Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rolls vs carbon, belt-drive Parlee fixie

My last post offered a link to a NY Times article about the new, smaller Rolls-Royce automobile. I am not so much charmed by the car as I am by the people who make it and the writer who described it. Good attitudes, say I.

We look at the car and wonder how many of its owners became wealthy enough to afford it via humanitarian pursuits, providing AIDS meds for suffering Africans or buying books for schools in Arkansas. One suspects that Rolls owners believe the Lord helps those who help themselves, so they help themselves to distinguished motorcars. 

As this is written, during the Handbuilt Bicycle Show in Indianapolis, I want to ask you why it's cool to build or own a $10,000 carbon-fiber urban single-speed bicycle, and not cool at all to own a new Roller. 

The Rolls will do anything a car can do, congratulating its owner all the while for his/her taste and worldly success. It'll look like money, like snobbery, but it'll serve wonderfully nonetheless. 

The urban single-speed will never leave its zip code. It will be no better at being a bicycle than a clean '80s Fuji Monterey. It will in truth not be as useful as the Fuji. The Fuji will go anywhere. The carbon fixie will go nowhere. The Fuji is to ride; the fixie is to be seen on.

The Rolls designer says that most owners have five or six car garages and think of their garages as wardrobes, as arrays of items from which to choose. The carbon fixie owner thinks of his room-full-of-bikes as a wardrobe too, an array of leisure time choices from which to choose.

Many of us, I suspect, are blinded by "bicycle-ness." Whatever a bicycle is or whatever a cyclist okay. Cool even. Any niche market item that appeals to cyclists is cool, even if it is severely limited in function and so brutally expensive that it can't be parked in front of Cool Beans Coffee & Tea without an armed guard. 

A Rolls-Royce is a refined, expensive, totally functional automobile. A carbon fixie is a pricey gilded lily. Can't blame Parlee. Despite the downturn, the demand is there - from authentic, gritty urban fixists across this Great Land. 

I get the Rolls. I really don't get the Parlee. Speak right up if you do.


Reptile said...

You seem to forget one conspicous diffrence.. One runs on hippie tears the other, enthusiasum..

Maynard said...

Could someone who speaks Reptile's language please translate his/her comments for me? Help me understand...

jthurber80 said...

I can understand the Parlee -- like a beautiful, red Titanium Independent Fabrication Independence, built to one's measurements, equipped with Rohloff rear hub and a Schmidt dyna front, Dura-Ace brakes and a 26 x 48 XTR front (with a chain tensioner out back). An expensive bike, to be sure (about $6,500) but one fantastic ride in every respect.

Sometimes you just have to choose where to spend your (limited?) resources.

But a Rolls? Geez, if that sort of thing interested me, at all, I'd put a funny grill on my Civic and let it go at that.

Addison said...

Maybe a translation, apologies if I fail. Hippie( Earth First etc.) tears because of use of resources,enthusiasum because cyclists are fans of self propulsion????, Dont know if I got that right or not.
The single speed bikes the Dutch are so fond of are beautiful in form and function, especially because everywhere you look they are in use. Have to wonder other than an design exercise just how useful the carbon fiber unit is, certainly not something that can be recycled like the Dutch steel units.
Rolls Royce makes expensive cars, but like fine frame builders their approach has always been to build a superior product, not just to create some eye candy for the moneyed elite. A top line bike and a top line car both are examples of excellence in their field, the efforts of craftsmen.