There are certain things that really seem to push cyclists’ buttons. At the moment the biggest button-pushers of all are changing wheel sizes for mountain bikers, and the advent of disc brakes for roadies. I know, it’s a lot to cope with.
The internet almost fused into a sheet of radioactive glass at the end of April when Santa Cruz turned up to the UCI downhill World Cup with – oh the humanity – 29in wheels.
I have faith that eventually everyone will take a deep breath, get some perspective and move on (I have faith because I don’t have any evidence or reasoning).
Peace will settle across the cycling world like a really nice blanket, and I mean really nice, like this Hermes one which costs £2,890 and actually has the word ‘perspective’ in its name, apparently without irony. And you thought cycling was expensive.
But then what? Turns out 2017 has plenty of new stuff for us to get angry about. *Shakes fist at progress.* DAMN YOU, MARKETING!
Electronics are well-placed to earn your ire. Electronic shifting is well-established on the road and likely to gain significant presence in mountain biking once prices drop from ‘Say that again and I’ll punch you’ levels to the merely deeply offensive.
Wireless add-ons that turn existing transmissions into electro-wonders are already emerging. This will madden many. Fancy shifts are obviously some kind of cheating, just like e-bikes – there’s a lot of moral outrage you can recycle there, at least, which will make setting fire to comment sections easier.
Aero integration is another big buzzword, with bespoke devices such as power meters and brakes being smoothly designed-in as standard. Obviously, there’s absolutely no downside with doing this, especially when it comes to brakes. Basic realities aside, there’s plenty of scope for claiming it’s all just a con to make us buy new parts, which as ever is an easy, emotionally appealing and usually substance-free claim that goes down really well (plus it’s not often you get ‘cycling’ and ‘substance-free’ in the same sentence, so that’s nice).
Certainly Trek hasn’t done anything to dispel the idea of integration being great for upselling, as if you want its £8,500 Madone 9.9 race bike with actual racy geometry, it costs an extra £750 to spec the ‘upgraded’ H1 frame. There’s no other way to lower the stack of its integrated stem, headtube and brake. The downside for anyone looking to get angry about conspiracies, of course, is that you’re hardly defending the common man (or woman, or other) when the bike costs the same as a new Citroen C1.
At least the Madone doesn’t have discs, though, eh?
Argon 18’s ‘smart’ aero bike does, and they’re integrated (with both the frame and The Conspiracy) along with shift buttons, proximity sensors, real-time aero feedback on drag and, for all I know, the multiplayer bits of Call of Duty. The really clever parts are the windspeed sensors – both on the bike and the rider, for comparison – and the computer which combines real-time data with previous weather/wind stats to let you know when it’s perfect to go for a personal best.
It’s not fantasy stuff, either. All Argon 18’s tech has been real-world tested, while other ‘smart’ bikes such as SpeedX’s sensor-laden, app-synched carbon Leopard are already on sale. Real-time telemetry promises serious advantages in pacing, efficiency and things to nerd out on. It’s hard to argue against such progress, which only makes it more infuriating.
I mean, it makes you sick. They’re only making desirable things to get us to buy their stuff! When did capitalism get so cynical? It was so sunny when we were little, the candy floss so bright, and we were so safe. Let’s argue we’re ACTUALLY worried the wind pressure-measuring pitot tubes will stab everyone to death in a crash, and get really cross about that.
I’ve saved the best till last. This next tech has all the elements to truly become cycling’s next pinata: anti-lock braking. ABS prototypes for e-bikes already exist, and with batteries and electronic brains appearing on frames elsewhere, the stage is set. It certainly helps that Bosch, which provides many e-bike motors and control systems, was heavily involved in motorcycle ABS development.
Clearly ABS is MASSIVE CHEATING, totally taking away the purity of rider control and skill to such a heinous degree it’s simultaneously blasphemous, un-American and undermining to Brexit. It’s something to really froth about – especially as traction control could easily follow.
Let me walk you through the argument against, which we can rip straight from motorcycling: "Obviously, we have a great deal of skill and control and don’t need any help, not that ABS would be any help because it’s a con, but it’s offensive to think that lesser riders will get help, because it will help. It might make them quicker than us. This is a moral outrage."
Performance-enhancing ABS is a long way off, however. Mountain bikes will need the complex and still relatively rare (in motorcycling) ‘cornering ABS’ to be really useful. And translating ABS to a loose, slippery environment (where sometimes you might want to lock a wheel) is a gigantic challenge. It’s unlikely to make anyone faster for many years yet. Don’t let that stop the moral outrage, though! I mean, where’s the fun in that?