The Hard Way

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Doing things the hard way is a luxury. It says to the world that we’ve beat evolution; intelligence is no match for technology and economy is no match for indulgence. We need only step a bit outside our bubble to realize the scale of the illusion, but nevertheless it has become reality for many of us who live our lives happily and fortunately in the middle and upper classes of the developed world where survival has nothing whatsoever to do with being the fittest.

One of the things that struck me within weeks of moving to the Pacific Northwest was the frequency with which people die here; not from disease (although Ebola can go fuck itself, pardon my francais) but from tucking into the wilderness for some weekend relaxation. The PNW has some of the world’s biggest cities, but most of it is untamed wilderness – including radical weather systems, cougars, rattlesnakes, bear, The Sasquatch, and possibly ManBearPig. This place will mess you up, son; your GPS or iPhone isn’t going to be your savior.

The first-hand experience of the realities of a system provides a more intimate learning tool than does the passive observation, although in an evolutionary sense the latter is the more effective method for the survival of a species; our ancestors learned to stay away from bees by watching the guy who drew the short straw poke at a hive and die from anaphylactic shock without needing to then poke at the hive themselves. Nevertheless the tangible nature of repercussions forges an indelible bond between action and result.

It is also interesting that complexity and abstraction are inversely bound; the more complex the system, the farther the user is removed from its operation. The simplicity of the friction downtube shifter is in sharp contrast to the complexity of an electronic drivetrain. My steel bike has friction downtube shifters, a fact that makes itself especially well known while climbing. To shift requires planning and skill; I have to find a part of the climb where I can be seated, unload the chain, and shift by feeling the chain as it slides across the block and listen for the telltale silence when the chain is securely seated back onto an adjacent cog. At that point, I’m committed to that gear until the climb grants me the next opportunity to shift. On Bike #1, I can shift under full load at my whim and without consequence. The artistry of shifting is lost, though I wouldn’t go back to downtube shifters on any bike I plan to ride seriously.

I love the contrast of evolution and tradition in the modern racing bicycle, with carbon tubulars being perhaps the most fitting contrast where the most modern technology is dependent on the oldest form of affixing a tire to a rim. Gluing on a set of tubular tires is no longer a necessary skill in our sport with good clinchers being readily available. Gluing tubs takes time and careful attention, two things that are in short supply in our modern society. But to glue on a set of tires brings you closer to the machine and from where our sport has progressed. To build a set of wheels does so even more, and I imagine building a frame by hand builds the ultimate bond to our history.

We live at a time when the things that are irrelevant to survival take on their own crucial importance; we return to tradition in order to remember where we came from so we may understand where we are going. Doing things the hard way is a beautiful way to remind ourselves of the history that built the luxuries we surround ourselves with.

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170 Replies to “The Hard Way”

  1. There is no place for electronic shifting in cycling – it should most definitely be a Rule.

    There is no place for electronic shifting in ROAD cycling – it should most definitely be a Rule.

    I quite like the idea of it for MTB, thin edge of the wedge as far as road goes, power steering, ABS disc, energy capture servo’s – all just around that next perfect bend, don’t encourage the f*ckers don’t buy that shit.

    @RVester god I miss my 3 group lever action machine!

  2. On shifting skills, the early miles of L’eroica Brit this summer were amusing.  At the start of each transition to a climb I’d pass groups of excruciating mechanical grinding sounds accompanied by a chorus of; Shit, Bollocks, Oh Crap (and worse) cutting out those who had ridden miles on friction shifters continuing uphill vs those who had not and who probably had just borrowed a bike for he event.  Inevitably with groups then having to do a static gear change and a following hill start.

  3. @Ken Ho

    @Haldy

    I did wonder about the solvent effects.

    Acetone does do a neat job of cleaning a surface like a fibreglass surfboard though, when applied briefly and rubbed carefully. Too much will clearly have undesirable solvent effects.

    I’ll need some more research on this topic. MIght be a bazinga moment from Fronk. Youtube shall be my saviour.

    While acetone won’t do anything to the actual carbon fiber, it does attack and break down the resins that hold everything together.

  4. @DeKerr

    @RVester wait, tell us more about these lever espresso machines. I can see the next evolution (devolution) in eclectic coffee shops right there.

    Nothing like shifting to bring out the minutae in this group…

    … unless it’s tire selection

    or bar tape colour…

    or valve stem length…

    Or sock length

    Or sock color

    Or whether one should wear a helmet

    ad infinitum . . . that what makes this site fun. We could be like other sites on which 95% of the comments generally fall into the “he’s doping for sure” vein. Some riders we’ll never know if they juiced or not, but damn we can all see the length and color of their socks.

  5. Oh, and by the way, I remember dt shifters, wool clothing, toe clips and straps and 7 speed freewheels with some nostalgia, but I ain’t going back there. A bit of old school every once in a while is fine, but let’s be honest, we’ve never had it so good as we do today.

  6. @frank

    @Teocalli

    @ChrisO

    The critical question for me is whether the hard way offers some advantage – it may be quality, cost or beauty but if you do it just for the fact that it is more difficult then it’s a bit masturbatory.

    Shaving for example – a safety razor is better than a cartridge but a straight edge blade is just for the sake of telling people you use one.

