years and years ago, in a far away world, i used to own a citroen 2cv. and the reason i had one of these cars (apart from the need to transport a drumkit with repeated regularity) was because you could pretty much dismantle the whole thing with a screwdriver and an adjustable spanner.
this was because i'd had enough of window winders breaking, heater motors breaking, etc, etc, and the total simplicity of the citroen (now sadly demised) was a great attraction. ok so it wasn't the quite the same as driving around in a bmw, but when you don't really like cars anyway, that's not anything of great concern.
bicycles had and still have, the same attraction. i like the fact that the mechanicals of a bicycle are relatively simple, that with the exception of some of the ergopower and shimano gearchangers and one or two specialist tools, it's pretty easy to keep a bicycle in tip top condition - though considering the state of the kids bikes around here, you wouldn't think it was so easy.
even with the advent of index shifting, gearchanging is simply a matter of pulling the right amount of cable to shift the mech the right distance between the sprockets. a doddle.
but then mavic thought that gearchanging needed a little zap (notice the cleverly placed pun) and added electronics, though suntour had licensed the browning system for front changing several years earlier with less than a great deal of success. mavic's system involved pressing little buttons placed strategically around the handlebars which moved the rear mech by radio control. i can't say that the design of the rear mavic exactly inspired love and adoration though under dry, clean, workshop conditions, it seemed to work ok. unfortunately under normal cycling conditions and particularly in the wet, it took to random actions, few of which coincided with the rider's requirements.
while i believe mavic still sell the zap system, it is not currently used by any of cycling's division one teams (or divisions two or three as far as i can make out.) since shimano and campag current systems manage to achieve very precise and rapid shifting by mechanical means, one has to wonder why it would seem necessary to develop an electronic system at all. since the rider still has to press the gear 'buttons' to effect a change, where is the advantage in the resultant movement being electronic instead of mechanical?
i don't actually know, but campagnolo seem hell bent on developing yet another electronic system, and are currently having it beta tested by the saeco team, apparently with pretty good results. now i realise that the division one teams have the back up, and mechanical support to keep such a system in top condition, but you can see just what'll happen if it becomes successful - they'll start fitting it to everyday bikes, just like full suspension and hydraulic disc brakes on kids mountain bikes, and mechanics like myself will have to start learning electronics as well in order to keep customers (or, over here, visitors'), bikes in running order.
at the moment, i keep a selection of inner tubes, cassettes, spokes, tyres and odd bits and pieces for road and mountain bikes because we receive a wide cross section of visiting cyclists on islay, many of whom are on quality bikes not usually seen on these shores (i had a phone call from america today asking about prospective trails on islay for mountain bikers). am i going to have to stock batteries and replacement switches too? i can barely wire a plug.
one has to assume that campagnolo are serious about their new electronic record group, since they seem to be quite happy for photos and articles to appear in the cycling press and they've obviously spent a great deal of r & d pennies to get it to its current state. it's a worry.
and while they haven't (as far as we know) moved into electronics, shimano have moved up to ten gears at the rear, several years behind campagnolo (why so long?) but have altered another part of accepted cycling mechanics, though they have apparently already incorporated such in their xtr mountain bike groupset. they have moved the bearings from the bottom bracket to the outside of the shell. this means that the bottom bracket spindle can be increased in diameter till it all but fits the inside of the bottom bracket shell on the bicycle frame. and in an attempt to increase rigidity (as if such a monumental spindle itself weren't enough) the right hand crank (shouldn't we call it the right foot crank?) is permanently affixed to the spindle. the left crank fits in the normal manner onto splines on the left end of the bb spindle. apparently the bearings are easily replaceable, so when all wears out, you don't have to trash the whole chainset.
since i am unaware of any riders in the peloton complaining of a lack of rigidity in the bottom bracket or chainset of their shimano equipped bikes (flex is far more likely to come from the frame than the chainset - a bottom bracket spindle is far too short to exhibit any serious flex), so why have the big s found it necessary to apply mtb overkill to road bikes? i'm afraid my experience of shimano is that they just can't stop tinkering and making everything incompatible with everything else. good marketing ploy right enough. and despite the existence of the isis spline and shimano spline on bottom brackets (in true cycling tradition, both are incompatible with each other) campagnolo have stuck with the normal wedge fitting - this means that third party manufacturers such as fsh, have to make three versions of all their chainsets.
so instead of working on electronics, bottom brackets the size of a cannondale down tube, wouldn't it be better for all concerned if the big two concentrated on making each other's components compatible with each other.
after all, it's bound to make life easier for the mavic guys
surprisingly enough, after my last piece on 'are we being served?' about the necessity of being kept up to date with technical developments in the bicycle industry, the current issue of cycle sport has a section at the back of the mag detailing the bikes used in the spring classics, including the cervelo steel model and the specialized roubaix. does this mean they're reading the post, or is it pure coincidence?
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to, and the next ride takes them from st malo to biarittz and then across the raid pyrenees. so i have. and here it is.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.