According to Jack (the toilet man) Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization, a Cambodian Peasant would rather save his pennies for a mobile phone, than somewhere to poo, because mobile phones are prestigious. A wise man, Jack does not promote the health benefits of toilets to Asia’s poorest, but the esteem they can attain through the proud ownership of their own crapper. If Mr. Sim gave them away, toilets would not be symbols of status, so it is vital he sells them. Only a Singaporean could see things so clearly!
Whether we are greenies, gear heads, fitness nuts, urbanists, nature lovers or whatever, most of us cyclists are puritans of one kind or another. We fit the profile of those who would denounce consumerism from whatever angle it enters their sphere. The good news is, through meditation and our own personal spending, we can all rise above our base instincts, and see consumerism as a driver of good. It inspires Cambodians to want to own toilets, and is evidently inspiring many in the developed world to want to ride bikes.
The imitation pro team sprawling outside my local cafe each Sunday morning, in their uniform jerseys, 10K bikes on display, no idea there is a club race starting in 45 minutes (don’t we all cringe!)… well these guys are 99% motivated by cycle-world symbolism. And whenever I hear anyone mocking these posers, for clipping around in their cleats in cafes, I realize the prestige of cycling is being imprinted in everyone’s minds, whether they like it or not. Maybe they’re irritated now, but the minds of those witnessing vulgar displays of this kind are nonetheless being primed, for that day when they too decide to kit up. That day will probably arrive when the second new car of their lifetime, fails to deliver the prestige it first promised.
Counter intuitive as this may sound, conspicuous consumption by cyclists may be doing more to promote this clean green mode of transport than all the government incentives combined. The corollary, is that bicycle activists who make cycling look undesirable, with their clumsy critical mass rides on K-mart bikes, in their tattered safety-see-me fluro attire, are most likely harming the cause. So I present you with the following 5 things, that you too can do, as a cyclist/consumer, to raise your own social standing, and that of cycling.
1. Pre-Order a New Season Team Bike
Yes, its newness will fade but the story of it being the latest best thing back when you bought, it is something you can cherish forever. Be sure it comes with all the team sponsors’ decals, and the precise components it will appear with in next year’s tour of France. If the person selling it to you isn’t tingling with joy from this request, you’re in the wrong bike shop. Now look at me there, ten years ago, on my newer than new Team Saecco Cannondale. Hey, and there’s one that was actually ridden by Cipollini! Oh, and there’s Mario himself, actually riding my bike to victory. What an inspiration I was to him at the time.
2. Parade your support for a cycling boutique
Every major city has one. They look nothing like bike shops, with just a few bikes under spotlights and the mechanics hidden away at the rear. Brooks grips and Rapha caps are displayed like new Gucci handbags. Before long you be buying town bikes in every colour, giving them names, and bringing new grips and pedals home for them to play with.
3. Join a valet bike parking station
Even if you have to walk a long way from the bike parking station to where you work, and even if your office already provides a bike store room and showers, join one of these anyway. The sheer conspicuousness of entering with your bike on your shoulder, and leaving in a freshly pressed suit, will convince anyone who sees you that you’re some kind of star. How much more recognition are you receiving than the fat CEO heading to the underground car park in his Maybach or Bentley!
4. Commission your own bespoke frame
For Australian readers, the temptation couldn’t be greater, with the world famous bespoke tailor of bikes Darrell McCulloch still plying his trade on our own shores. He is most famous for shaping people’s frame lugs in the shape of their actual lugs— hell, he’ll CNC route the veins on your old-boy onto your handlebar stem, if that’s what you want! Your family crest, your mother’s tribal tattoo, or the worst colours you can dream up: requests like these are the lifeblood of bespoke. Just as a bespoke suit is sewn around you, a bespoke bike starts with your body. If you’re between sizes, or if you find yourself messing about with short or long stems, stem risers, or bent seat poles, then a strong case could be made for a custom built frame, rather than one off the peg. Or if you just want a race day bike that truly stands out from the rest at the clubhouse, that will actually look better with age: think about going custom. With thousands of tube combinations at his disposal, a good bespoke tailor will make a bike you’re not even aware you are riding.
5. Wear cycle specific clothes at the office
Okay, so it can be wanky, but no one you work with knows that. You just have to stop reading Bike Snob and start having fun. The best thing is, you will be helping to make bicycle ownership more prestigious than car ownership, in the same way that Jack (the toilet man) Sim has made toilet ownership a superior symbol of ones status than owning a mobile phone in Cambodia.