The Want Business
Real talk, you don’t need a new bike. Your presence here, on this site, reading this post, imply strongly that you have a bike and probably more than one. This is a privileged position we occupy. Not everyone has a bike. Not everyone even knows how to ride should they have the means to purchase a bike for themself. You and I are living the life, and we don’t need a new bike.
This is a want business.
I sold custom bikes for a bunch of years, and what I enjoyed most was talking with someone motivated to build a great bike. Mapping their dreams and ideas onto the technology at our disposal was a lot of fun, and in those moments, I didn’t feel like I was selling anything. I was just dreaming up a bike. A rider might express an opinion about one of my suggestions, and that would occasion more conversation and the pursuit of other paths. It was adventure. It was the exploration of want.
And sometimes someone would say to me, “I don’t need that.” This, it always struck me, was rather beside the point. We don’t need any of this. It’s not food, shelter or love. There are no needs here. There are only degrees of want. You might want one thing less than another, but to foster the illusion that we are making critical choices relative to practical needs seems disrespectful to those who really do need things.
I do understand, though. Realizing your wants, whether that requires an expenditure of money or just time, can be freighted for those who feel they don’t deserve what they have. There are a lot of reasons to feel undeserving, some of them related to recognition of societal privilege, some of them related to low self-esteem.
“I’m not that great a rider,” some would say to me. “I’m not fast anymore.” Or, “I’m having a hard time justifying this.” Those all strike me as potentially true statements, but none of them addresses a person’s worthiness either. We’re all worthy of a new bike. Who does it help or harm to behave otherwise?
I’m loath to get into a hierarchy of wants based on relative wealth. We’ve all (most of us anyway) got moral principles we try to adhere to, and excessive consumption is a real ethical issue that’s worth talking about. What I understand from most people who express qualms about their needs vis a vis a new bike though is the self-worth-based objection.
They don’t think they’re worth it.
Sadly, my experience of this phenomenon was even more common with female customers. To all who said, “I’m not a good enough rider for that,” I replied, “You deserve to enjoy riding a bike just like anyone else.” Most people don’t accept this sort of affirmation from a bike salesperson, though.
If newer, better, different bikes were earned by cycling feats, like leveling up in a video game, most of us would never be in the position to experience new bike day. But it doesn’t work that way. Fair or not, you’re allowed to buy whatever bike you want with whatever money you have. Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a new bike, which is pretty much the same thing.
Shimano North America sells a bunch of stuff that I want, whether I deserve it or not.