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« Kirkpatrick McMillan | Main | Why Bother »
Thursday
May052011

Only in America

Only in America is a cliché and like all clichés it is founded on truth.

Don’t get me wrong; I love America, I have lived here 32 years.

But having grown up in England then moving here in mid-life enables me to observe this county, and the people who live here, from a different perspective.

When I saw ElliptiGo Bike, (Above.) I thought, “Only in America.” I wrote about it yesterday trying to put a humorous slant on what I saw as the absurdity of it.

I realized that “Only in America” is made possible by the fact that this country is huge with a lot of people, over 300 million the last time I checked.

The other factor is that a great many Americans have a lot of money and too much time on their hands. The too much money part is changing rapidly.

What this has meant in the past is that anyone can come up with any harebrained idea or product, and because there are so many people with discretionary income to draw from as potential customers, there will always be a few who will look at this crazy product and say, “That is really cool, I have to have one of these.”

I really shouldn’t knock it; I now realize it is what led to my success in the United States as a framebuilder, after I had struggled for many years to make even a meager living at it in the UK. Most of the frames I built were bought by people who were attracted by fancy paint and glitter, and just had to have one.

But after riding it a few times realized it was a lot of work, their butt hurt and they never persevered to reach a fitness level where they could appreciate the full potential of such a bike.

So the bikes I built and sold with a certain amount of pride, are now languishing in garages and basements, and sadly many have ended up in landfills. How many ElliptiGo bikes are destined for landfills? I doubt they will become future collectables.

Back in the 1800s when America started to grow and people headed west; some grew wealthy and as soon as they did there were Snake Oil salesmen, con artists as well as legitimate entrepreneurs ready to relieve them of that excess wealth.

Snake Oil salesmen are now huge corporations who advertise medications on TV every night; cures for dubious ailments like Restless Leg Syndrome.

We even medicate our children for Attention Deficit Disorder. (ADD) When I was a kid if we didn’t pay attention we got a slap up the side of the head. That got our attention. Did it harm me any more than medication today? I don’t think so.

When money is easy to come by, people think it can buy happiness. Everyone is looking for a quick and easy fix. People are unhealthy because of poor diet and lack of exercise; with a little work they could fix it, but they would rather spend money on pills to make them slim, or cure what ails them.

I’ll except that I am probably wrong to criticize ElliptiGo and the people who buy it; after all it is a free country and it is their money. But I realize that the majority of people who buy these machines and indeed many who bought my bikes, their happiness was short lived.

After they were less happy, they had less money because they had wasted some of it. Money cannot buy happiness, but then again neither can no money. This recession means that many people will be even less happy.

On the other hand, many will make do, scale back and start living a simple life. They will start walking and riding a bike to get to places. This will lead to better health, which will lead to a sense of well being. It is a sense of well being that brings happiness, with or without money.

The key is not Wealth and Happiness, it is Health and Happiness; and that is true anywhere, not just “Only in America.”

 

                        

Reader Comments (14)

Next will be the tandem version: of course the stoker will have to hold the driver’s waist and have an opposite stroke!
Lap Band, diet apps, personal trainers, training devices and methods (remember bio rhythms?) anything to take responsibility (and money) from the person who’s supposed to benefit.
You end up with failed mortgages, usury credit card practices, banks that won’t loan, state workers retiring at 55, degrees worth only the paper they’re on and companies that have their products made with cheap labor and charge more.
And crappy customer service.
It’s not just the United States, it’s the United World, the New World Order.
Welcome to the Monkey House.

May 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

"dubious ailments like Restless Leg Syndrome".

You would not say that if you spent a night trying to sleep with a leg that keep jerking every time you relax.

I recognize that you are "of Age" but there are a lot of Boomers and Xers that are going to come into a rude awaking when their well trained bodies give out on them, I know I did, like falls from a bike some things happen no matter how well you have trained.

May 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCliff De Witt

I'll just stick to my old steel bicycle for now. By the way, Dave, do you have the addresses of any of those basements, garages or landfills?

May 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim Joe Comstock

One could quite easily "scale back and start living a simple life." And "start walking and riding" an Elliptigo "to get to places. This will lead to better health, which will lead to a sense of well being. It is a sense of well being that brings happiness, with or without money." Of course, they'd first have to be brave enough to ride an Elliptigo despite what a curmudgeonly former frame builder thinks of their money spending choices.

