Bikes are great! They’re the most efficient form of transport ever invented by humanity, they’re good for the environment, they’re good for your health, and they put a smile on your face.
Bikes are simple machines, and that’s one of their strongest benefits. However, the sodding bicycle industry seems totally determined to overcomplicate things as much as humanly possible.
Much of that, I’m sad to say, seems driven by the higher-income, middle-aged, road racing aficionados, who are happy to pay through the nose for a component made from a mix of pure Unobtanium and dragon’s breath, just to shave that crucial 0.000000003412 grams off their bikes.
This has lead to a myriad of different standards, all incompatible with each other.
I genuinely don’t think I’m unique in saying that I value simplicity and durability over weight saving. I want a bike that’s reliable, can take a beating, doesn’t require a PhD in quantum physics to service, using as many plain-vanilla, bog-standard parts as I possibly can get away with. And yes, I’m prepared for my bike to be somewhat heavier as a result. After loading all my camping gear onto the bike, I won’t notice the extra 114g of a certain component.
Shimano seems to be the prime culprit driving this race to a million different and utterly incompatible components. Don’t believe me? Allow me to explain.
My main bike is a Genesis CdA 20, bought brand new in 2016 and it has done many thousands of miles since. Of course, that means some components have become worn and needed replacing. Over the years, I’ve replaced the chain and cassette a few times, but the big chainring is now so worn that it needs replacing, too.
Here’s where things get interesting: my bike has a Shimano Sora groupset, with 9 sprockets on the cassette. At the front, it only has two chainrings. I’ve been thinking about changing it to a triple chainring setup, and it so happens that I have a nearly-new set of Sora shifters, as well as a Sora triple crankset. You would think that all that’s needed is to swap the shifters, crankset and front derailleur, right, given all the components are Sora?
Except, of course it isn’t that simple.
Because just replacing the 50-tooth chainring would be far quicker, I thought I might be able to swap the chainring from the Sora triple crankset with that on the Sora crankset on my bike. Only, the mounting screw holes are slightly different!
Next, I thought of doing the crankset swap-over, but I couldn’t do that either, as the triple crankset requires a different bottom bracket to what’s fitted on my bike!
Following that, I set about trying to locate the correct chainring online. That wasn’t fun, and I like to think I know one or two things about bikes. For someone with less information, it’d be virtually impossible to pick the correct chainring, and that is quite frankly a pathetic situation, created by the bike industry.
My example is for a chainring, but there are many more examples: seat post sizes that are off by a fraction, headset sizes in a myriad of options, and the vast array of bottom brackets. Some may want to defend the bicycle industry, and point out technical requirements, but to them I simply say this: mech hangers!
A mech hanger is a small piece of metal that bolts on to the frame, and the rear derailleur (which some call a “mech”) in turn is bolted onto that. The idea is that the mech hanger will break before the frame is damaged, should anything hit the derailleur hard enough. If your bike uses a mech hanger – not all bikes do – good luck trying to find the correct replacement! There seem to be thousands of different ones, with absolutely no technical need for more than a small number, if that.
Make no mistake – what we’re looking at here is designed obsolescence, and it’s a deliberate and obscene strategy taken by a great many large corporations, specifically to maximise their profits.
Standardising significant numbers of bicycle parts is not beyond the realms of what’s technically possible, and feasible, and it really is time that Shimano – arguably the largest manufacturer – is called out on this situation they created.
3 thoughts on “The *&|$**! bicycle industry!”
Completely agree. I don't have time to search for parts. I need the bike to work when I have the time to ride it. And when I do need a part, there are too many variables. I hate doing bike repairs.
Whatever happened to cotter pins?
Ahahaha. OK, I'm rather glad we moved on from cotter pins!