May 10, 2016

"In the end, however, your answer is the only one that will count."

"And the next time you are about to ask someone else, 'Is it worth it?' don’t."

ADDED: I couldn't understand how the author could say that a bike he bought last year had lasted "far more than twice as long" as "some comparable models." How short a life span do those other bikes have — like 3 months?

It's very easy to imagine that you're doing — as he puts it — "a little mental math" as you look at something expensive and decide it will last a long time and provide more enjoyment. You can spend a lot of money after you liberate yourself to think in those terms.

OH: The mystery of the long-lasting-1-year-old bike is solved if — and only if — you click through to his earlier article, which begins "Eleven years ago, I needed a new bike...." The article I read just says "Last year, I wrote about a $5,000 road bike that I bought." There's something about those 2 verbs in sequence — I wrote... I bought — that makes it look like the same time period. The reader shouldn't have to generate questions and research them to get through the reasoning of the essay at hand.

The older article contains the assertion "It replaces five other bikes." I still wonder what's wrong with those other bikes that they only last 2 years, but it seems he's comparing his bike to the "plastic bikes (carbon fiber)" used by the "guys I ride with." So the other guys have unusually transitory bikes, which is what makes them comparable, presumably. Not those aluminum bikes ordinary people buy. Actually, it's not that the other guys' "plastic" bikes are wearing out. It's just that they're the kind of guys who spring for a new model of bike every 2 years.

So it's the psychology of the mind that doesn't buy the $5,000 bike that causes the "comparable" bike not last: "[W]hen you buy cheap stuff, you get bored with it. I do not get bored with this bike, and that is why it is saving me money."

Do you get bored with cheap stuff? The newer article refutes that assertion, since it goes on to talk about a $9 ice cream scoop that works really well and that gives pleasure in part because of it was so cheap: "what makes it memorable to me is that it feels like a steal."

58 comments:

Ignorance is Bliss said...

In case anyone is wondering, no, reading that article is not worth it.

traditionalguy said...

When a $5,000 mountain bike is the example of having a really good experience, you know the price of oil is going up fast again.

rhhardin said...

He leaves out opportunity cost. If you spend it on this then you can't spend it on that. That may be worth more to you.

Can't Afford

Phil 3:14 said...

Where's the cost/utility curve?

rhhardin said...

Bicycle life depends on the components, all of which wear but can be replaced.

You replace a cheap bike when too many of the components need repair at once, and it's cheaper to buy a whole bike than the components individually.

rhhardin said...

The most I've paid for a bike is $150, and I have over 300,000 miles on bicycles now. I've been through maybe a half dozen bikes. You get pretty consistently about 50,000 miles on a bike before reaching the too-many-components stage.

Phil 3:14 said...

If you're going to ask the "is it worth it?" question, at least up the ante a bit.

rhhardin said...

One big failing component is the rear axle. Freewheels give you axle failure because half the load is put on the center of the axle. They've been replaced mostly by casettes, which look the same externally but put the load on the ends of the axle instead. Which you have depends on the design of the hub itself.

Chainwheel teeth wear down until the chain skips under start-up pressure, and freewheel teeth hook on favorite gears and cause single-tooth skips under moderate pressure.

Gear cables break from flexing.

Brake cables rarely break if you don't use the brakes much, which is characteristic of the distance rider. Otherwise they break from flexing.

Brake pads of various kinds need similar replacement.

Individually these parts can cost a bundle because you're paying for inventory costs; all at once on a cheap bike they're worth it, if you need them all.

rhhardin said...

If you replace the chain you have to replace the freewheel or casette at the same time. It's better to let the chain "stretch" until it causes a serious problem on the chainwheel, because of this hassle.

rhhardin said...

One curious physics fact is that the driving gear (chainwheel) wears much differently from the driven gear (freewheel). The former wears down flat and the latter gets hooked teeth.

Leslie Graves said...

As I understand his article, and the old piece he wrote to which he links, he purchased the $5,000 bike eleven years ago, and wrote about it last year.

Meade said...

Along with opportunity costs, often overlooked are the costs of storage, maintenance, and disposal.

Larvell said...

He didn't buy the bike last year. He wrote an article last year about a bike he bought 11 years earlier.

knk6146 said...

"If you replace the chain you have to replace the freewheel or casette at the same time. It's better to let the chain "stretch" until it causes a serious problem on the chainwheel, because of this hassle."

There are only two sentences in that statement, and I disagree with both. Unless you have let the chain wear to the point where it has damaged the sprockets, you most certainly do not have to replace the sprockets when you replace the chain. Chains wear faster if you ignore simple maintenance. I clean and lubricate the chains on my bikes every 250 miles. I expect to get 2000-3000 miles out of them before they wear to the point where 12 links are 12 1/16" long, at which point I replace the chain. With proper chain care, I expect to get more than 2000-3000 miles out of cassette (which typically cost much more than chains).

