What to do when your favorite bicycle breaks down? Well, you can take it to a professional bicycle mechanic, be convinced your bike isn’t worth fixing, and buy a new bike. But, what happens to the old bicycle?
We were put into this exact position when my wife’s favorite bike had a cascade failure. The gear shift and derailleur both quit working which lead to purchasing a new chain. My wife wanted me to take her bike to a bike shop for repairs, and I seriously considered it until I remembered a conversation I had with a bicycle mechanic a few seasons ago when taking our bikes in for maintenance. Those bikes are not worth fixing. You should consider buying a better bicycle. Those big box store bikes are not meant to last and aren’t worth fixing. If the bikes from big box stores aren’t worth fixing, then where do they go when they need fixing?
That’s the real problem here. People are buying what they can afford, but if things are being made to self-destruct by the companies, what are the consumers supposed to do?
It’s a trap. Really it is and the price is our environment as landfills and recycle centers fill up with bikes tossed away by their owners because they are told that is what is expected of them to do. So, who is responsible for the pollution and garbage crisis? The consumer who wants and needs things affordable or the companies that produce cheaply made products that don’t last. Let’s put this into perspective because my wife’s bicycle is an appropriate allegory for what is happening to our world.
My wife’s bike is 15 years old. It no longer shifts gears. The fact that it lasted this long says much about the care she takes in it. The bicycle new was just shy of $100.00. Now an equivalent bike sells for $170 – $280.00. I could throw her bike away and purchase new, or I could take it to a bike shop in which the labor and parts would cost the price of a new bicycle. The consumer is trapped. Spend money on a bicycle with a few minor scratches over the years, or scrap it and buy a shiny new bicycle at the big box store. Which decision do you think the big box store has planned for you to make? If you are naïve enough to not think the stores have not planned this, well enough said. This type of marketing is known as planned obsolescence; it guarantees the return of consumers due to product wear and tear or failure. This is happening everywhere, sometimes the thing being replaced is still perfectly fine, but the advertisements convince you that “you deserve” to own the newest and greatest. Yes, it’s all a money making scheme that fills our landfills and pollutes our world with waste. And congratulations, you the consumer is being blamed for the destruction of the planet that the corporations are causing for a few pennies profit on each sale. Nice going, it’s your fault you keep buying stuff that is manufactured to break, so the corporations tell us as often as they can. Sorry, but that is not the truth of it at all, and let me say this very clear. IT IS NOT THE CONSUMERS’ FAULT THEY ARE FORCED BY CORPORATIONS INTO PLANNED OBSELESENCE!
Back to my wife’s bicycle and the allegory here. I decided the path no one wanted me to take. Fix the bicycle myself. I am not a bicycle mechanic. However, I have fixed other things, and it was time for me to step up, watch a few tutorials and teach myself how to fix my wife’s bicycle. I ordered another gear shifter, derailleur, chain, and hand grips, and I went to work. I bought better brands of each item, something that would last better than what was originally installed and made sure the gear shifter and derailleur would work together. I paid maybe 10 dollars more for a better system 15 years later. My wife’s bicycle could have had quality parts on it 15 years ago for under 5 dollars. Do you see it now? The cost to the consumer is minimal to have durable parts initially placed on the bicycle, so the bicycle could be made to last, be maintained, and repaired instead of having an entire bicycle thrown into the garbage. It’s not the consumers’ fault the corporation got $5 more in profit building a self-destructing product because they want the consumer back again within a few seasons to purchase another bicycle. I would have gladly paid the corporation another five dollars to have a better quality bicycle, and the corporation could still keep their profit.
The cost to fix my wife’s bicycle was around $65, more if you count the chain removing tool that busted. However, the bicycle runs great again and she is happy to have her bicycle back. I saved over $100 – $200, not purchasing a new bicycle and the environmental cost of not throwing a good bicycle into the garbage.