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    It's easy to market "stuff"; hard to market "good"

    As someone who confronted similar challenges in my professional life, I'm sympathetic.

    But is anyone else slightly frustrated by the fact that as each new year's models come out, the quality of the components goes down, and easier to market and explain "features" get added on as compensation?

    Deore becomes Alivio; Alivio becomes Acera; Acera becomes Altus; inferior wheels and tires; cheap hubs... but --wow!-- disk brakes!! They might be the cheesiest, least expensive, most unreliable disk brakes available, with neither the utility or longevity of high-quality rim brakes, but, by god, they're disk brakes.

    As I said, I'm sympathetic. I come from the consumer electronics industry and the pressure to maintain (or lower) prices combined with the clamor for ever more features of dubious utility means something's got to give. And what gives is the stuff you can't see that the unsophisticated public yawns at: robust power supplies, adequate heat sinks, quality boards, resisters, capacitors...in short, trading stuff that matters for stuff that doesn't much.

    I'm big on used gear in any event, as I think I wind up with a lot more bang for my buck and there are countless seldom/never ridden bikes out there, but it's really kind of sad when I find myself passing on a pristine 2013 something-or-other because the 2012 was better and the 2011 was better yet.
    Last edited by cloozoe; 05-28-15 at 07:27 AM.

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Yup. Features are easy to point out. Quality is harder to describe. The ultimate result is 40 pound full suspension bike shaped objects.

    The guilt isn't all at the low end either. Ultegra components are roughly twice 105 cost and Dura Ace is double Ultegra price. So the price shoots up much more rapidly than quality at the high end.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

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    Senior Member Blue Belly's Avatar
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    With the increasing emphasis on weight(to a point of stupidity), quality has nowhere to go but down.

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    I don't have everything but I haven't noticed quality going down. I didn't spend much more for my current road bike than the one I rode for 5 years but it's much better. The frame is strong and lighter, shifting is 11 speed instead of 9 and much smoother, brakes are much better. Design features have made the ride smoother. I feel I've benefitted from trickle down as I have benefits which were only available on relatively costlier bikes last time I bought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Belly View Post
    With the increasing emphasis on weight(to a point of stupidity), quality has nowhere to go but down.
    Choose two: Low Weight, High Quality, Low Price


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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    If there were only a Market of High Income Recipients, wanting the most expensive bikes , then the lower cost component parts would not be needed ,

    But that not being reality , the factories make a variety of different price level parts , the product managers for the various importers Ordering your Brand of Bike's

    component parts Pick for that Model have a Bottom line on what the Total can cost, for the bikes in a particular Price level .

    So, there is an Add Something here, and cut something somewhere else to make up for the added cost of something else, they Juggle.

    OEM manufacturing is the majority of shipments of components , the repair, and Your Upgrade, a much smaller Market.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-28-15 at 09:14 AM.

  7. #7
    Just Say "Brifter!" Marcus_Ti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Yup. Features are easy to point out. Quality is harder to describe. The ultimate result is 40 pound full suspension bike shaped objects.

    The guilt isn't all at the low end either. Ultegra components are roughly twice 105 cost and Dura Ace is double Ultegra price. So the price shoots up much more rapidly than quality at the high end.
    And the price itself has gotten a ton more ridiculous in the last 10 years.

    I remember browsing PerformanceBike back a decade ago and a pair of Record 10s brifters was $259-299. And Dura-A'ce was a bit less. Hell a crankset back then even a nice one was less than $200...

    Then there's this external BB trend that started to make a new standard that was stiffer and more durable than the standard square spindle BBs....which resulted in 10 different flavors of mutually incompatible BBs none of which are noticeably stiffer and all of which are less durable and more prone to annoyances like noise than what they replaced.

