Friday Group Ride #341

Friday Group Ride #341

We are at a curious point in the machinations of the road component market. A vacuum has developed. SRAM released eTap in the summer, but with uneven supply and into a market still skeptical after the initial failure of the SRAM hydraulic groups. Shimano teased the new Dura Ace 9100 mechanical early, and are already having supply challenges, while the 9000 groups run out everywhere. Simultaneously, the arrival of hydraulic versions of both eTap and Dura Ace sit on the 2017 calendar sometime between late spring and mid-summer.

There are a lot of moving pieces to a new component release (pun intended). Product managers want to run inventories of old parts low, before they launch. They want to be careful and conservative with their forecasts. Then there is the effect of OE parts spec, and the drop in the road bike market we saw in 2016. Meanwhile, Campagnolo is showing disc brake prototypes.

From a personal point-of-view, I don’t much mind. I’m still riding Ultegra mechanical. It works well. In fact, if I sit back and think about the burgeoning use of technology on bicycles, I’d rather have electronic braking than shifting.

What is curious to me is the calculus of the new bike buyer. How many are actively comparing the weights and features and aesthetics of new gruppos and deciding that they should put off a new bike, because whatever it is that they’ll get by waiting is more valuable than what they could get from riding a bike ASAP. Of course, many new bike buyers don’t need a new bike, and perhaps it’s the case that a new gruppo is the only justification they want/need.

This week’s Friday Group Ride asks, have you ever delayed a bike purchase or build for an upcoming component release? And how did that go for you? Worth it? A waste of quality riding time? What is important to you in a new gruppo? What gets you to buy rather than delay?

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  1. David Noble

    I kinda did something like that. I waited for something to fail enough on my old road bike. It was a wheel. And instead of replacing the wheel with an expensive wheel I bought an inexpensive wheel and gave the bike to a nephew. And I bought a new bike with SRAM eTap. I thought the strategy worked reasonably well for me. I liked the eTap and it certainly solved some problems for me. What I really got out of it was a new frame which really steered better. The better steering was the goal; eTap and the bad wheel served as excuses. And that’s how my mind worked this all out.

  2. Brent

    Not sure this is *exactly* on point, but it’s close. I started getting into the idea of buying a fat bike back in about 2012 when all there was on the market was some fairly clever but utterly kludgey frame geometries with asymmetrical rear triangles and all sorts of other hackery to be able to use existing MTB components. As much as I wanted to buy a fat bike right then, I realized that that engineering model was unsustainable and as soon as the market went “critical mass,” there would be purpose-built fat bike gruppo’s and standards-based frame designs that would have much greater longevity. Waiting until 2015 to get my fat bike was a great decision.

    But that move was the opposite of the equally great decision I made in buying my first mountain bike. In late 1980, when I lived in the Bay Area, I saw a postage-stamp sized ad in the back of Bicycling Magazine offering something called a “mountain bike.” A couple of guys, who lived about an hour north in Marin County were putting these crazy things together using a Frankenstein monster-like mix of components from tandems, motorcycles, beach cruisers and other random locations to accommodate 2.125″ knobby bike tires. First step: get measured for a custom fitted frame to be built by a guy named Tom Ritchey, who was working out of his garage. Second step: components added by two guys named Gary Fisher and Chuck Kelly. Third step: get wheels built by Ric Hjertberg of Wheelsmith, a mile from my house in Palo Alto.

    Even though I heard rumblings at the time that a small accessory maker who made really nice racks and bottle cages down in San Jose was going to get into the bike business by importing mass produced mountain bikes from Japan with purpose-built gruppo’s, I decided not to wait and went with what’s now a museum piece (and which I still have). The Ritchey was always a conversation starter whenever I rode it, even back in the day; when I get it restored next year to factory-new condition, it will be even more so. So I’m glad I went ahead and got the bike with the cobbled-together gruppo, even though that mass-produced mountain bike, the Specialized Stumpjumper, would become a legend in its own right.

    1. 32x20

      That’s a cool story about your Ritchey. Amazing how far the machinery has come! I’m itching to buy a FS MTB, but am waiting it out partly due to budget, but also partly to see where the wheel size and various ‘standards’ will settle out. I’ve been riding a SS hardtail 29er for years and everything on it that was standard is now outdated. I don’t want to struggle to find replacement parts after a year or two on a new bike.

      Regarding road groups: I can’t imagine holding out for a top-of-the-line gruppo. The trickle down stuff is so good anymore it’s hard to imagine the top of the line stuff being measurably better. I AM frustrated by SRAM’s abandonment of the front derailleur, which may push me out of their market when I’m shopping for my next road/gravel/allroad/drop-bar bike.

  3. AG

    I have never held-off making a purchase waiting for the next newest model to come out. My current bike has the Dura Ace 9000 group and was a bit of a financial stretch for me at the time I bought it, which was the year before the Di2 was released, and I couldn’t be happier. Everytime I ride I grin at my good decision…the group works awesome and, of course, looks fantastic. And, it’s mechanical which is maybe the best part. People have asked me if they should wait for next year’s stuff and I always say they should buy one notch better than they think they can afford now, and go ride.

