Serenely Swallowing Standards

Soon You'll be Numb

Words by Andrew Major.
June 7th, 2016

Screw the bike companies. Screw the bike media. Screw your friends that buy the latest and greatest and just perpetuate the cycle. Screw Uncle Dave because he’s there and if you whine loud enough in an e-mail you might get a prize. You’re Grant F-ing Petersen* and whichever bike you last bought between your Brodie Sovereign and right now is exactly where evolution should have been arrested. Oh, you like some innovations but strongly resist others? You’re only human: rabble, rabble, rabble on.

There is no vaccine, no cure, no hope.

Plus, Boost, Super Boost, Post Mount, Pressfit(s), Twenty-Seven-Point-Six-Fifty-B, XD, 12-speed, Di2, One-Point-Five, Tapered, 31.8, 35mm, Mine-is-9, carbon, ‘Women’s Specific’, ProCore, metric shocks, etc, etc, etc… to ‘standards’ fueled bicycle hell and back. At some point – a long time ago –  innovation became as much about selling bikes as improving them and YOU’RE PISSED.

Ah, but I have some very great news for you, my new friend. Soon every major bike brand will have their own ‘best’ spacing, offset, steerer, wheel size, etc, and you won’t give a Paul’s Thumbie about it.

Swallowing Standards

Any part from this Bridgestone MB-0 would have worked with any other bike of its day – and many ~ 10+ years later. Can we just stop for a moment and enjoy this old relic?

Infrequent change is scary. It’s like getting a Flu shot once a year: the anticipation is (almost) always worse than the needle itself and in hindsight you end up thinking “huh, that wasn’t so bad” or “wow, the industry switching to 650b totally wasn’t a big deal after all”. Years later you might even think “actually, I’m okay with threaded posts on the expensive magnesium lowers of my suspension fork instead of bolting an easily replaceable $20 adapter to idiot-proof IS tabs”.

“Bull Sh*t!” you say. “Example?” you say. Ha. Look at the 1-1/8″ Chris King headset in your commuter bike.

Inoculation against change-rage is in the rhythmic regularity of progress. It’s just like driving a car: speed is nowhere near as dangerous as speed variation and now you have nothing to worry about because on the salt flats of your two-wheeled life, the bike industry has cut the brakes and punched the gas. Vroooooooooooom!

And if your meat-engine is in sorry shape don’t you worry; you can always just buy an E-Bike.


Take a deep breath. RAGEGASM!!!!! No, no, Deeeeeeeep breath.

“Bull Sh*t!” you say. “Example?” you say. Ha. Look at the 1-1/8″ Chris King headset in your commuter bike. You know the one. It was in two or three mountain bike frames long before the 1.5″ ‘standard’ had its 5-minutes of fame and then gave it up for the plethora of different tapered head tube combinations floating around now. You told your life partner you’d “have it forever” and you weren’t wrong Mr/Mrs “my headset is worth as much as my entire grocery bike.”

Don’t feel bad. I know a handful of folks with beautiful King external 1.5″ (EC49 for you ‘standard’ watchers) headsets sitting on shelves, or buried in parts bins, calling to them daily to remind them of the same thing: “I’m here forever, and I’m as entirely F*cking useless to you as that ornamental bowl you aren’t allowed to put sh*t in.”

And hey, if you’re that guy, don’t feel bad either. I know a dude who has had three warranty frames in five years, from the same company, all using completely different headset standards. He’s not even mad anymore: “that’s why [his] bike can’t have nice things.”

Why, you might as well just buy complete bikes (stock) and flip them every couple years. Say goodbye to custom metal and hello to higher margins for manufacturers. Right?


That’s more like it!? Wait… 135mm front hub?! (Editor’s note: that’s actually a proprietary 142mm front hub, not a semi-proprietary 135mm front hub as used previously).

“Wrong!” you scream. “I support companies that don’t use proprietary parts!” you yell. “I only buy hubs that are convertible to different standards!” you holler back. Oh, my friend.

