I wrote this as an email letter to my friend David. Because I respect the people at the bike company, I've changed the name. Fill in whatever upscale brand you like...
My buddy Justin is talking about a 'cross-style bike. On our ride this morning, I suggested he check out a Chablis Cycles model. When I got home I checked out the Chablis web site.
I like the bikes but the site seems clubby and self-congratulatory: isn't it lovely that we are the nicest, most civilized people and have the class to appreciate these bicycles. And the money to buy them without a second thought - except perhaps to ponder whether Chablis or some other distinguished marque represents the proper "fraternity" to buy into.
We're not offering polo ponies or private railroad cars here, after all. Probably we're not afraid to lose sales to common marques like Surly, Black Sheep or Voodoo.
I clicked on a link to some dude's idea of why we would buy that particular Chablis. We'd buy one, he says, because it's like those multi-purpose bikes we had back when, bikes with clearance, eyelets and sensible geometry.
You remember those versatile, go-anywhere bikes, doncha? We foolishly abandoned them, seduced by models that were lighter-better-quicker-faster.
I don't remember it that way. I never had a "sensible" bike like that and neither did you, David. We had racing bikes. Even the ones before the advent of short-reach Campy brakes were close-clearance. Some builders offered models with long stays, relaxed angles and eyelets front and rear. The Raleigh International comes to mind.
We didn't want those bikes. We didn't know who did want them but we didn't want to ride with them. Real bicycles were racing bicycles.
Where do guys get their ideas about '70s bikes? Did your Lighthouse have eyelets? Your Masis? None of my bikes had any of that Swiss Army stuff either.
Do-everything bikes were compromised. We would never buy a compromised bike. We didn't want touring bikes. We wanted pure racing bikes.
We were racers, by God. We were Davenport Wailers. We didn't need long wheelbase. Lights? Fender clearance? Cadillac ride? Eyelets?
I've written bike-biz catalog copy. I've had to stir smoke to sell stuff, but I never had to rewrite history.
Those days were not golden because of the bikes and parts. The bikes were okay; the parts sucked. The guys were the gold in the golden age. But those guys or that era are not for sale, and we need to sell something. Let's offer a model or two as time machines, conduits to Back Then.
It's curious that folks who market bikes figure that some connection with the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will make certain bikes more alluring to today's buyers. I wonder if it works. My suspicion is that the buyer of the one bike that does it all already has five bikes and needs a seductive reason to buy a sixth - on which he'll do precisely what he does with the five.
Surely I'm wrong and far too cynical. Forgive me.