Have you ever watched young children attempting to play soccer? They all rush to kick the ball without much regard for where it’s heading — as long as they’re at the front of the pack and knocking the ball around, that’s all that really matters. It’s an analogy that’s been used to describe the cycling industry and, in my opinion, it hits very close to the mark.
Brands jump from one trend to another and replace one standard with a slightly revised one, all in the hopes of edging out the competition and selling a few more units — sometimes at the expense of consumers, dealers and existing inventory.
I’ve joked that what the cycling industry needs is a Bike Czar, a benevolent dictator who would be the final arbiter of which concepts and standards merit development and which are a waste of time and money.
If I were to nominate myself to be this well-intentioned despot, here are four things I would enact from my high-modulus carbon throne.
1. All bottom brackets shall henceforth be threaded
Internal or external bottom brackets, 24 or 30mm crank spindles, and various widths to suit, road, mountain and fat bikes are all fine, but from this day, until the end of days, all bottom bracket shells will use the 1.370x24tpi “English” standard.
Find your stiffness gains and lay your dubious claims of weight savings elsewhere on the chassis, the bottom bracket shell is sacred ground.
2. New frame and component standards must have a lifespan of at least five years
Nobody wants to stifle innovation, but the current pace of planned obsolescence is turning folks away from our sport. Extreme vetting will be used to ensure any new component standards have a tangible benefit to cyclists.
Riders should be able to walk into their local bike shop and purchase a new bike with the reassurance that it will still be relevant next season.
Likewise, you should be able to purchase upgrades for a two-year-old bike with the confidence that your new components will be compatible.
This would also leave breathing room for engineers and designers to focus on refinements, rather than pushing products out the door to meet the next product cycle.
Which brings us to…
3. Model years will be no more
Change for the sake of change hurts everyone in the industry.
Bike companies must scramble to position a product as new and interesting to stay relevant, even if the changes are minor or just cosmetic; retailers are forced to slash prices, devaluing their inventory; and buyers kept waiting for the ‘next big thing’.
Colors, sure, change those whenever you wish, but products will be ready when they’re ready, already.
4. The word ‘clipless’ shall be stricken from the cycling dictionary
“Clipless” will forever be replaced by “clip-in.” That’s what you do, so that’s what they’re called.