If they aren’t introducing a new hub standard, they’re using proprietary parts to offset the drivetrain to work with an old one. If they aren’t changing the disk brake mounting ‘standard’, again, it’s a new headset, bar width, chainring bolt pattern, seat rail dimension, derailleur mounting system, or…


Just let it go. I read somewhere that mountain bikes are better than ever and I think it might be true. Have an recommended craft beer. Do you think The Dude cares about metric shock sizing? It really ties the bike together… no?


“When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.” -Torquil Campbell

Feel better?

*The man who murdered Bridgestone bikes with his abhorrence of new technologies. RIP Bridgestone MTB.

  • kain0m

    Yeah, just swallow the pill. 650 is .2% quicker so you’re furtunate that your nice wheelset doesn’t fit anymore. At least you can now upgrade to carbon wheels without feeling guilty about leaving that perfectly fine 800$ alloy wheelset behind!

    This industry is all kinds of fucked up.

  • ZigaK

    How dare you speak of Mr. Petersen that way. That was not abhorrence of new technologies, that was just common sense. Read the Lauterbrunnental Leaflet, I mean Rivendell Reader, where for example 25 years ago Grant Petersen advocates for less gears as in you don’t need so small steps between gears, 7 is plenty. And don’t get me started on wool for cycling apparel it is just getting through to the mainstream now that wool is The fabric. And so on. Don’t read to much, it will spoil the comic effect just created. 😉

    • John Canfield

      Peterson is the quintessential luddite.

  • Cooper

    This. This is why you come back here.

    Thanks Andrew. I laughed. And agreed.

    • DrewM

      Thanks Cooper! I’m glad it works for someone’s sense of humour other than my own… sardonic-insery loves company.

  • boomforeal

    didn’t the mb-zip require a proprietary, even unique bb?

    and the jones plus i reviewed has a proprietary (even unique )142mm x 15mm front hub

    finally, petersen didn’t murder bridgestone bikes because of his abhorence of new technologies. he made them what they were because he was willing to try, embrace and push new technologies. his mb’s were the first modern, purpose built mountain bikes. everyone designing for offroad at the time was following the schwinn cruiser model, which was nice and stable while ripping fireroads but good for little else. petersen steepened up head and seat tube angles so the bikes pedalled and climbed well – he basically invented the modern xc bike, presaging “norba” geometry that would come to dominate mtb design (for better and worse) for more than a decade. true, he later refused to follow the herd and bridgestone suffered and died as a result – he’d found what for him was ~ the apotheosis of bicycle design, and decided to sit under his own vine and fig tree, and chill; and he’s still there… proving you can find serenity w/o an industry-sized dick in your mouth

    • DrewM

      MB-Zero used a threadless 68mm shell and the bottom bracket threaded into itself (similar to how some companies are now making replacement BBs for pressfit = not a new idea).

      Technically, I believe, the system works in a BSA standard 68mm shell, if you’re willing to bore out the threads. Also it was fully rebuild able so maybe I can get a pass for that.

      • DrewM

        Speaking of getting a pass… I don’t remember seeing a mention of a proprietary 142x12mm front axle in either of the Jones articles?

        It seems very un-Omar of you not to bring it up particularly as I think it’s fair to say you would have been all over it from a larger company (E.G. Pivot & “Super Boost”) & there are a number of ways an existing front hub size could work.

      • boomforeal

        go back and read the first look article again — it’s in there. railing against proprietary bits on the Jones plus would have been missing the forest for the trees. jeff has been using proprietary front hubs for years, which I can’t begrudge him for given how unique his bikes are. but he’s not bloody minded about it, as illustrated by the running change recently made to the newest plus fork, which uses the 150x15mm fat front standard hub

      • DrewM

        That’s a fair rebuttal Omar; thanks.

        Re. Grant Petersen. For the record I’m a fan of Bridgestone and Rivendell. The whole article is intended to entertain.

