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