Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Irrelevancy of Time: Bicycle Products Don't Spoil

As a rule, I make a point of not troubling readers with details pertaining to the corporate machinations integral to the production of this blog. For example, after a lengthy board meeting with myself yesterday, I authorized the purchase and subsequent consumption of a lunch in sandwich form--which, I'm pleased to report, was delicious. However, while this obviously falls under the category of taediae (unless you have abnormally high interest in other people's condiment "curation"), some developments are simply too exciting not to share. As such, I'm pleased to announce that, ITTET, this blog is on the cusp of receiving a cash infusion to the smell of (I refuse to use the expression "to the tune of") 3.6 million dollars:
That's a lot of sandwiches. While a more skeptical person might have received this email and deemed it spurious, I am quite confident it is legitimate. Firstly, the sender prayed to God about me, and anybody who's read the Bible knows that the Lord never leads anyone astray. Secondly, you'll note I'm only to recieve 40% of the nine million dollar total; if it were a scam, he'd surely bait me by offering me the entire sum. Most importantly, while I don't know Mr. Hadji Kagome personally, his cousin Heywood Jablome has a titanium reputation. (A titanium reputation is even better than a sterling reputation; it's laterally stiff, vertically compliant, and the last reputation you'll ever need to buy.) As such, I've already sent Mr. Kagome my banking information, and I look forward to seeing a lot more zeros soon. In fact, since sending it, my bank account is all zeros, but I'm sure that will change once the banks open tomorrow in Burkina Faso.

Let's just say though that this did turn out to be some kind of scam. Well, you really couldn't blame me for falling for it. After all, I'm a cyclist, and as a cyclist I am a member of one of the most easily misled group of consumers in the world. The bicycle is one of the simplest and most efficient conveyances ever devised, yet somehow we are willing to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for certain bicycles or components simply because they bear the name of a certain "manufacturer"--even though that "manufacturer" is often just a designer that sends its drawings to the same overseas factory as a bunch of other designers whose names may be more or less desirable based on products they once actually made themselves like 25 years ago, or else based on a sponsored rider's victories or even on the creative content of a marketing campaign.

Oh, sure, some of this stuff is better than others, and even if it isn't some of these designers have better warranty coverage than others, or better customer service, or a more extensive network of dealers. Even so, it's surprising how abstract the process of selling bicycles can be. A bicycle is a machine, and as such its "success" as a machine depends on its ability to be operated repeatedly. In a sense, it's the opposite of entertainment such as popular music or TV shows, whose "success" depends on the fact that it's always changing and remaining fresh. Ideally, you'll ride your Trek thousands of times, but you can only enjoy an episode of "30 Rock" so many times before they give you a new one. Yet, strangely, designers sell bicycles in the same way that producers sell entertainment--by refreshing them constantly. Moreover, the act of refreshment is far more brazen in the world of cycling, since the episode of "30 Rock" is more or less free, while some bicycle designers will charge prices to the smell of almost $10,000 for their latest offerings.

This was underscored for me recently by a VeloNews article, which included a quote from Ibis founder Scot Nicol:

Regardless of whether or not you feel the need to own a carbon fiber dual suspension bicycle, you've got to admit this approach makes sense. What is the point of updating a line of bicycles every year, especially when those bicycles can be so expensive? A year is hardly enough time to wear out a pair of tires, yet every year most of the big designers will change most of their bicycles and charge accordingly. In the year since I wrote about the "road bike bubble," Specialized has managed to increase the price of its most expensive road bike from $8,500 to $9,900:

Granted, this bicycle has the new electronic Dura Ace, which is itself astoundingly expensive, but even the most expensive "analog" bike for 2010 costs $9,200. As for the rest of the line, sure, the prices are about the same as they were last year, but this comes at the expense of every Specialized bicycle sold before them, which are now, in the eyes of both consumers and Specialized itself, totally outdated and worth far less what they sold for new. Last year they were state of the art, and now they're excess inventory to be blown out in end-of-season sales. Essentially, bike designers like Specialized must devalue everything they've ever made every single year in order to justify keeping their prices the same. This makes sense with things like bread and dairy products which must be bought and consumed within a time period of a few weeks, but one would think that when you're dealing with a product whose service life should be measured in decades you'd derive at least some of your value from your product's longevity. With machines--even racing machines--continuity, reliability, and longevity can be its own marketing. However, if the focus is on the freshness of the marketing instead of on the longevity of the machine, you can only resell that freshness so many times before your customers start to figure it out what it is they're actually paying for--something they just don't need.

The truth is, as both buyers and sellers we've moved from an "evolutionary" to a "curatorial" approach, and this is particularly visible in cycling since the simplicity of the machine allows you to easily see the marketing and design that's been laid on top of it. The Bianchi Pista was one of the first affordable, off-the-rack track bikes, and for many years it did quite well. Some people bought them to race on the track and other people bought them to ride around the city, and they changed them around themselves to suit their own needs. The model established a reputation and it became a mainstay, and it succeeded by virtue of the fact that it stayed the same. Naturally, then, Bianchi started doing the one thing they didn't need to do, which was start marketing the bike as an "urban fixed gear" and offer a bunch of different pre-curated versions, which is the opposite of what made the bike a success in the first place. And as soon as you start "curating" something, you stamp it with an expiration date.

