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Best and Worst Inventions for Bikes

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Best and Worst Inventions for Bikes

Old 03-17-20, 08:50 PM
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Best and Worst Inventions for Bikes

I made this list in my head over a few decades and in the late 1990s put it to paper for an upcoming local Cleveland bike club winter meeting. It shows my bias and view from behind the service counter, from being the boss for nearly 15 years at that point, from being a rider who was a fast wanabe and from my frame building experiences. I'm sure many will add their best or worst.

The criteria I tried to follow were base level stuff and not tweaks to already existing designs. (Like der gear trains met the top 10 and indexed shifting barely made the honorable mentions, as without multiple gears indexing is a moot point).

As much as the best 10 are what many will focus on as a lifer in the LBS it's the 10 worst that really hits home for me. Often it's what to avoid that's more important then what to pick. Andy
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Old 03-17-20, 10:26 PM
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Well thought out list. I would maybe add a few more to the 'Best' list.

1. Safety bicycle, allows use of same size front and rear wheels instead of the high
wheeler thus lessening the chance of 'header' accidents.

2. Electronic derailleur shifting systems,improving ease of use and improved shifting precision.

3. Internal geared rear hubs.
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Old 03-18-20, 12:01 AM
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Suicide levers were a pretty bad idea--a little thinking and you can come up with a solution that, you know, actually stops the bike. Another worst "invention": ceramic bearings. These are expensive and their properties have very limited advantage when applied to bicycles, aside from weight. If low friction or service life are the goal, high end stainless bearings typically outperform ceramic at a fraction of the cost.

I wouldn't put plastic on the list. There are a great many places where plastic is a suitable and appropriate material on bicycles--lever bodies, some derailleur body parts, saddles, bottle cages, etc. I also don't love airless tires, and what you write is essentially correct, but they really have been getting better and I'll admit there are use cases where they're not an outright terrible idea.

Really your best list mostly can be satisfied by bicycle designs from the early 1930s. Really at that point the best bicycles were very definitely useful, utilitarian vehicles that could travel in most terrain that bikes can now at not wildly dissimilar speeds, and most improvements since then have honestly been fairly evolutionary. The largest developments are in the development of the mountain bike, which really opens up a fundamentally different kind of riding on terrain that would have been impassible before. Not to mention how many developments for road bikes were predominantly developed to address the needs of mountain bikes (freehubs, threadless headsets, tubeless, 1x drivetrains).

Might be fun to compile of best bicycle innovations in, say, a narrower window of time. In relatively recent years, dropper seatposts, tubeless, 1x drivetrains, clutched derailleurs, hydraulic disc brakes have offered real world advantages to riders, for example, though they would never make a top 10 list for all time.

A lot of my worst headaches as a working mechanic aren't really terrible ideas but awful implementation. Press fit assemblies can exceed the theoretical maximum tolerances of threaded assemblies, but too many manufacturers have awful tolerances and poor implementations. Internal routing is of arguable benefit in some cases, and does look clean, but too many implementations are needlessly nightmarish, and I'm often a little offended when its used on utilitarian or entry level bikes because it makes amateur repair harder to get into. I find it ridiculous when cable actuated disc brakes end up working significantly worse than linear pull brakes on a Walmart bike.
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Old 03-18-20, 12:32 AM
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Obviously the writers NEVER rode a SA bike .... . Pffft ... Very dated even then ......
BEST Inventions>>
DRUM brakes>> Work 100% of the time with ZERO adjustments
IGH, SA 3 sp, ROHLOFF14>> see above...
Disc brakes with both side moving calipers
Sweptback handlebars
Butted stainless spokes
Clincher ALu rims
Sealed bearing BBs and front hubs
Dyno hubs and LED lights

WORST inventions>>
Rim scratch brakes, ESPECIALLY calipers. GArBaGe
Foot retentions for 99% of riders ... Pffft
DeFAILeurs with lopsided tension spokes.
LAB >>> Road HOGS
USELESS Helmets
High SLOPE TTs
Straight HB
Cotter cranks
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Old 03-18-20, 01:07 AM
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If you wanted to go for maximum 19th century in the top list you’d start it with safety bicycle.

Maybe just shifting instead of derailleurs. IGH are pretty great.

Maybe combine MTB with suspension, they’re pretty much the same. Non suspension MTB’s are an iconoclastic anachronism and non MTB ‘s with suspension are merely copping the style.

