I love my bike

I’ve been riding my bike more to start training for the Death Ride in July (and because the weather is ludicrously nice in California – it got into the 80s this week). And I was thinking this morning that I love my bike.

From 2011 to 2014, my main bike was a Surly Long Haul Trucker, which I also adore. It is an indestructible steel-framed touring bike. I rode it on a six-day bike tour to Santa Barbara and several other weekend camping trips. I also used it as my road bike, doing long one-day rides on it. It can do almost anything – I’ve even ridden it on trails, as it has wide tires and can handle the pounding.

But as I started ramping up to do longer road rides, like the Marin century I rode in August, I realized that my touring bike was, well, heavy – indestructibility has a downside. And I decided that with all the riding I was doing and knowing I was thinking about doing the Death Ride, it was time to indulge myself and get a nice carbon fiber road bike. And after doing a couple weeks of test rides, I chose the Trek Domane 4.7c, which is about 12 pounds lighter than my Long Haul Trucker.

And, boy, it’s nice – it makes me feel fast. And bad-ass. I want to ride faster to justify owning this bike, so I push myself harder. And I go even faster and that makes me feel even better.

I’m not much of a material possession guy, so I was thinking this morning about why I feel so strongly about my bikes (and skis for that matter). I think it is because they make me feel powerful. When I get better gear, it makes me more capable and competent, and that increased skill carries over into me feeling more confident. And that’s why I’m willing to pay for the right gear.

And I realized that this is probably how others feel about clothes. Wearing the right outfit makes them feel more confident and they walk a little straighter and with a little more purpose. To some extent, they are not paying for the clothes themselves, but for that feeling of confidence and purpose.

It reminds me of Kathy Sierra’s question, “Who have you helped kick ass today?”. When designing a product, the goal isn’t necessarily the product itself, but the feelings it inspires in its users. Engineers often miss this point, wondering why a product that doesn’t measure up in the technical specifications is preferred by users (I had an Archos MP3 Jukebox over an iPod for this reason back in the day).

Anyway, I just wanted to share that I love my bike. And remind any product designers out there to think about how your product will make users feel confident and powerful, as that’s what inspires that sort of loyalty and emotional connection to a product.

3 thoughts on “I love my bike

  1. I’ve really grown to love the notion that when building a product, you really want to focus on “how does this make my user a superhero?” It’s true for something like Slack (I now know where everything I’ve ever talked about at work is & can find it trivially) and with games (I may not live a fulfilling life in some ways but in a game I make progress & can master the systems). It’s such a great way to maintain a focus on what the users care about.

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