iBike Pro
Editorial

The Apple-ization of the Mountain Bike

Words Matt Lee
Date Nov 2, 2018

Technology. As an avocado toast-eating millennial, even I’m struggling to keep up with the change of pace. Struggling may not be the right word; I feel as though I’m becoming a crotchety old guy sitting on his porch and yelling at whippersnappers. You know, like Uncle Dave.

This whole feeling came about when I was at the Pantheon of all things shiny and new: the Apple Store. My trusty MacBook Pro is getting on in years and the battery needed replacing. After making an appointment (and waiting 15 minutes -what was that appointment for?), I was told by a very friendly Kiwi that unfortunately the Apple Repair Centre located at the store no longer stocked the battery I needed because my computer was simply too old. He recommended I simply go online to acquire one. Further inquiries about the state of my phone’s decaying battery (iPhone 5s, yes, even my mother has a newer phone than I do) were met with a helpful suggestion to “get a new one on contract from your carrier.”

Indeed Apple has become one of the biggest companies in the history of ever, and they did that by anticipating what we wanted before we knew we wanted it. How many of us scoffed at a phone without buttons, or the concept of the tablet, or hooking up a media box to our televisions? Lately though Apple has begun to slip: a quick look at their latest MacBook Pro reveals no more function keys (it's a touch bar instead), no HDMI, SD, headphone jack, USB or FireWire connections, bigly jumps in price compared to prior iterations, the inability for user service, and so on. And don't get me started on USB-C.

Now, this piece isn’t to disparage the friendly Apple employee, or the framework within which he had to work. What I found extremely frustrating was the fact that I had two perfectly serviceable devices that required a commonly replaced part, and all the retailer service centre could do was collectively throw up its hands and tell me to buy something new.

Does any of this sound familiar?

With the advent of Shimano’s Di2, and SRAM Eagle eTap (oh believe that it’s coming), Live Valve, and a parade of other electronic doodads for mountain bikes, I’m hard pressed not to think that bikes are going the way of the consumer electronic market: little iterations every year that prevent backward compatibility, until the point where your $900 phone, or $9,000 wünderbike are basically landfill. How many different chargers do you have sitting in a drawer somewhere, their companion devices long since dead and discarded?

How many 'innovations' have we seen that have promised to make our riding that much better, that much radder, that much cooler? Off the top of my head, here’s all the needless innovations I can think of: Giant and their OverDrive headtube (who even makes a 1.5 to 1.25 steerer tube any more?), Trek with their Knock Block growing slop, the whole 1.5" straight head tube era, Truvativ HammerSchmidt, Shimano with Dual Control MTB levers and Rapid Rise derailleurs, the whole Avid Elixir debacle, early 35mm bar "standard," Fox's terrible CTD damper, DUB’s “precision” bottom bracket, press fit bottom brackets in general, 27.5+ tires, and the endless iterations of hub spacing.

I’m fully aware that during my time as a frontline worker in the bike industry, I was on the other side of the equation, sadly telling someone that finding replacements for their 9-speed Dura Ace or XTR components would a journey of Ebay frustration. Eventually things become obsolete and need to be upgraded. C’est la vie. Time moves on, and new shiny bits tempt our credit cards with their siren songs.

My own personal bike is a living fossil; 27.2" seatpost, 135mm rear dropouts, 26" wheels, 44mm headtube, 1x10 drivetrain, and so on. The bike is less than 5 years old but I'm not going to be able to take advantage of new tire or wheel designs (though I can always have a legacy wheelset built), or innovations in fork dampers (new 26" forks are a rare bird, and forget trying to find a halfways decent straight 1.125" steerer fork outside the used market). I'm loathe to get rid of it, partially for sentimental reasons, and partly because it's still a fully functioning bike, but to replace it with something new and comparable is going to run me several thousand dollars.

I’m *also* fully aware that there are online stores, nay entire glorious sections of the internet that cater to retrogrouches like myself. I was able to order a pair of batteries for my devices, and they should (at the time of writing) be arriving in a few days. Similar parts are floating out there for my Chromag as well, ripe for ordering and overnight delivery.

What I’m trying to get at with this rant is this; are we prepared, as a community and a sport, to deal with an ever-shortening lifespan of the products we use? Is there a willingness to accept that a $6,000, $8,000, or even $12,000 bike is effectively disposable after a few seasons? Are we also willing to turn to online retailers pretty much exclusively to keep these machines running (as I seriously doubt any brick and mortar operation can keep that much inventory on-hand and remain viable). If so, what are the environmental impacts of all this disposable product? If not is there anything we can do about it?

There are a lot of questions packed into that last paragraph, and I could probably do a PhD level dissertation on the intersection of capitalism, outdoor recreation, and the inherent contradiction of living a consumer-based lifestyle while attempting to protect the spaces in which one recreates, but I digress. If mountain bikes are going the way of Apple... I may take up lawn bowling.

