The 5 most annoying road bike features

Frustrating fasteners, pernickety press-fits and more

Modern bikes are incredible, but there are certain features that continually grind our gears

Modern bicycles are marvellous machines, but there are certain features beloved of bike engineers that we could live without. Here are our top five...

1. Bad internal cabling

Internal cable routing is slick and aero, but it can be a complete nightmare to deal with
Internal cable routing is slick and aero, but it can be a complete nightmare to deal with

Internal cables look clean and tidy, and they make perfect sense when you’re trying to reduce aerodynamic drag as much as possible.

Unfortunately, internal cabling often feels like a bit of an afterthought, with no proper routing built into frames. Outers are slung willy nilly into frame tubes where they rattle over every bump, or they’re directed round impossibly tight ends, which add friction, making for spongy brakes or erratic shifting.

If you’re going to route cables through a frame, they need be properly housed and secured, and accessible in such a way that hapless mechanics don’t need keyhole surgery skills for basic maintenance tasks.

2. Wedge seat clamps that always stick

Look how beautifully this seat wedge integrates...
Look how beautifully this seat wedge integrates...

Traditional seat clamps with a collar and bolt are easily accessed, and make saddle height adjustments the work of seconds.

The great aero revolution has ruined everything here and wedge-style seat clamps are now ubiquitous.

A tapered wedge can be cleanly integrated into a top tube and even covered up completely, but it sometimes makes minor adjustments a pain.

Like the wedge on old-style quill stems, these seat clamps have a tendency to weld themselves in place, and the only way to free them is to loosen the bolt fully and give it a good whack.

Additionally, many designs position the tightening bolt far too close to the seatpost, making access with standard multi-tools inconvenient or impossible. Is aero worth the hassle?

3. Missing mudguards and forgotten fenders

Oh look, another affordable, versatile bike with discs that has no provision for mudguards
Oh look, another affordable, versatile bike with discs that has no provision for mudguards

The widespread adoption of disc brakes on the road means there have never been more fun, affordable bikes with big tyre clearances.

Disc brakes are a great choice for all-weather riding. Unfortunately, some bike designers haven’t got the memo that people ride all year round, and a lot of these otherwise excellent machines have no provision at all for mounting mudguards. (Or fenders, if you’re from North America.)

You can of course fit clip-on mudguards or improvise some mounting hardware, but would it have killed them to include a boss or two?

Some brands do get this right. Trek is one of a number of makers that puts hidden mounts on its endurance models, and Whyte’s entire road range takes guards, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

4. Random fasteners

3T makes some awesome kit, but that T30 stem bolt is a crime
3T makes some awesome kit, but that T30 stem bolt is a crime

Since hex bolts took over as the fastener of choice for all but the cheapest bikes, it’s been incredibly easy to work on your bike, even out on the road.

With just 4 and 5mm hex keys you can make numerous fit adjustments, tighten derailleur, headset and crank bolts, and more.

Except when you can’t, because some component makers have decided that hex bolts aren’t good enough, so they’ve started using Torx bolts instead.

They’ve got a point — hex bolts are very easy to damage, particularly if they’re not made from hard enough steel, or if your tools aren’t the best quality.

But, unfortunately, many multi-tools don’t have a Torx bit, and those that do usually only have a T25. So why would you put a T30 on a steerer clamp? Why 3T? Why??

5. Press-fit bottom brackets

Press-fit BBs are sometimes very hard to love
Press-fit BBs are sometimes very hard to love

Ah yes, the nemesis of mechanics everywhere. Manufacturers like press-fit bottom brackets because they’re inherently simple, and on carbon frames they remove the need to bond in metal shells. Mechanics hate them because they’re a pain to install and remove, and prone to making funny noises.

Bottom brackets are subjected to tremendous forces, and if anything is even slightly out of spec then creaking is all but guaranteed.

Press-fits aren’t inherently bad, but they need to be manufactured to the highest of tolerances to work properly.

Even then, they’re far less convenient than threaded bottom brackets. Given the choice, we’d always go threaded.

Matthew Allen

Senior Technical Writer, UK
Former bike mechanic, builder of wheels, hub fetishist and lover of shiny things. Likes climbing a lot, but not as good at it as he looks.
  • Discipline: Road, with occasional MTB dalliances
  • Preferred Terrain: Long mountain climbs followed by high-speed descents (that he doesn't get to do nearly often enough), plus scaring himself off-road when he outruns his skill set.
  • Current Bikes: Scott Addict R3 2014, Focus Cayo Disc 2015, Niner RLT 9
  • Dream Bike: Something hideously expensive and custom with external cables and a threaded bottom bracket because screw you bike industry.
  • Beer of Choice: Cider, please. Thistly Cross from Scotland
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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