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The ultimate bike parts crux

December 7, 2008

It’s roughly 5:ooAM here in Taiwan.   I’ve been awake for a few hours now thinking about stuff.  Lot’s of stuff.  I’m here on a work trip to preview some 2010 bicycle components.  As I lay awake in my bed going through yesterday’s meetings and presentations, a few things are coming to mind.    One is alarming and at the same time exciting.  I guess it all depends what perspective you take.

In one presentations yesterday, a major company discussed  a couple of new semi-secret “Ultimate” prototype parts that said “serviceability” is not important.  Today when I look at these statements and look back at other products I know are coming down the pipeline, I think it is both an exciting and an alarming trend.

It’s exciting because when you design a product and take some user serviceability out of the product, you can make different choices.  In the case of the products I saw yesterday, they are sweet and will really help elevate “Performance”.  The other thing here is that the technology often trickles down and ultimately can improve other products.

It’s sad and alarming because this comes with certain expectations, expense and technology.   Consumers shouldn’t & can’t service the product.  99% of the bike dealers can’t support it either.   It’s also sad because these products come at a significant price.   One vendor even said “Price doesn’t matter.” Who can afford them?  Well obviously they think some wealthy consumers can.   I do think and know they will sell.   Unfortunately, the profile of consumers that can actually afford these ultimate products also want, and often demand, immediate gratification.  There in lies the crux.

Ultimate part gets bought by customer(s) who demands immediate service when something goes wrong with the new unserviceable Ultimate part.   Now what?  Who is this good for?

Something to consider as I go off to another day of meetings and new product presentations.

And, since every blog post of mine needs at least one photo, here’s a shot from the road.  I think these guys need some service after this little incident.

Fire!  Fire!  Fire!

Fire! Fire! Fire!

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2008 4:21 pm

    Great post, Jason. I too think of the ultimate serviceability aspect. There are some components that aren’t supposed to be serviceable, but are like external bb bearings. It does seem that we are now a throw-away society. I take great pride in servicing an older bike instead of suggesting to the customer they should replace it (as evidence by the lengths I went to to install a set of compact cranks on an old French road bike recently).

    I recently had my older Canon G2 serviced to repair the LCD screen. I would have preferred to spend roughly the same amount as a I could have purchased a new camera because 1) I like my G2 and 2) because I don’t want to have to “throw away” something that can be fixed.

    We may be in for a back-lash with all the throw-aways sometime in the near future. At some point, I hope people get tired of throwing away perfectly good stuff that might need a little love.

  2. Gnat permalink*
    December 7, 2008 4:29 pm

    Thanks Mike for the comments. I know you have a unique perspective and experience on this topic. You touched on a whole different level with “throw away society”. It is without a doubt related to the topic I wrote about today. In fact, that is how the post started but it got too long, too jumbled and too rantish.

    Mike, I love what you are doing out there in CA. That is why I check your blog everyday.

    Well…I’m signing off on the day. Heading out for another long day here in Taiwan.

  3. December 7, 2008 4:32 pm

    Jason, Mike, With all due respect, we are alredy there in regards to unserviceable parts and throw away components. The low end has been rife with this sort of thing for years. Trickle down? Maybe “trickle up”, I don’t know, but it is indicative of the general mindset of Western culture these days. I can’t blame the bicycle industry in Asia for finally capitulating to what they see the market demanding. I mean, they have to make a buck, so perhaps there is good reason for their decision, no matter how rediculous an old grease monkey like me might think it is, (And belive me, I think it pretty much stinks)

    I think Mike has a great point though. The backlash is already bubbling up amongst the geeks and trend setters in the market. Whether that catches fire or not is probably just a matter of time. With this economic crisis, it may be sooner than later.

  4. Gnat permalink*
    December 7, 2008 4:35 pm

    Well….I’m trying to get out of here for the day. GT, you are so right in that that is already happening, especially on the low end. I hadn’t thought about trickle up.

    That said, for me personally, I’m just starting to feel it more on a personal level.

  5. December 7, 2008 5:37 pm

    Jason,.

    God knows I love upgrades, but non serviceable upgrades are JUST not worth it to me. I can’t do too many repairs on my own, not my bag. So if my SHOP can’t even do a repair, what good is it.

    I’ve already encountered certain big name fork mfgs. that bank you you upgrading or replacing rather than maintaining or servicing.