Then, the process keeps repeating itself, but it gets faster and faster. In 2007, Felt unveiled the pre-curated Curbside:


Two years later, they've got a whole "Fixie" line:

So what's wrong with this? Well, nothing's wrong with it. They're just relatively inexpensive bicycles that are pleasing to the eye (to some people). But there's also nothing really right about it. There's nothing to actually buy into or invest in or grow into with this line of bicycles. It's just an attempt to sell bikes with a built-in expiration date to people who want a certain look and don't yet realize they'll grow either self-conscious of or bored with it by next year. And it's not the consumer who suffers, either--after all, nobody makes you buy anything. Rather, it's the companies, who essentially become trend forecasters instead of manufacturers and who run the risk of putting an expiration date on themselves as well as their products. Selling trends essentially ends them, and if you keep on packaging trends as fast as people can come up with them, eventually everyone's going to get burned out.

Cycling simply doesn't need new product lines every year. If you let things grow for awhile instead of harvesting them on an annual basis then sometimes you can yield something of actual value. Plus, interesting product developments don't follow a calendar or come from where you'd expect. In fact, just as hallucinogenic mushrooms grow on cow dung, inspiration can sometimes come from repugnant sources. For example, as a cyclist I have no interest in engaging in fixed-gear freestyle, nor do I have much use for the clothing and bicycles that come with it. However, it just so happens that fixed-gear freestyling requires something that's useful in the cycling world beyond doing tricks on bikes: a form of foot retention that is durable and works well with sneakers. Not too long ago, some local fixed-gear freestylers started making a form of foot retention called "Hold Fast" specifically for that purpose, and out of curiosity I bought a pair:

While I'm not quite prepared to say that the dung-ridden pasture that is fixed-gear freestyling has yielded a revelatory magic mushroom, I will say that so far despite some issues they work pretty well (provided you use the right pedals, and provided you don't wear pink open-toe slingbacks). Presumably also, the makers will continue to refine them. In the meantime, while big bicycle designers try to sell the most useless aspects of the fixed-gear trend, there are occasionally useful products that develop organically.

I wonder if Felt will spec these on the 2011 Curbside--if there is a 2011 Curbside.

151 comments:

Asterisk said...

first

Asterisk said...

second?

Asterisk said...

sweep

Bad Lawyer said...

top five!

Asterisk said...

Where are you all?

Anonymous said...

Anon and on and on and on ...

Anonymous said...

okay

innerlighter said...

Asterisk,
We're too busy fumbling for OUR CERA. How'd you dose your so fast?

JTK said...

fourth ID

Anonymous said...

Cru is RAD!!

ant1 said...

ant1st!

Asterisk said...

Innerlighter,

Just lucky today.

*

jolene said...

red stop trying to fuck averthan that moves and go get me some jb weld fer this here lawnmower

hillbilly said...

Damn, Asterisk! way to go, looks like it's upgrade time......

I can't read hold fast, w/o thinking of the Hold Steady, which pisses me off.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between the Hold Fasts and Powergrips? Just that these don't use a twist, more of a shove-your-foot-in approach?

Thanks,
Jim

ant1 said...

snobby-

that made way too much sense.

your bike industry excommunication papers should be in the mail.

good luck getting into interbike next year.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 1:53pm,

That's the main difference in terms of functionality. Also, the adjustability is very simple since it's basically just a big velcro strap.

--BSNYC

Bad Lawyer said...

And what the hell is Leonard Zinn talking about: anti-squat, bottomless super-linear feel, 160mm of rear travel, but then there's the 1.5 inch lower bearing, let alone the low speed damping. This is just like audio equipment catalog mumbo jumbo.

Anonymous said...

todays post is part of something bigger, the observations concerning marketing and brand identity, with manufacturer-specific examples, is part of a greater work our snob is working on. today it is free, but this sort of analysis will be for sale at some point in the future, whether or not snob gets credit for it is another thing.

Astroluc said...

top 20

Asterisk said...

Snobby,

I admire your critique of the industry.

Let us know if some self-righteous bike company now wants to hire you as their spokesman because they view themselves as truly innovative, so when they come out each year with a new model, somehow they are immune from and above your criticism.

Keep up the great work!

*

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 2:01pm,

No way anybody would pay for this kind of bloviating.

--RTMS

OBA said...

There's always been a fascination with the latest and newest technology in cycling, starting w/ the turn-of-the-century bike boom -- the difference is now most year/year changes are largely superficial or incremental (a.k.a. gram shaving) as opposed to the substantive design & materials advances that leveled off with the advent of the butted-steel-tube double-diamond frame.

ant1 said...

snobby,

you underestimate the ease with which us fools and our money can be parted. we are cyclists after all.

Bad Lawyer said...

Snob, your observation about commercial integration of "curating" is excellent; but I bear in mind that bike corporations (and for that matter clothing retailers) may be "jumping the shark" as far as NYC/LA/Portland are concerned, but Hollister, H&M, Abercrombie, Urabn Outfitters and Trek, Bianchi et al. can continue to inflict this pre-curated crap on the rest of us long after it's Last-Week on the coasts. Hell, I still see the occasional mullet.

Ev said...

great article

mikeweb said...

I agree that Snobby is venturing into dangerous territory with the BIC (Bicycle Industrial Complex).

He's reminding me of the Tom Wilkinson charachter in 'Michael Clayton' and the editors at Bicycling are begging him to get back on his meds.

Snob, don't let the IOJB out of your sight.

Graham Schaeffer said...

Nice minimalist product promotion!

I might get some of those, as I'm sick of breaking the leather toe-straps (or the buckles) I usually curate and while I like the Power Grips, I don't like them that much.

By the way, have you seen the horrible JC Penney ad featuring a fixed-gear "hipster" yet?

