Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Standards: A Moving Target

Through axles- good..
"Something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model."

Well, that explains everything! It is the "authorities" fault. No wonder nothing stays the same. The "authorities" can not make up their minds, apparently, and here we are- mechanics, consumers, and retailers- all left to sort through the ever changing morass of component "standards".   

I think if we were to ask "General Consent", he would dang well sure say this component hopscotch is a bunch of malarkey.  At least I would think so.

Sometimes the "standards change for the better though. I don't think you'll find too many folks that will say threadless head sets are a bad idea. At least the non-tapered variety with external cups.  When that sea change happened in the early to mid-90's, manufacturers and consumers both won. It was just a good move for both parties. But, of course, the "authorities" couldn't leave well enough alone, and now we have a plethora of head set "standards" out there. Are any of them actually better?


External BB's, okay..
Then you have the whole bottom bracket thing. There's a good story. When I became a bicycle mechanic, the industry was just starting to switch away from the serviceable bottom bracket with adjustable, angular contact bearings. There were square tapered spindles in a few varieties and a ton of different lengths. The shop where I started had a machinists cabinet full of different spindles in varying lengths.

Then "cartridge bottom brackets" came about. The UN series bottom brackets from Shimano cut down on servicing and numbers of parts necessary by a huge degree. Another "win-win" for the industry and consumers alike. (In fact- these BB's are so good, you can still buy them!) But once again- "the authorities" deemed these improvements as "not good enough" and we jumped from Octa-link/ISIS to the current two piece crank with how many bearing set ups? This "BB Whatcha-ma-call-it" crap is waaaay outta hand.  Heck- outboard bearings weren't good enough? Nope. Now we've got plastic cups  holding our bearings in place. Yeah......that's a good idea. 

And having to buy adapters for running different cranks in weird bottom bracket shells? I'm going to say it- That's just stupid right there. Just stop it already.

Wheels- well they've been changing a lot too. Bigger mountain bike wheels came along, upset the applecart, but made hard tails and single speeds make sense. Okay- 26 inch wheels work great for long travel and DH, right? Nope. Guess again. The "authorities" are about to unleash something different for that too. Gonna try and kill 26"ers, they are. That'll be interesting to see. Of course, how you attach those wheels is also changing. I don't mind through axles. They are good, but when you sell wheels that do not convert? That's kind of silly.

There is more, of course, but my clock is telling me it is time to stop this rant for now. At least the authorities haven't messed with that standard.......much!


Ari said...

I think the Bottom Bracket and headset issue is what drives most mechanics to insanity. My favorite is when they drop sealed bearings right onto bare carbon fiber bb or headtube. Really??
Disgruntled bike mechanic,

Bruce Brown said...

Hey, if I could hit "recommend" on this post I would!

Doug Mayer said...

Fully agree. I've only been seriously into bikes for 5 years now, and all 5 of my bikes with straight 1-1/8" headtubes, regular threaded BBs, and 9mm fork dropouts are becoming "obsolete". The worst is the headset/steer tube for mountain bikes, because decent suspension forks with straight steerers are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Mark Ryan said...

Apparently the authorities also decided on different sized locking mechanisms on centre lock rotors too. Some Shimano saints only work with certain saint hubs! bhhaaa!!