Dr Hutch

CYCLING WEEKLY|July 30, 2020

Dr Hutch
Buying a vacuum cleaner has got the Doc reflecting on the self-delusion of the premium consumer

I went to a shop last week to buy a vacuum cleaner. I met a salesperson who suggested, apparently quite seriously, that I might like to buy a £600 model. I could understand what she’d be getting out of that transaction. I was less sure what I’d get.

In circumstances like this I have a cycling-specific defence mechanism. I think about bikes. Specifically, I think about a well-known bike used by a prominent WorldTour team, which I’m going to refer to as the SuperBike XXX. The SuperBike XXX is undeniably superb. I’ve ridden one, and I liked it very much. It’s also phenomenally expensive. And you see them everywhere. I’m consistently amazed at the number of people who have £10,000 plus to spend on a bike, however good.

That amazement is at least partly because the number of people who need that level of performance from a bike is miniscule. You could win the Tour de France on something half the price.

Also, how many of us are even that discerning? I know I’m not. Take the bars and saddle off the SuperBike XXX and stick them on my winter trainer and I’d probably be unable to tell the difference between the bikes. It puts me in mind of a US manufacturer who disguised examples of different models of their high-end framesets with black tape and cardboard, then invited the head-office employees to take them all for a ride and decide which model was which. Other than a couple of guys from the design office, none of them could tell the difference.

So when I find myself face to face with something like a £600 vacuum cleaner, the question I ask myself is: “Am I buying a SuperBike XXX here? Am I about to spend a stupendous amount on something that is only very, very marginally better than something 50 per cent cheaper?”

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July 30, 2020