    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdell View Post
    Choose two: Low Weight, High Quality, Low Price

    More like Choose ONE.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
    Then there's this external BB trend that started to make a new standard that was stiffer and more durable than the standard square spindle BBs....which resulted in 10 different flavors of mutually incompatible BBs none of which are noticeably stiffer and all of which are less durable and more prone to annoyances like noise than what they replaced.
    "Stiffer" is the term that's used to justify almost every change made to bicycle design. Take 1 1/8" steerer tubes for example. The original reason behind that change was to make mitering a fat aluminum down tube easier. Is it actually stiffer? I'm sure it is. Was lack of stiffness with 1" steerer tubes a problem? I don't think so.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

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    The bike industry has always been dominated by fads. In 1972, everyone had to be on a '10-speed', despite the overly high gearing, fragile tires and low bar position. By 1988, everyone had to be on a mountain bike, despite that maybe 5% of these bikes sold ever saw real off-road duty. By 1992, everyone needed a full-suspension mountain bike for circling around the 'hood. 2006: the fixie. 2010, the road bike. 2015: road bikes with disk brakes. Whatever.

    Right now, the most pointless trends are:
    1. Disk brakes on road bikes. Heavy, fussy, expensive, require new wheel retention standards. And unnecessary.
    2. 11 speeds. Every 5-7 years the industry has to add another cog to create some sales buzz, draw-in the gullible early adopters, and hopefully render the previous generation of road bikes obsolete. The number of gears we have on the cassette now is well past the point of marginal benefits.
    3. Sloping top tubes on road bikes. A styliní feature that renders the bike heavier than a traditional geometry. But mountain bikes have them!
    4. Endurance or comfort geometry on road bikes. Basically a tall head tube to allow a more upright position. Which is a good goal, but a better solution is to add another spacer under the stem and add a riser stem. But this looks dorky, so manufacturers have lengthened the head tube. A heavier and less efficient solution.

  10. #10
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloozoe View Post
    As someone who confronted similar challenges in my professional life, I'm sympathetic.

    But is anyone else slightly frustrated by the fact that as each new year's models come out, the quality of the components goes down, and easier to market and explain "features" get added on as compensation?

    Deore becomes Alivio; Alivio becomes Acera; Acera becomes Altus; inferior wheels and tires; cheap hubs... but --wow!-- disk brakes!! They might be the cheesiest, least expensive, most unreliable disk brakes available, with neither the utility or longevity of high-quality rim brakes, but, by god, they're disk brakes.

    As I said, I'm sympathetic. I come from the consumer electronics industry and the pressure to maintain (or lower) prices combined with the clamor for ever more features of dubious utility means something's got to give. And what gives is the stuff you can't see that the unsophisticated public yawns at: robust power supplies, adequate heat sinks, quality boards, resisters, capacitors...in short, trading stuff that matters for stuff that doesn't much.

    I'm big on used gear in any event, as I think I wind up with a lot more bang for my buck and there are countless seldom/never ridden bikes out there, but it's really kind of sad when I find myself passing on a pristine 2013 something-or-other because the 2012 was better and the 2011 was better yet.
    I think you are on to something. Manufacturers need to build product to a price point. In the bike market, quality bikes are in competition from cheap bike shaped objects and this years entry level model needs to stay at the same $400 to $500 price point as last year's, or the consumer will look to big box stores. At the high end, 9 speed becomes 10 speed, becomes 11 speed. But again, all this technological progress comes at a price, so something has to give.

    I think I am in a good place for my future bike needs, though with my current frame, I don't think I will be getting disc brakes anytime soon.

  11. #11
    Just Say "Brifter!" Marcus_Ti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Mayer View Post
    The bike industry has always been dominated by fads. In 1972, everyone had to be on a '10-speed', despite the overly high gearing, fragile tires and low bar position. By 1988, everyone had to be on a mountain bike, despite that maybe 5% of these bikes sold ever saw real off-road duty. By 1992, everyone needed a full-suspension mountain bike for circling around the 'hood. 2006: the fixie. 2010, the road bike. 2015: road bikes with disk brakes. Whatever.

