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Sunday, July 18, 2010

High End Bike Store

Although I was raised in a suburb of Seattle, I spent my formative years in the city and I have lived in urban Taichung for the past 12 years, so my taste in lifestyle reflects the urban qualities over those of suburbia.

Yesterday I ventured out of the city for a little culture shock in the city of Bellevue. Bellevue is where I grew up and went to school. It is, to steal a phrase from Davy Jones and the Monkees, "status symbol land."I remember growing up with rich kids who would vacation in Mazatlan or Maui. Their dads fought the battles of the mid-life crisis in war machines with names like Alfa Romeo, Berlinetta, or Corvette. Dads were test pilots, CEOs, Boeing executives, and later Microsoft millionaires. A person's value was often measured by how much lakefront one's family had for their sailboat or where the summer "cabin" was located. Being the son of a Reagan era high school teacher, I lost a lot of friends when it was determined that I had nothing of any real "value" that classmates could use me for. Sad but true. This is the Bellevue I have always known.

We went to the mall to see all the white people and feel out of place. I couldn't believe how many children looked just as frumpy and middle aged as their parents. It is a good thing the weather is so cold or half the people might melt into puddles of botox and silicone... and the meat; the fleshiness of everyone... anyways...

So I noticed they had a bike store that is a branch from one of the Seattle chains. I walked in and looked around at Trek, Specialized and Cervelo. I knew pretty well where the bikes are coming from. Lots of bikes for sale and lots of guys in their 50's and 60's looking to purchase their first bikes-- Trek Madone or Cervelo S3... the perfect choice for the novice.

As I stood around waiting for my wife to buy a drink I thought I would chat up a guy who was testing bikes. Here's how the conversation went:

Salesman to customer:

Yeah, once you get into the $5000 range, you get into the danger zone. The bikes are so nice you don't want to come back down. That's where the big difference is.

(Salesman leaves)

Me: Eh, that guy's full of shit. Just get what feels right. The price isn't going to make much performance difference.

Customer: Yeah, but I want to go fast.

Me: Oh, do you race?

Customer: (surprised look) No, but I want to keep up with my friends.

Me: What's fast?

Customer: (Funny look unsure of what to say)

Me: The bike won't make you go much faster. Work on the fit and the engine.

Customer: Yeah, but the components...

Me: If you are not racing then the difference between SRAM Force and SRAM Red are minute. There are lots of good bikes at different prices, make sure you have good wheels. I can go pretty fast on an alloy CX bike and it doesn't make that much difference.

Customer: I was thinking about one of those too.

Me: Well... I am sure you know what you want to use it for, so just be sure you get the right bike for your intended use.

Customer: I tried the Roubaix, but it was too relaxed, the Tarmac was more aggressive.

Me: Ummm... yeah.. they're all good bikes here.
First off...yes, I am probably a dick.

Second, the salesman totally had this guy figured out and was playing him along. The customer sooooooo wanted to believe the sales pitch and marketing hype and was just as eager to be "had". The guy is going to get the bike he wants. He wants a bike he can show off to his friends to gain the acceptance and envy of others for the price of his purchase. He needs their affirmation and really isn't interested in the bike so much as his prestige of owning it. I should have talked to him about Crumpton or some other high zoot frame. This was the perfect picture of Bellevue. I hope the salesman made his sale and many more like it. These fools drive the industry and keep the manufacturers pushing technology along.


  1. Nice post. It's always annoyed me that bikes are so expensive in the States--the $700 Trek my parents bought for me when I graduated from high school is still the most expensive bike I've ever had. Why aren't bikes like computers, whose price falls as technology improves? But, as you say, at least we're not the ones footing the bill.

  2. I used to be like this customer when purchasing my first badminton racket... But then again if you keep going with a sport, having something to grow into is useful. I can definitely tell the difference between what I purchased and some of the lower end rackets now. ;)

  3. I figure, the better you are, the more you can get out of something. On a bike, the fit and engine will make the biggest difference. If a complete novice buys a $5000 bike, that is great, but he can probably get a much cheaper bike and still ride just as poorly with possibly less comfort. Without the skills and the strength all the high end doodadery won't do anything. I guess the biggest plus might be that dropping a huge wad of cash on a bike might impel someone to ride more often.