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Old 02-15-07, 10:10 AM   #1
Jet Travis
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Planned Obsolescence?

Interesting column from the RoadbikeRider weekly newsletter. Kinda makes me appreciate my older bikes, with their easily mix-n-match parts, more than ever.

The newsletter is free and you can subscribe here: http://www.roadbikerider.com/newsletter.htm



Planned Obsolescence?

I've become frustrated lately by the push to 10-speed drivetrain components by my No. 1 parts maker, Shimano.

It's the same feeling I had when Campagnolo made the move a few years back. It's one reason I lost interest in that company.

"What's the problem?" you might ask. "We have a choice of 9 speed or 10 speed, right?"

Wrong! Try to find a Dura-Ace 9s front derailleur, for instance. Most parts houses simply don't carry them anymore. "They're discontinued," they say. "Everyone is using 10 speed now."

I beg to differ. Everyone who purchased a medium- to high-level bike from my shop in the last 5 or 6 years is running 9s drivetrains. It was only last year that 10s appeared on bikes we sell in any numbers. So not "everyone" is using 10s now.

Would you love to have Shimano's new compact crank with its outboard bearings, slick looks and smooth operation? Sorry, it's only 10s. If you want to use it on your 9s bike you'll need to replace the front derailleur with a 10s model and use a 10s chain. Otherwise it will not work.

As a mechanic whose duty is to fix things, telling a customer that what was once a simple repair is now going to cost an arm and a leg and a mortgage payment doesn't go over very well. It sounds embarrassingly like a sales pitch. "But I just got this bike last year! How can it be obsolete eight months later?" That's a good question, and "it's not my fault" is not a good answer.

But I'm stubborn and tricky. I search high and low until I find a supplier that "overbought" 9-speed components that are now gathering dust. I buy as many as my meager shop account will allow.

With time on my hands in the winter months, I discovered that by adding 0.6-mm spacers between the small chainring and crankarm, I can turn a "10-speed only" crank into a perfectly functioning 9s -- without changing the front derailleur or the chain. Hah! Got 'em.

Next week, I'll explain the wisdom of considering down-tube or bar-end shifters as a way to fend off this drivetrain obsolescence we're faced with. Grant Petersen at Rivendell Bicycles is the champion of this cause. Some call him "retro," but he is simply looking ahead and protecting his customers' options. Smart man. Probably stubborn too.
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Old 02-15-07, 10:17 AM   #2
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That is so like the man.
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Old 02-15-07, 10:23 AM   #3
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Can you remember the square taper on the bottom bracket and crank set? Most bike shops can't and they only started disappearing about 4 years ago. My LBS warned me that certain Quality BB's were going to disappear in certain sizes, and that is happening now. All my bikes have square taper but I wanted to get an XT 118mm last year- Can't get it in XT so I had to get LX. That has now gone but I still get XT in 113. A 113 will fit the MTB but the tandem is going to be a problem. Looks like I am just going to have to buy the LX version again as There is no way I am spending $800 on new cranksets on the tandem.
Alternative is to look at some of the "High"Quality BB's that use individual Bearings- but even they are in excess of $200- if I can still get them.

Retro to me is good- It is well proven stuff that has lasted over the years- so why make it obsolete and cause problems.
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Old 02-15-07, 10:24 AM   #4
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Havn't got my RBR yet today, all this snow must be slowing down the e-mail.

Uncle Al really hit the nail on the head with that one. All my bikes are DT shift except the Lemond. When those brifters quit, I'm going with bar end friction.

I sent you a PM on your old account, you may not have gotten it. Anyway, I sent in my XOBA application.

