I was once sat in a queue of cars for a ferry in western Canada and at the front of the line was a Subaru Outback from the mid 2000s. Parked behind me was a nearly identical model of the same car. The owner of the second car, a lady perhaps in her forties, bounded to the front of the queue and exclaimed joyfully to the occupants of the first "HOW DO YOU LIKE YOURS?"
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In a voice audible all along the line, she talked about how this was the last year they'd made that particular version and how much she loved her car. It was a completely sincere, slightly bonkers, and rather sweet tribute to a machine that was clearly rather more than a functional appliance to her.
It was an old friend and a part of her life, perhaps a part of her identity too. She had no way of knowing if the driver of the other Subaru would respond in kind, but she clearly sensed that they were her kind of people.
Brand loyalty is a funny thing. It's often irrational — your good or bad experience with a particular specimen of a particular brand's product is a poor basis from which to extrapolate your perception of everything it manufactures — and yet to varying degrees, we all do it.
Let's say you own a Giant Contend. It's a good quality entry-level road bike and you like it, but you're feeling flush and you want to buy something a bit snazzier. Something lighter, stiffer, faster — the usual.
So what's your first port of call? I think most of us would put Giant's carbon TCR race bike somewhere near the top of our list by default. It's perfectly natural to think "I've had a good experience with my cheap Giant so I will have a good experience with my expensive one", and there's a satisfying continuity to moving up the range — keeping it in the family, so to speak.
I don't actually think this is a bad thing at all. Why shouldn't you reward a bike brand that has served you well by giving it the most meaningful vote of confidence at your disposal, your money? You've bought into it, it makes you happy, rinse and repeat — right?
That's absolutely fine, but I would suggest not letting your affection for your current bike render you entirely blinkered, because there's a whole beautiful world of shiny things out there to explore.
Brand loyalty can be a force for evil too, when it becomes a stick with which to beat people. However much you love your bike, it’s best not to take it personally when someone criticises some minor aspect of its design or dares to recommend a competitor’s offering.
If I give a brand X bike a less-than-perfect review because I think someone else offers a slightly better deal, it doesn't mean that I'm personally criticising your decision to buy any of brand X's bikes.
We buy bikes for so many different reasons: because they're practical and fulfill a specific need, because they're good value, because they're beautiful to look at or beautifully engineered.
Perhaps it's because they come associated with a feeling or an image that makes us feel good, perhaps it's because we seek the approval of our peers, or just maybe we read an encouraging review on a leading bicycle-themed website.
I don't think it really matters what your justification for a given choice is, as long as your decision was a thoughtful one and you're being honest with yourself about your motives.
As with so many things, there's no 'best' answer per se to the question of which bike you should buy, indeed for any given set of requirements there are likely five options that fit the bill perfectly, and another ten that will do an entirely decent job.
Are you loyal to a certain bike brand? What did that maker do to earn your loyalty?