28 April, 2016

Where Have All the Standards Gone?

by Igor

Here at VO World Headquarters, we may seem like retro-grouches because we make some frames with 1" threaded steerers and rim brakes. Oh yeah, we're also called retro-grouches for using 1 1/8" headsets and threaded bottom brackets on our other frames, go figure. But in fact we do try to stay up to date with new technologies and "standards," even if we don't and, more than likely won't, adopt them.
It's nice being a bit insulated from the mainstream bike culture, where we don't have to publicize incremental changes for the sake of gaining a fleeting sliver of online press from dark forum dwellers with pasty skin. Frequently, these changes are bad for business and brand image.

Here's a typical scenario: "Cool, [insert big company name here] released a new off-road bike! Looks pretty good, nice geometry. Wait. What the heck spacing is that? Proprietary? New standard? There are no existing wheels that will work with that bike except for [big company]'s. Guess I'm not buying that or suggesting it to anyone."
What does this mean for you? It means that you will have more difficult choices to make regarding what you want out of your bicycle, beyond its intended use, because each individual component is slightly different and susceptible to obsolescence between model years. You'll spend more time second guessing your decision if you should have held out for Boost 148, because you know, performance. It's a frustrating game where new standards are developed by different companies for the sake of perceived gains with no support or care for serviceability by the cyclist or even the shop. Unless you buy their updated toolset.

Don't get me started on bottom brackets. Did you know the solution for creaky, poorly fitting, press-fit bottom brackets is a threaded system? Guess we're ahead of the curve on that one!
Just because I like older style components and aesthetics doesn't mean I'm a luddite who jams wireless shifting signals or breaks carbon forks. I definitely can appreciate new technology and techniques if it means a genuinely better product.
As much as I fawn over fancy lugwork, TIG welding allows us to make frames with absolutely no compromise in performance or handling or quality. In fact they might perform a bit better since they're lighter. And we can do this with less tooling and labor resulting in a considerably lower price tag.

While not applicable for touring or rando bikes, electronic shifting is super nifty. You really need to try it to appreciate how ridiculously fast and easy it is to switch gears. Also, you can mix and match road and mountain drivetrains to fine tune a rider's needs.

I'm a big believer in 1x systems. They're dead simple, lightweight, with very reasonable gear ranges. They're perfect for a large audience from 'crossers, commuters, MTB'ers, and even credit card tourers.

Bicycle Industry: Cyclists are smart and do their homework. They know when you're trying to pull one over on them and they will tell you with their dollars...and forum posts.


50voltphantom said...


david brazell said...


Anonymous said...

Any questions over the reliability of electronic shifting have been answered by plenty of randonneurs out there now riding trouble-free big-distance events with it. It's not an issue.

S. Molnar said...

Speaking of 1x systems, any plans to market narrow/wide chainrings?

velodan said...

Nice write-up. I also appreciate any tech that makes riding more enjoyable, but I also don't want it to become obsolete in a year (or ten).

Justine Valinotti said...

Right you are.

VeloOrange said...

@Anon 5:09pm,

I have no doubt that the electronic shifting systems are just fine. I suppose that comment was more *geared* towards self-supported tourists where charging and availability of parts is easy to find.

@S. Molnar,

Way ahead of you. We have a sample being tested right now.


Anonymous said...

electronic shifting sucks.

but i love all the VO stuff...

Mark Holm said...

I recently overhauled a bike for a friend, A 1990's Schwinn with a Shimano 21 speed, Megarange setup. He rode it for about 15 years with essentially no maintenance aside from pumping the tires. When I overhauled it, I did not replace either derailer. It still shifts, not perfectly, but well enough for his needs. Can an electronic system do that?

Kendra said...

This. All of this.

R. Bruckdorfer said...

Well said.

Philip Kim said...

thinking of going 1x to simplify some shifting, what gearing do you suggest? Asking because I live in DMV so similar region.

VeloOrange said...

@Philip Kim,

If you're committed to a 1x for touring and commuting, a 11-36 cassette with a 36T chainring gives you a good range. You lose a bit on the bottom and top end, though. I honestly like MTB doubles. 40/28 gives you a good bottom and top end.


John I said...

None of my dozen or so bikes are newer than 1987, so if I have an issue with standards it has to do with French threading. :)

I think there was a period - roughly corresponding to the Nuovo Record era, when everything seemed to settle on a fairly small range of standards, and all you really needed to know was what threading the BB or headset threading took. Then SIS came along, 8+ speeds, etc. and things started to go wonky again. But I don't think it's worse now than say the 1930's.

And the good news is, you can buy a complete 1975 Masi Gran Criterium for about the price of a Di2 system.

Mark Holm said...

Threadless stems would be fine, except for the extremely limited and clumsy height adjustment of the stem and handlebars. That is a huge sacrifice to make for the mostly illusory advantages of threadless. It's not even necessary. Threadless steerers could use quill stems except for the unimaginative star-nut bearing adjustment system. Why have we all been captive to this clumsy bit of design for so long? Think about the following:

The bearing adjustment mechanism, star-nut and all, is only necessary while the bearing adjustment is being made. After that, it is useless baggage.

The star nut only serves as a means for pulling up on the steerer.

The force that the star nut and adjuster screw apply to the bearings during adjustment is fairly small.

The stem does not have to serve as the upper bearing stop. A clamp collar would do the job.

Rob said...

Excellent post VO! Keep up the not keeping up!

@Mark Holm - My new road bike is a 90 Schwinn Traveler. I have a box with a complete 9 speed DA/Ultegra mix group (which in itself is obsolete), and I am having trouble motivating myself to install it, simply because the original 7 speed stuff works so well..

S. Molnar said...

Mark Holm, I have to disagree with you: threadless stems would not be fine even if the height adjustment were not an issue, because they are ugly. Sure, de gustibus etc., but, seriously, only a Philistine could think a threadless stem looks as nice as a quill stem.

Rick Harker said...

Standards? Don't get me started. A standard is just that. Universally common. When it isn't that, it is NOT a standard, just plain different for the sake of being different and I find it effin frustrating.

Julien Meissonnier said...

I actually like different and non standard, I also keep track of "so called" bike innovations. I have nice pictures of:
- 1946 Alex Singer with integrated BB
- 1946 Camille Daudon with threadless stem
- 1948 Alex Singer with direct mount brakes
- 1950's Barra with integrated seat post
...and some the manufacturers have not thought about yet like
- 1950's Barra with integrated brake levers
- 1951 Rene Herse with direct mount derailleur (would be nice with Di2...)

Wade Stewart said...

My beef with the major manufacturers is the escalation of x-speed cassettes. First it went to 6-speed, then 7, 8, 9, 10, now 11, and I am sure 12 is just around the corner.

The result of this is an increasingly narrower center-to-flange distance on the right side which leaves us over a 2 to 1 tension ratio between right and left side spokes. It makes it harder and harder to build a strong wheel.

In addition, they have dropped the spoke counts from 36 or 32 down to 24 or 20 on the rear. I recently replaced a set of high-end "big name" wheels with a set from VO. The low spoke count, combined with no eyelet rims and high tension, was causing the spokes to pull through the rim. And of course by the time this happened, they were out of warranty. And to top it off, the 32/36 VO wheelsets was actually lighter.

Enough of the rant, keep up the good work with your products.