Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cycling Goes Electric?

In the never ending battle to have the next great thing, I am sure you are aware by now that Shimano is teasing it's electric road gruppo. Specifically the brifters, front and rear derailluers, and the battery pack that runs it all. The recently run Paris-Nice race featured the parts being used by a Gerolstiener rider by the name of Ronny Scholz. Apparently, he was rather pleased with it's performance over a multi day Pro Tour stage race. Well, I can't say that I'm as pleased as Ronny. Maybe I am out on a limb here, but I do not like the idea. Nope! Not at all.

While you are castigating me as a retro-grouch, tech-hater of the worst kind, let me say that I believe that this shift by wire technology is pretty facinating. I mean, look at all the engineering obstacles to deal with in getting something like this to work. The gear head in me sees this as pretty cool. It's the spirit of cycling side of this in me that's in mourning.

I remember when I used to be really into fishing. I was getting into the rods, reels, tackle, and all the knowledge of how to use this stuff. Then I found out about fish finders. They were crude, unreliable units back then. Now, they practically do everything but put the fish on the hook for you. Then there were those fishing shows. Yeah, you know.......the ones where they caught a fish every time? Yeah.....scuba divers! Yep! They scout out the area with scuba divers to ensure that they get a fish every time. Took the passion for fishing right out of me.

Sooooo.......what's this got to do with cycling, you ask? Well, I'm afraid that this electronic revolution in shifting is going to take the life out of cycling, too. Mr. Scholz was heard to say that he liked the electronic shifting because he never missed a shift due to pilot error. When you are tired, and fatigued, the system takes that human factor out of the equation. Hmmm.......do you see what I don't like? Where does it end? Couldn't the derailluers be controlled by reading information from a riders heart rate and power output? Couldn't the system then shift to the best gear for that particular riders cadence, power output, and desired speed without the rider initiating anything? Adding to this the virtual coaching that every pro rider is getting in his ear via radio and what do we have? Who is winning the race? The rider or technology?

I think it's fair to say that the much maligned UCI had it right when they put a lid on cycling technology in the late nineties. Why? Especially now, because it is rapidly becoming like F-1 racing in that who ever has the most money for the best research and developement will have the best team. Who is going to be able to afford to purchase this new, shiny techno-gear? Hey....wait a minute! Maybe that's the answer! It'll be sooo expensive, and sooo exclusive that only a small handfull of people will really care and the rest of us can be fast, dumb, and happy with our shift by cable derailluers. Heck, I don't know!

I just know that something smells fishy here!

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