Comments

zigak
0
ZigaK  - Nov. 1, 2018, 11:59 p.m.

@Di2: Sure the derailleur will not be backward (or forward) compatible, but only because of the software. How hard could it be to hack, or even write a new program, that moves the derailleur the desired length, let's say 4.34 mm (center to center for shimano 9sp) or 3mm (future 14 sp)?

Side note: Living in the EU, we have only one type of charger, micro usb, and can charge anything, phones, tablets, bike lights, ... basically, anything that charges needs to have micro usb or I am not buying it.

Sure there are exceptions, some shabby, cheapo products that still use proprietary charging standard, like a 10€ hair trimmer or an iPhone :D

Reply

NotEndurbro
+1 Andrew Major Cam McRae Bogey
Dustin Meyer  - Nov. 2, 2018, 6:32 a.m.

Shimano has been halfway decent with Di2 compatibility. One example I can think of is that 11spd Ultegra brifters can pair with an Ultegra 10spd derailleur and work just fine. There is also compatibility between road and mtb where possible.

Reply

lister_yu
0
lister_yu  - Nov. 11, 2018, 10:17 a.m.

@ZigaK regarding the micro USB -> USB Typ-C is also very common and is mostly used for high end Android devices

Reply

fartymarty
+2 Andrew Major Endur-Bro
fartymarty  - Nov. 2, 2018, 2:14 a.m.

Matt - you can install a tapered fork in a 44HT.  OK you need a new headset and may have to increase your stack height.  I currently have a Works Angleset in my 44HT.

Reply

mthomaslee
+1 Brad Sedola
Matt Lee  - Nov. 2, 2018, 5:48 a.m.

Oh I know I can run a tapered steer in that particular bike, but being the curmudgeon I am, there other frames I have kicking around that are a 1-1/8 straight.

Reply

ackshunW
0
ackshunW  - Nov. 2, 2018, 5:46 a.m.

Hi Matt! 

We should go for a ride sometime. 1-1/8, 135, 26, all familiar numbers on my beloved Evil Sovereign. I feel your pain - finding any replacement parts is becoming a hunt. That used to be fun, but now it’s boring. What fork you running? I have a pretty solid Pike on mine, but’s its getting up in years. 

Eric

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mthomaslee
0
Matt Lee  - Nov. 2, 2018, 9:12 p.m.

Hey Eric!

I'm running a 2010 Rock Shox Revelation RLT Ti. I initially got it for a 2006 Norco Bigfoot that I had built, and has since made its way over to the Chromag. It's rather long in the tooth, but I'm sure glad you can still get seals and o-rings for it.

Reply

kos
+1 Cam McRae
Kos  - Nov. 2, 2018, 6:39 a.m.

Some valid points.

Thanks for not hitting us with your cane, and yes, we will stay off your lawn!

Reply

Vikb
+5 John Forsythe jaydubmah legbacon Mammal goose8
Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 2, 2018, 7:01 a.m.

You have choices in terms of what products you buy and which companies you support. In virtually every category there are alternatives that offer longer support/service life. 

I'm avoiding anything electronic on my mountain bike. I don't foresee a problem staying that way through the next decade. I'll worry about the following decade when I get there. 

Having to buy parts online because it makes more sense to warehouse less commonly used older parts in a few locations with a searchable database as the interface is, to my mind, a superior solution than having a LBS try and stock those parts. It's less costly for them and I am more likely to actually get the part I was after more quickly.

Where possible I try and support companies I can call and speak to a human that actually cares about my concerns and knows what's going on. My FS bike frame was made in the US. My fork was made in the US. Had I waited just a little longer to buy it so would my shock...next time. Unlike a megacorp when you call up smaller companies and say hey I have an older product of yours can you help me keep it rolling they actually try and help you out. Digging around and finding a box of old parts or cannibalizing product sent back for warranty.

I just sold a 9 year old FS mountain bike and had no issues keeping it running. I expect the friend I sold it to will ride it another 9 years without any problems either. 

If you have to have the latest greatest most hyped bling from a megacorp you are at their mercy, but let's be honest those folks are looking for any excuse to get rid of that ancient 1 year old bike and buy something new. The product obsolesce cycle is actually a win-win for both parties....despite the faux-protests about "being forced" to buy the latest new bling in matching ano with their spoke nipples.

Although I am not a pro-moped my heart does hurt just a bit for folks buying a $10K electric mountain moped who don't realize that it will be unsupported in a few years and there will be no used market for it either.

Reply

jt
+4 legbacon Cr4w goose8 dtimms
JT  - Nov. 2, 2018, 7:10 a.m.