    Can I also say, I love when you go to Asia. It’s like watching the travel channel from a bike geek’s point of view. ;)

    Jason

  6. December 7, 2008 11:58 pm

    I can accept a low end part that is not serviceable/renewable like a cheap crank with riveted on chainrings (I don’t LIKE it, but I can live with it) but a high end part that I cannot service? So, I should buy a King hub or I9 that I cannot clean or adjust? Nah.

    My $ Shimano BB for my old XT cranks is not a rebuildable part AFAIK. OK, it is still smooth after 5 years of use and if it goes away, I will recycle it and move on. My old $$ Phil Wood I can send in and have them rebuild it. If I bought a new, very high end $$$+ BB I would expect to be able to keep it running for decades.

    Just my take on it.

    grannygear

  7. December 8, 2008 9:32 am

    I am in full agreement with the above sentiments. As time goes on, the more I think I am being forced into be a next generation retro grouch. It’s really got nothing to do with the aversion to nice parts that are light. You all have pretty much hit it on the head though. A comment from Campy regarding their new 11 speed chains kind of sums it all up for me. The stated something to the effect of how not one of their test chains had broken on the Tour this year. Gee, that’s great, a strong rider couldn’t break on in a day. That’s real reassuring. How long are they going to last on that 14 lb road bike in the real world?

    I’m quite a bit younger than many people that are “leading” the industry right now. I worry about my future and my business sustainability it this tread keeps following the computer industry with forced phased obsolescence. In our local market, the demand for entry level bikes is getting harder to access as prices increase hugely. The Walmart effect is pretty huge in Faribault. Service is becoming an increasingly large part of our business. Down the pipe, if even high end parts become throw away, where does that leave our mechanics?

    Contrary to grannygear’s sentiments, I feel that some companies like I9 and King have found a balance between user serviceability and high end bling. King’s bearings are user serviceable, both companies free hub systems are easily serviceable, and bearings on both are readily available and pretty easy to change. That said, the stuff from companies like Phil Wood and White industries offer similar performance number, with longevity reports to back them up.

    I guess my point is this, in a world where it is growing increasingly hare to get value for your money in all aspects of life, how complicated and uber do we need a bike to be. Mark chastised me for saying a while back that 11 speed drive trains make me want to hurl. I still stand be that statement, for all of the reasons stated above.

    Thanks for pulling for us Jason. Salsa has been headed in the right direction for years IMAO. Particularly with your steel models. Nice looking stuff, they ride very well, they are affordably priced, and they should last 10-15 years of hard riding. That does it for me. Now if I can get you to do a pinch bole EBB on the El instead of that Bushnell thing….

    Ben

  8. December 8, 2008 12:15 pm

    Amen grannygear… AMEN! That’s exactly it. You buy the best, and you’re buying the ability to rebuild it when it needs it. Back in the day, that’s exactly what you GAVE UP when you went down to cheap components was the ability to rebuild the parts. It just doesn’t make sense… unless you’re a manufacturer, and you see the opportunity to pull big dollars out of your customers’ pockets more frequently by making your high-end components more easily replaceable by making them more chintzy (of course in the name of making them lighter/higher performance/better…).

    This is not progress.

  9. December 8, 2008 12:18 pm

    BTW, thank you Jason. I too love your trips overseas and the amount of thought you give to issues like this. It’s clear you understand the role our industry has to play in achieving a higher level of consciousness when it comes to manufacturing and consumption, and I’m glad you’re not just letting this go without giving it some serious contemplation.

    Thanks again,
    MG

  10. SSMtnBiker permalink
    December 8, 2008 6:33 pm

    Thanks for the heads up,Gnat!Glad at least 1/2 my bikes are SS’s (yeah,I know,it could hit there too,but they need serviced much lessoften).

    Steve

  11. December 8, 2008 9:53 pm

    Ben…I think you misunderstood. I did not mean that the products from I9 and King are not serviceable…I meant that a high end part ‘like’ an I9 or King that could not be serviced is unacceptable.

    grannygear

  12. December 8, 2008 10:03 pm

    Got it, read that wrong. Apologies, and agreed.

  13. December 9, 2008 7:40 pm

    don’t be knockin’ the bushnell ebb there ben… ;-) i wasn’t a fan… ’til i owned one. now i own two and love ‘em both.

  14. GreenLightGo permalink
    December 10, 2008 5:10 am

    Great post! One disturbing thing I’ve noticed with my move is that the LBS in my area no longer carry tools. Sure, you can get a multi-tool and tire levers, but that’s it. No cone wrenches, BB tools, etc. Granted, part of that is the culture of south Florida – but I find it disturbing as well. I’m a maintainer by trade, so it’s natural for that to carry over to my hobby.

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