Friday, May 29, 2015

Overly Complicated Dipping Mechanism

Over the last couple years Shimano has been responsible for some serious technological innovations and honestly, they are not all bad.  Sure, I have bitched and complained about hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes but paired with their Di2 shifting system, and it makes for a pretty rad ride. I mean, they are still completely unnecessary and will eventually get someone killed, but if you have a fuck ton of money that you don't know what to do with and are not completely brain dead then they might just work for you.


Meaning, these things stop on a dime; far faster than the average cyclist (the opposite of who it was intended for, yet the sole consumer demographic) is used to which is likely to become problematic.
After installing the tried and true off-road version on my mountain bike, I noticed some clear similarities between the two that led me to the conclusion that someone is going to get hurt with these brakes. Not because the brakes themselves are inherently dangerous or anything like that but given the fact that most of the ass hats who will be using them still cannot close a quick release properly,


I hold little hope that they will know how to use all of this stopping power. The problem lies in the fact that they don't really modulate like cable brakes. Not to say that they don't modulate at all, just they are two totally different feeling brakes.

Now, I don't know about you, but on the trail, I have had some "oh shit!" moments where I cram on my brakes. Usually slower speeds around corners, etc... but not much of a big deal. The brakes I had modulated fine, they just didn't stop fast. So upgrading from Shimano "non series" brakes to their XT line with ICE Tech rotors, those "oh shit!" moments became so exacerbated that I had to rethink how much brake I was using. If I lay lightly into the lever and control it, they work flawlessly but it if I give it a quick stab, it immediately breaks loose of traction under the front wheel. That's not an issue of function rather user error so I need to get my shit together and stop braking so much.

But, if I know that, and am still working on it then that is fine. Yet, I can see this unfolding in a pace line with a bunch of spindly legged Freds fresh off of their second ride of the year who cannot keep a consistent speed or line. You are doomed when some clown in front of you has a mechanical failure at 25 mph like, oh let's say a crank arm shearing off whilst still attached to their shoe via an SPD pedal.  In this Purely hypothetical* scenario Fred #2 (riding like a clown as well) reaches Pucker Factor 5 - when it happens so fast it whistles - in about a millisecond and goes over the handle bars because he grabbed his brake too quickly. 

*the opposite of that

 Honestly, I cannot hold that against Shimano I mean, people asked for stopping power and Shimano gave it to them. It's not Shimano's fault that people are too stupid to use good judgement. What I can hold against them is their new cable system used on the Dura Ace and Ultegra 11 speed models. Harkening back to the days when cable manufactures were finding new ways to sell you an old thing, coated cables are making a comeback,

 
...and they totally blow.

Designed to reduce sliding friction inside the housings, these cables cost over six times as much as a regular derailleur cable.


Much like a coated guitar string, the coating wears and in some cases, frays leaving all that crap falling off. Having it fall off inside a housing will certainly create drag where there was little to none. Gore cables did a similar thing and I feel the same way about them as well but it should be noted that it is completely reasonable to suggest that a regular ($3) cable can be used in its place with little difference. What I am insinuating here is that in a reasonable setting; average Joe and his carbon Wunderbike would never know the difference. Proving the market to which they are sold is largely uninformed and I maintain that things like this exist because they are a "solution" to their own problems, that is to say, as shifters "evolved" so too did the way we made them operate; both good and bad which led to things like a more jacked up parallelogram in the rear derailleur. 

Now, the cable has to conform to such ridiculous angular bearing, that nosed ferrules are required to keep the cable from going to crap...


Which it will anyway. Plus, the new 4mm cable anchors wreck the cables the first or second time you pinch them down.

And you wouldn't really need to reduce drag in a cable if the routing wasn't stupid.  


Sure we used to break a lot of cables back when they exited the front inside of the shifter, but they left the lever in a straight line and were basically frictionless. Those were some of the best ever shifting bikes. If you maintained your bike in like, ever, you would have replaced those cables once a year and been just fine. I understand all of this was in an effort to get both "the 11th gear," and "frictionless shifting" but I don't have to like it. The new stuff is nice... honest! It shifts great and the feel at the lever is the best it has ever been. 

But I just built this for a customer for less than half the price of a show room [Name Brand], [Name Brand], or [Name Brand]. Not only was the price right, but I would rate the ride quality as awesome,


and I defy you to find a better shifting group for a bike like this. I built a dude an affordable "first road bike" that shifts better than half the crap out there right now. 
 And it only goes to 9.