    Right now, the most pointless trends are:
    1. Disk brakes on road bikes. Heavy, fussy, expensive, require new wheel retention standards. And unnecessary.
    2. 11 speeds. Every 5-7 years the industry has to add another cog to create some sales buzz, draw-in the gullible early adopters, and hopefully render the previous generation of road bikes obsolete. The number of gears we have on the cassette now is well past the point of marginal benefits.
    3. Sloping top tubes on road bikes. A stylin’ feature that renders the bike heavier than a traditional geometry. But mountain bikes have them!
    4. Endurance or comfort geometry on road bikes. Basically a tall head tube to allow a more upright position. Which is a good goal, but a better solution is to add another spacer under the stem and add a riser stem. But this looks dorky, so manufacturers have lengthened the head tube. A heavier and less efficient solution.
    Disk breaks do have a point...if you're riding carbon fiber rims you'll want them, especially in the wet. Just look at the professional peloton-when it gets wet they can't stop easily, and the UCI mandates that all UCI-sanctioned riders-in-races must ride consumer obtainable bikes. Sloping top tubes, do also have a bit of a point: they let a limited frame size run fit more proportions of people

  12. #12
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    "Stiffer" is the term that's used to justify almost every change made to bicycle design. Take 1 1/8" steerer tubes for example. The original reason behind that change was to make mitering a fat aluminum down tube easier. Is it actually stiffer? I'm sure it is. Was lack of stiffness with 1" steerer tubes a problem? I don't think so.
    Plus ... 1_1/8" steerer tubes are not butted so the tube is bought in as long a length as you can put on a truck.

    1"steerer tubes were Butted , so get bought as an Item, in bulk, if you are a factory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
    Disk breaks do have a point...if you're riding carbon fiber rims you'll want them, especially in the wet. Just look at the professional peloton-when it gets wet they can't stop easily, and the UCI mandates that all UCI-sanctioned riders-in-races must ride consumer obtainable bikes. Sloping top tubes, do also have a bit of a point: they let a limited frame size run fit more proportions of people
    Brakes. Learn how to spell. I regularly ride carbon rims in the rain with rim brakes. I had in excess of 100 wet weather rides last year. My regular commute involves a drop of 400 vertical feet in 4 blocks. No problems.

    Sloping top tube geometry supposedly allows manufacturers to fit a wide range of riders with a limited number of frame sizes. The only reason for this is cost savings, which they pocket as profits.

  14. #14
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    I think you're off-base. A model of bike will frequently receive downgrades to lower or maintian its price, but the general quality of everything at an inflation-adjusted price goes up. The Nuovo Record parts on my Paramount are very pretty and made very nicely but their design is obsolete and already was in 1976. The Paramount cost $600 Jerry Ford dollars, which today would be in excess of $2400 and would buy a lighter and much more user-friendly bike that fits, stops, and shifts much better. Even the sloppy plastic Acera on my clapped-out MTB shifts and stops way better.

    Your consumer electronics comparison seems off-base too. Windows 95 really sucked compared to anything now. i remember my Dad's MS-dos laptop with the tiny one-color screen. I can't think of any computer I've ever owned whose hardware has failed before it became obsolete.
    Last edited by Darth Lefty; 05-28-15 at 11:03 AM.
    Genesis 49:17

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    I've no doubt you are entirely correct; I'm always wrong (ask my wife and daughters). Thought I was right once, in 1973, but it turned out I was mistaken.

    Look at the bright side, though: if you've got an old velocipede you need to get rid of, I'll pay you top dollar.

  16. #16
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    The original reason behind that change was to make mitering a fat aluminum down tube easier. Is it actually stiffer? I'm sure it is. Was lack of stiffness with 1" steerer tubes a problem? I don't think so.
    Indeed. And the reason oversize aluminum frame tubes were used was to provide sufficient weld area for a strong joint. "Stiffness" was marketing's way of getting acceptance for the new look.

