Friday, October 22, 2010


We are told by the world in which we live that the latest new thing is always the greatest new thing. Faster computers, more complicated cellphones, a new and improved way to consume fried grease: whatever’s been most recently developed, using the fanciest contemporary technology is better.

And it’s not like I’m a total Luddite; I shave with a four-blade razor if truth be told—although I haven’t gone all the way to the one with the battery power within.

Still, it does seem to me that, in some cases, new features don’t really represent improvements; manufacturers get to a point in product development where the existing state-of-the-art really is state-of-the-art, and anything else to be added or changed just goes sideways, not necessarily up.

I think this is the case when it comes to a number of different pieces of bicycle technology; no one has really improved upon the handlebar in the last thirty years (even if you can get lighter ones than ever) and it doesn’t seem to me like derailers (especially front derailers) can be made to work better, either.

But the one bike part that I really think reached its apogee a couple decades ago is the seven/eight speed Shimano XT (or Deore, even) thumbshifter, by far and away my favorite shifting system for upright handlebar bikes. Set them in friction mode (as I have on the Hunqapiller) and you’ve got what’s (to my mind, anyway), the perfect way of changing gears on your bike, far superior to any of the trigger or gripshift systems that have come along since them.

What I like best about thumbies is how you can run through your cogs simply by pushing one way with your thumb and then the other by drawing back on your pointer finger. It seems to me that most natural of shifting motions, one that hasn’t been improved upon by any of the latest systems, even though bike product developers keep trying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why use a 4 bladed razor? A double egde is cheaper and shaves closer, and won't nic you if you take the time to learn to use it correctly. It was good enough for your grandfather. Try a Merkur 23c + feather.



3:54 AM  

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