David Begley said...

Meade: Also overlooked is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by bike riders. Bikes cause global warming.

Meade said...

I paid $3.49 for 10 grams of "premier blend" Kale seed and I don't even like kale. Was it worth it? Sure. My wife enjoys kale and I enjoy watching her enjoy it. What if 10 grams of seed cost $349.00? I'd grow potatoes.

Owen said...

Spending $5K on a bike means you can enjoy worrying about it getting trashed or stolen. I think his analysis is just a little smug and simplistic, but then I remember it appeared in the New York Times.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...It's very easy to imagine that you're doing — as he puts it — "a little mental math" as you look at something expensive and decide it will last a long time and provide more enjoyment. You can spend a lot of money after you liberate yourself to think in those terms.

Imagine how much other people's money you liberate yourself to spend when your mental math tells you the spending is for "the good of the children" or some such claptrap! We're making an investment in the future (to prevent climate change, say, or pull people out of poverty, or educate the ignorant, etc) so of course we take the long term view....what isn't "worth it" when you calculate thusly?
Read our (national) balance sheet and weep.

Meade said...

David Begley: and don't forget all the fuel costs -- power bars, gatorade, etc. And again, waste disposal costs -- toilet paper, sewage fees, etc.

JCC said...

Well, you can buy something more expensive because it's more reliable. Depending upon what that purpose is, it could be critical. So, spend more on a firearm to get that reliability. Forget the Taurus and buy the Colt or the Glock. But then there is a level of craftsmanship which elevates something to a level approaching art, so if you have the desire or the wherewithal, buy that Italian over-and-under that you just use for birds or clay pigeons - reliability isn't an issue - but it is beautiful, hand-made, a wall-hanger that can be used.

Or a hand-crafted knife. Or a $5,000 bicycle. A well-made book. Everyone must have - should have anyway - at least one thing they just want because it's a labor of excellent design and someone's skill of assembly.

Hopefully, your want and your income coincide. Where they do not, you will find the felon population.

EDH said...

Under drudge link "Gwyneth Paltrow selling $15,000 gold dildo"

Sadly, Paltrow never does give us a lube recipe, but she does offer a guide to some pretty amazing sex toys, including some fancy ben wa balls (can be used warmed or cooled!) and a 24 carat gold dildo (for only $15,000!). This isn't the first time Paltrow has given some serious thought to our vaginas; there was that time she recommended that we try vaginal steaming.

CWJ said...

Althouse,

He didn't buy the bike a year ago, he wrote about the bike a year ago. It was 11 years old when be wrote about it.

CWJ said...

I see Leslie noticed that as well.

rhhardin said...

There are only two sentences in that statement, and I disagree with both. Unless you have let the chain wear to the point where it has damaged the sprockets, you most certainly do not have to replace the sprockets when you replace the chain. Chains wear faster if you ignore simple maintenance. I clean and lubricate the chains on my bikes every 250 miles. I expect to get 2000-3000 miles out of them before they wear to the point where 12 links are 12 1/16" long, at which point I replace the chain. With proper chain care, I expect to get more than 2000-3000 miles out of cassette (which typically cost much more than chains).

Finally a serious discussion in comments.

The problem is that chains, worn or not, hook the freewheel teeth. This means that the tip of the teeth sticks out relative to the load bearing part, and a stretched chain can make it work with its additional clearence for this small hooking. A new chain does not have this tiny slack, catches on the tip and skips a tooth under load.

So an old freewheel/casette and a new chain won't work.

Chain care pays no dividends at all. Just WD40 it if it gets wet, or 3-and-1 oil it if it's dry.

The chain wear is from flexing under load enlarging the holes. A certain amount of wear makes the freewheel last longer owing to the slow increase in clearance for hooked teeth. It does wear the chainwheel faster, but there are cheap chainwheels, cheaper than freewheels.

When it's worn enough to start taking up energy, then maybe replace the whole drive chain. You'll notice it goes faster for maybe an hour and then it's back in the background of consciousness.

rhhardin said...

Your freewheel will last longer if you let the chain stretch instead of replacing it.

Bob Boyd said...

What would it cost to replace a bike that cost $5k eleven years ago? $8k? $10k?

I get the impression this guy is now married with a kid and he wants a new bike as good as or a little better than his old one.
Or maybe he already bought one without asking and...well, you know.

rhhardin said...

I bought a new car instead of a used one when my '88 Colt died (after 4 years of not having a running car - needed to take the dog to the vet in bad weather) because a new car will work but you never know about a used car.

But it was a really cheap new car. It's just over 2 years old now and I have 500 miles on it. It's on its second tank of gas.

