Friday, April 1

Appropriate for April Fools

One feature of becoming a member of the bike league is that you get a complimentary subscription to a mass market cycling magazine. It just starts showing up. For some reason, this magazine misspells “Buycycling” on their cover, because this is a magazine that attempts to persuade the innocent reader that one simply MUST have items such as a carbon fiber floor pump and a carbon beam rack, that touts a $1500 bike as “entry level,” and talks about how many grams you can save with lightweight rim strips. This didn’t really bother me (actually, it DID bother me, but not enough to rant about it), until I took a look at their April 2011 issue. Yes, that’s April, as in the month in which April Fool’s Day occurs. The highlight of this issue was a so-called buying guide. I chuckled at some of the prose, and then put it away for a week or so. Then, mental fermentation set in.


FINDING THE APRIL FOOL JOKE
A while back, I thought it was silly of this magazine to glow about the Civia Hyland as a commuter bike. Certainly, the Civia is a nice enough bike, but it struck me as overpriced and overkill for most commuters, but lacking in performance for the rest. It seemed a bike for people that liked to talk about bike commuting without actually DOING it. However, I didn’t begin to dream what these guys would include in their 2011 April “Buyer’s Guide.” Perhaps they took the April Fool Day theme to heart. THIS issue featured, for a commuter bike, a custom frame and fork that listed for $4000. This wasn’t $4000 for a whole commuter bike. It was $4000 for a frame. This might make sense if your name is Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, or Warren Buffett and you want to start bike commuting, but it struck me as a joke to feature a $4000 frame as a bike commuter item in a magazine that doesn’t mention actually LOCKING a bike anywhere. I’m sure this is a very nice frame, but most commuter bikes get locked up, OUTSIDE, EVERY DAY. Most commuter bikes I see come from big box stores, and sport brand names such as “Roadmaster” or “Huffy.” The fancy ones say "Schwinn." Neither myself, nor my loyal reader are typical in our choice of a commuting bike. Quite honestly, more often than not, commuter bikes lead a harsh existence – until they get stolen. John Forester devotes quite a bit of space in EFFECTIVE CYCLING to characteristics needed in commuting bikes – functional and easy to keep running, but not flashy or particularly high end. My wife’s Nishiki fit that profile. Buddy was a little excessive, but so was the commute to Alliance, and I had a nice, warm, secure, office environment in which to keep the bike when I reached work. And I bought Buddy used.

GAPING HOLES
This magazine had dozens of categories of bikes. For example, instead of a category covering road bikes, they had “Entry level,” “Recreational,” “Enthusiast,” “Dream,” and “Plush,” They had other road categories as well, but you get the idea. Is there some reason I should either understand or CARE about the differences between these categories that all are subdivisions of the same kind of bike? I know more about bikes than the average person, but I confess I don’t understand all that blather.

So I instead looked for two of my favorite categories of bikes: cyclocross and touring. I found nothing. It occurred to me that maybe they had them under a less familiar category heading, so I looked at some of the various road and mountain bike categories. Not a single cross or touring bike to be found. I guess that if you are looking for one of these categories of bikes, you are simply expected to look elsewhere. Other categories of bikes were missing as well; tandems, recumbents, bikes to carry STUFF; all missing. I’m sad to report that there were no categories of roadster or dutch bike, either. Heck, they didn’t even glow about the Civia this year. I guess you don’t need a Civia when you’re dropping $4000 for a commuter frame. Chandra might simply be well advised to stay away from REI – Novara didn’t appear in the buyer’s guide in any category, though they did have a spendy Co Motion frame with S and S couplings to glow about.

EPIPHANY
After a while of furiously flipping through the magazine, looking for stuff that simply isn’t there, it struck me then that this magazine might not be so dumb. If you considered the target market as the advertisers rather than bicycle enthusiasts, it began to make sense. In a sense, the magazine is somewhat like the in-flight magazines that you find in the seat pockets of pretty much every airline, combined with the “gadget mall” catalog that usually accompanies them.

ONCE A FOOL
A few years ago, as I began to upgrade my bike technology, one of my daughters was selling magazine subscriptions as part of her school’s “raise money” campaign. Not knowing any better, I picked this magazine. Well, the first issue was pretty interesting, but after about the third one, the pattern had become pretty well established. Needless to say, I didn’t renew the subscription. You know, “fool me once; shame on…

UPDATE - EVEN DOPIER THAN "BUYCYCLING!"
Perhaps $4000 isn't so crazy for a commuter bike as I imagined. Today, I saw that Audi (yes, the auto company) is putting its name on a WOODEN FRAMED bike, with the wood selected to match the wood trim on its cars. Here is the PR blurb: "A cafe/leisure bike, urban explorer and all-weather commuter; the most approachable bike for casual cyclists. Features include an upright position for short distances, comfort and traffic vigilance; wide puncture-resistant 32mm tires; LED lights; fenders; rack; and Shimano Nexus 8-speed gear train. Price: $6,530."

Somehow, I can't imagine many "casual cyclists" dropping that kind of money for a bike, even if it floated through the air on gossamer wings. More details here, along with many other places. I'd really like to hear who gets fired at Audi for such a brain-damaged notion. Crimeny, it doesn't even have an Alfine gear train for durn near $7k.

