Saturday, May 8, 2021

Pandemic Notes, Global Bike Shortage, Hyperinflation on the rise?

 May 2021: While more people are vaccinated, other problems loom in the horizon

Let me start off by saying if you are still reading this blog in 2021, I really appreciate it. I am working on slowly transitioning to Vloging, but don't have the video editing skills needed to create the kind of content I would like to create for my viewers. I have a YouTube channel where I vary my content to attract a larger audience. Currently the channel features skateboarding videos of me because for some reason middle aged skateboarders are becoming more popular. The truth is, just like film photography, storytelling on the printed page is becoming a lost art. It is hard to find those with the ability to ignite our imaginations and keep us wrapt in attention for even 15 minutes to read a blog post. So if you're still here after all of these years, Thank you. The last time blogs were popular we had Nooks and Portlandia wasn't even on Netflix yet. As a matter of fact Netflix still mailed DVDs. Needless to say I don't blog for the money, I do it because it's the medium that I express myself the best in.

Texas is opening up, this time not so prematurely. Vaccines are available to the majority of the population except for kids at this time. While we are still encouraged to wear masks and social distance, the number of COVID cases are continually declining. I look forward to a time where I can take my family to watch a good movie at the drive in or dine in theater. The two to three movies that have come out since the pandemic have all been busts. Whatever happened to feel good, wholesome family entertainment? Along with the many shortages that this pandemic has caused this has got to be one of the hardest ones to deal with. Hollywood really needs to get out of it's depression and give the masses something to take their mind off of the craziness of 2020 that has carried on until now. But a shortage of good movies isn't the only thing that we seem to be lacking as a society. Let's talk about bikes, like we always do, because after all this is a bike blog, not just my life blog.

The global supply chain has not corrected itself. As a matter of fact, it seems to be limping around, fatally wounded. Just yesterday I was at Sun and Ski sports, a popular sporting goods store in my area. Just like Wal-Mart and Target, the bike racks in the stores were almost empty. Whatever was on the shelves looked like they had been purchased from another distributor that the store doesn't normally work with. The bikes looked like overstock items left over from last year. The one singular mountain bike on the shelf that I saw cost $8,000. In a normal time, the same bike wouldn't be worth more than $2K. 

Owning a bike will soon be like owning a pair of Nike Jordan's in the 90's. I hope people don't get shot over a bike like they did for a pair of basketball shoes 30 years ago, but it seems with the way prices seem to be going up for bikes it's only a matter of time before crime takes a hold of the situation. Prices are up so much in fact that domestic production for bikes has a chance of being successful more than ever before. Just like when gas prices went up to $4 a gallon and domestic production for oil ramped up in North Dakota (which was not great at all for the environment, anyone remember the Keystone Pipline?) bicycle manufacturers need to mount a similiar response to the shortage of imported bikes. Putting an item on pre-order just won't cut it in the U.S., that isn't the way business is done here. I wouldn't give any business thousands of dollars for a product I'm not sure that I will ever recieve. My message to online bike retailers and bike shops alike is either have the bicycle in stock, or only charge the customer a refundable deposit to place an item on order. Pre-ordering is getting out of control and we as a society shouldn't accept that as a new norm.  

Growing up, name brand goods and quality bikes were a luxury. It's safe to say my family kept Payless Shoes in business throughout the nineties. When you wanted to spend your saved pennies on something nice, you had to order it through a catalog, then wait for the product to arrive via the snail mail pony express. We are slowly but surely regressing to those times. The problem is the market, our shopping behaviors and society's expectations have moved on from those times. This is causing unprecedented demand for goods that are creating a domino effect of backlogs in other services and industries. What this all leads to is one word, hyperinflation.

Inflation is a lost of confidence in a currency's value. I would compare it to the spillway of a dam,  where excess water sometimes has to be drained. Hyerinflation is a complete rupture of the dam. No matter how much the water runs, it will never fill back up. The dam is a currency's buying power, held together by the market and consumer confidence. The water is currency, and the runoff is inflation. We are headed for a break in a Hoover sized dam. We can look to examples of the detrimental effects hyperinflation can have on countries like Venezuela and Lebanon. Never say "it can't happen here", because that's when it usually happens in your area.

