Plus Ca Change...

For discussions about bikes and equipment.
Canuk
Posts: 1105
Joined: 4 Oct 2016, 11:43pm

Plus Ca Change...

Postby Canuk » 19 Dec 2018, 1:09pm

I bought my first bike (well my dad did) in 1979. A Carlton 10 speed with 531 main tubes with 27 inch wheels and a plastic saddle. I thought it was amazing. But after a few years I realised it was a big heavy lump of thing that needed lots of maintenance to keep it on the road. The paint chipped very easily (metallic) and the mild steel spoked chrome wheels were a nightmare to clean and and keep true.

Looking at one of my current rides, a Reynolds 953 Rourke with carbon forks and full Dura Ace 7800 group, it struck me that the only similarity with that Carlton was the brake /gear cables and chain. Almost every other part has gone through a complete and radical transformation. And here was me thinking that nothing much had really changed in the intervening 40 years.

I think there's quite a lot of us looking at the past through Rose coloured spectacles.. :wink:

tatanab
Posts: 3629
Joined: 8 Feb 2007, 12:37pm

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby tatanab » 19 Dec 2018, 1:43pm

The equivalent of the Rourke would have been a custom frame by somebody like Shorter or Dave Russell (both trendy at that time), or a myriad of other small builders. Probably in 531SL. Dripping in Campag since Shimano was still climbing the ladder of desirability and of course on aluminium rims with stainless spokes which had only just become commonly available. It would have cost a pretty penny, much like your Rourke.

When I started, 11 years before you, a Carlton 10 was way out of my price bracket as a 16 year old, so I had a gas plumber's tubing Claud Butler. Indeed, the Carlton 10 is very close to what was my first time trial bike - steel rims and all.

rjb
Posts: 3100
Joined: 11 Jan 2007, 10:25am
Location: Somerset (originally 60/70's Plymouth)

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby rjb » 19 Dec 2018, 2:04pm

My first bike arrived when I was 13, in 1965. My dad bought me a Falcon cote d'azur from a local Saturday morning auction. It was a 23" frame - far too big for me despite the use of wooden blocks on the pedals. :lol: I never grew into it and sold it on when I acquired a 21" Harry Quinn through the local cycling club, funded by my paper round.

The falcon was a nice shade of blue, with steel wheels and a campag gran sport 5 speed gear set up. It looked the part at the time, and was the envy of my mates. :) Most of them would have had a Viking Blue Streak with Benelux gears. :lol:
At the last count:- Focus Variado, Peugeot 531 pro, Dawes Discovery Tandem, 2 Dawes Kingpins, Raleigh 20, Falcon K2 MTB dropped bar tourer, On One Pompino, Longstaff trike conversion on a Falcon corsa. :D

amediasatex
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Joined: 2 Nov 2015, 12:51pm
Location: Sunny Devon! just East of the Moor

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby amediasatex » 19 Dec 2018, 3:33pm

Looking at one of my current rides, a Reynolds 953 Rourke


That's in interesting revelation given your tirade against traditional bespoke UK builders of steel bicycles in the other thread ;-)

And here was me thinking that nothing much had really changed in the intervening 40 years.


I was actually thinking about something similar the other day. I've been riding a '65 Carlton Franco Italia as my commuter for the last month or two since my last commuter frame broke. And it struck me how similar it was in some ways and different in others. Either way I've been riding it and the only really perceptible difference in use is the exposed brake cables from the levers, otherwise it's very 'bike' like.

At a Macro level very little has changed, bicycles in general are still pretty much the same shape, they're still (mostly) chain driven, with some gears at the back and some at the front being (mostly) physically pushed by derailleurs, and for the most part their gears are still cable operated, as are their brakes, they have wheels and tyres of pretty much the same dimension, and handlebars in roughly the same shapes as they've always been.

At the Micro level though everything is different, dimensions, materials, subtleties of shape and ergonomics, number of gears and even electric actuation of the derailleurs etc. yet step back and it's still recognisably a bicycle.

Overall people are still riding from place A to place B, by pushing on the pedals and steering with the bars. They face the same challenges they ever did and the biggest barrier to their progress is still having to push the air out of the way.

