Saturday, 16 October 2010

Decisions, decisions.

Students of marketing are taught that after making a major purchase consumers tend to experience doubts about whether they have made the right choice. To overcome these, they seek out evidence to justify their decision. This partly explains why many manufacturers include a leaflet that starts "Congratulations on becoming the proud owner of...." in the hope that this will help to encourage satisfied customers to stay loyal and spread the word. It also explains why we are said to read more product reviews after a purchase than we did beforehand.

This month Cycling Active reviews a couple of the bikes that I was considering at the beginning of the year. It's not a magazine that I normally read, and I made my choice of bike months ago, but I still couldn't resist buying a copy.

Out of the four bikes they compare, the option that they rated most highly was a bike that I had never heard of, so never considered. The option that they rated fourth was one that I discounted quite early on. Their other two options are more relevant. The Dawes Galaxy they review is a slightly different model to the one I bought. The Ridgeback Panorama was the alternative that I almost chose. At the time, I found it difficult to come to a decision between these two. Each had different strengths, and I had no way of knowing which characteristics would turn out to be more important to me. In the Cycling Active rankings the two came out almost equal, but the Panorama (which I didn't buy) was slightly ahead. When I was buying I think Ridgeback were having problems shipping. As a result I couldn't have a trial ride, so I ended up with a Super Galaxy. I dithered, but the decision was made for me.

So having read the review, where does it leave me?

It confirms my sense that there really isn't much to chose between the two. Since my first outing I have enjoyed riding the Galaxy. Intellectually I can see that I would probably have enjoyed the Panorama just as much. But emotionally no review was going to persuade me that I made a poor choice. That's a normal reaction after any major purchase. We agree with evidence that supports our decision, and disagree with evidence that doesn't. But with a bike I can't help feeling that there is more to it than that.

It seems odd to think about a relationship with a piece of machinery, but there is an element of that about it. I don't just see the Galaxy as a lovely piece of machinery any more. After several months have elapsed, I've spent a couple of hundred hours in the saddle, and we've covered a couple of thousand miles together. I have adapted my riding to its geometry, I've learned to sense the position of the gears, and I instinctively find the right position for my hands and feet. I fitted a Brooks saddle, and that is comfortably broken in. The bike carries my selection of lights, bags, and a few gizmos. It is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and each mark has a history: the scratch from a ferry in Scotland, the scuff on the saddle after the recent accident, the scrape on the brake lever where I rested it clumsily against a wall.  I have adapted to it, and it has adapted to me.

So for what it's worth, my advice to people facing the same choice is this. Don't agonise - it probably doesn't make much difference. If you've already chosen, then (whatever it was) your decision was the right one. The feeling of regret after a purchase is known as "buyer's remorse". Save it for money wasted on reviews that you are ignoring, not the bike that you are enjoying.

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