We all admit it, jumping into a sportive cycling recreation takes a significant investment up front. How much have you invested in clothing, shoes, bikes, and accessories like rain gilets and sunglasses/etc? Personally, I don’t want to think about it, but this perceived notion of everyone needing to be a cyclosportive rider that may or may not race is not the image that will get a thirty-five year old oil well worker on a bicycle. I think Hybrid Bikes are the best shot.
Three things that Hybrids bring to the table that make them well suited for the average West Virginian are their price point, versatility, and perceived durability/reliability.
West Virginia isn’t the best economically endowed state in the US, actually, it is ranked #49th @ $29,537 per person. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to rush out to Wal-Mart and get a $39.99 Huffy Special or whatever the heck they are selling these days. How long is a $74.00 bike going to last with the average person, since the bike didn’t come with a promised service or warranty? I am not sure myself on what price would be best for a WV resident, but my guess would be $500 +/- $100. Five Hundred Dollars will buy you a bicycle with a lifetime warranty, and free service and repair* (depending on where) for life. This exponentiates the bike’s value by at least 50%, not having to pay a bike mechanic to tune it up whenever you need them to.
A $500 Hybrid bicycle will get you a bike that is capable of commuting, recreational and family riding, city jaunts, and can be upgraded with minimum costs to be a grocery go-getter if it does not already have some kind of rear rack.
The Late, Great Sheldon Brown once said this:
There are two entirely separate bicycle industries; bicycles intended for real use are sold primarily in bicycle shops, and also, to some extent, in sporting goods stores. Bicycles sold through this side of the industry are well made and sturdy, and are sold fully assembled, tested and guaranteed.
A parallel business uses department stores and discount stores for distribution. They concentrate on a lower price segment, and sell a drastically inferior product. The bicycles sold in department stores are made as cheaply as possible, from the poorest materials available. The average department store bicycle is ridden about 75 miles in its lifespan from showroom floor to landfill. The manufacturers know this, and build them accordingly. Department store bicycles are most commonly sold in a partially disassembled and un-adjusted condition.
I’m not sure where he found those statistics or even if they are true, but that sounds like canonical data to me 😛
Having a bicycle that you can pull out of the garage and do anything with it is invaluable. As long as the tires are filled, you could go on light trails/rail-trails, ride around town, run some errands, or even get your sweat on the weekend. Next time you go for a ride, ask yourself if you would be comfortable taking your Cervelo P3 or Superfly 100 on ALL of those kinds of tasks? I didn’t think so… The value in being capable of doing everything in a so-so manner is not a big deal to oblivious consumers, because they are not looking to go to snowshoe and do the downhill slopes in the summer, nor are they trying to climb Cheat Mountain on their bike either. These are standard blue-collar individuals who are going to be using this bicycle to 30% of its max needs, except maybe weight-load capacity. So, what if it weighs thirty pounds? It’s not like they are hucking it over fallen trees or on their shoulder while climbing a muddy bank; these are true recreational bikes that are capable of doing a bit more than just one thing… just not all the well as we would expect.
Okay guys, we’re talking about selling a bike to someone who bought their F150 not only because of the price, but due to the fact that they are typically known for being reliable trucks. Having someone trust you when you say their bike will take the beatings that a person is capable of giving them, and still last is where I would be sold. If I am going to invest $500 on a bicycle instead of getting something at walmart, it better last. The tubing used on hybrid bikes has been butted and formed for better strength and yielding capabilities. It’s pretty true you never see a walmart bike’s head tube just snap off, but you also see a ton of rusted walmart bikes that are inoperable after just a few months. Durable, and smart products specced to meet certain requirements are going to last longer than a bunch of pot metal derailleurs strapped to some gas pipe shaped bicycle frames. When a company backs up their products, this allows a person to feel safer in their purchasing decisions.
While I kind of rambled on about characteristics of Hybrid Bicycles, I kind of created many points which would make riding a bicycle easier and more appealing. Things can change faster and easier though, I may sound like a mad scientist or some kind of eugenics believer saying this but… go after the children. If you raise kids who enjoy and understand the benefits of riding a bike, there is a higher possibility of that trend continuing into adulthood…
Now where is my hypnotizing machine…? Hmmm….