One Person’s Trash… Another Person’s Treasure

Detour Deluxe
Another Person’s Treasure

My friend’s father who is in his 70’s has recently taken up riding a bicycle for transportation. He’s absolutely on fire about it, doing his grocery shopping and errands on his bike, while riding around for fun and exercise on days when he has no other reason to ride. He’s doing all of this on a Schwinn hybrid he picked up at Wal-Mart for $199. Mechanically the bike is a real nightmare, but between his son and I we’ve managed to keep it on the road. He likes the bike because it has fat tires (he runs them at 45-50 psi), a soft saddle, and an adjustable stem with upright bars that place the grips at least 6” above the saddle.

For fun, I let him try out the Raleigh Detour Deluxe I have on loan. [For the uninitiated, the Detour Deluxe is a well-appointed, mid-level commuting bike that many people feel may be one of the best values in a fully-outfitted commuter for 2011. The review is coming, I promise. —ed.] We went on a 20-mile ride around town so he could see what a “real” bike feels like. He quite liked the Alfine/Nexus shifting, but otherwise he didn’t seem all that impressed. His comments revolved around the fact that the Raleigh’s ride is more rough than what he’s accustomed to (undoubtedly due to the tires, which have a smaller cross-section and require a higher pressure than those on his bike), and the reach to the bars (which is further than on his bike), causing him back and saddle pain. So while he clearly appreciated the technical superiority and build quality of the Raleigh, I was left with the feeling that he still prefers his big box Schwinn with its balloon tires and high handlebars.

To be perfectly clear, none of this has the least bit to do with the Raleigh’s suitability as a commuting bike; it is, in fact, a tremendous value and an excellent bike (yeah, I know, finish the review already). The point, I think, is that matching a bike to a person’s needs is far more important than the technical details we so enjoy discussing here on the blog. This point is so crucial that, like in the case of my friend’s father, a mechanically far superior bicycle may seem less desirable than a junker when a bike’s attibutes are not well-aligned with with the needs of the rider. It may have absolutely nothing to do with a bike’s quality, and everything to do with whatever a particular rider deems vital for the way he/she rides.

26 Responses to “One Person’s Trash… Another Person’s Treasure”

  • Daniel says:

    I rolled up to a friend’s house for a day’s worth of riding this fall – our epic day-trip. We went into his garage and he retrieved his 10-year-old Manga. While there are a lot of reasons not to buy a Manga, he rocked it hard, we rode right around 50 miles, and I felt dumb for being such a bike snob. Besides, we both had to push our bikes up some of the hills near the river bluffs in Stillwater, MN.

  • Rich says:

    Well, I can relate somewhat. I’m only 40, but the stems on most bikes my size seem ridiculously low. I just, yesterday, put a stem raiser on my Trek Soho. First impressions are it really messes up the aesthetics of the bike, but its so much more comfortable to ride, both for my back and the seat. I think next time around, I’ll look for the belt driven bike which is most like an English roadster or Dutch bike.

  • Bob B says:

    While I’m no fan of big box bikes, what constitutes a “real” bike is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t have any problem with people wanting to ride with cushy saddles, fatter low pressure tires or even cheap bikes. Our local bike coop refurbishes and sells refurbed vintage mostly steel 10-speeds & MTBs for $200-ish and they are great bikes. The Detour’s spec is fantastic, but I don’t care for the sloping top-tube design, odd rack or the inability to accept fatter tires (we owned a 2010 Raleigh Roadster for one season). These items are deal breakers for me.

  • Alan says:

    Great story, Daniel. Thanks!

    Alan

  • MT Cyclist says:

    I suppose it’s possible that you friend’s father was fixated on the Schwinn’s $199 price tag and thought anything more was an extravagance. I remember my dad was shocked after I had told him that I had paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 for a Raleigh Super Course back in 1980. Truth be told, I lusted after a Competition or a Professional, but didn’t feel I could spare the extra money. Over the years I rode that bike on numerous century rides and countless 30-mile training rides. It was a terrific investment and I still have fond memories of riding it, even though my newer (and more expensive) bikes fit me much better and are much lighter

  • Sharper says:

    @Bob:

    You’ve definitely tapped into some truth. I volunteer at a bike co-op that serves a substantial number of homeless customers. Quite a number of them get more utility out of a cast aside Magna or NEXT than any of us do on our “real” bikes.

  • Tim D says:

    Get him an old School MTB! I understand things may be different in your area, but in the middle of the country you can pick up really decent vintage bikes for sub $100 if you know where to look. I’ve never spent a load actually buying a bike. Now, upgrading, that’s a different story ;).

  • Alan says:

    Price is not the issue. It’s a matter of fit and riding position. The point being that the nicest bike on the planet is not very useful if it doesn’t fit the person and meet their needs.

    Alan

  • Adrienne says:

    You like the bike you like. ‘nuf said.

  • Jedgives me some says:

    I really appreciate an upright posture, but this is often decided by my task: if I’m the papa-taxi, I take Xtracycle with the upright 5″ risers. If I’m on the solo shopping run, I take the short bike with a 2″ drop. I take the short bike with the drop on windy days. Using a variety of bikes with different postures helps my neck and back and I appreciate the variety.