    Tea, coffee and beer also seem to give rise to these questions.

    Why would you ever drive a vintage car? The gear shift is terrible, the transmission noisy, the clutch is probably heavy, no power steering, dodgy brakes but the character, ooohhh the character…..it’s the same. There’s more too it sometimes than just modern crash, bang, wallup.

    Yeah, and if you’re driving cross-country, you’re taking the fucking BMW. Same with the bikes; I ride my dt bike only on days I’m out for a joy ride and it is just that. If its serious, there’s no way I’m giving up my carbon and brifters. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t pleasure isn’t there when you use it.

    I disagree, sometimes I will eschew the carbon and take the steel/dt on a Sportive simply because it is harder and to enjoy the experience “a la mode”.  It’s almost like a treat for the bike to go on a special trip.  Cue the recent trip through Pas de Calais which I could only have dreamed of in my teens.  At what point does the V and masochism coincide?

  7. mas·och·ism
    ˈmasəˌkizəm,ˈmazəˌkizəm
    noun
    1.)(in general use) the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome.

    Based on this definition @Teocalli I’d say the V falls right in the middle.

  8. @DeKerr

    mas·och·ism
    ˈmasəˌkizəm,ˈmazəˌkizəm
    noun
    1.)(in general use) the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome.

    Based on this definition @Teocalli I’d say the V falls right in the middle.

    Ha ha.  Like it.

  9. @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    A bit like the analogy of “reading” The Sun newspaper…………..

  10. @Haldy

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Well played..I sense some of Frank’s Creative Dutchery in point reversing at use….and I guess I am old school as a born( as a cyclist) down tube shifter user. Are you suggesting I stop reading Frank’s drivel and just comment as I see fit?

    Careful there homey, as mentioned in previous posts, Frank reads this drivel too.

    And yes, comment away, one does not need facts or logic to sound authoritative.

  11. @Teocalli

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    A bit like the analogy of “reading” The Sun newspaper…………..

    I never get past the third post to be honest . . .

  12. @Ccos

    @Haldy

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Well played..I sense some of Frank’s Creative Dutchery in point reversing at use….and I guess I am old school as a born( as a cyclist) down tube shifter user. Are you suggesting I stop reading Frank’s drivel and just comment as I see fit?

    Careful there homey, as mentioned in previous posts, Frank reads this drivel too.

    And yes, comment away, one does not need facts or logic to sound authoritative.

    No worries..one, I am sure that Frank knows its in jest( it’s the point here after all isn’t it), and two…if he doesn’t, he knows where to find me. ;-)

  13. @Rob

    Aside from not liking the mechanical feel on the integrated, both modern systems are way too complex. My shifting is simple and accurate and virtually maintenance free. Yes if I win the lottery, I mean the BIG one I will get a Felt with Di2 and along with spending 14 thou it will be maintained by an on call mechanic.

    A mechanic?  Not for me.  I love working on my bikes, and if/when I ever win the lottery it will afford me the luxury of spending MORE time caressing and fondling all things velo in my workshop.

  14. @MangoDave

    A mechanic? Not for me. I love working on my bikes, and if/when I ever win the lottery it will afford me the luxury of spending MORE time caressing and fondling all things velo in my workshop.

    +1 – I’d be building bikes whenever I wasn’t riding them.

  15. @Haldy

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Well played..I sense some of Frank’s Creative Dutchery in point reversing at use….and I guess I am old school as a born( as a cyclist) down tube shifter user. Are you suggesting I stop reading Frank’s drivel and just comment as I see fit?

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Like it ? More specifically, love it! I’m guessing it’ll be a couple years when most road bikes in my garage will be made predominately of carbon and have fully functioning electronic and hydraulic systems on board. Hard to believe we can plug a bike in to diagnostics software nowadays.  And ya can’t order a Ferrari with a manual stick shift. Cheers!

  16. @freddy

    I did the Paris Ancaster race on a single speed and noticed two simple things: 1) when guys in-front of me downshift, they usually slow down, 2) to keep my cadence up I have to push down harder on the pedals. When the above two points are in play, it usually means I end up passing the guy in-front of me.

    Something I work on in training in the hills. Change down a gear, to bring the cadence back up, BUT keep the power/speed the same. It is natural to take a break after the downshift and ease off. The other thing is riding over hills, not just up them. Most folks will start to back off as the grade eases near the top. Don’t do that, keep pushing and accelerate right to the top and down the back side.

  17. @ChrissyOne

    When building/fixing bikes become one’s job, a lot of riding goes out the window.

    That said, I probably put as many miles on my 2×8 downtube commuter as I do on my 1×10 XC race sled.

  18. @wilburrox

    @Haldy

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Well played..I sense some of Frank’s Creative Dutchery in point reversing at use….and I guess I am old school as a born( as a cyclist) down tube shifter user. Are you suggesting I stop reading Frank’s drivel and just comment as I see fit?

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Like it ? More specifically, love it! I’m guessing it’ll be a couple years when most road bikes in my garage will be made predominately of carbon and have fully functioning electronic and hydraulic systems on board. Hard to believe we can plug a bike in to diagnostics software nowadays. And ya can’t order a Ferrari with a manual stick shift. Cheers!

