Is the true price of a bike really worth the aggro?

There’s this quote that does the rounds every now and then, you’ve probably read it somewhere, it seems to have made its way onto T-shirts and mugs and other assorted paraphernalia: “My biggest fear is that when I die my wife sells my bikes for what I told her they were worth.” 

If anyone in your family has bought you a present with these words on it then there’s a good chance they already know you’re a lying toerag and it’s not actually subsistence that’s preventing the conservatory being built but a misappropriation of funds more often undertaken in a small African country.

Cycling is an expensive hobby, there’s no two ways about it, and it’s true it can be a challenge at the dinner table attempting to reason away a set of £2,000 wheels when there’s a set in the bike shop for under £100. In all honesty there are also cyclists who still can’t see the logic. 

The R&D that goes into cycle equipment can be compared to Formula One, say, or Superbike. Try and explain it from that angle and it begins to look cheap. You’ll still be laughed out of the room, which is why there has long been the hitherto unpublicised tradition among local bike shops of the ‘wife receipt.’ This is of a similar nature to the inflated taxi receipt for the purpose of expenses, but in reverse. 

There’s this tale of a cyclist who goes into a very well known bike shop, wants to treat himself to a top of the range Italian number, a full £12,000 of carbon and electronic groupset, and that’s before he’s even bought the shorts. So he asks the shop for two receipts, one being the actual amount, the other made out for £300, which he would leave hidden somewhere his wife would find it. He gets home from work one day to find his wife, fury writ large upon her face, receipt spread out before her. “You spent THREE HUNDRED QUID ON A BLOODY BIKE??????” she says, before exiting, stage left, but not before launching her mug of cocoa over him. 

This tactic of subterfuge could be coming to an end soon due to the very fact that one bike shop has chosen to use the story, or a variation on it, as a sales tactic and advertise the availability of ‘wife receipts.’ Great publicity for the shop, a nightmare for secret cycling spenders everywhere. 

There was of course the usual outpouring from the smug individuals in entirely open relationships when this broke over Twitter, of the “why would I hide the price of my bike from my wife?” variety. Which makes me wonder if they ever questioned the actual provenance of all those “fake” Mulberry handbags that come through the door. “It only cost £40 down the market,” etc.

How marvelous it must be to exist in a relationship where the purchase of a bike with a five figure price tag wouldn’t at least raise an eyebrow of interest, a quizzical “oh, really?” 
Who are we to pass judgement? But it is I suppose nice to know that there is a service available for those who need to disguise the family spending, especially when the house is falling down around their ears. 

And if you ever choose to employ the above tactic, you can bet someone has managed to upstage you in the sheer bleeding nerve stakes when it comes to spouses and bike buying. 
Like a close friend who ordered a £5,000 custom-built Serotta from America, frame & forks only, I should add. These take months to come through and over the course of time he forgot all about it. The weeks slipped into months and memorable dates and anniversaries came and went. Seasons changed. When his wife called him at work to thank him for whatever must be in the “massive box that just got delivered from America,” he remembered two things: her birthday, and the bike he had ordered all those months ago. 

That is a true story and I should add that the couple remains happily married despite the fact that he has since developed a taste for custom bicycles and vintage Porsches. 

Which goes to show you can deceive your wife with fraudulent receipts or you can go all out and get a bike delivered on her birthday while not buying her an actual present. If she really loves you, it won’t make a blind bit of difference. 

Although it might be worth checking she doesn’t have access to a blowtorch. Just to be on the safe side. 

  • I should in these days of equal cycling opportunities mention that the ‘wife receipt’ could just as easily be a ‘husband receipt’, and Mulberry also makes manbags. 

This column first appeared on www.thetimes.co.uk/onyourbike on September 18 2015