Thursday, September 04, 2008

Reaching into the innovation hat...

...and pulling out nothing. That's how I'm feeling about a lot of bike technology lately. And the result is some fugly, ungainly, proprietary, unserviceable CRAP! For example, 1 inch to 1 1/8 inch headsets were an innovation. Now we've got 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 inch, sometimes mixed, and a mess of headset, fork and stem standards and some fugly front ends. To wit:

Seriously, can't someone come up with a better innovation than just constantly adding diameter? And it looks horrible with the head tube dwarfing the fork and stem. And how about that bottom bracket? How much bigger are frame tubes going to get? How about some innovation there, like maybe Pegoretti's Big Leg Emma or Masi's similar idea? Speaking of bottom brackets: we now have all kinds of proprietary and non-serviceable standards there, as well as similar ideas with integrated headsets and bearing races.

Wear out your bearings? Buy a new bike! Can't find parts in two years because the idea flopped or yet another standard came along? Buy a new bike! Neutral support is using 9 speed 10 speed 11 speed? Buy a new bike! Need to tweak your position with an integrated seatmast? Buy a new bike! Oh wait, I think I see what's going on here...

There are some genuine innovations out there though. Adding more and more cogs/diameter doesn't count. Electronic shifting. Ceramic bearings (although this is debatable, but at least it's not just upping an innovation that's already been done). Asymmetrical stem clamps. SRAM's solid cassette (although I'd never get one unless it came with an ultrasound parts cleaner!). Dimpled aero surfaces. Tubeless. Lots of good innovation in cyclocross, much of it from racers themselves.

Hopefully history will continue to sort out the gimmicks and junk from good design, and in the meantime, let the buyer beware.

/end curmudgeonly rant