Still a bike rider mostly.

Paul Zrimsek said...

There's something about those 2 verbs in sequence — I wrote... I bought — that makes it look like the same time period.

Yep. The normal way to talk about an event in the past from a vantage point not as far in the past is to use the pluperfect. "I had bought" would have made everything clear.

rhhardin said...

I wrote a how-to chain care netnews post years ago, involving gasoline soaking and reoiling, ending with throwing the gasoline away by the back fence. Eco-friendly was big back then.

JAORE said...

Hoodlum Doodlum.... brilliant.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Cost benefit analysis. Like he thinks he invented the concept.

Years ago...like over 30, when I was pregnant, sitting at work thinking about the upcoming event and all the stuff that I would need to go with it, I thought about diapers.

How much does a package of disposable diapers cost? How many a day will I be using? How long will I be using diapers?

How much would about 3 dozen cloth diapers cost? How much for a new washer and dryer? I didn't have one then. How more often will I be going to the laundromat anyway with all the dirty baby clothes? What would be the additional cost and time involved?

What would be the cost of a new washer and dryer? How much more convenient would it be to have a washer and dryer at my home/rental house?

The cost of the diapers versus the washer and dryer was about a push. The convenience factor plus the fact that the diaper use would be only for a few years at most, while a washer and dryer would last for years and years. The stink factor between dirty cloth diapers being washed daily, or dirty disposables sitting around in the garbage cans waiting for trash day was about equal too. I bought the cloth diapers and appliances. They lasted for 15 years. Bonus was that the cloth diapers made excellent drying cloths for crystal, leaving no lint and great cleaning cloths for years afterwards.

This is how I think. Doesn't everyone??

Rusty said...



Blogger rhhardin said...
I bought a new car instead of a used one when my '88 Colt died (after 4 years of not having a running car - needed to take the dog to the vet in bad weather) because a new car will work but you never know about a used car.

But it was a really cheap new car. It's just over 2 years old now and I have 500 miles on it. It's on its second tank of gas.

Still a bike rider mostly.


You need to drive it more. Not driving it is just as bad as abusing it while driving.

mccullough said...

Bikes are for kids. Adults riding bikes are worse than men in shorts

knk6146 said...

"Chain maintenance is one of the most controversial aspects of bicycle mechanics. Chain durability is affected by riding style, gear choice, whether the bicycle is ridden in rain or snow, type of soil in the local terrain, type of lubricant, lubrication techniques, and the sizes and condition of the bicycle's sprockets. Because there are so many variables, it has not been possible to do controlled experiments under real-world conditions. As a result, everybody's advice about chain maintenance is based on anecdotal "evidence" and experience. Experts disagree on this subject, sometimes bitterly. This is sometimes considered a "religious" matter in the bicycle community, and much vituperative invective has been uttered in this regard between different schismatic cults.

This article is based on my personal and professional experience and my own theories. If you disagree with them, I won't call you a fool or a villain, you may be right. I hope you will extend me the same courtesy."

http://sheldonbrown.com/chains.html

knk6146 said...

Sheldon speaks from beyond the grave:

Lubricants Not to Use!

While it's hard to say which lubricants are best for chains, some lubricants are real no-nos:

Automotive motor oil contains detergent, to wash away combustion products, and is made to be renewed constantly under pressure from the motor's oil pump. I [John Allen] rode once with someone who had used it the day before, and her chain was already squeaking.

"Household" oil, such as 3 in 1, is a vegetable oil and is acidic. It tends to gum up. (It's really bad news inside internal hub gears, too...)

WD-40 and other thin sprays are intended more as solvents than lubricants. They evaporate quickly.

Owen said...

rhhardin and knk6146: great comments on bike drive trains and how best to keep them running. Agree about lubricants, nothing like a cold wet ride on grit to tell you what's not working so well. I think there is a lot of hype in that area --the bike shops always seem to be featuring some sexy new chain oil that promises zero friction forever, only $1000 an ounce.

I agree that you might want to drive that Colt once in a while. The ethanol may not be doing your fuel system any good.

rhhardin said...

You need to drive it more. Not driving it is just as bad as abusing it while driving.

I drive it monthly or so just to get the oil distributed.

rhhardin said...

WD40 is to lift the water off the chain. 3-in-1 is to stop it from squeaking.

rhhardin said...

I haven't been in a bike shop in decades. Online components and occasionally a new bike.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

rhhardin's car " It's just over 2 years old now and I have 500 miles on it.

Wow. that's low mileage. We recently drove 180 miles round trip just to go grocery shopping, also to pick up some work and office supplies. It is nothing to put 200 down miles a week doing only normal driving on just one vehicle. Last year on all of our vehicles work and pleasure probably over 30K miles. We often take a Sunday drive for fun that is at least 100 to 200 miles. Long way to anything here though. I guess the west versus the midwest?

