New Tech Cycling - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

New Tech Cycling

Brent Irvine

A few decades ago I found myself buying a bike then upgrading to this bell, that gadget and some kind of whistle - all sorts of bells and whistles (figurative not literal). Then I stopped, thinking, "Wait a minute!" And then continued.

With hindsight I see that some things were hype (at least for me - oval chainrings an example) while others are an essential part of my current gear - my cycling gps, my Arkel panniers, and my keyboard, as examples.

I am more than content with what I have now - bikes, bikes' setup, panniers, and all manner of cycling and touring items.

So, am I stodgy that I cringe at electronic shifting, cyclists 'needing' 10 speed then 11 speed then 12 speed then ...? I don't begrudge others their desire and willingness to explore new tech at all, but get a bit concerned when compatible replacements for my 8 and 9 speed stuff is slowly fading away, even on ebay and pinkbike. I have a stash of extra replacements but we are downsizing in order to move.

This being said, I am not hugely concerned,  but just a slight bit. Change would be ok if required. These are simply Monday morning musings.

Enjoy the eclipse!

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1 month ago
Gregory GarceauTo Brent Irvine

Brent, your Monday morning musings make up my main, maybe misguided, mantra.  

I brag over and over in my journals about how I've resisted the temptations of modern bike technology.  All I need is a basic bicycle, a rack & panniers for carrying my stuff, and a map.  I don't have electronic shifters, hub gearing systems, tires with slime in them, solar chargers, super zoomily-zoom cameras, GPS devices or Go-pros.  And I don't have computers that calculate average rate of speed, heart rate, calories consumed, elevation gain, and degree of ascent.  Even when I was a bike rider in high school, I never bought one of those magnetic things my friends clipped onto their spokes that reported speed and mileage.   

I embrace technology in my regular life, but I've always been proudly lo-tech in my cycling life.  I like the simplicity of getting on the saddle and riding without worrying about cycling statistics.

That said, I'm also a bit of a hypocrite.  I do carry a cell phone while on tour and it takes decent pictures.  I sometimes use the phone's internet capabilities to find motels & campgrounds and to get un-lost.  Also, after my first three tours I started carrying a laptop so I wouldn't have to use library computers to update my journals anymore.  And I mustn't forget my use of the technology that goes into manufacturing bicycles, brakes, chains, derailleurs, wheels, etc.   Perhaps I'm a technology freak after all.  

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1 month ago
Brent IrvineTo Gregory Garceau

I maintain that my musings are mere Monday mayhem, and are not to mark your mind with mixed messages. 

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1 month ago
Bob KoreisTo Brent Irvine

For touring I like components that are not proprietary. Lessens the chance of getting stuck somewhere because the part isn't available or the mechanic isn't familiar with the particular tech. If that makes me a retrogrouch, then so be it.

You might enjoy this video on electronic shifting.

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1 month ago
Mike AylingTo Brent Irvine

A lot of the latest stuff, 11,12 , 13 speed and electronics shifting was designed for racing and the marketing people have convinced many cyclists that they must have the new stuff.

AFAIK a lot of entry level bikes still run 8 speed so there will be plenty of chains, cassettes etc for a long time to come. 8 speed stays in tune for much longer than 9 speed and the higher you go the more tweaking you need unless you go electronic which does seem to work well.

Then you now must have a 1X 12 for touring and not have to worry about a pesky front shifter any longer.

I run 1 X 14, being my Rohloff IGH which has a reputation for reliability. As I ride mainly in my home state in the unlikely event that it breaks down I would simply ship the bike home.If I was touring in Europe there are bike shops on every corner who are able to work on Rohloffs. If in the land of the free and home of the brave it might be a lot different. However if you do an Internet search for Rolloff break downs I doubt you will find any recent ones. Also because you have a straight chain line chains and sprockets last much longer.

I have a seven function computer on my handle bars which tells me my speed and how far I have ridden and I have ridewithgps on my phone in my back pocket which provides me with a map of where I have been. Planning is done on paper maps.

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1 month ago
George HallTo Brent Irvine

Interesting topic, thanks for starting this thread.  I consider myself to be somewhat old school in regards to technology used for touring, but it's all relative.  Most all of us are using advanced technology that would have been considered almost sacrilegious decades ago.  An example; I was still using friction shifting with downtube shifters on my road bike in 2015 - it was only when I built my touring bike that I discovered the joy of index shifting paired with handlebar-level shifters (in my case, bar-end shifters). This "new-fangled" technology is truly game-changing and makes for a more relaxed ride when touring all day.  All I have to do is click the lever 1 notch and the derailleur moves the exact amount required for a gear change - that's amazing!  But it almost felt like I was cheating, because there was no longer an element of skill required to move the lever just the right amount and then to dial it in a bit afterwards.   I think most of you reading this will agree that index shifting is no longer considered a bell and whistle sort of new technology. 

