A lot of guys are also now spending ridiculous amount of money on hand made bikes just like the wealthy Chinese in the article.
The interesting thing is that for women the fashion has been more towards going for old wrecks also known as grandma bikes. See http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com
It's a very comfortable way to ride (on flat country) and I prefer it for non-hipster reasons (i.e. my back).
Here in Chicago, people realized many years ago that road bikes with tiny, crack-seeking wheels, rigid suspension, aggressive posture and delicate derailleurs made horrible utility bikes.
So people first started appropriating mountain bikes, adding fenders, racks, new saddles etc. Then people discovered that old Schwinn three-speeds make perfect utility bikes without any conversion.
Now, yes, bike manufacturers have responded by building purpose-built utility bikes.
If you like road bikes then that's great. I actually love riding a road bike from time to time. 99% of the time I'm on a "granny bike" though, and if I weren't for those trips I'd be in a car.
I call my '96 Camry a "grandpa car". (In part because my grandfather owned it before I did.) I'm not sure it's as derisive as you think.
It is just describing a different style, those seeking comfort more than speed. Nothing wrong with that.
One of my touchstones for understanding the modern world.
Remember the Citibank "plutonomy" papers? Whether authentic or not they basically made the same point. Invest in luxury goods. As the proverbial 1% accumulates more wealth they will want to engage in conspicuous consumption. They will buy Porsches and hand made watches and will pay a pretty penny for it.
Slow, one person at a time, low hauling capacity, no protection from the elements, and easily stolen.
Like it or not, cars have their place. People who are so proud of not needing a car? They do a lot of mooching off car-having friends.
Also of possible interest is the lead story in this month's issue of Portland Afoot, which is about making a $200 grocery store trip by bike.
These are extreme examples, perhaps, but the point is that there are plenty of bikes out there with hauling capacity for both people and stuff (Extracycles, bakfiets, etc), there's also plenty of equipment that can be added to a regular bike to increase hauling capacity (racks, baskets, oyster bucket panniers, trailers, etc), and a little creativity can go a long way, as my second link shows.
Also, in this day and age of bike racks on public transportation and multiple carsharing providers in many major US cities, there is little excuse for mooching rides off of car-owning friends, and I question the validity of your claim that the carfree are ride moochers. I lived car-free in Oakland/Emeryville for almost a year after my car was stolen twice and then totaled for mold, and I was a happy user of both. It never occured to me to mooch rides off of friends, because it wasn't necessary.
Emily Finch is all cool and shit, but that's about $3500 of bicycle that she's pedaling.
Someday that'll probably change.
For various values of slow, in cities they aren't necessarily slower than cars especially door-to-door when the need for parking is included.
> one person at a time, low hauling capacity
Cargo bikes neatly solve both issues. They are both traditional and widely used in the Netherlands and Denmark.
> People who are so proud of not needing a car? They do a lot of mooching off car-having friends.
Yeah, who's ever heard of mass transport, deliveries and car rental?
> Like it or not, cars have their place. People who are so proud of not needing a car?
well, considering that 70% of car rides are less than 10km, I don't need much mooching off...
* they start with steel and build custom-fit bikes to order
Instead of being subjected to fake-news fad stories about rich people in the U.S., now we'll be subjected to fake-news fad stories about rich people in China.
Could probably track the prevalence of China-rich-fad vs. U.S.-rich-fad stories as a good marker of the changeover in superpower status.
But in many cases, it just doesn't matter very much. If you only want to bike a few miles on flat ground, bop around the neighborhood, don't care so much about speed, etc., a low-cost bike should do fine.
American biking culture is traditionally the realm of the hard-core biker who races, tours, or bike-commutes long distances, and who obsesses about his gear, but there are many other sorts of bike cultures in the wider world (and indeed, "other sorts" are probably the vast majority, numerically). In many places, practicality and cost are much more important than optimal efficiency at high speed.
With biking becoming more and more mainstream in the U.S., at least in urban areas, American biking culture will probably shift towards a more casual stance too...
This is the Alex Moulton New Series Double Pylon. It's an incredible bike, not a folder but a separable (take it apart and fit it in little bags).
It's perfect for confined living spaces (such as a boat or small downtown apartment), whilst still offering an ultra-stiff frame and the feel and position of a full frame.
The small wheels are there to support a faster ride and easier climbing, though that also counts against them on downhills as you have a tad less of a flywheel effect.
I rode a Moulton up Mont Ventoux and down/through the Nesque Gorges in Provence. I've also visited the Moulton factory down near Bradford on Avon. They have this great mini track around the estate for testing the bikes, and you can visit the room in which they are made. To this day they are hand-made, every weld, on custom jigs.
They're fairly special bikes, but you are paying for the labour in the frames more than anything.
Also, Alex Moulton Sr died on 9th December 2012 http://www.alexmoulton.co.uk/ . He was a hell of an industrial designer. His son Shaun Moulton runs the company now.
But yeah... GBP16k not USD16k.
And if you think that's expensive, go calculate how much you could configure a dream bike from Vanilla Cycles http://vanillabicycles.com/ , Robin Mather http://apracticalguide.wordpress.com/ , Richard Sachs http://www.richardsachs.com/ , etc would cost. It is very easy to pass GBP 7,500 without batting an eyelid, easy enough to get to GBP 10,000, and with some mildly demanding stuff and some very expensive components (Enve Composites I'm looking at you) you can easily be on your way to GBP 20,000 for what the untrained eye may assume is just a nice town bike.
Though... no-one is going to think a Moulton Double Pylon is a town bike!
Oh, and if you really want consumer demand for a basic bike at a luxury level... research what the Japanese will pay for a superlight Brompton http://www.brompton.co.uk/ folding bike in naked finish. The waiting list is lengthy, and the factory in Brentford, West London now runs 2 shifts a day, 7 days a week to fulfil orders.
The air condition in the cities is extremely poor, and riding a bike would probably do more harm than good to your body.
Ah, per ABC News "There are now at least 300 billionaires and almost 1 million millionaires in China. "
I guess china is also getting it's 2% running the 98%