Better Biking Through Science - CycleBlaze

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Better Biking Through Science

John Pescatore

Reading a few of the bike online magazines, in the past few days I've seen:

  • 3D printed bike seats, where soon you'll be able to sit on a pressure pad in a bike shop and have your tuckus dimension sent to the factory and your custom bike seat will start emerging from a vat of goo.
  • A Shimano patent filing for a gearbox that would be closer to the weight and drag of a derailleur system.
  • Tailights with radar that have wider support from  more bike computers.
  • A "smart stem" that talks to a sensor that could aim the beam of a headlight in the direction you are looking or trigger turn indications.
  • POC helmet coated with a material that generates electricity that will probably be needed to power much of the above.

My first overnight bike trip was 50 years ago as a 12 year old when we strapped sleeping bags to the rear racks on our Schwinn 5 speeds. More gears, lighter sleeping bags and very cool bike computers are the only real difference today when I look at my loaded Trek 520! (Not that I've toured with a sleeping bag any time recently...)

Indexed shifting and disc brakes are innovations since then (actually, my 520 is of mid-90s vintage when it came with STI vs. bar end shifters) - I wonder how many of these innovations will actually stick. It is kind of amazing how long the basic diamond frame/derailleur/spoked wheels/ bike has proven to be hard to beat.

Of course, when I was 7 I went to the World's Fair in Queens NY and saw the Man from Glad flying around in a jet pack and I can still remember thinking "Oh, man - that is what I'll be doing when I'm 17! No one will be driving a car 10 years from now!" That (fewer cars on the road, more drivers up the air) would actually have revolutionized cycling the most!  We would still be wearing helmets but only to protect the tops of our heads from the stuff dropping from sky as all those drivers flew into each other...

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2 months ago
Mike AylingTo John Pescatore

I doubt that the proposed Shimano gearbox would have the durability of a Rohloff or any current shimano igh for that matter.

Brooks management must be quaking in their boots!


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2 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Pescatore

John each and every one of those innovations would be of interest to me if they become available at a reasonable price, although I have always thought of wearing in my Brooks saddles as a type of 3D printing. 

Looking back over 40 years, I think the only really big leap forward in cycling technology has been lighting. Modern lights are superb compared to what was available when I first started cycling.  

Most other components haven't changed much, but the internet and online shopping has opened up a much wider choice of cycle touring gear to us here in the antipodes where the market is tiny compared to Europe, Asia and the USA. This means less bike shops with cycle touring stuff and less choice in the bike shops which do exist. 

Other changes such as disc brakes, STI shifters, better fabrics for clothing, panniers and tents and so on have all been interesting and sometimes hellpful, but not really revolutionary. 

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2 months ago
John PescatoreTo Graham Smith

Graham - I'd say the GPS bikecomputer (really digital maps overall) has had the biggest impact on my overall biking. Back in the 1990-2000s, 3 friends and I would do week long credit card style tours and in 2002 or so it was my turn to plan one, this time going around Lake Champlain. I had just started using a big handheld GPS for hiking and boating and decided to see if I could plan the entire route paper-free: maps on the GPS and all motel reservations made over the Internet.

Had to use clunky Garmin software for routing, there was no such thing as Google Earth or satellite view but  luckily there are not that many road choices when circumnavigating a big lake. I had made one screwup around Plattsburgh but it all went pain-free.

Now for group rides, charity rides, commercial tours, etc it is all pretty much download a route file vs. print a cue sheet and if you miss a turn it is so easy to recover. I guess the first revolution was the software on the phone replacing that clunky handheld GPS mounted on my bars but the Garmin/Wahoo devices have brought it to the next level.

For a 5 day ride from Venice FL to Jacksonville in January, amazingly easier to plan and essentially "fly" the route in advance. I used to carry the paper as a backup,  now the maps on a phone can act as a backup. I find I'm still packing the paper - it is like backing up your PC to avoid hard drive crashes...

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2 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Pescatore

John that's a good call. Yes electronic navigation. I'll vote for that as a science and tech generated giant leap forward for cycle tourers.

I've have been an on-again, off-again fan of GPS units, but I am a certified addict to Smart Phones. Not just for navigation via map apps, but also for the camera, booking accommodation, managing money on tour, doing journals etc etc.

On my last few cycle tours, the Smart Phone camera has totally replaced the venerable compact digital camera. 

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2 months ago