Does a Bicycle have a Soul?
[Or, just what is it about a really nice bicycle that makes it so special? This is
a work-in-progress that attempts to define just what it is that makes a product transcend
the normal and rise above the commodity-strewn wasteland of stuff we take for granted.]
A tube of toothpaste doesn't have a soul. A can of tomato juice doesn't have a soul.
A television set doesn't have a soul. A Ford car probably doesn't have a
soul, but a Ford Bronco might. TWA doesn't have a soul. Midwest Express does.
A Costco bicycle doesn't have a soul. A TREK bike does.
So that's how we start. It's easy to pick out a great many things that simply
exist because we want them to. Toothpaste, paper towels, gasoline, printer paper,
underwear. Important items, to be sure, but none of us would argue that they have a
soul. They just exist for what they are.
But I suggest that not everything fits that category, and a great many things transcend
the normal existence and represent something that we feel a special bond with.
A really extraordinary bicycle fits that category. It does so not because it's got
all the right parts, but instead somehow is more than the sum of its parts. This
doesn't happen by accident...we've been around for a very long time, and have seen a great
many good, bad, indifferent and exceptional bikes. And we've come to realize this-
A soul is something special imparted upon the product (whether it's a bicycle or
anything else) that goes beyond just what it's made of. There must be a sense by all
involved that it's different from what others could have achieved. It's something
that can be valued not just in terms of dollars and cents but also in terms of a
uniqueness and special appeal to someone's appetite for an exceptional experience.
And it has nothing to do with the cost of the product and, in fact, the reverse might even
be true...just as money can't buy love, it can't buy a soul, either.
At Chain Reaction Bicycles, we go to great lengths to make sure our staff understands
this concept, because, as the final link in the path from manufacturer to you, we have a
tremendous responsibility to maintain and hopefully enhance the special and unique
qualities of the bicycles we sell. Because a bicycle's soul is a very fragile thing
and it's far easier to destroy it than to create it.
And, we go to exceptional lengths, working with our suppliers (TREK, Klein, LeMond,
Fisher & Bontrager) to make sure they understand these same concepts...that a bicycle
can become something almost magical for the rider, and that the day they lose sight of
just how special a product they've produced and are capable of producing represents far
more than the failure of a product...
It would represent the failure of tomorrow's dreams having a chance to become reality.