There is a company on the Internet called Bikes Direct, and they sell bicycles. There’s not anything particularly remarkable about that, but the mere mention of their name has the power to spark fiery debate. Well, I say “fiery”, but I guess I really mean “embarassing” or “horribly nerdy”, but the end result is discord and we simply can’t have discord on the Internet.
So what’s so different about Bikes Direct that rouses ire? Well, they sell partially-assembled no-name frames with name-brand components. You choose your bike on their web site and it arrives at your house packed in a box for much less than you’d buy a name-brand frame with the same component group at a shop. It is then up to you to put the finishing touches on the bike’s assembly, or have a local shop do it for you, but the only material difference is the frame.
So, how much does the frame’s name branded-ness matter? It’s hard to say. All bike frames are birthed by a Queen Bicycle that lives somewhere in China and is tended to by white-gloved servants. Each frame’s geometry is whispered softly into her ear, she’s fed the necessary ingredients in soufflé form, and then out the frames come.
If that’s the case, then who cares what the decals say? The short answer is, I do. I’m a vain, self-conscious douche, and I like having name brand items. I’m of the opinion that they lend the credence to my riding that my race results do not.
More than that, though, I like buying stuff at shops and having a good relationship with the people who work there. Not that shops won’t work on Bikes Direct bikes, because they will. In fact, my buddy Rob The Rocket informs me that he and his shop will happily work on even department store bikes, a policy which is analogous to a dentist who agrees to work on mouse teeth.
I guess I just like having a face to look at when I whip out my wallet and plunk down a bunch of money, even if it’s the scruffy, thin face of a bike shop employee. I like to think that there’s more to business than just price, and I don’t mind paying for that intangible extra when it comes to bikes.
Mind you, I have no trouble whatsoever buying flat-pack furniture from Ikea and assembling it myself with the included tool and no instructions, so I guess I’m not a unilateral purist.
Bikes Direct does have a great following on the internet, though, particularly among new bike purchasers, or so it seems to me. Ultimately I think that BD fills a niche created by a growing distrust in corporations, and that the cut-out-the-middleman approach appeals particularly to people who buy things online where the main competition point is usually price.
I think the real answer is that bicycles have reached a point with me where price isn’t the main concern. Along these lines, I also wouldn’t advise keeping a running total in your head of the money you’ve spent on entertaining your Cheryl. It’s best just to evaluate your time together on an experience basis alone, independent of the facts and figures.
Having said all that, I have no reason to believe that there’s anything wrong with Bikes Direct bikes, per se, they’re just not for me.