Oh, it hurts so good!

Anonymous said...

Well played, Snobula. I would only hope that the three Marketeers (Big T, Big S and Big G) pay heed to some of this. Then maybe the lil guys can follow. As an outspoken industry insider (insider meaning when inside my garage) I absolutely abhor the New and Improved over Old and Inferior mktg rampantly blazed into out eyeballs. But then again, I ride Sachs 8sp shifters from the 90's so I hardly think I'm target market number 1.

mikeweb said...

Maybe Bad Lawyer can play the Sidney Pollack role.

Anonymous said...

57 bucks for the adjustability of a "big velcro strap"!!!!
Maybe one could skip a step and pay them directly with the Wednesday weed.

jon said...

Unless you change the size rarely, it looks like the Hold Fasts will need to be replaced every year or three when the velcro weakens. That's smarter than those dumb old Powergrips that last nearly forever.

I'm still curating a pair of 1998's in a stunning black coulourway. But to be fair, they haven't gotten much use since I became a pawn of the Big Clipless Industrial Complex. Of course last winter's experience of my cleats spontaneously ice-welding to my pedals has made me reconsider this upcoming winter's foot retention styles.

CommieCanuck said...

My money from the Spanish Lottery winning is tied up right now with Sese Conseco's wife in Nigeria, minus a bit for those pills for my pen15 and p3nis. (I think these are derailleurs.)

If you're wondering who falls for this shit, the answer is the Mennonites.

The cynical bitterness I've gleaned from this blog has protected me from internet evil.

And yes, high-end bike prices have officially gone stupid. Apparently, as the result of the sub-prime crash, most of the money was re-allocated to idiots.

Dominic said...

Snob,
I can't believe you're not going to spring for a Felt Brougham as it is obviously an homage to The Great White Hype(though as such it should come inonly onr of two colors: muscatel or merlot). Given your affinity for Pootie Tang I thought you'd jump at the chance to support one of that film's predecessors.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else sprout wood over the sight of those pink slingbacks?

mikeweb said...

anon 2:20,

I hear ya. I 'curated' a 7 speed Ultegra drive train for my commuter bike 3 years ago, complete with 1 downtube shifter (I palp a single ring in front).

wishiwasmerckx said...

Heywood Jablome? I had no idea that you knew him. I played golf with him last weekend. Ben Dover and Jack Mehoff rounded out our foursome.

rightsaid kev said...

Fight the power

wishiwasmerckx said...

"And yes, high-end bike prices have officially gone stupid..."

-Commie Canuck

Remember when, back in the early 80's, bike prices cracked the $1,000.00 barrier for the first time? What a shock that was. Now we're talking $9,900.00 - and that's before you start changing out the saddle, the stem, the headset, the wheelset, the...

Anonymous said...

Scot Nicol's crabon crap is made in China just like everyone else's. Ibis is now a design and marketing company and that interview with Zinn is just an example of good marketing.

MINGUStheMECHANIC said...

"When people don't understand that the BIC doesn't have their interests in mind, they're more susceptible to go buy dumb shit."
Howard Zinn

CommieCanuck said...

WIWM..you know Ben and Jack? We shared a dorm with Stu Pendous and Phil Landerer in college. Stu went out with Connie Lingus back then. I should look her up, I heard she dumped him for Hugh G. Rektion, and now Stu's married to Janet Uppissass.

I never liked Connie's sister, Anna.

Anonymous said...

RTMS-
I can see that.

BLOV IATE

Astroluc said...

Todays post should be refined and concentrated into a single nail and driven into the heads of everyone.

It is sadny not just the bike industry, either... the devaluation of everything that came before has been a marketing trend that has been building for decades and seems to have hit it's exponential curve in the advent of the digital age. It's an unfortunate symptom of our "disposable" culture; and example of forced obsolescence.

I sold cameras back in the "pre"digital days; and that was a time the big companies like Canon and Nikon only rolled out a bit flagship camera and technical step forward every 4-6 years!! Now it seems like it's every 6 months. Even back during this time the older models were still sought after. One cannot say the same thing of today... most times the companies that produce a given product will simply not sell it anymore. Why can I not get a 30g iPod Classic? Because apple wouldn't ever sell the 60g for $300
if there was a 30g avail. for substantially less.


With overspecialization and fashion driving the industries of the world of consumer goods, it's no wonder we've traded quality for flash.

Matt said...

Geez, Snob, did you buy a Rivendell or something?

MINGUStheMECHANIC said...

is anyone planning to see "race across the sky" thursday night @ union square?

CommieCanuck said...

Remember when, back in the early 80's, bike prices cracked the $1,000.00 barrier for the first time?

Why, back in my day, a nice custom steel Colnago with Super Record went for $12, with a weeks' wages, you could buy one and still have money left over for the talking kinetotropes and pie.

CommieCanuck said...

I sold cameras back in the "pre"digital days; and that was a time the big companies like Canon and Nikon only rolled out a bit flagship camera and technical step forward every 4-6 years!! Now it seems like...

Sorry, in the time it took me to read that, my OS became obsolete.

Cool The Kid said...

Manufacturers are shooting themselves in the foot... I am sure as the economy continues to slide they will file lawsuits against the likes of Craigslist and other sources of used bike classifieds

Goooooooffffyyyyyyy

kale said...

Snob, while I agree with your point that the marketing industry purposefully creates products to align with consumersz 'personal brands', I don't really see how it follows that this is inherently useless. Individualists are always going to counter this type of culture regardless of how ridiculous, paltry, or redundant the products become. ITTET it's all these companies can do to stay out of bankruptcy. It seems like you need to put down the Chomsky and join us.

