SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

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Cugel
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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Cugel » 10 Feb 2019, 1:33pm

Chris Jeggo wrote:
Brucey wrote:F1 is an interesting analogy ...

....

Buy what you like; no-one really gives a damn. Just don't make out like it makes a big difference; it doesn't.

cheers

+1


Another one to add - although I feel obliged to add a small edit to the above .....

"Buy what the advertman wants you to like; no-one really gives a damn. Just don't make out like it makes a big difference to anything but your fashion-pose&flounce; it doesn't".

I did wonder if in fact those as yet free of the bicycle manufacturer's Svengali mesmerisings should give a damn. After all, these landfill-stuffing, sea-poisoning habits of rabid consumerism are having many dire effects. Buying the latest SRAM baubles and bright shiny beads might be a very small factor in the general despoliation of the planet. Nevertheless ....... such purchases may be indicators of more extensive profligate habits!

Cugel, offending with different sets of purchases.

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Cugel
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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Cugel » 10 Feb 2019, 2:07pm

Samuel D wrote:(snip)

The technology philosopher and historian Lewis Mumford described the 2019 bicycle industry well:

“But once established and perfected, type objects should have a long period of use. No essential improvement in the safety pin has been made since the bronze age. In weaving there has been no essential modification in the loom for over a century. And what is true for machines holds good in no small degree for their products. When the typical form has been achieved, the sooner the machine retreats into the background and becomes a discreetly silent fixture the better. This again flies in the face of most contemporary beliefs. At present, half our gains in technical efficiency are nullified by the annual custom of restyling. Extraordinary ingenuity is exercised by publicity directors and industrial designers in making models that have undergone no essential change look as if they had. In order to hasten style obsolescence, they introduce fake variety in departments where it is irrelevant—not in the interest of order, efficiency, technical perfection, but in the interest of profit and prestige, two very secondary and usually sordid human motives. Instead of lengthening the life of the product and lowering the cost to the user, they raise the cost to the user by shortening the life of the product and causing him to be conscious of mere stylistic tricks that are without any kind of human significance or value. This perversion of technics in our time naturally saps the vitality of real art; first by destroying any sound basis for discrimination and then by taking energy and attention away from those aspects of human experience in which the unique and the personal are supremely important.”

… in 1952 in his book Art and Technics.

SRAM has a large marketing department doing its utmost to destroy any sound basis for discrimination. It works too well.


It's interesting to compare these marketing vs functional maturity things in a different sphere. I'm familiar with woodworking tools, which present a similar but much greater range of functionalities than a bike; and have a similarly long tradition in which the basic functions were long ago identified and the basic designs to fulfill them matured.

There are two marketing strategies, one of which might hold an interesting future parallel for bike stuff.

The first woodworking tool marketing strategy is not unlike the present bicycle manufacturers' strategy - new, improved! Innovate technical design! etcetera. All sorts of spurious gubbins, inclusive of degradation of basic functions, result. There are even fashion cycles in the look of certain tools! I'm sure you can now buy a tablesaw with bluetooth!

But the other marketing strategy takes advantage of those decades in which the above "new-improved" strategy took it's toll. Manufacturers of both the old-fashioned, long-use type, as well as new manufacturers of the "we'll make it right" type have (re)emerged. Their marketing strategy is that old one of making high-function, high-quality tools of high-quality design and materials, made "to last a lifetime".

One remarkable aspect of this is that it makes clear that adopting an ethos of high-function, high quality, long-lasting, tried & tested traditional designs does not exclude innovation. In fact, it can encourage innovation of a very effective kind - the kind that results in genuine improvements and genuinely useful new ways of doing something a bit more efficiently.

Examples of such manufacturers, should you be interested in the details, are: Lee-Valley/Veritas; Lie-Nielsen; Blue Spruce. They all make woodworking tools of the traditional kind familiar to C18th and C19th craftsmen, to a very high standard .... but sometimes with some small innovations that improve the basic function and design via perfection of the original in terms of a tweak to the tools topology or materials - not a redesign and nothing to do with bling or fashion.

They tend, then, to take old-fashioned tools that had many drawbacks (because of limited materials or a poor traditional design) and rework them into the same functional object but without the glitches inherent in an old tool that, say, couldn't use better steels; or had a shape that really can be bettered with the aid of CAD and a modern milling machine.

These manufacturers of traditional tools-done-well-or-better may have corresponding makers in the bike world. Certainly there are frame makers and wheel builders like that. Despite his pushy American-marketing blurb, Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly and Compass bike bits has a similar attitude.