I felt the same way when I discovered disc brakes, but I had absolutely no guilt about using them. They stop so much better and give you so much more control than I ever had with rim brakes, and the safety increase in stopping a heavily loaded touring bike in the rain is certainly worthwhile.  This is especially so with hydraulic discs.  Again, it was 2015 before I experienced disc brakes.  I will never again buy or build a bike that doesn't have disc brakes.  My 1981 Raleigh road bike has rim brakes, and I plan on keeping it and riding it at least occasionally, but all new bikes for me will require disc brakes. Disc brakes were a definite "gimmick" new technology not so long ago. 

I like to use a map and cue sheet and detest looking at a computer screen to navigate a bicycle.  But I will pull out the phone and use the GPS when I get lost, which is something I have proven capable of doing in most states.   I use a small Cateye bike computer to tell me my speed and distance traveled, and I remember the day when this was extremely advanced technology.  I'm not one to load a RWGPS map on my phone and have the phone speak directions to me and call out the turns, but I have done so once when leaving before sunrise on a rural route that involved numerous turns on intersecting county roads, and this worked quite well - without that   technology I would have been fumbling with a headlight trying to illuminate non-existing street signs and read my odometer in the dark to decide which way to go.  So then, I must begrudgingly say that technology can enable us to do things that enhance the touring experience.

Things we consider to be new and unnecessary technology may very well be the norm in a few years.  I have zero interest in electronic shifting for my touring bike and can list many reasons why I think this is a bad idea.  But my brother-in-law uses electronic shifting on his touring bike (he also uses every new gadget that comes along whether it makes sense or not) and he likes it.  I am told by the bicycle gurus, and I believe them, that electronic shifting will soon be the norm for most all classes of bikes, in the same way that indexed shifting and disc brakes have become the norm.  Maybe so, and maybe someday I will have electronic shifting and a computer-controlled algorithm that considers my bicycle load, wind speed and direction, whether I have had coffee that morning and how much beer I consumed the night prior, the steepness of the grade, and automatically selects the best gear for my need.   But I suspect I will stay old school for a long time and change gears myself while enjoying this new-fangled index shifting. 

The "core value" of riding a bike has remained the same for me since I first started cycling as an adult in 1974.  You pedal the bike and it takes you places. Traveling under my own power, experiencing whatever surprises the tour has in store for me, these remain the same now as they were then, and that's why I tour.  This new-fangled technology stuff has changed nothing that matters to me. 

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1 month ago
Paul MulveyTo Brent Irvine

With many other things in life, I'll use it if I see a benefit and value in the new addition. I have a 24-year old titanium road bike with a campy 10 speed transmission and rim brakes. The. technology at that time necessitated a very tight space between the front caliper and tire. And that's when the standard racing tire was 700x20/23. Largest tires I can run are 700x25 - anything larger than that it it's too tall to fit in the front. The bike is still a "magical" ride. Very solid, quick, and a blast to ride. To your point, my front derailleur snapped and I had a hard time finding a Campagnolo Centaur front derailleur. I had to find a used derailleur from another Campy group that worked with the same pull ratio, but it was tough trying to find a replacement part.

My current touring setup includes a 1x11. And I swapped out the 42T chainring in the front for a 30T. I found I was not using several of the smallest cogs because the gearing was just too high. Now, I'm normally cruising along in my third-highest and second-highest gear. I don't have much in the way of speed in downhills, but my lowest gear-inch of around 19" helps me climb the most onerous hills. And not having a front derailleur means easier maintenance. 

But electronic shifting? Other than the fact cables will not stretch and shifting (once dialed in) will be exact for as long as you shift because it's not going to have any variance due to cable stretch, it does mean you'll have to charge batteries every so often. And for touring, we're always looking to keep devices charged. And regarding our Clicking-to-Shift, that is also technology - some of us still remember the friction downtube shifters (and some even learned the "pro" technique of shifting both with just one hand :-))

I recently bought a dedicated GPS for the bike (I'll probably post a video on YouTube for that because it's a reasonably-priced unit and provides the capability I need) and I'm enjoying it. I used an old de-simmed iPhone 6 and downloaded maps since 2021 and that worked well enough, but I couldn't keep the screen on without the battery draining in about an hour. So I turned on the screen at intersections to confirm direction, and that was that.

