I had an entertaining exchange a few weeks ago with an Nzo customer.
He was writing to enquire about the fabrics we use in our shorts, and whether we had improved what we use since he ordered the pair he had been using.
His query was fair enough, but as his shorts were about two years old the answer was no. We still use the same fabric. I explained our rationale, and the balance we try for between weight, comfort and durability.
The customer was not unhappy with the shorts - he loves them. The construction was intact, but there was this hole, worn through in the spot where he sits.
I started an exploratory interrogation about what type of saddle he uses, and what sort of conditions he rides in - then I re-read the message and spotted the sentence where he reckoned he had done five thousand kilometres in the shorts.
Firstly, I was impressed. That is big mileage by my standards.
I congratulated him! I also pointed out that in five thousand kilometres of mountain biking, which would take me a couple of unusually good years, I would probably swap out three pairs of tyres, four or five chains, and at least one cassette.
Shorts sit in the same general ballpark cost-wise as these consumables. North of other expenses like brake pads and lubes, and way south of suspension services and the odd completely new bike.
He agreed, and ordered a new pair.
We swapped battle stories over a couple of emails back and forth - our customer’s five thousand kilometres were achieved around a heap of misadventures and hospitalisations - it really was a ripping yarn, and he ended up completing a multi-day team event in the Snowy Mountains against the odds.
I am invited to be in the team for next year. My own misadventures make attending unlikely, but the idea is nice.
But back to the shorts: something about a piece of equipment you wear seems to put it in a different category to a mechanical thing when it eventually wears out.
People tell us how much they love the old shorts they had their best adventure in, and the emotional connection they have to a weather-beaten apparel product is completely different to the way they feel about the flogged out drivetrain that goes in the bin without a second thought.
We will keep trying to make Nzo shorts go the distance.
But we will also be happy to sell you a new pair when you have wrung the last mile out of that pair you love.