23 January 2009

Built to Last

When I read the publicity text on the the flyer that came with my new bike, there was one section of writing which touched me so much, that tears came into my eyes.
I had to think of my now almost eighteen year old bike which I got as an (already quite tall) child for my birthday. During the time that I rode it, I had to replace many parts due to ordinary wear and tear (tires, chain wheels and the chain) or which were obsoleted (dynamo, lights, rack). But the bike is my bike: the frame and all the bearings are unchanged. With all the updates, it rides better than a new one. This is "built to last".

Here's Dahon's text (from their web page which is slightly different than the flyer):
So many of the products that are manufactured today are disposable. We're appalled by the poor quality of so many of the products that we see. We remember when children's toys were sturdy enough to be handed down from child to child. Now, many of the toys out there are lucky to last a few months of use before falling apart. That's why our landfills are filling up so rapidly and why we are seeing so many shortages in raw materials. A lot of the bicycles built today fall into the disposable category - low quality bearings, poorly coated materials that rust quickly, and corner cutting everywhere add up to a product that won't last more than a year or two. We want our bikes to be part of the solution, not part of the problem and that's why we've made a commitment to using higher quality materials and components that last longer. Details like stainless steel spokes, sealed hubs and bearings, stainless steel frame latches, chromeplastic fenders that will never rust, and anodized finishes on aluminum components are found on every one of our bikes, even the most economic models. We get emails almost every day from customers that are still riding bikes that are 10 or 15 years old and that's the way we like it.
(Highlighting is mine.)
Unfortunately, most of the bikes sold nowadays (that is also most of the bikes _bought_ nowadays) are simply rubbish. Just look at this one.
People are staring at me when I tell them how much my bikes cost. But figure what's cheaper: a $200 bike that lasts for two seasons or a $2000 bike that lasts for a life time. (Hint: I plan to live longer than 20 years.) As for the interpretation of "life time": Dahon grants a life-long warranty on all Dahon-made frame components and here "life" means that of the bike, not yours. I suspect that in a post-nuclear, post-petrol world, people are still riding their great-grandparents Dahon bicycles. Incidentally in Taipei, besides all the shiny new bikes (and, unfortunately, cars) there is the occasional old Dahon parked somewhere, a design that looks more than 20 years old, but those bikes are still rolling along, despite being subject to Taipei's acid rain.

Here's a hint, should you ever need a cheap bike. In that case you are probably better off with a second hand one, that is still in good shape, than with a soon-to-be rubbish new one. Having survived it's first couple seasons, chances are that the veteran bike is actually of some quality and that will not only last you long, but that you can also sell it for a comparable price to what you paid in the first place. A better deal indeed!

Every cent spent on rubbish vehicles is wasted money. Every hundred bucks spent in quality are a life-time investment.

This post is dedicated to David Hon, Thomas Lösch, and Speedy, my love.


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