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The Horrors of Capitalism

Ask Uncle Dave

Words by Dave Tolnai. Posted by
September 8th, 2015

Dear Uncle Dave,

I have a slight addiction to energy drinks (Monster to be specific). I drink one can every morning to get my blood flowing and my gears spinning. How much of this stuff do the sponsored superstar racers drink? I am guessing they have an unlimited supply flowing into their bloodstream. Is there any research on the long term effects energy drinks has on the human body? I don’t want my heart to jump out of my chest or anything.

Sincerely,
Wired


Dear Wired:

Ah Monster, the king of Thirst Mutilation. Sometimes it’s easy for us old guys to forget that Red Bull, Monster and the like actually make products and aren’t just in the helmet decaling and event branding business. People do actually drink the stuff. Apparently. 

It’s interesting to witness this, and other radical generational shifts in social and purchasing habits. People who had emerged out of childhood before the birth of the Atari are far less likely to play video games, for example. And Boomers don’t really drink Coke or other sodas, and are baffled by the amount of the shit that their kids pound back. And, as you’ve shown, the youths have moved on to guzzling caffeine enhanced dish water.

I did toy around with asking some energy beverage sponsored pros to let us know how much they actually drink, but figured none of them would have given me a straight answer. Some version of “as per Doctor’s recommendations, bro, eight cans a day!” And I don’t know any pros to ask. So I didn’t bother. But I’m going to guess that some are pretty stoked that they no longer have to go to the store to buy their weekly supply of bro juice. And some laugh themselves silly that they get to cash a cheque for endorsing a product that they wouldn’t drink unless forced to, owing to some kind of natural disaster that destroyed local water systems.

As for the long term effects…good god, man. Look at what excessive soda consumption has done to North America. Do you think cramming a bunch more shit into the can is going to help?  That stuff does about as much for your health as the companies do for the health of the injured athletes in the events that they sponsor.

Sorry,
Uncle Dave


Dear Uncle Dave,

I thought outsourcing mountain bike frame and component production to overseas slave labour – I mean, building capacity through trade and globalization – would have made them more affordable. Yet today a $2500 bike is considered cheap. Most reviews are for bikes in the $7500 to $10,000 range. What gives?  Is it weird to think that a mountain bike ought to be made by someone with a reasonable chance of riding one?  Or that a typical middle-aged man ought to afford a middle-of-the road, life-extending penis extender?

Questioning Capitalism


Dear Quewcee: 

Nice callbacks. I’ll note that the hyperlinks are yours, not mine.

There is a narrative in mountain biking these days. If I can sum it up, it would be “Bikes are so great right now and you get so much for your money!”

I’ve bought in to this as well. And I mostly agree with myself. I’m pretty stoked that I can buy a middle-of-the-road component group like SLX and be totally happy with it. That is pretty cool. Until you consider that it really only seems like a great deal because XT and XTR are so bloody expensive. Over the years they’ve just gradually inflated the price of SLX until it matched what we would have paid for XTR in the good old days and we’re stoked that we can get so much performance for so cheap?  That’s some pretty messed up psychology somebody has done on us. And I don’t mean to pick on Shimano. Every company has done this.

Let’s start by thinking about what is the actual amount of money required to get a high performance mountain bike.  I recently tested a $2100 bike that was pretty good, but in all honesty needed a few hundred dollars in upgrades before it was enjoyably rideable. There are some $2800 bikes out there that I would happily ride anywhere and everywhere. So, I guess that is my basement. I’m reasonably certain that if I went out tomorrow and selected the correct $2800 bike to purchase (plus tax), I could happily go about doing 95% of the things I want to do at around a 98% enjoyment level. Any dollars above that are rapidly diminishing returns and ego fluffing. Until the collapse of the Canadian dollar filters through and destroys any semblance of affordability.

That does seem pretty damned expensive. I remember my first real mountain bike. A 1992 Rocky Mountain Hammer that I bought for $800. That was an awesome bike that did everything you would expect of a mountain bicycle, back in the day. Adjusting for inflation, that’s around $1300 in today’s dollars, give or take. So it does seem like bikes have gotten a lot more expensive, but in defence of the bike industry, I could probably head out right now and buy a pretty bad ass rigid bike that weighs a lot, shifts poorly and doesn’t stop for $1300 if that’s what I really wanted.

It now does take more to buy “middle of the road” performance. But our requirements for “middle of the road” have become absurd. And with each new requirement, we’re incrementally adding cost. Front suspension begat a steep change in price. Disc brakes. Full suspension. Dropper posts. Carbon fiber. Clutch derailleurs. 11 speed drivetrains. Etc. Each change has taken performance forward, but each change has also brought a price addition into the mix.

So, it’s our own damn fault, really. We should be perfectly happy to head out into the woods and enjoy trails, but somehow we’re not. We watch shiny new things fly by us on the trail and we all feel the pressure and need to own it. Eventually, we all give in. Even the “26 for life” crowd is going to need a new bike at some point.

To put it another way, nobody ever bought a new bike because it was cheaper than their old one. Many people bought a new bike because it put their old crapheap to shame. Companies don’t make things cheaper because nobody actually wants cheap merchandise. We all just want to pay less for the latest and greatest.