    It wasn’t me that was dissing electronic shifting..it was @ChrisO, I was poking a bit of fun at him…I am of the opinion that electronic shifting doesn’t in itself solve any problems we were having, but in it’s creation mechanical systems have improved. Example- much stiffer chainrings to withsatnd the electronic mechanism make the mechanical shifting much smoother, and also help us get more V from the pedal to the ground.

  19. @Haldy Its so frustrating when you put so much effort into an argument that was actually an agreement.

    @markb

    @frank

    A friction shifter, for all intents and purposes, has the barrel adjuster of the RD built into the lever; you pull the lever to tension the cable and move the derailleur up the cogs. Too much and you overshift, too little and you undershift. That cascades to the brifters and ultimately gets turned into hocus-pocus with some totally different operation of solenoids and whateverthefuck.

    Nevertheless the experience of the stone age informs the wisdom of the silicon age.

    Have to agree with this. I’m always amazed when I see some City-boy commuter on a £10k bike wondering why their drive-chain is shagged after trying to change gear when stationary. Electronic, index etc. are all great innovations, but if you don’t know what they are actually doing you’ll make bad mistakes and one day end up 50 miles away from home with a rear mech wrapped round your £200 spokes. I promise I will laugh as I (slowly) pass by.

    If they spent so much on their bike, why are they riding with 200 pound spokes? Seems a bit heavy?

    @RVester

    @ChrisO

    The critical question for me is whether the hard way offers some advantage – it may be quality, cost or beauty but if you do it just for the fact that it is more difficult then it’s a bit masturbatory.

    Shaving for example – a safety razor is better than a cartridge but a straight edge blade is just for the sake of telling people you use one.

    Tea, coffee and beer also seem to give rise to these questions.

    I do not know about tea. I don’t know if there is a hard way with beer.

    However, I do take offense at the implied notion that coffee doesn’t get better with effort. I’ll discuss espresso since that’s the preferred way to drink coffee for a cyclist. the most labor intensive way to pull a shot is done with a lever machine. These machines combine mechanical simplicity, thermal equilibrium and pressure profile perfectly. The advantages of a lever group cascade through the design of the entire machine. I’ll explain (taking all kinds of shortcuts since there is a ridiculous amount of variation within the subset ‘lever machines’)

    A key advantage is the pumping of hot water, instead of cold water as in an electric machine. An electric machine pumps cold water into a boiler, or into a heat exchanger after which water of roughly the correct temperature comes out, and then your temperature depends on external variables. A lever machine pumps brew temperature water, and only pressurizes a small part of the machine, leading to reduced chance of failure/less required material in the rest of the machine. A lever group allows for mechanical tuning of the pressure profile and the temperature profile. An electric machine needs complicated electronics to do any sort of profiling. Also, the lack of pump and the lack of electronics mean that for the same external volume, a lever machine can pack a larger boiler or more insulation. Which leads to an increased duty cycle, more steaming power and less power use.

    I understand if you’re not impressed by just some guy on the internets, so I’ve compiled a list people also thinking lever espresso machines are better:

    I love coffee, I love beer. Tea is a suitable substitute when I can’t drink one of those or get started on some win.

    I have a Rancillio Silva and Rocky gringer and love the fuck out of it. I am now browsing http://www.wholelattelove.com/ for a manula lever machine because obviously the gear I’ve relied on since 2003 are inadequate. They cost the same as a set of wheels. Easily worth it, from the romance you paint. Chapeau, sir; I’ll soon be founding espressominati.com.

  20. @Geraint

    @markb

    Have to agree with this. I’m always amazed when I see some City-boy commuter on a £10k bike wondering why their drive-chain is shagged after trying to change gear when stationary. Electronic, index etc. are all great innovations, but if you don’t know what they are actually doing you’ll make bad mistakes and one day end up 50 miles away from home with a rear mech wrapped round your £200 spokes. I promise I will laugh as I (slowly) pass by.

    Agreed 100%. I read about the benefits of full-power gear changes with Di2, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do it, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Just because the mech is capable of shoving the chain across irrespective of the load on said chain, doesn’t mean it’s good for the chain, or the rings or cassette, to do so. I still anticipate the need to change gear and soft-pedal slightly to make life easier for the mechanical parts, just like I had to back in the distant past when I had six cogs and down tube levers.

    I think shifting under full load is a totally Pro benefit РI think Cav and Andr̩ like being able to crank down the gears under load Рin their 1200 watts Рbut its going to fuck their shit up.

    Me, I’m like you, even with my best stuff, I always unload the drivetrain – even when shifting standing up. If you have any kind of weight distribution skills (probably from climbing steel hills offroad) then you know how to get your load off the chain for the instant it take to shift, even if its for the instant the chain moves over the peak of the cogs. Its a beautiful thing.

    As for doing things the hard way, I’m not one for wearing a hair shirt for the sake of it, but in some cases I do relish the additional involvement it brings, and also the peace of mind that comes with knowing something has been done correctly. Building wheels is a great example.

    What the fuck is a hair shirt? I blacked out for the rest of this.

