16 Bike Standards That Really Annoy Us

by 15

New standards seem to come and go with steady regularity in the mountain bike world. That’s to be expected though. Given the relatively young age of the sport, there is no doubt plenty of areas for improvement that engineers are constantly assessing in search for ‘lighter, stronger and better’.

Some of these changing standards have been born out of a clear recognition of the old standard’s weakness. A change that was envisioned by some bright spark that has left everyone else scratching their heads and thinking “this makes complete sense – why didn’t we come up with this earlier?“. Other changes have crept into the industry for reasons that are less clear to us. Reasons that may have little to do with either need or practicality.

Of course technological progression is not possible without change, and that change can sometimes be painful and frustrating. And expensive.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 16 different standards in the bike world that really grind our gears. Standards that may very well have totally valid engineering data to back them up, but are nonetheless frustrating when you’re in the workshop trying to fit something that don’t wanna fit.

1. 35mm handlebars & stems

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub 35mm
35mm diameter bars. Makes engineering sense, may start WW3.

We’ve already gone through one handlebar diameter upsize debacle in the past, but it appears we’re in the midst of going through another one now. The 35mm handlebar diameter (vs 31.8mm and 25.4mm beforehand), is supposed to offer additional strength and stiffness for the super-wide handlebars that are currently in fashion.

This may indeed make engineering sense, but having tested numerous 35mm setups in recent times, we’re not convinced the difference is worth the headache. Swapping around bars and stems has suddenly become a really irritating experience, and fitting front lights has also been met with much swearing.

On a purely aesthetic note, 35mm bars and stems look kinda odd too, which is largely due to the fact that we’re mostly still relying on skinny 1 1/8in steerer tubes. Dare we say that if the industry wants to push 35mm bars, then perhaps we should have pursued 1.5in steerers when they looked like they would take over? Controversial…

2. Different sized bolts for grips, stem, shifters and brake levers

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub tool allen key torx
So easy to work on!

Ok so this is a universally disliked standard. How many different tools do you require for the cockpit on your bike? Chances are you’ll need a T25 Torx key for the brake levers, a 4mm and a 5mm for the stem and headset, a 2.5mm hex key for the lock-on grips, and if you’re running a remote lockout or a dropper post lever, throw a 3mm key in for good measure.

Can we please have one size for all?

3. Torx bolts

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
Know what we’re torxing about?

On the note of bolts, Torx bolt heads require their own listing. It’s not that we’re against the functionality of the Torx standard, and indeed they are tougher and more resistant to rounding out. But are allen key heads really that bad? Are they difficult enough to use for the average person to therefore warrant having a whole other set of tools in the backpack and in the workshop?

4. Headset sizes

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
This may be enough for a lower headset cup.

If you buy a complete bike out of a shop, then a headset may not be high on the list of things that irritate you. If you’re building up a frame from scratch however, this is a standard that will surely have you clenching your fists in a burst of anger at some point or another. Headset standards have long been a tricky topic, and that was before tapered head tubes came along. Now, it’s a complete cluster-f**k.

Just ask any bike shop mechanic how many different headset bearings and crown races they have to keep in stock, and that’ll give you some idea of the daily head-banging that must go on when it comes time to sort out that slightly notchy lower headset bearing.

5. Derailleur hangers

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
We tried to list the number of different hangers available, but it’s like 10 to the power of something something.

While you’re in you local bike workshop, ask to see the ‘Wheels Manufacturing Derailleur Hanger Guide’. It’s a poster with about a gazillion different images of derailleur hangers on it, which mechanics use to identify a specific hanger for a specific bike. Not only do different brands have proprietary hangers, but 99.99% of the time they also have different hangers between models. This may not be annoying to you if you’ve never broken a hanger, but what mountain biker hasn’t broken one?

Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine a utopia where there is one derailleur hanger standard.

Total. Utter. Bliss.

6. Seatpost diameters

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
The industry has improved here, but can we have one seat post size please?

Right now, things aren’t so bad in the seat post world. Rewind a few years, and there were a kerbillion different diameters available that meant some frames had basically proprietary seat post sizes. Things have settled down somewhat lately, and it seems we’ve currently got three popular sizes: 27.2mm, 30.9mm and 31.6mm. But can we just have one please?

7. Bottom bracket standards

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
The fact that BB adapters even exist is all the evidence we need.

This is a popular one for the haters – bottom bracket standards. Urgh. Most BB standards on the market have some kind of reasoning behind them, whether it’s a PF30 shell that allows for a larger junction around the bottom bracket, or a threaded external BB that means you can easily fit it and remove it from the frame. Just like headsets though, it can be a total PITA when it comes time to sourcing replacements. And that’s before you even get into different crank axle standards…

8. Chainring bolt patterns

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
“One of these, is not like the other one, one…”, nah who are we kidding – they’re all different.

