Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bike Tech and Seat Masts

The week after a Grand Tour is a depressing time if you are a bike news junkie. Where is the constant stream of info, results, rumors, and tech reports??? Hats off to Trek who used this lull to launch their new Madone design. Velo News has the story. A lot of new innovations packed into one frame, but some of the new tech they are dropping has me thinking....
Are integrated seat masts/post the new integrated headset or the new
biopace? A few years back when integrated headsets came out, doubters
claimed that any improvements would be offest by the chance of the head
tube ovalizing. A few years have past and the integrated headset seems
to be on its way to becoming an industry standard rather than failure. Even the evolution from 1" to 1.125" seems to be continuing with the emergence of 1.5" headtubes that taper to 1.125" for increased rigidity.
This year has had the emergence of the integrated seat mast replacing the
seat post on the highest end bikes. Giant,Scott, Ridley and Look are ahead of the curve on this and it looks like Trek is now jumping in the mix. Benefits are alleged to be a weight reduction and increased stiffness. Disadvantage is cost, difficulty of set up, and inability to make big changes post set up. (You
can avoid cutting down a fork crown if you want to sell the bike later,
this doesn't appear to be an option a seat post.**Trek's design may avoid this flaw)
Will this become the new standard? It seems to add around $500 bucks to the cost of the frame. So assume you don't have to buy a Record seatpost which saves you $140 bucks you are still out at $360 bucks over the cost of a standard frame. A 500 dollar seat post is a tough sell to me. Is it worth the weight savings and headaches? Does it improve power transfer, handling, or stiffness that much? Hard to say, but it is scary how quickly cycling tech is advancing with cost seemingly not an issue. Good news is the good innovations seem to trickle down pretty fast to lower end models.
Another bet the farm innovation is the new oversized bottom bracket with integrated crankset that both Cannondale and Specialized are rocking. In the last few years we have seen the 1.5 head tube, integrated seat mast, oversize bottom bracket, outboard BB bearings, compact cranks, the carbon fibre crank and component in general explosion, the list goes on. How many parts on a bike are left to improve? How long til electric shifting is rolled out? The divide between frame builder and component builder is becoming less clear, and the emergence of other component manufacturers has got to ratchet up the pressure on Campagnolo and Shimano to innovate.
The two biggest criteria I always hear people lusting after are light weight and stiffness. If you have the cash either(and maybe both) can be delivered beyond you expectation and even on a budget you can get them up to or beyond your needs.

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