After some weightier topics of recent Being Frank blogs, let us shift gears to a lighter topic; maybe even toss in some irreverence. Some things are taken too seriously and others are not given adequate consideration. Here is a random list of things that make me scratch my head.
Nearly every bike review includes the bike’s overall weight… but without pedals. Seems that a bike cannot be ridden without pedals, so what good is a bike weight without pedals? Yes, I know performance bikes do not come with pedals from the manufacturer. And yes, pedals are somewhat a personal preference. But they are no more personal than saddles are, and reviewers don’t weigh bikes without saddles! It could be as simple as an “as tested weight” with the pedals used noted.
Why do we have presta valve caps? The presta valve has a nut that locks the valve closed, and there is almost no chance of something entering and clogging the valve when it is closed. Funny though, tire sealant many times clogs the valve from the inside. So, the plastic presta valve caps really have no function… unless you are a matchy-matchy type and like to use colored valve caps for accents. I know someone very well, like the back of my hand, that has even painted valve caps to match his bike! Speaking of plastic covers, if one needs to use them on their $400 carbon cranks to prevent damage from rock strikes, then maybe carbon cranks are not the best choice. Rock strikes are very common for many trail riders, and metal cranks can handle the abuse – especially those great titanium cranks from a company in North Carolina. Carbon fiber is great for many things, but not great for everything.
Mountain bikes with no water bottle cage accommodation don’t make sense to me. Sure, many riders use hydration back or hip-packs, but bottles are still widely used, even preferred by a lot of riders. Have you ever tired to rinse off a wound from a crash with a Camelbak mouthpiece? Yes, a designer’s suspension kinematics can place shocks and links that make two bottles impossible, but there are too many cases to prove that one bottle is possible.
Mountain bikes that are designed for real off-road use that do not have stainless steel headset and bottom bracket bearings are examples of stupid cost-cutting IMHO. The reality is that most bikes do not have stainless steel bearings, and riders don’t know it until the bearings corrode and wear out prematurely. Many times I have seen bearings get destroyed from one nasty ride in mud-soup conditions. And with the popularity of system integration and internally routed cables through headsets (maybe the dumbest feature ever for MTBs), it is harder to access those bearings. More the reason to have bearings that last longer. Again, there is a little company in North Carolina that offers some great headsets and bottom brackets with stainless steel headsets.
Gravel bikes are popular for a number of reasons. A key reason is they open up more ride options and thus more adventure. And that adventure may include water crossings and/or rain. So why do most gravel bikes not have mounts for fenders? If you don’t need or want fenders, you don’t have to install any. But for those riders who do want them, the lack of mounts makes fender use much less practical. There are mounts all over gravel frames for bottle cages, racks, packs, etc., so the lack of fender mounts is perplexing.
Bicycle model years are worthless, disrupt supply, cause unnecessary distress to retailers, confuse consumers, and actually cost money that could be better used elsewhere. The last one is not immediately obvious, but the cost bike companies incur in preparing and launching a new line of bikes each year is staggering. But what’s more staggering is incurring those costs when the new bike model has no fundamental change or improvement. New bikes should be introduced when the are new to the extent of offering more/better rider benefit.
OK, I’ll wrap this up with a fun one. I think it’s hilarious that the bicycle industry is putting all MTB riders, regardless of their size, on the widest handlebars possible. To see someone 5 feet and 115 pounds riding bars wider than motocross great Eli Tomac has on his 225 pound motorcycle with more than 60 hp is truly baffling to me. Yes, wider bars offer more leverage and less kick back, but like with whiskey, there is a point when too much is too much.