Unlike drugs, motor vehicles, and firearms (well, in some states) anybody anywhere can walk into any bike shop and buy whatever they want—provided they’ve got the money. And while I’m all for shops making a profit, I just don’t think that’s right. Yes, I’ll come right out and say it—not everybody deserves to have whatever they want. I think there should be a strict set of criteria that a customer should meet before he or she is allowed to buy something. (Which is why no investors ever seem interested in my business plan for "Fascist Cycles.")
I also don’t think that this equipment regulation should stop at the retail level. I think it should also be enforced out in the world, well after the bikes and components have left the store. I envision a network of officers and informants who would report violations of these rules, upon which bicycles would be confiscated. Here are just a few circumstances in which you should be forced to forfeit your bike or components:
You Don't Glue Your Own Tubulars
The mind-numbingly boring tubular-versus-clincher debate continues to rage, as it undoubtedly will for all eternity. And as far as which one you prefer, I couldn’t care less. What I cannot stand, however, are riders who use tubulars but cannot glue them by themselves. Instead, they have a shop do it. (This may not be common everywhere, but it sure is here in NYC, where everyone seems to have more money than time.) And while I suppose I’d rather ride behind a guy whose tires were glued by a shop than by some idiot who stuck them on with some Elmer’s glue and a popsicle stick, I still think that if you don’t install your own tires you should have your wheels taken from you. Tubular gluing is an old, ritualistic cycling practice, and riding the tires without putting them on yourself is like sending someone else to your local house of worship to do your praying for you.
You Don't Tape Your Own Bars
Yes, it’s true, a lot of riders can’t and don’t tape their own bars. This is like being 40 and swinging by your parents’ house on the way to work to have them knot your tie for you. If you’ve owned a drop-bar bike for more than six months, either learn how to wrap ‘em or fork that sucker over.
You're Wealthy and You Don't Transport Your Bike Properly
I’m not a communist and I’m not Amish. Some people have money and they want nice cars. Fine. And sometimes you need to transport your bike someplace, like a race or a far-off group ride. Okay. But what I cannot stand is when I see a brand-new Mercedes or BMW pull up at the start, and the driver proceeds to wrestle his $7,000 Colnago out from the back seat. I mean come on! You’ve got the money, get a goddamn rack! The only explanation I can possibly come up with for this behavior is that there’s a spouse at home who does not want the statusmobile marred by unsightly load bars and fairings. Well, you know what? If you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re successful enough to afford all this stuff, yet you can’t put your foot down and give cycling the pride-of-place in your life that it deserves, then hand over that shiny piece of Euro-plastic. Or at least get one of those stupid removable trunk racks. Is a leather seat riddled with chainring holes somehow preferable to a Thule?
And don’t tell me you keep the bike in the car to save gas. If you cared you’d have bought a Civic.
You Don't Meet the "Dollar-a-Mile" Qualification
We’ve all seen the “too much bike” phenomenon in action. You know, the guy who buys the absurdly expensive team replica bike and rides it around the park a few times a summer in sneakers. Sorry, this is not acceptable. I think a very fair and accommodating rule is that you must meet the “Dollar-a-Mile” qualification in order to keep possession of your bike. Example: let’s say you paid $5,000 for your bike. You should then be able to prove that you ride at least 5,000 miles a year—which isn’t all that much given the fact that $5,000 buys a pretty serious bike. 5,000 miles a year is less than 100 miles a week. I think that gives plenty of latitude. And you can buy as many other bikes as you want, without additional mileage requirements. The only requirement is that you must ride annually at least the number of miles appropriate for your most expensive bicycle. Simple! And if you don’t? Repo time.
You Are a Serial Upgrader
Everybody wants nice stuff. Fine. But if you are not a professional bike racer and you own components made by companies such as AX Lightness, Lightweight, or Schmolke, or if you train on carbon wheels, or if your credit card starts vibrating when you hear words like “integrated,” “proprietary,” or “stiff yet compliant,” you have a problem. If this is you, your bicycle should be taken from you for no less than six months. At the end of that time you will then be permitted to buy a bicycle at a retail price of no more than $1,000, which you must then ride for no less than one full year without changing any components whatsoever. At the end of that year we’ll see where you are, and we’ll take it from there.