Cugel

thelawnet
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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby thelawnet » 10 Feb 2019, 3:27pm

It's not so much that things need to be high quality and long lasting - there seems to be some merit in 'cheap and nasty' in that perhaps rather than not getting a nice £40 tool you can get one for £1.

I see the tools used by workers on building sites in Indonesia, and they are always very cheap and nasty - measuring tapes are the cheapest possible and replaced when they wear out. This does not encourage much respect for the tools, nor a good product, but when your daily wage is £5 well you're not spending it on nice gear. (And the heirloom sort of stuff is fading away because cheap and nasty mass produced is cheaper.)

Anyway, when you give people the choice of expensive and durable or cheap and flimsy then they will often choose cheap and flimsy.

The real crime with this bicycle stuff is that it's expensive and flimsy, and not only that, it's designed to be so - a handmade frame while not my cup of tea personally, is not going to be plastic waste in a couple of decades. There is no point in having cutting edge kit if you don't scrap it in a few years, that's implicit in buying into this stuff, no matter how much you might delude yourself that you are future-proofing or whatever.

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Bmblbzzz » 10 Feb 2019, 3:34pm

Samuel D wrote:The technology philosopher and historian Lewis Mumford described the 2019 bicycle industry well:

“But once established and perfected, type objects should have a long period of use. No essential improvement in the safety pin has been made since the bronze age. In weaving there has been no essential modification in the loom for over a century. And what is true for machines holds good in no small degree for their products. When the typical form has been achieved, the sooner the machine retreats into the background and becomes a discreetly silent fixture the better. This again flies in the face of most contemporary beliefs. At present, half our gains in technical efficiency are nullified by the annual custom of restyling. Extraordinary ingenuity is exercised by publicity directors and industrial designers in making models that have undergone no essential change look as if they had. In order to hasten style obsolescence, they introduce fake variety in departments where it is irrelevant—not in the interest of order, efficiency, technical perfection, but in the interest of profit and prestige, two very secondary and usually sordid human motives. Instead of lengthening the life of the product and lowering the cost to the user, they raise the cost to the user by shortening the life of the product and causing him to be conscious of mere stylistic tricks that are without any kind of human significance or value. This perversion of technics in our time naturally saps the vitality of real art; first by destroying any sound basis for discrimination and then by taking energy and attention away from those aspects of human experience in which the unique and the personal are supremely important.”

… in 1952 in his book Art and Technics.

Mumford has described just about every industry since 1800 or earlier there. He puts his finger on two themes of product design: cosmetic change for its own sake, and the pursuit of profit over product development.

Aesthetics count. The look, feel, sound and smell of a product are important. This is a human value that goes back further than bikes, industry or agriculture. We can find jewellery, tattooing and cave painting, to give obvious examples, in paleolithic remains. The instinct to beauty is not necessarily counter to longevity or good design, in fact the two should complement each other: functionality without beauty is ugly. Nevertheless, Mumford identifies a strand of aesthetic design - we'll call it cosmetics - which is harmful to function and longevity. Why? Let's move on to the other point then come back and look at this one again.

"...the interest of profit and prestige, two very secondary and usually sordid human motives." Sordid they might be but hardly secondary and definitely not new. Medieval merchants were motivated by a desire for personal wealth and power and accounts dating back thousands of year laud the riches of famous kings (however acquired). But that was wealth acquired by doing and making things; making wealth through products and tangible activities. The situation in which a company that exists ostensibly to manufacture bicycles or beer actually makes most of its money through investments is probably only a couple of hundred years old.

Coming back to detrimental aesthetics, how do we tie these strands together? I'd suggest that where the primary motive of work becomes profit not production, quality and integrity become detached from the manufacturing process. They still exist as moral considerations but are sought for elsewhere. It's the supremacy of accounting over engineering.

Bmblbzzz
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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Bmblbzzz » 10 Feb 2019, 3:36pm

Have I convinced you? No? Well, I don't think I've convinced myself, apart from the first and last sentences.

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby zenitb » 10 Feb 2019, 7:23pm

I am a bicycle brutalist. My bikes look awkward and gawky with mis-matched brands and colours and are plastered with reflective tape, spoke reflectors, unfasionable saddles, multiple lighting systems and lashed on bike locks. My kids are horrified but when I get on the bike and ride the pleasure is instant. My kids bikes are sleek and colour matched and they strongly resist racks, mudguards etc. They are a bit unsure what groupset they have or even how many gears are available but they enjoy riding their bikes (in the dry!!). There is room for both schools I think....

