Thursday, May 13, 2010

Critical Dogma: Assessing Your Worth

I was out riding with a friend at a group ride a couple of weeks ago, and we got to talking about new bikes. Now, for those of you who are not addicts, talking about buying a new bike is one of the staples of cycling conversation, usually being about topic number four in the standard litany:
  1. Been riding much?
  2. How'd you do in the flood? (This is mostly a Nashville thing, and a new entry in the list ... hopefully, it will soon go away.)
  3. What's your "big ride event" this year?
  4. When are you going to replace that piece of junk you're riding?
  5. How's the job?
  6. You have a family!?
And so on into other trivial things. Frankly, if the conversation gets to this point you probably need to go up front and push the pace. As Max Watzz would say, "Too much yammering, not enough hammering."

Anyway, my friend's bike is about five years old, which almost qualifies as "vintage" in many cycling circles. He makes good money and rides enough that he could easily justify buying a new bicycle. Perversely enough, he even knows what he wants.

He just doesn't think that he's worthy of it.

"I wish I could buy one of those," he said, motioning towards a club member's new Pinarello Dogma.

"Why don't you?"

"Awww, well ... you know," he said, grinning to himself. "People would laugh at me."

I gave him a look. "Why?"

"Well, it's just ... those are for racers," he answered. "I'm not fast enough for that."

Now, I'd like to say that my friend was just being nuts, but I understood where he was coming from. We've all seen the guy who is borderline morbidly obese, wearing the latest Radio Shack kit (size XXL), riding a top-of-the-line Scott racing frame with electronic Dura-Ace and Zipp 404 wheels built with a PowerTap hub. I don't think that I'm the only one who has had the fleeting thought:

He's not worthy.

And, at some level, maybe he's not. That's $10,000 worth of bike -- and probably not the best choice for this guy, based on comfort or dependability. He'd probably be a lot happier on one of the so-called "plush" bikes -- a little less responsive in the corners and in sprints, but a lot nicer on the posterior, back, and neck. Also, those wheels are not going to last very long under that much weight. And the PowerTap ... well, he can keep that, so long as he's working with somebody to analyze the numbers (and hopefully lose that weight).

Max Watzz would say, "Yeah, but you can't buy speed." Max is not entirely right in that regard, however. You can buy a lighter bike, and that will certainly get you over Roan Mountain quicker than that 27-pound hybrid you've been riding for the past 10 years.

I guess what I'm saying is that the XXL Radio Shack guy above can go ahead and buy whatever he wants, so long as he still pays his mortgage and feeds his family. I'm pretty sure that, if he went to my favorite bike shop, they would try to push him in the direction of something that he would enjoy riding that would last for at least a few years, but I'm also sure that, ultimately, if he had his heart set on that sub-UCI weight limit race bike, they would sell it to him. It's kind of what they're in the business to do.

So I kept trying to talk my friend into buying the Dogma, telling him all the stuff I'd read about it in Bicycling magazine. As I went on, I found that I was talking myself into one, too ... or at least a new racing bike. My Bianchi is almost five years old, and I wouldn't mind trying some light carbon fiber toy. And this got me to thinking:

Am I Dogma worthy?

Sadly, the answer is "No." Sure, the Bianchi could be 3-4 pounds lighter, but so could I. It's a good, stiff, comfortable, and fairly light frame, and everything on it is in great condition. But the bottom line right now is, it's all I need.

Maybe I'll be Dogma worthy come Christmas, though ...

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