Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Importance of the New

Having new stuff is always nice, but sometimes it's pretty important.. Even though I've talked about trying to avoid the seductive calls of new gear before, there are times when I'm the one insisting on the necessity of dropping coin at the local bike shop. Clearance sales make up a big chunk of those times, but I get most insistent around the start of a new tour.

Tours are already big, expensive events in and of themselves, so spending a few hundred bucks on new tires and chains and whatnot can seem pretty onerous. But tours are big, expensive events and finding oneself unable to smoothly climb a hill because your chain is totally shot will quickly ruin the whole experience. If your tour is ambitious in distance, terrain, or time, you might cost yourself a finish, tossing a lot of that money into the "wasted" category.

This is why my buddy Tando and I have a new stuff policy. If you're going to roll with us, you're going to do it on new rubber, with a new chain, and using new brake pads to stop you. Depending on the length of the journey, we might spring for a new cassette, too. On top of that, if there's anything of questionable age or service on a bike--cables, chajnrings, cleats--that stuff gets replaced, too. Doing all of this ahead of time removes a lot of variables on the road, thereby reducing stress and allowing us to tackle more ambitious goals.

In this way, if something bad happens, it's just bad luck and everybody deals with it and rolls on. Hard feelings are avoided. The deal has always been that if someone breaks down because they didn't prep their bike properly, they'd be on the hook for everybody's hotels and meals until the work they needed got done. Or they'd get left.

Happily, we've never had this problem, because new gear just makes sense--and it's fun to shop for it.

Still, if a refit is hard to swallow, two pieces of advice may help. The first is to shop for sales throughout the year, thereby preventing maintenence costs from bumping up against touring costs. The other is to note that these are all wear items; if your brake pads have 75% of their life left, that's great. Put new ones in for the tour, and your 75 percenters back on when you get home. Easy, and you save the stress of trying to find a bike shop on the road.

Why is all of this on my mind? Oh yeah, it's because I've just boxed everything up for a tour....

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