I guess that's part of the magic of the bicycle, in 100 year's it hasn't changed much, and as a basic machine it likely won't in the next 100, yet at the same time pretty much every part of it will likely be 'different' again by that time.

I wonder how things would compare if you'd been comparing a 70s Rourke to your current one, save a few minor dimensional differences/adaptations wrt. headset/bb/oln I dare say you'd be able to bolt your current (well, 7800 is ~15 years old now!) DA kit onto the 70's frame and vice versa.

hey ho...

Canuk
Posts: 1105
Joined: 4 Oct 2016, 11:43pm

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby Canuk » 19 Dec 2018, 4:19pm

30 years ago when a custom frame build was actually affordable and relevant (£320 for a custom 531 Rourke) nothing much really had changed. STI was just starting to rear its head but most people still used screw cassettes and quill handlebars /7/8b speed set ups. Clip on pedals had begun to take off but I still preferred clips.

It seems incredible now that almost every single part of the bicycle has changed. Hence my brake cables/chain suggestion. I suppose even in the next 10 years the shape of the bicycle might have evolved again, with little remain of today's technology existing in the future. I cb remember being amazed by the very first 7 speed STI unit from Shimano. What a complete revelation. I wonder whats around the corner. Certainly in the aerospace industry, technology that will be available in only a years time seemed absolutely impossible 5 years ago. Progress seems to be accelerating much faster that Moores Law predicted.

I don't mourn the passing of my old 10 speed Carlton, with its flaky paint and chrome steel rims but I can see it as a way marker to the bike of today and likely tomorrow.

amediasatex
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Joined: 2 Nov 2015, 12:51pm
Location: Sunny Devon! just East of the Moor

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby amediasatex » 19 Dec 2018, 4:48pm

Canuk wrote:25 years ago when a custom frame build was actually affordable and relevant (£320 for a custom 531 Rourke) nothing much really had changed. STI was just starting to rear its head but most people still used screw cassettes and quill handlebars /7/8b speed set ups. Clip on pedals had begun to take off but I still preferred clips.

It seems incredible now that almost every single part of the bicycle has changed. Hence my brake cables/chain suggestion. I suppose even in the next 10 years the shape of the bicycle might have evolved again, with little remain of today's technology existing in the future.


I think it's worth remembering that you're looking at the peak end of the market still. When you look at most bikes in circulation, and indeed still many new bikes, freewheels and 7/8 speed transmissions are still very much normal, and the humble quill is alive and well too. Not at the pointy end obviously, but you need to do a like for like comparison.

The high-tech cutting edge end of the market is very different and does move at pace, but it takes time for the trickle down effect, and it doesn't all trickle down. Somethings take a lot longer to become mainstream as well (if they ever do), bolt on stems rather than quill for example where around in the 40s and 50s in France, admittedly bolted to brazed steerers which still used a threaded headset but the concept isn't new, same with press-fit bottom brackets with cartridge bearings (also old tech) and many other 'modern' innovations which are actually just modern executions.

Poor finish and cheap poor quality components are not exclusively a historical thing either, likewise with high quality and complexity, so it's always a good idea to make sure you're comparing old apples with new ones rather than an old orange with a new apple.

There have been a few 'major' changes in bicycle technology history, each with decreasing magnitude in terms of actual effect I think, but a rough list that springs to mind is:

- direct drive to chain driven
- the advent of properly braked wheels
- a move from fixed to freewheel
- a move from single gears to multiple gears
- freewheels to cassettes
- threaded to thread-less headsets
- integrated handlebar shifting solutions
- electronic shifting

It's not an exhaustive list by any means, and you cna move stuff around a bit on it, and many of those major changes are still not complete or universal, and you can see as you go down the list it's more and more 'fiddling with the details' than the fundamentals.

If you took a 2018 bike back to 2018 your great grandfather might marvel at the precision and performance, and the weight and durability if your fantastic future-bike, but he'd still recognise it as a bike, still be able jump on a ride, and he might even work out how to change gear without prompting if he was an inquisitive type. Likewise, you could jump on a 1918 bike and ride with your friends today, it might not be quite as sprightly but ultimately they're both just bikes and work the same. jump forward a few decades and you're already into the reals of interchangeable parts, the wheels on my current bike will fit just find in my 80s bike, it'll have the wrong cassette but event that's easily remedied.

