Part of my job is informing BikeRadar readers on the latest trends, upcoming gear, and new technologies coming down the pike. It’s exciting stuff for the gearheads and tech nerds but invariably, there’s always a vocal minority of folks who lambast the changing tide as the next industry scam to steal away their hard-earned money. People are angry.
Every major evolution in bicycle equipment has been met with cries of revolution (“An eleventh cog? Torch the castle!”) and yet it’s the nature of our industry that equipment is constantly changing – hopefully for the better. The constant need to endlessly tweak and optimize is hardwired into the brain of every dyed-in-the-wool engineer in a never-ending quest for mechanical perfection. Nothing is ever as good as it could be.
And even while folks are screaming about the changes in model year X product, that company’s engineers are likely already working on model year X plus two. Guess what: the stuff you just learned about and can’t even buy yet is already outdated (“Check out my new iPhone 5! Wha – what do you mean Apple is coming out with an iPhone 6?!”).
So what’s the solution to being in an arms race that you can’t win? It’s simple, really: either toss your hat into the ring fully aware of the inevitable pitfalls or just don’t get caught up in the game.
Trying to constantly stay up to date is chasing the proverbial end of the rainbow. But if you’re okay with that – and have very deep pockets – then by all means, have at it. For many, the equipment aspect of cycling is just as enjoyable as actually riding the thing, and if a new set of wheels is going to make someone more excited about riding their bike, I’m sure as hell not going to tell them not to splurge.
There’s no sense in holding it against those who can – and somehow do – keep up, either. We all know someone who fits this bill: the stereotypical, middle-aged DINK (dual income, no kids) who always has the latest gear despite carrying five extra kilos of body mass and displaying the handling prowess of a giraffe on a skating rink. So what – let them have their fun. Everyone’s wants, needs, and means are different and you’re not doing yourself any service by being bitter about it.
I love reading about cars, for example, and magazines are littered with articles on vehicles I will never be able to afford (Volkswagen Golf R, how I love thee…). But the fact that I’m pushing around an eight-year-old Subaru that offers all the excitement of a really, really nice refrigerator doesn’t make me seethe with rage when someone rolls by in a brand-new Audi.
Maybe some of that anger is rooted in the more emotional attachment cyclists often have to their bikes. After all, Old Faithful has reliably carried you over hill and dale and brought you some of your fondest memories so how dare someone suggest that something else is faster and more comfortable.
Newsflash: no one’s forcing you to do anything. Old Faithful is probably still just fine and just because there’s a new model out doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to switch. Somehow I suspect folks don’t march on Honda HQ with pikes and pitchforks every time a new Accord is announced.
Or perhaps the difference in attitude has something to do with the fact that bikes are still human-powered and, ultimately, we’re offended that someone has the gall to think they can buy their way into beating us. Speed is still mostly dictated by the fitness and skill of that rider, not the price tag on the machine. I’m certainly not lighting the Strava leaderboards on fire even when testing some $10,000 wünderbike.
Sure, equipment advantages – even if they’re too small to be perceived without instrumentation – add up. All things being equal, a rider with the same fitness as you but on a bike that’s 1kg lighter will beat you on a climb. The same goes for a comparable rider on a bike with less aerodynamic drag, lower friction, et cetera, et cetera.
The question is whether or not you care. World-class racers whose livelihoods depend on their results certainly do; enthusiast riders just trying to make it home before dinner might care less. Both positions are valid.
Ultimately, the solution is the same as it has always been: go for a ride – on whatever you’ve got – and enjoy the fact that you’re gliding across the Earth on the greatest machine ever invented. All of those machines might not be created equal, of course, but if everyone’s got the same smile on their face then it’s all good.
James Huang has been writing about bicycle tech since 2005 but also has more than 14 years of experience as a shop mechanic. In that time he’s seen plenty of fantastic gear and technology but also a lot of things that have just flat-out pissed him off. You can follow the ‘Angry Asian’ on Twitter at @angryasian.