Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Magazine Madness

It's no secret, I love bikes. I've got bike "crap" all over the house, and a big portion of that "crap" includes cycling publications. I can be just as happy reading the latest issue of Cyclocross Magazine or Dirt Rag, as I can be leafing through the pages of a Dan's Comp catalog. From Singletracks, to Adventure Cyclist, to my IMBA newsletter, I get plenty of magazines. I love 'em all, but it seems like the one magazine I love to hate is Bicycling.

I can't remember an issue where I didn't have a "WTF are they talking about?" moment.

Like the trashy women's magazines I see at the checkout line at the grocery store, that have the SAME cover lines every month (lose weight, better sex, what men really want, blah, blah, blah), Bicycling seems to do the same thing. Ride 100 miles in one day! Five tips to faster descents! Make your bike lighter now! Spend money on useless crap today! I suspect, most readers don't hang around for too long so Bicycling and rehash the same articles over and over again and every year it's a new audience.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I do NOT subscribe. It comes to me free, I *think* as part of my IMBA membership. And just like I wouldn't turn off a Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann interview, I read it solely to be annoyed.

Next, what's with all the bikes at or above $5K? Anyone who knows me KNOWS that I'm not afraid to spend money, but WTF? A five or six thousand dollar bike? In my humble opinion, that's absurd. MAYBE at the professional/elite level, but for everyone else, it's a waste. It's a waste of editorial space to have writers come up with new and exciting phrases to describe the esoteric way that the bike thrust forward with every pedal stroke and stuck the road like a lover's embrace. I feel dirty reading some of these reviews and I feel bad for people who think they need that bike. Spend a couple of thousand dollars, at most, maybe three, or Hell, even four IF you REALLY want to spoil yourself (and you can afford it), and you will NOT notice a difference between your bike and the one costing twice as much.

Case in point. The October 2011 issue has a "What Bike Should I Buy" segment where a 51 year old woman "caught the racing bug" and wants a carbon cyclocross frame "for a competitive advantage" this season. Her budget? $4000. Really? How about training for a competitive advantage? Can she mount/dismount at speed? Ride through sand? Through mud? WTF? Oh, and not to burst the bubble, but:

a.) every other Cat 4 racer is on a $4000 carbon bike anyway, so no competitive advantage, and
b.) In a recent CX race, I beat more than half the men's masters 35+ field on an Access (Performance house brand, i.e. "bargain") MOUNTAIN BIKE with platform pedals. I'm sure there was some newbie at the back of that pack, on a bike that costs more than my car, who can't go around a corner without falling. A carbon frame isn't going to be a "competitive advantage." And likewise, regardless of what I was riding, countless other racers could probably crush me on a tricycle.

Again, this is my opinion (well, it IS my blog), but it's insane to spend that amount of money for a racing bike unless you're up in Cat 1 or the elite level, and at that point, someone should be giving them to you.

Here are some examples from some issues that haven't been recycled yet:

The June 2011 issue features some mountain bikes in a segment called "Trail Kings." And those bikes are:
  • Cannondale Jekyll Ultimate: $8,000
  • Orange Five Pro: $1,870 (frame only)
  • Giant Trance X1: $3,850
  • Trek Remedy 9.8: $5,459
  • Yeti 575: $1,900 (frame, complete bike $2,900-$5,500)
  • Turner 5.Spot: $2,550 (frame, complete bike $4,600-$8,000)
  • Santa Cruz Heckler: $1,1815 (aha! while this seems like a reasonable price for a great bike, the magazine does note that Santa Cruz offers build kits "all the way up to $4,650 for an XTR equipped model.")
  • And, in addition to the bikes, there are two "Also Get" items worth noting, the Enve Composites Twenty9 XC rims ($2,500), and the Easton Haven Carbon wheels ($2,300), you know, to upgrade your Orange or Santa Cruz...
The November 2011 issue features the following bikes:
  • Wilier Triestina Zero.7: $11,999
  • Cannondale SuperSix Evo SRAM Red: $5,500
  • BH Ultralight 386: $8,599
  • Specialized S-Works Amira SL4: $8,000
  • Cervelo S5 Team: $3,800 (frame, $6,000 as tested)
  • Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp Carbon 29er: $4,100
  • Perhaps the editors felt a bit guilty about all of these over-priced bikes because there IS an "Affordable Upgrade" mentioned with a complete sentence on the Trek Madone 4.2(?). They couldn't be bothered to give this cheap bike any more print coverage though, and instead, you are given a URL, which takes you to the Trek Madone 4.7 ($3,049.99 according to Trek's Web site).
The December 2011 issue's main headline is "Dream Bikes," so you know it's going to make these previously reviewed cheap bikes seem like heavy, flexy, lumps that do NOT absorb road harshness, nor allow you to effortlessly crest steep climbs.
  • Ira Ryan: $2,550 (frame and fork)
  • Gaulzetti Corsa: $2,800 (frame, fork AND headset)
  • Bishop Custom Road Bike: $4,500 (frame and fork)
  • Seven Axiom SL: $4,040 (frame and fork)
  • Form Cycles Revel Stainless: $4,468 (frame and fork)
  • K. Bedford Customs Tenkara: $5,500 (frame and fork)
  • Also, in the same issue, there's a segment on commuter bikes. And while I suspect most people can certainly get by on any decent bike (durable components, fenders, etc), if you want (need) to spend $4,895 on a commuter, Bicycling will show you how.
  • Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4 Di2: $11,000
It's not only the pricey bikes that drive me nuts...

In that same issue with the newbie 'cross racer and the $4k budget, there's a "helpful" illustration letting you (and you know who you are), that you should NOT wear arm warmers with a sleeveless jersey, nor should you let them slip below the cuff of of the short sleeve. Really? If you're rocking arm  warmers and a tank top, your problems probably run pretty deep... OR, that's what you've got it and it's working for you. To be honest, the illustration makes me WANT to wear arm warmers with my sleeveless jersey, but not, of course, in a road "event" because, in those, you must have short sleeves at least.

In another recent article, which overall I enjoyed, Campagnolo's struggle remain a viable component provider was discussed. In the article, the writer frequently cites how Lance Armstrong won 7 Tours de France on Shimano gear and then two more were won on SRAM components, as if this is what determines what the best component group is. Seriously? Okay, if the readers of Bicycling are serious TdF contenders, maybe that would be relevant, but for everyone else, not so much. And because Lance won on all those tours on Trek bikes, does that also mean that Trek bikes are the best? Why isn't there another article asking why other frame manufacturers are even trying?

Every once in a while, I do find an enjoyable article. I thought the Urban Legend piece (June, 2011, by John Bryant) was great. I'd link to it, but if you go to the Bicycling site, and enter the title of the article (Urban Legend) into the search box, you get a link to urban and commuter clothing. I guess the story about an inner city cycling team wasn't schilling enough consumer goods.

Okay, I'm done ranting.  I've got to get to work so I can start saving for the my next bike... I'm hoping for a hand-made custom carbon singlespeed with Gates belt drive, customized SSDi2 and an entirely new BB standard. Shouldn't be too long...

1 comment:

KJC said...

"just like I wouldn't turn off a Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann interview, I read it solely to be annoyed"

I do stuff like that (listen to bad songs, watch stupid videos, etc.) that irritate the hell out of me strictly for entertainment purposes — it's irritainment!