Bike Lemming said...

Dude, please go back to putting your full post content in your feed! I haven't read a full post since you started putting just a summary in because "the man" patrols the areas around my work area and a full web page looks much more dubious than a feed reader.

Prolly said...

Nice! the new Hold Fasts are MUCH better than that version...

Anonymous said...

USD 3.6 Million transfer confirmed at 2:42 PM

Anonymous said...

my gramps forked over $800 for a steel bike in the mid-seventies. It's "worth" several times that now, even with a million miles on it. Can you expect the same from anything crabon fibre? Can you expect anything from crabon fibre in 10yrs? How about 5? Let us not forget, the fastest ave speed for the Paris-Roobuy was set on a real "clunker", with no crabon wheels...

BikeSnobNYC said...

Bike Lemming,

As I've told a number of people, for some reason my feed only updates now when set to partial. I don't know why--I'm barely smart enough to operate a Hold Fast. I'd happily change it back if I could make it work.

--BSNYC

mikeweb said...

Damn you kale!

Heading into the 'peepsofwalmart' quagmire... be back in an hour or so.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Commie, it is a small world, indeed. I had no idea you knew Stu. I met Stu through his cousin, Peter Gozinya.

Bad Lawyer said...

Hey good news! Pinarello dropped the price of the Dogma to $17,900! And look what the deal of the day is at Bicycling: http://www.bicycling.com/gear/detail/0,7989,s1-15-78-2635-0,00.html

Astroluc said...

Commie,

Sorry, in the time it took me to read that, my OS became obsolete.

it's funny cuz' it's true.

Dave said...

The reason the bike industry does it is the same reason the car industry and everyone else does it, because there are always saps that will fall for the need to be "cutting edge" and fools ready to part with their money.

To follow up on the Specialized example Snobby used, in five years, Specialized's top of the line Tarmac has gone from $3500 to $9900. So Specialized is telling me that these bikes are almost three times as good as the ones they sold three years ago with very little change in the componentry. Man, I smell a class action suit

Strayhorn said...

The bad lawyer offered as evidence: And look what the deal of the day is at Bicycling:

From which we discover: "Silk doesn't top anyone's list of performance fabrics . . ."

To which I say: Bullshit. Silk is the original performance fabric. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Breathes and dries fast. Amazingly strong. I've lost count of the number of miles I've ridden with a silk long-sleeve T-shirt under a short-sleeve jersey. It's the perfect moderate weather combo.

Of course, I suppose from Bicycling's perspective, it's better to sell $80 hi-tech jerseys from sponsors than $20 silk Ts you can buy at WalMart.

grog said...

No, we all pay for this kind of bloviating.

MUSH DUNG

samh said...

Mr. Snob -

Some suggested reading regarding your RSS feed.

http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=78656

Cheers,
Sam

kale said...

The sad truth is that most of us would spend the dividend on beer and weed - the Industry is just saving us from ourselves.

kale said...

er... savings.

Anonymous said...

NSNYC,

The yearly development and unveiling of new products on a yearly cycle, while unfortunate, does give all of the designers, engineers and marketers jobs. By not continuously developing, it would be like putting the brakes on instead of more power. Eventually tends slow down and people lose interest... if the products can be introduced before people know what they want (or ask for it) then the product development teams are effectively introducing innovation to the marketplace.

keith said...

Hate to rain on your World Naked Bike Ride Parade, but "After all, I'm a cyclist, and as a cyclist I am a member of one of the most easily misled group of consumers in the world." simply isn't true. I think as cyclists we rank #3 behind Fisherman and Hunters. I agree with the premise of living in an intentional "consumer lemming-hood" overall but the bicycle industry is trying to sell fashion while the outdoor industry is selling hope. One word..really two words?? "Pocket Fisherman" circa 1970 ish. How many millions of those units did they sell? Wishful thinking is key. I mean come one, if I could pull something out of my trousers and catch something wet and wiggly I would defiantly take a second look. That's how those industries market..selling hope and delusion whereas the cycling industry actual status symbols.

southpole said...

wow snob you still surprise me ... the hold fasts are basically the same as the hipster approved and manufactured feetbelts, expect for maybe slightly better adjustability. and i was just waiting for you to discover and ridicule those, as a fan of clipless pedals and nemesis of hipsters. well, looks like i don't read this blog enough (and cycle too much instead...)

southpole said...

one more thing... i also was wondering why the automised dura ace was not discussed earlier. i saw a couple of those at a local bike race. essentially, the gap to electrically assisted bikes and therefore mopeds was never as thin. stopped using toys that need batteries as a kid.

mander said...

What's taediae?

Anonymous said...

I haven't tried them either, but surprises me as well that you like the Hold Fast. Kinda disappointing, I guess I should try them first, but what, did Prolly promise to stop bashing you?

snissley said...

Good commentary. I know you work some for Bicycling Magazine, which I read for free at Borders. 30 years ago I read it for free in the library.
Which is interesting only in that Bicycling Magazine has cost me a lot of money to upgrade bicycling merchandise which they have touted over the years. Remember eliptical cranks? Is the 29er really faster than a 26"? It goes against all the other 'advances' in bike tech.
Anyway I enjoy riding.
Keep it real.

snissley said...

