In recent years, the bike industry has realized that most riders don’t race, and so the racing bike has been renamed: It’s now called a “road bike” or a “performance bike.” In the minds of most cyclists, a performance bike has narrow tires, no fenders, no lights, no racks. My randonneur bikes (above) don’t fit that pattern. People ask me: “Is that a touring bike? Or is it a rain bike?” The implication is: That bike must be slow, because it has fenders, lights and a rack.
Let’s move away from bicycles for a moment, to another popular mode of transportation: cars. Imagine going to a car dealer, and asking for a “performance car.” What if the dealer offered you this model?
Imagine the sales pitch: “It’s our best model. It’s won many Grand Prix races. Perfect for your weekend drives, and if you like, you can commute in it to work as well. For the winter, you can add fenders and lights. We have various models of fenders in stock, and we have clamps to attach them, too. Here is a slightly older model that we converted for year-round use:
“And when the weather turns nice, of course, you’ll take off the fenders and lights. You’ll carry your stuff in one of our stylish shoulder bags, or we can clamp a rack to the rear suspension.”
You see where this is going? The Formula V “road car” above may be (barely) street-legal, but it is hardly anybody’s idea of a “performance car.” Instead, most people envision something like the cars below when they think “performance car”:
The Lotus Elise is one of the most radical sports cars you can buy in this country. Superlight and with a great chassis, it is at home on curving backroads as well as on the racetrack.
But wait a minute, how can the Lotus be a performance car, when it has lights? Fenders that don’t come off? Two seats and even a trunk? Shouldn’t we call that a “touring car” or a “rain car”?
Somehow, in the sports car world, nobody thinks a car is less sporty just because it has lights, fenders and can carry a few bags of groceries. One day, you can commute to work in the Lotus, and the next day, you can race it on the track. Why can’t “performance bikes” be fully equipped for the real world, while still offering exciting performance?
Perhaps it’s the racing stripes that make the Lotus look sporty in spite of its “touring” accessories. Will adding stripes to my randonneur bike make it look faster in the eyes of most cyclists?
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