I think there's still more similarities than there are differences, at least as far as the whole goes, the differences are micro-changes and permutations of an otherwise fairly static whole.

Everything changes, yet still it stays the same.

Which parts do you think have undergone a fundamental change rather than mild dimensional changes? I count integrated shifting as a fairly big change, and the move to electronically shifted derailleurs, but most other bits I feel are less so, do you not think?

Canuk
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Joined: 4 Oct 2016, 11:43pm

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby Canuk » 19 Dec 2018, 9:35pm

For me the big improvements have got to be braking, indexed shifting, cassette freewheel, clip less pedals, outboard sealed bottom bracket bearings and carbon fibre frames.

The greatest of those being braking. Anyone remember Weinmann 730 brakes, or Mafac centre pulls? Both absolutely horrible, ineffective brakes, especially on steel rims and even worse in the rain!

mig
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Joined: 19 Oct 2011, 9:39pm

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby mig » 19 Dec 2018, 10:05pm

biggest improvements? tyres.

Canuk
Posts: 1105
Joined: 4 Oct 2016, 11:43pm

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby Canuk » 20 Dec 2018, 6:09am

Semi integrated headsets have been a very good move forward. I don't know how many headsets I went through with traditional ball and race set ups. They were a PITA to set up and I had to regularly adjust them either from too slack to notchy. Shimano improved ball and race headsets no end, but my current Chris King headset just keeps on trucking year after year, even in very harsh winters without as much as a whimper. I only give it a strip down and regrease about once every 18 months.
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iandusud
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Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby iandusud » 20 Dec 2018, 8:16am

Personally I think the threadless headset is an abomination. The idea that you have to preload the bearing to get the play out of it is IMO bad engineering practice. The only situations where bearings are preloaded as a normal procedure is where the assembly is going to heat and expand to remove the preload in normal use (eg Velocette M series engines, some differentials...).

The need to constantly replace balls or adjust threaded headsets is simply down to poor quality components. I have a bike that was fitted with a Campag Record headset 29 years ago. It is ridden regularly in all weathers (in fact it is my bike of choice for wet weather). In all those years I have not had to readjust or regrease the headset. I have another bike fitted with an threadless headset and the only way to remove the play is overtighten it. I must get round to replacing it with a better one.

The reason why most people had bad experiences of threaded headsets is the same reason why threadless headsets are used now. Economics. Manufacturers are looking to save money anywhere they can and would fit the cheapest threaded headset they thought they could get away with for a given model. They now fit threadless headsets because they reduce production cost considerably. The steerer doesn't need to be threaded and assembly is quicker.

I don't doubt that the Chris King headset is great bit of kit but it's not cheap either. On the other hand when I was selling, repairing and building bikes for a living I would always recommend either a Campag headset (expensive) or a Tange Levin headset which cost very little and had really good quality races. Still available at £16.99
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Ian

pwa
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Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby pwa » 20 Dec 2018, 8:40am

I used to have problems with threaded headsets and life has been easier since I said goodbye to them. The only thing I miss is the looks. Together with the forged stems they have a nice slender appearance you can't mimic with the modern arrangement.

My bikes more or less stopped evolving at 9 speed, at which point I felt I could get everything I wanted from a bike and needed nothing more. Okay, an even better saddle might still have eluded me but the rest was sorted. I didn't want any more gears, my brakes were working well and the hubs were running fine. I was too heavy to make losing a little weight off the frame worth thinking about, and lighter wheels would still mean weaker wheels, so I didn't want that either.

My 9 speed bikes are a dream compared to the bikes I was riding in the 70s and 80s, but partly because I moved further upmarket. I moved from the comically rubbish chromed steel wheel rims (chrome as a braking surface!!!!) with rusting galv spokes to ally rims and stainless spokes, and the fusion of Mtb and road stuff gave me a triple chainset combined with a wider range cassette and something like the gear range I needed.

Tyres have got better. Lights have improved more than anything else on a bike. Lights in the 1970s were not fit for purpose. If i had to go shopping for a new bike for me to ride, and magically I could choose between the bike shop I used to frequent in the 1970s or a modern online source like Spa, I would choose the latter without hesitation. I'd get a better bike more suited to my needs.

