But you're asking the wrong question. Strictly put, I don't 'need' top shelf brakes, suspension components, lighter wheels, etc., to simply ride a bicycle. But having those components will augment whatever skills a rider has and improve the bike's performance. How can anyone seriously argue otherwise? To say, 'once you reach a certain level of quality,' already concedes the point I've made: better equipment does matter. Your subjective judgment may be that it doesn't matter all that much, but that's a far cry from the thoughtless claim that the only determinant of performance is the rider. If someone were to make a similar claim that how well a car performs is solely determined by its engine, I doubt anyone here would have trouble seeing the absurdity in it. At least I hope not.