I seem to remember that sleeping beautyslumbered for a hundred years before her prince arrived and woke her up. And then – says the story – they lived happily ever after.I suspect though that they left out a little bit on that fairy tale. I am sure our beauty would also have been startled to see her baby-nephew (as she knew him before she went a sleeping) walking in with a bent back, aged hair and a walking stick. She must have been amazed to see the horse carriage of her pre-slumber somehow transformed into a gleaming jaguar. And so on….
Now I bring this up because I felt just like sleeping beauty must have after that wonderous,long sleep (of course I didn’t feel half so beautiful, but certainly twice as rattled) when I walked into the bike shop the other day.
For starters, get this straight – today’s bikes are way more complicated than your cars. Your car could have 5,6 or 7 gears (any more and the engineers simplify and make it an automatic which would mean just one gear to contend with); your bike on the other hand is likely to have 21 or more. Your car can be only one of 4 types:
– a big bad guzzler (read suv),
– a sleek toy to win the admirers over (sports car),
– a hatch (now what does it hatch by the way?)
or the one one with a tail (sedan).
The bikes though have many, many categories. You can choose yours based on
– size (small, medium or large – maybe they even have an extra large like you’d prefer your coffee – and the beers)
– usage (mountain – never mind there’s none within a 100 radius, road or hybrid),
– metals used (titanium, carbon, alloy and many such more you can make sense of only if you still remember the periodic tablethey taught you back at school),
– foldable (yes you read that right – there are bikes you can fold and carry on your backpack, try that with your car)…..
“Sir, would you prefer a carbon fork?” asks the sales guy cutting into my reverie…
I am confused. Do they now serve cutlery on bikes too – “Truth be told, I’d prefer steel or plastic better” I haltingly reply.
Now he looks a little surprised and then sizes me up.
“You new to b-i-k-e world?” he queries spelling each letter like you would to a toddler (and one not quite as smart as the honesttoddler at that!). When I answer in the affirmative, I seem to notice a gleam in his eye while he excuses himself to meet with his comrades and plan on how to make this deal count (I suspect he also called his wife and promised her some jewellery as he sees some fat commissions come his way…).
Here’s the third bomb. Bikes follow the “management by subtraction” logic unlike cars. So while you’d pay more for a car that has more features, you pay most for a bike that has less (except for the gears of course, still wondering why they need 21 of those..).
I soon end up with a bike sans a bell (and that too in India – even the circus mono-cycles have bells here!), a stand (do I have to carry it always?), mud guards (maybe they’ll also sell me a washing machine considering its monsoon time here?), suspensions and a lot of other stuff – and a hefty price which confirms my bike is mmiddle upper class!
My mind boggles. The friend’s too – and he goes out and smokes 20 cigarettes on the trot. The sales guy comes over and pats me consolingly on the shoulder.
“Never mind, I will give you a bell, a stand, a guard, a water bottle…just don’t tell the manager”. And to make me happy he demoes a feature – the wheels on my bike are removable it appears – a feature I think I will use once every 10 years or so…
And so I exit the shop with an expensive bike, a bag consisting an even more expensive set of accessories (essentially they take everything out of the bike, put it in a bag so you can carry it on your back and then charge you twice the amount – don’t ask me why!). But there’s a silver lining – my bike comes equipped with an Indian flag (just about everything else is from Taiwan or maybe Congo for all I know).
As the wise man said, something learned (me), something earned (he) – what more can you ask on a sunny day?