Good commentary. I know you work some for Bicycling Magazine, which I read for free at Borders. 30 years ago I read it for free in the library.
Which is interesting only in that Bicycling Magazine has cost me a lot of money to upgrade bicycling merchandise which they have touted over the years. Remember eliptical cranks? Is the 29er really faster than a 26"? It goes against all the other 'advances' in bike tech.
Anyway I enjoy riding.
Keep it real.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't that be "Hold Fast FRS" ? Another beautiful post, bikesnob: whimsical observation->pirouette->eviscerating denouement. /applause

flaco said...

Kinda glossed over resale value being a lot of what one is paying for in a name and the high incidence of resale being a factor for this yearly remodel. And I, for one, am more than happy to get something for far cheaper simply because the calendar year is over. I think, if anything, it actually keeps prices down.

Anonymous said...

i shit you not...from the Felt Dispatch Technical Specs page

"Chainguide: Aluminum Guard to protect skinny jeans"

NA said...

One of the main curators (Wayne Stetina) of Di2 came to the shop I worked at, and told me I just HAD to test ride his bike, because Di2 shifts the front derailleur so well...

...and this was important for me because (real quote): "women have problems shifting the front derailleur."

....

...

Astroluc said...

anon 3:32

but when "innovation" is galloping forward at the breakneck pace that it currently is going, forced by ideas of market share and "the next big thing" you cease to generate real innovative ideas, and just wind up fiddling with things just to make them different enough, and changing some things that just don't need to be changed.

In the immortal words of Dr. McCoy:

And they probably redesigned the whole sickbay, too! I know engineers, they LOVE to change things.

Anonymous said...

I ride my bike because it's so much fun. But I have to admit a lot of the fun is related to recapturing (or evoking) a wonderful feeling I used to have as a teen obsessed with BMX freestyling back in the 80s, and few sports were more "poser-friendly" and image-conscious that BMX freestyle. Hence: expiration dates on bike products.

I don't think I was a total poser then (am now, ride a Langster in an obsolete cityway, bought $350 on sale - you can make the Specialized approach work!). I was at the top of my intermediate AFA class, which is kind of like being valedictorian at a "special school." Anyway, I remember a real part of the fun for me (and other, better riders) was seeing all the bullshit products and aesthetic changes that came out each year. We enjoyed moronic micro-forkstands on a new Haro Team Master, gawked at the new Kuwahara corolway. RL Osborne endorsed the new freecoaster. Stuff like that.

Anyway, the thing was, you didn't have to buy the stuff, and it was fun to just watch it come out and laugh at who bought it. Sometimes, that someone was me. It was sort of fun.

Best,
Peregrine48

Bad Lawyer said...

Keith, said ". . . 'a cyclist I am a member of one of the most easily misled group of consumers in the world.' simply isn't true. I think as cyclists we rank #3 behind Fisherman and Hunters.

Keith, you are wrong.

As I alluded to before, audiophiles are the most easily misled consumers. In audiophile land you can easily spend more than it would cost to actually hire the performers to come to your man cave or other venue and perform the piece of music in real time. I think all rational thought went out the window in that consumer-world when you found yourself wondering whether you should buy some $1000 + product to "wash" you electrical current before it entered your electrical equipment. And don't get me started on cabling.

CommieCanuck said...


In the immortal words of Dr. McCoy:


Some asshole needs to write an iPhone app that sends you McCoy quotes very day.

"My dear girl, I am a doctor. When I "peek," it's in the line of duty"

CommieCanuck said...

every day

cherepuga said...

Snob,
Brilliant post. Except that if you are trying to reach out to the bike companies you are preaching to the choir. Bike companies are for-profit companies. If Specialized can afford to retool (or relogo) their entire bike line every year its because enough bikes are sold to justify it. The reason why Felt expanded its "fixie" line is because the original stuff sold well. Yes, bike companies are trend settlers, but like you yourself mentioned in the past you can only reinvent the wheel so many times. The market is over-saturated and somehow they have to find ways to sell their stuff and compete with random off-the-shelf brands that pop up all the time that don't even bother designing the stuff- they just put their logo on crap product and sell for less.
If you can't afford to update your product line then you are stuck trying to find bs justification for it... but you are already behind everyone else.

CommieCanuck said...

As I alluded to before, audiophiles are the most easily misled consumers.

There was a famous technical article that demonstrated that the only difference in brands of high-end speakers was outside of the range of human hearing.The things people do for their dachshunds.

I see your cabling and raise you aero dimples.

k-rex said...

BSNYC - RE: feed problems

I think I've read that there is a minimum size for blogger RSS feeds - could be that you are going over the max (I think its 512mb but wouldn't swear to it). That would explain why a 'partial' posts but the full text feed fails.

FWIW.

sufferist said...

I am a cheap-ass bastard by nature and always buy 1 to 2+ generations behind the current trend. I will happily pick up last years model at a huge discount, and yes I realize that it will not come with the special crabon bar-end streamers or pink-sparkle paint job.

cheeken said...

This was a really amazing post. It feels like it's the culmination of lots of your recent work, but, like someone else said, just the beginning.

The R-Sys wheels in my head are definitely spinning on this one. (Now, if only we could measure IQ points in DFU...)

mikeweb said...

I'm still waiting for the fixie craze to invade Rivendell-land.

Actually, spoof-wise, that is some very fertile ground right there...

Sort of the bike culture equivalent of this.

belmont sledgehammer said...

I'll tell you what bothers me is someday there's gonna be some legitimate Burkina Faso-an entrepreneur who's simply in need of a small cash infusion to start-up a philanthropical venture, but jerks like Mr. Kajome are going to cause him to not be taken seriously.

