It’s a fine time to be a cyclist, isn’t it? Participation levels are on the up, new cycle lanes are popping up everywhere and bike technology is incredibly good. But – oh dear – that encourages marketers to prise filthy lucre from our enthusiasm, polluting our enjoyment and hijacking our holidays with overwrought shopping events… doesn’t it? Actually, I’m not sure it’s that black and white.
If you’ve been on BikeRadar in the past week or follow us on social media, you’ve probably noticed stories about Black Friday and its younger brother Cyber Monday, where we rounded up the best deals we could find. (Full disclosure – we make a small amount of money on each of these deals if you click a link on BikeRadar to go to the retailers' site. That commission is paid to us by the retailer and is not added to your basket price. It helps keep the good ship BikeRadar afloat in these non-paywalled times.)
So far, so obvious. You, dear reader, love bikes. Of course you do, the best, cleverest and wittiest people generally do. Bike companies and online retailers want to sell you things, and the lure of a deal helps them clear stock at a time when the 2017 models are due in anyway. And if we can help you get a good deal on some shiny new bike kit that you'll enjoy using, all the better.
Why Black Friday sucks
There are lots of reasons to dislike Black Friday – like its silly name, which refers to the traffic that follows Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US. Though many UK readers will be familiar with the name for another reason – the last Friday before Christmas, also known as ‘Mad Friday’, when people get pleasantly merry in the festive season. Then vomit, or fight.
It’s so clearly of US origin, and if you’re a UK reader you might be asking what on earth are we doing importing an American shopping bonanza? It’s just not cricket! Next year we’ll be celebrating Halloween and forgetting Guy Fawkes Night (despite All Souls’ Eve and Mischief Night being celebrated on British shores long before carved pumpkins appeared in America). Yet there are plenty of things that hail from the United States that us Brits are quite fond of. Like denim jeans, say, BBQ food, or rock music (which has its roots in the blues music of the Deep South cotton fields). Or mountain biking.
Black Friday is unashamedly commercial, yes, there’s no denying that. It can encourage buying on credit, excessive consumption, and we’ve all seen those photos of people elbowing each other in the face over a cheap widescreen TV. There’s no decorum about that, and anyway you shouldn’t be so poor that you can’t pay full price for things.
If it’s the Traditional Boxing Day Sale Queue Outside Harrods then that’s OK – everything’s disciplined, orderly and British… at least until you get through the doors. And we do all like a sale. We may not like the side effects – the endless TV adverts, or the reminder we’re not quite as rich as Roman Abramovich – but we do like being able to buy shiny things for less money.
The deals are a bit crap though, aren’t they? 13% off a pair of cycling gloves? Pfft. I want 63% off the latest Zipp NSW wheels or I’m walking, and complaining loudly as I go. There probably are some good deals in there, but I just can’t be bothered to look. And doesn’t it last a long time? Some retailers have dedicated a whole week, or even a whole month to it. Totally over the top.
Why Black Friday doesn’t suck
First things first, I'm not encouraging anyone to buy things they can’t afford. If you have to borrow money to buy a carbon-framed race bike or shiny new groupset, then don’t – make do with what you’ve got instead. If you bought something bike-related in the last ten years, it’s probably very good anyway.
And I don’t think rampant consumerism is an entirely Good Thing. Go ride anywhere on this beautiful planet and you’ll realise how fragile it is, and how much damage the endless drive towards producing, accumulating then discarding stuff can cause. Unwanted inner tubes hanging in a tree are a sorry statement for where we are as a species.
This probably seems like a hypocritical thing to say, working as I do for one of the world’s biggest bike sites, but I’m a big believer in “buy once, buy well”. That’s partly why I own just one of most things: one road bike, one folding bike, one rain jacket, one helmet, one pair of underpants (ok, joking about that last one). I generally like to find the best, most pleasing item within my budget, then develop a lasting relationship with it (except the underpants).
But if you think about it, Black Friday comes at a particularly good time for the bike industry: I don’t know when the 2017 TVs or toasters come out, but I do know that there are a lot of bike shops currently eyeing up their old stock and thinking “hmm, looks a little cramped in here. Where shall we put that big delivery due in tomorrow?”. That includes local independent bike shops – the kind of family-run store we all cherish (don’t we?).
There’s one simple course of action within anyone’s power that guarantees you’ll miss out on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or indeed any family gatherings you’d rather avoid – slip on your riding gear, hang that rustic, wooden “Gone ridin’” sign over your front door, and set off out into the great outdoors for a few hours.
You won’t pick up any super-sweet deals, you won’t keep the wheels of commerce turning, and you may offend aunt Mildred… but you do have the power to escape it all.
What'cha gonna do about it?
We all enjoy the occasional sale or cut-price item, so maybe should we ban those, too. Or stop visiting non-paywalled websites that suggest things you could buy. They’re rubbish. Bin those Rolling Stones records too, and wear tweed trousers and a sensible shirt henceforth.
Or – or – we could accept that many fine things come out of America, and none of us are above a cheeky sale. The neighbourhood kids quite enjoy trick-or-treating (hear their happy laughter), and if it’s all getting too much then you can just go for a long ride.
Oh, and don’t forget it’s Small Business Saturday this weekend. If you really loathe the big retailers cashing in on this imported tradition, go spend some money at your local bike shop. They’d be delighted to see you.
And if you really don't want to buy anything, there are plenty of cyclist-friendly causes that you can contribute your time or money to, like GivingTuesday, a global day of charitable giving created in response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year we suggested our readers help World Bicycle Relief to raise enough money to gift 1,200 bikes to students in the developing world.