Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Mid-Life Crisis

I'd Much Rather have been in a Car. DAMN MY MID LIFE CRISIS.

The Daily Mail has taken a break from dividing the world into things that cause cancer/things that don't, and mocking the dress sense of female "celebrities" to weigh in on the topic of an increase in sales of bicycles. I'm not sure what the Telegraph stopped doing to do so, but they have a piece too - apparently the Telegraph article was also covered on BBC news. Both articles point to it as evidence of a (male) mid-life crisis.

The Mail's position is largely silly season mockery and supercilliousness, it seems to me, pointing to "research" showing that bikes allow one to "send out the message that its rider has the appealing qualities of being fit, rugged and loving the planet, according to the experts." The researchers dub "the upsurge in bike sales, the ‘noughties version of the mid-life crisis’" - of course, because no one would ride a bike if there wasn't something odd about them, would they? As one commenter succinctly points out "in Holland, everyone has a mid-life crisis."

The bike is said to lack the allure of the things normal men are interested in, like Ferraris and Porsches (of course!) And Billy Zane (41) "admitted" going bar hopping on his bike, apparently (riding a bike, his guilty secret!). The writer is either dead inside, or hasn't seen a lugged Mercian, or a Pegorretti, either of which I'd, personally, climb over several Ferrari to get to.

It's also interesting that the article mentions "top of the range race bikes", but is illustrated by pictures of two men riding eminently sensible (if we forgive the lack of mudguards) hybrids, whilst wearing jeans. This does, at least, forestall the "they look funny in lycra" jibe that tends to accompany such an article.

The real story here isn't so much why the growth is in the 35-44 Male demographic, perhaps, as to why such a cheap (ignore the nonsense about the bikes costing £7,000 in the Telegraph) and convenient way of getting about is so limited in its appeal here in the UK. Why don't we see more cycle use among women and young people? A further tragedy is that while many bikes are sold, relatively few are ridden regularly beyond an initial flush of enthusiasm, and fewer still on the sort of short, regular journey that makes a difference to local communities and traffic congestion.

I suspect the answer lies largely in the shameful attitude of the UK to the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, and sadly, that isn't a story you'll see the Mail, or the Telegraph telling any time soon.


TEHGROKE said...

The Mail also had this story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1301453/Petrol-prices-1-20-litre-time-Bank-Holiday-weekend.html

Could there be a link? Someone fetch Mr Holmes.

Kim said...

But the sad truth is that much of the increase in sales of bicycles is to middle aged males. Just look around on your commute, how many females do you see riding bicycles do you see?

Next try picking up any of the popular cycling magazines (notice how these to having increased in number on the shelves of W.H. Smiths, and usually next to publication like "Men's Health") have a look inside, how many females do you see there? How much of the advertising is aimed at females? Try counting the number of cycle helmets. Helmets are a macho thing, that fits in with the image of cycling are an adventure sport, something slightly dangerous, but not really dangerous. Great appeal to middle aged males having a mid life crisis, but something of a turn off to many females.

The bike biz it's self is doing it's best to discourage the up take of mass cycling, by the narrow minded pursuit of the only market segment it knows...

John the Monkey said...

I may not be the most representative commuter to take a survey, Kim, there aren't many folk around full stop on my route at 7am ;-)

I'm not sure that the increase is a sad truth in itself, although it's a sad truth that it's not more evenly shared among other demographics. Whilst I take your point about the way cycling is "sold", I think a larger factor is the road environment in the UK, specifically in terms of our prevailing attitudes to road use and traffic law enforcement practices.

The bike business is selling to people it knows it can sell to, to at least some degree. Selling to other groups is a risky strategy because they're put off by the road environment here, I'd argue.

colinr said...

I see a fair few females on bikes on my commute. Probably because I go past a university.

Of course I race them indiscriminately because I've been reading BIG RING RIDING for far too long :D

(probably not helping the cause)