RE: [CR]Yesterday's equipment in modern races

From: "Feeken, Dirk" <>
To: "'Richard M Sachs'" <>
Subject: RE: [CR]Yesterday's equipment in modern races
Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 18:27:06 +0200

> why can't we agree that bicycles are possibly better
> now than they were then ...

Because everybody has his own idea about what "better" means.

Nobody denies that there have been lots of improvements over the years. But unlike modern cars where "only" beauty and style got lost over the decades but efficiency, comfort and reliabilty has greatly improved I have the impression that with bicycles often the negative side effects of an improvement outweights the win for the rider. Simply because most inprovements of the last 20 years are either pure fashion or made to reduce production costs. Examples are 10 speed cogs which wear out faster or more flexible cartridge BBs which are cheaper to install than cup and cone units. I think exactly the same when looking at the 1967 Alfa Romeo of a colleage or his new Cannondale: "cool, but I don't want to use it as every day vehicle'

You're right with your other statement that you can manufacture today with tighter tolerances. The point is that it is not done! A good example are modern chains. Bernd Rohloff once explained that the price of pins (bolts?) he uses for chains heavily depends on the required tolerances. 100000 pins with a 1/1000mm diameter tolerances cost several times more than the same number of pins made of exactly the same material but with 1/100mm of tolerances. Same with the costs for the holes in the plates. But to allow that the pins can be removed and reinstalled the tolerances must be very small. This is the reason why Shimano invented the one-way installation pins. It allowed to lower the quality=cost of the other pins.

IMHO the point where the cost reduction pressure and fashion-only improvements started to outweight real functional or quality improvements is around 1990. Or at least most of the parts I collected for my personal "best of all time regardless of cost" bicycle (fast tourer) are at least 10-15 years old. I don't say that Nuovo Record is the pinnacle of bicycle engineering, but Mavic 571 hubs are. The last part I still need is the frame...


Dirk Feeken