Friday Group Ride #321

Friday Group Ride #321

Robot is away, enjoying a well-earned vacation, so I’m pulling through while grabs some much-needed recovery. He’ll be back next week, unless he decides to make a career of vacationing … and if he did, who could blame him?

This year I’ve ridden a number of bikes, but only about half of them are “traditional” road bikes. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that most of the really interesting work—to my eye, anyway—being done in bikes is in one of three areas: aerodynamics, multi-surface or mountain. Arguably one of the most interesting road bikes I encountered turned out to have horrible brake cable routing and before I could sort the drag problem out I had to return the frame as the company sank under the waves in bankruptcy.

While a few people laughed at the 3T Exploro, I’m in love with it. My thinking about aero equipment and its relative importance in my riding a few years ago in a conversation, coincidentally, with Dave Koesel, the new manager for 3T North America. Following that, two other events also affected my thinking: 1) learning that riders at Leadville were running aero helmets and 2) looking down at my GPS moments after leaving the dirt at Old Caz and realizing I was doing 28 mph—Grade A aero territory.

The adventure bike realm has been fascinating because of the incredible range of what’s being produced. Clearly this is, at least for now, the domain of the custom builder. These bikes are responses to situations, terrain and ride style and as a result are as individual as fingerprints.

The universe of mountain biking—it does feel as if it is its own universe—has some people on edge due to what they decry as a lack of standards. New bottom bracket and axle standards have unrest, if not outright confusion. And it’s now possible to buy tires from as narrow as 2 inches (remember when that was wide?) to as wide as 5 inches, and that span from 2 to 3 is covered almost continuously in .1-inch increments (I’ve yet to run across a 2.7-inch tire). Mountain bike suspension is so diverse as to be standard-proof. Engineers are devising ever-more-inventive suspension designs that allow us to pedal a bike with 5 or 6 inches of travel without hopping like we’re on a pogo stick. To put this in perspective, an engineer I know in the automotive industry said that he was keeping his eye on mountain bike suspension designs because they were more sophisticated than anything being done in automotive or motorcycles, in part because inefficiencies in the suspension can’t be overcome by adding more horsepower.

As I’ve written previously, I’m not a fan of consumerism, but I’m a big fan of anything that can make the experience of riding a bike fresh. People shouldn’t be cajoled into buying a new bike just because three years have passed. But aero equipment, riding drop bars on dirt, and the new generation of mountain bikes have each contributed to stoke cycling, to keep it fresh

And so now to you: Have any of these developments increased your enjoyment? Are any of them on your radar in terms of new purchases? Or, are you not swayed by tech at all? Is the bike you’re riding enough to keep you satisfied?

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11 comments

  1. Vince

    I’m craving more simplicity and I think I’ll be able to bag some good deals on “outdated” non-electronic, non-hydraulic, non-aero as these things take hold. I say this as an owner of an elite aero road bike. In the face of all the new visual lines; traditional geometry looks even more beautiful then ever.

  2. cash

    The 5 inch travel 27.5 plus trail mountain bike has transformed how I ride trails. It truly is a game changer. More control. More traction. More speed. Less speed. Better braking. IMO it is the best genre of pure mountain bikes ever made. Unless you have a specific need (racing, bike packing, etc), there is no reason to look outside of it.

    I went with an Ibis Mojo3 but there are a plethora of other examples that also kick ass. We live in fortunate times.

    As far as road bikes (and their cross pollinated derivatives), I’m in a holding pattern. Too much flux currently. I’m satisfied with my current ride (custom steel, DA 9000 mech, rim brakes, with room for 28s) for the time being. When things stabilize a bit, I’ll get a hydro disc bike of some sort.

  3. Chris

    I ordered my ‘dream bike’ – a ti roadie from 22Bicycles, in the fall of 2013. Aero was definitely a thing then, but only my most dedicated ‘racer’ friends had aero bikes at that time. Disc brakes were on the horizon, but not common on the roads. Electronic shifting was already the next big thing – but the wired Di2 with external batteries looked like version 1.0 – an early adopter phenomenon that hadn’t quite hit its stride.

    Since then, aero has become everything. Specialized’s marketing stuff showing 5 minutes saved over 40km kind of stung for a guy on a round tubed metal bike. I’ve definitely had long days where I would have sold my soul to finish and swap by hoods for a burger and a beer 15 minutes sooner. I’ve yet to ride disc brakes, but they seem to be best-suited to the riding I do – exploring new roads, not shying away from mixed surfaces, nor inclement weather. Finally SRAM e-tap is the first electronic groupset to catch my eye. Getting rid of cables makes for such a clean looking bike but would leave my beautiful head-tube mounted cable stops orphaned and dangling in the wind.