15 comments:

limom said...

Interesting.
You know, I find that this hobby/sport doesn't lend itself to good magazines.
As you infer, seen them once, you've pretty much seen them all.

Big Oak said...

My wife bought me a one year subscription for the 2010 calendar year, and I'm still getting them. I begged her to not renew the subscription, and she didn't. For some reason they won't stop coming in the mail.

Another category the latest "buyer's guide" doesn't have is used, well-loved bikes. I like looking at new bikes as much as the next person, but I love riding my 1986 Trek, or my 1973 Schwinn, or my 2007 Specialized.

There are fantastic deals on good-condition, good-quality, used bikes on Craigslist, and a beginning rider (or experienced rider) can get a heck of a deal on most any kind of bike.

The magazine to which you refer does a good job of promoting the latest bikes. But does it promote cycling?

Buy it if: you picture yourself breaking away from the peloton on a mountain somewhere in France.

Forget it if: you actually like to ride your old bike.

John Romeo Alpha said...

Completely agree, Steve, but I would point out the only two redeeming qualities of this issue: the photo of a carbon frame in its natural, fully exploded state, and a full page ad featuring Liz Hatch.

Anonymous said...

I just gotta wonder: did Civia and REI stop running ads in "Buycycling"?

Steve A said...

Limon, I think Bicycle Quarterly isn't too bad.

Big Oak, the advertisers would not like a buyer's guide to used bikes.

JRA, looking again, I STILL can't find that ad with Liz Hatch!

Anon, REI has a full page ad but Civia's got nothing. I'm not sure why REI didn't advertise one of the categories being highlighted or they'd have won for sure.

And, see the update. Audi has really gone off the deep end!

Chandra said...

Damn Nice Post, Steve!

Bicycling is one magazine I really don't care for. Too much jazz and ads for me. I prefer Bicycle Times and Bicycle Quarterly.

BQ seldom tests bikes that are cheap, but I am looking for information in that mag, such as data from designed experiments, than simple price stats. BQ's review of useful products such as dynamos and lights are a great read.

Bicycle Times has started talking about vehicular bicycling in the recent issues and has photos of dudes and dudettes with normal clothing.

Peace :)

Pinarovo said...

In spite of the price, the bikes that Renovo built for Audi are stunning. The curly maple on the sport bike is a beauty. It was amazing how quiet these bikes ride with a belt drive on it (true there isn't chip seal in a show room). They've put some very new componets on the bikes...and it was Audi that specified the disc brakes.

limom said...

Liz Hatch?
What was the name of that magazine again?

PM Summer said...

The Bicycle Industry, from magazines, to lobbyists, to consultants.

Steve A said...

Renovo includes disc brakes on its bamboo commuter bike without the Audi logo on it, but THAT wooden bike sells for $3000 less and doesn't pretend to be oriented toward a casual rider. I wouldn't have a problem if Audi sold these beautiful bikes as rideable art that complements the cars, but such was not their marketing approach. Making the announcement around April 1 didn't help.

Khal said...

Buycycling indeed. I imagine the LAB gets some benefits from offering that rag to us as a freebie. Hope someone does. Its rare that I see something worth keeping or clipping out.

Bicycling used to be a decent magazine back in the 1980's. More journalism, more technical articles, more on touring. Frank Berto's famous discussions of gear trains come to mind. I still have an issue from 1997 that I dug out of a pile of stuff headed for recycling and saved for old times sake. It had a long article on "cycling in the Southwest" and a receipt from the U of Hawaii bookstore. Never knew at the time that I'd be doing these rides routinely.

Of course geartrains are now off the shelf rather than something you cobble together with chain whips, loose cogs, half step chainrings, and an Excel spreadsheet. Articles in Buycycling are usually so short that they don't even last a visit to the Throne Room. I don't think its target audience is cyclists. I can't imagine too many people waiting for the April Buying Guide to make a purchase when there is so much out there on the Web.

So of what use is Buycycling?

Pinarovo said...

I'm not sure where all your hate for the Audi bikes is coming from. Ok, I get that you may not be the target demographic. If folks get these bikes as a status symbol, for their kids, or as a novelty item, so what?

I've had my Renovo for over 2 years now, I've not met anyone who isn't amazed by it. They may initially think it's a fancy paint job or bamboo, but in the end, they are impressed with the beauty of the frame. Unfortunately they don't get to experience the way it rides. Are you going to be the one at the other end of the bell curve?

Steve A said...

I apologize if my comment came across as "hate for the Audi bikes." The bikes are beautiful and well equipped. So is my own bike that cost $5000 less. So is the Renovo Pandurban Commuter that costs $3580 less than the Audi.

Khal said...

What I find amusing is the the Bike League is trying to make bicycling universally accessible, but sends members a publication that makes buying the bicycle itself seem highly exclusive. Is there an irony here?

As far as really, really, exotic bicycles? I appreciate 'em in the same way that my heart skipped a beat when I saw the $135k Porsche GT-3 RS that someone drove through town yesterday. Buy one? Sorry, I want to pay off the mortgage. Appreciate it? You bet!

Khal said...

Nice article about an old Detroit velodrome in the current issue. No sooner do I badmouth Bicycling than they do something very well.

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