Different lifestyles.

Good info on the bike maintenance. We have several mountain bikes for fun and a really cool 3 wheel workman's folding bike with a neato basket. We take them when we go RVing or camping.

Meade said...

"Bikes are for kids. Adults riding bikes are worse than men in shorts "

I know. You should see me riding my bike while wearing my bike shorts. Makes me feel like a kid again, flying, free.

Meade said...

$2 a day over 10 years for a very high-end mountain bike — lighter, faster, stronger, more precise — sounds like a bargain to me.

Owen said...

Meade: "$2 a day over 10 years for a very high-end mountain bike — lighter, faster, stronger, more precise — sounds like a bargain to me."

As a long-time and incorrigible addict of Unobtanium, I agree. This is the perfect rationalization: amortize the crazy over whatever number will give you the quotient needed to calm your incredulous spouse. "That was for COLLEGE!"

Meade said...

On my unobtainium framed bike, wearing my Armani shorts, pulling up beside another rider and asking, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" = Priceless!

rhhardin said...

Wow. that's low mileage.

I can survive easily with no car, except for transporting the dog in winter weather. I have a bike trailer for nice weather dog transport.

I never much liked driving. Maybe because I had a pilot's license before the legal driving age. Driving was a coolness step backwards.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I have a bike trailer for nice weather dog transport.

Awww. Those are cool. The cool factor would be even cooler if your dog wears goggles and a Red Baron style helmet while being chauffeured :-)

Driving is a necessity here. Nothing about being cool, although it is cool when we are in one of our classic vehicles. I didn't really need a car when I lived in San Francisco (except at night because public transportation is scary and dangerous)

Without driving, we would have no way to do just about anything. Shopping. Post office. Doctor. Anything. Different geographic necessities.

Owen said...

rhhardin: "…a pilot's license before the legal driving age." That is a humble brag but I can relate. Growing up I was on fire to get a pilot's license at the local airport. Could have done it for (are you sitting down?) 400 bucks. But that was the ticket for a Honda 90, and guess which one won out?

The road not taken.

Smilin' Jack said...

"[W]hen you buy cheap stuff, you get bored with it. I do not get bored with this bike, and that is why it is saving me money."

I'm bored with your bike, and I don't even ride it. Get hit by a bus, clown.

Michael said...

You never regret your extravagances.

knk6146 said...

"I haven't been in a bike shop in decades. Online components and occasionally a new bike."

How often are you getting a new bike? I just sent my 18 year old Mercian (as in I've owned it and ridden in for 18 years) in to get the right rear dropout replaced. I'm building a new rear wheel for it and my 1991 Lemond to minimize the axle flex that causing the dropout problem. Properly maintained, I expect a well-designed and built steel frame to last as least as long as I do.

CWJ said...

Althouse wrote -

"The reader shouldn't have to generate questions and research them to get through the reasoning of the essay at hand."

Althouse should perhaps apply this standard to a disconcertingly large percentage of her posts which make little sense, or are in fact commenter "traps" absent clicking through to the source document.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse should perhaps apply this standard to a disconcertingly large percentage of her posts which make little sense, or are in fact commenter "traps" absent clicking through to the source document."

No. I'm not writing an essay. I'm blogging, which is usually specifically linking to things and interacting with them. I'm decidedly not here to stop you from clicking on the links. The idea is to be interested enough to want to click. But when an essay appears in a newspaper, written for print media, in sentences stacked together as if a point is being made, it shouldn't raise strange questions like the one I had and that lead the reader thinking something idiotic was said.

Completely different kinds of writing.

If I wanted to write essays, I would.

CWJ said...

Exactly the response I expected. Let's leave it at that.

rhhardin said...

How often are you getting a new bike?

One every 50,000 miles is the average. It's to replace components when too many of them need repair, rather than buying the components one by one.

We're dealing with $150 bikes, so they're not bottom of the line but nevertheless basically just a collection of new parts at a bargain price.

Zach said...

Bikes are incredibly durable. You have to replace wear items like chains, sprockets, and tires, of course. My father bought a carbon fiber bike in 1985 and rode it regularly until this year, before giving it to my brother.

I do agree with him about cheap bikes, though. Bikes are so durable that you will only need to replace them if they get stolen or totaled in an accident. So be sure to buy one you like.

Zach said...

In my opinion, $150 is below the sweet spot for a bike. You save money up front, but you pay for it by riding a crummy bike every day.

Up to $1000-$1500 or so, there's a pretty direct relationship between the amount you shell out and the quality of the bike you get. After that you start paying lots more for marginal improvements.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"...wearing my Armani shorts..."

Rapha shorts are better.

Meade said...

Yes, I know. But there are limits to even my superiority.