Like the idea of easily swapping chainrings from bike-to-bike, or in preparation for a weekend away riding where you’ll be wanting lower gearing? Be prepared to search high and low for the correct chainring for your crankset, because there’s like 8 zillion different sizes. 94 BCD, 96BCD, 104 BCD, 120 BCD, SRAM direct-mount, Cannondale direct-mount, RaceFace Cinch, regular offset, Boost offset, round, oval, narrow wide, tooth counts, colours – the list goes on, and on, and on…

For the most part, direct mount is an excellent idea for 1x cranksets, but lets pick one standard and stick to it eh?

9. Replaceable flat pedal pins

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
Pins are like the derailleur hanger of the bike world. There are far too many different types available.

For the shredders and the tearers, replacing pins on flat pedals is part of routine maintenance. They’re a vulnerable little piece of metal, and at some point they’re going to be introduced to some rocks on the trail. But when it comes time to replace them, do you call up your local bike shop and just ask for a pack of generic pedal pins? No you don’t, because THEY DON’T EXIST. One size fits all would be totes amazing. Let’s get on it pedal manufacturing peeps.

10. Hub standards

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
Hub standards – where do you sit on this one?

Like bottom bracket sizes, hub standards are the fodder of internet forum hatred all through the webisphere. Boost hub spacing has been the latest change in hub standardisation, with front hubs going out to 110mm wide, and rear hubs pushing out to 148mm wide. There are sound reasons behind this widening process, and the result does make a difference in a number of ways. And on top of that, Boost will soon become the standard for hubs, whether any of us like it or not.

But Boost cops a lot of hate, mostly from people who own expensive carbon wheelsets built up for regular QR15 forks and 142x12mm frame dropouts. Learning that your mega-pricy carbon hoops are apparently now out of date? That is below average news.

11. Spokes

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub spoke wrench tool
Q: How many mechanics does it take to acquire enough spokes, nipples and tools to fix a new mountain bike wheel?

Different sized spokes have been around for as long as there have been bicycles, but that’s not the reason for their inclusion in this list. It isn’t spoke lengths that are so much the issue, but more so spoke sizes and shapes that get our blood boiling. Then you’ve got different nipples, different spoke keys, and special tools that hold onto round straight-pull spokes that want to turn whenever you try to tension them…

Like derailleur hangers and flat pedal pins, spokes should be an easy to replace item. Because – oh my gosh! – they break.

12. 6-Bolt vs Centrelock disc brake rotors

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
We can live with either standard, but both?

There seems to be equal appreciation for both 6-bolt and Centerlock rotors in the Singletrack Office. And chances are most people reading this will prefer one standard over the other. We won’t go into detail as to why the two standards exist, because all we care about is the fact that it is a mega pain in the arse when you go to fit a set of brake rotors to a wheelset that turns out to have the wrong rotor mount.

One rotor mount to rule them all!

13. RockShox Torque Cap dropouts

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
Good for its intended purpose, but highly irritating for 97% of the population.

This is quite a specific standard, but it affects anyone who owns a newish RockShox fork like a Pike or Yari. The Torque Cap design isn’t immediately apparent, as it’s a standard that is essentially compatible with existing thru-axle front hubs. Compared to pretty much every other thru-axle fork on the market, Torque Cap uses an oversized recess on the inside of the fork dropouts. But why?

The design first came about with the upside down RS-1 fork, where a huge Predictive Steering front hub is required to add the necessary stiffness to the individual stanchions. The Predictive Steering hub measures in at 110x15mm, which sounds like a Boost hub, but it’s not. It isn’t a regular Boost hub because it uses enormous 27mm end caps, which nestle up against a larger recess on the inside of the RS-1 fork dropouts. The result is a very stiff and strong structure, which is good.

What’s bad however, is that RockShox has carried this design over to its regular forks. Unless you’re using a SRAM Torque Cap front hub, the result is that you end up with the hub floating around in space before you can thread the axle through when you’re putting the front wheel back on. And that, our friends, is a complete and total pain in the rectum that gets our eyes twitching.

14. Shoe sizing

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
We love cycling shoes, but we’d love them more if the sizing wasn’t a game of fortune.

Right. Shoe sizing. So we’re not necessarily talking about shoes with a different width or a different overall fit. What we’re talking about here is shoe length. What should be a relatively straightforward measurement, turns out to be completely different from brand to brand. Ever tried on one brand’s 43, and found you’re more like a 45 in another brand? What the heck is that about?!

15. Rear shock hardware

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
Shock hardware is important. But how many different sizes do there have to be?

