I got a mention in the Wall Street Journal in an article about the rising cost of high end bicycles. We all know that when it comes to bicycles, “Less costs more.” Less weight that is. The lightest bikes today are carbon fiber or titanium both very expensive materials.
The article begins with a story about a 51 year old cyclist from California who dipped into his 401K in order to buy a $20,000 titanium frame bike, custom made in Australia. WTF, like there aren’t enough good custom builders in the US?
Explaining why he had to have this bike, the cyclist said, “I can't afford the nicest car or the nicest house.” But he is willing to splurge on the best cycling equipment. If there is one truism it is that “Rich people stay rich by acting like they are poor, and poor people stay poor by acting like they are rich.”
Most will say that it is up to any individual how he spends his money. I would not argue with that. But this individual clearly could not afford this bike, and the sad thing is this purchase was totally unnecessary.
Many will no doubt see me as the old retro-grouch, against modern equipment. Not at all, I like to see myself as a voice of reason against insane behavior. And dipping into a 401K or going into debt to pay this kind of money for a bicycle is insane, especially when a person is 51 years old.
When I started racing in 1952 my bike weighed 26 lbs. This was lightweight compared to the average roadster bike that weighed about 40lbs. It was a similar bike to the one that the Pros of the day used in the Tour de France. They went over the same mountains that the Tour goes over today, except the roads were often no better than dirt roads.
In spite of the weight of my bike I did my best rides, and fastest times in the 1950s and 1960s. By the time I was 51 I would never go as fast again no matter how light my bike. Which is why I say it is insane for a 51 year old to think he needs a $20,000 bicycle, even if he could afford it.
There have always been weight weenies. I have seen advertisements from the 1800s for Ordinary’s (Penny farthing.) bicycles weighing 19 lbs. But I never saw people obsess over it until I came to the US in 1979. With the advent of carbon fiber and titanium, Weight Weenieism has reached epidemic proportions.
Cycling is a passion, and nice equipment is part of that passion, to a point. When it gets to the point where you are buying stuff you can’t afford, it is no longer a passion, it is an obsession.
“Blingey equipment that weighs less than an anorexic butterfly, is no substitute for miles in your legs.”
My bike has a custom built frame by my ex-apprentice Russ Denny. It has a welded steel frame, it looks modern, and fits me perfectly because it was custom built for me. It has Campagnolo Athena components, because I don’t need Super Record. I have no idea what it weighs, because I have never weighed it. To buy a bike like mine would cost around $4,000.
Plonking down a credit card and buying the lightest possible bike just so you can own something that others will ogle and pick it up and go ooh and aah, is not an achievement. Staying with everyone else, in spite of your bike weighing a little more is.
The WSJ article was written by Rachel Bachman, who wrote a follow-up piece here:
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