-- Last Updated: Dec-17-12 4:53 PM EST --
"I think it would be fair to say steel is nearly dead in the 'go fast multi gear' road bike market. In the rest of the market...not so much."
Agree that steel is far from dead in the non-racer segments of the market - in commuter/'practical' bikes, touring bikes, fixies/SS, etc., steel is alive and well.
And even in racing bikes, there's still companies and builders churning out 'club racer' bikes in steel. If by 'nearly dead' you mean a niche that'll probably never go away, then, yup.
"Ergo... in the kayak market would it not follow that a segment will demand lighter and lighter while others... not so much?"
It doesn't necessarily follow, because the parallel breaks down.
In cycling, lightness is equated with performance – even though that's really only true when going uphill (or accelerating), and to less of an extent than is commonly believed.
For example, people look at at an 18 lb bike and a 16 lb bike and go, "Wow, the 16 lb bike is 11% lighter, so I'll probably go 11% faster!!!".
Uh, nope. Your bike's weight matters almost not at all on the flat, and even going uphill, well, what about the RIDER? Rider weight + bike weight for many ppl is around 200 lbs.
So, being 2 lbs lighter means you go... 1% faster. Uphill, not on the flat. Was it worth the extra $1000 you spent on the really light bike? Probably not... especially if you had any weight at all to lose off your body.
In kayaks, it's a bit different. Lightness is generally not seen as a big huge performance enhancer, more a convenience, in terms of carrying and car-topping. But it's still important to older paddlers and female paddlers... just not quite in the same way that lightness is seen as important in bikes.
Personally I think a lot of the lightness-need in kayaks could be obviated simply by having a nice portable cart and a good load-assist roof rack (Hullavator, etc), but for whatever reason these things don't seem to occur to many buyers in the market. Many of them focus on the boat weight, not the tools they can use to make sure the boat weight doesn't really matter.
Truth is, lightness in kayaks may have just taken on a life of its own – some ppl really really want it, sure, but then at some point it becomes 'something to market' and an arms-race among manufacturers ensues.
It's an easy-to-understand differentiator ("Oh, this one weighs 51 lbs, this one weights 39, so it must be much better"), so if you can make a lot of $$$ catering to lightness as a selling-point, you do, and everyone else jumps on board so as not to have marketshare/sales taken from them.
'Life of its own', like I said. You see it in bikes all the time, over time. Back around 1990, there was an arms-race to see whose bikes could have the narrowest, lightest tires. Result was stock midrange bikes with uber-narrow 18mm tires that would pinch-flat riding over railroad tracks. o_0
A remarkably stupid trend that soon died off as the market rejected the impracticality, but you can see how it snowballed. "Narrower is faster! Lighter is always better!!!" etc. etc.