Another one for bike shop mechanics and those who fettle in their garage. The new Metric shock sizing system is the first sign of progress towards ending this madness, though the Metric shock sizing is more largely to do with consolidating the number of shock strokes and eye-to-eye lengths, which there are far too many of. Even once you’ve got the right shock though, you’re going to need the right hardware to fit your frame.

First choose 6mm or 8mm bolt holes, then turn all the lights off in your living room, put saucepans over your shoes, attempt to run around until you bang your head on something, get up, then think of the first number that comes to your throbbing head to two decimal places. You may have discovered the correct mounting hardware for your frame. Or it might be about .2mm too wide, so then you’re shit out of luck.

16. Light brackets

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub
A universal light bracket sounds like fantasy land. But we want to go there.

We don’t change our lights very often, but when we do, we really wish they all used the same freaking mounting bracket. Imagine if you could easily lend a spare light to a mate for a night ride? Or simply swap race lights during a 24-hour event? Or just simply source a replacement from any bike shop when you realise your current bracket is broken? Nope, sorry, no can do bud.

So, have we got all the annoying standards in the list? What have we missed? What grinds your gears about your current bike or a bike you’re looking at buying?

Tell us in the comments section below – the healing starts now!

Comments (15)

  1. Good to see you’re still using the crappy T25 wrench you got free with that other bike magazine! 🙂

  2. Aha – so that explains why it’s all rounded-out 🙂

  3. Lock on grip collars and grips – odi seem to be different to everyone else, why do I have to check the grip tube will work with the collars I’ve got?

  4. 15mm bolt through. WTF was wrong with 20mm. Nothing except Fox wanted their own standard. Then Rockshox basically gave in resulting in a better standard basically being killed off and me needing new wheels if I want to change my fork. Fork right off

  5. Boost! As someone who rides with their heels in, heal clearance on chainstays has always been an issue for me, and thanks to boost, it’s now an even bigger issue!
    Boost is the devils hub standard!!

  6. “Dare we say that if the industry wants to push 35mm bars, then perhaps we should have pursued 1.5in steerers when they looked like they would take over? ”
    But then you’d only get what? a 50/55mm stem as the shortest option?

  7. haha – brilliant [crying with laughter]

  8. “Chances are you’ll need a T25 Torx key for the brake levers.. and if you’re running a remote lockout or a dropper post lever, throw a 3mm key in for good measure.”

    ..and the photograph immediately below shows the opposite – a 4mm allen key for brakes and a T25 Torx for the dropper 😉

    Although to be fair Sram have now gone T25 for both and with the right clamp just one bolt removes my brake, shifter and dropper without having to remove the grips

    Probably should have given up after 12, can’t say light brackets really bother me too much

  9. CLEATS ! shimano is different to look is different to crank bros is different to time is different to egg beaters…

    and

    PADS – as many different disk brake pad designs as there are hangers, even the manufacturers can’t make their minds up in their own product range (yes you avid)

    AAAAARRRGGGHHHH

  10. 15mm axles. How many times were we told it’s lighter? But mostly, it wasn’t. I remember an MBR article that said “lighter” about 4 times but had a photo of the parts on scales showing the 20mm was lighter. My 36s? Convertible, and 20mm is lighter. (as are the hubs in 20mm mode).

    And then almost immediately after winning the standards war and having bullshit 15mm take over, out comes Boost. Boost which of course is 110mm wide, same as 20mm.

    And people kept saying “Oh, it’s choice, let teh buyer decide”. And the buyer did- but it’s not us that buys most of the forks, it’s Trek, Giant and Specialized.

  11. But I’m pretty sure that SRAM Guide brakes use a mix of Torx and Hex across the lever and caliper. If Torx are better just use them for everything…

  12. Stems that use two different sizes of Allen keys to undo, or anything that uses 2mm Allen keys.

  13. I’m all for a good moan but you guys are part of the problem…. far from decrying yet another standard being introduced by the bike industry, you go on telling us that it’s the best thing since slice bread and an abolsute must have… And beignthe gullible fools that we are, we roll with it and spend our hard earned cash on something which is unlikely to work any better than the standard it replaces.

    In the last 5 years alone I apparently need bigger wheels, wider hubs, bigger bars, shorter stems, wider rims, single rings, wide range cassette….. and that’s just the bits that don’t involve changing my Oh so retro alloy frame….

    As if mountain biking wasn’t expensive enough anyway.

  14. OK, OK, I’ll take the bait. Wheels. There, it’s said.

    Seriously, the abandonment of 26″ wheels is the only change in standards that has bothered me ever. I’d bottled that away, but you dear STW have just uncapped the bottle 😆

  15. Actually on the Metric shocks and hardware you’re going to see that 30*8 becomes very dominant in the shock hardware sizing I expect, as thats the new ‘standard’ for the bearing mounts RS are pushing, and others will follow. Which will make life easier.

Leave a Reply