This past week the annual bicycle trade show, Interbike, was held again in Las Vegas. Sock scandals aside, Interbike serves to show all us bike folk what’s new and exciting in the world of cycling. Interbike is partly intended to get us thinking about what new stuff we’re going to spend our dollars on this next year. For some of us this is exciting and we can’t wait to see all the new technological advances and changes to the already amazing products we get to ride and use. For others it’s another round of nausea as we wait skeptically to see what worthless stuff The Industry has to push on us this year. So let’s just sit and spitball some of the pros and cons of new tech. That way we can all look at what’s new and try to make the best decisions about what to spend our money on.
So, what’s so good about new stuff? Well, new stuff and new tech is cool. That’s right I said it and we all need to accept it without being shamed. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something cool. Even if it’s just a difference in shape or color, riding and using stuff we think is fresh and cool helps reignite excitement for our sport and ultimately there’s not much wrong with that. What else? Speed. Yup, new tech can make you faster and constantly getting faster is primary intent for many cyclists. If however, you’re not among those always looking for the PR, new tech can make your current experience easier and more pleasant. Safety. New technologies can definitely make you safer. Whether it’s greater stability at speed or while braking or better materials that can withstand more abuse or even fabrics with greater visibility colors and patterns, a lot of new tech is designed to take our sport with its inherent dangers and make things just a little bit safer for all of us. Simplicity. A fundamental purpose for new technology is improve on products by simplifying them without losing any of their intended benefits. When done right new stuff will take what we love and works great and makes it a little easier to work with. The less time and effort we exert on using our stuff the more we have to simply enjoy riding.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But you know what? The stuff we have now and have been using a long time works just fine. Aren’t there a lot of problems with all this new stuff? Well, yes, there are some things to consider before just handing over the old Visa. Things like First Adopter Syndrome. The First Adopter is the person who immediately buys the new stuff as quickly as possible. As a result the First Adopter may become the actual testing ground that the product should have received prior. Be careful about buying the first versions of new stuff; you may be disappointed when the next year that same product is simpler, safer, cooler, and probably cheaper.
Maintenance costs. Be prepared for new stuff to have higher maintenance costs. Yeah all these new bike with super clean internal cable routings are very pretty, but when it takes mechanics longer to replace cables on them and that mechanic has every right to charge more as a result. Disc brake pads cost more than rubber inserts for calipers. When a disc road master cylinder leaks under the rubber hood, the hood is going to be damaged and get stretched out. Electronics will experience failure of some sort. In addition to the maintenance cost there will be the increased difficulty of finding qualified technicians to work on your stuff. As many shops move to a retail first, service last platform there are fewer and fewer qualified and experienced mechanics who can seamlessly service all of these different technologies.
Finally, limited benefits. Yes, much of this new stuff can make riding better, faster, smoother, more comfortable, more, more, more. Some of these benefits are so small the average rider will never perceive the difference. Be wise when you consider how much money 15% stiffer is worth to you or what 2.3863 watts actually means.
The bottom line is this. Yes, new stuff is great, but be a smart consumer. Don’t just listen to the company trying to sell you stuff. Don’t just read the bad experience of user error on an internet forum (k, a little biased perspective there I admit). Talk to friends, talk to experienced riders, talk to good bike mechanics and seasoned shop personnel. Then take the sum of all that opinion, make your decision, buy your stuff, ride like hell, and smile.
Jason Gardner is owner and lead whisperer at Jinji Cycles. Check in with Jason and the boys at their shop in the Lower Highlands of Denver. TE members get 10-15% off parts and labor and special bike deals throughout the year. Advice and a smile are always free.