    The fact is, though, I love my bike despite its round metal tubes, its primitive brakes, and the fact that it shifts with the same technology use in marionettes. It takes me to wonderful places, starts conversations, and puts a smile on my face. I’m not really sure I’m missing out.

  4. Lyford

    I’v got a 29er hardtail MTB, a road bike, and a lot of dirt roads in striking range. Both of my current rides will work on dirt roads, but the current crop of multi-surface bikes has me interested. I suspect that somewhere between 28mm and 2.2″ is a size and configuration that makes more sense for the majority of these roads.

  5. Rod

    I like having access to information when I feel I need it. A nice, unobtrusive heads-up display interests me greatly.

    We’re far away from that. And yeah, I know about people riding to disconnect, to pay attention to roads, etc. I get it. I do it sometimes as well. And sometimes I also want less obtrusive access to data.

  6. Quentin

    I love my disc brake cross bike. I don’t feel any urgency to replace my road bike at the moment, but my next road bike will definitely have disc brakes–they really are that great. Aero equipment is fascinating to me because I’m an engineer, but not enough to make me buy it. It might have in the past, but I haven’t done anything competitive in a long time and I don’t see the point otherwise. I second the vote for eTap being something potentially really interesting. However, being fairly frugal on my bikes, though, I still haven’t tried electronic shifting, though I am curious about it. If Shimano were inclined to create a 105 Di2 group, that would get my attention.

    I just converted my wife’s gravel/adventure/whatever bike to a SRAM 1X drivetrain. She liked the bike before (standard Shimano 2X), but she likes it a lot more now. She always preferred the simplicity of the SRAM shift mechanism and found shifting the front derailleur non-intuitive, so this solved both problems. Some may find 1X limiting, but I think the simplicity can be a real selling point for some riders, especially those relatively new to the sport.

  7. Duncan Hall

    Aero doesn’t do it for me on the road, but when I (eventually) return to triathlon I’ll probably buy something suitable then.. Road-wise I still ride my 2004 C40HP with Record 10v (also 2004), though I’m building a ’94 Master Olympic – form and function matter equally to me! Disks are great (have them on my crosser) and I’d love electronics, but I have other projects. Mtb is 120mm travel 29er FS from Whyte. Does everything I need it to. No other purchase plans -currently…

  8. Stephen Barner

    I pulled out my wife’s ’86 Fat Chance yesterday and spent an hour riding in old-school bliss. The rigid, non-indexed, 18-speed (that’s 3×6, not 2×9!), with its tube-filled 26″ tires was perhaps the worse possible technology for the rooty, rocky trail, and the cantis with their 30 year old pads were a handfull on steep descents, but it was an ideal bike for navigating the incredibly steep climbs that presnt themselves throughout this loop. Another inch of tire diameter and a lot less pressure would have smoothed things out a lot, but I enjoyed the precision, lightness, and predictability of the rigid fork. Normally, my collie is cued to what I am doing behind him by the loud clicking of my right shifter, but the Deore XT thumbshifter was both silent and much less often engaged, as I focused more on getting over what was ahead in the gear I was in, than selecting an alternative. I was surprised at how much of a non-issue the friction shifting quickly became. The whole experience was was so enjoyable that I surprised the pups by turning right instead or left at the end, to do a rare second lap of the gnarly loop. I’ll be taking that bike out again, soon!

  9. Stepen Barner

    Sure, just as soon as I wear them out! They’re still better than the unobtanium Kool Stop pads that are on the Scott Superbrake on our tandem. Just read an article that described a study that found that millennial males have significantly lower grip strength than older Americans, supposedly due to their sedentary, gamer lifestyles. We’re going to need to get all the bugs out of road disk brakes in preparation for our limp-handshake children, if we expect to ever get them on a bike. Decades of spinning wrenches have left me with a grip strong enough to get adequate braking out of almost anything, though it also left me with a nasty numbness problem.

  10. Ransom

    I just traded out a really nice, really light 26″ hardtail for a Hei Hei Trail (~4″ rear travel, 5″ front, 29″ wheels), and it’s amazing. Really. I feel the weight (~5lbs heavier), but on modern trails, it’s just so much more fun. I think if trails were more like they were when I started mountain biking (not a product of modern “trail building” and all that it entails), it wouldn’t make such a difference, and part of me wonders whether we’re in a bike tech vs trailbuilding arms race. But that doesn’t keep me from loving the Hei Hei. Yes, it definitely improved my enjoyment of mountain biking.

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