A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

Without bragging in any way shape or form, I have to say I’ve been in the same room as Lord Alan Sugar on two occasions now... 

The first was at a far too posh hotel for the likes of me a few years ago. He was there for some important gig when I inadvertently bumped into him as I was rushing in off the street for the nearest gents so it might not even count, and the second was at The Cycle Show at the NEC in Birmingham. Obviously then too, we were there for different reasons.

He was there because he’s a keen cycling enthusiast who regularly rides over 60 miles a day. Meanwhile, I was only there because I was press-ganged by two friends who had recently taken up the sport and were constantly injured, ill or downright knackered as a result, but still felt that I should share their pain. I vehemently disagreed with them, of course I did, but because I had nothing more interesting to do, I joined them and went along to see what all the fuss was about anyway.

The first thing that struck me when we got there (apart from the gall of the powers that be at the NEC who charge you twenty quid to park so far away from the venue that you still need to catch a bus to get there), was the homogeneous nature of the attendees. Nobody was going to mistake this lot for The Good Food crowd. Male, pale and wiry pretty much covered it. And there were so many people with ginger hair, I began to wonder whether cycling was some kind of refuge for those victimised for a lack of melanin.

Anyway, as we entered the exhibition hall, Lotus the car people (who apparently also make bikes in their spare time) had one of their cars on display, and one of the aforementioned wiry ginger blokes, dressed in jeans and T-shirt and carrying a backpack, was stood admiring it. 

Cars are much more my thing than bikes ever will be, and so I started looking at the sporty little Lotus too. 

Almost straight away, someone approached the wiry, ginger haired bloke and asked for a photograph. Strange, I thought. Why would you pick this wiry ginger haired bloke to have your photograph taken with when there are so many others to choose from? And why would you want your photo taken with a wiry ginger haired bloke anyway?

But then it got even stranger, because soon there was a steady stream of people coming up and asking for a photo’ with the wiry ginger haired bloke, and some of them got him to sign their programmes as well. 

Now speaking as someone who has only ever been asked for a photograph for security reasons, I felt a little left out to say the least, but as slow on the uptake as I am, I soon figured out this must be no ordinary wiry ginger haired bloke. It turned out to be Ed Clancy who further down the line went on to win a gold medal in the London Olympics. It also became clear why I hadn’t recognised him. I’d only ever seen him with his helmet on before, and didn’t fully know what he looked like. Maybe that’s why people with ginger hair take up cycling – so people don’t know what colour their hair is.

Anyway, after the excitement of almost meeting an Olympic Cycling Gold Medalist, I approached the exhibition stands with renewed enthusiasm. And if you have not looked at bikes and cycling equipment for a while like me, you’re probably in for something of a shock. The technology has come on in leaps and bounds since the days of my old Raleigh Shopper bike, but so too have the prices.

One of the unpronounceable Italian companies had their latest bike on display there... Only available to order and from just £9,500. What? 

Obviously I searched for the engine you normally get when spending that kind of money on something with wheels, but there wasn’t one to be found. Yes it was a work of art in carbon fibre, but still, ten grand? … AND ... Get this ... You still have to pedal the damned thing too. 

And that in itself is somewhat ironic, because for your hard earned ten grand you don’t even get any pedals! They are extras. In fact, there were no pedals on any of the bikes at the exhibition. If you want to actually pedal what you’ve bought, another big wallet wound is required before you can do so.

I was quick to learn that the basic bike is just the start of things – even when you’ve bought the pedals. You’ll then need a pair of shoes to fix your feet to the pedals… I saw a very nice pair for £385. Obviously you’ll need a helmet too (to hide the ginger hair), and will have no difficulty shedding a couple of hundred pounds for one of those. And when you’ve got all that, then and only then, you can start looking at Lycra shorts, tops, all-in-one suits, warm weather gear, cold weather gear, wet weather gear, pumps, spares, water bottles, energy drinks…

The list is almost endless. But it doesn’t end there either.

You see, when you have finally amassed all that stuff, pretty soon you’re going to decide that the reason you’re about an hour behind Lance Armstrong  on a 30 mile ride is because your bike is simply too heavy. And once you’ve decided that, there are a whole host of specialist companies that will relieve you of a further sizeable portion of what’s left of your dwindling bank balance in return for lighter gears, lighter brakes and lighter wheels. I would have thought that a far cheaper option (and with extra health benefits) seems to be to become a lighter rider, but I digress.

We visited one stand where the company sold nothing but wheels. My friend got in discussion with one of the people manning the stand. “How much is this one?” he asked “Fourteen,” was the reply. I was astonished… ”Fourteen pounds for a pair of bike wheels?” I said, being polite enough to move away from the vendor for once before expressing my amazement. “No, they’re fourteen HUNDRED pounds EACH,” said my friend. Nobody else seemed phased by the cost of all this, but they were all wiry ginger haired blokes, and I’m not. And that’s the point... 

In every walk of life… in every market… there are wiry ginger haired blokes. They might not look like wiry ginger haired blokes, but they all behave in exactly the same way.

They are mad keen enthusiasts, and they are prepared to pay a seemingly ridiculous amount of money to get the best of the best of the best. On a more rational level, they know that they are all falling victim to massive diminishing returns. They know that they are getting little or nothing tangible and measurably extra for what they’re spending, but they don’t seem to care. They love the product or the activity, and will therefore spend beyond rationality on it. (Does Apple come to mind here?)

So who are the wiry ginger haired blokes in your market, and are they being properly served? Might they spend even more, if they were offered a product at an even higher level? If you were to shift the emphasis of your operation away from fat, dark haired blokes (who only want a bargain pushbike like me) to the wiry ginger haired blokes (who only want the best) might you have a more profitable business? And might you have a business which is more enjoyable and satisfying to run?

There certainly seemed to be plenty of smiling people at the NEC that Saturday.



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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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