Author Topic: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"  (Read 6944 times)

El Marinero

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Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« on: March 19, 2015, 12:32:43 PM »
I thought this was an interesting article.  Beautiful stuff, but who needs a $7900 set of bike wheels?

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-18/japanese-engineers-reinvent-the-wheel

gimp

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2015, 12:38:51 PM »
Nobody. But people love biking... some a few too much. People at some point start paying, like, $10 per gram reduction. And of course it's exponential; like trying to accelerate to the speed of light, the closer you get to the goal (zero weight) the more you pay per unit improvement.

But. Let's be real here. Just like most products like this, there are two points to note. One, this is a halo product, not intended to be bought except by people with more money than sense or so much money they don't give a shit; this is a product that advertises their "under $3300" wheels. Please note that you are giving them free advertising, which is exactly what they want. Two, people invent fantastic things, charge top dollar, and reinvest the earnings until the fantastic thing becomes commodified and available on increasingly lower-end models until one day it's the bare minimum. (Most new cars today are faster than the fastest race cars of a couple generations ago, and can sustain those speeds for weeks at a time before something breaks, at a tiny fraction of the inflation-adjusted cost.)

MgoSam

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2015, 12:45:35 PM »
Also, I'm not sure if it is the case for this company, but some companies will create incredibly advantaged technology that isn't financially practical to sell, but they will do it for the sake of innovation. Eventually they hope that this can be used for more practical items, or at the least to help defray the expenses used.

innkeeper77

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2015, 12:49:33 PM »
It looks like the people at the company are doing truly impressive things, that will perhaps trickle down into affordable territory (eventually) - Many great inexpensive products were at one point in time extremely expensive, as that is what you have to pay to be right on the edge of R&D.

It also looks like the family is doing well enough for themselves, and having fun- I assume that the super expensive wheels are not their only product line (though I haven't researched my claim here at all) - notice the older brother is considering handing over the company and becoming a full time cyclist using the impressive wheels. Sure it's marketing, but it sounds suspiciously like the type of retirement mustachians talk about- even though he is somewhat older (56) - I say good for them!

GuitarStv

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2015, 08:15:05 AM »
Also, I'm not sure if it is the case for this company, but some companies will create incredibly advantaged technology that isn't financially practical to sell, but they will do it for the sake of innovation. Eventually they hope that this can be used for more practical items, or at the least to help defray the expenses used.

+1


This is pretty common.  Our company has a whole department just to work on crazy ideas that we can't directly sell but that trickle down later on into product to be shipped out the door.


I want to try out these wheels.

Forcus

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2015, 11:01:22 AM »
I wouldn't say this is anti-MMM or some kind of compulsive activity at all, seems like it's a product for a niche market and it has a pretty compelling story (4x the spin-down time than the nearest competitor... that's pretty impressive). If no one ever pushed boundaries or asked what-if, nothing new would ever get developed..

Now some of the other examples, the smart phone / detergent thing, I think are pretty stupid but hey that's just my opinion.

If you want to talk compulsively engineered, I'd point towards certain German automakers (ok.... all of them). My experience with their products has been pretty poor and overengineering is part of it. I'm not talking overbuilt or too high of quality, but simply complexity for the sake of complexity. The odd part is for all the German so called perfection and precision I find that they have missed the mark in many basic ways that I find inexcusable (again, this is with certain German cars I have owned, so I am biased and also in no way means that everyone else is perfect). I will also say I have not sampled anything recent (mid 2000's up) so maybe that's not a current issue but after reading about certain models with, I think, 13 individual computers, I have no will to try them again!

jmusic

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2015, 11:43:58 AM »
But. Let's be real here. Just like most products like this, there are two points to note. One, this is a halo product, not intended to be bought except by people with more money than sense or so much money they don't give a shit; this is a product that advertises their "under $3300" wheels.

I'm sure this is exactly what's going on.  It's the same thing with bikes themselves, luxury cars, and a whole host of other products (Apple watch, anyone?). Artificial normative cues at work...

Most "high end" bike stores carry the $10K bikes not because they actually sell many of them, but because you look at the $10K bike and then you think, "Hmm, maybe this one for $3500 isn't so expensive..."  The only thing the $10K bike is really better at is speed in separating you from your money.  As any REAL CYCLIST will tell you, it's all in the motor!


jmusic

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2015, 11:55:55 AM »
Another thought:  Wannabe cyclists have been known to spend absolute craptons of money trying to improve their performance.  Someone mentioned the $10/gram savings phenomenon, which is very true (Titanium bolts, anyone?). 

Altitude tents, expensive personal trainers, the list goes on.  And then of course there's doping, which is the cyclist's equivalent of steroid use.  Amateurs (in both fields) do this just as much as the pros do...

Fuzzy Buttons

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2015, 02:41:57 PM »
The article reminded me of the excellent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  Both describe Japanese crafters who have dedicated themselves to the mastery of one thing, almost as a meditation or a way of life.  For Jiro, it's sushi.  For these men, its jet engine and car parts and bicycle tires.  In that sense, it's not about whether the resulting object is profitable or practical.  It's about pushing yourself to approach an idealized state of perfection; knowing that you cannot achieve it, but that the effort itself is the purpose.