Absolutely all of this. I had the same experience with Apple with my Power Book and later my wife's Macbook. Conspicuous consumption and planned obsolescence go hand in hand. They can't sell if they don't make the old unusable while simultaneously feeding the 'want' urge we all have in us. I have a limit to how much I'll fork out to build a new bike of $3k which requires a bit of hunting,  a lot of min/maxing, and little to no carbon fiber. I know how I ride, and I'd simply rather not feel the sting of watching a year's worth of tuition go up in flames simply because I ended up a poorly thrown jart in a MTB version of lawn darts.

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dtimms
0
dtimms  - Nov. 2, 2018, 7:28 a.m.

Great article. I keep fighting to not get swept up in the ever-changing game of bike upgrades. It is pretty wild to think that a 6-10k bike would be obsolete so quickly. If my 10k truck went obsolete after 3 years of driving, I would be pissed and never buy another of that brand again. But for the bike industry to keep going, they have to sell. I am pretty stoked I built up a nice trail SS hardtail this year. 3/4 of my rides are on it and my FS trail bike (4 years old - dated) gets used for bigger rides (over 2 hrs). I still find myself looking at the latest and greatest carbon trail bikes wondering if I should upgrade the bike I only ride a 1/4 of the time. The marketing machine is strong!!!

Reply

Brocklanders
+1 Krusty Rider
yahs  - Nov. 2, 2018, 7:31 a.m.

They are the masters of throwing shit in the land fill that works just fine, just can't update it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3s-qZsjK8I

Reply

legbacon
+1 Zapp
legbacon  - Nov. 2, 2018, 8:14 a.m.

The only electronics on my bikes are lights.  Di2 and Etap are solving problems I don't have, and don't care about.  My "old" XT 11 speed changes gears when I want, and stays on gear without grinding or skipping, which is all I ask.  A friend of mine stopped by the other evening on his way to a ride with gears that were skipping in his new Eagle equipped bike.  60 seconds on my stand and he was ready to go, no app, computer diagnostics, charging or other BS.  I am no luddite, old and grumpy yes, but I have 2 new bikes and embrace change when it improves my ride.

Reply

andy-eunson
+1 Merwinn
Andy Eunson  - Nov. 2, 2018, 9:24 a.m.

It’s the rapidity of the changes that gets me. And changes with no perceptible benefit. Like boost spacing. 35mm bars. 30mm BSA bb with dinky bearings that don’t last. On the other hand, one by drivetrains, disc brakes, indexed shifting, suspension, larger headsets. These are all changes I’ve lived through and benefitted from.

Reply

craw
+4 Paul Lindsay Andy Eunson Andrew Major JVP
Cr4w  - Nov. 2, 2018, 9:31 a.m.

While I agree I also disagree. I don't expect bikes to last forever, especially in a Shore context. I get a new bike every 2 or three seasons. In between I try to make smart upgrades as stuff breaks or wears out. Then I get a new bike with as many of the new standards as possible. To some degree these new standards support how much better bikes are from, say, the 1.5 head tube or V-brake days. Don't buy the latest and greatest of anything. No one is saying to do that. If something new and sensible comes out let some other sucker guinea pig it. If it's still around a couple of seasons later get it on your next bike.

Though it was Apple's planned obsolescence that drove me to my last computer purchase a few years ago (somehow a 4 year old computer was considered vintage and unserviceable). But then again phone offer the same dilemma. It's pretty clear now that phones will only be making incremental improvements for the next few years so there's really no rush to retire one that's working well. My current phone, an iphone 6+ going into its third year, is starting to degrade but I'm stretching it as far as I can before replacing it, and so committing to buying new cases, accessories and adaptors not previously needed. Bikes are kind of like that.

Reply

mammal
+2 Andrew Major Cam McRae
Mammal  - Nov. 2, 2018, 9:31 a.m.

Although I have a good grasp of all the latest mtb tech and the perceived advantages, I'm admittedly a ludite when it comes to my bikes. I'm a decade removed from the days of shiny, new must-haves, as layers upon layers of middle-aged post secondary school forced me to access my sport through the only means necessary... Cheap and free things.

That's OK though, because I still got out and rode. Not as much as I did before I went back to school, or now, but I kept it mostly lit so I could build myself back up to speed once I had the time to dedicate. And that experience transformed me from someone who seeks "newest, most exciting" to someone who is driven by finding the best balance of "value".  That word value is completely subjective, but is ultimately the most important aspect for you to get the most out of the sport on your own level. 

I'm lucky in that I have some friends who are still in the industry, so some components can be a bit cheaper than they are for some (but involves waiting, begging, pestering). I tend to upgrade components as they fail, as opposed to dropping cash for complete builds. When it comes time to replace a frame, it allows me to incrementally upgrade to something approaching "current" (size, geo), so it still feels like an upgrade. You better believe that frame is coming from weeks of scouring the classifieds. And it'll have my own parts on it, that I work on. Hell, I'm still using the shock that came in my free frame 2 bikes ago. Most spare equipment that can't be used in the future goes onto PB buy-n-sell for what ever I can get. But each time I replace something, it's an improvement, and that's all that matters. Not the fact that it's a few years behind the guy I might be riding with. It make ME better than the last ride I was on, and still gives me the "new factor" without the actual new.

