Friday Group Ride #365

Friday Group Ride #365

I was having dinner with some industry people, a small bowl of fried pig’s ears in front of me, a plate of clams. Then one of them used the phrase “spec drift fatigue.” I nearly choked. “What is that?” I asked

The idea is that we have reached a place in which would be customers have actually stopped buying things, because they are fearful that anything they invest in now will be obsolete in two season’s time. Given the changes to bottom brackets, axle widths and diameters, brake mounts, etc., it’s hard to argue with that fear.

It’s not clear, despite recognizing the problem, that the industry is willing to sit still. I have heard of experiments with even thicker thru-axles than the market has seen so far. I have had customers tell me they are waiting for the big companies to make up their minds. But the pace of change seems to be accelerating, not settling.

In the US, there has been a measurable drop in high-end bike sales, a slowing in adoption of these new products. Is it all too much, too soon?

This week’s Group Ride asks, what are YOU waiting for? Are you frustrated? Dismissive? Or are you one of the industry’s favorite customers, the early adopter? Upgrading every season to the latest and greatest? What are your biggest hopes for real bike design progress? Your biggest frustrations? What is snake oil? And what are the game changing changes?

 

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16 comments

  1. Fausto

    All Snake Oil, all the time! The marketing meat grinder never stops! I feel bad for the local bike shop who has to filter all of this crap and decide what to stock. No industry standards, internet businesses that can afford to dump price as soon as a new launch comes out, shrinking margins, too many parts to have to stock. Is the trickle down from the high to low a real thing and do we benefit? Yes but you have to email Leonard Zinn to find out what is compatible on that last year Shimano equipped bike you just got on a closeout next year. Seen a mountain bike with canti brakes on it lately? Nope, even Walmart sells disks, but the same industry can’t decide what size mtn bike wheel is correct for your riding and they have 3 sizes. Why is it that PRO’s still ride tubulars, but the tire/wheel companies are fine selling clincher or tubeless to the common folk? But with disk road the big bike companies are shoving it down the PRO’s throat to sell more units to us. Don’t need electronic, my groupo shifts fine with the force of my fingers. Don’t need disc because I don’t descend the Stelvio and my aluminum rims and rubber pads work just fine. 99.9% of us don’t need it, it is marketing. Think about Raleigh, Gitane, Peugout, Colnago, Bianchi all of those years when Columbus or Reynolds did not have a new tubeset and Campy did not have a new grouppo. They still sold great bikes just like the year before in Red/Black/Yellow, Blue, White, Saronni Red, and Celeste. The companies need to make more money by selling more bikes, just get more people to ride. My $.02

  2. Lyford

    Not waiting for anything in particular. Not an early adopter. I do remember the “good old days” when there was more interchangeability, but I realize that high performance means more specialized designs.

    Disc brakes without thru-axles are a bad idea, so a thru-axle standard would be nice. Hubs with replaceable inserts add options but that’s another thing to add slop and expense.
    Internal cables can be a royal pain. Better designs for internal cable guides or a return to some external cables would be nice.
    The aftermarket seems to dealing with bad bottom bracket designs, but it’s annoying to have to spend the money.
    The new Diverge has a huge bottom bracket drop. I hope it does well and that other builders take note. That’s a design feature I’d like on my next bike.
    I’d like to see a 105/Ultegra subcompact crankset, and/or road brifters that match Shimano’s MTB drivetrains. All road bikes should be able to accomodate 28s on wide rims.

  3. scott g.

    I surf the trailing edge, just built my first bike with a threadless headset.
    And it has cantilevers, Black Mountain Monster Cross.
    Might buy a GranBois hub, 120oln, 6 speed cassette hub.
    Spent some time last winter running down a 3 speed freewheel
    for my Osgear equipped bike.
    I prefer equipment that can fixed with a 3lb Birmingham screw driver.

  4. Dave King

    I have had my carbon road bike for 5 years – same Dura Ace parts and Mavic wheels after probably 30-40,000 miles. Same with my 29er hardtail MTB – also 5 years old, also carbon, SRAM red 2×10, etc. Both of these bikes have held up really – mostly just replacement of cables, chains, etc. Just replaced the cassette on the MTB.

    I just bought a carbon CX bike with disc brakes and Ultegra 11 speed.

    Honestly, people need to stop complaining. Since I started riding in the 80’s, bikes are 30%, have gearing to handle more varied terrain, are much more comfortable to ride, are faster overall (esp MTB’s) and require less maintenance. I never flat on my MTB with tubeless wheels. I rarely flat on my road tires. Both of those things were fairly common in the past. Overhauling BB’s after rainy rides is a thing of the past.

    Sure, you don’t need disc brakes. Rim brakes stop a bike, too. But you also only need one gear to ride a bike – but having more sure make it more fun. Disc just work better period. Especially and mostly on a MTB. I will never go back to cantilever brakes. Disc brakes work really well on road bikes too – I’m not in a hurry to get them but they’ll be great and work FAR better in the rain and wheels will end up being stronger.

