we are still trying(working) to legitimize bicycling as a viable(respectable) mode of transportation.

frilly said...

bgw-

Wow! Well I would rather roll with the "grunters and shouters" and engage in 'that' kind of behavior than be stuck with the lads. Oh & believe me, guys like the lads exist.

Although, technically, I can't be considered one of the outside girls even if 3 people on this blog offered me beer yesterday...beer is not reportable income.

Anonymous said...

BSNYC/RTMS,

I took a closeup look at your photo of the boat in "Perfect Storm." Yikes! The boat appears to be almost pointed in the right direction, but what a wave. It could be the Apocalypse.

Andy Pandy said...

BGW..... last week you crossed my wheel now you are interloping into the world of fine wine and CHEESE. Take a line and hold it or you will be elbowed over the advertising. Frills, I will buy you a bucket of beer but you will have to spring for the airfare.

Anonymous said...

Is it not obvious that the outcome of this bike boom is going to be cheap, barely-used and super nice used bikes on Craigslist for me? I love this bike boom. I'm encouraging all the fat liberals at my office (especially the ones the same height as me) to buy, buy, buy.

Jonathan said...

On the subject of road attacks.

I had someone throw their McMeal out the window at me during my lunch time ride. I tried to catch up, but he was willing to do 50 in the 30 and run a light.

Did You Know? said...

perfect storm movie is the best

frilly said...

andy pandy-

Where might I be going to collect this bucket of beer?

anon 8:53-
'buy, buy, buy'--funny stuff.

urchin said...

The reminder that a bike boom is a cyclical thing makes me wonder: whereas the flotsam being dusted off from the last boom is these damn Peugeots (you know, the ones in the Houston Astros throwback unis) and Univegas presumably showing up on OldTenSpeed.com (did I get that right? I haven't checked it in a while since I commute behind it every day). What are we putting in the old time capsule right now that will appear 20 years from now under the hipsters of the next boom?

Presuming, against my predictions, that all the carbon fiber of this era will not have turned to powder, will there be a wave of old Allez's and Madones, somehow (inconceivable, I know) turned to cool? Or maybe just garishly painted Gary Fisher mountain frames turned into some weird hybrid (as sensical as taking a track frame and putting riser bars on it for going to the pub?)

Bear in mind the selection won't be based on quality, it will be on raw numbers bought, ridden a few times, then left, 'vintage' in the garage for 15 years.

Anyone wanna take a shot at that one?

Anonymous said...

(C+RA)HGP = BB

I love it. The bottled water of the energy crisis.

veloben said...

anon 8:53

If your 'fat liberal' friends are truly Liberal you ain't see'n a bike from them. Those who buy and don't ride will hold the bikes forever and then they'll be part of Urchin's future shock new wave bike steam punk revolution or they'll be given to a charity and shipped to Africa or whatever is the needy place with bikeless midwife equivalents.

If your 'fat' co-workers are just less reactionary than you, well buy them some beers over the next 12 months and see what kinda deal you can work out.

But they may have pegged you for a hand-me-down putz willing to live off other's misplaced good intentions.

Just saying...

chiggins said...

Look, I hear what you're saying. But after this year's primary campaign, I'd like to suggest that we all retire the phrase "Perfect Storm", as well as the adjective "unprecedented".

I know it's not as sexy, but would you at least consider: "A Confluence of Several Potent Factors"?

Andy Pandy said...

Many many frequent flyer points away

frilly said...

andy pandy-

More than beer, I think I could use a soigneur/masseur. Tonight was a run night and my hamstrings & glutes are feeling a tad bit tight. Ouch.

Andy Pandy said...

I do the early morning hammerfests so I get to suffer through the day with haulin my posterior up stairs and getting the munchies mid morning as an ease down.Reckon BGW might be a man of substance given his pricy mount so he might have a private lear jet... just suggestin

Anonymous said...

get a room already, you two.

frilly said...

Oh sure, we'll just ask about BGW air. I don't think he'll mind.

Yeah, stairs are tough when your bottoms a'hurtin. Can't wait for tomorrow, oughta be good times.

bikesgonewild said...

...ehhh, per favore...i ride la bicicletta w/ my cuore, my heart...i'm like a bettini w/ no rainbow stripes or scarpe d'oro...my sidis, they are bianco...

...like paulo, i'm an all rounder...somedays la montagnas, they are my friends, other days, ehh, not so much...

...& my sprint, hey, she's a fast but a little squirrelly...so scusi if i chop...but the wine, the cheese & hey, even the birra...they come a natural, eh ???...

...unlike a paulo, michele sinyard he buys me no bicicletta, so the jet, she not so much on the horizon inna this lifetime...

bikesgonewild said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I believe SRAM set the benchmark on pricing!

Anonymous said...

Benchmark?

http://uk.reuters.com/
news/video?videoId=83953

I'll take one $1,000,000 fixie, please.

Commiecanuk said...

Hey, don't knock bottled water, unlike that shite tap water, bottle water has 1000% of daily required intake of BPA, and it only costs 10x as much as gasoline. As how much trash is produced from drinking from the tap? -nothing. Bad for America.

I'll admit, I'm one of those people cashing in their 401K's to speculate on bikes. The writing is one the wall, SUVs are disappearing every day, Americans are getting so thin they refer to Mary Kate Olsen as "...that fatass..." in "Peeple".

I have a warehouse full of Langsters in anticipation of the suburban trend to ride fixes, I didn't bother investing in brakes. I have 1200 Louis Vuitton top-tube protectors on order.

Wake up. Obama's in, Hilary's out. EVERYTHING is going to change immediately. Hybrid drivers are assholes.

kurtdriver said...

What do you call a person pretending to be a hipster? A pretendster?

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术+术:可能是唯一有可能冲上2300的同职业组合,天赋一般选用双恶魔法+贼:控制+爆发型,法师的爆发力略胜术士,不过容错性非常小,游戏相似组合还有法+野D,法+暗牧法+法:双冰法控制,综合来说还不错,续战力也存活能力也很强。双奥法的秒杀流一经提出就被喷的面目全非,我本人其实尝试过这个组合,可惜装备只有S2,法伤最多也只能撑到102X(现在能高不少),魔兽队友情况也差不多。这样的组合容错性低的离谱,虽然有10000+HP 400+韧性,但是感觉一被打就瞬间死,而且跑还跑不掉,所以这个打法还是更适合高端副本装,反正一样死很快。组合上还是克死战士队,别和我提盾反,网络游戏那么明显的动画效果能吸到个火冲不错了。网游基本上能够硬顶过我们5秒的职业只有骑士,冰法,盗贼和恶魔SS了。打盗贼队伍,如果是盗贼+看的见,一律先把看的见的OOXX了,双盗贼很难打,2斗篷我们免费网络游戏直接去一人。最后被一个队恶魔SS+骑士卡住了,因为奥法的后续爆发几乎没有,开局秒恶魔SS和骑士都不成功。感觉装备足够猛的话,2000是没问题的,2000以后看能否连好沉默来秒SS了。法伤最好是NOBUFF 1200+以上,最新网游保证秒杀的成功率,可以不用考虑血和韧性,建议装备牛B的法师们平时娱乐使用,非常畅快的战斗贼+暗牧:爆发力非常强的组合,而且他们的视频里很不厚道的最新免费网络游戏吃了金童3场贼+野D:第一赛季闷+盲+消失补闷+飓风的完美控制秒杀型队伍,不过在徽章能解所有控制技能之后容错性大大降低了。

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