Integration over emotion
For years, the bike industry has trended toward integrated componentry. In the last few years, it seems to have reached a tipping point.
Are we too emotionally tied to individual components?
My first car was a 1987 Nissan Sentra that I spent more time disassembling and reassembling than actually driving. I did that out of necessity — being poor, I would contend, is really the mother of invention — but also simply because I could: There was little in the way of complex systems. Everything was mechanical.
Fast forward to today’s cars and everything is computerized. Where once I could pull out a carburetor, there sits a fuel injection system completely operated by a computer. Cars have gotten immensely complex, and they now require special skills, and tools, to work on.
Sound a bit like today’s bikes?
Go ahead, try to swap out the handlebar on your new aero bike in under an hour. First, you’ll have to pull out all your cables and hoses. Is there some sort of external steerer tube? Proprietary spacers? Bikes have become more complicated, and you’ll probably have a hard time working on modern models in your home garage. But perhaps that’s a good thing: It means engineers now design bicycles as systems rather than a collection of individual components. If your end goal is to go fast, this technological integration trend does you a great service.
Yes, I understand (perhaps better than most) that much of the charm of working on one’s bicycle involves the process of selecting parts, swapping parts out, and building “Frankenbikes.” That will certainly never change. There’s a reason the repair books call it “Zen and the art.”
But from a pure performance standpoint (read: race bikes), perhaps it’s time to embrace the complexity of modern bikes.