An Earth Day Rant

There’s a logical fallacy called argumentum ad novitatem or the appeal to novelty, i.e. if something is new and clever it must be worthy of attention. It’s the fallacy that the mainstream media inevitability falls into when discussing bicycles. Witness an article in the LA Times, Going Beyond the Basic Bike, wherein we learned about the treadmill bike pictured above–a bargain at $2,011–the kids can use it in a science fair project to simulate inefficient energy transfer! But they’ll also have to bust out the Foucault and Baudrillard to explain how a simulation of running becomes a means of locomotion. [Update: a reader points out that the treadmill bike is a joke–kinda proves my point considering that the LA Times took it seriously.]

The article goes on to, I suspect, regurgitate a press release the Tribune Company received from the inventors of the StreetStrider, “Only $1,699” with “special financing available.” I bet the folks at Goldman Sachs are busy packaging that financing right now.

Then we have the RowBike, created by Scott Olson, “inventor of the Rollerblade,” the RowBike is yours for a cool $1,188.

Memo to the Times: I can guarantee that anyone foolish enough to buy any of these things will soon relegate them to the dusty rear of the garage along with other late night infomercial impulse purchases.Now, can we please, for once, have a review of a practical, inexpensive commuter bike in a mainstream publication? Even the bicycling magazines get caught in the novelty of $30,000 carbon fiber road bikes. Can we treat the bike reviews with the same level of seriousness and utility that we do cars and computer reviews? Can we drop all the other “green” argumentum ad novitatem, such as endless stories about vertical vegetable gardens and algae energy schemes while we’re at it?

Leave a comment


  1. thank you! i appreciated this post. as a bike commuter, i never understood why biking had to be made out as such a complicated, fancy thing. it’s just like commuting by car, but you get a workout out of it and get to avoid traffic.

  2. Hey, I actually want that streetstrider thing, not for the novelty but for ease on my knees. I already bike my kids to school on a pedicab and exercise with a recumbent bike, but I have to vary the point of strain on my joints or I hurt myself (yes, they’re congenitally bad). The price is keeping me from purchasing at present, but if it truly is like an elliptical, it would meet my needs.

  3. Biking isn’t complicated. If you do it competitively, sure, you can get a little more narcissistic about it and the type of bike you own. But if you’re just commuting, there are only a few variables. If you have hills, you’ll want gears. If you have rough terrain, you may not want skinny road tires. If you have a bad back, beach cruiser is better (many people don’t feel comfy on recumbent, and you’re not as visible). If you have a big load to carry (I do!), get a trailer or a trike (love mine). If you have to carry your bike, get a lighter one (you don’t need a 3lb, $14k bike). Wear a helmet, get a reflector jacket and lights (if you bike at night) and get a good lock. There. Done.

  4. I appreciate this post a lot as well. I just bought a house last fall and have had to purchase a lot more things that I otherwise would have. I find myself avoiding things that are new and novel and instead focusing on products that are old and established. Wood-handled garden tools, brass hose fittings, and a push mower are all things that make my home more similar to my grandparents than my parents.

  5. if it aint broke don’t fix it…Why would anyone screw around with a bike designed so simple it’s great?

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