This is really just a super long-winded way of saying that wherever the cutting edge may lie, it doesn't matter. What matters is getting out on your bike, and producing muddy/dusty smiles. Do what you must to get yourself there and keep yourself there. Don't fall for the industry version of FOMO. You've got a muddy smile... So do they... That means you're both adequately equipped, regardless of how much it cost or how shiny it is.  

PS: Sold my '12 Chromag for a pretty fair price this summer (new hard tail day today in fact, sun's gonna shine, just phoned in "sick"). You'd be surprised how many folks out there are ready to wear muddy smiles produced by outdated equipment, for a discounted price.

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Andrew Major Cr4w JVP ReductiMat
Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 2, 2018, 9:53 a.m.

I mean, look. I get it. Possibly-planned-obsolescence is shitty. 

But ride a bike from 2018. And 2013. And 2008. And 2003. Are we going to pretend that bikes aren't better in like every measurable way, beyond the smile factor? And thinking a bike is anything other than a heavily depreciating asset is silly, IMO. An asset that's going to depreciate to zero, and whether that's because of fatigue life (I fear for ancient 1 1/4" steerer tubes... to paraphrase the wise words of a friend, if a bike part can vote you shouldn't be riding it off pavement), lack of available repair parts, or wear and tear, the end effect is the same: value = 0.

Without experimentation to drive evolution, we'd all be riding rigid bikes without drivetrains or brakes (accuse me of hyperbole all you want, but everything on your bike was an experiment at some point). That's the nature of evolution; some branches of the tree die entirely (Hammerschmidt), and some continue to evolve and get replaced (headtube, BB sizing). I don't think those are 'needless'; they all either got us closer to the current, arguably better, solution or taught engineers and consumers it was an evolutionary dead end. Notable exceptions in your examples: Fox's CTD, which was just an engineering fail, and DUB, which may be a new standard I have issues with, but IS backwards compatible. And plus tires are still here, we've just gone back to what we used to do, and are labeling tires with a size, and not a marketing term.

Mountain biking is a luxury. Is 12 speeds any more necessary than 8? Well, no. But it sure is nice - and given that NONE of this is necessary.... Maybe it solves a problem no one asked about, but I mean, did anyone really think not having the ability to roll around on rocks and roots and dirt in the forest for pure leisure was a problem that needed to be solved? 

[comment to long.... split it]

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Andrew Major
Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 2, 2018, 9:53 a.m.

But I also get the discussion that mountain biking is really f-ing expensive, no matter how it shakes out, and that trying to maintain your current aging machine is a challenge. But I mean, honestly, I'm not really sure what can be done about that. As you point out, its fairly unreasonable to expect manufacturers to continue to manufacture everything they ever have. Its unreasonable for anyone to stock eleventy-billion SKUs. And from an engineering standpoint, at some point you have to accept progress via change (which, yes, can be debatable. Boost, anyone?); a change that isn't going to be backwards compatible. At some point, you reach the limit of what can be accomplished by evolution, and have to go for revolution (see: USB-C, and ditching cables entirely. Which, if we're ever going to do, we need to move on from f-ing Bluetooth).

And are we willing to accept it? As much as people like to complain about new standards in comments on the internet, look at sales for your possibly unfortunate answer. I think its important to consider as well - does it matter? What's the environmental impact of buying a new bike every few years, vs taking transit to work instead of driving? And even that, in the face of industry, transportation pollution is a small piece of the pie. I'm totally onboard with "all the tiny steps matter", I feel deep self-loathing when I forget my coffee mug at home and have to grab a cup because I know it means I'm forgoing a lid, but I'd say thinking keeping your existing bike running for an additional 5 (or 10) years for 'environmental reasons' is broadly similar to thinking Vancouver doing away with drinking straws will fix the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Oh. And Apple didn't invent the tablet.

https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-visual-proof-of-just-how-badly-microsoft-blew-it-with-tablets-2013-5

Sincerely,

Grouchy millennial who doesn't like avocados, or lattes. And hasn't had enough coffee today, apparently.

Reply

morgan-heater
+3 Stephen Norman ZigaK Mammal
Morgan Heater  - Nov. 2, 2018, 4:04 p.m.

Honestly, you can have the same experience on a 2013 bike, or even a 2003 bike, you just have to be a way better rider and strong enough not to lust after your friends rides.

Reply

mthomaslee
+2 AJ Barlas Mammal
Matt Lee  - Nov. 2, 2018, 9:41 p.m.