Name chance threw me a curve for a bit.
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Old 02-15-07, 10:49 AM   #5
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When I started getting the "can't get them anymore" resonses from my LBS manager, I started showing him where I could get them online for a fraction of the cost of what he was offering. He has become much more adept at finding things.
This kind of thing is what appealed to me about Grant Petersen's approach to bikes way back before Rivendell when the BOB (Bridgestone Owners Bunch) was started. You wouldn't guess it from the prices in the Riv catalog, but they once were a place to find low cost solutions.
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Old 02-15-07, 11:16 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg
When I started getting the "can't get them anymore" resonses from my LBS manager, I started showing him where I could get them online for a fraction of the cost of what he was offering. He has become much more adept at finding things.
This is a really interesting point. I would think that a shop mechanic would want to stock up on parts that his normal supply distribution center doesn't carry. I know that when I visit e-bay I can find lots of parts for 9 speed, and even a fair number for 7 & 8 speeds.
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Old 02-15-07, 01:04 PM   #7
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I'm working on my first build with 9 speed parts, mostly due the high cost of 10 speed. [my vintage 6 spd doesn't seem handicaped what's this about 1 more speed anyway?] I found BIN on ebay, pricepoint, jensen, and bikeman good places for Ultegra and DuraAce parts. Nashbar had sales on 105 cranks and brakes. My wife is complaining about the cost of my build but I can easily point to a brake and crankset combo that costs more than the entire build.
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Old 02-15-07, 03:21 PM   #8
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I commute on a bike with a 9 speed drive train, bar end shifters. I wanted an 8 speed, because that would allow me to use more durable chains, but had such a hard time getting the parts I wanted, I went with 9.
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Old 02-15-07, 03:28 PM   #9
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What 8 speed parts are people having such a hard time finding?
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Old 02-15-07, 03:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BluesDawg
This kind of thing is what appealed to me about Grant Petersen's approach to bikes way back before Rivendell when the BOB (Bridgestone Owners Bunch) was started. You wouldn't guess it from the prices in the Riv catalog, but they once were a place to find low cost solutions.
B.O.B. Member #1132 here. When Grant was finding and selling out old inventories of NOS parts I picked up all kinds of neat pieces that worked (and still do) sweetly--Superbe brakes, Mavic retrofriction shifters, Suntour Sprint fd, etc. But that stuff, from an earlier era in cycling, is getting harder to find--even on eBay. And, as dedicated groups have become the norm...it is difficult to build a uniquely-you bike composed of individual components. Try finding a new bike (other than boutique or consciously retro) with a headset compatible with a Nitto Technomic. Stapfam is right....I recently had to go to the back back shelf of a local LBS to get a quality square taper bb.

Change is inevitable, but it isn't all evolutionarily upward or in the best interest of the common man cycling consumer.

[In my most grumpy, curmudgeon voice]: Too damned many OCP dabblers out there with too much cash pushing the market up looking to ape the pro's and one-up their friends.
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Old 02-16-07, 01:49 AM   #11
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One big reason I have for riding my bike to work is that it's a great way to screw the system.

"They system" says that you have to pay into the transportation infrastructure. This means ya gotta buy or lease an expensive car, put in gasolini that gets more and more expensive, get stuck in traffic for an hour to two to get downtown, then pay big bucks just to be able to leave the car somewhere so you can make enough money to pay to do this all over again tomorrow. Or you can pay to get into a crowded cattle car that slowly winds its way downtown while you're exposed to all sorts of bacteria and the catcalls of junkies and proletariats who dislike you because to them you're rich and the rich should pay...

But get on the bike and you roll past all this insanity like a hot knife thru butter. It's so rational I can't believe everyone doesn't do it...

But back to the thread. I've never liked Shimano. They have a shrewd, calculating, and inherently dishonest policy of locking buyers into their system and then orphaning them in the name of technological innovation and advancement. They took us from 7sp to 8 to 9 to 10, step by step, year by year, so if you wanted to be in the forefront of cycling technology, you'd be looking at buying a new component group every year or two. Fortunately, I was already riding a fixed gear bike. Fixed gears are the best antidote to technocrap. Major Taylor was riding a fixed gear back at the end of the 19th century, and the elegant simplicity of the fixed gear remains to this day on the velodromes of the world. Ya don't need to argue about bar-ends or downtube shifters vs. brifters, it's a non-issue.

Of course there are drawbacks. And I don't mean, "of course, there *are* drawbacks..." No, I mean, "OF COURSE THERE ARE DRAWBACKS, dumbo." Ya gotta be real rough and tough to be able to drive a fixed gear. It's for real men, so if you wanna spin elegantly up the hills and coast daintily down the hills like some girly-man, you can just forget the fixed. But up until the 1930's, real men were riding and winning the Tour de France on fixed gear bikes. Climbing the massive Alpine mountain passes when they were still paved with gravel, and on fixed gears.

So take that, Shimano!

- L. (yeah, I gotta admit my road racing bike is a cf Trek with 10sp Campag. But my tandem is 8sp Campag!)
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Old 02-16-07, 02:56 AM   #12
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Retro to me is good- It is well proven stuff that has lasted over the years- so why make it obsolete and cause problems.
+1
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Old 02-16-07, 05:31 AM   #13
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It is harder to find certain items, but 8 speed cassettes and shifters are out there if you look around. The best solution to the dedicated groups mandate is friction shifting. Everything works with friction.

