Friday, February 27, 2009

"Has Everyone Lost the Passion"

from Retrobike...Some of my soap-boxing. I should be careful that I don't turn my nice polite euro message board into something mean and borderline worthless like Discoweb.

Basically the discussion revolves around how the industry made it from this lovely beastie...

To This complete cookie cutter abomination...

My rants as follows...

***A good many characteristics on modern bikes have nothing to do with trails and everything to do with profits. Hydroformed Tubes on $3500 Stumpjumpers welded in China, anyone? The proliferation of Asian carbon fiber and titanium? The new Ibis? These decisions weren't all made to improved the experience of riding a bicycle... these decisions were made to make people some serious cash. If you think you need that Rocky Mountain so you can ride your locals trails and have fun, then you are lost. (granted, if you lived in Whistler BC, maybe... but for the rest of us? I'll take a Blizzard in 853 steel, thanks.)

***New shop floor available bicycle designs are made to inspire excitement in people that have little to no understanding of bicycles. I'm not saying that the new Taiwan ROC Specialized FSR is a POS, because its not. I am saying though, that aesthetics mean too much today, and computer managed Asian manufacturing is generating bicycle shapes that in my opinion have little to do with their function. Some of the best small builder suspension designs available today, say Ventana's for example, don't have hydroformed 'S' bent tubes...why do Treks?

***I just think that the message of cycling is lost for me, in modern designs. Do I need a 5" travel bike to take big drops and stuff? Nope. My 1994 EWR has been doing that for years. Am I slower than I'd be were I to have 5" travel? Sure. Do I need to pay particular attention to my line, and bike placement, and balance, and momentum when on my EWR? Sure! That's called riding. If I wanted a bike that could ride the trail on its own, It would be KTM orange. (props Matt! I only know about KTM orange from you!)

***I rode with a guy back in college that had a ProFlex 856 at a time when the rest of us were using Klein Rascals and Pinnacles, S-Works M2s, Zaskars and various steel Konas and Breezers. The dude was a little older than us, as we were students then, and I was amazed at how closely he could follow our group through the gooey and sloppy technical trails of Florida. Then I rode behind him and it was revealed to me how he did it...the man never coasted, never stood up, never went around obstacles, never picked a line, never did anything but steer through the trees and pedal. To me, that just seems like cheating. Again...if you're going to remove that much rider involvement, then go KTM orange.

***I'm sure the new Ibis Mojo Carbon rides great, but I'd stop short of calling it an Ibis. I don't mean that as harsh as it may sound, but if Chris Chance came out of the massage business and started selling imported carbon frames sporting names like Wicked and Monster under the Fat Chance banner, then I'd say the same thing. Here in the states, it looks like we may lose Chrysler as an auto manufacturer. Three years from now, if the Dodge Charger name comes back on a line of rebadged front wheel drive Kia sedans, well then I'll be there to call foul on that one too, no matter how fast the thing is on the highway.

***I am not a dedicated retro grouch. I have a modern bike. None of that which is posted above makes hydroformed tubes necessary. Or black spokes necessary. Or overly wrought, overly styled bikes with 'features' that add little to nothing to the ride quality of the bikes necessary. Or huge prices for mass produced models made overseas by exploited labor necessary. I'm not crapping on the idea of the 5" travel bike (although I steadfastly believe that all riders should learn and continue to hone their skills on a rigid bike.) I'm crapping on the idea that the standard for mountain bikes today is 5" travel, Asian made, cookie cutter style, and still sky-high asking prices.

***Even the Wal Mart bikes are interrupted seat tube full suspension bikes with double crown forks! Who in the market for a cheap-o bike needs that crap? Marketing!

***What I am saying, is that the modern bikes are more about style than they are substance. I am not saying that suspension is about style and not substance (although I am a hard-tail guy.) These marketing justification blurbs being brandied about by manufacturers and magazines touting hydroformed tubes are just a way to distract you from noticing that your $3500 bike is made in Taiwan, and that it looks alot like the Giants and Treks down the street.

***1999 Stumpjumper Comp (Hardtail)...MSRP $1199US. 2008 Stumpjumper FSR Comp...MSRP $2559US (FS) Both very reasonable...BUT...! Adjust that 99 Stump to 2008 prices (using one of the myriad of inflation adjusters available on the web elsewhere) and you get $1479 That's an $1100 difference, between a hard tail and a full suspension bike with reasonably close quality parts in their builds. 1100 seems to me to be a fair adjustment to go from hardtail to full suspension, and all other things being equal, I'd be all over the 2008 as a great bike...BUT! All things aren't equal. The 2008 is made in Asia by machines and operators who make peanuts for a living! That 1999 Stump has a "Made in the USA" sticker on it, and that means that the guy who put the pipes together made at least $5US an hour. The guys that make the 2008 make that in a day if they're lucky. So my point (and I do actually have one, I swear! ) Is first...where did the money that Specialized saved in moving manufacturing overseas go? That savings wasn't passed on to us.

***And Finally, I think the sexiness of overly styled expensive looking modern bikes exists to keep you distracted so you don't ask the question, "hey...why isn't this beauty cheaper if its made in Taiwan?" I guess maybe this isn't something that all buyers look for, but I don't want stuff made in a place where people don't make a fair wage, especially if the price isn't adjusted accordingly. If one year Pace made a full suspension bike in the UK, slathered it with Union Jacks, and touted it as the best in Britain, and then 3 years later sold a spec-comparable bike, imported from China (undoubtedly still slathered with Union Jacks!), and didn't adjust the price accordingly, wouldn't my points still apply? When Specialized shipped their manufacturing overseas, I was crushed. I'll never own a modern Specialized again.

***Technology and modern style aren't inherently a bad thing, but I think a good amount of 'improvements' in the industry to day are there to keep you from asking why Trek (who used to make just about EVERYTHING in Waterloo Wisconsin) doesn't make that $2500 bike in the US anymore. Same thing with Ritchey Components. Old Tom can slap red, white, and blue packaging all over Sugino cranks and Hsin Lung stems, but I don't want them for the same cost as a product made here in the states. Even Ned, back in the day, saved "his money" buy using the cheaper 'Zoom' labeled Hsin Lung crap. (I know he was sponsored by Zoom...hence the quote.)

This post is cobbled from about two days worth of my banter on a message board, so the logic may be a little disjointed, but you get the idea...I'll get off my soap box now.


Steve said...

Style before substance, right? A common problem in many, if not most, industries.

Started my blog again, BTW.

Utahdog! said...

WWWHHHEEEE! Same Place? Same Name?