Friday, October 13, 2006

That's Good Bad

Peering into the depths of a Shimano Nexave shifter yesterday, the whole issue resolved into one crystalline concept:

Don't mistake an impressive piece of engineering for a good piece of equipment.

Engineers are given parameters. They're told to make a device do certain things. That doesn't mean the qualities they were asked to provide were chosen well in the first place. Take Rapid Rise, for instance. Rapid Rise describes what my lunch does whenever I see a derailleur in which the spring operates opposite to the normal way.

The only good Rapid Rise derailleur is a dead Rapid Rise derailleur. In most cases, when the RR derailleur suffers its terminal injury, the rider notices little difference when I put on a normal one. The shifter operates in the opposite direction, but the new motion soon becomes a reflex. Only if the shifter has a gear indicator will the rider be reminded that things ever worked another way.

Maynard Hershon wrote, more than a decade ago, that he loved his STI road shifters because he didn't want the shift levers on his late-twentieth-century racing bike held in place "with a nineteenth-century wingnut."

Not afflicted with such technological vanity, I'm still getting a lot of mileage out of the wingnut concept, here in the twenty-first century. Show me something good, truly good for the long haul, and I will embrace it. Show me clever, proprietary gadgets and I will admire how they are put together on your bike.

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