Ho boy, there's lots to unpack here! Lets start with the easy: Apple didn't invent the tablet, but they popularized it, and ultimately forced others to compete on their level. Kind of like how Xerox invented the GUI, but it was Apple that pushed it into the mainstream. But I digress.

Bikes are a lot like boats, or horses; giant pits that you shovel money into. I'd never be under the illusion that a bike is an investment like an RRSP, or an ETF. That being said, I'd hope that if I spent $8K+ on a bike, I'd get more than 36 months before things were out of date. Not everyone that buys a top-end bike has access to deals, and a number of people I know have sunk serious coin into a bike with the expectation that it'll be *the* bike for a while. Imagine you bought a top-of-the-line bike in 2014, only to have Boost come along. I for one would be choked. 

That brings me to the incrementalism. Sure a MY19 bike is a big improvement over something from 2012, and yards ahead of anything circa 2008, but how much of a jump is it over something from 2016? Or MY17? Does something a touch longer and slacker justify a whole new bike? For some people it sure does, but I'm not so convinced. I'm also not convinced that consumers need to be beta testers for engineers and their ideas; it smacks of the gaming industry's trend towards selling "early access" to games that often times are never completed. I understand that innovation needs to happen, and I'd much rather ride a modern bike than one from when I first started riding, but the plateauing of advances gives me some pause.

Finally with regards to the end-of-life, I know that my effort to keep existing product running is but a drop in the ocean, but when I pull back and see shortening product life cycles in more than just the bike industry, I wonder where we're going to continue finding all the raw materials to feed this cycle, and what happens to stuff once it's done. We all may be doing our own tiny steps, but it all adds up.

Reply

UFO
+1 Andrew Major
UFO  - Nov. 5, 2018, 1:18 a.m.

See the thing I feel is, those dropping $8k+ on a bike don't typically believe it will last twice as long as a $4k bike. Back onto incrementalism, there's also no way an 8k bike returns double the quality of experience that a 4k bike delivers.

I believe the answer to your problem is the concept of value. And value is determined by a series of personal factors as mentioned previously. If I could possess 1 8k wonder bike or 2 4k awesome bikes, my answer is the latter everytime. 

Personally, the value for performance ratio is the best its been since forever--in certain segments, if you deal hunt. I bought my first new complete bike off a shop floor in over 20 years a few weeks ago, a Norco Range 29 with a very competent parts package for less than 3500 out the door. But once again that's value based on my preconceived notions

I totally feel you about 1 1/8" forks though. I'm always on the lookout to stash and hoard these, but even then the Sakura that needs this size doesn't get ridden hard enough that its really an issue

Reply

natbrown
0
natbrown  - Nov. 4, 2018, 11:28 a.m.

This is a really interesting subject, made more so by referencing evolution. I know there are more definitions than the one associated with the diversification of life on earth, but I’m assuming that is the one being referenced here because I think it’s most relevant. It’s probably most useful to understand that there’s a continuum from random change, as is selected in nature and applies to biology, to good design, where decisions are made based knowledge, understanding and foresight, and implemented with an aim to longstanding utility. Where does mountain bike design sit on that scale? The answer to that is one of opinion, but it’s obviously somewhere in the middle and not too close to either end. It’s pretty obvious that mountain bike design could certainly be better, and there are some very good examples of effective design outside MTB that have proven to be good longterm solutions to their problems. 

Another significant aspect of evolution that applies here is that the organisms that are selected in nature, are selected in the context of very specific environments. That context here is essentially us, as a market, that selects products and ultimately the companies that make up the industry. As a market or environment we ultimately choose what we buy and what we waste. That said, I think there are extremely powerful cultural influences at play from very young ages that take a fairly heroic effort to resist, and I therefore tend not to put too much responsibility on individuals, because I think the problem is cultural. I think the industry has a significant influence on our behaviours as consumers too, and this can kinda be seen as how organisms like us modify our environments to better support us.

[also split into two comments]

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natbrown
0
natbrown  - Nov. 4, 2018, 11:28 a.m.

[continued]

To connect the above two points, the problem is that we as a market are eager to get better stuff, which sets the stage for releases of gear that have not been effectively thought through or tested, and we end up paying for the privilege of testing it. That testing has mixed results as testing does, but more significantly that testing happens on such a huge scale that it is inevitably very wasteful. Needlessly so. Now in evolution of biological systems, there is no foresight or understanding, things just work or they don’t. In the analogy of the MTB industry and us as a market, we are capable of these things. As much as it isn’t in our collective consciousness, this is an undeniable fact. We could think things through more and understand the consequences of the way our pastime interacts with the industry that supports it. I really urge the maybe one person who reads this comment to seriously consider that. Don’t let yourself off the hook by ignoring that reality. The only way things will change so that we solve the kinds of complaints in this article are if we make it beneficial for the industry to behave that way. Take more time to develop and test products, and release significant updates that very obviously seem like improvements. And as a market we’d need to be more conservative in our consumption in order to select for the behaviour required to release things that are outstandingly better, not arguably better. Naysayers will point out that this isn’t in our nature, but that is our culture, not our nature. Cultures change, it just takes time, and not as much time as natural selection. This is me making a tiny effort to do just that.

