Monday, October 12, 2009

Upgrades should always have a positive connotation

The sad secret of the cycling cottage industry is that they don't cater to the avid cyclist, i.e., the person who rides about 5000 miles a year or more. They cater to the frequent upgrader --- the guy who buys a new bike every 2-3 years, upgrading to the latest and greatest whenever he can.

Our tandem has about 15,000 miles on it. During that time, we've worn out chains, tires, chainrings, and cassettes, all in relatively short order. One incident recently had me by the side of the road piercing together a 9-speed chain that had been fatigued by riding a worn out cassette aggressively and then shifted under load. Not having a replacement 11-34 9-speed cassette handy, I replaced it with a 12-27 from one of the singles, and went on-line to look for cassettes.

The cost of 9-speed chains and 9-speed cassettes had gone up quite a bit since the last time I bought replacements, and thinking about the situation, I can't think of a time when that 9-speed cassette really bought us anything. The result, I ordered a bunch of 8-speed cassettes at $20 each, and yesterday, upgraded my 9-speed tandem to 8-speed. I won't bother upgrading the 9-speed chain yet, but when it finally goes, it too, will be replaced with an 8-speed chain.

From the "industry"'s point of view, I'm downgrading my bike, but in terms of cost, expected life time, robustness, and everything else that I care about, it's an upgrade. Yes, there are many who can't wait for the latest 10-speed systems with electronic shifting and what not, but for me anyway, the satisfaction of being able to have a running bike that I don't spend a lot of time working on is a big plus.
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