Just add carbon

Building onto yesterday’s post about bike clothing and how it’s gone mainstream-ish and fashion-ish, I gotta say something about equipment.

Time was, a bike had brakes, cranks, pedals, wheels, derailleurs, shifters, five cogs, handlebars, wheels, tars, chain, and a saddle. Bar tape was crazy thin cellophane-like stuff that provided zero padding. Tars were sew-ups, period, frames were steel and wheels were aluminum. 32 spokes in front, 36 in back.

Two things have changed. One, there is now infinite variety in all those parts. Two, there are a whole bunch of parts that never used to exist, for example, valve extenders. There was no need to extend the valve because all the wheels were the same depth and all the valves the same length.

No aero anything.

No electronic anything.

No carbon anything.

And of course no crazy weight differentials between bikes. You want to save weight? Go with the SLX tubing. On your 23-lb. bike it will shave off a few grams.

Is “more” “better”?

Probably, but only if you know how to manage your acquisitions, and frankly, few cyclists do. Make that “few people.”

In the end, more bike things are only good if they result in more actual cycling. I have friends with road, ‘cross, gravel, TT, and MTB bikes, but it seems like they don’t ride any of them all that much. One friend who, as near as I can tell has only a single beat-up beach cruiser, seems to ride it all the time up and down the bike path in flip-flops and shorts. And of course the guy who has zero bike stuff, Shirtless Keith, rides about 18,000 miles a year.

There’s a moral there somewhere.



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11 thoughts on “Just add carbon”

  1. People ask me how much a bike costs. I tell them they cost as much as they want to spend. A lot of people want to spend $129 at Walmart or $50 off of Craigslist, but some people go for $10,000 at a bike boutique. Then, next year, when a new all-carbon wheel comes out that has pimples on it that reduce drag by 0.3 grams, they go for that, too.

    In order to balance my own desire to spend money on bikes and stuff, I set goals. If I ride a certain number of miles in one year, I treat myself to a new wheelset. If I put a whole bunch of miles on my bike, I start saving for a new one. Once I add some more miles, I actually go get one. Setting goals has helped me to match my expenditures with my level of commitment.

    Of course, it helps that by nature I am a frugal tightwad.

  2. SLX was and still is heavier than SL. X is for the stiffening ribs in the butts. How’s that for bike anatomy humor?

  3. Tired of just looking at my Peugeot hanging from my garage roof, I just fitted a new group set and I’m having a great time riding it around on it, amazing how smooth and fast 30 year old steel can be.

    1. Resto-mod is the way to go. 1984 Richard Sachs with 11-speed Campy is my favorite ride.

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