Tuesday, September 27, 2011

must. rant. (damn you, brooks.)

Years ago I came into the possession of a small stack of CTC Gazettes. The Gazette was the magazine for the Cyclists' Touring Club, the national organization of cyclotouring and bicycle transportation in Great Britain. Included in the pages were photos of happy cyclotourists, clad in the traditional (for that time period, anyway -- 1960's and 70's) oxford shirts, knickers (I think they called them "plus-twos", not quite as billowy as the golfers' "plus-fours") and jaunty touring jackets. Of course, their bikes were outfitted with the now-famous transverse saddle bags, which enjoyed a renaissance thanks in large part to the efforts of Rivendell Bicycle Works to import them in the early 1990's. The photos in the magazine show happy men and women riding through the bucolic British countryside, and in general having a fine time.

The photos can be seen in real-life form today. My touring bike has a transverse saddlebag, of course -- I've used them for years -- and Tweed Rides all over the English-speaking world have brought back the appearance and pleasures of a simpler time without the guilt of the class system tacked on.

And now, Brooks has seen fit to bring back the cyclists' touring jacket. In keeping with their current penchant for pushing the boutique vibe, the new jacket retails for 1,000 euros. If you're doing the math that's about 870 Pounds, or a cool -- sit down -- $1,360.00. Yup. You read that right. Thirteen hundred bucks for a jacket.

To be fair, at least a little bit, the jacket appears to be made in the UK -- and perhaps that accounts for its high price. But Brooks has lately been having goods produced in China and NOT heavily discounting the retail prices, because they know they can get away with it. There are people out there who want the whiff of privilege and they will pay $900 for a rain cape, and $1300 for a touring jacket. (If they can afford these things, they already enjoy more than a whiff of privilege. Good for them.) I love Brooks saddles and have been riding them for nearly 40 years. The B-17 saddle on my touring bike is ten years old -- I paid about $60 for it back then -- and still going strong. But it is getting harder and harder to feel good about supporting a brand whose goods are getting more costly and whose marketing approach is getting more and more class-oriented. I'm also glad that in a few weeks I will step aside as the lead buyer at my shop, and I won't have to worry about it in quite the same way anymore.
All this marketing of "cool" is bringing me down. I'm really looking forward to picking up my wrenches again.

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