BTCEB Blog No 50: The Written Word and the Cycling Press
I had been thinking about the relative health of the bike industry and more specifically the relevance of the cycling press. Personally I think there are a couple of good online outlets and I’m beginning to see print cycling journalism as irrelevant. I know I’m committing professional suicide by say that but it’s true.
Recently I had re-watched one of my favorite films “The Filth and the Fury”, the second in the series of Sex Pistols films by Julien Temple. In the mid seventies, about time some aging hippies in northern California were cobbling together some of the fist modern mountain bikes a group of unemployed music fans and never do wells were thrown together by fashion designer and music impresario Malcolm McLaren.
Far from sunny and carefree California England was wreck after the Second World War unemployed, and disillusioned, youth had nothing to do and nothing to look forward to. Some music fans found kinship in the early American proto-punk bands such as the MC5, The Stooges and Ramones and decided to put their own spin on it.
British punk looked different and by large sounded different and were a direct challenge to bloated and self-indulgent arena rock acts of the time.
In the mean time board baby boomers were still basking in the fading light of the Summer of Love began to find that the bikes they were scavenging from dumps and scrap yards were no longer adequate for the demands of the nascent sport and eventually started making frames and components from scratch.
About the first real mountain bike companies first started, Mountain Bike, WTB, and IRD, some of the first mountain bike specific magazines started, Fat Tire Flyer being one.
In the mid-seventies, however, no one would guess that computers would change the world the way the Internet would.
Punk rock kicked the music industry right in the nether regions and mountain bikes pulled the cycling industry out of the sleepy doldrums too but the dominant form of communicating these changes itself has been stuck in the previous century. Now, however, any one can be a media outlet, any one can change their content on a daily if not hourly basis. Print, however, has no such luxury.
Don’t get me wrong, I like reading, I like the physical weight of a book or magazine in my hands, and I also hate reading extended content on line but I’m also aware even broader changes are still over the horizon and print, isn’t one of them.
While I can see high quality, specialty market, high priced publications soldiering on eventually their days too may be numbered.
I also think the large bike companies are the arena rock acts of the cycling industry. They are like the late seventies Rolling Stones releasing disco songs thinking they can ride the coattails of punk and the Grateful Dead were doing funk numbers. What? I know that both Keith Richards and Jerry Garcia were doing a lot of drugs at the time but that’s a screwy statement even for a couple of junkies.
I will say this that’s in the favor of the larger cycling companies is that due largely to cheap offshore labor and economy of scale the average consumer has access high quality, high tech bikes at fairly reasonable price. The con side is you deal with a lot of mark up due to over-head, middlemen, advertising, race teams, research and development, and not to mention the environmental impact that offshore production generates due to lax regulations and the fuel expenditure of shipping cargo containers worth of bikes all over the world.
Let’s face it, domestically made bikes cost a lot of money and even a moderately priced frame will set you back over a grand. If you want to so such silly things as ride the bike that will obviously cost you more.
Today you can still slap together a bike that uses mostly American made mountain bike parts. Obviously there are certain things that aren’t made domestically any more such, as derailleurs, tires, or shifters but you can get pretty darn close. Mind you, however, it will cost you a pretty penny but you can do it.
At least you can be reasonably sure that the people who are putting together the domestically made frames and components are making a better wage than their counterparts in the Far East and there is at least some pretence of adherence to environmental regulations and worker’s health and safety laws. You can’t say that about some other places.
Like a lot of people, I’m not made out of money and like a lot of bike nuts I have more than one bike so to have them all decked out with new American made parts would cost a substantial amount of money but I’ve found a formula that’s helped me assuage some of my guilt and that is 1) I tend to keep my bikes for quite a few years, 2) I try to buy domestic if I can but if not then I’ll buy or trade for used 3) I don’t use any hydraulic or electronic systems on my bikes because disposal issues surrounding brake and suspension fluids and discharged batteries.
Really, I can’t make up your mind for you and I’m purely speaking only for myself but ultimately you are going to have to decide what works for you.