BOB#1211
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Old 02-16-07, 06:09 AM   #14
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It is harder to find certain items
These guys have come to my resuce more than once. They continue to keep my phil-hubbed bikes in freewheels:

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/parts.html

PS--Love that BOB cover, BD.
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Old 02-16-07, 06:20 AM   #15
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These guys have come to my resuce more than once. They continue to keep my phil-hubbed bikes in freewheels:

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/parts.html

PS--Love that BOB cover, BD.
Freewheels is a good example of an item that once appeared to be dissappearing, but can now be found everywhere. Good thing, because I'm convinced that my Phil Wood hubs will be around when there's nothing left but cockroaches and Kieth Richards.

PS--Not a cover, that's my membership card.
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Old 02-16-07, 06:54 AM   #16
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Planned obsolescence? You talkin' 'bout me?
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Old 02-16-07, 08:36 AM   #17
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Given that I live in a culture driven by consumerism (the US), I've come to expect obsolescence as part of the price tag for living here. This is not to say that I appreciate this. Rather, it is a recognition that our current economic system needs to have a robust level of consumerism to survive. There are many downsides to this, including the damage to the environment, the social costs of "trying to keep up" and others. There are also some upsides to it. While I like my "retro" steel bikes with friction down tube shifters, I also really like by CF bike with brifters. The performance of top of the line bikes today is astounding.... well beyond what most people need. I think this holds true in so many other areas as well: cars, home sound equip., computers, etc. I guess I tend not to get as upset over changes in bike gear as others. In a perfect world we could all get what we want when we want it. But, if you really want to get me started... let's talk about planned obsolescence in computer software! I think the bottom line is that unless the overall economic system changes we'll continue to see planned obsolescence. Just my two cents in this whole thing.
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Old 02-16-07, 09:47 AM   #18
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As consumers, we hold the ultimate power, although the Madison Av. B.S. artists are paid the big bucks to make us forget this fundamental fact of market economics. In the 1970s Campagnolo stood out as the only drivetrain component manufacturer for which one could easily find NOS replacement bits. Even back then, Shimano was already blatantly on the "replace, don't repair" path. (I am told that one reason it is so easy for Americans to find late-model Japanese engines is that the Japanese are coerced by governmental "safety" inspections to retire their automobiles prematurely.) Volkswagen of America keeps sending me letters to the effect that "you made a great decision to buy your Passat wagon in 2001, but now that it's 6 years old, you are ready for a new car." Yeah --- right; it has 37k miles / 60k km on the odometer, has been meticulously maintained, still runs like a Swiss watch, and has 4 years left on its powertrain warranty. I don't feel any urgency whatsoever to replace it, particularly since the new model is bigger and loaded with new utterly worthless complexities, such as a failure-prone electronic parking brake. One chap on an Internet discussion forum said he would gladly pay an extra 50 to 100 quid to have a conventional mechanical lever, instead.

This may sound strange coming from a director-level engineer and manager in a cutting-edge high-tech communications semiconductor house, but part of my personal environmental and economic ethic (blame that Scots DNA again!) is to obtain full lifecycle use out of everything I buy: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without." Although my road bikes are 25 to 50 years old, I hardly consider any of them "obsolete," and observe that most of them may well outlast some of the junk being cranked out today.
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Old 02-16-07, 10:21 AM   #19
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My optomist 2 cents:
Obsolescence influences/creates collectable prizes/curiosities and the existence of museums. I would not be motivated to restore my 1953 Velocette LE motorcyle if they were still in production and plentiful. We would not be enjoying this forum with Apple II, Commadore 64, DOS operating system, Windows 3.0, or 9.6dial up modems. Remember the great and wonderful 64K eight inch floppy disk?? or the "latest and greatest" IBM AT(286 processor) ......less than 20 years ago??? On page 19 of the Mar/April AARP magazine there is article where an Apple IIe sold for $6300.00 and $425.00 for an 80s HP calculator.
Progress is relative......
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Old 02-16-07, 11:13 AM   #20
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I saw that in my email. The info on the spacer for 9 speed is great.

No doubt it is getting harder to keep your 8 speed and in the future your 9 speed on the road. I think Shimano has blown a great business opportunity by killing off 9 speed. Which I think is very reliable. Maybe some one will come up with a device to allow 10 speed shifters to be used with 8/9 speed? And yes friction sill works, but when I was doing a rebuild several years ago and was trying to find a solution to my downtube Centurion shifters, no less than Sheldon himself, told me that this was not a safe setup. Wanted the shifting up on the bar in some manner.
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Old 02-16-07, 11:16 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by oilman_15106
I saw that in my email. The info on the spacer for 9 speed is great.

