Monday, May 11, 2009

S-Works. Or does it?

Every race I’ve attended this year has been marked by a single constant. No, I’m not talking about my ineptitude with basic road racing tactics. I’m referring to the presence in the parking lot of a late-model vehicle sporting Canyon Bicycles logos. At the road races, there’s often more than one vehicle, one of them being a huge team bus. Along with a team tent and other niceties.

I’ve known enough bike shop owners to know it’s a business you get into because you love it and not because you expect to make a fortune. So I’ve often wondered where Canyon gets the money to pour into their cycling team when, last I checked, sponsoring a cycling team wasn’t the best return on investment.

The answer came to me the other day as I was driving down the hill from my house. At the side of the road was a middle-aged guy with all the trappings of financial success: neat-looking hair, high-end helmet, cycling kit purchased somewhere besides Performance Bike. Oh, and a brand-new S-Works Tarmac. His bike had no flat tires or other mechanical problems. He was just leaning against the guard rail. Resting.

Now according to analytic cycling, if I were to trade my enthusiast-level, approximately 18 pound road bike for a Pro Tour model that weighs the UCI minimum 14.96 pounds—such as, for instance, that S-Works that was stopped on the side of the road—I could go about 22 seconds faster riding up the North side of Suncrest.

In other words, I could spend between $4,000 and $6,000 on bike upgrades and net 22 seconds. Or I could eat healthier and drop ten pounds and gain about a minute. Either way, nothing is at stake save bragging rights.

I don’t know about you, but If I’d dropped eight large on a bicycle and still couldn’t pedal it up a hill without stopping, I don’t think I could come up with much to brag about.

If you’ve ever been to Canyon Bicycles, the funding source for the team bus is obvious: they’ve got row after row of Cervelos right as you walk in the door. After that is the row of Tarmacs, followed by another row of Madones. They must have four or five orthodontists a week come in and buy one of those to justify that much inventory. I just wonder how many of them are being pedaled by someone who can actually do something with them.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford way more bike than I need, too.

P.S. I’m not opposed to buying high-end stuff if it offers a performance benefit consistent with the incremental cost. Which is why I’m hoping you’ll weigh in on my sunglasses dilemma. I’ve had a pair of Smiths for a few years and they’re starting to get scratched up. Do I replace them with something high-end such as Giro or Oakley, or do I save my pennies and get Ryders? I’ve been loyal to Smith for about ten years now—should I continue to be?

If you’re a loyal customer/employee/sponsored athlete from an eyewear company, why should I choose your product? Or [warning: gratuitous self-promotion ahead] better yet, anyone want to hook me up with product in exchange for reviews and maybe even a link from my blog (assuming I like it)?


  1. cough. sour. cough. grapes. cough.

    let them have their fun. what else are they gonna do with their money? give it to you?

  2. Dug,

    "Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford way more bike than I need, too."

    Yeah, you pretty much nailed it. I would have liked to have had those 22 seconds this morning.

  3. How about we start skipping two meals a day to drop several pounds quickly, allowing you to coast uphill AND afford better components?

  4. The margins on those high end bikes are not that great, i believe Canyon does sell a whole lotta low end bikes, which have large margins, that and tri geeks

  5. Stick with Smith glasses. I have had a pair of these for 3 years. I do not know how I have not lost them.

  6. OK, laugh at me if you will, but for the past 5+ years I’ve bought all my cycling eyewear at… Maverik. $7-12/pair, and I generally plan to get ~a year out of them before I scratch, sit on or run over them- which I always do. I usually have (at least) 2 pair at any time- 1 amber, 1 yellow (for overcast, dawn or dusk.)

    Exception is night-riding, when I wear my last/old pair of prescript glasses (I’m slightly near-sighted.)

  7. Watcher,

    For night rides, I wear safety glasses. You know, the kind you get at home depot. Except I got mine from my dentist. They put them on me during my teeth cleaning, and I thought "these would be perfect for night riding." So I gave them $7 and went home with a pair.

    Dug and I got a good laugh when he showed up at a night ride wearing the same glasses. Except he got his at Home Depot.