Crashing then and Now

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Crashing bicycles has gotten astronomically more expensive the last decade. I think it is the invasion of carbon into the sport. First the wheels, now nearly all the frames are carbon. Carbon is great for racing. Pretty light, pretty strong. But it is really brittle. Like, just sneeze at it and it catastrophically explodes.

I thought and still think that I got out of crashing last Thursday relatively good. I am not hurt really badly and I thought I didn’t destroy too much equipment, other than my helmet. My wheels, shifters, derailleurs, and frame seem okay. But after checking it out, it was a little more damage than I first thought.

I think when I got my left foot out of the pedal and on the ground, it somehow pushed the cleat through the carbon sole of the shoe. So the Shimano shoes are ruined. The only ding on my bike equipment is my saddle, a Fi’zi:k Arione. Plus my helmet, of course. That really isn’t too bad.

That is until you start adding up the retail cost of the stuff. The shoes are $379 at Colorado Cyclist. The saddle around $150. The same with the helmet. Then add in the skinsuit, the jersey, the gloves and bar tape that is gone. That is close to $900-$1000, plus tax, if you bought it all retail. That is unreal.

I don’t want to go into the “Steve, you’re out of touch with how much cycling equipment costs” thing again. I have admitted, that is somewhat the case sometimes. But, it is completely out of line with what it used to cost for the same items.

I paid $380 for my first racing bicycle. It was a LeJuene and I got it in Kansas City at a bike shop in Crowne Center. It was a 531 frame, all Campagnolo, with tubular tires. I was making about $5 to mow a yard back then. So if you put it into yard mowing terms, it took me about 76 mowed yards to buy the bike. I asked around and most kids around here get $25 to mow the same yard. So, 76 x $25 and you get $1900. That hardly gets you a good set of wheels with tires glued on them, let alone a race bike.

I’m not saying that you can’t get an okay used bike to race on for 2K, but it wouldn’t be comparable to the new, all Campy, LeJuene. I ruined half that much in equipment and didn’t really destroy that much. In lawn mowing terms, between the shoes, helmet, seat, and clothing, it probably would of added up to around 20 lawns when I first started riding. But in today’s dollars, it is closer to 40 lawns. Twice as much work to buy the same replacement stuff. It seems pretty plain and simple that it is just much more expensive to race bicycles now than it used to be.

And I’m not even taking into account the medical costs. It is going to be ridiculous, as all emergency room visits are.

I thought I was doing okay, but then two nights ago and then again last night, I couldn’t get comfortable and slept less than 4 hours. It was just subtle movements that would send a shooting pain into my shoulder. It’s a drag. I have ridden close to 100 miles the past three days. I can’t climb out of my saddle. I try, but it isn’t working. Fabian Cancellara is having the same sort of problem. Here’s his quote- “The broken collarbone was one thing, but the damage around it was greater than expected. The shoulder, ligaments, muscles, everything was lost,” Cancellara said. “After the surgery I was hopeful. The pain quickly disappeared, and within a week I was off medication. Everything was going well, but then I began to feel something in my shoulder. On Monday, I had another scan done, and they found a tear in a ligament.” He goes on to say how jacked up his back feels, etc.

In theory, I don’t have any ligaments attached, so I guess it’s okay to whine a bit. My back is jacked up too. And I’m not even addressing my neck here. It is funny how you compensate when you’re trying to protect something hurt. Anyway, I’m hoping I’m going to be able to ride out of my seat within the next couple weeks. Hopefully sooner, so I’m staying pretty optimistic. I’m so sleepy all day. At least I have a reason for that now that I’m not sleeping at night. I don’t know why it took 6 days before that set in? I hope for that to be done by today.

Guess I’m not going up to Iowa City to race this weekend. That’s a drag. I love the races, the criterium course especially. Plus it is great staying with Jeff Bradley for the weekend. We’ll have to catch up later on I guess.

A hairnet and wool jersey were less expensive way back when. This is a picture of my friends, Jeff Bradley and Mark Gorski at the 1978 Boul-Mich Criterium in Chicago. Jeff went on to race the Tour de France, among other things and Mark won the Olympics in sprinting on the track, among other things.

16 thoughts on “Crashing then and Now

  1. Rad Renner

    If I had it to do over again, I would get the surgery on my separated shoulder. And my separation wasn’t nearly as bad as your’s appears to be (from the x-ray). Five years on, I cannot sleep on my right shoulder, which kinda sucks because for 40 years I did sleep on that shoulder. Which makes for fitful sleeping, and, therefore, poor recovery. I’m inclined to believe that you are merely delaying the inevitable, Steve.

