We started to see emerging new “standards” or “tech” especially in the last decade. Most of them are vaporware, causes more problems and confusion then to provide a solution to problems they address. I’ll try to see the brighter side today.
There are some standards that are actually needed. Stupidly, most of them tries to fix some problems that were non-existant before. It’s still good to solve a problem, without thinking about the causes, or who messed it up in the first place:
Thru axles is a nice idea, and it solves 2 problems: one is the one with disc brakes, and the other one is about cup and cone bearing hubs.
QR (Quick release) is quite an old piece of ….technology, first made by Campagnolo. I never liked it a bit, because you are compressing the hub axle. Hub axle and QR skewer are made from different metals. They bend, flex, even shrink at different rates under cold. It is something never designed with a precision in mind. Besides, it’s even dangerous with disk brakes: when you brake, wheels try to remove themselves out of dropouts, which have open ends. For me, open dropouts and disc brakes is a terrible engineering practice, asking for trouble: you’re solely depending a thin skewer to hold this mess in place. A skewer can snap, open up, can get loose, or nut may free up with vibration and drop.These can happen to thru axles too, but much less likely: they have much bigger diameter, therefore they are stronger. They are not dependant on skewer tension, they securely bolt into its place instead. And of course, dropouts are not open. Another good thing about them is, they are built to the frame or the fork, where in QR axles, supplier is the hub manufacturer. It is good to move the liability to the fork or frame maker, as they have to make better frames or forks, which will work with hubs.
So, why did they used open dropouts and QR skewers together? Did it took 2 decades to realise it was wrong? Quite the contrary; it is soo simple to understand. If you go to a machine shop, and tell them to make something like this, they’ll warn you against that. They did it, because they didn’t care much about it, and probably too lazy to change production methods. Don’t know. Maybe it costs them extra $0.00045 on each 1800$ frame.
Another advantage to thru axle is, cup and cone hubs – with QR skewers, you tighten your hub with some play, and when you tighten the QR, it automatically removes the play, and wheels turn perfect as they should. In theory…There is no official way to setup these hubs – no special tools, no advice, nothing. That’s why we have so many bent axles on cup and cone hubs with QR axles, because people tend to tighten QR axles more then needed.
Boost hubs…sort of.
Who makes our bikes? Old riders who learnt welding, or boat builders experiencing with carbon fiber, of course! Who else can it be? They don’t employ engineers, or brainwash them.
Look how much progress they have done: they shortened chainstays to improve road bikes’ agility(!) while trashing comfort, then they decided to put disc brakes to road bikes to weaken the rims. They shaved off 30 grams from rims because rims don’t need braking surfaces anymore, to add at least 100gr brake discs. Brilliant idea. Now they can sell 10x more expensive carbon fiber rims invented in rim brake era, that was delaminating under heat.
Same happened to MTB’s and all others. With shortened wheelbase, SRAM made the unthinkable: looks like idiots before them added at least one unnecessary chainring, so SRAM fixed that mistake. With shortened chainstays and 1x drivetrains, we now have horribly bent chains, thanks to component and bike makers. Now they invented boost: To make up for weakened rims, they enlarged the hubs. And guess what happened ? Wheels are stronger now, but chains bent further. Nice.
Luckily some sane guy thought about boost cranksets. This fixes chainline to a degree, at least to where it sucked in the first place. Net zero improvement.
And we need to change our bikes now. Quite an accomplishment.
So what’s good about it? Well, nothing. It just fixed what disc brakes messed up in the first place. Non-improvement is an improvement in the last decades in bike industry, so I’ll call this a win.
Tubeless tires for MTB
Tubeless tires is a bad idea for road and touring bikes, and equally nice for MTB’s.
They provide better comfort and grip, and save up some precious watts.
MTB tires are thick, heavy and sturdy, and luckily needs low pressure compared to road / touring / hybrid tires, so sealants can really work. Lower the pressure, better they plug. This saves a bit of weight too.
The real big problem about tire sealants are, they set tire balance off. This is not a huge deal with MTB’s: most people stay well under 30 km/h – people I follow on Strava usually have 15 to 20 km/h average with MTB’s. So wheel balance is not a huge problem with them.
There is no denying that electronic groupsets is the future. And I think we’ll see Tourney Di2 in 2 decades, tops.
Reason is obvious: they are more precise, can simplify shifting (if you have a 3×11 groupset, you can just delegate the choosing the best combination, and your electronic groupset works much like a paddle shifter in cars – you don’t have to get the front / back gear combination right)
Surprisingly, electronic groupsets can be more cheaper to produce – they don’t need to craft some high precision ratcheting mechanisms in shifters, just a button and 3-5 electronic components will do the job. We are talking about a 3-4$ PCB & components here – and much cheaper to fabricate tiny, hardened steel miniature parts, and way cheaper then assembling those tiny parts.
Electronic groupsets can be produced to be more “universal” – for example, if you go from 9 to 10 speed, your mechanical shifter won’t work, as the pull ratios are entirely different. But in an electronic groupset, this is super easy to modify, yet no current manufacturer picked that route, and not hard to understand why.
With the invention of new battery chemistries or manufacturing methods, electronic groupsets can also be lighter then the mechanicals. Electronics, when done right, can even remove the need for adjusting derailleurs, or even compensate for very sharp heat differences, where bowden cables elongate or contract to cause misshifts, not to mention worn cables.
In short, electronic groupsets is the future, but I wouldn’t definitely buy one now – Prices are way to high, and they are still immature.
Bigger bore forks
There is no point in making a 28 or 32mm diameter fork legs – a thinner walled, but a bigger bore fork leg would be more prone to flex, and will also be more lighter.
Manufacturers will give you a better product in small incremental steps, as we like to buy things cheap and often, which is not good for the environment. If you are shopping for a fork these days, get a one with a bigger diameter if you can. I don’t expect to see 120mm diameter legs in any time, and there is not much metallurgical advances to make tiny legs with mind-blowing rigidity. Carbon? I’ll pass…