They can be sold and will be sold; no one will raise a hand to say: What's going on here? This post is me raising my hand and wondering online about serious money for silly stuff: bike parts.
In this great nation, lots of people have made or are making so much money that they can just buy $4000 wheels for their bicycle on a whim. See 'em, like 'em, buy 'em. They don't save up.
They may in fact try to get a deal on the wheels, not 'cause the few dollars make a difference, but because the idea of paying full price offends them. They didn't pay sticker for the Lexus.
It's not just Joe Sixpack who can't believe we pay so much for bicycle stuff. Lots of us older riders are just as amazed. We never dreamed there'd be $4000 wheelsets - or riders aching to buy them.
Now, weekend riders buy $4000 wheelsets. They work hard. They deserve them. Nice wheels. Nicest wheels on the club ride for sure.
I think about how much wealth we have created in this country and what we have sacrificed to make it possible. Some of the things we ignore or merely pretend to care about are important, I'd say. Not that those wheels aren't important. Nicest ones on the ride.
I try not to think that it's a violation somehow to buy $4000 wheelsets, that it's thoughtless, raging consumption - those are unAmerican ideas; I fight against them. I'm no commie.
Tons of people can buy four thousand dollar bicycle wheels. At the same time millions of kids go to classes in rundown, dirty schools, classes taught by teachers who are just getting by. We have compulsory education sure enough but it so-often sucks.
We lament the low pay and low status of teachers in the car on the way to the shop where we buy the four thousand dollar wheels.
We have the most expensive health care in the world and it isn't the best in the world. You can add whatever unfairnesses upset you here. Use the other side of the paper if you run out of room.
I'm not blaming those unfairnesses on bicycle wheels, no way. But kids need education, we all need health care and almost no son of a bitch on this planet needs a four thousand dollar set of wheels. Guys who do need them get them free from their sponsors.
Does saying that make me a commie?
No one will stand still for higher taxes in this kind and gentle land. But if people can afford to buy luxury items costing a multiple of what "average" or "perfectly serviceable" items cost, there should be a surcharge, a way for those people to help others by sharing (kicking and screaming as the case may be) a bit of what this system has graciously allowed them to accumulate.
Let's say that 10% is a good rate, a luxury tax that shouldn't affect sales of items like $4000 wheelsets, but would do some good elsewhere. Four hundred dollars, say, collected each time a set of four grand mega-wheels or the equivalent was sold, would put books in the hands of schoolkids in low-income neighborhoods. Or give a shot at a living wage to their teachers.
Would folks who buy $4000 wheelsets or $4000 Rolexes balk at paying $4400 for them, knowing that the four hundred was actually going to trickle down to folks who might truly need it? Would they stop buying prestige items, items just a bit better than their friends have bought?
Is this redistribution of wealth? Sure. Is it creation of wealth? No. But we've proved to the world that we're on top of this widespread wealth creation stuff; we're Number One.
We should take a shot at spreading just a little of what we have around where it can do some good - for folks who can't make it to the Saturday club ride. Not because they're embarrassed by their low-budget bicycle wheels. No. Because they have weekend second jobs.
PS When Tamar and I lived in Tucson, I wrote a piece about guys I rode with several times. A few of them would tell you they had 15 racing bicycles in their suburban garages. I suggested in the local free bike paper that guys who had bikes they no longer rode could donate them to their clubs - for young riders or people who couldn't afford new bikes.
The guy who administered the email ride list took me off it. If you suggest to real Americans what they might do with their money, you are a pariah, an outcast. And proud of it, I say....