    Different wheel sizes on a MTB – because a 6’5″ person needs a different bike than a 5’1″ person. People have different needs and wants for their bike which is why there are so many options out there. Enjoy it – we’ve never had the ability to ride so many different ways that we do now.

  5. Quentin

    I’m interested in the new technology, but usually not willing to spend top dollar on it. I finally tried 11 speed when it trickled down to 105, and I love it. I’m waiting for electronic shifting to get cheaper before I try it. It could be a while. External bottom bracket bearings were a major design improvement, as long as they are threaded into the frame.

  6. Aar

    I definitely want standards. While I “get” the advantages of bigger BBs and wheel attachments, I don’t see myself moving beyond English BBs and old standard QRs anytime soon. Further, I get the benefits of road disk brakes but don’t want to rely upon hydraulics when going 50+ mph downhill. Hydraulic failure when going down a trail at 28 was enough for me.

  7. Aar

    I know it’s aesthetics, not standards but while I’m on my soapbox, either make top tubes level and make seatstays intersect the seat tube at the same point as the top tube or eliminate them. I know it’s not universal but it is a popular opinion that sloping top tubes and low seat stays are ugly. If GT could make track bikes without top tubes and seat stays in 1996, certainly every manufacturer can do the same with road bike in the 21st.century.

  8. spiffomatic

    I waited a while for what recently checked most boxes I wanted in a Niner BSB (and to be clear, it’s matched by some other excellent stuff starting to come out from other brands) – basically fairly agile geometry, able to take fatter than standard cross tires for dirt/paved mix big rides), thru axle, disc brakes – at 160mm F/R they’re game changers in every sense of that overused phrase (failed to wait for the new flat mount, which is mostly aesthetics), and a stiff light sturdy frame. Set up with 50×34 up front and 11-32 in the rear it’s ridiculously versatile and I just wish I had 2 sets of wheels at the ready so I could swap from 28mm or less for fast road rides to 38mm tubeless for the more off the beaten path fun.

    What I’m still waiting for is a road-oriented clutch-type rear derailleur… they’ve been around for so long on the MTB side and are so fantastic it’s hard to understand why they haven’t made the jump to road (and more to the point, bumpy cross and dirt type riding).

    Oh yeah, also still waiting for carbon rims in the realm of stuff like Zipp 303 or Enve mid-depth to come down to a price point for the masses haha!

  9. Stephen Barner

    Back in the 1970s, things were flipped. Innovation occured at the bottom end, where it was most needed, not at the top end, where change came excruciatingly slow. While Shimano broke this mold with Dura Ace AX, indexed shifting first hit the mass market with the stiff-cable Positron. Having come of age during that era, I was trained by the attutude du jour that change needed to be proven before it was embraced and that there was a cost in reliability and practicality in adopting the latest fad or marketing gimmick as presented. When Super Record debuted around 1974, it was clear that the improvements were either cosmetic, or incremental, yet the increase in cost over the already premium proced Nouvo Record was huge. To pay the money for Super Record was to say either that you had money to burn, or you were just plain foolish.

    The last three bikes I’ve accumulated have been nostalgia purchases and they likely won’t get a lot of miles as they cycle through the rotation. But if highest performance was the only goal, they wouldn’t get ridden at all. When I check the numbers at the end of a ride, I can see the reflection of that difference in efficiency, but it’s not large enough to have a significant impact on the fun factor. Every bike rides differently, and that is part of its performance, and a large part of why I’ll pick a particular bike for a particular day.

    At this point, I’m quite happy with my road bike collection, and my mountain bikes, while ancient, are serving me just fine. My next single will likely be a lightweight, extreme bike. I expect I’ll probably braze it up in steel, myself, and build it with up with 650B disks and a 9 x 2 or 10 x 2 drivetrain. While I’ve been fine with my Gunnar Crosshairs for gravel, it hasn’t fully filled the niche of the bike that will adequately handle the occasional class 4 mountain road/trail, while also being suitable for the ride to get there.

    When intelligent engineering comes along, I pay attention, but the bicycle business has been driven almost exclusively by marketing for so long that I have learned to be highly suspicious of any “innovation”. One just doesn’t go wrong by waiting for anything new to either prove itself or quickly fade away. Many of the most recent innovations may never evolve to have a performance / price / practicality metric that would make them wise choices for most riders.

  10. Winky

    I’m only on 5th road bike since I bought my first half-decent one in 1984. The most recent two are still in use by me. New standards don’t bother me too much. I don’t upgrade components other than new factory wheel-sets every few years. I’ve found zero compatibility issues.

  11. Fuzz

    I had my last bike for 17 years – the previous for 19, so I’m not usually ahead of the curve, but when I bought my new ride a year ago, I went for Di2 and disc brakes. I knew I would love Di2, but going disc felt like a leap of faith, even after 10 years of using discs on mountain bikes. I just didn’t know if their clear benefits in the dirt would translate to the road. The answer is that they do.