  • tMothy says:

    I wish my 70-something dad would saddle up. Hasn’t biked since getting his 1st car in the 50’s. Pre car he biked everywhere, so reckon he’d go for it if he tried :)

  • Lisa says:

    Heck yes! The more someone likes their bike, the more they’ll ride it, and more people riding more often is what it’s all about as far as I’m concerned. Most people aren’t that into aesthetics or high-spec components or what have you. So why should it matter what kind of bike they have, as long as their bike works well for them?

    I got slightly sharp with a sales chap in a bike shop recently who suggested that the slightly beaten-up second-hand mamachari bikes being sold in our city “aren’t real bikes”. Well I can tell you that there has been a dramatic increase in women riding bikes since the mamacharis came to town, because they can ride in skirts without having to fork out $2,000+ on a dutch-style bike. It doesn’t get any more real than that.

  • kfg says:

    I own a Rivendell with Noodle bars, an An-Atomica saddle and LP tires. I also own a big box store single speed with upright bars, a fat ass saddle and fat ass tires.

    A bicycle is a tool and I find that more often than not the “trash” bike is not only a fine tool, but the correct tool for the job at hand.

  • BikeBike says:

    I think your “old timer” friend has illustrated one particular point really well – the point is – most “bike people” are so fixated on spec/weight/bling they forget that none of that really matters to the vast majority of the population. The majority are after one thing over almost everything else – comfort. Second is affordability.

    Alan, perhaps you should “employ” your old timer friend as a tester of cheap bikes for the blog? :)

  • bongobike says:

    I bet if you had him ride a high-quality bike that fits him the same way the Schwinn does, he would appreciate the difference. But as long as he’s happy and riding a lot, there can be no complaints.

  • Marc T. says:

    I see this story played out often… bikes, guitars , power tools… no matter how beautiful a machine is in its functionality, to me, i cant make any one see it the way i do. How i view a bike( any machine) is complex and i more and more realize i cant make any one fully appreciate what i appreciate. i have become more careful when recommending bikes to people, realizing more and more that my view of mechanics and transportation is unique to me in many ways, im being more careful about how i recommend a bike or react in disbelief when a friend pulls out a Magna for a ride. i fight the urge to try and make them see what i see, cause its just fruitless most of the time, and i try to see what others are looking at when they think of two wheel transportation. I believe your friend on the Schwinn truly likes his Shcwinn because his needs do not go beyond what it does for him. bye the bye, i love that rear lock on the Detour… more bikes should have these.

  • Graham says:

    This could not be more obvious where I live. Here on the NC coast, there is almost always enough of a breeze to affect a bicyclist. Despite that fact, the vast majority of riders in my community prefer the big, heavy, and bolt-upright beach cruiser. I have let my friends ride around on a few of my commuter/road bikes and while they admit that they are faster machines, can’t wait to get back on their sprung saddles and motor along @ 6mph.

    To each their own, I guess.

  • CedarWood says:

    @ Rich

    Have you considered an extra-tall alloy stem such as the Kalin I purchased from Clever Cycles a few years back? They import these stems for use on Dutch bikes. Works great and looks nice, too.

  • Thor says:

    the best bike is a bike which gets ridden ……

    thor

  • Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels says:

    Having been in the tech industry and the bike industry there are extraordinary similarities. Most people want their computers to surf the net, view and edit documents, download and print pictures. They couldn’t care less about processor speeds and memory size as long as the computer does the job. Same with bikes. People just want to get on and go and have a safe place to ride. What drive system and component mix is irrelevant as long as it gets the job done. The bike industry will fail to expand outside of the tech obessed (overwhelmingly male) enthusiasts unless it stops focusing on the latest minor component upgrade (generic product) and starts selling the complete lifestyle (whole product)

  • kfg says:

    @Cedar Woods – The Trek Soho has a threadless headset.

    @Elliot – “the latest minor component upgrade”: Where the profits are.

    “the complete lifestyle”: Which can be had without interaction with the bike industry, possibly for free.

    As counterintuitive as it may seem, do not expect the bike industry to be interested in cycling, they are interested in industry.

  • Don says:

    Perception is everything. I’m surprised he humored you as much as he did.

  • dominic says:

    Bicycles have such a great social power when you think about it. Beyond our borders there is a world that is incredibly bicycle mobile. Solidarity and street movements start as riders choose this simple tool for transportation use. High five to new cyclist everywhere!

  • Alan says:

    @Don

    “Perception is everything. I’m surprised he humored you as much as he did.”

    Naw, it’s not like that. He wants to upgrade his bike – he knows the drivetrain and brakes are going to fail sooner rather than later. He was looking at a Civia Hyland, but now that he’s experienced higher pressure tires and a more stretched our riding position first hand, I’m guessing he’ll go more in the direction of something like a Townie or a roadster of some sort.

    Alan

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Funny, if you had loaned him a Retrovelo he probably would have never let you have it back.

  • David says:

    Bikes are like shoes; they need to fit to be comfortable. The cheap, heavy bike with the right fit will always trump the cutting edge, light bike with the wrong fit. For those blessed with smooth, flexible joints and strong, limber muscles, the criteria for ‘right fit’ will often include a more aggressive position. They want to go fast! Those of us who’ve traded flexibility for wisdom often prefer a more upright position, and a little more cushion. I’ve walked many, many, many new bike owners through the bike-selection process, and I always encourage them to steer towards comfort. Ultimately, they’ll ride more.
    Great story, Alan.

 
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