      • boomforeal

        not saying i’m always successful, but i try to be fair

        i also try to avoid ad hominem attacks and throwing people i know under the bus in order to “entertain”. i read somewhere that “mean people suck” and i think it might be true

      • DrewM

        I suppose we – I mean “I” – in the Tercio can only look up to the noble Gendarme in awe?

        Have a great day,

      • Cr4w
      • boomforeal

        do what you like? just maybe leave me out of it

      • Nat Brown

        What a funny (and predictable) exchange! I don’t find much info in the links (“F-ing”) on Bridgestone and this Petersen chap, nor in these comments. Could you summarise the story for me please? I understand it will be in the context of word of mouth and not a fact based journalistic account.

      • DrewM

        Hi Nat,

        I think Vernon Felton explains it pretty concisely yet eloquently. The article I pulled it from is an entertaining read in general (link below text):

        “Back in the `90s a guy named Grant Petersen helmed Bridgestone USA, designing some of the best bikes imaginable–elegant machines that rode as smooth as silk and were incredibly versatile. And then Bridgestone’s bike division went belly up.

        As cool as Bridgestone bikes were, they cut against the grain; there were no glued-together carbon tubes, purple anodized parts or neon-green aluminum frames in the Bridgestone line-up whatsoever, which were pretty much everything the market was clamoring for back then. I lived through this era and I still can’t explain why this was so, other than to note that this was also a period in which Cher was so huge that she seemed on the verge of becoming the next president of the United States and Steven Seagal movies were hugely popular everywhere in the world. It all fits together.”

      • Nat Brown

        Thanks for the link Drew. I used that google thing to go a little deeper and came up with Petersen’s obituary for Bridgestone bikes reproduced on Sheldon Brown’s old site:

        It put things things perspective for me, and I get the joke now. Given the tone of this piece, which I liked, I thought you were being sarcastic. If anyone else didn’t get it, anyone at all, they should read the obituary for themselves.

      • DrewM

        Thanks Nat, that’s a great find. Excellent quote from the obituary: “But a lot of ‘technology’ is just old novelty, and lots of ‘progress’ is just change.” – Grant Petersen

  • Hoz

    Ah the memories….wtf happened to ‘Pineapple Bob’? Wonder if he’s wearing an AM helmet these days or if the concussions finally nailed him. Always thought the MB-zipp was the business though back in the day. Couldn’t get em’ in en-z though so the Peterson approach had to be re-invented with a local flavor. Good flash-back to the early times….(even though lots of new standards keep appearing in my fleet, despite swearing that each new bike is ‘the’ one to satisfy the ‘need’

    • Cr4w

      Probably giving kudos to Zap’s burrito.

    • earle.b

      Pretty sure Pineapple Bob is the shipping guy at Rivendell bikes. Read that somewhere on the Riv site or the Riv Blug. I read way to much random stuff on the net.

      • Really? REALLY? Huh. I think we need to know. Might need to dig.


    I read something else somewhere, “mountain bikes are more expensive than ever”

    • Merwinn

      Tell me about it, but who’s going to absorb for all that R&D and production costs for 650B, 27.5 Fattie, 29er XC and AM rigs, 26er DJ & SS bikes, ebikes, all those fork leg lengths and brace widths, multiple hub widths, multiple frame materials? You and I, who else? Ultimately we as the consumer have the choice to buy into all of it, or not at all.

  • Cr4w

    I actually owned a Bridgestone MB-1. It was an awesome bike.

    • DrewM

      Yes; that photo was chosen because Bridgestone bikes were/are sweet – just choosing the photo prompted a super-bike-nerd-out; just for the record I’m a fan on both Bridgestone and Rivendell: this piece was meant to entertain.

      • Cr4w

        I was entertained!

    • Pics or it didn’t happen.

      Seriously, though, 16 year old me (and 36 year old me) is insanely jealous. Of any vintage MTB, other than a Ritchey with custom spec, I think I’d want an old Bridgestone MB-0,1, or 2.

