26. März, 01:08 Uhr
EDIT: Please read the addendum. I don't want to alarm anyone.
Over the past couple years, I've been drawn further & further into the incredible world of cycling, & now that I have a lot more experience under my belt, having been a wrench, a salesperson, a volunteer mechanic & staffer at a local bike co-op, & a tourer, I feel I can give some words of advice back to those who are just starting fresh.
EDIT: here is the trigger phrase. Read the addendum.
Cycling is expensive. You've picked one of the most expensive hobbies in existence. The sheer amount of new gadgets, components, frames, standards, kits, trends, & fads, just doesn't end. While I suppose it's a sign of a healthy industry, it also lends itself horribly to the snobbier side of cycling. There are those who will call you out on your local rides, sneer at your less-than-perfect setup, & in general, just dictate how & what you should ride. Slam your stem, your bike's too big/small for you, tilt your hoods down, tilt your bars down, tilt your saddle up, big ring it, driveside first for the camera - it's ridiculous at times. They're here in this community, they're out there on group rides, & they're behind the counters at a lot of shops too.
Yet there isn't anything much more personal than *your* bike, despite the waves of conformity ushering everyone to overspend & overequip themselves to fit some unrealistic standard that updates nightly.
I'll admit: during my first forays into cycling, I did the same thing. It was worse when I left for a 3 month self-supported tour. I tried to cut corners on everything, true to my frugal upbringings, but the cheap stuff bit me in the ass in the middle of nowhere. After buying replacements & spending double out on the road, I came home to urge others to do the same. "It's an investment, not a replacement." At times, I was right; though I was wrong quite a few times too - vouching for things beyond the customer's use.
During my time as a mechanic in a college town, I've learned to be humble. Generally the first questions/remarks I got from customers were about the price. "Hi, I'm looking for a bike under $120." "That pump ($50 in store) goes for $30 on Amazon." *quiets voice* "Do you think I could get that cheaper elsewhere?" & it makes sense to a certain degree. Students, the economically disadvantaged, & beginners often balk at the prices because they really are about 2-3 times higher than what we employees get at cost. But like a $2 glass of milk at a restaurant, the $380 price tag for our cheapest bike, spread over 8 wrenches, doesn't count for much after trying to keep the lights on, to buy supplies, etc. A $15 flat change seemed ridiculous until you considered that we could likely do it much faster & more assuredly than you could (had a guy try to prove it wasn't worth $15, & proceeded to blow out his tube during installation).
It was worse at the co-op where I volunteered, where prices were much closer to at cost, for the general public. People would steal, skimp on much needed parts, & try to haggle prices (we had an open sign forbidding that). However, it was at those shops that I learned not to judge, be it a BSO or a Cervelo. Hell, we were responsible for selling most of the Schwinns out there in the first place. It just wasn't our place to assume how finances were going for our customer. I realized, between the shop & the co-op, people just wanted something to ride. For the vast majority of my customers, bikes weren't fun or recreation - it was nothing more than a means of transportation, be it to class or to a job. I had a woman cry at the co-op since she didn't know how she'd get to work the next day; we were closing up shop & her bike didn't move.
During group rides, people told me to buy aerobars, slow my cadence, tuck in my shoulders & get lower, yelled at me & others for taking a pull too long, & not knowing all of their aero formations. It was more mentally draining trying not to fuck up, than actually riding. It spoiled group rides so much around here that I've just gone solo for the past 8 months or so.
So that's it - the cost of cycling. You'll need to learn, beyond basic mechanic skills, to reserve your judgment, & to spend wisely. Don't always go for the cheapest option; if it breaks & warrants a replacement, then it really wasn't the cheapest. Buy the shop ('s service & friendliness), not the bike. Many people intend to ride their bike for more than one day - how does $1000 spread over 300 days out of a year? out of two years? A bike *is* an investment. Now apply that to components, accessories, gadgets, tools, etc. People need to stop seeing it as some sort of disposable instrument that they have to put up every once in a while. That's how I put it for my customers: sure, it's a $700 bike, but if you ride it everyday as a commuter, that $700 spreads awfully thin. Doesn't that beat buying a yearly bus pass - having the freedom to leave whenever you want, & the confidence to know that in a day's time, you could be more than a 100 miles from where you started by the sweat of your own brow?
Because in the end, it's all about riding a bike. As a wrench, as a volunteer, & as another cyclist, I just want to see these bikes make some people happy - regardless of the depth of your rims & of the modulus of your carbon fiber.
I hope this helps someone.
EDIT: Okay, I didn't expect this kind of response. I don't want to earn the ire of everyone here.
"Cycling is expensive. You've picked one of the most expensive hobbies in existence." This was an exaggeration/joke, & a poor one at that. I apologize. In fact, this is a perfect example of not only shitty, unedited writing, but also of the very "walk a mile in someone's shoes" situation that I was describing - that differences in perspective, & how prejudice can make you think a person can afford beyond their ability.
I apologize since it wasn't clear, but here's some context. I'm a university student. I'm as stereotypically poor as you might think. The co-op at which I volunteer is mainly aimed towards those of low-income families & students looking for a way to get to class & to work. So for me, & the people I know best around here, cycling is one of the more expensive hobbies.
A number of you pointed out this mistake, & rightly so. Yes, astrophotography, firearms, & boat collecting are just a few of the infinitely more expensive hobbies out there. However, as I replied to someone else below, many of these examples are already evidently expensive. Cycling, I think, seems cheap at first because, how complicated can a two wheel pipe wagon get? So although it might attract a lot of initial interest, the rampant elitism I see quickly stifles prospective beginners.
I also acknowledge how long & poorly written this was. I'm not going to edit it because that's how I first said it, so I'm sticking with honesty here. Hopefully this addendum will lay some of your worries to rest. So I wrote the following TL;DR.
TL;DR Elitism is bad, & present in cycling. Don't do it because it discourages beginners.
Others remarked that I should just find another group. Unfortunately, there are only two clubs in my area. I will try the other one at some point given what's happened with the first. I don't want to discount the possibility, for myself, or for others, of just riding by yourself. That's fine. In fact, if you think you might be a danger to others, please ride by yourself then. Only when you feel confident, should you start riding with a group to further build your confidence.
For the record, the group as a whole wasn't terrible. Most of them were very responsible, safety-oriented folks. I learned a great deal with them - not just proper signalling in a paceline, some formations, & other techniques, but it was the few members (who showed up to most rides), that would scare off a lot of other beginners. I would see this happening to potential new recruits & decided that I didn't want to be a part of the exclusive society these few elitists were trying to make.
Their safety/rules were on point. I have absolutely no complaints in that regard. They did a fantastic job.
Maybe I'm in the (hopefully a) minority of people with bad first impressions. If you didn't have to deal with this, I'm glad that you escaped, & probably enjoyed a lot more wholesome experience than I did.
I don't harbor any ill will towards anyone else here, & I hope neither do you towards me. No hard feelings. I'm just some dude on the internet saying stuff. Feel free to criticize; you won't hurt my feelings, & I hope I didn't elevate your morning blood pressure. It was my mistake to forget that some of things I discussed could be sensitive for others. At the very least, I'm happy that this post, even if a lot people hate it, promoted some wholesome & diverse discussion below.