Other technologies I use - iPhone 11 Pro (provides me connection to people, amenity/lodging/transportation research), iPad (journaling, Netflix, etc), GoPro (video - really impressed with the quality from the unit), Apple Watch (for health and fitness), clip-on aero bar (for headwinds, alternate hand position, and used as front rack to hold the tent), and 20,000MaH battery banks (for keeping everything charged). I'm also going to experiment with a solar panel on the next ride to keep the battery banked charged since I'll be in several wild and remote campsites.

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1 month ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Brent Irvine

I'm not an early adopter of technology but it seems I sure am compared to some.  Before 2013, I owned 3 bikes:  my 1987 Miyata tourer (which was always too big for me, but you couldn't get a non-kiddie bike in my size at the time), a 1988 rigid Rocky Mountain mountain rigid mountain bike (again, it didn't fit me all that well), and a Cramerotti road bike I bought in 1989 or 1990, with a frame I could actually stand over.  All of these had indexed shifting.

Then, in 2012, I did my first long cycling event, the 90 km distance in Ryder Hesjedal's Tour de Victoria.   I rode my Cramerotti, which I hadn't ridden much between 1992 and 2011, due to being pregnant, having small children, work, etc.  I rode my other bikes during that time.  I noticed that everyone else seemed to have a different, more comfortable-looking riding position, with their hands on these big hoods, and they didn't need to move a hand to the downtube to change gears.  I decided I needed a new bike.  I got my Felt road bike in 2013.  Integrated brakes/shifters, check!

Then, in 2014, I spent 8 weeks recovering from an injury that meant no load-bearing on one leg and lots of time on that other site.  As soon as I could stand and get measured, I ordered my Co-Motion Pangea.  Disc brakes!

Then, in 2018, Al said he was going to get himself a titanium bike as a retirement gift to himself.  So my logical response was that I was going to do so too.  His came in a few months, while mine took 15 months, and in the interim we did a trip with him on his new, light, bike and me on my rock-solid but very heavy Pangea.

My titanium bike is fantastic.  I love its electronic shifting and hydraulic disc brakes, not least because my hands aren't getting any stronger as I age.  As for charging, I find the Di2 will go 3 or 4 weeks before charging, and I charge it once it goes below 50%.  It doesn't need much power; I use my 10,000 mAh powerbank and don't even need to worry about placing the bike near an electrical outlet. 

As for number of speeds, as long as the gearing goes low enough and the jumps aren't too big, I'm not fussy.  I get whatever is current in the hopes that spares will be available for the lifetime of my bike.

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1 month ago
Keith AdamsTo Brent Irvine

Horses for courses.  There's a place for fancy new doo dads (*) but in many cases that place gets pushed by marketers into areas where it's less important or possibly even counterproductive. 

I mused on this same subject a couple years ago, much less succinctly than the comments here:

As I've gotten to know my new ride, I feel more strongly with each mile that I chose well.  It's a mix of old and less old ideas, each of which I weighed carefully when making my choices.

(*: ovalized chain rings are nothing new.  Remember the Shimano BioPace components of the early 1980s?  That was my first exposure to the idea, and it seems to crop up again every couple decades.  I bet the BioPace was not the first implementation on the market either.)

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1 month ago
Graham SmithTo Brent Irvine

Brent interesting topic.
In my mind there are numerous genrés of cycling, and ours, cycle-touring is probably the smallest, least recognised of those groups. It follows on that the usefulness (or not) of new cycling technologies is fairly specific to types of cycling, such as cycle-touring, rather than cycling overall.

For example, newish technologies such as electronic shifting and dropper seat-posts may be revolutionary to high speed road riding or downhill mountain biking, but clearly they are almost useless, or at least unnecessary, for long distance, loaded cycle touring where durability and simplicity are essential.

I’ve been cycle touring for over 40 years and my list of  top technical innovations useful for cycle-touring in that time are:

- LED lights and Li rechargeable batteries 

- durable chrome-moly, and titanium pannier racks 

- truly waterproof panniers 

- Durable tyres. Folding with Kevlar layers

- wider gear range especially triple chainrings and wide range cassettes. I don’t have a Rohloff but they are clearly amazing.

- SPD pedals compatible with recessed cleats 

Other than the bike technology, camping technology has improved enormously. Especially with lightweight, water proof tents, jackets and so on. Cycle touring in Australia depends on good camping gear.

Probably the single invention which has become almost indispensable to me for cycle-touring is the mobile, smartphone. I’ve quickly become dependent on that gadget for communication, photography and navigation.

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1 month ago