Thursday, February 27, 2014

Razor Blades, Upgrades, And Blissful Ignorance

Long, long ago, when the first wispy hairs sprouted upon my adolescent chin, I learned to shave with a pretty simple razor. Given my Luddite tendencies, you might think it was one of these, sharpened upon a leather strop:

You got me. This is only here so I could use the word "strop".

Alas, I am a geezer, but I'm not that geezerish. But my (modern safety) razor had just one blade (or maybe two... my geezerish memory fails me). And I shaved with that thing for years (changing the blade as it got dull, obviously). And it was fine.

However, as anyone who's shaved any part of their anatomy over the last two decades knows, the razor companies have been in a bit of an arms race. Three blades. Four. Five. Goop-strips to make them slide over your face or other anatomy. Pivoting blades. Bendy blades. And at some point during that arms race, a marketing flack for one of the razor companies got the brilliant idea to distribute some free samples of their many-bladed breakthroughs to potential customers. I got one of those free samples. And while there was absolutely nothing wrong with my existing razor, I figured I had it, it was free, so heck, might as well try it.

You see where this is headed, right? I loved it, and now I feel like I can't live without that multi-bladed monstrosity, mortgaging my kidneys so I can afford replacement megablades. I could still scrape the barnacles off my face just as well with that old one-blader, but now that I've felt the caress of a half-dozen blades behind a goop strip, I can't go back. Thanks, jerk who thought up the free sample idea.

What is all this doing in a bicycle blog, you ask? Well, your "real bicycle journalist" (as opposed to us schlubs banging out prattle in our undies) gets a whole lot of free samples, a.k.a. "schwag". Keep that in mind when a magazine review tells you that an upgrade is a "must-have" that you "can't live without." These aren't bad people, mind you. In most cases, I honestly don't think they're trying to get you to buy something you don't need. They're just bike geeks (in the most loving sense of the word) who get to enjoy all the best stuff without having to mortgage their kidneys. It's a recipe for unbridled enthusiasm, because they never have to ask, "Do I need this? Can I afford this? Does this improve the experience of riding enough to justify its cost?"

(Full disclosure: Bloggers get freebies too, and are not immune to their siren song. During the life of this mediocre blogularity, manufacturers have gifted me the sum total of one helmet lock, one pair of shoes, and one water bottle. I did my best to make that clear in my reviews and not be influenced by the freebies, but I'm human.) 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Granted, if people were handing me shiny toys to play with, my criticism might be dulled a bit.. or maybe just shifted a tad?? "I enjoyed the Gadgette Nouvo, but I felt the texture was a bit too ordinary and didn't reward my sense of touch in the manner I've become accustomed to".

Instead, I buy my own shiny toys, and sometimes the new and fancy gadget wins. I bought a new digital SLR last year, and it really is an improvement over the 5 year old unit. Better resolution, faster shutter, more focusing zones (which was a big deal), and the ability to shoot HD video. Best of all, the user interface hardly changed at all!

Other times, the new stuff bites, and a step back in tech can be a treat! I used Trac II razors for decades, and liked them. A few years ago, I tried an old fashioned safety razor (like you started with?), and I found I was getting a distinctly closer shave. There was a period of adjustment, since there was more potential for removing the random bit of flesh. Last year I tried one of those razors with 5 blades, and thought it was awful. It seemed to be designed with the first priority being "no nicks", and a good shave falling somewhere below "creative use of rubber overmolding". With the Merkur razor and blades, I'm as happy as can be, and don't have to feel bad about tossing the plastic Trac II razors in the trash.

By the way, if you want to talk about expensive gadgets, you should see some of the electronics test gear that I use at work. It's easy to spend $30k on a nice oscilloscope or signal analyzer. My 'scope at home, by comparison, is a 20 year old Tektronix that cost me $200. :-)

Steve in Peoria