  21. @frank

    @Haldy Its so frustrating when you put so much effort into an argument that was actually an agreement.

    @markb

    @frank

    A friction shifter, for all intents and purposes, has the barrel adjuster of the RD built into the lever; you pull the lever to tension the cable and move the derailleur up the cogs. Too much and you overshift, too little and you undershift. That cascades to the brifters and ultimately gets turned into hocus-pocus with some totally different operation of solenoids and whateverthefuck.

    Nevertheless the experience of the stone age informs the wisdom of the silicon age.

    Have to agree with this. I’m always amazed when I see some City-boy commuter on a £10k bike wondering why their drive-chain is shagged after trying to change gear when stationary. Electronic, index etc. are all great innovations, but if you don’t know what they are actually doing you’ll make bad mistakes and one day end up 50 miles away from home with a rear mech wrapped round your £200 spokes. I promise I will laugh as I (slowly) pass by.

    If they spent so much on their bike, why are they riding with 200 pound spokes? Seems a bit heavy?

    @RVester

    @ChrisO

    The critical question for me is whether the hard way offers some advantage – it may be quality, cost or beauty but if you do it just for the fact that it is more difficult then it’s a bit masturbatory.

    Shaving for example – a safety razor is better than a cartridge but a straight edge blade is just for the sake of telling people you use one.

    Tea, coffee and beer also seem to give rise to these questions.

    I do not know about tea. I don’t know if there is a hard way with beer.

    However, I do take offense at the implied notion that coffee doesn’t get better with effort. I’ll discuss espresso since that’s the preferred way to drink coffee for a cyclist. the most labor intensive way to pull a shot is done with a lever machine. These machines combine mechanical simplicity, thermal equilibrium and pressure profile perfectly. The advantages of a lever group cascade through the design of the entire machine. I’ll explain (taking all kinds of shortcuts since there is a ridiculous amount of variation within the subset ‘lever machines’)

    A key advantage is the pumping of hot water, instead of cold water as in an electric machine. An electric machine pumps cold water into a boiler, or into a heat exchanger after which water of roughly the correct temperature comes out, and then your temperature depends on external variables. A lever machine pumps brew temperature water, and only pressurizes a small part of the machine, leading to reduced chance of failure/less required material in the rest of the machine. A lever group allows for mechanical tuning of the pressure profile and the temperature profile. An electric machine needs complicated electronics to do any sort of profiling. Also, the lack of pump and the lack of electronics mean that for the same external volume, a lever machine can pack a larger boiler or more insulation. Which leads to an increased duty cycle, more steaming power and less power use.

    I understand if you’re not impressed by just some guy on the internets, so I’ve compiled a list people also thinking lever espresso machines are better:

    The entire city of Naples
    Kees van der Westen (http://www.keesvanderwesten.com/mirage-idrocompresso.html)
    The H-B lever machines subforum

    I love coffee, I love beer. Tea is a suitable substitute when I can’t drink one of those or get started on some wine.

    I have a Rancillio Silva and Rocky gringer and love the fuck out of it. I am now browsing http://www.wholelattelove.com/ for a manula lever machine because obviously the gear I’ve relied on since 2003 are inadequate. They cost the same as a set of wheels. Easily worth it, from the romance you paint. Chapeau, sir; I’ll soon be founding espressominati.com.

    Somebody here has to keep you on your toes!

  22. @Ken Ho

    @frank

    Does carbon love acetone ?

    I don’t know, I black out every time I use it.

    @Ken Ho

    @ Geraint

    So did sheep’s intestines for condoms and arsenic for syphilis.

    BRILLIANT! +1 badge to the Big Brain Ken Ho.

    @markb

    @Ken Ho

    @ Geraint

    So did sheep’s intestines for condoms and arsenic for syphilis.

    If you got the first one right, you wouldn’t need the second. Those that failed provided the lesson for the rest, the same way the guy with the bees did in the original post. Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for the education of others. Probably.

    Haven’t laughed this hard in a while. This is brilliant stuff. If I could give out two +1 badges at once, I would.

    Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for the education of others. Probably.

    Even better to be the one making this observation about someone than to be the guy who does it.

  23. @Adrian

    @ChrissyOne

    When building/fixing bikes become one’s job, a lot of riding goes out the window.

    That said, I probably put as many miles on my 2×8 downtube commuter as I do on my 1×10 XC race sled.

    Of course, but we’re talking about post-lottery winning here, not for a living. Quite a different thing if I can drop what I’m doing at any moment and go to Mallorca for the weekend. I’d have a bike shop on my yacht anyway.

  24. @wilburrox

    10-4 to that. Though even on Di2 there are good shifts and bad shifts. And I’m always playing around with the FD position and the micro-adjust on the RD in an effort to make the shifts even more seamless. Or at least give me the best opportunity to make good shifts. A really good day on Di2 is better than a really good day on mech.

    I’ve been talking to the guys at Brandford Bike about electronic sets and all that, and they love the setup of the Shimano rig – its so easy with plug and play connectors etc. The bemoan the Campa system and how hard it is, and invariably a customer will take it home, decide to adjust it, and fuck the whole thing up.

    I asked, “So, you think the Shimano is better?”

