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  The Way I See It: Gear Fads

Hello again,

Today I'm going to talk about fads in outdoor gear. I've been shopping for a new mountain bike recently. I want something that's going to be durable, yet not cost a LOT of money. I'm looking in the $400-$500 range. What I've noticed is that there are almost no bikes in any price range that don't have suspension. Here's the question...do you buy a $400 bike with suspension, or a $400 bike without suspension? According to the general buying public... a $400 bike with suspension is better than a $400 bike without suspension. Now.. here's my point of view...follow my reasoning here, it's not that complicated. You take a bike frame.. add components that make the bike worth $400. Now say you take the same frame, but this time add suspension. Now add components so that the bike is worth $400. Question: Which bike is going to have the best components? The one with the suspension? No! Of course not. If you add suspension, the rest of the components are going to have to be downgraded to make the bike end up in the same price range as the non-suspension bike. So.. do people seem to care that a $400 bike now is not nearly as high a quality a bike as a $400 bike two years ago? No.. people don't care. Why?? Maybe the solution to the problem is that everyone is just crazy...(actually, that solution works for a lot of problems) However.. maybe the solution is that people want suspension because it's "cool" and because it's the "in" fad. That's the answer here. People want suspension because it's cool. Bike makers make bikes with suspension because it's cool. Therefore they sell more bikes. After all, they're in the business to make money. I can't blame them for giving the people what they want. Who gets screwed over? People like me.. who want a decent bike at a decent price.

You may think that I don't like suspension. Honestly, I've never ridden a bike with suspension, but I don't hate it. I feel that there's a place for it. However, that place is on bikes ridden by people who race mountain bikes... Does the average Joe need suspension? I really don't think so. I can understand that some people may "want" to race bikes, and maybe can't afford a good bike with suspension. So maybe the bike manufacturers should make a few models of inexpensive bikes with suspension. But not EVERY DAMN model that they make needs suspension! This way there would be more selection of "cheap" bikes that would still be decent quality.

Ok, enough about bikes. How about some other fads in outdoor gear. Here's one. How about those new tents that come with the clear windows. Cool, no? Sure, I guess it's kind of a neat feature, but is it really necessary? Are you not less than an inch from the door at any time when in a tent? Is it that hard to open up the door and stick your head out? I don't really have any problem with these windows, except that they are heavy, and not really necessary. Don't we all pay big bucks to shave grams off of tents and such? Yes! People pay LOTS of money to shave a couple of grams off of a tent. But then the same people want a big thick plastic windows in the fly where a simple peice of nylon would be more than adequate (and possible more durable too, because there wouldn't be as many seams and such). Why do these people want the windows? Again...cause it's a fad. Millions of people lived without windows in their tents and never once complained! Yes I know that millions of people live without [insert just about whatever you want to bitch about here] and never complained either, and yes, I'm probably quite happy to use [whatever item you just inserted in the first part of this sentence]. That's not the point.. The point is that people want windows in their tents when there's no real need for it, and to me it just seems backwards to add more weight to a tent for no real functional gain.

Fine.. that's two examples you say. You want more fads? Hmm.. let me think! Ah! Lets look at clothing. Say I want to buy a new Gore-Tex jacket. Have you noticed that just about everyone in town has a jacket that costs like...$300+? I sure have noticed that. Then I see that I don't have a jacket like that.... hmm.. how does that make sense? Thousands of people wear a jacket like that, and never leave the city. I, on the other hand, don't have a jacket like that and do leave the city (although not as much as I'd like to.. but of course that's another story entirely). These people may have a very good reason to own these nice jackets, and of course I don't ask every one of them if their jacket ever leaves the city. Maybe they do.. but I doubt all that many people use them for what they were intended. Do the jacket manufacturers notice that everyone in town has a super-expensive Gore-Tex jacket? You bet they do! Do they like it? Of course they do.. they make more money that way. And of course the really good companies use that money to make something more efficient, or more durable, or more useful to people who use them for what they're intended for. Then there's the companies who think that they can just take the money and make poorer quality stuff cause most people will never use it for what it was intended for anyway. That's what makes me mad! And then there's the people who will buy one of these hyper-expensive jackets, wear it for like...one year...and then put it in a closet cause it's no longer "in style" Bah! At least if you're going to do that you could sell it to me (of course giving it to me is even better.) Not to say that there's anything wrong with being "in style" or anything...but...come on people!

Darren Cope
May 14, 2001
  This page was last updated on June 17, 2003 at 02:11 AM