The unbearable heaviness of racing

June 13, 2012 § 35 Comments

Fukdude was musing about the high cost of elderly gent bike racing. “I’m gonna need a fuckin second job to pay my fuckin entry fees.”

Richard Sachs says less, using more words. “What incentive is there to continue? The costs escalate. The prizes don’t cover anything at all. You have to be committed to a training program to even approach being competitive enough to get a place.”

And finally, from the crack whores at VeloNews, on the orgasm that is the new Dura-Ace 11-speed group, there’s this. “Yes, the new Dura-Ace is lighter, yes it has another cog, yes it’s more expensive…”

More expensive.

Not less expensive.

More expensive.

How much more expensive? Does it even matter? I mean, it’s more than the $3,100 price tag of the “old” Di2 10-speed, so how much more expensive could it be?

How much more expensive it could be

The crack whores tell us that the new 11-speed is going to be in the neighborhood of $4,200. Dollars. And if that seems like a lot of money to spend on an extra cog, you can comfort yourself that the hemorrhage is just getting started, because the 11-speed stuff won’t work with any of your wheels. Chuck the $2,700 Zipps and any other wheels you have in your quiver. You’ll need new ones.

Don’t bother adding any of this up. It will be too painful. Just do some touchy-feely accounting, though, and ballpark the frame, the group, the wheels, the coach, the analytical software, the power meter, the shoes, the clothes, the drugs, the gas, the food, the race entry fee, the Barbie food you need for long rides, the sugar drinks you need for every ride, the gym membership, the spare bike, the tubes ($15), the tires ($70), the license, and you’ll easily hit 25k for one year of serious racing.

That’s assuming you don’t crash, upgrade components, replace worn parts, or drop your bike off at the shop for a tune-up or overhaul.

Not doing cocaine isn’t a real good justification

We’ve all heard this one. “Yeah, I spend a lot racing my bike, but at least I’m not screwing hookers and doing cocaine.”

So those are your choices in life? Bike racing, or hookers and cocaine?

The fact is that cycling at all levels has gone far beyond what most people can afford to pay. The shrinking pool of bike racers, despite the explosion in the number of cyclists, is a result of this technological free-for-all, in which only the rich can compete. If you don’t think 25k a year in disposable bike income makes you rich, you’re proving my point.

Yachting solved the problem by developing races in which the equipment was standardized. One-Design class races feature boats that are essentially the same, and in which the race isn’t decided by the person who spends the most. Cycling is desperately in need of this. When Cat 5 racers are forced through ignorance, peer pressure, bad judgment, or necessity to purchase thousands of dollars in equipment just to do a stupid 4-corner crit and crash on the third lap, there’s something terribly wrong.

Wankmeister’s One-Design bike racing solution

Always eager to get his hands dirty with the poopy, corn-studded problems that others won’t touch, Wankmeister has devised a system that will equalize the competition, make bike racing affordable, and allow him to stop siphoning off college tuition money to pay for Charon’s next crit win. Regulate race equipment as follows:

1. Frame: steel or chromoly only
2. Group: mechanical down-tube shifters only
3. Wheels: aluminum rim, 32 or 36-spoke only
4. Tires: clinchers only
5. Analytics: no speedometers, power meters, GPS devices of any kind
6. Drugs: RuggedMAXXX2 only
7. Coaching: Cap’n Taintbag’s free online coaching only
8. Helmet: DOT-approved motorcycle helmets only
9. Drinks: water only
10. Food: bananas, peanut butter, bread only

An idea whose time has come? Probably not. Just don’t send me a nastygram about how important technology is to safe and competitive bike racing. They raced the fucking Tour for the first thirty-one years with no derailleurs. Want to go uphill? Get off your fucking bike, yank the rear wheel and change gears. So don’t go whining about how you can’t race without 11-speed electro-shifting bullshit.

And remember this: As race fields dwindle, fewer young people get involved in the sport, and the only market growth is among 40+ men and women with a professional career and lots of disposable income, it might be time to level the playing field where it matters most–in the pocketbook.

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