Can We Stop Confusing Price with Value?

Looking back on my own 25 years in cycling and thinking about everything I ever lusted for: helmets, shoes, glasses, carbon frames, fancier components, lightweight this and that, the newest clothing brands, cyclocomputers, heart rate monitors, GPS and on and on.  When I really think about it, those items almost every one of them are now conveniently located in one place: The Landfill

During this time of year that we are inundated with emails, calls and social media requests about our products, and many of those will inevitably focus on the price, specifically people ask over and over: 'Why is it so expensive' or my favorite, 'How can you justify charging this much?'  

It is always tempting to answer by going into the details of the fine materials, the predominate US sourcing of subcomponents and raw materials, the level of engineering, craftsmanship and testing that go into each individual product before it goes out the door, etc.  We maybe mention our full metal construction or industry leading 25 year SILCA Shield Warranty, or we go even further into details about US manufacturing, a living wage, creating jobs, etc, but it is always interesting how little that seems to matter compared to sheer pricing.  

This is understandable, we are all naturally wired to focus on the near term, and the idea that you can buy one of something to last 25 years vs re-buying every 3-5 years is hard to properly value in present terms.  This sort of long term thinking has further been distorted by this almost desire for obsolescence that we have been trained to expect by the electronics industries.  If I told you that your new iPhone or Garmin would last 25 year s and never need to be replaced, you would be outright distraught.. I have one friend who jokes (though is totally serious) that his Christmas item for the last 5 years is unchanged: the new Garmin GPS cyclocomputer.  Think about that, each year the same relative item is a 'must have' and 11 months later that same item is a 'must replace'.  We live in this endless cycle of desperately wanting things that we are instantly bored with and that are shortly thereafter made obsolete.

So all of this brings us to the realization that price has little to do with great or exceptional value which often contains intangibles which are hard to factor in at the time of purchase.  Whether his new Garmin costs $50 or $400, it will be a thrill in December, a bore in February and a burden by November once the superiority of the new one is fully appreciated.  In this case, price and value are nearly completely disconnected.

So here is what I tell people now:  True value is paying the right price for a well designed object, and if that item will work flawlessly, never let you down and be faithfully by your side for 20+ years, you will find that the value of that object will only ever increase in your mind, while the price will long be forgotten.  Connected to this is the joy of using the object, and that's something almost impossible to put a price on, yet something we strive endlessly to engineer and design into every product.

We are reminded of this value and these intangibles daily through our replacement part business.  Not a day goes by the we don't speak with at least one person rebuilding the pump they purchased or received as a graduation gift, bachelor party gift, wedding gift, etc, in the 60's, 70's, 80's.. These people have used their pump for 30+ years and would never consider replacing it, in fact, they are often calling as much to tell their story as anything else.  For each of these people the pump means significantly more to them now than it did when new, it has become the object that represents a lifetime of cycling.  

Many of them (like me) remember paying 'extra' for a SILCA way back in the day, yet we all look back fondly at what an extreme value it feels like today, and are thrilled to have made that choice.    I can put in one bike box everything that has lasted me 25 years, and those particular items hold such value to me that I will never let them go, in that box will fit 2 SILCA pumps, the one I bought when I was 15 years old and the one my wife had when I met her (I knew she was a keeper!).  Both of these 25+ year old SILCA's still work flawlessly and are used nearly constantly by our entire family and cycling friends: What Value!

So when making your list for this holiday season, or if you are buying for others, I ask that you consider not just price, but also value.  This is certainly not to say that anything SILCA has to be on the list (though we are greatly appreciative if it is!)  I try to think about each item I'm buying for others through the lens of 'Where will this item be in 3 or 5 years?'.  I think that in most all cases you will find the answer to actually be: Landfill.  It certainly takes additional effort to buy the 'Forever Gift' but I am certain that in the long term, both giver and recipient will be happy that the extra time and attention was given.

Perhaps Padraig over at Red Kite Prayer said it best in his writing about his own SuperPista Ultimate:  'This device is heirloom quality. When you are gone, this effort will still be unequaled and your children will fight over this thing, for it isn’t a bike accessory, it’s an articulation of excellence. And yes, your children will fight over it, because you bought only one. Your grandchildren will think you cool because you went all-in on an afterthought. You’ll be lionized as a person for whom no task was too small to care about.'

For a list of items both SILCA and non-SILCA that will make anybody's day brighter for years to come, please check out this SILCA Gift Guide

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