What’s The Correct Ratio of Bike Enthusiasts to Bike Riders?

Bikehugger raises an interesting difference between places where they have a culture of riding bikes and the rest of the world. Quoting Copenhagenize , he says,

"There are stamp collectors who love everything about stamps and there is the rest of us who just lick ‘em and slap ‘em on envelopes because we have to send a letter.

The point is that in Anglo-Saxon countries, the market for bikes seems to be dominated by the stamp collector end of the scale. In places like the Netherlands, and parts of Denmark, riding a bike is like posting a letter – just something that everyday people do without thinking about it.

The thing is, I feel that there are enthusiasts in the Netherlands & Copenhagen – beyond the obvious racing-and-Lycra people (who DO exist). No, what I mean are the people who work in the bike shops. Since the majority of people riding bikes treat them as transport utensils in much the same as most of us who aren’t automotive fetishists treat our cars nowadays, there’s a huge demand for people to keep ’em rolling. So when Mikael gets a flat in Copenhagen , he doesn’t flip the bike over, get out his tools and muck about getting his hands & clothes dirty:

"Sure, many people can fix flats themselves. However, many local bike shops [I have 22 bike shops to choose from within a 1 km radius of my flat], earn a fair chunk of their income repairing flats. I always chuck my bike into the shop to have it done.

We have a similar thing here (though there are only two bike shops within 3km of home). I am an enthusiast, but Wife and Daughter are not – they ride their bikes because they’re practical and an easy way to get around town. They go to the shops, to the library, to the park, to the beach, and to the swimming pool on them, and load them up with whatever stuff is needed on that particular trip. If something goes wrong with the bike – the basket ending up wonky; the brakes making a strange noise; a flat tyre; the chain coming off – they just stare at it.

I’m sure it’s not that they couldn’t fix the problem if they really, really had to. There’s just no need to – where ever they are, they’re no more than 3km from their tame bike mechanic. And I’ll also happily tinker on with neighbours and friends bikes too.

All of which got me thinking. Is it possible to measure the penetration of a real cycling culture by the nature of the work done in bike shops? If they spend their time upgrading carbon this and titanium that, and supplying components that cost more than a passable three-piece suit, then you have a stamp collectors’ cult of the cyclist. If they spend most of their time fixing flats, adjusting prop stands and stopping brakes from squealing, then maybe you have a culture in which people ride bikes.

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Posted in Bike Culture
2 comments on “What’s The Correct Ratio of Bike Enthusiasts to Bike Riders?
  1. Our bike shops aren’t close enough to not know how to change a flat. But my car on the otherhand… that I would take to a shop or call a tow. so not counting myself as a stamp collector, but more of a living in the states where not enough people ride for transport to cause a bike shop every 1-3 or even 10km.

  2. An interesting idea indeed. Unfortunately, I suspect that the data would only be relevant in places where bike shops are easy to get to. In my (admittedly) limited experience, bike shops seem to be spread out on the suburban / urban “boundary” – which tends to make it not an easy walk while pushing a bike with a flat.

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