    Doug, “Oh, I hate setting up the Campy system, but there’s no way I’d ever put that shit on my bike (points at Di2).”

    I think that sums up the Campa/Shimano camp. Its engineered by Italians, for fucks sake – its more beauty and performance than it is ease of use. Have a bottle of wine (alone) and maybe you stand a chance to work out the details on the first try.

    Regardless of the system, anticipating the right gear and getting in to it right before it is needed… that is where I see my young daughter having most opportunity to making smoother shifts. And that is learned skill especially critical for fast mtn biking.

    This is the heart of it, no question; eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty, and shift before you’re fucked.

  25. @VeloSix

    I upgraded to SRAM Red this season, and was not previously aware just how hard you could shift this stuff. When I have it dialed in just right (which seems to take a fucking oscilloscope and a scale of justice), all gear changes are like silk. If I haven’t sit with it, and got it just right, there are a few gears that shift with slight delay and annoy me to no end. But it will still shift flawlessly under load. Out of the saddle, up hill, click… No problem. (I never even attempted such a shift until a fellow club member did this in front of me, pulling away with multiple shifts, climbing out of the saddle)

    It is taking practice to do it well, but what a thing of beauty.

    Ok, just between us two girls: I fucking love SRAM Red. Upgrade to Yokozuna cables and the shifting is flawless after you sort it all out. And the downshifting with the flick of the index finger…ohmamma! That is some serious buddah right there.

    I have had some blackouts where I’ve thought about putting it on my next #1 (whenever that happens) but the record doesn’t show it because I’m a Campa guy.

  26. I still use down tube shifters.  Even on my race bike.  I can shift easily whenever I want to, even on a hill, using the same skills that you would use with any other shifting system.  Its not hard when you are used to it.  So easy to set up, lightweight, very little maintenance required.  What is not to like?

    The thing about electronic shifting…. you are screwed if the battery dies.  And if you ride long enough, or forget to charge them up, it is just a matter of time.

  27. @frank I am sure the campagnolo stuff works great. After all italian auto manufacturers are rightfully famous for qulaity electrical systems.

  28. @antihero

    I feel very strongly that all Pedalwan should first ride the path upon an old bike. Wrought from alloy, graced with downtube shifters, 32-spoke box-section wheels, and massing in excess of 12kg, this bike should cost less than $400.

    The bike must be maintained with total commitment to perfection. Rides in excess of 200km must be undertaken. Carbon craplets must be passed on climbs. Snide comments from fools must be ignored.

    Only then shall the Pedalwan make the purchase, and thus emerge from the LBS as a fully-fledged Velominatus, possessed of carbon, unobtanium, and modern shifting.

    In all seriousness, there’s no better way to learn to shift with precision than to learn on a set of downtube shifters. All the better if it’s like @frank’s and running a 10-speed cluster that demands total precision.

    I love this. This belongs somewhere in the tenets of The Velominati Manifesto. If not the first experience (its hard to come by at this stage) like with the Jedi Trials, this needs to be part of the Pedalwan’s path.

    @ChrisO

    It’s only when people do it for the sake of being contrary or luddite or just plain showing off that I quibble.

    This is as reprehensible as taking the easy way because it’s easy. Its about the genuine value that an individual gains from the experience that matters to me. Posers are posers (we’ve been accused of it more times than I care to consider) but when the emotion is genuine, then its authentic.

  29. @Haldy

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Well played..I sense some of Frank’s Creative Dutchery in point reversing at use….and I guess I am old school as a born( as a cyclist) down tube shifter user. Are you suggesting I stop reading Frank’s drivel and just comment as I see fit?

    This seems to be the modus operend-V, so go for it. I hate to see you expose yourself and having a clue what we’re arguing about. Mostly we just latch on and dig in. Its great fun.

    @Ccos

    And yes, comment away, one does not need facts or logic to sound authoritative.

    You’ve come far, Pedalwan. Mostly you need volume.

  30. @Gibson

    Hi All – first post here, so let me preface by acknowledging my awe at your collective knowledge and commitment to the essence of cycling. I’ve found that the Rules become more true as one spends more and more time on the bike.

    All I have to add here is an example of personal experience. Because of a last-minute packing decision during a coast-to-coast move, my only bike with Ergos remains in storage and I now must choose between indexed downtube shifters (Superbe Pro as it happens) and friction downtube shifters…and I am convinced that the advantage of being able to shift front/rear simultaneously and across multiple cogs goes a long way to counter the benefit of being able to shift while standing. I did my first 200 km in the Vermont mountains a couple weekends ago – friction shifters and half dirt roads, and pure joy.

    Ok, first of all, I had a minor reading orgasm when I read “Superbe Pro Friction Shifters” (it might not have been in that order, orgasms – even small reading ones – tend to distort time and order.

    One of my great regrets in life is that SunTour went out of business and that I didn’t keep any of my Superbe Pro stuff – glorious stuff that worked like a horse.

    And if you ride Campa, you can still enjoy the pleasures of shifting multiple gears on both the front and read – all while standing if you have some skill.

  31. @Haldy

    @Ken Ho

    @Haldy

    I did wonder about the solvent effects.

