Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Cutting Edge Old

Since '11...That's 1911!
We as cyclists are always jumping on to the "next thing", the "latest and greatest", and whatever the "cutting edge" of technology is at the moment. Electronic derailleurs, electronically controlled suspension, or the lightest carbon fiber doo-dad du jour.

It keeps the wheels of the industry greased, as we all grudgingly will admit. We deride that this is how it is and yet, much to our own chagrin, we still run out and buy whatever the "shiny object" is that you can not live without. Weird, isn't it?

You know what is even weirder? That we still use chains, ball bearings, and leather saddles with steel undercarriages that were all developed in the 19th Century. Stuff that, as in the case of Brooks saddles, has not significantly changed in the way that it is made for a century. Why? Because those dudes had it dialed so tight back then, it can't be outdone. That's why.

Cycling was the cutting edge of all technology back then, and many words have been offered up on that subject, but I'll say one thing: I cease to be amazed whenever I look at my employer's engineering book for cycling dated 1897. I tried to wade through a chapter about wheel size once. Talk about pencil necked geekage! My eyes glazed over after only a paragraph into it, and don't even try to get me to explain the math I saw in that book. Let's just say I am a very poor man in terms of "math wealth" and leave it at that!

The point is, the engineering muscle aimed squarely at cycling back then will likely never be duplicated. The fine tuning of basic machines and principals of bicycling were all done back in the late 19th/early 20th Century, and the result is that some of these things will never be perfected, and for sure never bested. Like The Chain, (as I have written about here so many times), or Brooks saddles, as shown above. Not that folks don't keep trying, but I just don't see it happening anytime soon.

And that's why sometimes "old" technology is still "cutting edges" today.


Kate Geisen said...

Very cool perspective. And in general, while 85% of the bike stuff you write (basically anything more complicated than the pedaling part) is over my head, I learn something every time I come here.

Guitar Ted said...

@Kate Geisen: Thanks! Let me know if there is ever anything you'd like to see me write about in the future. I'm always game for new ideas.

Irishtsunami said...

Don't get me started....ok too late. I spent an hour and a half on the side of the road after a friend crashed on his brand new Warbird. The culprit was a crank arm bolt that worked loose and the crank arm came off.

Get this, the bolt for the through axle for this FSA Gossamer crank requires a 10mm wrench......find a bike multi-tool with that. We were creeping back when I found a hog farmer in the middle of IL who had one on his work truck and drove a mile to get it. One and a half hours because the bike industry cannot find a standard bottom bracket/crank arm system, let alone bolt size and method on how to secure a crank to a bottom bracket. Sorry, still mad.

coastkid said...

True words written Ted!

Ari said...

Spoked wheels, chains, Leather saddles, Metal frames. When you are in the middle of nowhere on a gravel road it is best to have organic materials that won't let you down. My worst problem is having to order spokes for prebuilt wheels. That usually takes a week. Otherwise I have thousands of stainless steel spokes sleeping in green, red and black Dt swiss boxes.

Guitar Ted said...

@Ari: Aye! Tis true. I tend to be of the same mind. Proprietary stuff will end up biting you at precisely the worst time when it goes pear shaped.