19 January, 2010

Retrospective grouchiness... yes I'm being "that" cyclist

Well I must put a stake in the ground for this post. I love talking about bicycle equipment, I love complaining about my equipment that I feel is severely sub-par.

What motivates me is the misaligned incentives most companies have. A company may make very inexpensive products, but I am unlikely to support them lest they display responsibility. Responsibility to the consumer in the form of customer service; responsibility to their products by having redundant quality controls; and not insignificantly, responsibilities to manufacturing by using materials that are replaceable/reusable/recyclable.

My most significant grief in this respect will undoubtedly label me as a retro-grouch. I love wool garments and leather saddles. Wool is a tough, scratchy, and terrifically hot fabric; merino wool on the other hand is soft, smooth, and can be made very thin to regulate it's insulation capacity. Merino wool is arguable the best fabric for garments from socks, base-layers, shirts, jerseys, hats, and occasionally shorts, tights, and jackets.

It possesses none of the static that makes synthetics as clingy as your crazy ex. While it will get just as stinky as a synthetic if you don't wash either, wool will not grow mold. The stench is from your body odor that has permeated the garment. Typical synthetics will grow mold from this sweat mixture, that's why most companies are making anti-bacterial fabrics. But merino wool is inherently antibacterial. If not, sheep would be walking cesspools of death-bringing diseases... you get the idea.

The coolest thing though is the chemical structure of wool, it's naturally hydrophobic. Meaning: water particles bead up while in contact with the fabric. Effectively, merino wool retains its insulating properties when wet, and is reliably water resistant, not water-proof.

For all it's fine merits, I often wonder why it isn't more present commercially.

Profitability. It is monumentally easier for a company to manufacture and produce synthetics, because the entire process can be automated. Because wool is an animal product, automated harvesting would easily kill the sheep. Thus it needs to be done by hand, blowing the price of the wonderful fabric through the roof.

But cost and profit should not be the incentive for companies, their incentives should be value and product performance. And consumers have the capacity to influence companies incentives.

I'm done whining, but I suspect I will always be grouchy... let's say I'm a retro/contemporary grouch.

Bah humbug...

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