Thoughts of a new bicycle beckon like those of new cars

There’s something about that new-bike smell. It’s a lot like new-car smell, and that spells trouble for the rational shopper on a budget. At least it did for me this weekend.

As the most casual of bikers – my riding is largely confined to cruising the neighborhood with the kid and picking up bagels and the Times on the weekend – I had been scouring Craigslist for something a tad lighter and with a few more gears than my 1970s Schwinn Suburban (which is almost as heavy as a Chevy Suburban).A fateful visit to a bike shop filled my head with that intoxicating new-bike smell, and visions of new-bike ownership soon followed.

After an absurd amount of time lost in the black hole of online research, which proved more confusing than conclusive, I found myself at REI in the final hours of their anniversary sale trying to decide between the $300 bike (on sale from $350), the $340 bike (regularly $400), and the $400 bike (list price $480). The pierced and tattooed little mountain-biker sales dude was yammering about the different components, but for my purposes, the bikes were functionally identical.

Predictably, I bought the most expensive one. Why? Because I liked the looks of it the best. It’s just like buying a car. A used car would work fine, but the new ones are so seductive, and the one that’s the rational choice is never the one that looks the coolest.

And in both cases, the showroom’s sweet stew of off-gassing chemicals obviously impairs brain function.