Old Tech
Friday March 26th 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Advice & Tips,Observational Review

Throughout my time in the industry there’s been a few absolutes I’ve picked up from customers. You know things like, snapped chainrings occurring while “they’re just riding along.” Or “…but I just changed my chain last year!” The one I’m interested right now is the statement that they don’t use but three or four of their gears on their cassettes. This declaration is reinforced by the fact that their cassettes wear out quickly in only a few gears; usually those smallest few. I’m the same way when I ride. Only lately have I been making a conscious effort to use more of my cassette; and I’m not really sure why I am—I guess just to see what it’s like. Sometimes it just seems like an eternity dropping from 25 to 11, and that takes so little effort—forget about going the other way!

In all seriousness though, we’re up to eleven cogs on the rear wheel now, there’s electric shifting, and featherweight bikes. Seriously what’s next? (Hubless wheels? I hope not I’m still mad about loose ball bearing wheels going out of style). I don’t know what is next, but what I think would be cool to see are modern, lightweight 5, 6, or 7 speed drivetrains. Whoa, right? Let’s take it back for the enthusiast who doesn’t want all that futuristic complexity. It could be the hip thing to ride, not as simple as the fixie, but close enough. What if we returned to the days when there were only five or six cogs back there? Would we get a simpler system? Those dudes twenty, thirty years ago operated fine with that few gear choices, ever hear of a guy named Bernard Hinault? I wonder if a nice six speed cassette would still cost three hundred dollars? If it lasted as long as some of those old freewheels, I just might pay it. They could be built to last. Chains could be thicker again, and would therefore last longer too. There might not be as much waste and unnecessary “recycling” of materials.

Considering the rampant proliferation of new parts and components coming to market everyday, it likely wouldn’t be that difficult to fit this design into the current standards. (This, I’m stating, after giving the subject an entire thirty minutes of reflection). But really, what are the hurdles? The freehub body could be modified, i.e. shortened. New hubs would get widened to fit into the 130mm rear frame spacing. Bingo, a more simple, and likely stable rear wheel. I do sometimes miss using downtube shifters, but the integrated levers still amaze me at times. Not that we’d have to revert that far, someone could pretty easily produce some integrated lever with six clicks in it I’d think. Bigger ≠ better. More gears might not always be the answer.

This whole subject comes inspired—sort of—by my learning of SRAM’s new X7 2×10 mountain groupset coming out soon. Why is it called X7, I don’t know, but from what I’ve read it seems it’s a more economic version of their supremely well-designed XX groupset. XX is also pretty high-dollar gear. X7 is slated to be affordable. This concept I like. Essentially making a premium technology accessible to more people. They’re doing this with their road line-up too, they’re soon introducing their Apex road groupset. An economic offering of their premier groups of Red and Force. They might not be interested in appealing to a more economically conservative crowd, but Shimano may want to consider producing a reduced version of their new pie-in-the-sky Di2 electronic group if they want more people riding their gear. Elitism is that way by definition.

5 Comments so far
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i agree completely about going back down to 5 or 6 gears. all i wanted (and still want) on my salsa is 6 but i didn’t want to give up the convenience of STI’s.) i never really enjoyed single speed but 10 is too many for me. my parents just sold a bike of mine from the early 90’s with 3 speed grip shifters. i miss that bike.

Comment by zach 03.27.10 @ 12:21 am

hell yeah! i’ll sign the petition.

Comment by jimmy 03.27.10 @ 10:53 am

it makes me sad to see someone spend $100 on a ten speed chain that wears out after a season when people bring in their fifteen year old hard ridden seven speed bikes with original chains that still haven’t worn out.

Comment by johnny gaijin 03.27.10 @ 9:33 pm

Absolutely. It costs a dollar a week to keep my 30-speeds chain in trim. It costs a dime a week on my 21 speed. Stupid TREK, putting racing equipment on a commuter bike. Stupid me for buyin’ it.

Comment by Dave Morse 03.29.10 @ 11:12 am

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