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Samuel D » 12 Feb 2019, 11:44am

thelawnet wrote:There is no point in having cutting edge kit if you don't scrap it in a few years, that's implicit in buying into this stuff […]

Good point.

Bmblbzzz wrote:Aesthetics count. The look, feel, sound and smell of a product are important. […] functionality without beauty is ugly.

I agree, though there are many definitions of beauty. I take the view that the creator of computer-designed, machine-made products ought to have a good reason to depart from a straight line and a circle. Dieter Rams’s ideas still resonate with me.

By contrast, the latest Shimano cranks and derailleurs have arbitrarily sculpted surfaces that look for all the world like a robot’s codpiece. They are Rams’s “impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” The buyers only find these decorations attractive, as they find five-year-old decorations dated and ugly, because they’re conditioned to by heavy exposure to the surrounding culture. There’s little intrinsic beauty in them, unlike, say, a Shimano FC-7400 crank that is timelessly attractive because it is simple, shaped by function, and meets objective criteria of good design or what passes for them.

It’s been an interesting thread although only half of it was about Red eTap AXS. The comments on this CyclingTips article and this Slowtwitch thread show the public reaction to that. There is more criticism than I expected, not that I think that counts for much. This and its descendents will sell well and worry Shimano.

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Bmblbzzz » 12 Feb 2019, 12:42pm

Samuel D wrote:It’s been an interesting thread although only half of it was about Red eTap AXS.

The most interesting threads are not only about one thing, just as the most interesting cycling books are not really about the act of cycling.

I hadn't heard of Dieter Rams. I've only had time to read through his 10 principles, but while they're all good principles I don't think they all need apply all the time to every design. For instance 5, Good design is unobtrusive, and 10, Good design is as little design as possible, both probably make sense when designing the functional and user-interfacing parts of machines and devices, but there is IMO a good place for flamboyant, eye-catching design that does nothing but say "I'm here and I'm pretty, look at me!" The peacock's tail school of design; as long as it doesn't impede desired function, of course (and a peacock can fly). Cycling is as full of this as any other area, from metallic paint to curly stays. Even the shiny surface of the 7400 crank arguably serves no purpose other than looking good - which is itself a function.

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby thelawnet » 12 Feb 2019, 1:20pm

Samuel D wrote:By contrast, the latest Shimano cranks and derailleurs have arbitrarily sculpted surfaces that look for all the world like a robot’s codpiece. They are Rams’s “impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” The buyers only find these decorations attractive, as they find five-year-old decorations dated and ugly, because they’re conditioned to by heavy exposure to the surrounding culture. There’s little intrinsic beauty in them, unlike, say, a Shimano FC-7400 crank that is timelessly attractive because it is simple, shaped by function, and meets objective criteria of good design or what passes for them.



They have been making uglified D-A cranks for about 15 years now

R9100 (2016)

Image

9000 (2012)
Image

7900 (2008)
Image

7800 (2003)
Image

7700 (1996)
Image

7400 (1984)
Image

Brucey
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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Brucey » 12 Feb 2019, 1:33pm

it is interesting to me that the appearance of something is defined by engineering constraints and (increasingly these days) by some arbitrary aesthetic consideration. Most folk know almost nothing about the former so are almost solely informed by their own version of the latter.

FC-7400 was a good crank but it was flawed in the same way as many cranks around that time were; later versions of the crank in 74xx groupsets were different in subtle but important respects.

Just yesterday I was looking at this 1955 Dawes catalogue http://www.veterancycleclublibrary.org.uk/ncl/pics/Dawes%20catalogue%201955%20(V-CC%20Library).pdf which includes
Image

and it is interesting to note that ( by comparison with many modern machines) there would be small differences in the materials used, number of gears etc but fundamentally there would be very little difference in the way these bikes would ride.

The other thing is that is shows how the component manufacturers must be laughing all the way to the bank these days; several of the models in that catalogue came with a singlespeed as standard and the 'upgrade' to gears (be they derailleur or hub gear) cost about another 10%. if you wanted the 'latest thing' -which would be a 5s derailleur instead of a 3s or 4s one at the back- that would cost about the same again. Although alternatives were available, at that time a pull-chain derailleur would have been standard; did anyone ever think of those as an aesthetically beautiful device, I wonder? Within a few years those mechs were nearly all replaced by various parallelogram devices. Most of the design features that you might find in a modern gear (such as a slant/dropped parallelogram, a sprung loaded 'B' pivot, fancy bearings, indexing, widespread use of 'engineering polymers' etc) had been invented and implemented by about 1965, even if they weren't in an easily recognisable form or ubiquitous.