Canuk
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Joined: 4 Oct 2016, 11:43pm

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby Canuk » 20 Dec 2018, 8:55am

Not only headsets and lighting that have changed dramatically, but for me braking is the big advantage. Even caliper brakes, my Dura Ace stoppers are incredible. Compared to the Weinmann brakes I used in the 80's they are such a quantum leap forward. Disc braking is moving on apace too, with smaller, lighter set ups for road bikes. I reckon you'll be hard pushed to buy a new bike in 18 months time without disc braking. I've disc braking on two bikes now and I really wouldn't want to go back to anything else.

pwa
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Joined: 2 Oct 2011, 8:55pm

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby pwa » 20 Dec 2018, 9:13am

Canuk wrote:Not only headsets and lighting that have changed dramatically, but for me braking is the big advantage. Even caliper brakes, my Dura Ace stoppers are incredible. Compared to the Weinmann brakes I used in the 80's they are such a quantum leap forward. Disc braking is moving on apace too, with smaller, lighter set ups for road bikes. I reckon you'll be hard pushed to buy a new bike in 18 months time without disc braking. I've disc braking on two bikes now and I really wouldn't want to go back to anything else.

I had Weinmann centre pulls on my Falcon Black Diamond in my early teens and combined with the awful chrome rims they were lethal. The first bike I had with confidence inspiring brakes was in the mid 1990s with Shimano dual pivot brakes, which for me were the introduction to good braking.

I've got a rear hydraulic disc brake on a tandem and it is good (if you don't cook it) but I also have very effective canti brakes on CSS tungsten carbide rims and they work as well as I could want and are easier to work on (rarely needed) than disc brakes.

Samuel D
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Location: Paris

Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby Samuel D » 20 Dec 2018, 9:54am

Canuk wrote:Semi integrated headsets have been a very good move forward.

The ‘integrated’ label refers to the cartridge bearings lying in the frame sloppily instead of in precision-made pressed-in cups. Chris King took a very dim view of this (PDF).

‘Semi-integrated’ is an odd label since you can’t have half a cup, but it has come to mean that the head bearings are hidden inside the frame as if bearings, like cables, were shameful things to be kept out of sight. I see no functional benefit to this concealment. A drawback is that the head tube restricts the space available for the bearings unless it’s oversized.

The adoption of cartridge bearings is a functional change but hardly radical. It makes maintenance quicker (cheaper for bike shops) since the term ‘maintenance’ has been stretched to chucking parts in the bin and replacing them wholesale.

The change of stem attachment method from threaded to threadless arrangements could legitimately be called radical. But even then, the head bearing operation is the same as before.

iandusud wrote:Personally I think the threadless headset is an abomination. The idea that you have to preload the bearing to get the play out of it is IMO bad engineering practice. The only situations where bearings are preloaded as a normal procedure is where the assembly is going to heat and expand to remove the preload in normal use (eg Velocette M series engines, some differentials...).

How else would you get play out of a bearing? All head bearings, like other bearings, need preload for proper function. That includes threaded headsets that are loaded by screwing down the threaded race and holding it there with the locknut. I guess you mean something else by “preload” here (maybe just unusually high preload?).

slowster
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Re: Plus Ca Change...

Postby slowster » 20 Dec 2018, 11:48am

The biggest improvement by far over the last 40 years has been the rise in most people's disposable income in the western world.

40 years ago fewer cyclists could afford to buy a top end bike, e.g. 753 from a top framebuilder with corresponding high end components, never mind have multiple high end bikes. Moreover, because such bikes were exotica, those of us on much lower quality, mass produced bikes often did not know what we were missing. If I had known then what I know now, I would have saved harder and longer to buy much better bikes.

The increase in disposable income as a result of the massive global market for non-utility cycling made it viable for the likes of Shimano to invest in R&D and in improving the quality assurance and economies of scale of its manufacturing, in order to make innovations such as STI shifters mainstream even for its most basic groupsets.

Much of that innovation can make riding more enjoyable and/or is essential for serious competitive cycling, but is not always the best option. I think the optimum bike and components for many touring cyclists are not all that different from 40 years ago, and the impact of some innovations is somewhat over-stated.