I also object to plastic on the bottom list.
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Old 03-18-20, 05:23 AM
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We used to talk about this pretty often in the engineering office. That's a good list.

Mentioned once above, I think LED lighting is by far the best related invention in my lifetime. Though, like helmets, it's an accessory.

I also agree with the safety bicycle geometry.

How about chrome steel wheels with rim brakes for the worst?
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Old 03-18-20, 07:06 AM
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Front Freewheel system, why?
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Old 03-18-20, 07:30 AM
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A few responses-

Safety bikes didn't happen without either a chain or shaft (I know there were spur gear trains but they didn't survive the test of time and market place). But this one is perhaps the best further development I didn't mention above.
IGHs are a good addition, although as mentioned by DL multiple gears is a better inclusion. That's the foundation for all the manors of gearing and their controls.
Electronic shifting, sealed cartridge bearings are more examples of refinement of the original invention. Derailleurs and rolling elements bearings.
Brakes should have not been specific to rim brakes only, the spoon brake preceded all others. Disks and drums are just another version of the initial invention of some kind of brake.
Clincher rims/tires again are the refinement of pneumatic tires. Although a really nice one (having placed many thousands of miles, including loaded touring, on sew ups I know this well)

This list is but my opinion and was started back when I was still in high school (early 1970s). I have had the pleasure of working for a pair of shop owners early on who were fans of bike history. They began my paying attention to things like patents and how ideas evolve. The shop (Geo. Rennie's Bicycle Shop) had a number of "antiques" on display and each winter we would C&G a one or two. To see in hand how these old bike were made was an education in it's self. back then materials for components and structure were still largely steel and Al, the plastic stuff didn't sit too well and the early examples (Simplex ders, being the common one) left a lot to be desired. One challenge I saw is how to qualify an idea as being the initial start of what, later years, might have become universal. In hindsight I could have been more diligent in this.

I fully agree that if I were to rewrite this list today there would be some changes. Mostly in my stating the initial idea/invention and less the later refinements. Any list will reflect the time and previous experiences of the writer. I see this idea nearly every day I work. So many people don't give credit to the foundations of ideas that they have lived with all their lives and only view this stuff through their limited experiences (as did I, just 40+ years ago when I started thinking about this stuff). I welcome your own lists posted here. Andy
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Old 03-18-20, 07:31 AM
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Andy,

Thanks for posting this list here.

I agree with your lists in all three categories with a couple of additional thoughts.

I would add aluminum rims to the Honorable Mention list. They make rim brakes really functional, particularly in wet conditions. The current trend to disc brakes makes them less essential but they were a major improvement.

I'm not so sanguine about the current LAB/LAW. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were a huge force for legitimizing bicycling and lobbying for improved roads. By the late 20th century they fell into squabbling about the organizations name more than actively working for bicyclists and their influence had seriously declined. At this point I believe "Adventure Cycling" (formerly Bikecentennial) is a much more influential organization and serves its members far better.
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Old 03-18-20, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Front Freewheel system, why?

Not sure what you're saying. Are you suggesting FFS should be included or why was it invented? I didn't include it because it's a refinement of the ratchet drive in general, only repositioning it away from the driven wheel. It was a pretty smart attempt to make gear changing easier for those who don't understand der shifting. The rider can coast and shift gears, or even get off and walk the bike to shift. IMO a cool idea but in the application it failed in the market place. Some have said that this was one of Shimano's mistakes, introducing a new idea at the low end of the market where buyers don't care as much for the technical details and where production cost limitations (to meet price points) resulted in less then better performance. (And that it wanted a special freewheel didn't help it's acceptance in the LBS).

Actually much like Shimano's Positron rear shifting. Positron was an early indexed shifting attempt brought out, like FFS, in the recreational end of the market. It never really caught on until it was "reinvented" as Dura Ace AX and thus became what many, mistakenly, call the first indexed shifting system. Now that an indexed system was found on the high end/racing bikes the idea took off. Andy
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Old 03-18-20, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Andy,

Thanks for posting this list here.

I agree with your lists in all three categories with a couple of additional thoughts.

I would add aluminum rims to the Honorable Mention list. They make rim brakes really functional, particularly in wet conditions. The current trend to disc brakes makes them less essential but they were a major improvement.

