Published Somedays

More expensive lightweight crap that doesn't last (a race report)

May 16, 2005 -- Yesterday I did an XC race. I don't really enjoy racing that much. I just like to ride my bike. But if racing means I get to ride, then I'd rather race than sit around the house coming up with stupid ideas for products no one would ever buy and I'll never get around to designing anyway.

So I decide to race my relatively lighter weight green hardtail, by no means a weight-weenie bike. However, it does contain a remaining smattering of weight-weenie parts, including the wheels, handlebar, brakes, and more importantly, the saddle.

So about, oh, 30 seconds into the race after I bounce around the trail and my chain comes off the first of two times, I am wishing I had just brought my Turner. Another 10 minutes into the first lap I hear a loud snap and quickly realize that my seat is no longer level. A rail snapped on the seat and now it is crooked and what was already a painful seat became even worse. But I decide to deal with it and keep going unless it falls off completely.

You can't put a price on having an already painful saddle jammed sideways up your crack for 15 miles.

Besides the seat breaking and the chain coming off, my back is killing me, preventing me from launching any sustained attack. Any time I try I have to ease off and stand upright for a few seconds due to the excrutiating pain that develops. Plus there aren't any longish climbs here so that's a big disadvantage for me because I'm pretty good on the climbs (well, maybe not anymore after living here). Anyway, I needed to beat the guy in my class in front of me but just couldn't muster anything. The heat and humidity didn't help either.

But I had to think about that stupid saddle the entire race and how gullible I was for paying all that money for it in the first place. At the time I got caught up in the whole lightweight must be better because it costs more train of thought. It's easy to get sucked in to bike industry marketing hype and bullcrap, especially if you read the magazines (with the notable exception of Dirt Rag). I've actually paid up to $0.88 per gram to get the lightest weight parts. It's a sickness which afflicts many people.

I've actually known folks who will go into a shop and weigh every tire, trying to find the lightest ones in the batch and driving the shop owners crazy. I'm sure they get even more satisfaction knowing that with each tire revolution they are shedding heavy rubber molecules which are just there to slow them down.

Speaking of published weights, manufacturers are well aware of manufacturing tolerances and variation in the production process that results in small differences in size and weight of the final product. So how come they continue to lie about what their products' weigh? Some of them are deliberately way off. Most of them do this because they can get away with it. Only the honest ones don't. Turner comes to mind.

Back to the saddle. This thing costs $120 retail. It lasted all of three years, not even, because I had it on a bike that wasn't my main ride because it felt like I was sitting on a piece of lava rock. Broken rails are not covered under warranty, and so I will have to pay the shipping and the cost of the repair so I think that's the end of this product. So that's $40 per year. Plus now I have to buy a new seat. I also love how it says, carbon fiber on the underside. News flash, it's just PLASTIC. Just a piece of plastic with more plastic stretched over it. Those Italian's are laughing all the way to the bank with this one.

Let's see, besides the saddle, what other lightweight bike industry crap did I mention I have on my bike. Oh yeah, the carbon fiber handlebar. It broke. The company did send me a replacement but first I had to listen to some snot nose giving me a lecture on not overtightening the stem bolts. Customers just love being talked down to by a company representative as long as they are an authority on torque values. He probably got a certification from some two-bit bike mechanic class, which ranks somewhere between wiping your ass and not choking to death on your drool in the grand scheme of things. What if every time I saw someone tallying money from different time periods I game them a lecture about present value like a smug, condescending a-hole. Yet I the other day I had to listen to some redneck tell me how grass needs to be cut.

Anyway, the next part I need to mention is the brakes. Besides nearly killing me, these things have never worked right for more than a year. Thank god they have a five year warranty because these things cost me a lot to shed those extra grams. People love it when the brakes just stop working when bombing downhill. It's nice to feel that extra adrenaline rush when you see your life flash before your eyes on an otherwise long boring downhill. I can literally say the lighter weight of these brakes made me faster.

Oh yeah, these folks say they are cross country brakes, so they should not be used for downhill. Okay, I was riding cross country, and I went back down the way I climbed up. What am I supposed to get off my bike and walk down? Last time I checked, you don't really use your brakes when climbing. So that leaves, what, downhill?

And lastly, we have the wheels. Actually the wheels have lasted longer than the other components, but now I think their days are numbered. On average I break a spoke a week, so much that I bought a truing stand and some spokes. If the spokes don't break the wheel still goes out of true. So if I want them to last I can't ride them anymore. But I got about four years out of them, and that's longer than any wheel I've owned.

The point is, people get caught up in the hype and buy into what I see as a growing trend toward less durable and more disposable products. I guess when you think about it...if shelling out an extra $400 gives a professional racer that tiny gram-saving edge that puts him over the top, then it's probably worth it (if it can be proven that the bike part actually gave him that edge. Maybe it was just in his head). But for the rest of us, it's really a waste in more ways than just hard earned cash. Think about the total cost - the impact to the environment in terms of manufacture and disposal.

It's not like I'm abusing anything. I'm not hucking off cliffs, jumping or riding stunts; I'm just riding trails. And I'm not a huge guy. I'm 190lbs. I think a lot of these bike parts were designed for people that weigh 150lbs or less. Once I bought a $400 Rock Shox suspension fork only to find that the stock spring was for riders up to 160lbs so I had to spend another $30 to get the proper spring for my weight. This is why I will never buy another Rock Shox product again. Well that and they make shitty products in the first place.

So I'll probably start reviewing more of the products I've bought, in an effort to save you from wasting your money on crap. I'll place this in a separate section, maybe in a table format.

-Sir Bikes-a-lot