Friday, March 04, 2016

Friday News And Views

So they do know how to make components look cool.
A Shimano Group That Looks Cool: 

Shimano made some traditional early season announcements this week and you may have heard about one of them, but this probably flew under the radar, for the most part. It was Shimano's announcement of yet another oddball set of components for a niche market. An "urban focused" group of components called "Metreo", which features what I honestly think is some of the best looking components to come out of Shimano in a decade. Specifically, the crank set is awesome, and represents a level of class that should be on Dura-Ace level stuff. Unfortunately, you and I probably will never see a Metreo crankset, which is really too bad. It is the best juxtaposition of Shimano's angular, asymmetric crank spider design against a tasteful, balanced polished brightness, which has been sorely missing from Shimano's overall look since 9 speed Ultegra went out the door in the mid-2000's. Too bad they wasted such a great look and design cues on a group hardly anyone will see, let alone use.

The Missing Link: The other thing that many may have missed in the hoopla over the 1X stuff is the announcement that Shimano will, finally, offer a Shimano approved quick-link which has been designed for the 11 speed
chains only.  Yes, you could always just use a KMC link, (and it is widely rumored that KMC actually is the vendor for many Shimano chains anyway), but what is more important is that Shimano, who has doggedly demanded that only its breakaway chain pins be used on its chains since the mid-90's, has now put its blessing on a quick link attachment.

That's huge, coming from a company that is super-conservative in its design, and from my view, shows a small but important design philosophy change in Shimano. What will come next? It just shows that Shimano is, perhaps, now coming around to making a few breaks from traditional ways of doing things. However that is, I hope that Shimano continues to hold to its past quality commitment, since that is really what they have to hang their hat on. They don't market well, like SRAM does, and because of that, they certainly are not "cool" in any cultural sense from a Western point of view, but they make stuff that is reliable and that works. I would suggest that maybe that is something for other component manufacturers and brands to look at and learn a little bit from. But then again, I am a mechanic. I would say that, right?

A "wide-narrow" chain ring on a Shimano crank? Why yes!
Shimano "One-By"? The one thing you probably did hear about was that Shimano has its own "wide-narrow" chain ring to help retain a chain on a chain ring while being used in a "one-by" set up in conjunction with a clutch derailleur. That and a cassette, that, by the way, does not need a special free hub, which ranges from 11 teeth to 46 teeth.

Okay, I know a lot of you are probably thinking SRAM has "forced Shimano's hand" and that is why you are seeing this now. Well, I am sure that SRAM had something to do with pushing Shimano to look at this, like maybe three years or so ago. Yes, this didn't happen overnight, and I know Shimano doesn't just roll out a new component without a ton of prototyping and testing before a final product is released.

Shimano takes several years to react to market changes because of their inner culture, which demands that ideas be proven in the field and that exhaustive prototyping and analysis be undertaken before you even get wind of something new. So, this is not a "me-too" narrow-wide chain ring idea, nor is the cassette something Shimano just threw together to answer SRAM's push for 1X domination. That much I pretty much know for sure, having been exposed to a tiny window inside the company at one time.

What I don't know is how it will work in comparison to SRAM's stuff. I would be willing to bet that it works as well, and I would not at all be surprised that we find out it works better. That's just how Shimano does things.

Okay, that's a wrap on the news and views today. Have a great week, and keep the rubber side down!

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