A Force for Good

Historically, I’ve been critical of the bike industry for virtually everything, for the too fast pace of innovation, for the narrow approach to that innovation. Kinda for everything, because I’m a judgmental cynic. I hope I prove myself willing to admit when I’m wrong, which is often, but the fact remains that I start from a place of skepticism and often I finish there too.

So today I want to praise the bike industry for the simple fact that, year-after-year and decade-after-decade, the bike continues to rise. The bike continues to present itself as a solution for some of our most pressing problems, climate change, mental health, pollution, congestion, heart disease, diabetes and FOMO.

One of the trends I have been most distrustful of is the rush to eBikes. I think my lack of trust stems from insecurity. I worry that once people don’t have to pedal, they won’t, and so, like the move to eBooks, I’m scared that the electronic version will make the manual version, the version I love the very best go away.

But eBikes may yet turn out to be a solution to personal mobility that actually puts a dent in our collective carbon footprint. eBikes might be the thing non-cyclists need to become cyclists. At any rate, it’s exciting to see how, time and again, the bike is a possible answer.

And bikes get better and better. Hydraulic brakes work better. Electronic shifting works better. The predecessors of those technologies also work well. They don’t need to be abandoned, but that doesn’t mean bikes aren’t getting better.

And think about what the bike competes against. For decades our government has subsidized petroleum companies, bailed out automakers, crafted tax deals to keep auto plants functioning, and invested trillions in auto infrastructure. You can get a tax rebate for buying an electric car, but not for buying a pedal bike, but which is the more efficient vehicle?

All the while, the bike rolls on, carrying millions of people through their lives. Bike companies go on doing what they do. For profit? Maybe. But the vast majority of the people in our industry are in it because they love it. Is that true in other sectors? I have my doubts.

I love bikes, and I love our industry, despite being a constant critic. The good news is that my bikes don’t care what I think. They’re immune to opinions. They just take whatever it is that I’m willing to put into riding them, and then give it back to me with interest.

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    Being a critic from the inside is an important job. Like Ryan Busse of GunWorld (he was a VP of Kimber before he ratted out the industry), insiders know more about where the bodies are buried.

    Here in Santa Fe, I see more e-bikes being used as basic transportation but most of them are being used to toodle around town. I guess that is good, as toodling on an e-bike belches less carbon than toodling in a Chevy Suburban or even my Impreza.

    To me, the planned obsolescence does need to stop. I want to keep my Dura-Ace 9 speed on my old CAAD5 and my 2005 Stumpjumper running as long as I can. They work, and work nicely. I will probably buy a new bike someday, but so far, the old ones still work great and I love them.

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