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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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