While I am not a bicycle expert, I know a bit about bikes, and it amazes me how many people stretch the truth in ads, whether online, or in the local classified ads. The ad I saw today is a bit different than what I usually find funny. Some things that usually amuse me are claims that are obviously used to increase the perceived value… taking clues from the professional marketers. Here are a few of the bicycle terms with the “translation” based on what I see in the pictures:
antique = Really ratty
rare = There are only 2 on my block and/or everyone else has thrown theirs away
vintage = I haven’t seen it in the stores recently
light weight = Doesn’t require a fork lift to move
racing bike = has those curly drop bars
Then there are people that don’t even take the time to read the name from the product they are selling. It is too common that the person advertising can’t even read the name on the bike or components that is clearly visible in the pictures (if you are lucky enough to get any), and strangely the same mistakes come up a lot. I can’t begin to guess how many times I have seen Shamamo instead of Shimano, and Fugi instead of Fuji.
I also chuckle when I see bikes advertised as being from a certain country based on one component. Such as being British because they have a Brooks saddle made in England. Or Japanese because it has Shimano components, or Italian because it has Campagnolo.
Another common claim is that the Schwinn that a person bought at a big box store 2 years ago is made in the USA. For those that don’t know, Schwinns, as with some other established brands, are made by companies that purchased the naming rights from the original companies as they were closing and/or going bankrupt. I don’t think any Schwinns have been made in the USA since 2001 when the company was bought at a bankruptcy sale. Even before that many Schwinns from the late 70’s onward were foreign built, usually in Japan or Taiwan.
Then there are the really useful ads, like “Red bike for sale.” Is it really worth my time as a consumer to call/email and get the answers to questions like… What brand? Children’s or adult? Road bike? Mountain bike? Comfort bike? How much are you asking? Where are you located? I think I won’t bother.
Another fun one is the person who sells something that isn’t working, and tells you the product will be worth significantly more if you spend the $4.95 to get the replacement part. In bicycles this is usually either flat tires, chains or cables. If it will really be worth so much more, then why doesn’t the seller increase the “curb appeal” and get it fixed to make more money?
But, what caught my attention today? It was an ad that stated (in part):
Super super fast 18 speed, weighs less than 5lbs., red color, gel seat. Used 2 months like brand new. $600 original cost.
Before I get into my rant, the seller told me what he paid for the bike, and nowhere in the ad did he say how much he wanted to sell it for. It also didn’t mention a brand, or size. But at least I know it is an insanely light and fast bike that is red in color.
I think the seller was trying to be honest… $600 for an 18 speed bicycle is reasonable. It would probably have an aluminum frame, a steel fork and Shimano Sora (or similar) drivetrain. However, while a $600 road bike would be light compared to a department store mountain bike, or an old style middle weight Schwinn, or even a Schwinn “light weight” from the 1970’s, it will probably be closer to 25 pounds than 5 pounds.
I was never obsessed with bike weight like some people, but I know that some people make significant efforts, and expend serious money to lower the weight of their bicycles. To see the extent that some people will go to for lower weight, just look online. One site that is fun to look at is: http://weightweenies.starbike.com/ On their site you can see comparisons of the weights of major components, frames, even cables and screws. To a true weight weenie, saving a gram or two is a big deal. These people have an objective of riding the lightest possible bicycle. Many have constructed bicycles so light that they would have to add weight to them before they were legal to ride in a professional race. However, the question came to mind, have any of them managed to make a bike that weighed under 5 pounds?
I did a quick search, and the Guinness World Records site has an answer. The official world record lightest bike (as of the time of my reading the site) is 8 lb 9.2 oz
So, the claim in the ad is that someone bought an off the shelf bike for $600 that is more than 3.5 pounds lighter than the bike that holds the record for being the lightest. I think the weight estimate was off by about 20 pounds.
As I write this, I remember one bicycle for sale that I saw several years ago. Virtually all the seller wrote to prove their bike should be purchased was to say that they could lift the bike with one finger… I forget specifically what I asked the seller in an email, but the response was pretty much the same claim of lifting with one finger, with some addded emphasis. So, I decided to try an experiment, and tried lifting a 1950’s middleweight Schwinn with one finger. It was hard, but I could do it. So, I decided that the seller was really saying, “my bike weighs less than 40 pounds,” and left it at that.
So, have you seen any unintentionally humerous ads lately?