Sorry,
Uncle Dave


Quewcee wins a pair of toastyNSMB.com wool blend riding socks and the trail name tee of his choice.


If you have a question for Uncle Dave, send it here. If you have a different solution to this problem, or a comment (witty or otherwise) please share it below. Next week we’ll be giving away an SR Suntour Auron fork to the question of the week!

  • Raymond Epstein

    The best reason to drink Monster is that video of the women who “proves” that it is Satan’s fav soda. No hyper-link; you can look it up. Otherwise, sodas/energy drinks are just plain dumb and horrid for you across the board not to mention destroying your choppers. You want an “energy drink”? Brew up some strong coffee and have at it. Skip the milk/cream/sugar/sweetners and HTFU as the saying goes. Meanwhile, when anyone I meet wants to get into riding bemoans not being able to afford a “budget” bike, I point them towards a hardtail (ideally steel) that is a season or two old scoring it and the parts via eBay, CL, here, etc. You can build a rig (and/or work with a friend/bikeshop to get it rolling) that will be near bulletproof for under or around $1000 that will do 90%+ of what anyone’s bike will do. In addition, you will become a far better rider. Party.

    • Brizzy

      Hell, you can buy a NEW hardtail for around that much that will be bombproof and super fun…. people need to realize that a 2015 Deore bike is an amazingly capable and reliable bike. Just look at what companies like Vitus and Airborne are offering for hardtails right now. Even Giant is offering a full suspension Deore bike for under $2k. If this year’s SLX is as good as the old XTR, and you didn’t need XTR to have a good time back then, then you don’t need SLX to have a good time now. I’ve ridden the shit out of my X7 hardtail. It was $1300 new and it damn sure hasn’t made me slower.

      • Raymond Epstein

        I am all about finding deals as retail is for schmucks and Christmas shoppers. However, it is hard to eff with the new rigs and their pricing coming from On-One… http://www.on-one.co.uk/

      • Brizzy

        The price on that codeine…. wow. Good stuff.

      • Dirk

        Your reality may differ from the authors.

        I rode a hardtail for a long, long time. I still hop on it when I am between test bikes. I enjoy it, and coupled with a decent suspension fork and good brakes, it is possible to do a lot on a hardtail. However. I have found in the last few years that I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. All the reasons that I didn’t ride a full suspension bike all the time disappeared, yet the hardtail limitations remain. If I didn’t ride mostly on the North Shore, this might be different. But, on those trails, I would rather be on a full suspension bike these days. My old body almost requires it.

        As well, the bargain shopper able to piece his own bikes together over a period of months is always going to be able to find bargains. Alas, that isn’t most people (call it lack of knowledge, patience, time, etc.). And there is a certain spec of brakes and fork that I wouldn’t go below. The problem seems to be that most companies specc’ing lower cost bikes like to spread things around, so it’s hard to buy a cheap bike without having to pump some money into it…which kind of defeats the purpose.

        Anyhow, the article was written for the perspective of “a guy walks into a bike shop looking for an off the shelf, reasonably high performance, full suspension bike”. I’d have a hard time steering anybody in that camp lower than the $2800 mark.

      • Raymond Epstein

        Hey, I’ve ridden full-suspension bikes on burly East Coast terrain since ’98 and hardtails on the same stuff for 10 years prior. I kept a steel hardtail as my back up bike forever and many times it was my only bike. It never stopped me from riding anything or having fun. I do not disagree with you on the cost at retail to get in, but there are alternatives.

  • Naveed Nasir

    Anna Schwinn interview quote is very insightful: “My dad talks about it a lot. My little brother, Tucker, plays bike polo. Dad says, “Well, what’s going to happen if bike polo ever takes off is the same thing that happened to mountain biking in that you’re going to end up with a bunch of actual athletes getting in there, ruining it for all the originals.”

  • tw

    Hard to believe that a new rig every 2-3 years is considered sustainable. The trend where it’s cheaper to ditch the “old one” or what we used to call the “just broken in” bike for the newest greatest shit on the planet seems unsustainable to me.
    With all the 2nd hand equipment on the market and the fact that the formally 1 bike guy now has a bike for every conceivable condition, suggests that current prices on new stuff is perhaps on borrowed time.
    Yes pun intended.

  • RepublicMalcolmIsland

    That reminds me. I have to pick a couple 24×2.3 k-rads for my street whip today. At one of the LBS none the less. They even have them in stock. Thanks!

  • zenophobe

    I would guess that any “superstar” racer that is serious about their longevity and sport would drink zero energy drinks. Some athletes place water in their sponsored drink containers so it looks like they are drinking them. Gatorade and energy drinks are nearly all terrible for you and can be replaced with very cheap natural foods such as water or coffee.

  • Boredinmin

    I’ve been in the market for a full suspension, carbon fiber, mid to upper level drivetrain for about 10 years now. Why so long? That kind of bike costs around $6500. Ouch!! Who can afford that?! The bike industry is LONG past the time when it needed to stop and take stock of the stupid inflationary road its come down.