      • My choice would be a Bridgestone MB-x or an original Fat Chance Yo Eddy. Man I lusted over that bike.

        Unfortunately, all I could afford was the jersey, which I wore like some kind of poser. However, I’m happy to report that I still have it and it still fits. I wear it on occasional road rides.

  • Mike Wheels

    you forgot Biodex pacing

    • DrewM

      Ha! If I had tried to include the entire catalogue of bike industry innovation the editor probably would have had me shot!

      Thanks for reading Mike.

  • earle.b

    This made me pull up the Rivendell site….that made me find their 12-40 “elite wide” 9spd cassette. Hmmm wider range 9 spd with Thumbies for my next hardtail build? Maybe build it as some mish mash of old and modern. Boost rear spacing with a 9spd thumbie drivetrain. A pressfit BB running some old 5 arm compact cranks?

    • I still lament the days of top mount thumb shifters – and I usually ran them in friction mode when I had them. A hardtail with that setup sounds perfect to me. It may be naïve nostalgia, but stubbornness and a willingness to embrace it would probably force me to accept that setup as gospel if I committed to it. Might have to make it happen.

      • DrewM

        You should take my 9-speed friction Thumbie gravel bike around the block. You’ll either be sold or change your mind right quick.

        I love when I manage to plug a number of perfect friction shifts in a row.

      • Dirk

        I found a sweet 6/7 speed Suntour thumbie at Our Community Bikes that I was able to fit to my girlfriends commuter bike. It made me really, really happy. It’s just such a nice piece of equipment. I’m running it indexed though.

      • Jealous!

      • earle.b

        I ran thumbies up to 2009, indexed, but still a fan oh the thumbie. Barham told me he’d never shoot any more photo’s with me if I had built up a new bike after the fire with thumbies.

      • DrewM

        Don’t need to worry about that anymore… I heard he retired after making stacks of cash off of “low circulation print magazines”?

        Time for some new Thumbies!

      • I’ll take you up on that.

      • Perry Schebel

        dude, i like this train of thought. love the idea of a retro-tech build. perhaps a custom short reach bullmoose stem as well. what other iconic vintage features could be reconfigured?

      • earle.b

        Ritchey actually makes a carbon bullmoose bar stem but it’s only 720mm wide at 70mm stem length. If it was wider it would be awesome.

      • I know it. I wonder how many of those they sold?

      • Retro-tech is an interesting theme so let’s run with it.

        So, we know it’ll be a steel hardtail. I think Boost spacing makes sense, and I also think you could run HV or even Plus tires to hammer home the ‘balloon-tire’ bike idea. Skin walls if possible. 5-arm Sugino crank or similar, run 1x because that’s one of the key parts in the retro-tech theme IMO. What brakes make the most sense? Is it possible to run anything other than hydro discs and still claim it’s a good marriage of old school form and function? I doubt it.

        Saddle: leather and classic lines. Brooks could even work here. Otherwise a Flite or a Chromag Trailmaster LTD.

      • DrewM

        Paul cable-actuated disk brakes for the old school do-it-yourself-er? Combined with the long-lever Paul canti-levers would give as “retro” an appearance as you’re going to get with disks.

        I’d skip the 5-arm for a 4-arm so you can run a N/W ring of a suitable size (5-bolt 110BCD N/W rings for cross probably too big)? White Industries cranks look the part.

        Hard to decide between retro vs. performance.

        On my commuter bike I have a Profile Racing disk hub that is ~18 years old. Silver and classic Profile Racing appearance (retro looking) and heavy but otherwise it’s as good as anything made today. A set of those would be sweet for the retro-look but modern capability.

  • Denomerdano

    King makes a mean espresso set that will never go out of style.
    No ‘to go’ version though.

  • Satn

    Last year my buddy gave me his Off Road Toad for my 50th. That was “thee” bike back in ’91. It was rolling Art. So simple just like the MB0. I can stare at that bike all day but I love my wife and kid and I still love to ride so I hung it up on the entrance wall of our house. Fun times!!