I took a little while out from writing The Sultry Single Speeder blog. A blog I used to love playing about with, going through my love/hate relationship with cycling. Now I have migrated to here. Partly because I felt the name was too close to Surly and partly because I think I speak a load of bull.
I’ve been off doing other things and slowly realized I was missing cycling. So now I am back. If you want to know what I was up to check this video out. My shirt choice is impressive.
So when I started The Sultry blog, I did so to review a bike I liked and felt it needed more love. Now that the blog is moving I am coming back with another bike to feature. Yet another affordable, steel, single speed bike, feel free to guess in the comments what you think it might be.
The price is right
Affordable is a funny word. It is a word that can be both objective and subjective. What is an affordable bike? How do we quantify that? What is a reasonable price to pay? What price is not breaking the bank?
I was thinking this when I bought a copy of Cycling Plus.
Cycling Plus used to be a magazine I felt had a reasonable look at bikes. It seemed to be more about bikes that people rode. It wasn’t all about the superbikes of other magazines. It was about bikes you could afford and a few that you probably couldn’t.
This issue had a look at some cyclocross bikes. It featured bikes from £1700 to £2500. It repeatedly referred to these bikes as “entry level,” “not breaking the bank,” and “reasonably priced.” Now without seeing the bikes, what do you feel about those prices and those descriptions?
I guess for the majority of people, those prices will be steep. Remember when cycling used to be a blue-collar enterprise. The sport of the working classes. past and villages bringing us the heroes of cycling.
What is the average?
Nicely some people at Nimblefins have done a load of the legwork for me. The average UK citizen has an average income of £26,300, this means you could buy 10 of the most expensive bike if you were the UK average person. It is worth knowing that the OECD point out the UK average is skewed by the fact that the top 20% in the UK earn 6 times as much as the lowest 20%. Isn’t inequality fun.
Now the Nimblefins people, I imagine them as some sort of mudskipper accountant symbiosis, have broken down where our average income goes. They have given us a figure for recreation, and that is on average 8% of our income. This figure is £2,428. Which is not a measly sum of money by any accounts.
Out of the 6 bikes, two cost more than that and 2 cost within a couple hundred pounds of that. The cheapest bike still takes up 70% of that figure. The review of that bike says “Buy If: You want a decent first ‘cross bike that you can upgrade in the future.” So what we are seeing is a nice piece of patronizing. £1700 will only get you a bike that is worth upgrading. We also have a point where they call this bike the “most affordable in this test.”
Technically it is but this is semantics. It really means the cheapest. When was using 70% of a budget ever considered affordable? You still have a helmet to buy. Possibly cycling kit? A pair of snazzy disco slippers. Then you would have to actually pay entrance fees. That other 30% will disappear very quickly. It doesn’t seem that affordable now does it?
This is why you can’t get people into cycling. The magazines are preaching an elitism, disguised as journalism. How would you feel if you wanted to take up cyclocross and £1700 is seen as an affordable bike? How many kids are being turned away by this snobbery? If you turn the page, you are greeted by a £1849 bike described as the “more affordable entry point.” When has £1849 been an affordable entry point to the sport, it almost makes skiing seem cheap.
Turn the page again, and we have a £2299 bike, this bike is a “very reasonable price”. We do finally meet a bike that is the cheapest model at a mere £2500. If affordable is £1700 and cheap is £2500, how can anyone ever be expected to take up a sport? The comments in the sum up are also disparaging about the cheaper bikes, they need to be upgraded, etc.
What has cycling become that it is no longer the working man’s pass time but now can only be a pass time for those on above-average wages? Wasn’t cross all about riding a beater during shit winter weather and having fun. Now it is all but an experiment in showing off your wealth.