Seriously, with your absurd attitude, bicycles shouldn't have been invented because people already had their feet for walking, not to mention horses for riding or for pulling carts and buggies. Or bicycles should be allowed, but not unicycles or tricycles because clearly two wheels are best. And the absurdity of skis, when snowshoes already existed! Oh, and why make an airplane when we already have hot air balloons???

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Kostman

Chris,
There are no prizes for who can be the most absurd.

In referring to the ElliptiGo I said I was writing about, “What I saw as the absurdity of it.” Now you acuse me of having an absurd atittude. WTF.

An airplane is an improvement over a hot air balloon; an ElliptiGo is not an improvement over the bicycle as we know it.
That is the absurdity.
Dave

May 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

So you have ridden an Elliptigo, Dave? Or you are just writing them off because you don't like how they look? You're just a naysayer at this point. Without even riding one, I can see that they are far better for one's posture then crouching over handlebars from a bicycle seat. You can also see and be seen better in the Elliptigo posture than a traditional bicycle, too. THOSE are improvements, no doubt, as compared to the bicycle as we know it. Plus, I didn't realize that Darwinian Evolution was at play in the bicycle world. Not everything has to be an "improvement" to have merit, find users, and be successful.

As for your suggestion that the huge number of Americans with cash to burn means that inventors can be more successful here, well, that's just plain moronic. Plenty of stupid crap gets invented in the UK and other tiny nations, and still gets sold on occasion, if not often, especially in the age of the internet.

And WTF does "too much time on their hands" mean, exactly? You think we should all work 24/7/365 and not have leisure time? Last I checked, we have significantly, actually massively, less leisure time than our European counterparts.

Right now, the only person wasting his time, and ours, by having too much time on his hands and generating useless stuff is you, Dave.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Kostman

OK Chris this is getting ridiculous.
No one is wasting anyone’s time; you choose to read it and keep commenting.

This particular article is no longer about the ElliptiGo, but about the many people spending money on stuff they must have, and then it sits unused in their garage. I have already stated people are free to do that, but my point is, “Think about what you are doing.”

That is the purpose of this type of article, to give people food for thought. Unfortunately you can’t get past the insult of someone not loving the ElliptiGo as you do.
Dave

May 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

As people headed west the people selling shovels made more money than those digging for gold.
The problem with this internet age is there is always something “new” to buy into. Click to the next page…upgrade your phone/laptop/TV/bike, ad nauseam. Turns out a company’s biggest customers are its investors, not consumers. Change for progress’ sake to keep the money flowing.
So you have this contraption as a result. Something else will come along. But one thing remains.
I am looking at a 100-year old photo of Albert Krushel riding his bike in Buffalo NY. Looks pretty much like my Russ Denny. He rode all his life, in the Olympics, and on rollers within days of his death.
The bicycle is timeless. I feel it every time I ride. Maybe you do also…

May 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I'm okay with whatever gets people out and moving. The Eliptogo is not an improvement on or a replacement for a bicycle. It is merely an alternative, although an expensive one. I happen to like weird bikes. I don't use my Rowbike everyday but it is enjoyable and good exercise when I do. My Kickbike is elegantly simple, inexpensive, and also a great work-out and a nice change. I have been amused by all the various exercise machines that come and go. I am sure that virtually all of them are effective. I am also sure that all of them are boring. At least the Eliptogo gets the user outside and makes the whole exercise experience more interesting. Is it a symbol of too much disposable income? Perhaps but there are plenty of those around. I've seen one or two of the Eliptigos on the bike paths in my small city and I give them a cheer and a thumbs up when I see them.

May 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurt

dave,
I came across your web site recently and thought this will be another one of those soap box ranting blogs. I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that is not the case. Of course I enjoy cycling, both road and mtn, and was a road racer back in the day, so that helps to know where you are coming from as well.

Keep writing and blogging -- it's good stuff!

May 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeff simmons

Too true Dave. There is a bull market for Snake Oil salesman in the USA and this has led to a new class of "leaders" who claim that enhanced interrogations are perfectly legal, war is peace, the promotion of Trump-mania, and the deep wisdom found in Palinisms.

All quite funny but who can laugh when they have become our reality?

May 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Jeez... There is so much more to riding a bike than technology. Dave, I am with you.

May 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

As I read this post Dave - and I read them all - I thought "now come the RLS sufferers and the Elliptigo defenders."
Bingo!
I think there must be two sorts of people in the world: those who understand, who "get", the English sense of humour, and those without a sense of humour.

May 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

"The key is not Wealth and Happiness, it is Health and Happiness; and that is true anywhere, not just “Only in America.” Well said. At the same time it is true that a certain amount of wealth is needed to maintain good health.

May 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

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