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Monday, October 12, 2009

Upgrades should always have a positive connotation

The sad secret of the cycling cottage industry is that they don't cater to the avid cyclist, i.e., the person who rides about 5000 miles a year or more. They cater to the frequent upgrader --- the guy who buys a new bike every 2-3 years, upgrading to the latest and greatest whenever he can.

Our tandem has about 15,000 miles on it. During that time, we've worn out chains, tires, chainrings, and cassettes, all in relatively short order. One incident recently had me by the side of the road piercing together a 9-speed chain that had been fatigued by riding a worn out cassette aggressively and then shifted under load. Not having a replacement 11-34 9-speed cassette handy, I replaced it with a 12-27 from one of the singles, and went on-line to look for cassettes.

The cost of 9-speed chains and 9-speed cassettes had gone up quite a bit since the last time I bought replacements, and thinking about the situation, I can't think of a time when that 9-speed cassette really bought us anything. The result, I ordered a bunch of 8-speed cassettes at $20 each, and yesterday, upgraded my 9-speed tandem to 8-speed. I won't bother upgrading the 9-speed chain yet, but when it finally goes, it too, will be replaced with an 8-speed chain.

From the "industry"'s point of view, I'm downgrading my bike, but in terms of cost, expected life time, robustness, and everything else that I care about, it's an upgrade. Yes, there are many who can't wait for the latest 10-speed systems with electronic shifting and what not, but for me anyway, the satisfaction of being able to have a running bike that I don't spend a lot of time working on is a big plus.


bawa said...


I am a regular reader of your blog and sometimes have left a comment. This is just to say why

1. I/we=family love books, sci-fi & fantasy are some of our favourite genres, and your blog has allowed me to discover many new authors (spot on with your reviews too!) and graphic novels too.

2. The travelling that you do properly spread out over weeks instead of days...

3. Coming from a family who were pioneers the bicycle parts industry in our country, not through hi-tech but through sheer ingenuity and doggedness, I really enjoy your descriptions/cribbing about bicycle bits and pieces.

I guess with so many people in the world there's bound to be coincidence but I have not found the bicycle + books etc anywhere else yet! My daughter is being vaccinated orally for allergies, its been a year and mixed reaction so far.

So thanks and keep us posted :)

Amy said...

I really don't get the thing of wanting more gears. More range, yes, but why not just make them a bit farther apart? Or is that mechanically worse than I imagine? I'd far rather have an 8 speed that's that much more durable than a 10 speed that's... what's the advantage suppose to be? Smoother shifting? Finer resolution of gearing?

Piaw Na said...

If you are racing, I think more closely spaced gears lets you choose the exact gear that you want. And if you're racing, you have plenty of support vehicle and a dedicated mechanic going over your bike every night replacing spare parts.

And of course, if you buy the exact same bike as Lance Armstrong, you'll be as fast as he is, right?