Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Most of the time when I think about inflation, it's in terms of CPI, CPI-U, or other such statistic. You can argue about whether these capture the typical consumer's expense, or whether the government has an incentive to cheat on these things.

Nevertheless, I'm not your typical consumer --- while I'm a cheap-skate in most things, I do tend to have a policy of buying the best when it comes to outdoor gear. Most of that is because I'm enough of a wuss that even mild discomfort is disturbing to me, and some of it is because very few people try to ride bicycles across countries.

In 2005, while preparing for the Coast to Coast, I decided that my boots were what made hiking difficult --- I chafed, blistered, and was always in agony at the end of a hike. So I found Charles Van Gorkom and asked for a pair of custom hiking boots for what was (to me anyway) an incredible price of $700 (with a 5 month wait). Van Gorkom was a pleasure to deal with, and when there was an issue with my boots he immediately took them back, repaired them, and got them back to me with rapidity (he apologized profusely for what should be an uncommon failure).

Well, right in the middle of my long walk, Van Gorkom was named in various magazines for being the custom boot-maker, and now he charges $1600 for a pair for a 23 month wait. And get this, to get the same 5 month wait, you'd have to pay a rush fee, bringing the cost of a pair of boots up to $3000! (Incidentally, what my walk taught me is that even the most comfortable pair of boots I ever bought are still just boots, and aren't as good as running shoes)

Similarly, I bought my custom frame from Carl Strong earlier this year, and now he's raising prices as well, though not by 200%. My first thought was, "Darn, if only I could pick stocks the way I pick custom builders for boots and bikes!"

Unfortunately, I can't, so I'm mostly a passive investor. But if you want to know what my current picks are for boots and custom frames, I'd pick Esatto (Review) for boots,and Bill Davidson for frames. That's the nice thing about a market economy --- there are always alternatives for those who aren't name-conscious.

But there you go, if you want exactly what I bought a few years ago, your inflation rate can be as high as 30% a year!
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