I'm actually thinking of making small personal donations to verifiably legitimate west-African charities myself and would love for you all to get in "on the ground floor" of this thing. Get me your contact and bank account information and I'll follow-up accordingly.

TimB said...

I agree with the notion that the consumer does not derive significant value from bicycles changing every year... but it has become more of a necessity from a business standpoint, especially at the consumer bike level below $2500.

Bike manufacturers (or perhaps I should call them assemblers) have an incentive from their parts manufacturers to make large orders. If a bike manufacturer can negotiate their purchasing contracts on an annual basis based on total orders for all bicycles for that year (likely taken from the trade shows), they can dramatically lower their costs than if they made purchasing contracts based on a single model release date. No one would want to take on the risk of a multiyear contract for parts, not knowing what cool thing will be coming around the corner. Probably one of the few exceptions to that was in track bikes, but we the consumers ruined that one.

But why does a bike even need to change on a year to year basis? Only reason I can think of is that since their supplier's parts may change slightly on a year to year basis, it's important to differentiate the bicycle models by different parts composed. Otherwise, you might be more likely to have one model with multiple configurations for a given "year." People that have bought Apple hardware have learned the hard way that a similar model (the 15" macbook) with different parts composed, due to slight changes in the model year, is very difficult to support.

Anonymous said...

mikeweb-

actually, my 62yo dad is buying a fixed gear for his next bike - probs going to go with the Sheldonway.

shelflifeshorty said...

for all the fixie BS, throw some light on how SE Racing has done it to the BMX scene (or whoever owns SE now): The 'Lil' Ripper and the Floval Flyer are now in stock for all the curatorial cunning runts.

maria said...

yo mikeweb I saw a"One Less Fixie" sticker on a Rivendell employee's bike(a one speed w/ a freewheel) so-what do ya know

Pete said...

Yeah I don't understand the appeal of pre-curated fixies. I thought half the fun of owning a tarck bike was picking out all the ridiculous mismatched components yourself. Why would I want someone to take that joy away from me?

Bad Lawyer said...

Anonymous says: actually, my 62yo dad is buying a fixed gear for his next bike.

That reminds me, beautiful riding through the "metro" park this morning. Warmer temps after an unseasonably cold week last week; the sun dappling the leaves as some fell. Kind of a Joycean moment, when I arrive at one of the few intersections along the parkway and a funeral procession is crossing. I've never encountered one before at that intersection. Hmmmm, can't say it was a fixie-rider, but anonymous' brought it back to mind.

Asterisk said...

Belmont,

I would not worry about the credibility of Mr. Kajome. After all, he is from Burkina-Faso, which means the land of the upright men. How could they be crooked from a country with such a name?

Seriously, on the idea of microloans, are you aware of Kiva, an organization that does exactly that?

*

Hugh Charddon said...

The comments contain more bloviate than the original post. Keep it up.

Makim ben'Dover said...

There was something vaguely offensive to the Arab world contained within this post.

red neckerson said...

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red neckerson said...

i aint turning down the opertunity to be 100

wishiwasmerckx said...

100th!

wishiwasmerckx said...

Oh, well...screw you, Red.

Anonymous said...

Snob,

While the success of an individual bicycle might depend on its ability to be operated repeatedly, the success of a bicycle brand depends on its ability to capture market share year after year, making it much more like a cultural product than you give it credit for. Rightly or not, the big bicycle companies release new product lines every year to create the perception to that year's consumers that they are purchasing the latest and greatest. High end road bikes are not wine, and consumers will not believe that they get better with age.

Maybe it's just the Wednesday, but I fail to appreciate what distinguishes this practice from the "organic" business of selling a $57 velcro strap to consumers who want to tap into the fixed-gear trend. Both types of product have their uses, both are overpriced, and both are unnecessary for the skills and needs of the average rider. Who cares?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5.41.... Fail ! Get a sense of humour. Boy, I'd hate to be you.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 5:41pm,

If the Hold Fast people make insignificant changes to the straps every year, start mass-producing them overseas, and charge $1,000 a pair for them by 2015, then they will be the same as the bikes. In the meantime though they're pretty different practices.

--BSNYC

Anonymous said...

Snob -- right on all counts except one: the carbon frame sellers don't design their products to be used for decades. The manufacturers think of them as, and design them as disposable items. They may very well last a long time but that's not the intention of the engineers. (As told to me by someone at Giant.)

rural 14 said...

ant 2nd!

and why, yes why all this re-logoing / new introductions every year of the same old crapola. Not REALLY marketing; and the Rivendell whine is not an antidote either. Why not perpetual lease of the bike, a la William McDonough cradle to cradle concept. If one bought one bike from a guy like ANT (and ant2nd is no relation to ANT, just as ant 1st is no relation to the late lamented anti1st was it?) that would be enough...ok maybe 2 then. But all the specialization of bikes? With again, the exception of extreme sports stuff, ie "downhill" why bother? It pisses me off to be knocked to the side of the road by wankers speeding by with their bikes on the cartop only to catch them at a trailhead. Why not ride there? It's like driving to the gym...kinda insane.

Pulverized Concepts said...

What about bike parts? You can go into O'Reilly or Auto Zone and get a fuel pump or brake pads for practically any car on the road, cheap, and it's right there, or they can get it in no time. Not so with bike parts. If you need a new crankset, maybe the LBS has it, for a fortune, or they can order it (just like you can) or they can't help you and you're off to the local bike boneyard. Bike maintenance and repair is an even bigger issue than purchase.