    I also recently upgraded my UDi2 with the new Bluetooth battery and D-Fly. I wanted to be able to upgrade the firmware myself, and Semi-Synchro shifting intrigued me, but the big surprise for me was how much I love full Synchro shifting. As with disc brakes, once you have it, there is just no going back. My experience actually leaves me almost mystified as to why Shimano even bothers to sell cable actuated Ultegra and Dura-Ace shifters – particularly Dura-Ace.

    So while I wouldn’t race out, so to speak, and replace a frame/bike you love, if you are getting a new ride, make that leap.

  12. Cherk Chup

    I’m exactly the nice customer the industry wants. I love bicycles. I like riding anything two-wheeler (or three for that funky scooter made by Piaggio).

    I love trying new things and see how things work differently. New position on bike, new shoes, new components, new wheels, new everything. So really, understanding things is my hobby.

    Eventually it came to a stop as I have already tried maybe 50% (or more, just trying to be humble) of the stuffs and then I stopped buying stuffs. Nice to have, yes, but not essential. Things still interest me and I still appreciate new things, but just won’t buy so many (ok I have placed order on eTap HRD, just once more ok?).

    I don’t fear the standard changing every year. Just don’t buy.

  13. Dan

    I’ve been riding since the mid ’70’s and the only innovations I have seen as necessary are clipless pedals and shifters moving to the brake levers. I would like to be able to buy any frame in a manufacturer’s lineup as a frame only. I already have the components I like and I will move them over to the new frame. I will upgrade/replace components on my own schedule, not whenever I want a new frame. The industry needs to develop bottom bracket and axle standards and than stick to them. Things need to be user servicable, bottom brackets should be threaded, not press fit.

  14. Weiwen

    Speaking of waiting for people to make up their minds, here’s my beef with Campy. For the last 10 years, I’ve had a mix of (ahem) 10s Record and Chorus on my main bike, which is a steel roadie (skinny tubes but not as skinny as “classic” ones, 1″ headset, 26.0mm bars). CX bike has 10s Centaur (but is a 2009 Gunnar Sport, 1.125″ headset, slightly fatter tubes than my main roadie, looks fine with a 31.8mm bar).

    When I was racing, over 10 years ago (in my early 20s then), Campy’s lineup was Record, Chorus, Centaur, Veloce, Mirage. The ergo levers used the same basic innards. You could always downshift (easier gears) 3 cogs in one stroke, or upshift (harder cogs) 5 or so cogs in one stroke. You had square taper up and down the line; Chorus and Record had 102mm spindles, Centaur and down had 111mm.

    Athena, when it first came out, used Ultra Torque for the cranks (Hirth joint in the middle of the spindle, this standard got started on Record and trickled down). Athena got UT when it first came out. Then, one year later, it got downgraded to Power Torque (joins more like Shimano’s cranks). Everything below had the PT standard gradually replace ST. PT worked fine, but you couldn’t easily remove the left crank, unlike UT, and unlike Shimano or SRAM cranks. You needed a special bearing puller. Why develop and maintain 2 separate crank standards? And better yet, the current Centaur, which is one group down from Potenza, has reportedly gone back to UT. Why? Is Potenza getting UT next year? Why not just do UT up and down the whole line, except maybe for Veloce or Mirage, and just go for worse finishes and lower spec bearings? This was probably the most aggravating standard change. There was no discernible point to developing a separate, dumbed down standard, apart from marketing.

    Potenza, and Athena before it, is the current top level non-racing groupset. Athena had EPS, but then the entire Athena line was discontinued in favor of Potenza. Potenza doesn’t get EPS. Why not? I mean, Potenza gets discs (Campy didn’t have them at all when Athena was around, so the question isn’t relevant), and Athena was never billed as a racing groupset. Why?

    Potenza/Athena and lower groups use a different shifter system from the racing groupsets. Sure, it’s on par with what Shimano and SRAM stuff can do (3 downshifts or 1 upshift per lever throw/button push). But in the 10s era, everything from Xenon to Record could do 3 downshifts or 5 upshifts per throw/button push. You had pretty similar internal quality throughout the line (bearings in Chorus and Record, bushings otherwise, but my Centaur levers are still sharp). With this one, at least there’s some grounds for developing a dumbed down standard; amateur racers don’t truly need to dump a huge number of cogs at once, and the Power Shift (for the non-racing groups) thumb button action is now more accessible from the drops.

    For that matter, why did they need Athena or Potenza at all? Athena got dumbed down carbon cranks and carbon lever blades, but so did Centaur, at one point. Athena and Potenza are the top level non-racing groups available, but why not let Centaur get that billing? Or even Chorus?

    Innovation *in general* is good, because we get better stuff overall, even if specific innovations don’t work so well. Some messiness is inevitable with innovation. The above issues, though, are a bit worse than just messiness. Two of the issues arose because Campy created a dumbed down version of a key component. Lower manufacturing costs might explain that decision partly (I don’t know this to be true, just speculating, and keep in mind it introduces additional SKUs), but so would marketing. Two of the issues arose because of a failure to think through how the groups fit together in a lineup.

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