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 4, 2018, 6:10 p.m.

Re "testing", if you want to see how this plays out on  MUCH larger scale, check out the clusterf*ck that is the US Military's attempts at concurrency. CVN-798, the USS Gerald Ford, is BILLIONS deep, and the poster child for why its a bad idea. The F-35 program is a close second.

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natbrown
0
natbrown  - Nov. 5, 2018, 10:16 a.m.

That’s interesting. I certainly don’t think mountain biking is outstandingly bad in this way, nor do I think Apple is. My take is that Apple does engage in good design, but they fall short in important ways, especially their higher volume stuff where they don’t prioritize longevity. Their competitors don’t either, and they choose to play that game rather than aim for a more thoughtful market and make substantially less money. Hard to really criticize that on an individual level for the same reasons as I said before.

As for the big military stuff, and bigger things in general, I think only some of the things I mentioned before apply. It’s still obviously wasteful, but at least it’s only big in scale in terms of the project size and not the market. In those cases the market is somewhat perverse, with interests consistent with megalomania. Other people’s lives don’t matter both in terms the extremely unfair distribution of resources and how that affects the existence of others, and the more obvious end uses of killing folks. It’s pretty complicated though. I’m familiar with an example from scientific research that sits between these kinds of extreme examples and the more mundane stuff we’ve been discussing. Some instruments are commonly being improved in mostly incremental ways, and they cost ~ $1M. The academics who use these instruments aim to replace them (yes, multiple) every 2-4 years, and it’s ultimately paid for by us taxpayers. The benefits aren’t obviously there for us, and the people who use and buy these things tend to have some aspects of simple consumerism, and others of megalomania. I really don’t wear a tinfoil hat I should say, I’m just a part-time futurist and these ways of behaving are obviously unsustainable. I’d rather our collective not have to go through an awful bottleneck to understand this reality.

Reply

AlanB
+2 Mammal Cooper Quinn
AlanB  - Nov. 4, 2018, 9:16 p.m.

Mountain biking is expensive? I thought one of the benefits of keeners seeking the latest and greatest technology was a health secondhand market.

I always encourage new riders to start with a secondhand bike to see if they really like the sport or not. Waiting for Sharon to upgrade = WIN!!!

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JVP
+4 Andrew Major Cr4w Cam McRae Cooper Quinn
JVP  - Nov. 2, 2018, 10:23 a.m.

Yeah, about Hammershmidt.  It was a massive fail, but SRAM was hellbent on killing the front derailleur.  They succeeded, not with Hammerschmidt, but with 1x11. I'd been running 1x since 9 speed days, but I'm no longer 30-something and my knees can't mash big gears anymore. Front der's were the bain of my existence due to dropped chains that lead to unreliable chain guides. Thank you SRAM for failing and keeping on trying.

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cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 2, 2018, 11:54 a.m.

And, I'd imagine, engineers and marketers learned something about how well internal gears will actually do in the real world.

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bogey
0
Bogey  - Nov. 8, 2018, 11:10 p.m.

Problem is, engineers already knew enough about gearboxes to know it was a bad idea on a bike. Too bad the decision makers at Sram didn’t know. Unfortunately too many of these sorts of decisions are made by people that have no business making these decisions.

The attitude of many companies is to rush to market with half baked products and fix problems later (if they ever fix them at all).

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JVP
0
JVP  - Nov. 2, 2018, 10:11 a.m.

I get the frustration, and this is why I'm not an early adopter in the MTB world, and avoid boutique parts.  Innovation has a cost, and that cost is a few belly flops. But are there really any mainstream parts in the bike world that are unsupported and thus only fit for the bin when they're still in OK shape?  I haven't run into any, and I've got a few older bikes still in the rotation.  

The truth is that if you're actually using your MTB, versus just putting it up on a wall with a regular application of New Bike in a Can, then parts are going to wear out and break fairly quickly. The only exception is steel or ti hard tails, and there's almost zero chance you can't get parts for those.

Heck, even that 1.25 head tube thing, you can get a headset spacer for that and run a normal tapered fork.  9 speed XTR?  You're fine, a 9 speed XT rear mech is available pretty much anywhere for $65.  Missing that trailing R?  So what. 

Now that electronic stuff, I just don't believe its going to catch on and become the norm due to cost and who wants to worry about recharging their shifter?  We already spent all our money on carbon frames, and are gravitating en masse to GX and $200 droppers. That electric stuff will be for a few suckers with more money than sense (or really good pro deals). I just can't cry a tear for them.

