There are some cases where you care very little for the branding of a product, pure functionality is what you're looking for and nothing more. Stem bolts, tire plugs, inner tubes - aside from a few specialist cases, the question is simply 'does this do its job?' If the answer is yes, then no further considerations are required.
However, there are some cases where the element of the 'boutique' starts to set in. Delightful overengineering - quality surplus to requirements, but so intrinsically desirable you can't help but be captivated.
But to tickle a fancy is one thing, whether the purchase can fully be justified is quite another. With that in mind, let's take a run through some of the most exquisite products currently reduced for Cyber Monday, and see how the they stack up against their more thrifty competition. Let's call this 'Boutique vs Budget', first up with round #1...
Silca Super Pista Ultimate Hiro Edition Floor Pump
It's a three figure saving - something you have to admit you don't often see when it comes to floor pumps. Rosewood handles go without saying at this point in the market - and when you're paying more than price of a bike computer, magnetic docking for the air hose is a feature which enters the scene.
Of course, there's inescapable morbid reflections which accompany the purchase of a floor pump which has a claimed longevity that might outlast your own - but that's all part of the experience here.
Topeak JoeBlow Urban EX Floor Pump
It's not the cheapest floor pump out there, even at this handy discount. But the rule of diminishing returns - double the price of your bike and you won't go twice as fast - does have a counterpoint in there being a floor of quality which it's wise to stay above. Buy (sufficiently) nice or buy twice; I can't afford to buy cheap tools, etc.
This is a particularly neat model - although it has 'urban' in title, all that means is that more air is moved per stroke and that the maximum pressure is lower than traditional 'road' pumps.
But who's topping their tires up to 180 psi these days? This pump goes up to 120 psi (more than plenty) and will get you there faster whilst giving you a more accurate readout as the needle actually makes use of the dial rather than staying within just one sixth.
Weighing up the two pumps, despite the existential ruminations courtesy of Silca Super Pista, I think it's a clear win for the 'Budget' in this round with the Topeak takes the JoeBlow Urban EX.
Wolf Tooth 8-Bit Kit One
It's an eye-catching design - very slim, very minimalist. If you ever get a mechanical outside Oslo's opera house, I'm sure you'll get many admiring nods.
It packs 8 bits but boasts 17 functions: hex keys from 2mm to 8mm, T10 and T25 Torx bits, flat head and two cross head screwdrivers - and then the fun bits!
Master link storage, a valve cleaner and valve core tightener, a spoke wrench, a tire lever, plug tool, knife, and a "specially shaped rim dent remover" - fancy.
Crankbrothers Multi 17 Tool
I think this is actually quite a pretty multitool, but safe to say it's been upstaged by the Wolftooth.
The list of functions covers all your basic needs: Hex keys from 2mm to 8mm, a flat head and cross head screwdriver, a T25 Torx key, four spoke wrenches and a chain tool.
It's a no-nonsense multitool which is actually large enough to be regularly used without frustration - not the case with all tools.
I was ready to give this to the budget option - functionality ahead of form, price ahead of prettiness.
But actually, I really like how Wolf Tooth has squeezed all those different tools into such a sleek design. It looks good, it's compact and it's going straight on my Christmas list - though that might be all that I get!
Round #2 goes to Boutique.
Silca Titanium Cage
Weighing 29% less than an aluminium bottle cage, the proportional weight savings are distinctly impressive - even if you might not notice that 12 gram difference enough to miss them.
But that's besides the point - pure weight weenie-ism is not what these cages are about. No, it's the beauty of the tubular titanium construction, "hand bent in Indianapolis" and optimized for "purist bottles" (although I have to admit, I don't think I'd genuinely recognize one of those if I saw it...)
But again - that is besides the point. The anodizing is a thing of beauty, an oil slick rainbow pattern which you can match with your bottle bolts, drivetrain, tubeless valves and wheel hubs. Match... or did I mean clash?
No matter, the long cutout for the bottle cage bolts is pretty handy for adjusting exactly where the cage sits on your down tube / seat tube - and can you put a price on convivence? Well, yes, yes you can.
Topeak Shuttle AL bottle cage
There are cheaper aluminium bottle cages, but you do have to be careful not to go too cheap and get one which snaps at a join as soon as you pull a bottle out a little too forcefully.
With Topeak, you know you are getting quality, which is why I chose these cages for my own bikes several years ago - and I'm pleased to report that all are still going strong!
A metal cage allows you to bend it in a little bit, giving a tighter grip on your bottles. That's the main reason I went over to aluminium over composite, as I was getting frustrated with the number of bottles I kept losing.
There are fancy designs which propose a solution to this issue, but personally I'd rather not spend any more on my bottle cages than I strictly have to.
The only limitation is the single, round holes for the bolts, which doesn't allow for any adjustability of where the bottle cage sits on the frame. Fortunately for me, the position doesn't cause any issues, but there are third party adaptors which you can use if you need more adjustment - although getting a bottle cage with that feature built in would probably be more cost efficient!
Titanium is an excellent material for many applications. To be sure, it can perform the task of a bottle cage masterfully as well. But for the difference in price versus the difference in experience or execution of the task, I would have to say that the aluminium bottle cage wins.
And just to nip any speculation in the bud: yes, I am biased towards the Topeak Shuttle bottle cages that I actually use - and yes, that has affected my conclusion.
Round #3 goes to budget!
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