Anonymous said...

'It's like driving to the gym...kinda insane.'

No no no, it's not so much insane to drive there, it is insane to circle around the lot and wait for a really close parking spot.

Anonymous said...

A titanium reputation is even better than a sterling reputation; it's laterally stiff, vertically compliant,

But is its bottom bracket beefy?

Anonymous said...

"The bicycle is one of the simplest and most efficient conveyances ever devised, yet somehow we are willing to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for certain bicycles or components simply because they bear the name of a certain "manufacturer"--even though that "manufacturer" is often just a designer that sends its drawings to the same overseas factory as a bunch of other designers whose names may be more or less desirable based on products they once actually made themselves like 25 years ago, or else based on a sponsored rider's victories or even on the creative content of a marketing campaign."

Say it isn't so, I got eleven, made by little italian elves in a pretty factory. Not chinese elves, who are enslaved by evil.

Luke said...

"And it's not the consumer who suffers, either--after all, nobody makes you buy anything. Rather, it's the companies, who [are] putting an expiration date on themselves..."

What about the environment? Does it have an expiration date? Bicycles are notoriously difficult to recycle but god knows we go through a lot of them. Riding is supposed to be earth-friendly, but it certainly becomes less so if you buy a new one every few seasons.

Anonymous said...

Grant Peterson... Is that you?

Jase said...

Mander, 3.47 pm

I googled Taediae. no dice.

Figuring it must be a foreign word, i googled it in italics.

nada

then i threw it into one of the latin to english translators i always keep open in my browser: (http://www.translation-guide.com/free_online_translators.php?from=Latin&to=English)

turns out it means tedium, disgust, weariness, boredom.

which could be an appropriate description of my morning.

**PINK SLBK**

Astroluc said...

Pulverized;

Ideally (and I say that with a grain of salt) bikes should be built that most of the maintenance you should have to do over the course of the life of the bike is preventative maintenance (chains, lube, maybe bearings depending on the bike). If you HAVE to replace a crank (outside of "catastrophic failure", in which case I will say congrats for surviving ;) it means that either:

a) you bought a super high-end (hi-performance = hi-wear, after all) b/c you race that sh*t.

or

b) you have not performed a fore mentioned "preventative maintenance" and wore the part out prematurely.

but again, that's ideally

Anonymous said...

Astroluc--

You forget wheels. Now admittedly I was stressing the tolerances weight-wise way back in June (and July, August and September.) But now that I'm significantly under max. weights (er, ten pounds)--I still find myself dealing with truing issues. I've had at least two broken spokes this season all without any crashes (that sound is me knocking on wood.) Well, I did have one crash, come to think of it--if I can just shake the effects of this head injury.

Rick @ Bicycle Fixation said...

Well said! I ride a 20-lb. fixie that sports fenders and a rack, and is over forty years old. People stop me on the street to tell me how beautiful it is. I thought it was a stalwart old bike till I met a fellow by the beach who rides ten miles every day on a rusty 1927 "President" he bought off an old man fifteen years ago.

The today I saw a sixty-year-old Hercules "Royal Prince" locked up at the light rail station.

My now relatively young-seeming gets about 150 miles a week on the potholes of LA, and moves me along right quick.

Bikes can last. Attitudes degrade.

kfg said...

@ Bad Lawyer

You are wrong. It is the "active audiophiles" who are the worst. Specifically the violinists. You should see the shit they're willing to pay for the shit they buy (say a quarter million for the violin equivalent of a Schwinn Varsity).

@Mikeweb and Maria

I bought that Rivendell bike model. It was delivered to me fixed. They've also made at least one full custom road fix. Fixed is the ultimate retro-grouchery without going all P-far (and those are silly; I'm holding out for a Boneshaker).

Fan Club VDB said...

VDB4 EVER

Rantwick said...

Hey Snob,

That was damn good post. Amen, brother.

BruceH said...

Hey Snob... I've been wondering, this old bike has served me well on the uber-flat streets of Houston for years. Can I be a bike snob on something like that?

Anonymous said...

This sounds as if Grant Peterson has hijacked this blog. For a minute I thought I was on the Rivendell site.

I do, however, agree with almost all of it (except the part about the slingbacks - they work great with all commercially available shoe retention systems except speedplays, and they suck anyway).

Ed said...

The hold-fast pedal foot "retenders" have a installation procedure that does not mention removing the legs from my skinny jeans above the knee... the pictures imply that this happens at some point during installation of the product. Is this part of the missing installation procedures or does it just happen on its own once they are installed? This worries me due to the oncoming winter, and how I would like to keep my pant legs.

g-roc said...

I need to geek out for a sec:
STI isn't analog; friction shifting is analog.
It's more of a mechanical vs electronic thing.

DistrictXII said...

Great post today. Last couple days have been pretty vapid, and I was getting kind of bored of it, so it was nice to see an article with some meat to it today. I strongly agree with your assessment of Bianchi's current design/marketing philosophy; they're ruining several decades of pedigree with the impacted bowels on wheels they're putting out this year.

Anonymous said...

Well, that blog post should spell the end of bicycle marketing as we know it... Maybe it's just me, but I blame crabon. It seems to me that crabon fibre provides excellent possibilities for bicycle producers not so much because it lends itself to fine tuning of every aspect of the frame and components, but because it lends itself to virtually endless marketing babble. There's only so much you can say about aluminium tubing, even though hydroforming gave it some extra mileage. With crabon, there's virtually no limit to the number of modifications and abbreviations you can use in the marketing of this year's model (and, as you rightly point out, the devaluation of last year's model). Plus I don't have a crabon bike, and I desperately try to convince myself that I don't want one.

bikesgonewild said...

