The six BIGGEST irritants of MODERN bicycle design
CYCLING WEEKLY|December 02, 2021
Which areas of bike design could do with... a little bit of tidying up Michelle Arthurs-Brennan shares her thoughts…
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Trying to prevent technological advancement in any industry is a bit like swimming against a tide of schooling salmon. The UCI sticks its oar in sometimes, but good engineering always finds a way around.

If we didn’t allow technology to advance, we’d all be riding around on the boneshaker bikes of 1869 – and we’d probably think the rattling experience was as good as it gets.

However, some advancements take time to reach refinement. Case in point, the first SRM power meter launched in the 1980s required a Yellow Pages-sized instruction manual to just get going; early power meter pedals worked best if you sang a lullaby at the ideal pitch while tightening to optimum torque. But now? Anyone can fit a pair of power pedals to any bike and have accurate readings in seconds – albeit still at significant outlay.

Other advancements go full circle: Cannondale’s HeadShok system of 1992 featured on early mountain bikes; it was phased out when ‘real’ suspension arrived – but that elastomer/mechanical damper combo offering 50mm of travel looks really similar to some of the solutions we’re now seeing on gravel bikes. No prizes for guessing what’s next – lightweight air-sprung forks, anyone?

En route to refinement, some advancements pose greater headaches for mechanics, engineers, bike testers like myself, and consumers. So which ‘progressive’ technologies do we all want to get in the sea with (with the salmon), and which do we want to hurry up and improve ASAP?

1 Proprietary seatposts

In the past, a bicycle brand would develop a frame, furnish it with a 27.2mm hole, and seek a reliable component brand to spec a suitable seatpost. This left it to the end-user to replace the part with the best seatpost for them, at any time they wished.

As technology has developed, brands have sought gains via added compliance, improved aerodynamics, and weight reduction. It’s no secret that the seatpost is pivotal in the compliance story, and that optimizations here can have a significantly greater effect when compared with frame advancements. Ditto, with brands using CFD and wind tunnel testing to inform frame design – they can see exactly how many watts can be saved by smoothing out the relationship between the seat post and the frame it sits in.

The result? Proprietary seatposts. Rather than rely on a third party to develop this component, the brand does the work itself – or teams up with a component manufacturer to create a custom solution for this particular frame. For the manufacturer, this has the added benefit that the customer is now fully reliant on the brand for component updates in the future. The consumer might get a better overall package but they are somewhat tied in – and some high-profile examples suggest that frame manufacturers don’t always get it right.

2 Some internal cable routing

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