Shopping for Cyclists

You might recall a post I wrote back in august about the dangers (and enjoyment) that come with making an impulsive purchase. Cutting a long story short I wandered into a local bike shop and came out with a new machine and almost nothing left of my life savings.

The machine in question was a Scott Foil – sporting a full ultegra 6800 groupset, for a student such as myself that’s very high end componentry. I suspect the man in the shop spotted the look in my eye from the very moment I walked in, very kindly offering to take the bike off the shelf for me and explaining how I would not find a better price anywhere else. One week later, having collected the bike I was offered a substantial discount on a very expensive carbon handlebar – this was of course a completely necessary purchase as the standard bar was all of 2cm too large in width. It was of course also necessary to get some finishing kit; new bottle cages, valve caps, skewers etc.

Was it a sensible decision? No. Has this new bike really made a big difference to my race performance? Absolutely not. Has it been worth it? Totally. There are few experiences in life that yield as much satisfaction as that which comes from working hard and earning the money to buy something shiny – or simply aero. I tell myself that it’s healthy to indulge from time to time, after all you only live once.

Anyway, I was reminded of this episode last week having finally stopped procrastinating and started the Christmas Shopping. Finding a gift for my Father is always difficult, he is a fellow Cyclist and something of a magpie when it comes to equipment. This year I had the bright idea of visiting the Rapha outlet store in order to source a present – how fortunate that this happens to be local and promises massive discounts on kit.

Upon walking in I experienced a familiar sensation, very similar to that of August. Row upon row of high end kit, most of it on sale. Being a Student I don’t possess much in the way of this sort of gear, most of my Cycling apparel comes from the likes of Dhb – good value and doing the job perfectly well but just lacking that special something. To my credit – this time I was able to rein myself in to a certain extent, coming out only with one garment for myself and managing to find the aforementioned present.

Judging from experience – many fellow Cyclists often find themselves in similar situations. In general we are a group that is easily drawn in by expensive equipment, however ridiculous manufacturers claims sound, a desire to go fast and/or look good tends to prevail. Upon finding the perfect gift for a friend, one thought always pops up – “wouldn’t that be nice for me to own”. Cycle retailers are very good at capitalising on this, every day I am bombarded with emails promoting the latest sale or must-have piece of equipment.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of a simple truth. Cycling isn’t about expensive equipment – it’s about getting out on the open road (or trail depending on your preference) and enjoying yourself. It encompasses that all important suffering, finding your limits and learning how to push past them. For some it is a means to socialise, others use it to clear their heads and get difficult thoughts in order. It doesn’t matter if you ride a carbon dream machine or a 20 year old steel tourer, the sport can still be enjoyed and the many physical and mental benefits that it brings will be much the same. I’m not saying that it’s bad to have nice equipment – just that it isn’t the be and end all that manufacturers often make it out to be.

One of my new years resolutions is to spend less time worrying about having the latest kit, instead devoting my attention to improving myself. Studying Sports Science has begun to equip me with the knowledge to make myself faster through improving diet, position and training. Realistically some far greater gains can be made through these methods than simply emptying my wallet.

Think I’ll end on that. Merry Christmas