Monday, April 18, 2011

New Ways to Spend Old Money

A fool and his money are famously but nodding acquaintances. Particularly risky is the fool with disposable income who reads Bicycling magazine. Someone else is certain to dispossess him well before the Cat 4 season has ended and cyclocross has begun.

Bicycling is the premier shill of the industry, an indispensible driver in a relentless marketing effort. From bikes to clothing to aftermarket upgrades, Bicycling's fundamental premise is that everyone who rides a bicycle either races or wants to race, wants to go faster and will pay any amount of money to be able to do it. None of this is to fault the magazine for reporting on trends in the business or for collecting large advertising revenues or for taking a narrow, if profitable view, of a sport which was first a reasonable and civilized mode of transportation.  Still, its advertising and its articles commonly trade on that haunting feeling of inadequacy in the inadequate. It reminds them that, in the world of cycling, a primal fault separates the feckless nerd . . . 

Feckless Nerd

. . . from the True Cyclists. (As it happens, the feckless nerd in this photo is a feckless Rivendell nerd, so he's already spent at least as much on his fecklessness and nerdiness as the True Cyclist spends on Truth in Cycling.) The two worlds are as irreparably sundered as are the rich and the poor, the proud and the humble, the saint and the sinner, the halt and the strong, the sleek and the rumpled, the Republicans and Everyone Else. Follow the dictates of Bicycling as you would the counsels of your physician or lawyer, and Everyman can be a Cipollini. Nowadays I never go out on a bicycle unless I'm appropriately attired, as in the photograph below, and only to ride a time trial from my personal starting ramp.

Lookin' good, Mario 

Off the bike, of course, one should opt for a looser, more casual look - strive for the panache that comes of proper breeding and cannot merely be picked up at the newsstand. For my part, I like a pair of well-washed jeans, a nightshirt, and some stylish little poultice for my bad knee.

The smart consumer knows how to look every bit the professional cyclist by shopping for bargains - something you needn't admit to, but it's no crime to stretch the purse where one can. For 2011, Bicycling informs us, Sidi, the Italian shoe manufacturer with factories in China, has lowered its 2010 prices by 11 percent - the limited edition "Ergo 2" has dropped from $500 to $450 this year -  and money well spent. They'll look elegant beneath those Assos bib tights you've always wanted. (Assos is a Swiss manufacturer of cycling apparel whose corporate slogan is "Sponsor Yourself," as in "sponser yourself, sucker." At prices from $330-$440 American for bib tights, who else is going to pay for you to dress like Mario?)

The magazine's advertisements are as informative as the product reviews. For example, the Cosmic Carbone 80, a wheelset (hint: never say "wheels" when you can say "wheelset," "frame" when you can say "frameset," "brakes" when "brakeset" sounds better) - a wheelset, as I was saying, that's the "first wheel and tire specifically designed to work together as a system . . . and opens a bold new chapter in wheel-tire development."  This would explain why I've never been able to keep my tires on my wheels for even the length of time it takes to go from Paris to Roubaix - nor have any of my friends nor anyone I've ever known been able to, but then who knew that we needed to "control the variables between wheel-tire interface," for crying out loud? Nor, for my part, can I see how to "open a bold new chapter" and keep my eyes on the road at the same time, but the prospect is certainly a heady one. Cost of the Cosmic Carbone 80 "wheel-tire system": $1094.50.  

Of course you could wait and get the Mad Fiber wheelset for $2,600, gaining the satisfaction of knowing that they were made in Seattle, which is the next best thing to being made in Portland. Further, this "wheelset" or "wheel-tire system," the ad claims, "can save 14 seconds on a 40K time trial over its closest competitor." Much of the marketing of framesets and wheelsets strongly suggests that you needn't really bother much with pedaling the damn contraption - it just goes by itself, like predestination through a Pentecostal church camp, and you'll have all you can do to stop it. 

Which is where brakesets come in. A "brakeset" can stop you before you even buy it. The 'eebrake' (marca registrada) will set you back, if not stop you, by $569. They do however possess the recondite ugliness that attests to your seriousness as a cyclist: The name 'eebrake' seems an unfortunate one for a brakeset though, since "ee!" seems the last thing you'd want anyone to be saying as you apply them.


And you'll need some cables to go with those brakes - Bicycling's gear gurus suggest the Gore Ride-On Professional System sealed cables at $65, which seems a bargain if you consider that, being sealed, you'll never have spiders in your brake cables. 

No comments:

Post a Comment