On this week’s Paceline we discussed the announcement from Shimano that the new Dura Ace and Ultegra groups would be 12spd and, more surprisingly, electronic only. The future is here, or will be shortly, and it offers ever so slightly smoother shifting and requires a charged battery.
As ever, I feel ambivalence.
Progress is good. If you’ve ridden a Di2 or AXS or EPS-equipped bike, you know that electronic shifting is really nice. It’s fast and accurate, and the way the derailleurs adjust themselves, so you’re not perpetually messing with a barrel adjuster is maybe worth the price of admission all on its own. Maybe.
On the other hand, proprietary systems lock consumers into choices that may or may not pan out in the long term. The future is expensive, and a lot of the functionality is just iterative improvement on what has worked pretty well for most of a decade already. As usual, progress is by inches, not by miles.
Within the industry, folks act as though consumers move en masse to new tech. They see what leaves the warehouse. It’s all the latest product. They don’t see what’s in your garage. They don’t see what you and your friends are riding on a daily basis. This tunnel vision for current and future stuff skews their decision-making about what products still need support, which are still viable. etc.
I’m not saying this influences all their choices in a negative way. They’re paid to be forward-looking. I’m just saying there can be a disconnect between what companies are developing and what riders are ready for. Of course, you will always have early adopters, ready to plonk down their hard-earned on the new thing, but behind them there are layers of consumers five, ten and fifteen years behind the curve who can be left behind in this relentless process.
I’m not mad at Shimano or anyone else trying to make bikes better. I’m just concerned that sometimes big decisions catch riders out at a time when the big picture growth of cycling is at a critical juncture (if it ever isn’t). At some point, what a bike is divorces itself from what a bike has been in a way that means the price to get back in is too steep. See for example, all those mountain bikers on 26″ hardtails who hung onto a bike they loved until the way back in was a $5000 fully-suspended 29er. Those aren’t the same animal. They’re hardly even the same species.
This week’s TCIF asks, how deep you are into new cycling technology? Do you have disc brake bikes? Do you have electronic shifting? Do you have an eBike? Or do you prefer to make do with the latest and greatest from some time ago, the old future? If so, how many years ago, as a guess, would you say your cycling technology is?