But I agree with you, Apple is the worst in this regard.

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tashi
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tashi  - Nov. 2, 2018, 10:36 a.m.

27.5” wheels seem to me to be the only thing that is actually problematic to deal with now. 

You little wheel guys really got screwed there - you basically got forced to change to something not compatible, but basically the same as what you were already running.  

10 speed, non-boost spacing and 31.8mm bars are all super easy to deal to come by and still easy to find good stuff new or NOS.

Now if only Shimano would make a brake that’s good AND worth the effort to rebuild...

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Nov. 2, 2018, 10:57 a.m.

And how about offering the small parts to do the rebuild? The new XTR brakes, in my limited experience, are excellent. I have a set of XT four pods on a test bike that just arrived as well.

But what I'm really excited about is getting back on some aluminum rims (also on the just arrived test bike) to do some back to back and see if I can discern any improved compliance and trail feel.

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cooperquinn
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Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 2, 2018, 11:16 a.m.

SRAM and Shimano have never really been big on small parts AFAIK, excwpt major wear parts like chainrings and chains. And again, how far back do you want a company to continue to produce parts for products they don't make or sell anymore?

This is why your LBS (and my bench) have a parts graveyard - I wouldn't expect them to carry most small parts, the proliferation of SKUs is already an issue, made worse by the article's complaints.

Should we switch to an auto-industry model of distributors like LORDCO carrying stock, and delivering to Uncle Lou in an hour? That might work in major metropolitan areas with a network kf shops, but isn't gonna fly in small towns. And the auto industry scale is another thing entirely. But I digress.

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rockford
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rockford  - Nov. 3, 2018, 7:17 a.m.

I couldn't help but chuckle when a "Lordco model" is suggested as a way forward - with their DOS prompt AS400 terminals, dot-matrix printers and carbon copies... ;).

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cooperquinn
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Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 3, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

Well, just an easy example. Distribution hubs. 

But, yes. having a receipt printed there is always a bit of a blast from the past sounding.

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tashi
0
tashi  - Nov. 3, 2018, 9:35 a.m.

Yeah small parts for Shimano brakes would be nice. I won’t buy SRAM anymore if I can help it and I really like that Shimano brakes just work and that they’re relatively affordable.  I always seem to have to retire them because some little seal or piston or something has died, something totally serviceable.  I have basically zero time for wrenching these days but if I could get parts for the Shimano brakes I have I’d for sure find an evening to sit down and get a couple of bikes worth of brakes going again. As is they’ll probably end up in the landfill.

And i for one would totally support a LORDCO model, dot matrix and DOS and all.  If it ain't broke...

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Captain-Snappy
+1 AlanB
Merwinn  - Nov. 2, 2018, 11:01 a.m.

Planned obsolescence or not, that's why my wife and I upgraded our 8 and 6 YO bikes this year: evolving standards and shrinking parts availability. Sold them to way more casual riders who didn't want to spend a lot, and didn't want a Walmart special. Craigslist FTW.

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cooperquinn
-1 Matt Lee
Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 2, 2018, 11:59 a.m.

"Possibly-planned-obsolescence". 

A couple of factors at play. 

1) Everything has a lifespan. And, given The Will of the Masses screaming for light weight, we're engineering weight over life. So while not necessarily 'planned obsolescence', things are only gonna last so long if you use 'em. See JVP's comment above, as well. 
2) Shrinking parts availability kinda sucks, but I'm really not sure if there's a realistic solution. I'm open to ideas. 
3) And, 100%. The cycle continues, and probably perfect bikes for weekend warrior casual riders.

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alexdi
+2 Andrew Major Cr4w
Alex D  - Nov. 2, 2018, 3:56 p.m.

I love new stuff. Addressing some real or imagined problem gives me the warm fuzzies. It's almost as much fun to mull the possibilities as it is to ride. It helps that the new gear is almost always better. Occasionally more challenging to wrench, but even that can be entertaining. Still, the old gear persists. If I hanker for a 26er with a 120mm stem and an elastomer fork, I can have one for peanuts. That's it's so cheap relative to what came later isn't a product of mass delusion.

Most innovations are market-driven. "I want a light spindle and bearings that won't bite the dust at water crossings!" DUB it is. "I want short stays and stiff 29er wheels with giant cassettes!" That's Boost. The engineering isn't always up to snuff the first try (I'm looking at you, a dozen press-fit variants), but eventually they get it right. Faulting the failures is faulting them for trying.

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craw
+1 Velocipedestrian
Cr4w  - Nov. 3, 2018, 9:22 a.m.

By now we should know how to handle these new ideas when they're presented to us in ways that suit our particular temperament.

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gdharries
+1 natbrown
Geof Harries  - Nov. 2, 2018, 7:52 p.m.

