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Why do we do it?

Why are we such suckers?

Why am I asking all these questions?

Let me explain. A few weeks ago we had a posting in the beginner’s section of the forum from a newbie to the site. In short, he wanted to know why we were always talking about the kit we bought and the kit we were going to buy, and why (as cyclists) we weren’t being ecologically sound and just using them ‘as is’ instead of continually upgrading them. The reaction this provoked took that poor poster quite by surprise, and I don’t remember having seen him around since!

Come on now, did you really need this?

Basically bikers are complete suckers for the new, the shiny and the completely un-necessary. It goes beyond all reason. I mean, you wouldn’t bother to change the steering wheel in your Ford Escort, would you? Yeah, I know, I know, it’s a car, and some people DO change their steering wheels (and a whole pile of other bits that don’t change the performance one iota) but that’s another story.

Let me give you an example. I was surfing at lunchtime yesterday and wandered into Brant’s web site, as one does from time to time. And lo and behold he’s having a clearout sale of all those accessories that either couldn’t or wouldn’t sell themselves for various reasons. Bars are HOW MUCH?? Grips for WHAT??? Hit that ‘add to basket’ button quick.

Before I know it I’ve ordered a couple of pairs of D/H bars (I don’t even DO D/H!) some grips, a couple of hats and some tubes. I was supposed to be saving for a digital camera (sshhh, don’t tell my beloved), so WHY DID I DO IT?

I reckon there are 4 types of upgrader, and all are kit junkies for one reason or another:

1) The ‘Badger’ type. Not the stripy carnivore, but the type that MUST have kit with the right name on it. They will buy a top-end bike, then change the SID race forks for Paces, the XTR crankset for Racefaces, the X517 on Hope XC wheelset for Spinergy’s or Mavic Crossmax’s . The upgrades are all about having a ‘marketing-perfect’ bike that will perform as well as it ever did through the continuous application of hard cash. Ironically this type is usually a good rider, but feels that they must have the ‘best’ for their machine. You can spot them in groups because their bike is usually worth more than your car, and is completely immaculate, having been stripped and re-built since the last ride (2 days before).

2) The ‘upgrader’. Not to be confused with the badger although similar in some ways, this character is determined to improve the performance of his machine, tailoring it to match the latest set of requirements. Compared with the example above, they might replace their SID forks, not with Paces, but with Marzocchis because of their plush ride and reliability. Tyres might be purchased specifically for, say, a single outing to the lake district. Those plain Aluminium bars will be replaced with Easton carbon fibre jobs ‘because they reduce trail buzz’ etc. This type is usually good, but not quite as strong a rider as the Badger, and that is what drives their need for upgrading. They feel that their machine (superb though it usually is) holds them back in some way, and if they get this or that bit right then they will keep on the pace more easily.

3) The “it’s too good an offer to miss” horder type. I fall squarely in this category, as my imulse purchasing illustrates. I run a couple of bikes, neither of which are ‘top end’ by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve got a shed full of ‘interesting’ bits of kit. This type sees a ‘bargain’ wheelset, frame, stem etc and cannot bear to let it pass, despite not actually needing it. The upside is that if they need parts in a hurry then they’ve usually got something in stock. A couple of weeks ago I built Boy Wonder (my son) an XC hardtail out of odds and ends in the shed. This type will usually turn up on low to mid-priced machinery (despite the fact that they spend almost as much on kit as their fellows) and will talk about how well they are going to cope with hills on a bike that weighs twice that of the Badgers’.

4) The ‘Breaker’. Always in search of the strongest possible kit, they will be looking for something to ‘huck’ down. Usually ‘substantially built’ individuals, new kit is not a luxury, as they are continuously bending/snapping stuff. Typical upgrades will include the biggest disc rotors that can be fitted (permitting endos using 1 finger, but apparently essential to stop them on downhills). They will also be on a search for the holy grail of the unbendable rim. This type can be recognised by having a bike that really does weigh twice as much as everyone else’s, frame with gussets a gogo, 3.0 inch tyres and triple clamp forks on a hardtail. They will usually be seen ‘catching air’ at every opportunity. If ever spotted pedalling home, they will be red and sweating profusely, due to the sheer effort of propelling man and machine.

Spot yourself? Don’t be shy, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you’ll feel much better if you share your problems. We’re all victims together you know. Maybe we should start a self help group – it could be called upgradeaholics anonymous.


Back to reality.

There is one bit of sweet irony in all this. Think about all the girls that you know who ride bikes. That’s right, both of them. Now, what kind of bikes do they ride. I bet that their bikes are pretty much standard, mid-priced, and with hardly an upgrade (apart from saddle) to be seen. Probably even have budget Manitou forks on still. Funny how those that we automatically assume to have 30 pairs of shoes at home and ‘nothing to wear’ hardly spend a bean modifying their bikes. It’s enough to make you wonder about role reversal!


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