In light of the recent threads regarding things like aero wheelsets and carbon ultralight frames, I'm just curious about people's motivation behind component selection.
I'm very much of the ride-whatcha-got mindset, and firmly believe that the motor is more important than the vehicle it propels. I take this attitude from a few years of long/ultradistance riding with the Seattle Randonneurs and seeing guys pull off sub-50hr 1200k rides at PBP on restored bikes from the early 70s, and from my own experience with riding 100 - 200k routes on a singlespeed converted dumpster salvaged steel frame from the 80s.
Some of my attitude stems from being a big guy and reading the marketing buzz and the R&D numbers behind new components. Sure, there's a lot to be said for a lightweight carbon frame and sub-1700g wheels when climbing a mountain pass. Same with aero seat masts, wing bars, and deep section wheels when time-trialing. But here's where my question arises:
How much of a benefit are most of us actually realizing from these pricey technologies? For those of us not in the sub-15% bodyfat range, is there really a huge differential on a 16 mile climb with a 20 pound steel bike with a 1900g wheelset and a 16.5 pound bike with a 1500g wheelset? I'm not talking about projected numbers from kreuzotter or analytic cycling; I'm questioning real world clock time or measured wattage output. Is it significantly faster or more efficient? Similarly, given the math behind frontal area ratios to power output per mph increase, how much benefit is there to a 50mm deep section wheel for someone like me who presents the wind with a rather generous target?
That brings up my next question (and the one most likely to cause a stir):
What's the point?
I understand why these things are important to guys like Cadel Evans. When tenths of a second separate the money-winners from the also-rodes, you need every advantage you can get: Light aero wheels, shave grams off all your components, etc. For the rest of us who aren't racing, who don't have sponsors stocking us with free parts, what's your motivation behind a $2000 wheelset instead of a $300 set, or a $2500 frame over a $600 frameset?
Don't get me wrong; I understand that there are benefits to certain components and the price is worth it. I own a SON28 dynohub, I have Brooks saddles on many of my bikes, I spend the extra money for cloth rimtape when building wheels instead of using those plastic strips. But even on my racing bike I'm rolling on a sub-$200 pair of wheels and haven't considered investing more than about $450 in a new frame for next season, if I replace it at all.
I'm not trying to be a jerk, or be discouraging towards anyone's purchasing habits. I'm honestly just curious about motivations behind it since I do see a lot of people who don't race, riding high end racing equipment. I can even accept "It looks cool and I'm a bazillionaire so I can buy whatever I want" if that's really your motivation.