    Acetone does do a neat job of cleaning a surface like a fibreglass surfboard though, when applied briefly and rubbed carefully. Too much will clearly have undesirable solvent effects.

    I’ll need some more research on this topic. MIght be a bazinga moment from Fronk. Youtube shall be my saviour.

    While acetone won’t do anything to the actual carbon fiber, it does attack and break down the resins that hold everything together.

    Have you noticed how quickly that stuff evaporates? Apply it lightly to remove excess glue from the braking surface and there is no conceivable way it can impact fully cured resin. Just sayin’, maybe don’t put the wheels in a Acetone bath, but rub down the outside? No sweat, your brake pads and the forces of pedaling are causing much more structural damage at a practical level.

    Also lets not think about our wheels breaking.

  32. @MangoDave

    @Rob

    Aside from not liking the mechanical feel on the integrated, both modern systems are way too complex. My shifting is simple and accurate and virtually maintenance free. Yes if I win the lottery, I mean the BIG one I will get a Felt with Di2 and along with spending 14 thou it will be maintained by an on call mechanic.

    A mechanic? Not for me. I love working on my bikes, and if/when I ever win the lottery it will afford me the luxury of spending MORE time caressing and fondling all things velo in my workshop.

    This is a nice dream.

    @Puffy

    @freddy

    I did the Paris Ancaster race on a single speed and noticed two simple things: 1) when guys in-front of me downshift, they usually slow down, 2) to keep my cadence up I have to push down harder on the pedals. When the above two points are in play, it usually means I end up passing the guy in-front of me.

    Something I work on in training in the hills. Change down a gear, to bring the cadence back up, BUT keep the power/speed the same. It is natural to take a break after the downshift and ease off. The other thing is riding over hills, not just up them. Most folks will start to back off as the grade eases near the top. Don’t do that, keep pushing and accelerate right to the top and down the back side.

    This is the hardest part, mostly because your body is used to the pressure and rhythm it went into during the climb. Its agony to accelerate over the top not because it gets faster but because your heart and lungs are in sync and you need to force them into a new pattern as the gradient changes.

    Says a self-proclaimed diesel.

  33. @Adrian

    When building/fixing bikes become one’s job, a lot of riding goes out the window.

    True enough; but I think the point of winning the lottery is that you don’t ever have another job again; its all just hobby – which has its own challenges, not riding not being one of them if I can type that many double negatives.

    @ChrissyOne

    @Adrian

    @ChrissyOne

    When building/fixing bikes become one’s job, a lot of riding goes out the window.

    That said, I probably put as many miles on my 2×8 downtube commuter as I do on my 1×10 XC race sled.

    Of course, but we’re talking about post-lottery winning here, not for a living. Quite a different thing if I can drop what I’m doing at any moment and go to Mallorca for the weekend. I’d have a bike shop on my yacht anyway.

    Or this. Exactly.

  34. @frank

    @Haldy

    @Ken Ho

    @Haldy

    I did wonder about the solvent effects.

    Acetone does do a neat job of cleaning a surface like a fibreglass surfboard though, when applied briefly and rubbed carefully. Too much will clearly have undesirable solvent effects.

    I’ll need some more research on this topic. MIght be a bazinga moment from Fronk. Youtube shall be my saviour.

    While acetone won’t do anything to the actual carbon fiber, it does attack and break down the resins that hold everything together.

    Have you noticed how quickly that stuff evaporates? Apply it lightly to remove excess glue from the braking surface and there is no conceivable way it can impact fully cured resin. Just sayin’, maybe don’t put the wheels in a Acetone bath, but rub down the outside? No sweat, your brake pads and the forces of pedaling are causing much more structural damage at a practical level.

    Also lets not think about our wheels breaking.

    Ahh….yes…lightly applied it’s probably safe, but in my line of work I often see the results of folks that think that if a little is good, more is better.

  35. @frank

    @Haldy

    @ChrisO

    @Haldy

    Ummm…did you READ the article? @Frank mentions electronic drivetrains in it….

    First, it’s a long-established rule that reading the article is by no means mandatory, in fact it’s almost perverse – the literary equivalent of down-tube shifters really.

    And yes he mentions it but not using it – now that you’ve made me go and find it, it was Wilburrox who was saying how much he liked it.

    Well played..I sense some of Frank’s Creative Dutchery in point reversing at use….and I guess I am old school as a born( as a cyclist) down tube shifter user. Are you suggesting I stop reading Frank’s drivel and just comment as I see fit?

    This seems to be the modus operend-V, so go for it. I hate to see you expose yourself and having a clue what we’re arguing about. Mostly we just latch on and dig in. Its great fun.

    @Ccos

    And yes, comment away, one does not need facts or logic to sound authoritative.

    You’ve come far, Pedalwan. Mostly you need volume.

    I shall try to not read your drivel, and just wing it.

  36. @frank

    @VeloSix

    I upgraded to SRAM Red this season, and was not previously aware just how hard you could shift this stuff. When I have it dialed in just right (which seems to take a fucking oscilloscope and a scale of justice), all gear changes are like silk. If I haven’t sit with it, and got it just right, there are a few gears that shift with slight delay and annoy me to no end. But it will still shift flawlessly under load. Out of the saddle, up hill, click… No problem. (I never even attempted such a shift until a fellow club member did this in front of me, pulling away with multiple shifts, climbing out of the saddle)

    It is taking practice to do it well, but what a thing of beauty.

