Oct 2, 2012

Walking Backward Into Economic Theory

I checked the stats today.  Who knew this blog has readers from India?  Or Russia (Didja like those War & Peace posts?  Hope so)?  Germany, France, The Netherlands?  Phillipines?  And who read from Alaska?

All pleasant surprises, so thank you.

On to my main intention with this "Catching Up" post.

I wanted to talk just a little bit about one of my inspirations, and share a few links with you.  But first, I want to put into perspective why I might share these links.

I've been into bikes since I was about eleven years old.  And before that, I rode my bike a bunch just as part of being a kid.  I've read bike magazines for a large part of my life.  So I know whereof I speak when I write about this.

Whether on purpose or not, those magazines always made me feel not quite enough.  Not a good enough bike, not courageous enough (in my BMX years), not fast enough, not fit enough.  This is not any kind of feel-sorry-for-mess story.  In fact, I often wonder (I'm quite sure in my more cynical moments) whether the job of those magazines is not to PURPOSEFULLY make people feel that way as a means to sell more products, both for their advertisers and themselves.  After all, why would you buy a magazine that promises 101 workout tips if you don't feel like you need to work out?  Why would you buy the Annual Bicycle Guide if you feel like your current bike is just fine?

Well, about 15 years ago, now, I started reading a publication called the Rivendell Reader.  If you're a Lord Of The Rings fan, you may know that this was the place where the elves went to retire.  It was the one place where evil couldn't really enter (it's been awhile since I read the books, so please don't waste your time correcting me in the details; soon enough I'll reread the books myself).  Well, this Reader had that partly in mind, but mostly it was a production of a bike company.  But not JUST about bikes.  Here, watch this video:


Now you'll understand a bit better.  Well, the interesting thing I noticed when I started reading Grant's writing, is that it made me feel different than the standard bike magazine.  Instead of feeling too old and too out-of-shape and too whatever, I actually felt good about myself and my riding after reading it.  Even a bit better.  Instead of feeling not enough, I felt like my years of bicycle geekiness were worth something.  Were a bit noble.

So, at this point you SHOULD be saying:  'Well, kind sir, I appreciate what you are saying!  And how might I peruse this fine newsletter?'  I'm glad you asked.  You can, in fact, read a recent issue here:


and if you're intrigued by any of this, and would like to read more from Grant, here's a recent glossy article from Men's Journal:


Now, to get down to business.  What I'm really about here is talking about what I learn from this guy.  Why I'm inspired by Rivendell and Petersen.  Well, I'll tell you.  It's so easy to go down the negative path.  To make people feel bad about themselves.  Unfortunately, it's my natural bias.  But that don't make it right.  Just because your car has pulled to the right ever since you bought it is no excuse for running over people on the sidewalk, now is it?  And just because I'm overly critical by nature doesn't mean that I can't recognize something positive when I see it.

No one can argue that Riv's main audience is not the middle aged. Their leather and tweed simply are not usually what draws the young (though there are exceptions, bless them).  It would be quite easy for Grant to look like he's doing a good thing but slyly make a bunch of forty-somethings mourn their lost youth and spend the money they now have to reclaim their lost youth.  But that's not what he does.

How many companies can you say that about?  What media has ever made you feel BETTER about yourself rather than worse? (it's ironic that Men's Journal profiled GP, because they certainly fall into the latter camp).  As we enter into our annual descent towards the center of the consumer sun (that would be Christmas), it's worth remembering not just Rivendell Bicycle Works, but all the small companies that make your life better.

It's a message we've all heard countless times, but you do vote with your dollars.  Do you want to keep a person like Grant employed, or keep a factory in China in business?  They need jobs, too- but which will you support with your $$$?  It's getting serious out there for a lot of people, financially.  Getting?!  I should say "it continues to be serious".  The point is, small businesses only have so much leeway.  They can't stick around forever unless we all give them our business.  And each dollar supports either McDonalds, or the sandwich shop down the block.  Either Starbucks, or the Atomic Cafe.  The farmer's market, or the huge chain grocery store.  Don't get me wrong:  I'm not haphazardly bashing corporations, but Starbucks can survive this economic slump- can your favorite local pizza place?

Support the positive.

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