I've had 26", 27.5+" and 29" wheels across many different bikes. My favourite is 27.5+" (x 2.8" to be exact). With it, I get more impact protection, more traction and my weight spread out over a more sizeable patch. As for extra rolling resistance, sure I but don't care anymore. I like fun.

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skyler
+2 Cam McRae Velocipedestrian
Skyler  - Nov. 3, 2018, 9:45 a.m.

My frustration is not at all with technological change and improvement, but rather with companies that don't even offer parts support on their latest parts, because they've found that marketing is a simpler path to success than making quality, maintainable parts. 

I have a dropper from one such company, and it was really really great for about a year. After that, the return spring would leak air, since the main seal was worn from use. Regular wear and tear...I didn't blame the product, as many people do, for needing some maintenance. But, despite knowing a few people who work for this manufacturer, it was impossible to get a replacement seal. They don't stock a single maintenance item for this and many other products. They expect you to throw out a $500 dropper because a simple rubber wear item needs replacing. I was totally disgusted by that.

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UFO
0
UFO  - Nov. 5, 2018, 1:02 a.m.

So disgusted that you feel the need to protect said company. 

No dig to you, but if one isn't in a process to amicably resolve a problem, 100% the socially responsible thing to do in 2018 is to make everyone else aware (aware =/= unfounded slander). Maybe the social pressure may eventually move towards a resolution of your own problem, but at the very least will make others aware of this very obvious short coming.

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extraspecialandbitter
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ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Nov. 3, 2018, 7:04 p.m.

Just build it all yourself.  

Stop whining and buy a fancy new ADAM (atomic diffusion additive manufacturing) 3-D printer ( https://markforged.com/metal-x/ ) and buy a Solid Works license (or Rhino if you want free flowing shapes).  And you can print yourself anything you want.  Then you don't have to be the great armchair engineer that you claim to be.  Don't want to buy a 3D printer?  Build your own CNC machine https://all3dp.com/1/best-diy-cnc-router-kit/#carbide-3d-nomad-833-pro 

In all seriousness though, 3-D printing is pretty exciting.  It's one of those things that sucked initially (FDM), but now they're getting pretty good.  Hopefully companies like Shapeways keep buying more printers that can re-produce higher strength materials... and hopefully the cost for these printed parts also keeps going down.  Then you can start an online store and people can just order parts on demand.  Keep a digital database and bam, part (we're not there yet though... yet).

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zigak
0
ZigaK  - Nov. 4, 2018, 5:54 a.m.

Or you could just use a free software and order the desired part to be printed online.

In all seriousness though, this ADAM looks like a next step to knowledge based society. Tidbits of information like this is why wading through comments pays in the end.

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paul-lindsay
+1 ExtraSpecialandBitter
Paul Lindsay  - Nov. 4, 2018, 1:55 p.m.

Same here, that ADAM thing is amazing.  I think I'll wait for the Boost one though.

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extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Nov. 5, 2018, 4:48 p.m.

ZigaK, The problem with most online printing services (like Shapeways) is that the materials they use lack structural strength.

The steel is not any good (sintered, then bronze is added to increase strength) .

The Aluminum is okay, but they only have one alloy option and I doubt it's strength. The Aluminum uses SLM (Selective Laser Melting) and it's pretty expensive. It'd be interesting to design a cassette and see how much it'd cost in aluminum. 

And for the luddite dentists in the house, we could always order you a 9 speed cassette made of PLATINUM!

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zigak
0
ZigaK  - Nov. 7, 2018, 12:01 a.m.

Current methods of 3d printing are not precise enough to make a cassette or a thread for that matter, but it will happen soon. I can't wait to make my own chainring.

And as you mention, materials are not there yet, metallurgy is not as simple as some would think.

But I'd say a bicycle frame could be printed in aluminium or titanium, with additional work to be done at the bb, the headset and the dropouts. Lugs and joints are already being printed for small scale production, interestingly enough, Ti is cheaper than Al.

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niels@nsmb.com
0
Niels  - Nov. 5, 2018, 7:39 p.m.

"new 26" forks are a rare bird, and forget trying to find a halfways decent straight 1.125" steerer fork outside the used market"

You can buy a brand new Fox 36 GRIP2 in 26" with 1.125 steerer. See for example https://www.jensonusa.com/Fox-36-Float-Factory-GRIP2-26-2019

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Nov. 7, 2018, 10:57 a.m.

Doesn't that meet the standard for rare? ;)

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niels@nsmb.com
0
Niels  - Nov. 8, 2018, 5:37 p.m.

Haha, yes, I wonder how many of those Fox actually sells!

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7racer_tong
0
7racer_tong  - Nov. 7, 2018, 7:52 p.m.

1. Buy brazing or welding equipment

2. Diligently learn how to braze or weld and objectively and critically evaluate results.

3. Make myself custom Pole/Superco Silencer mashup.  

4. Feel smug forever.

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