I feel an immense appeal in that idea sometimes.  There's nothing in my life that I can say I attempt to perfect, that's for sure.  Maybe I just haven't found the right thing yet.  But I admire those who have.

gooki

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2015, 01:07:02 AM »
I thought this was an interesting article.  Beautiful stuff, but who needs a $7900 set of bike wheels?

8k is affordable for any pro cyclist. Their sales problem isn't over engineering, it's marketing.

kendallf

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2015, 01:16:40 AM »
The funnier part to me is that there is no mention of aero testing and the wheels appear to be using a fairly generic ~40mm carbon rim profile.  Gains due to bearing resistance on hubs are on the order of ~1 watt, while gains due to aero improvements can be much higher.  It'd suck to buy a $8k pair of wheels with nice bearings and axles that were still slower than a $1k pair of Zipps that test better in the wind tunnel.

Syonyk

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2015, 02:45:32 PM »
Aw.  I thought this thread was going to be about things you've overbuilt by a factor of "completely insane" yourself. :(

Which, I admit, I'm guilty of, and will be guilty of again soon.  You don't *need* to be able to hang an engine off a loft in the dorms, and having to use a sawzall to take it down is sort of annoying...

My next "... you used HOW much lumber?" project will be shelving units at work.  For storing very expensive servers before shipping.  I wouldn't want them to fall!  And, being not a structural engineer of any sort, I tend to go for "Bigger is better," and build with 4x4 uprights, 2x6 supports around the edge, 2x4s hung in the center, and 1/2" plywood (or so) as the actual shelf.  They should last roughly forever.

scottish

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2015, 05:21:53 PM »
Quote
Sharp has made a $1,300 fridge that tries to distinguish itself by making clear ice cubes, as opposed to cloudy ones.
These guys want to sell expensive appliances they should build one that lasts 20 years.

zephyr911

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2015, 10:32:41 AM »
Quote
Sharp has made a $1,300 fridge that tries to distinguish itself by making clear ice cubes, as opposed to cloudy ones.
These guys want to sell expensive appliances they should build one that lasts 20 years.
But how are they supposed to sell you another one next year if it lasts for 20? >.<

Aminul

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2015, 01:30:43 PM »
Most "high end" bike stores carry the $10K bikes not because they actually sell many of them, but because you look at the $10K bike and then you think, "Hmm, maybe this one for $3500 isn't so expensive..."  The only thing the $10K bike is really better at is speed in separating you from your money.  As any REAL CYCLIST will tell you, it's all in the motor!

This is also the reason we have Bridal magazines and first-time-home-buyer shows on TV. 

I'm a red panda

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2015, 02:01:50 PM »
As any REAL CYCLIST will tell you, it's all in the motor!

So why do the pros use the expensive ones?


<--- has a cheap bike. I suck at biking and a better bike isn't going to help much. But clearly there is something about the 10k bike that is better than a 3k bike, or the pros would be on the 3k. Most of them aren't making that much money.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2015, 02:16:39 PM »
As any REAL CYCLIST will tell you, it's all in the motor!

So why do the pros use the expensive ones?


<--- has a cheap bike. I suck at biking and a better bike isn't going to help much. But clearly there is something about the 10k bike that is better than a 3k bike, or the pros would be on the 3k. Most of them aren't making that much money.
Because the extra money spent on bikes is a rounding error in a professional team's budget. If there's the slighest chance that it could help their guys get another inch in a sprint finish, they're going to do it. Besides, the bike manufacturer has an incentive to have its most expensive bikes shown on TV.

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2015, 02:59:53 PM »
This is a world where they very rich will easily drop $300,000 for a sports car and the extremely rich would think nothing of spending $1-2 million on an even more exclusive sports car.  $7900 for a set of wheels that help you go faster than anyone else for the same amount of energy expended seems like chump change in comparison.  For example, if you can spend $20,000 for a custom carbon bike that lets you ride the same pace as your buddies but on 10-15% less effort, or go 1-2km/h faster on the same energy, why not?  I would argue the bragging rights of speed are greater if you, as a human being, can go as fast or faster than the people you're with as opposed to sports cars where it's much more obvious you simply spent your way into something fast.

dios.del.sol

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Re: Quality taken too far - "Compulsive Over-Engineering"
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2015, 06:47:38 PM »
As any REAL CYCLIST will tell you, it's all in the motor!

So why do the pros use the expensive ones?


<--- has a cheap bike. I suck at biking and a better bike isn't going to help much. But clearly there is something about the 10k bike that is better than a 3k bike, or the pros would be on the 3k. Most of them aren't making that much money.
Because the extra money spent on bikes is a rounding error in a professional team's budget. If there's the slighest chance that it could help their guys get another inch in a sprint finish, they're going to do it. Besides, the bike manufacturer has an incentive to have its most expensive bikes shown on TV.
This. The small advantage is meaningless for a mere mortal who is way slower than all pros. Once you're comparing among the best of the best, the tiny differences start to add up. And one more clarification: pros (and many good amateurs) don't pay for their bikes or other gear. Even a poorly paid pro cyclist gets at least one free bike a season.