Monday, July 06, 2009

Equipment - Gear Head?

I know of three kinds of computer users:

1. "I turn it on and look at the Internet. I dunno what kind of computer it is."
2. "I just want an inexpensive thing that works. I kind of know the specs, I don't care about the latest quad core CPU, I don't play the latest games or use the latest computer hog software (CAD/CAM etc)."
3. "Man, I would never use a computer with less than (name the latest CPU, but a couple of them, and server level with tons of L1 cache) and a gazillion GB of RAM. I have a umpteen megabyte video card that requires its own powersupply cable, my computer is liquid cooled, and I built it from scratch. When I turn it on the whole neighborhood dims. It rocks!"

I would only consider #3 a gear head. I think I'm like #2.

I am/was an IT guy for about 10 years. Worked on inexpensive arrays of cheap servers (max 32 GB RAM, quad core dual CPU). I built one PC and regretted it - too much figuring out. I buy remanufactured or open box PCs (typically HP), upgrade the video card by installing one, add some memory, and call it a day. Okay, yeah, I rebuilt things with Linux and stuff but not recently. I have to admit that Ubuntu has a spot in my "to do" list, but that's about it.

I simply don't care enough to do all that work. Burnt out. Was when I stopped. Still am.

Before that I was a bike guy for about 15 years. And I did everything, right down to swapping out derailleur pivot bolts (not recommended), replacing all of my brake hardware with SRP bolts (best justification: doesn't rust), rebuilding Ergo levers (key feature of Ergo levers), wheel building up the wazoo, and all the regular mechanic stuff. Okay, I didn't do brazing or frame building as I've yet to wield a torch.

I'm a recovering burnt out bike guy.

For a couple years I refused to do any work on my bike and didn't even change flats. I just changed the wheel if I cut a tire or a tube didn't hold air. With the number of wheels I had due to my wheel building inclinations, there were a lot of them. When I started to run out of wheels - it took a couple years - I finally changed a flat.

And kicked myself for using up some precious Vittoria CXs and CGs because I didn't want to spend less than 9 minutes (which was our time limit at the bike shop) to swap a $1 tube.

To top it off, I typically buy stuff like tubes in bulk, 10 or 20 at a time, so I had loads of them on hand. In fact, I just started using them up, 10 years later.

I know a lot of the bike gear out there. I'm behind the curve with mountain bike stuff, but road stuff, I've kept a surface amount of contact with shops and such, and so I have a brief understanding of a lot of what's out there.

It helps that there are virtually no new ideas - many of them are rehashed ideas first introduced a long, long time ago.

I understand what manufacturers claim. And although I have a nice bike now, I rarely owned cutting edge equipment once I was out of the biz. Okay, even during the biz, I owned the second tier stuff - the pay left something to be desired.

It took me a couple years after they hit the market to get 10 speed Ergo levers and the stuff you need to run 10 speed - a cassette, rear wheel, chain, and a rear derailleur (I promptly won my first field sprint in eons on that set-up).

I ran an Ultegra front for a long time - 7 years? - simply because that's what was sitting in my parts box when I put my bike together, and Ergo doesn't care what kind of front derailleur you use.

I like to think I buy smart, usable equipment.

To wit:

I don't own super light brakes but I own a light, stiff, and lower priced stem.

No carbon bars either, but I have a multitude of crit bend bars, bars which I need so I don't bruise my forearms too much in a sprint.

Many years ago, in the early 90s, I actually used, cracked, and ditched my carbon post before everyone came out with... carbon posts.

But at about the same time, I bought Zipp deep profile rims when they first came out. I have owned and raced aero wheels pretty consistently since the late 80s.

I didn't get STI levers when they hit the market in the late 80s, but I didn't need to - I ran a right-side bar-end lever, enabling me to shift while sprinting. That shifter was cheaper, lighter, and already dialed in. It took until 1992, when Campy hit with Ergo, that I finally stopped using that bar-end shifter.

Having said that I now have a Record SystemSix Cannondale, with an SRM Power System and Reynolds carbon wheels.

Hoity-toity, right?

Well, not really.

I swapped out the bar (to non-carbon), stem (fit), post (to non-carbon), and swapped out wheels (sold them to help pay for the bike). The frame was already a year out of date, the SRM about to be out of date (wired), the wheels I put on were first generation (heavier, different hubs), and only the Record brakes (unchanged for the last couple years) could be considered "current".

And my front race wheel is... a Zipp rim from the early 90s, built around a Campy hub from the late 80s.

Yes, I appreciate the latest technology. But I carefully balance functionality and price.

The part has to be reliable, usable in all conditions. It needs to be "field-serviceable", meaning that if you have a problem while on a ride, you can make it home. A Reynolds wheel may not seem "field-serviceable" and it isn't, but it is strong enough to ride home with a broken spoke or two. However, a snapped carbon bar is not field serviceable.

Broken frames and forks don't count - if that happened, I'd be worried about other things, like my head.

It also has to be fiscally responsible. $6000 for a frame? Um, sorry. $2000 for one wheel? Pass.

There's that saying, "You can have Fast, Cheap, Good. Just pick any two."

Meaning you can have it Cheap and Good, but not Fast.

That's me.

I don't have any cycling aspirations that are age-defined, i.e. turning pro by age 21. So I can wait, literally, a year or two to get a wheelset or a powermeter. And, with my advanced age (heh), I have the patience to wait that long.

A year in a 21 year old's life is 1/3 of their adult lifetime. For me, it's about 10 times less significant.

So I figure out what I want and then carefully keep an eye out for such a thing. I'll research, figure out the market price, and buy what I think is a fairly priced, good condition item.

So I don't know, am I a gear head?

(Original drafted March 23, 2008, updated at post date)


Rishabh Phukan said...

Not sure about the gearhead comment, but methinks you were bored during that post.

See you tomorrow. I'm going to start doing the A race from tomorrow on.

And by doing the A race, I mean falling otb. Yay!

Hida Yanra said...

No, I think you are not a 'gear head'
I'd put you in the camp of "educated user" because acquire certain gear in a targeted fashion... specifically in keeping with your needs & strengths.