..."a thing of beauty is a joy forever" - john keats...

..."at least until the next model year" - bikesgonewild...

bikesgonewild said...

...excellent post, bsnyc/rtms...& rather than offending anyone in the business, i'd rather think in these tough economic times, that that basic erudition would be received as intelligent gospel...

...but, prob'ly not so much...

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, I doubt your once a month slave masters at bicycling magazine feel the same way.
You are the only thing which is readable in that magazine.

dano said...

After moving to DC from Detroit I sifted through enough overpriced carigslist garbage and found a Lotus thats likely older than I am. I cleaned it up, replaced things like cables and rubber, and have an awesome bike. The downtube shifters and 'vintage' derailleurs work great after a little tuning. I expect to enjoy this bike(and the tenuous lone wolf connection) for years to come.

CommieCanuck said...

Some guy who can't bother to type in a stupid name said...
Say it isn't so, I got eleven, made by little italian elves in a pretty factory. Not chinese elves, who are enslaved by evil.

I think 11 is made by Romanian elves, enslaved by woe.

bike locks said...

If they didn't come out with a new model every year, what would people buy in order to make themselves feel better about not using their old bike.

CommieCanuck said...

anon 5:38...

Try reading the morality of doping articles in Buycycling. They are excellent. They usually appear a few pages before the bright red TESTOSTERONE ads in the back.

Stupid Name said...

Romanian, jeeze, I had no idea, but it is still shiney. Oh yea, and it doesn't need batteries. Did I say that it goes to eleven, and that is better than 10, and way better than 9.

shmaltz herring said...

Gee, and I thought the u-brake on my '88 Stumpjumper was pretty fresh. Guess it's time for an upgrade.

Anonymous said...

shimano updates components every 4 years.. that's reasonable. And the changes are not only for saving weight

JackTB said...

I was in a LBS last month and they used the fact that I was still riding a 1988 Canondale to justify spending $3-4k on a new bike since I keep it so long the price per year was very reasonable. They went on to point out all the things that were new since my bike was made. It was a nice list.

The end result is that I have switched from my 1988 Canondale road bike to my 1987 Canondale touring bike. I am looking to build some new wheels more comfortable for riding and maybe splurging on a Brooks saddle.

ringcycles said...

Pulzerized. For recreational cyclists, tires and regular lube should be all that's needed on annual basis. Maybe a chain/cassette and brake pads if you're going more than 2k miles. If you're racing, well, thats a different amount of stress. I still only need a couple of new chains, cassettes, brake pads, drive train cables/housing, and tires each year. I have only once needed to replace a crankset in 10 years of racing/training. that was due to a manufacturing flaw. MTB riding is a different story since every time you biff, you can break stuff (rims & rear deraileurs often). If you're lucky enough to have a good LBS w/ great mechanics (which I happen to enjoy), buy and service your bikes there. If not, learn to turn your own wrenches, its not rocket science. I love having new zippy bicycles, but I completely agree that bikes are oversold and overpriced now. Not a new story though; anyone read "the Emperors new clothes" lately?

Turbo329 said...

Awesome Blog Snob!

I guess I'll just stick with my aluminum T 1.5 and keep trying to race all the 'state of the art' carbon rigs on Sunday mornings. :D

Besides, for $5,000-$10,000 I'd much rather buy a bike with an actual motor that can travel 186mph.

Ronsonic said...

Time to break out the Chesterton: "My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday."

THAT is the sort of innovation we're getting in bikes these day.

Anonymous said...

I can attest to the fact that bicycle gearing shares a non-linear log (exponential)-type betterness factor with the earthquake Richter Scale: 11 is waaaaaay better than 10, and 10 is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than 9, and so on.

Anonymous said...

better = more expensive

Darren said...

Moots are expensive but they do what you are talking about, I bought a compact road frame that has been made since like 2003 I think same frame I got in 2009

blackmale said...

Great editorial. I have noticed in the bike market a tendency in the last few years to rush stuff to market with the consumer becoming the guinea pig for new products. Just look at FSA's awful (yet heavily marketed) wheels.

“Fashion…combines the attraction of differentiation and change with
that of similarity and conformity; the more nervous an epoch is, the
more rapidly will its fashions change, because the need for the
attraction of differentiation, one of the essential agents of fashion,
goes hand in hand with the languishing of nervous energies.” -Georg
Simmel, 1905

bsieb said...

I'll bet the collectors are drooling over these soon to be rare vintage designer versions.

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Michael said...

This sort of redonkulousness is just so typical in our society. It is prevalent in a few other areas. See, for example, Automobiles ("this year's BMW chassis is 60% stiffer than last years for increased torsional rigidity"). Stereos provide another example, particularly those with obscure speakers made by tiny companies that cost $4,000 a pair.


Everything made last year is total shit. Everything made before that can't even roll down the street how could it??? It wasn't designed in the latest version of AutoCAD!

Everything made this year is perfect. the pinnacle of human progress. Nothing could possibly be better....until next model year.

The basic design of the bicycle has NOT changed for over 100 years. The basic design of the derailleur has not changed for over 80. It strikes bike geeks as offensive, but when you talk about bike components, you're not talking about the most high-tech stuff in the world here. They aren't jet engines, microchips, or space shuttles. They are basic machines on two wheels that use CHAINS and CABLES!

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