|A Shimano 11- 36T cassette. Really low gearing circa 2009.|
Up until this point you could get 11-34T cassettes and that was as low as things went. Of course, we had triple cranks in those days, so really low rear gearing wasn't necessary. Well, for most folks it wasn't. There were those out West clamoring for lower gears for their extended climbs.
This may all seem rather odd in a day when rear cog sizes have grown to 50T, but again- triple cranks. Remember those? With them you could keep your chain line straighter, have closer ratios, and not wear things out as quickly. But short chain stays, big, "plus" sized tires on wide rims, and funky-monkey rear suspension designs pushed front derailleurs, and close spaced rear cassettes, off the radar.
My prediction is that, along with a swing back from the "short. slack, and low" geometry of today, we will see front derailleurs make a comeback as well. Maybe not triple front cranks, but you never know. The geometry and gearing that is out now just seems weird to me. It is so DH focused that average climbing and descending seems to be a concept lost on most designers. Front ends wander, weight is so rearward biased, and bottom brackets scrape terra firma.
I'm sure the geometry works in some places, but to have to have everyone deal with it is weird. It used to be that companies were known for their "geographical geometries". Trek was Mid-West single track, Specialized was West Coast driven, and Cannondale had "Eastern woods geometry". Consumers had choices. Now you may as well pick blindfolded as most geometries are pretty much identical again, as in the old "NORBA Geometry" days.