    Ok, just between us two girls: I fucking love SRAM Red. Upgrade to Yokozuna cables and the shifting is flawless after you sort it all out. And the downshifting with the flick of the index finger…ohmamma! That is some serious buddah right there.

    I have had some blackouts where I’ve thought about putting it on my next #1 (whenever that happens) but the record doesn’t show it because I’m a Campa guy.

    Do it, put it on the #1, I won’t tell anybody.

  37. What are we arguing about? Why friction shifters are great? Is a Bianchi a Bianchi if it is not celeste?

    @RVester

    Well played on the level espresso machine diversion, but no one went for it. Those machines don’t have enough dials and valves for my taste. Plenty of chrome but too straightforward. But then again, I need something to research and obsess about so this will do nicely. Grazie.

  38. @Haldy

    I was more concerned that Frank was giving queer advice ti get revenge for the amount of shit I’ve given him over the stupid mirror rule.   As noted, I’ve seen acetone used to clean up a surfboard.  I had a fit initially, thinking it would smear the polished finish, but it just buffed it up nicely.

    @ Frank, yes, I have  often changed front and rear simultaneously while standing under load, attacking a climb, with both Veloce and Record  I didn’t ever think anything of it, taking for granted that any drive-train would acceot that.  I’ve done similar with the fishing gear on my MTB without hassle, mind you it’s pretty high end stuff on there too.   True, I probably feel the changes through my tootsies, and adjust my stroke accordingly to keep thing smooth, but that’s not exactly difficult to do, is it ?

    Do people really have that much trouble changing gears on a bike ?   FFS, it’s 2015.  The average housewife can fire up a computer and construct web-pages that baffle me, but a bunch of middle-aged twats in lycra get confounded by a derailleur gear ?  It’s about as complicated as the horse-collar, not the horse.

  39. I think the point is that being brought up on primitive equipment develops skills that (mostly) remain valid even though the technology has advanced. One can sit stationary at the lights pressing one’s Di2 buttons all one likes, the buttons are still operating a mechanism that needs to be rotating in order to work. This is plainly obvious to most of us, but not to everyone.

    Down tube shifters are primitive, but refreshing one’s skills by using them occasionally, and putting the modern technology into perspective, can bring enjoyment.

    I’m not really a retro-grouch, my old steel bike with down tube levers hasn’t turned a wheel in decades, but I can appreciate the enjoyment in going back there occasionally.

  40. @wilburrox

    Like it ? More specifically, love it! I’m guessing it’ll be a couple years when most road bikes in my garage will be made predominately of carbon and have fully functioning electronic and hydraulic systems on board. Hard to believe we can plug a bike in to diagnostics software nowadays. And ya can’t order a Ferrari with a manual stick shift. Cheers!

    Hmm, this sounds suspiciously like a moped to me, maybe it’s time to brush up on the High-Wheel skills, in readiness to defend True Cycling in a few years’ time.

    P.S. Saw an exhibition race of High-Wheelers (penny-farthings) at Herne Hill Velodrome earlier this year. Not a piece of electronics, Lycra or carbon-fibre in sight.

  41. @Ken Ho

    Do people really have that much trouble changing gears on a bike ? FFS, it’s 2015. The average housewife can fire up a computer and construct web-pages that baffle me, but a bunch of middle-aged twats in lycra get confounded by a derailleur gear ? It’s about as complicated as the horse-collar, not the horse.

    Well, on Ride London the first serious hill is at Newland’s Corner.  My LBS has a service stand there the two years it has been run.  Judging by the number of trashed mechs they have apparently repaired both years then the answer may be surprisingly – Yes.

  42. @Teocalli

    That’s mildly fucking depressing.  I was contemplating this subject on the ride I just did, between posts. There was a small hill just before the turn-around that a mate and I have been known to have a wee race up.  I found myself changing down gears while giving it the Standing V, possibly sneaking in some secret training (though I’m not admitting to that), and without any particular application of technique, the changes were seamless.  OK, so I anticipated the gradient, and changed before I was mashing too hard, but otherwise, the mech just worked.  Italian stuff has come a long way.  The lights on a Ducati don’t even go out half way around a corner any more.  Mind you, my Record was set up by a German dude who knows his Campag and it’s definitely the tits.

  43. @Teocalli

    Well, on Ride London the first serious hill is at Newland’s Corner. My LBS has a service stand there the two years it has been run. Judging by the number of trashed mechs they have apparently repaired both years then the answer may be surprisingly – Yes.

    The owner of my LBS was on the l’Étape du Tour 2014 this year, I quote from an article he blogged:

    I was surprised, so early on, to see lots of dejected riders sitting by the sides of the road on the climbs – most had torn off their rear derailleurs and buckled their rear wheels, and for at least a couple this had sent an expensive derailleur smashing through an even more expensive carbon fibre frame! Just putting my mechanic’s hat on for a moment, it really is a strong reminder to check your gear adjustments

    Full article: http://www.ratracecycles.com/2014/07/letape-du-tour-2014/

  44. @conrad

    I still use down tube shifters. Even on my race bike. I can shift easily whenever I want to, even on a hill, using the same skills that you would use with any other shifting system. Its not hard when you are used to it. So easy to set up, lightweight, very little maintenance required. What is not to like?

