Friday, August 5, 2011

When the things we buy are better than us

"I can't believe he just spent $XX for that new ____. He's not even a good cyclist. He couldn't even keep up with our recovery ride the other day and he's spending money on things like that. What a waste."

We've all witnessed or have been guilty of situations like this... where it appears that an individual has spent "more than they should" on a piece of cycling gear. But what exactly does that mean? Where is that fine line that separates a good purchase from one that is extravagant? And when do we risk ridicule for buying something that is "beyond" what we should?

I saw this recently at the Etape where one of the guys in our group had a beautiful bike with spectacularly expensive Lightweight Obermeyers. $6000 for the pair. The guy couldn't make it up the first climb of the day. More than a few people noticed the situation when he sheepishly got off the bus at our hotel having cycled only 20km of the 109km route.

One easy answer to this question is... who care? You ride what you can afford and if people have a problem with it... well, screw 'em. Who cares if you've never made the bottom bracket of any bike flex? Or if you've just negated the 200g weight savings on your new $5000 frame by eating 500g of ice cream? Dammit, you appreciate good worksmanship (and good ice cream). But the reality is that there is such a thing as extravagance.... like when a person who can't ride more than 20 miles at a time goes and buys a Pinarello Dogma and equips it with Campy Super Record and Lightweight wheels. That would raise some eyebrows (even though it'd be a beautiful bike).

I actually don't have an answer to this question. Nor will I pretend to... because I'm probably as guilty as many others for spending money on a bike that is far better than I am. But it's just a question that I think about sometimes.

The other thought that runs along those same lines are about those bike "connoisseurs" who rail about how certain brands are so much better (or worse) than others. If you go to a message board where someone says something about how they like Pinarello bikes, you'll inevitably get some person who'll start ranting about how Pinarellos are ugly, heavy, commercialized, etc and therefore they suck. Which is quite annoying since so many bikes out there are really amazing and if the guys on Team Sky can win professional bike races on a "sucky" Pinarello (or any other brand), they're probably pretty decent bikes.

One final observation. When riding around the city, I get to see a lot of nice bikes. I've heard a lot of people see a Time or Look bike and say "wow, that's a fancy bike. So cool!" We say this because they're French bikes and seem extremely Euro-cool and are different from our Cannondale and Specialized bikes. The irony is that when I was over in France, a lot of people were riding Time and Look bikes and were fawning over the Cannondale and Specialized bikes, saying "oh wow! American bikes are so high tech and cool!" My conclusion: we're all idiots. :)

Just go and ride....


  1. Say it with me: image is everything.

  2. French everything is euro cool.
    just watch the le velo video.

  3. True... but what kind of image? I agree that most of us want to look good on the road but trying to hard to look cool or "pro" is a little childish, no?