These days we are expected to go into paroxysms of joy at the latest 'products' which add another gear or a button that does something (that you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself some other way). Well you still have to (nay want to, need to) pedal the thing and with your eyes shut it would be difficult to tell from last year's exciting new product. Upthread I think someone contended that 'improvements in equipment' must be responsible for changes in the various speed records over the last century. Well they do make a difference for sure but those differences are vanishingly small; there have been huge improvements in various running records in the same time and those are -like the bulk of the gains in cycling records- due to better training, nutrition, understanding etc, not better equipment per se.

It is as well to remember that 'better equipment' invariably means 'better' in some very specific respect these days. Better for racing (constrained by UCI rules) maybe, better for a specific off-road discipline perhaps. Not always 'better' in every way, so not always 'better' for durability, reverse compatibility, the customer, for the LBS that has to sell it and fix it when it goes wrong, etc. That the appearance is deliberately made different in many 'new products' shows that they don't really have much else to sell, not that is really worthwhile, anyway; styling changes alone sold millions of cars in the 1950s, and may be selling millions of bikes today.

cheers
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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Bmblbzzz » 12 Feb 2019, 1:48pm

Styling changes were selling bikes in the 1950s too. "Fancy lugwork may not make the machine run any easier but it certainly increases pride of ownership," as someone said around 1955.

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby thelawnet » 12 Feb 2019, 4:01pm

Brucey wrote:These days we are expected to go into paroxysms of joy at the latest 'products' which add another gear or a button that does something (that you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself some other way). Well you still have to (nay want to, need to) pedal the thing and with your eyes shut it would be difficult to tell from last year's exciting new product. Upthread I think someone contended that 'improvements in equipment' must be responsible for changes in the various speed records over the last century. Well they do make a difference for sure but those differences are vanishingly small; there have been huge improvements in various running records in the same time and those are -like the bulk of the gains in cycling records- due to better training, nutrition, understanding etc, not better equipment per se.


The 1960 TdF was won in 37.1kph, the 2018 in 40.2kph +8.4% faster than in 1960.

The 1960 Olympic (running) marathon was won in 2:15:16.2 @ 18.7kph, a WR, and the 2018 Berlin marathon 2:01:39 @ 20.8kph +11.2% vs. 1960.

Also the TDF hasn't got any faster in the last 20 years. Cutting-edge bikes from 10 years ago, let alone 20, are viewed as horribly outdated and practically scrap at this point, so you wonder how Lance managed. :wink: Of course in the case where a new bike/groupset is not faster than the old there will be some other reason given why you should buy it - stiffness, comfort, or whatever else they can come up with....

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Bmblbzzz » 12 Feb 2019, 5:39pm

I'm not convinced by those comparisons. A bike that was cutting edge 10 years ago is now, obviously, 10 years old. Everything on it has had 10 years of wear and tear. That shouldn't be enough to render it scrap but does mean it's not in equivalent condition to any brand new bike, whatever its equipment.

As for the Olympic speeds, that's a rarified example with a lot of variables (both legal and illegal). It doesn't apply to most of us. Nor does the assumption that everyone's primary motive is to gain more speed.

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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Brucey » 13 Feb 2019, 2:01pm

the thing is that the trickle down of technology means that you can often buy a bike that is 9/10s as well made as a top of the range model was ten or fifteen years ago, but at a much more competitive price. Eventually certain types of technology are consigned to the bargain basement and may be manufactured so poorly that they are not worth using any more. So for example most hubs for screw-on freewheels (and indeed the freewheels themselves) are so poorly made these days that they are not worth having. And whilst 8s and 9s parts work about as well as they ever have done, you can't easily buy swanky XT cassettes in 8s and 9s any more.

If you buy (say) a Claris groupset today it doesn't work quite as well as a dura-ace 8s groupset did BITD but it is pretty close; definitely worth using.

I happen to think that it is a monstrous waste of resources and money when there is a market which prizes 'the latest thing' so highly, when it clearly has little or no net benefit. But it isn't all bad; the really stupid ideas mostly get filtered out and you are often left with a fair choice of good non-cutting-edge parts which are functional and not too expensive.

cheers
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Re: SRAM new 'AXS' for MTB/road

Postby Bmblbzzz » 13 Feb 2019, 6:24pm

So it's a variant of Moore's law, albeit slower and less dramatic. With bikes, computers, and cars and lots of products, absolute performance measured in some (possibly abstract) way increases, and the same performance becomes available at a much cheaper price. Eventually once-top tech becomes el cheapo and then obsolete, unobtainable; 5-speed freewheels, floppy discs, CRT tvs.