If you have a bicycle and don't need to sell it, now is a good time to hold onto it. Sell it now and you might not be able to replace it. Only sell it in the future as a bargaining item for something else. Stay tuned for more updates from A Bicycle's Point Of View.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

What I learned from Riding a Mountain Bike for a month


This was my only bike for a month

Do we need a bike for every discipline? How necessary are gravel bikes, road bikes and all of the other sub categories that are sold as "essential" items? Can there really be one bike to rule them all?

Some bikes are designed for speed, others for dirt trail endurance and still others for recklessness. The best bike you can ride is the one you own. Whatever discipline you choose, you will find the limits of your abilities and that of your bike real quickly. Some might trade and "upgrade" to something that might be a better fit for them, at least in their own mind. But what if that isn't an option anymore? What if there is a global bike shortage due to the supply chain being massively impacted by a pandemic? We don't have to imagine that scenario anymore because we are living and breathing it. The industry seems to be sputtering back into life but is still unable to meet the massive new demand it has acquired. If getting a new bike isn't an option for you, you might be able to take comfort in my experience of riding my mountain bike everywhere, for a month.

Before getting into my story I understand that while you can ride a mountain bike on the road, you can't ride a road bike in the mountains (at least most people can't without breaking it). So while I was stuck with a mountain bike, your experience might be that you are stuck with a road bike, a cruiser, a tandem or a unicycle, which might greatly limit where you can ride your bicycle in the event an upgrade was not possible. With that out of the way, let's continue the story, because there is a point to be made about mountain bikes in the end.

Last year a lot of the best things happened under the worst circumstances. We welcomed another child into the world, yes a COVID baby. We also bought a house. We couldn't stay where we were living at before moving into our new house, so we were nomads for a month. I got to take full advantage of my campervan which I had spent years getting ready for a big journey I knew I would surely take one day. Out of all my bikes that I had, I could only choose one to take with me while the rest waited for me in storage. I knew that where I was going there would be hills, nature and some singletrack. I knew that I wouldn't be able to escape to the mountain bike trails every day because we would be on a working vacation, using whatever Wi-fi was available in our Airbnb and our hotel. It wouldn't be realistic to think that I would be mountain biking every single day, but I wanted to be prepared just in case I did. I ended up taking my hardtail 29er which I hadn't really ridden much since I already had other bikes that I rode more. I spent most of my time riding roads, and only once did I make it out to the trails. 

((As readers can tell from the photos, I did other cool stuff besides riding bikes))

I learned something valuable from this experience. It really important to be content in life if you are blessed with the necessary things. It's foolish to follow every trend and be a sucker for every marketing hype that is put before you. The illusion of speed is just that, an illusion. There will always be someone who is faster, no matter what bike you are on. A bike that can handle the asphalt and the dirt really is the only bike you need. A dedicated bike for a specific riding surface or type of riding should be looked at as an added bonus but not as a necessity. Before the pandemic we had an idea of what needs and wants were. During this time some of us have gained a better understanding of what needs and wants actually are. If I was stuck with only my mountain bike, even though the majority of my riding is done on the road, it would be difficult to deal with at first, but then it becomes second nature, as we humans are good at adapting to new challenges and circumstances. My average speed would go down by about 3mph, but then again I could get on dirt paths or even ride where there were no paths at all. By their very nature, mountain bikes are less fragile and more durable than other types of bikes. They can be ridden on a bike lane in Berlin or in the African savannah. If you are stuck with only one bike you can own, buy a mountain bike or keep the mountain bike you already have. 

Today I took out my 29er hardtail again for another road ride. The mountain bike trails in my area are closed due to 2 weeks of constant rain. Wanting to scratch my itch for mountain biking I went on a 41 mile ride through mostly country roads exploring my new area. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I went through last year and count my blessings. Compared to some who have had to deal with the COVID virus firsthand, I really didn't have to deal with any challenges of that magnitude. My life turned the page while some closed their books entirely as they fell victims to this horrible virus. It is important to look at things with the right context, because COVID took the lives and livelihoods of many people around the world. My point is that contentment brings happiness. If you are not happy with your current bike, current job or current circumstances, break things down into their simpler form. You have a bike, you have a job and you have the ability to control your perspective on life, which can then allow you to see how to change your circumstances. Contentment is not the same as complacency, which some people seem to get confused. Unlike complacency, contentment is important for your emotional health. Stay happy, and stay blessed friends.