Window Shopping

Over the past few days the weather has gone from delightfully springlike right back to frigid and snowy:

Looking at this bike, of which I’ve become quite fond, I realized that it’s currently the only bike I own from one of the big mainstream bicycle companies. However, it’s over 30 years old, and even when it was new it was something of a freak bike–though ironically there are a number of smaller companies currently producing bikes with a similiar ethos, very generally speaking. (Steel, traditional parts, weird handlebars…) Meanwhile, for many years I rode bikes from the mainstream companies–in fact for most of my life I only owned bikes from the mainstream companies. This led me to wonder: Have I changed, or is it the bikes that are different?

In an attempt to answer this question, I visited the websites of the Big Three bike companies, and asked myself: “If you could have any one of their offerings, which would it be?”


I can’t say any of the categories or images on the Specialized site really spoke to me or sparked my imagination. For example, while this sort of thing clearly requires considerable talent and practice, I don’t find it remotely inspiring:

To me it just looks like someone trying to fold a folding bike in mid-air before realizing it’s not a folder. So clearly I could write off all the bikes in whatever category that was, I can’t remember.

I also find genre gravel bikes boring no matter who’s making them, and I already have several bikes that are well-suited to that kind of all-around riding (including the RockCombo):

Seems to me once you’re off the pavement you can free yourself from the plastic road bike paradigm and let yourself live a little. Gravel bikes are sort of like going to another country but still eating at Subway.

I was genuinely impressed with the Specialized e-bikes when I had an opportunity to try them. Unlike the contortionist above, I’d even go so far as to say I was inspired, in that they made riding a bike so darn easy, and there are probably a lot of people who like that. I also would have really wanted one myself when I was still schlepping little kids up the steep hills in my neighborhood. Now however I have less of a need for an e-assist and I personally find all the tech off-putting. I love that it’s available and I love that people love it; I’m just not one of it

So I thought maybe the Aethos, since in a way it’s their most straightforward bike:

But I object to it on the grounds it’s a very expensive modern bike trying to act like a classic bike, and I’d much rather just have a classic bike.

So ultimately, if forced to choose a bike from the Specialized site, I’d proably get something like a Stumpjumper–not even a fancy one, just something like the “cheap” one:

This is because I have nothing like it and I’m sure I’d have a lot of fun with it, though I still find the idea of full-suspension bikes anxiety-producing, possibly because they seem more like sporting goods than bicycles to me.


Did you know they still sell the Bad Boy? I didn’t:

This is totally one of those bikes I’d never want but I could totally understand why someone else would. This bike seems purpose-built for riding around the city to different parks in order to play sports with people, and that’s in no way a criticism. It’s just not something I do.

As for the rest of Cannondale’s offerings, I can emphatically say the CAAD Optimo 1 is the best bike they offer, and therefore it’s the one I’d choose:

I don’t see how you can not like a workmanlike aluminum road bicycle, and unlike their other bikes it actually seems like it may have a regular threaded bottom bracket, though I may be wrong about that. I just don’t see how a bike like this could possibly disappoint you: it’s a road bike so you know what you’re signing up for, it’s one color and doesn’t have lots of stupid decals on it, and and unless the tires suck or something I can’t imagine what could let you down.


So Trek still have the 520, which looks nice, though when I look at a touring bike all I see is the bike tours I’ll never take:

The Trek site also had more contortionists–here’s one inspecting his stem bolts:

I guess I could kind of see a Farley, but only because it’s snowy out right now:

But it doesn’t snow that much here, you can usually ride on the roads even when it does, and I have more than enough tire volume on my Jones. Speaking of which, what’s up with Trek stealing the name of those tires from Jones’s famous bolt-on protuberance?


The District looks practical and deserves smugness points:

But my Rivendells have the same amount of practicality, while being much sportier to boot.

Anyway, I soon got lost in all the choices on the Trek site:

So I surrendered and used the bike finder. However, I got stumped on the very first question:

Really I wanted to ride in all those situations, so I settled on the “gravel” one, since it seemed the most ecumenical:

This question also bothered me:

What about all the shapes in between?

So I chose drop bars, answered a few more questions, and guess what they gave me:

Fair enough, though it seems like they could have saved a bunch of time on the bike finder by simply asking “Do you have a beard?,” and if you answer “Yes” then they send you right to the 520.

The obvious conclusion to draw from all this is that I’m old and unwilling to leave my comfort zone, which is supported by the fact that I generally gravitate towards the most obsolete bike on these sites (apart from the Specialized, though note I went for their oldest model name)–though this is sort of confounded by the fact that the hip, boutiquey brands generally offer stuff that’s well within my comfort zone, so maybe I’m not so much a retrogrouch as I am an aging hipster.

Another possibility is that we’re living through a strange inversion in which old people with money want youthful, cutting-edge sports bikes and younger people want folksy metal bikes they can festoon with canvas luggage. Or maybe it’s always worked that way. To wit: middle-aged d-bags in Porsches. But even that doesn’t make sense, because the reason most Porsche drivers are older is that’s who can afford them, whereas the price difference between a folksy metal bike and a sporty plastic one is often slight to nonexistent.

Aw, fuck it, I’m leasing a Hyundai and taking up dirt-jumping.

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