There’s a collective sigh as another € 10,000 charcoal grey aero whip goes by. Fully equipped, how predictable. Are we talking cool, innovative, or just ostentatious? Hold up, hold up. Firstly, it’s all the above – plus downright unimaginative. So, when did luxury items become so bland and uninspiring? Why are they just not cutting it these days?
If we’re talking luxury, you will probably picture an overpaid, pretty average footballer taking a Boeing 747-turned-private jet, refurbed by a Saudi prince and featuring golden thrones throughout. Swish, swanky, and way too in-your-face for our humble European sensibilities. When it comes to bikes, we’re firmly in the understated court: it’s so good that we don’t need to shout about it. We’ll take the painfully expensive carbon wheels, but leave out the decals – just give us an anodized titanium frame, and kit with minimal logos and flashiness. Call it quiet luxury, if you will.
When it comes to public perception, us cyclists are the self-disciplined section of the population that braves the elements on brutally stiff carbon saddles. You’ll have to look elsewhere for an ultra-comfy gold throne. But that doesn’t mean luxury is absent. Instead, when cyclists want to flex luxury, it is measured by owning stuff that others within our world dream of.
A top-of-the-line carbon aero racer makes one statement. A titanium bike with a custom built wheelset makes another. One says you’re on team marginal gains whilst the other puts you in team heritage with a penchant for quality craftsmanship.
But if you want to use your curated high-end bike for peacockery, then you’re unfortunately displaying something of a lack of imagination, because how can using an online configurator to spec your bike with off-the-shelf components be an indicator of taste? Where is the art in letting the algorithm put together a high-ticket outfit? The answer to both is simple: by following the will of the bike industry sales teams, your peacock game will be lacking. That is, unless the outcome can genuinely be labelled as inspiring and novel, rather than indistinguishable from everyone else on the roads.
We ride uniform grey aero race bikes in uniform jerseys in muted tones in order to blend in with the flock, if you will. All the money we spend goes on playing it safe. Yep, it’s ridiculous, but it’s to avoid attracting attention. Heck, if you have the money to have fun, why are you not relishing it?
The same applies at home too, where our assimilation misery continues. Once you’ve positioned your Vitra armchair and switched on your Ingo Maurer lamp with your Rolex-clad arm, you’ll be living large – in the most tastefully boring way possible. Even the beam of a €3,000 lamp can’t make vapidity shine. Design is one thing; style is another, and neither of these should be mixed with hollow, label-bagging consumerism.
But back to bikes, where prestige obliterates creativity. We’ve been conditioned to spot (and rate) other people’s groupsets and wheels. Once we’ve clocked the brand and the desirability of the component (based on its weight, obviously), our next step is easy: interpret and pass judgement.
Lightweight costs money, but that’s what makes it all the more appealing. In our world, weight has long been the only real benchmark for exclusivity. So we left the engineers in charge of relaying what was desirable on a bike—individuality and style didn’t come into it, but the ultimate carbon fibre layup was everything. This weight obsession wasn’t sustainable though, because the next bike that would get launched would be even lighter, and on it went. Nowadays, weight is no longer the only benchmark; it’s joined by aerodynamics, which means we’re now letting the wind tunnel determine what’s high-end and what’s not.
And funnily enough, airflow couldn’t give a damn about feeling or style.
So, it comes down to what we wear – and once again, we’ve outsourced our sense of style and individualism to brands who dictate our tastes. Mostly good stuff, that’s for sure, but we’re not exactly in the mind to pick clothes based on superlative breathability, comfort or durability. No, our sartorial tail feathers are what allow us to fit in. Your €300 windproof jacket doesn’t just protect your core, it also protects your ego.
Can luxury have a different look? What about the gold leaf and diamond-covered Colnago? This bike has more of the private jet vibe about it, making a song and dance that we’d probably call ostentatious, but at least it’s not boring.
But is there another way to approach luxury? We love things that have personality. Things that haven’t been slicked back and optimised down to their very core. Sidestepping the industry indoctrination of groupset hierarchies and aero obsession won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. If you’re reading this, we don’t have to explain the luxury in hand-selecting components for your much-loved bike or getting a patch to cover the hole in your go-to down jacket. You can’t put a price on untethering yourself from the norm and finding your own style lane. We’d argue that this is the most luxurious thing out there.
Spend your money wildly – it beats being bland.
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Words: Nils Hofmeister Photos: Julian Lemme