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    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    I think you're off-base. A model of bike will frequently receive downgrades to lower or maintian its price, but the general quality of everything at an inflation-adjusted price goes up. The Nuovo Record parts on my Paramount are very pretty and made very nicely but their design is obsolete and already was in 1976. The Paramount cost $600 Jerry Ford dollars, which today would be in excess of $2400 and would buy a lighter and much more user-friendly bike that fits, stops, and shifts much better. Even the sloppy plastic Acera on my clapped-out MTB shifts and stops way better.
    ^ this.

    While Alivio might inherit the features of Deore, which inherited the features of SLX... XT... XTR... the quality of the groups has been maintained and not passed down. Deore/Tiagra level parts are very similar in quality to (or better than) the Exage/RX100 parts of the '90s. In 1992 I got a bike equipped with 105 level components and some of them lasted more than 20 years. I would expect a new 105 groupset to have similar duability, but I would not expect it of Claris parts, even though they have more features than my 1992 105 stuff.

    Find an old price list and I bet you could get a very good estimate of the prices of today's comparable new bikes by calculating the price of the old bike with inflation. Suspension on mountain bikes and STI shift/brake levers on road bikes created a bump in prices since then, but otherwise quality for inflation adjusted cost is comparable.

  18. #18
    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Yay, Ludites, inovation sucks! Time to mandate fixed gear and get back to basics. Watch out, there's a kid on your lawn....
    IGH's, Dyno Hubs, LED lights and old frames

  19. #19
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    I'm with unabowler, Darth, and Wilfred: quality has not gone down.

    What has gone down is my disposable income, and thus how far up the quality food chain I can feed. The top tier stuff has always been out of reach for me, but it seems particularly pricey these days.

    Nonetheless, I love my 11spd and the quality is great. My 9 year old disc brakes on the 700c commuter/utility bike are holding up great, too
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    What has gone down is my disposable income, and thus how far up the quality food chain I can feed. The top tier stuff has always been out of reach for me, but it seems particularly pricey these days.
    I'm with you. I never felt the need to get components above 105 quality, and I am sure would struggle to afford even that, but I recently played with my first Di2 electronic shifting bike... and maybe I can find a way to afford ultegra...

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    In US marketing, if you can reduce some feature to a number, you are onto a good thing because the biggest number wins, unless the smallest number wins. Either way, it is really easy to sell the concept.
    Gear sprocket counts
    0-60 acceleration
    Engine displacement
    Flat screen size
    Digital camera pixel count
    Audio amplifier watts
    Probably the worst case of this is the Cholesterol industry, where anything that makes your cholesterol number smaller is a Good Thing, even if we are not sure what is the optimum level of cholesterol, or even what cholesterol is really doing.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Yup, once you can hang a number on it, somebody has to win and somebody has to finish last - even if there's only a couple of percentage points between the two.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  23. #23
    Old. Slow. Happy. MileHighMark's Avatar
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    I have no desire to go back to Mafac brakes, Simplex derailleurs, and Normandy hubs...
    I like bikes. Oh, and doughnuts, too.

  24. #24
    Just Say "Brifter!" Marcus_Ti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Yup, once you can hang a number on it, somebody has to win and somebody has to finish last - even if there's only a couple of percentage points between the two.
    The nice thing is that thanks to the lack of marketing laws in the USA, I can make outrageous and utterly unsubstantiated claims.... like my product is 15% stiffer than last year...and pull some number % out my arse to describe how much more vertically compliant the frame is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MileHighMark View Post
    I have no desire to go back to Mafac brakes, Simplex derailleurs, and Normandy hubs...
    Aw, c'mon, MHM; are you being deliberately obtuse as to the point of the original post so you can knock down strawmen of your own creation or is the thin air getting to you?

    Obviously technology has advanced over time. The question is not whether you'd rather have today's technology in general over that of 50 years ago, but rather whether you'd prefer last year's, say, Deore group, or this year's Altus? If the latter, get in touch and we can work out a swap and I won't even make you throw in much extra cash. Got some swampland, too, you might be interested in.
    Last edited by cloozoe; 05-30-15 at 02:59 AM.

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