Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Not About the Gear

We've all fallen into the "gear trap" before. Thinking about how if you just had that titanium accessory, that ultra-light wheel set, those new cycling shoes you would be that much better of a mountain biker. The gear trap is going on a hike or backpacking and thinking it would be a better hike if you just had that fancy backpack with those fancy strap do-hickey’s and that sweet soft shell.

I’ll admit to falling into the gear trap myself. I worked for a local outdoor retailer and stocked up much more than my fair share of pro-deals. I managed to acquire three soft shells, three top-of-the-line rain jackets, and four- yes- four pairs of hiking boots in less than six months. That’s a jacket a month!

Skipping Rocks

When I switched jobs I also had to kill off my crazy gear habit. I felt like I barely escaped a full blown cocaine habit. I had some new gear withdrawals, some pains when I saw the newer soft shells and the newer ultra-light technology.
But… having lived the outdoor life on both sides of the track I have to say it as honestly and as nakedly as possible. It’s not about the gear.

It’s not about the mountain bike

It’s not about the sweet frame. It’s not about the snazzy pink grips, the lightest pedals, the sleekest wheels. When I first started riding it was on a rigid frame two sizes too big and probably weighed close to 50 pounds. My next bike had front suspension and clipless pedals- and I thought I had hit the big time. Since then I’ve made some small upgrades here and there, but have essentially been riding the same type of bike- low/ low-mid range mountain bike for over ten years.

And you know what? I have no problem keeping up on group rides. I regularly pass the guys on $3000 bikes while racing. Now if a girl on a $500-$600 bike can pass a guy on a $3000 bike – then it’s not about the bike.

It’s about riding nearly every day. It’s about riding in the rain. It’s about riding when it’s muddy because who cares if my bike gets filthy-right?

It’s not about the gear

Okay- this might blurb may be a bit controversial to some but here goes. I used to spend a lot of time thinking that I needed crampons and the best snowshoes in order to go winter hiking. I saved and I saved and I put off hikes because I didn’t have the gear. Now I have crampons and snowshoes (the fancy steep grade ones) and you know what? I hardly use them! I hike in the winter all the time, mainly on mid-moderate sized peaks in the Whites (think winter hiking in the Moats vs. Mt Washington) and there’s one thing I always bring with me. It’s not snowshoes or crampons (which I use maybe 3-5 times a year) it’s those cheap $20 Yaktrack things.

It’s not the size of your boat

I worked with a fellow gear junkie who I would call a kayak expert. He schooled me on the merits of fiber glass vs. plastic, nose shape and cockpit size. By the end of my tenure with him I was really convinced that I needed an ultra-light composite kayak and it would cost me around $3300.

Without a pro deal I had to budget and save and do my own research on kayaks under $1000. I ended up with the Calypso kayak and you know what? I take that thing everywhere- local lakes, rivers, wetlands. The green pickle is always roof side during the summer months. Sure I can’t take it out on the open ocean, but it’s much more realistic for me to throw it on my car and take it to the lake down the street.

It’s not about the kayak. It’s really about getting on the water and tooling around. It’s not fretting when you scratch over some unseen submerged rocks. It’s about the freedom of your own little boat.

It's just not about the gear

You’ll still see the occasional gear review on my blog- mainly because women need a reputable source for female specific gear reviews. But I want to make it known that for me; it’s not about the gear. I find it more refreshing to ride with a fellow biker who took her grips off her last bike because they felt better- not because they were the newest thing. Someone who’s discovered some vintage LL Bean polypropylene shirts that still cut it on winter hikes.

There will always be something about a soft shell with an elbow patch and sleeping bag bungeed to a pack that makes me smile.


Richard said...

I confess to being a recovering weight-weenie. I used to practically drool over everything carbon fiber and lightweight. I had my road bike under 15 pounds and one time and dreamed of getting it under the UCI limit. The thing is I don’t even consider myself a roadie. Yeah, I’ve raced in a few road events, but I just never developed the passion for it like I have for mountain biking. It’s weird.

As for my mountain bike, I used to own a Trek 8000 (1999 model) built up with midlevel components, mostly Shimano XT. A friend of mine owns a shop and he offered me a Moots Ti frame at dealer cost so he could get dealership status from Moots. It was too good to pass up. I totally blew out the Moots build with top of the line XTR and Sram XO components. The bike is awesome! However, component makers always upgrade and improve their product line and it becomes a game of keeping up with the Jones’s. The enjoyment of threading sweet single-track can get lost in the struggle to have the latest and greatest.

Thanks for the great post and reminding all of us to just enjoy the moment and not the bling.

Red Bike said...

I don't entirely agree with you on this one. We rarely need the latest lightest bit of kit available but I do think that you need the APPROPRIATE kit.

bettymountaingirl said...

Richard- Good point it is hard to keep up with the latest components :) I will admit to loving things at dealer/pro deal price myself though :)

Red Bike- Thanks for the feedback too:) I'm all about things that are appropriate as well, I guess it's just hard to sort of draw the line between suitable gear and always lusting over the next greatest thing. I'm working on finding that happy medium though :)

SS:Mtn Biker said...

Just now reading this (hey...I just found your blog recently,LOL! :P). Hits home,so to spek,as I shop around for a new frame to buy/build come Spring. I ride Redline mtn bikes (1 '02 Monocog 26er,1 '08 d440 29er geared),and had beenlusting over shiny new Vassago frames to hang all the upgrades on from the d440 (which are actually great improvements,not just bling)'re most definately right...I don't need a nicer geared frame,but I do want a more modern 29er SS (my M'cog is setup as an errand bike currently),so no new Bandersnatch frame come Spring,either a Jabberwocky SS built with mostly hand-me-down parts,or even a Monocog 29 complete :).

I get lost in the gear thing from time to time,thanks for reminding me what matters :)


bettymountaingirl said...

Thanks for joining in on this! I will admit to desperately seeking a new bike for SS too...