No doubt it is getting harder to keep your 8 speed and in the future your 9 speed on the road. I think Shimano has blown a great business opportunity by killing off 9 speed. Which I think is very reliable. Maybe some one will come up with a device to allow 10 speed shifters to be used with 8/9 speed? And yes friction sill works, but when I was doing a rebuild several years ago and was trying to find a solution to my downtube Centurion shifters, no less than Sheldon himself, told me that this was not a safe setup. Wanted the shifting up on the bar in some manner.

Your post made me realize that there is nothing keeping a bright, creative, ambitious person, company, or group from making after-market products that would allow 7, 8 or 9 speeds to live on.... except, perhaps demand.
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Old 02-16-07, 01:04 PM   #22
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Maybe some one will come up with a device to allow 10 speed shifters to be used with 8/9 speed?
Shiftmate by J-Tec Engineering. Works like a charm.
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Old 02-16-07, 01:15 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Jet Travis
Planned Obsolescence?

"What's the problem?" you might ask. "We have a choice of 9 speed or 10 speed, right?"

Wrong! Try to find a Dura-Ace 9s front derailleur, for instance. Most parts houses simply don't carry them anymore. "They're discontinued," they say. "Everyone is using 10 speed now."
The distinction between "9-speed" and "10-speed" front derailers is primarily a marketing distinction. There's no reason for them to keep making the "9-speed" version because the "10-speed" version works just fine with 9-speed systems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jet Travis
Would you love to have Shimano's new compact crank with its outboard bearings, slick looks and smooth operation? Sorry, it's only 10s. If you want to use it on your 9s bike you'll need to replace the front derailleur with a 10s model and use a 10s chain. Otherwise it will not work.
Nonsense, it will work just fine with "9-speed" stuff. The marketeers feed you this line of B.S. because they want to sell you lots of stuff, whether you need it or not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jet Travis
As a mechanic whose duty is to fix things, telling a customer that what was once a simple repair is now going to cost an arm and a leg and a mortgage payment doesn't go over very well.
It shouldn't. It seems kinda inconsistent to me that first you complain that the overpriced top-of-the-line boutique parts from previous model years are no longer made, and then you act as if you want to save money on repairs. If you want to save money, go for, say, Tiagra, which works just as well, though it might be a couple of grams heavier and not quite so pretty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oilman_15106
No doubt it is getting harder to keep your 8 speed and in the future your 9 speed on the road.
There's not the slightest bit of difficulty in keeping 8-speed Shimano stuff "on the road" because Shimano has taken great care to provide an easy upgrade path.

The most practical way to go with 8-speed is to gradually convert to 9- or 10-speed.

8-speed cassettes are readily availblble, and the only critical 8-speed item that is getting scarce is shifters...but there's no need for Shimano 8-speed shifters to exist:

9-speed shifters work just fine on 8-speed systems if you use the Alternate Cable Routing trick.

It is true that if you are stuck with Campagnolo 8-speed stuff, things get a lot more difficult due to the revision of Campagnolo's hubs, but the newer Campagnolo hubs are a major improvement over the older 8-speed versions.

Sheldon "Nobody Needs Dura-Ace Anything" Brown
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Old 02-16-07, 09:46 PM   #24
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... We would not be enjoying this forum with Apple II, Commadore 64, DOS operating system, Windows 3.0, or 9.6dial up modems. Remember the great and wonderful 64K eight inch floppy disk?? or the "latest and greatest" IBM AT(286 processor) ......less than 20 years ago??? On page 19 of the Mar/April AARP magazine there is article where an Apple IIe sold for $6300.00 and $425.00 for an 80s HP calculator.
Progress is relative......
Today's computers do make those of the 1980s and 1990s look so ... last century. However, there is a big difference between saying that a circa 1990 personal computer is obsolete because it cannot handle modern graphics, video, or desktop publishing and saying that a bicycle of the same vintage is obsolete because it has only 14 gears instead of 18.
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Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069
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Old 02-16-07, 09:47 PM   #25
John E
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Bikes: 1959 Capo; 1980 Peugeot PKN-10; 1981 Bianchi; 1988 Schwinn KOM-10;
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oilman_15106
... And yes friction sill works, but when I was doing a rebuild several years ago and was trying to find a solution to my downtube Centurion shifters, no less than Sheldon himself, told me that this was not a safe setup. Wanted the shifting up on the bar in some manner.
That's what nonindexed barcons are for.
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"Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069
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