  4. Geraint

    I’ve been a lifelong Rule #12 complier and fortunate enough to have not been without a nice bike to ride in the last 20 years or so. I’m also past buying complete bikes so if something new and interesting comes out then I’m unlikely to buy it unless it’s offered as a frameset only.
    Upgrades, replacements, adoption of new tech can all wait until the cost-benefit equation stacks up. So I passed on 29er MTBs, Dura Ace 7970 Di2 and early incarnations of road discs, and enjoyed lots of great rides on my existing ‘obsolescent’ metal.
    I don’t look back on any ride I’ve done and think ‘wish I’d had x technology, it would have been so much better’. New bikes are nice, but a good ride will always be remembered as a good ride. I’ve had rides ruined by stuff breaking on me, I’ll pay what it takes to avoid a recurrence, but I’m not a fashion victim always chasing the latest irrespective of benefit.
    As for the latest tech: I have no interest in eTap, the window for that was before new frames got internal routing. Too late now. Yes please to 9150, but all in good time – my 6870 & 9070 work fine and will continue to do so until the real world prices come down.
    What gets me to upgrade is mainly the prospect of more enjoyable rides through the avoidance of unreliability, the promise of ‘it just works’.

  5. Scott G.

    I want to try 650B road bikes, probably get a Cycles Toussaint frame.
    Shimano spends much effort trying to make indexed front shifting
    work as well as friction, which loses chain ring choice, not a trade
    I want to make.

    Viva front friction, and old timey Campy front micro ratchets too.
    I really like my Shimano 10s down tube shifters.

  6. Ed

    It’s been over a decade since I bought a complete bike. It’s not only more entertaining for me to build a bike up myself, I’ve also found it the cheapest way to get what I want! No need to swap out OEM parts I don’t want.

    And over the decade plus I’ve become a fan of Campy. And even better that as one can order from overseas it’s frequently the cheapest option.

    Impending Campy disc brakes interest me, but the Shimano cable disc brakes work just fine with Campy levers. And those are on a cyclocross bike with a Campy drive train, except for the excellent and inexpensive SRAM Force 180mm cranks. So on one bike Campy, SRAM, and Shimano parts happily coexist.

    So I’ve arrived at the point that my frame and parts upgrades are almostly completely uncoupled. A Marinoni Piuma Supreme I ordered this summer received a parts transplant from my now retired Trek 5500, which had only received those parts a year earlier.

    This way the opportunities for bike and bike part shopping are continual and never end!

  7. Scott

    The decision to purchase or build a new bike based on an upcoming component release is equivalent to buying a car the last month of the year for me. I’ve been sitting tight for the New Dura-Ace Di2 group for my personal bike only because the second that the new DA group was announced, bikes with the previous version of Dura Ace had parts that were 4-years old (typically Shimano staggers their new group releases, so there is roughly a 4 year cycle between updates). Being that close to a new release made the decision easy. Obviously, if I were buying a bike next year, the decision to wait would make less sense.

  8. Ed

    My Seven was built 5 years ago with Ultegra 6700. Just about to pass 20K trouble-free, low maintenance miles.

    IMHO, Hydraulic brakes, electrical cables and batteries are a negative value proposition.

    Until it breaks, I won’t be fixing it.

  9. Rick

    I have been on Dura Ace since the mid 1980’s and I have noticed a trend with Shimano: Good group/bad group/good group. I’m sticking with 9000 (which is outstanding) and waiting for 9200.

  10. Chris Duffy

    The obsession with road disc brakes is one I don’t know that I’ll ever understand. Having put about 1k miles on a bike with them, I will say conclusively that they provided me with no better experience than my Dura Ace 9000 rim brakes (on Enve carbon wheels, no less). Granted, I’ve been riding in the flatlands of eastern Massachusetts where the only time you’re on the brakes is when you’re actively stopping. But I cannot say the same for Di2. Because of the rolling nature of our terrain, I shift A LOT. And while I’m primarily in the big ring, the absolutely flawless shifts between my 53 and 39 make the proposition of dropping down in the midst of a 400 watt effort on one of the few longer and steep hills we have here easy. No dropped chains, no horrible noises, no clicking slowly into gear. Just solid, perfect shifts. I’ve been reminded of this because the disc brake bike I have been riding is equipped with Ultegra 6800. My previous two personal bikes have both been set up with Dura Ace 9070 Di2. Having, for the first time in three years, to deal with the malaise inherent to mechanical drive trains has been remarkably grinding. For people who ‘don’t know’ about electronic shifting: imagine never having a derailleur go out of adjustment again. Imagine never dropping your chain or being able to shift during hard, out of the saddle efforts over the top of rollers. Imagine not being concerned with lever throws (especially applicable to people with small hands) or whether you’re producing enough torque to get the front derailleur to engage (especially important for small women). Electronic shifting removes what I considered to be one of the four things that could ruin my ride. They are, in order of importance, 1) a crash 2) rain 3) a derailleur that’s even mildly out of adjustment and 4) flat tires. And number three is the only one of the four that makes me want channel my inner Brad Wiggins and throw my bike into the woods.

  11. Dan

    The only item I ever pre-ordered was the Shimano Dura Ace PD-7400 pedal. It was the first standard-thread pedal without an outside cage. For criterium racing these allowed you to pedal slightly longer into corners and they were very well built, I rode them for the better part of two decades. I was an early adopter for the Vitus 979. A bike shop sponsor put me on one and it was a game changer for lightness and comfort. Klein was around but very expensive and Cannondale was still a few years away from production. Otherwise I am happy living with slightly used equipment and being a generation behind on components. The current gruppo is 10 speed SRAM Force/Rival mix which works wonderfully. I am always wait and see about the newest develpments or fads. I am rebuilding a wheel this winter and I am still not sold on 23mm rims or low spoke wheels for road bikes. This will be another 19mm rim, 32 spokes that will run for years and years. I do wish bike shops were still complete bikes for the low end and bare frames for the high end. Build up your new frame with whatever compenents you want, even your old ones.

  12. toro toro

    I’ve occasionally waited for an new model to come out before purchasing; not to get the new model, but to avail of a sharp drop in the price of the newly-old model…

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