I am finding myself increasingly despairing about the componentry on the latest machines lined up in bike shops. Most of the features on these bikes seem so unnecessary and counterproductive. Is this the onset of middle age?
As an example, there are two main bearings on a cycle that take a lot of force and weight: the headset and the bottom bracket. Manufacturers are now telling us that the best way to design headsets is to build the bearings inside the head tube in order to reduce 'stack height' and build a clean looking front on the bike, this design requires a new frame to take the bearings. This is fair enough, although I think the stack height has the benefit of disguising the height I have set my handlebars!
So it stands to reason that if headsets are improved by putting the bearings inside, bottom brackets should be pretty close to the optimum design because the bearings are already internal. Wrong! We are now supposed to accept as given that putting the bearings on the outside will make a better design.
My ISIS bracket gave out after a year so I would consider the Truvativ ISIS Overdrive brackets with oversize shells be a pragmatic solution to known flaws in the ISIS design. It builds on established technology and hides the mechanical parts inside the shell where they belong. But - surprise surprise - Truvativ have jumped onto the external bottom bracket bandwagon. This is with a design of their own which I understand to be completely incompatible with anybody else's. They have, AFAIK, stopped marketing the Overdirve design. Not that they tried that hard in the first place - if the idea was to use the MTB market as a beachead into cycling as a whole they should have offered it in shell widths between 68 and 100mm - something like the 83mm standard that is popular on downhill MTB.
So what happened is that Overdrive - a logical progression built on an open standard - ISIS, and backward compatible with the latter - has been abandoned in favour of a fragmented approach with every manufacturer using an incompatible external bottom bracket design of their own.
I think the external bearings have a place: as a retrofit to older bikes. If the forces on the BB demand a bigger shell they should design the frame around the newer, better standard. Manufacturers are having to change their frames in order to have a new model every year and to accomodate different headsets and axle standards in any case which sinks the argument that everything needs to be backwards compatible. If having bearings on the exterior of the frame gives real advantages then why are manufacturers building internal bearing headsets?
So there you have it - one of the things that make me feel decidedly old and cynical about the cycle industry and more specifically its marketing. I am starting as a consequence to spend a lot of time on the Rivendell Bicycle Works website!
Does anybody else have examples of 'progress' in bike design that makes you think 'hang on a minute - is it really just me or are we all being led up the garden path?'...
Oh yes, and you know middle age has been reached when you write a long post about a bicycle component that very few people even consider...