  2. jim sully

    That old rhyme…
    There was a crooked man,who walked a crooked mile …
    Took on new meaning after many a bicycle related pooch for me…

    The inter-related muscle spasm’ng just beats one down by day,but even more so at night …
    Accepting that patience reinserting oneself on the bike is a dish best served multiple times daily when on the crooked path to health stability…
    Hang in there ST, you’ll have your day standing+crankin pretty soon,

  3. 1speed

    Steve –

    Sorry to read about the continued pain! I realize this is probably somethign you’ve already thought of, but shouldn’t you be able to write off all your equipment? I realize you still have to lay out the money up front, but it should all be a write-off for you as job-related, shouldn’t it?

    Get well soon!

  4. tilford97 Post author

    1speed- It’s not a problem. I didn’t buy any of it and can get new stuff easily. It is the whole principle of the problem. The sport is so expensive that when regular guys crash, they have to work a 2nd job to replace their destroyed stuff.

  5. Wildcat

    I know it’s tough, but if you’re going to be down and out for the weekend anyway; you might as well be seated comfortably spectating the races as opposed to seated comfortably in your house. At least the crit. Take a cold 6pk. Plus, you would still be able to enjoy time/dinner/etc with your friend.

  6. rock what you got

    There’s a very good point that I think was somewhat underscored here. This is proof and point of just how inaccessible the sport is getting. It is happening everywhere in every sport. From the $100 lift tickets and Colorado laws against hiking the slopes, to astronomical prices of getting a racing bike. I could barely afford my used racing bike with mediocre wheels and it seems most my competition is training with powertaps. It’s very sad to see this happening as both cycling and snowboarding were my anti-drugs growing up, and it’s a huge reason I am not a f##k up right now. The one upside–riding a beat up single speed up Mt Evans cause its the only ride you’ve got makes for some strong legs when you can finally afford that mediocre racing bike.

  7. K

    I don’t know that you should write off the $2k bikes. A CAAD isn’t as refined as some other stuff out there, but its a capable race bike and surely faster than your LeJuene.
    Sure, the top end of the bike market has gotten ridiculous, but there’s a sweet spot with Rival, Kinlin rims and aluminum frames thats nearly as fast as anything on the market.

  8. Joe_Beer

    I did the math on the Tilford yard mowing inflation index of Kansas (TYMII_KA). Assuming Steve bought his bike in 1773 for $380, that bike today is worth $1,963. So the TYMII_KA is like the Economist’s Big Mac index…easy and reliable, it seems. A few more points. One, I agree with K that CAAD 9 and 10’s can easily be built to under $2K and they are super-nice to ride. Check out November Bikes, too, I think their frames are Giants and the value seems pretty high. Lastly, I’ve broken my scapula a few times in bike crashes and it’s never the fracture itself that gets ya, it’s all the collateral damage that goes along with it. Good luck no matter what you decide to do.

  9. JR

    As an economics professor, I am truly enjoying its real life applications on this blog and discussion thread. Good work, keep it up!

  10. Ted Lewandowski

    As an economics professor you should also know that there are opportunity costs to Steve’s decision to race – in plain terms he is giving up the ability to work and have an income whether that be from an employer or having his own business. That cost is easily measured by his education and/or experience – for example if he worked construction rather than trained to race he would be making X amount of dollars every week – however he chose to race to the opportunity cost is the income you forfeit (in simple terms) to participate in the sport of bike racing. Crashing and damage to the equipment should always be factored in to every season.

  11. Ted Lewandowski

    In other terms, it might be costing Steve $50,000/year to race as an opportunity cost – as I am not sure what his profit is after he deducts his travel expenses at the end of the year.

  12. channel_zero

    Opportunity cost has never sat well with me because it can be endlessly fashioned to justify most arguments.

    Bottom line is if he was working construction he couldn’t afford bike racing either. I have more than the college training at this point in my life and there’s no way I can afford bike racing. I could 20 years ago, but no way now.

    What’s interesting is as much as the cost of the sport has sky rocketed, it hasn’t shrunk the pool of competitive cycling consumers. The aggregate number of consumers hasn’t changed much over 20+ years.

    It has changed who the usac bike racing consumer is and denies access to many. This likely benefits the big winners in the bike industry disproportionately. This is the essence of capitalism. Access for all, if you can afford it.

  13. H Luce

    I saw Jeanne Golay win her first criterium on a beater bike, Lapped the field five times – then she got sponsored and got a new bike for free.

  14. Robin Kinney

    Had a pretty ugly grade 3 separation. Still looks bad, but it feels fine. Really believe the physical therapy I did helped long term. The exercises seemed basic, but they made a world of difference. Separated it Nov 30 and did CX worlds mid Jan.


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