According to a news story I read the other day, single-speed bikes represent the new wave sweeping the biking world.
As usual, those of us who have kept the faith in the dark ages will be swept aside and forgotten if a fashionable tidal wave rolls in. A spokesperson like Sheldon Brown will pop up and become the new messiah and the rest of us who held onto simple cycles will be indistinguishable from the other wannabes except by our gray hair and scarred shins.
In the 1990s, when Shimano introduced their under-bar shifting in answer to a nonexistent problem, they simply continued a tendency they’d shown since at least the beginning of the 1980s. Their indexed shifting gave them an edge with the gearing-impaired, but the so-called Rapidfire system and the road STI that followed it were a bold move to hijack cycling.
Once gear systems became proprietary, bikes became much more expensive to repair. Since the technology came from Shimano, planned obsolescence was guaranteed.
I blame Shimano’s aggressive business tactics for the collapse of the mountain bike boom. Shimano made sure no one else’s parts worked with theirs, in an effort to corner the bike componentry market. It worked. They’re just about the only game in town. But they turned off most of the cyclists in the process.
Plenty of the remaining riders swear their devotion to Shimano’s products. But plenty of cocaine addicts swear their allegiance to that product as well. In fact, drug dealing may be the perfect model for consumer goods marketing in general. Shimano exemplifies the technique.
It’s pointless to recommend that, if you have shifting at all, it should be friction shifting. It’s true, but too many riders justify the expense and dependency of indexed, convenient shifting systems provided at the whim and indulgence of one corporation.
If you use STI, repeat this mantra: STI am Shimano’s bitch. STI am Shimano’s bitch.