Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Welcome To The Dark Side

The latest craze in the gravel travel world is for a company to slip in a bike with 650B wheels and wide rubber. Then they claim that they have this awesome geometry, (generally it is warmed over CX geo), and they start in how all the roads and even single track is now your playground.

As if that weren't the fact with any bike, really. But whatever.

I'm not here to tell you what you should do, I'm just here poking a bit at the marketing machine. This gig they are telling us about isn't "new" and what they put out, (again, in the general sense), isn't really anything but cyclo cross stuff with 650B wheels shoved in. Sometimes it is straight up roadie geometry, (The new Surly Midnight Special), and sometimes they get it mostly right, (The new All City G.M.).

Anyway, I got these new Irwin Cycling wheels to test for and they are 650B based. Disc, of course, so that makes them an easy swap into my Raleigh Tamland Two. Now, my Tamland Two is a 2014 model. Yep...... Four years old, and it is steel, and it has reasonable length chain stays, and it can take a big, wide tire in 650B and 29", and it uses a standard road crank. Plus, it doesn't have cyclo cross geometry. So, not new, but in some ways, actually better than what many companies are putting out now.

Weird. Guess some folks aren't paying attention.

Steel- check, 650B wheels-check, big rubber- check.
So, to all you new entries to this niche- welcome to the dark side. 

The old Raleigh may be on the cutting edge with these wheels and its geometry, but there are a few things that will make this bike obsolete in a few years. First and foremost- the quick release wheels. Those quick releases are on their way out. You probably won't even know it when it finally happens to all high performance bikes, but we are in the middle of that "takeover". The other thing that will doom this bike eventually is the 1 1/8th steer tube.That's a good thing to have from the standpoint of front end compliance, but this will be made obsolete by the fact that all forks made in the future will one day have tapered steer tubes. Brands like Soma and Ritchey try to keep it going, but someday...... Then there is the standard road crank and bottom bracket width. Despite decades of bikes being built this way, Road Boost is coming and there will be a time when standard width bottom brackets and standard chain line cranks will become a thing of the past.

Look, I hope I am wrong about all of that, because if I am, I can keep my Tamland going. If I am right, well, one day I'll have to hang it up on the wall for good. Let's hope that dark side doesn't come to pass!


Skidmark said...

Long live the QR and 1/18” straight steerer. said...

I've got to disagree on both 1 1/8 and QR going away. Not going to happen. It's just like the people who said 8 & 9 speed would go away. Still very easy to find new chains, cassettes, etc. Maybe not dura ace or XTR level, but still plenty of good old XT, XO, Ultegra, Veloce level stuff to be had.

Guitar Ted said... Just like when folks said ten years ago that 7-8spd stuff wouldn't go away? Now try finding decent 7spd anything. Or how about any 52/42T rings for Shimano triple crank sets? New stuff, stuff that distributors carry, is drying up fast for those sorts of bikes. Try finding smaller parts like hoods, shifter covers, or the like. Nearly impossible without searching e-bay, or the like.

I'm not saying it is impossible to find that stuff, but bike shops won't have it. You as an individual will have to try to source those parts. In other words, it will get more like finding the needle in the haystack than just "hopping on-line" and pushing a button. Kind of like finding NOS Campy Record components. Yes- they are out there, but they aren't easy to find for the average person. When this happens average consumers who don't have the time or patience will just buy the new standards in stuff.

And when the manufacturers change the axle standards, (and they will), your high end hub sources will stop producing traditional QR/overlock dimensions and it will then become only a matter of time before that market dries up as well. Think 26"er specific components.

Tapered steer tubes are already making straight 1 1/8th forks obsolete. You seriously cannot say that options are as good as they were 10-20 years ago. Again- it is a matter of time until only custom shops and "replacement quality" manufacturers will make those. Suspension forks? Pfft! Forget about it.

So, in a way, you are right, but from a practical standpoint, this stuff is all on the way out.

Tyler Loewens said...

Man those wheels look sweet on that bike!

Ride Alongside said...

QR and 1 1/8 steerers and 73mm THREADED BB's. I will stick with those as long as I can.
What are your thoughts on the 35mm bar clamp? will 31.8 go away too Mark?
Its funny, but in a sad way, that I am now switching over to 11 spd from 10 spd, just like I switched over to 10 from 9 years ago. XD drivers and what not too. All this makes me want to go retreat a little deeper into my retrogrouch cave...

Guitar Ted said...

@Tyler Loewens- Thanks! I think so too!

@Ride Alongside- I really don't see it taking hold just yet. There are a few road components using this standard, but as for now, it seems to not really be taking hold, kind of like when we all were seeing 1 1/2 straight steer tubes for a while, which also never really caught on.

Steve Fuller said...

I see a nice Gent's Race rig with those wheels and that bike. :)

Guitar Ted said...

@Steve Fuller- That's what I was thinking too. ;>)