    The thing about electronic shifting…. you are screwed if the battery dies. And if you ride long enough, or forget to charge them up, it is just a matter of time.

    It only happens once. And before it totally dies your FD shifts to the little ring and stays there. You have plenty of juice to get home using the RD from where ever you are. The real kick in the ass is when you leave home with your bike in the van and the battery on the charger in the garage. That only happens once too. And, that’s fixed by using an internal down tube battery that’s charged with USB connector to the junction box.

    When you’re ready to give up the down tube shifters and get a new bike, trust me, just skip the whole index shifting/STI lever thing and go straight to button mashing Di2. 11 speed. With hydraulic brakes. And carbon wheels. Cheers.

  45. @frank

    @ Posers are posers (we’ve been accused of it more times than I care to consider) but when the emotion is genuine, then its authentic.

    THIS!  And if you really want to know if someone is a poser, or even worse, a Hater (someone that derides someone or something b/c secretly they want to be or do what the other is doing but they do not have the guts/ability to do it) then bring a kid into the scene.  Kids can instinctively call out Bullshit soooo much better than any adult I have ever met.

    And emotion and passion, when sincere, are just such beautiful things to behold.  Wish I could bottle them up and drink them when I am lacking either.

  46. @Gibson

    Hi All – first post here, so let me preface by acknowledging my awe at your collective knowledge and commitment to the essence of cycling. I’ve found that the Rules become more true as one spends more and more time on the bike.

    All I have to add here is an example of personal experience. Because of a last-minute packing decision during a coast-to-coast move, my only bike with Ergos remains in storage and I now must choose between indexed downtube shifters (Superbe Pro as it happens) and friction downtube shifters…and I am convinced that the advantage of being able to shift front/rear simultaneously and across multiple cogs goes a long way to counter the benefit of being able to shift while standing. I did my first 200 km in the Vermont mountains a couple weekends ago – friction shifters and half dirt roads, and pure joy.

    A fellow VERMONTER!!!  EXCELLENT!!!  Do you live there permanently now?  We should ride together sometime soon.  I actually live in West Point, NY but I am from VT and visit often and will be moving back in 5.5 years forEVER.  Email me at [email protected] if you want to try to set something up in the future.  I have an old steel Motorola Team Issue Eddy Merckx from 1995 with all period DA groupsan and Mavic wheels.  Would love to toil over some back roads with you sometime!

  47. @Buck Rogers

    Alas, I’m an up-rooted Vermonter as well…live in NYC for the time being.  My folks still live there (Jericho) and I usually make it up a few times a year.  Vermont is great for riding – I was up there for a brevet in late September.  I’d for sure be up for it if we can get it coordinated.  [email protected]

    Your Merckx sounds sweet with that setup – is that your primary ride?  Mine is cut from the same cloth.  I’m on a 1990 RB-1 with Superbe Pro and also Mavic wheels.  It’s (ahem) over-geared for real mountains – it hails from the days when a 42×26 was considered sufficient for hill climbing – but down here in NY it’s just about ideal.

    Thanks for the welcome guys, great site.

  48. @frank

    @Gibson

    Hi All – first post here, so let me preface by acknowledging my awe at your collective knowledge and commitment to the essence of cycling. I’ve found that the Rules become more true as one spends more and more time on the bike.

    All I have to add here is an example of personal experience. Because of a last-minute packing decision during a coast-to-coast move, my only bike with Ergos remains in storage and I now must choose between indexed downtube shifters (Superbe Pro as it happens) and friction downtube shifters…and I am convinced that the advantage of being able to shift front/rear simultaneously and across multiple cogs goes a long way to counter the benefit of being able to shift while standing. I did my first 200 km in the Vermont mountains a couple weekends ago – friction shifters and half dirt roads, and pure joy.

    Ok, first of all, I had a minor reading orgasm when I read “Superbe Pro Friction Shifters” (it might not have been in that order, orgasms – even small reading ones – tend to distort time and order.

    One of my great regrets in life is that SunTour went out of business and that I didn’t keep any of my Superbe Pro stuff – glorious stuff that worked like a horse.

    And if you ride Campa, you can still enjoy the pleasures of shifting multiple gears on both the front and read – all while standing if you have some skill.

    Ah, Suntour.  I lament their passing as well.  Even the S.P. is invisible to most cyclists these days – I suppose it just looks old to them – but every so often in a group ride, some wise and cagey veteran squints at the rear derailer and asks, “is that…Suntour?” and then their eyes move to the brakes, then the crank, then the DT shifters.  I love those days.

  49. @markb Thanks for posting that link to the Rat Race Blog, it’s the best piece I’ve seen about the horror that was this years Etape. Rule #9 is of no consolation when you are colder than you have ever been on a bike but at least I got round with my bike intact, although my rims were fucked from all that wet braking.

  50. I think there should be a rule that says ‘though shalt own a bike with down tube shifters as part of your stable’

    Hard is Beautiful

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