Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Fallacy of "State of the Art", Part One

Bicycles and stereos are similar in an interesting way.

The old story goes that if you have never ridden a bicycle in earnest but want to try, you should spend at least $750-1000 on your bike.  Your basic $500 bike isn't going to cut it.  Me?  I'm the exception that proves the rule -- I wanted to start biking for health reasons (back in my late 30s, maybe) so bought a 15 speed bike at a yard sale for $75 bucks.  And I had a hell of a lot of fun with it.  Rode it in the 5-Boro Bike Tour.  After I'd bought a new bike, I lent Big Blue to a friend when he came to town once and he rode it in the 5-Boro.

Anyway, it didn't take me more than several hundred miles on Big Blue to start thinking there must be something better.  So, one day when I was feeling flush I went down to my local high-end bike dealer and bought a Bianchi Veloce.  It probably cost $1500.  And the difference was stunning.  I loved that bike; prolly put 5000+ miles on it.  Then it was stolen and I replaced it with another Bianchi that cost just a bit more.  Maybe $1800.  Which I just rode two days ago.

Truth be told, Bianchi is not the brand one typically associates with serious biking.  Cannondale, Seven, Specialized, Merkx, Cervelo, Pinerello ... and a dozen more brands are perhaps more of the moment.   But I always had a soft spot in my heart for Fausto Coppi, one of the kings of the Tour.  And he rode a Bianchi.

I love this one ...

Fausto!  Where's your helmet?

Anyway, the point of the thing is that I could easily spend another five grand and get a better bike than my Bianchi.  Nicer running gear, to a degree (although I love my Campagnolo kit just the way it is).  Maximized ergonomics by way of a custom fit.  And certainly less weight, which is the biggest thing about bikes.

Weight.  I bet my $7,500 Cervelo will weigh eight pounds less than my Bianchi.  Maybe even ten.  And I reflect on that, then I stare down at my stomach and think, jeeze, I could easily get rid of eight pounds for a hell of a lot less money.  Hell, I could fly to one of those expensive ranches in Santa Fe or someplace and eat macrobiotic food, practice yoga, walk around the desert for two weeks, lose ten or twelve pounds and still be a couple of grand to the good.

So the real point of the thing is that money spent on bicycles in the search of the state-of-the-art experience quickly hits a point of diminishing return.  The Geoff Raymond theory of biking says that number is $2,500.  And anything beyond that, assuming you don't have a BMI of, like 19, is just jacking off.  Otherwise, lay off the Doritos and spend your money on disaster relief for the Philippines.

And so ends Part One of The Fallacy of "State of the Art".  Part Two will discuss how fabulous David Kenedy (one N) sounds playing a cello on my stereo.  And my idea for having him sit on stage at the Troy Music Hall, playing a recording of him playing the cello on my stereo, and videotaping that.

I'm not describing it well, perhaps because the idea hasn't yet fully gelled in my head.

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