Sunday, April 12, 2015

What We Think is Comfortable is Not

Which is more comfortable?  This over-sized tractor-style bike seat with a fluffy lambs-wool cover?

Or this hard, narrow leather racing style seat?   Which one do long-distance riders use?  So which is really more comfortable?

I had another epiphany today.  A lot of things in life which we think are luxurious or comfy, are really actually very uncomfortable and overpriced.   A lot of things in life which look spartan, simple, and uncomfortable, are actually more comfortable and endurable - and a better value.

And yes, this occurred on a bike ride.  I replaced our bike seats last year, as the originals were 15 years old and one was broken.   I avoided the temptation to buy the bike seat at the top of the page here, but instead bought something more like the lower picture, albeit not in leather.  And it is a very comfortable seat.

It is like the Townie bikes - people trade efficiency for perceived comfort, and find out that efficiency is the ultimate comfort.   I saw an old couple on their Townies today while out for a ride.  They were walking their bikes.   That's how "comfortable" they are.

People think that cushy and soft and big is going to be comfortable.  It usually is not.   We had a set of those big oversized and overstuffed chairs, and they were not very comfortable.   Since they were about 1.75x the size of a "normal" chair, you could not sit in them normally, but instead ended up leaning to one side.  Within minutes, your back was on fire.  The soft cushy cushions made you sink in and feel you were swimming in the chair.  Getting out was a sure way to tear a lower back muscle.

On the other hand, a simple, appropriately sized chair, even made of solid wood, can be far more comfortable, if it provides support.   Mattresses and pillows are the same way.  Big cushy oversized pillows are literally a pain in the neck.  Soft mattresses you sink into cause your spine to curve like a pretzel.  A nice firm mattress and a pillow of appropriate size is far more comfortable than the cushy overstuffed kind.

I mentioned support in the last paragraph.   And this is where I had the epiphany.   In personal finances as well as in furniture and bike seats, a good solid foundation of support is far more comfortable than all the cushy cushions and overstuffed fluff.   Yet most people opt for the fluff, at the expense of support.

Most would rather have a "luxury" car bought on time, than a paid-for-in-cash economy car.   Which really provides better support for you, financially?  Within a few years, the leather seats are worn and the electronic gadgets are broken.  But you are still stuck with car payments, high fuel and maintenance costs, and higher insurance costs.

Many people poke fun at the Spartans for their minimalist lifestyle.   Perhaps it was an aesthetic.  Or perhaps they were smarter than they appeared to be, and wanted to focus their lives on what was important, and found comfort in having fewer simple things, rather than a complex life filled with "luxuries" that required constant maintenance.   All they had to do was keep their swords sharp - and they did a good job of that!

Just something to think about.  The next time you look at a fluffy over-stuffed and over-priced sofa, think to yourself, "is this really comfortable?  Sinking in and swimming in a sea of foam?"

And so on down the line.  Is the overpriced and overwrought entree and the pretentious restaurant really a better meal than the tacos al pastor at the shady Mexican place down the street?

Sometimes, less is more.   In fact, most of the time, I think.