Chad Lundberg left a traveling sales position a few years ago to be the social media coordinator for the Alumni Association of Black Hills State University. Chad bought a century old house in Spearfish that has been added to many times. He’s configuring it into a series of separate living spaces that he can rent as apartments or Airbnb accommodations as part of an ongoing effort to make his life more independent and sustainable. Chad was my warmshowers host in Spearfish, SD. After dinner we walked to a local pub for a beer where we had a wide-ranging conversation about tomorrow. Chad’s story of two bicycles struck me as the essence of his ideas.
“I bought two new bikes last year. First, I bought a carbon fiber lightweight mountain bike. It retails for $5500, and I got it for $3000. But the bike has had ongoing costs. The brake pads went. It needed new tires often, at $80 a pop. At some point I picked up a second bike, a single speed, for $700. The single speed was harder to ride at first. Once you get the feel of it, it actually makes you a better rider.
“I go for a ride every day after work, at least an hour, usually longer, up through the trails. For a while I traded off the carbon fiber bike and the single speed. Then I found myself taking the single speed bike more and more. I kept putting money into the expensive bike; it hardly cost anything to maintain the single speed. At one point I needed to replace a loose bolt on the carbon bike. It was $21. That numbed my mind.
“I started to evaluate the ride on the carbon bike versus the single speed with a simple question: ‘At the end of the ride, am I happy?’ I realized I am happy when I don’t have repairs, when I don’t have to oil the chain as much. I am happy when I don’t have to worry about changing gears. The simpler bike brings more happiness.
“There’s a trend in mountain bikes now to have a single front sprocket instead of a dual sprocket. They add a few more sprockets on the back and it gives you almost as big a range without having to shift from two places. But you know what – they charge more for the single front sprocket than the dual. Why is that? It doesn’t make any sense, it’s marketing.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“We are making things way too complex. Good design needs to take the complexity of an object and make it simple.”