I'm not so sanguine about the current LAB/LAW. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were a huge force for legitimizing bicycling and lobbying for improved roads. By the late 20th century they fell into squabbling about the organizations name more than actively working for bicyclists and their influence had seriously declined. At this point I believe "Adventure Cycling" (formerly Bikecentennial) is a much more influential organization and serves its members far better.
I agree that in the last 50 years or so the LAW has not been anywhere near the factor it originally was and that AC is a worthy addition to the advocacy field, perhaps doing more then the current LAB does to promote cycling. Another example of the times this list was developing during. AC really didn't see it's growth until the last couple of decades in the 1900s. Andy
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Old 03-18-20, 07:55 AM
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Roller chain best.
Biopace chainrings worst.
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Old 03-18-20, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
If you wanted to go for maximum 19th century in the top list you’d start it with safety bicycle.

Maybe just shifting instead of derailleurs. IGH are pretty great.

Maybe combine MTB with suspension, they’re pretty much the same. Non suspension MTB’s are an iconoclastic anachronism and non MTB ‘s with suspension are merely copping the style.

I also object to plastic on the bottom list.

Butted steel tubes if we are going 19th century max...
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Old 03-18-20, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by billridesbikes View Post
Butted steel tubes if we are going 19th century max...
This is exactly what I am talking about. Butted tubes are but (bad pun) a refinement on the more foundational use of tubular frame structures. So is carbon frame material. Not a base level invention but taking the same design, hollow structures, and applying a new material to that long used design. I would include butting and layered materials (fiberglass, carbon) on a secondary or tertiary list. Andy
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Old 03-18-20, 09:48 AM
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not as bad as others on the worst list but PressFit bottom brackets.
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Old 03-18-20, 10:25 AM
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Having worked on a few bottom brackets and mentored volunteers I would place the Ashtabula crank in the running as most significant development.

While it is derided as being heavy and is certainly not a "performance" item it is used in millions of low end bikes around the world and is virtually indestructible and dead simple to work on. If you ever find yourself in a third world country using a bicycle you will probably find reason to praise this simple and trouble free item.
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Old 03-18-20, 11:06 AM
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Cool thought exercise.

This one is perhaps out of scope, but I would consider asphalt paving for the best list. Yes you can ride on dirt roads and bikes are used widely in places where many roads are unpaved, but paved roads certainly make cycling much easier and more enjoyable and were important historically for the growth of cycling.
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Old 03-18-20, 11:36 AM
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OK, it has to be said:


Asphalt indeed!
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Old 03-18-20, 11:39 AM
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Presta valves?
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Old 03-18-20, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by biketampa View Post
not as bad as others on the worst list but PressFit bottom brackets.
Makes you wonder why we all tolerate press fit headsets, doesn't it?
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Old 03-18-20, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Makes you wonder why we all tolerate press fit headsets, doesn't it?
what's the installation of press fit headsets like? It's not something I've had to work on. I just know I've had the creaky press fit bottom bracket issue and I don't feel like investing in a another bike tool. The threaded bottom brackets on my other bikes work fine so that's my preference for sure.
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Old 03-18-20, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Makes you wonder why we all tolerate press fit headsets, doesn't it?
Headsets are loaded differently than bottom brackets when under use, and aren't as susceptible to the issues that plague press-fit bottom brackets.
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Old 03-18-20, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
OK, it has to be said:


Asphalt indeed!
Well, some of the paved roads we had early on were , to a degree, the result of the LAW lobbying for them. Thus my inclusion of the LAW in the top ten list. Andy
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Old 03-18-20, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Makes you wonder why we all tolerate press fit headsets, doesn't it?
To drift from the thread's intent- A major reason the current breed of press fit BB are so problematic is the lack of needed dimensioning control. Carbon is a poor material to machine. So many frames use a mold insert to produce the sizing for a bearing top slide into. So the needed slight interference fit is easily not quite right. (Another is the low grade bearings that the bike industry so loves).

Press fit BBs have been around for decades although on bikes that most don't know much about and in total numbers that are a tiny fraction of annual sales. Gary Fishers and Kleins are the two that come to mind first in popularity. Our first version Burley tandem (and tandems with a cross over drive are well known to be stoker BB killers) went about 20K miles and with no issues and the BBs spun slightly better then when new when I sold off the bike. All these bikes used metal frames with good reaming for fit and larger then the norm bearings. Andy
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Old 03-18-20, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by 2old View Post
Roller chain best.
Biopace chainrings worst.
Biopace chainrings worst most widely misunderstood.
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