Bicycle Components — What Does Technological Progress Mean?

by Sabinna on July 1, 2011

Technology is created by the young, for the young ” says Daniel Wilson.

Aimed squarely at youth

Even more so

Although maybe not this

It might be about the technology itself or just about getting old and not being as easily able to relate to technological innovations. It’s the sort of thing you could spend some time arguing about.

If you accept that true technological advance is motivated by a youthful market, where does this leave technological “progress” in the bicycle components industry?

Broad-based appeal

One thing that is hard to argue against is that the bicycle has remained quite a simple piece of machinery in a world where more people are saying that bytes have become as important, or even more important, as atoms. Gadgetry, that processes bytes, rules.

Absorb the road

Advancing technology in bicycle components—which certainly also has a degree of gadgetry of sorts—seems to mean generally added style, reduced weight, or energy efficiency. You could say the third is directly connected to to the second, but I’m thinking more about E-bikes and a variety of ergonomic designs with that.

For example the new Cervelo S5 is aerodynamic but a bit heavier than Giant’s 799g for their lightest frame, considering the value of every gram that is shaved off in the weight reduction wars. Reducing drag comes ahead of of reducing weight (project California) in terms of efficiency in this view.

As I’ve mentioned before, solving the battery issue with LEVs will be probably be the key breakthrough for that sector.

There is a lot of this sort of thing about, here a new brake sensor from Leisger via their Shanghai office.

This from another company, not all that elegant, but it can claim to be a step in the direction of more efficient electric drive train systems.

Which Chain is the Lightest?

It’s not the one that you’d think, of course. A trick question.

Everything else seems to point to reducing weight as the way to measure technological progress. “New” or “improved” generally means lighter and every gram shaved off can be claimed to be a technological advance.

Tweaking the model a bit, but not a lot, with this one. The “model” = a transport solution that gets you where you are going in style. Adding to the style and functionality may involve some minor technological innovation.

Tweaking it a bit further with this one.

Would it get you down the hill faster (and) safer?

I finish up with these examples to make a point that technology that serves social ends is probably a better way to measure technological progress. Enhancing people’s experience and pleasure of self-propelled vehicles (自行車) is a very broad way of looking at technological innovation. It’s a good balance, though, to an exclusive focus on weight.

 

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