Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This Year's Model

That famous bike snob says, “Cycling simply doesn't need new product lines every year.” Duh! If Snob thinks cycling is unique in this regard, he’s never gone through a running phase. Every year my hard-road training shoe, the Asics Gel Cumulus, gets a new number stuck at the end of its name. I started on this shoe when it was hardly even a kindergartner, at 4. (Actually, it was IV then; they made the switch from Roman to Arabic numerals with X, aka 10.) Now it’s 11, a certified tween, all into V Factory (or w/e).

Remarkably, the company doesn’t claim there’s anything new about the Gel Cumulus 11. Last year they boasted of improving the Gel Cumulus 10 by adding something called Impact Guidance System (I.G.S.®), which the Iranians promptly ripped off and are using in their nuke program, thanks a lot, Asics. This year, nada. Did the Marketing Department take a big whack in a cost-cutting move? Or were they just unable to conjure another registered feature? The list already included — in addition to I.G.S.® — SpEVA®, “Twist” GEL® Cushioning and the Space Trusstic System®. Remember, too: Plenty of stuff had been quietly abandoned over the years. My Gel Cumulus IVs, which Zappos tells me were purchased on December 28, 2002, came with GEL® Cushioning (no “Twist” then), in addition to the late but not lamented DuraSponger® forefoot and AHAR® heel plug.

Actually, now that I think about it, the lack of advancements to the Gel Cumulus 11 has an obvious explanation: It’s a a nod to the minimal-shoe trend. When the Gel Cumulus 12 rolls around, I suspect you’ll see Asics boast that it’s discarded at least one of the shoe's trademarked features. And by the time we get to Gel Cumulus 15, it’ll be an utterly featureless shoe, perfect for the multitude of born-again forefoot strikers.

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