You only live once. That thought that comes into your head when faced with that decision between buying the sensible budget choice, leaving plenty of change in your pocket, or just going mad and scooping up the ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ do-it-all product that everyone wants, but no one really needs, overpriced and overrated. Jim speaks out from the heart about his obsession through the years about all things desirable in the MTB world.
I creep in through the door at home like a ninja, desperately avoiding the wife, another very expensive ‘must-have’ bike part hidden behind my back in the local bike shop’s bag. I have to run the gauntlet down to the shed before she catches me and goes absolutely ape-shit about me spending the family’s money on what she calls ‘totally unnecessary bike shit’; she’ll never understand!
It’s anodized gold, it’s shiny, it moves electronically instead of mechanically, and it’s made of exotic materials like carbon fiber or titanium. We all know the brands, heavily into marketing voodoo and producing bikes and components with all the colours of the rainbow and more! They all have something in common; they have the bling appeal, and personally I am guiltier than most for falling for this trap. Like an addict, I yearn for high-end bikes and products with ridiculous price tags to match their beauty. I know I can buy similar products for a fraction of the price, so why exactly do I want these trick bits in my life, and are they really a necessity?
When it comes to things such as wheels, the price differences become ridiculous… those high-end carbon rims, laced with flat blade spokes to the lightest of hubs with a certain whir from the freehub only a god could have created. Compared to the wheels from budget online stores knocking out cheap but very usable base brands ‘ten a penny,’ those high-end prices are eye-watering. Obviously there are differences such as weight, strength, and performance, but all parts can break, and replacing budget components is not much of an issue – plus it doesn’t really cause stress and require a re-mortgage! Budget wheels still go round, still keep a tyre on the rim, and enable us to go out riding and fulfill our riding needs; for most this is fine. But for the ‘tackle tarts’ like myself there is a certain yearning for the higher-end trick bits, a want that won’t go away… unexplainable but always present.
So what makes these exclusive parts so desirable, other than their price and quality? I know for one, I have been a sucker for the pull of the trickest of bits for as long as I have been biking. Going back to the nineties, I remember having to have V-brakes upon their immediate first release in the UK, and the same for wavy (riser) bars, then the disc brakes that followed. I couldn’t afford these items, but just had to have them, making ridiculous sacrifices like buying less food, avoiding car servicing, and maybe even dumping girlfriends just before their birthdays! For me these parts are not just performance products, it’s the desirability I fall for – they are a conversation point with friends and other riders. I have to admit I am a bit of a show-off at heart, and enjoy telling other riders of a product’s light weight, special material, smooth shifting, or its lower centrifugal mass… blah blah blah! But above all, it’s the feel-good factor. If it makes you happy, then maybe it was worth the extra cost – after all, what price is happiness?
I look now at my collection of fantastic bikes and incredible products, and think back to how I have always scrimped and scraped to make ends meet, whilst buying all these luxuries in my earlier riding years. I mean I really was a bit of a dick with it all at one point, where the best products and bike was an absolute obsession, fueled by the media adverts and racers sporting the ultimate must-have products. I read all the magazines back then, and believed all the adverts. They were telling me carbon was stronger, lighter was better, and I believed the constant marketing bullshit present to this day about weights, angles, and numbers; I fell for the lot like a dog for a bone. But was it all worth it? The endless grief from the missus, the red bills, the credit card letters, and even occasionally feeling hungry? Hell yeah it was – I’m a mountain biker through and through, I will always be the same, and it’s been a hell of a ride!
You may be the same as me, or you may be a budget-conscious rider. Damn, a lot of times I wished I was the latter – but it really doesn’t matter whether you have a 10K dream bike or a €500 bargain rig. The main thing is that you ride, you ride as much as you can, you enjoy every ride, and remember you only live once! #YOLO!
Words: Jim Buchanan Pictures: Trev Worsey, unknown
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