It started with another broken bike frame. A routine trip to the garage to fettle bikes went from being a pleasant evening beer with my bike, to several beers and bemoaning my lot in ten seconds flat.
It had snapped. My wonderful trustworthy frame had snapped. It’s under warranty I remembered, and the swing-arm could be replaced. The next day I rang a real person, in a real shop and they got it sorted. Like in the old days, when customer service was a thing and people talked to each other to help each other out. The next evening, I took down a 12 month old frame and decided to switch components over to it from the broken bike, so I had something to ride in the meantime. Oh how wrong I was going to be.
Tools out, nitrile gloves on, beer open. Strip the frame. Check the chain – over 0.75 – it goes on the dead pile as does the cassette. I should pay more attention to that. Wheels off and set aside. Brakes off – pads are worn, onto the dead pile. Forks, chainrings, cranks, everything off and assessed – surprising amount of stuff in the dead pile now, I think, as I throw the crash shredded grips on it too.
Pick up old frame – seatpost won’t fit in it. Rummage for old seatpost, remember I gave it to someone, and write seatpost on the whiteboard. Remember to be less kind next time. Clamp the frame to the workstand and smear some grease in the threaded bottom bracket, then realise the snapped frame has a press-fit bottom bracket. Grab a spare threaded version and cranks. Pick up chainrings and go to fit them.
Wonder why the 94BCD chainring won’t fit the 94BCD cranks in front of me. Realise someone has machined them so they won’t fit another manufacturers cranks. Get angry. Throw strop. Add chainrings to the whiteboard.
And so it goes on. The brakes need an adapter to clear the frame. The forks are tapered and the new frame’s headset won’t fit, as the headset needed for the 12 month old frame is an obscure ‘standard’ that was in fashion for six months and now isn’t. I’m now at a point where I have most of the various bits for a bike. A third of them fit, half of them are obsolete, and the remaining consumables are worn out.
Now there is a dichotomy here. I don’t mind bits of my bike wearing out. Chains, pads and cassettes are consumables. If they wear out it means they are doing their job, being ridden, and if I am honest, not being treated very well in the process either. On a cost per kilometre basis I get very good use from them – I’m ok with them having a finite life. However, I’d like to be able to replace them – just those bits, not everything they are attached to – when they are toast. When chainrings wear out, I want to replace chainrings, not whole chainsets.
We’ve reached a situation within the bike industry where we have standard upon standard upon standard, and these standards are competing to be on every bike – but not providing any form of longevity, or compatibility with regards to spares. It really irks me in these days of social consciousness and eco-friendly jam jar drinking pubs that we end up with a situation where manufacturers are building obsoleteness into the very core of what we do. Sure, no one wants things to wear out, and everyone needs to sell things to exist, but please have some consistency in how you design things.
But this leads to a bigger problem than just the proliferation of pointless proprietary products – one of waste. I’m hopefully not the only one who refuses to replace entire chainsets when I just need chainrings, despite it being cheaper to do so via NamelessOnlineShop™.
I now have a simple choice. Shell out for another crankset when all I want are chainrings; or wait until my new swingarm arrives.
If you want me, I’ll be riding my singlespeed while I wait for that swingam to turn up.