Friday, September 18, 2009

These things go to eleven

I just read that a seven-year-old Nebraska boy shot a hole-in-one. Some might find it astounding that a seven-year-old could do that. I, like Rick Reilly, just shrug my shoulders and say “no big deal.” After all, my late, great aunt, who was herself about the size of a typical seven-year-old boy, shot a hole-in-one when she was in her eighties. I’m pretty sure anyone can do it.

Wanna know something else that anyone can do? Remember a number—just one. Like ten. Or maybe eleven. Or even 42. My daughter is two. She can’t reliably count past five. But she can sure as hell remember the number two if you ask how old she is. She never gets it wrong, and math and counting are still pretty much abstract concepts.

So why on earth can Cadel Evans, a guy who gets paid to ride his bike, not remember something very simple, like how many cogs are in his rear cassette? Are you kidding me? Not only do I know how many cogs are in my rear cassette, but I can tell you how many teeth are on each cog. I know how many spokes are in each wheel, I know how long my stem is, how wide my handlebars are, and I know what my tire pressure is. And I’m just an amateur.

But Cadel—remember his job is to pedal his bicycle, and when necessary, make wheel changes as fast as possible, ideally to a wheel with the proper cassette for his drivetrain—had no freaking clue whether he was running a ten or eleven speed rear end when asked.

As if that weren’t enough, nobody in his team car knew either. So they stopped him to make sure he got the right wheel (something that should have been self-evident with his first shift). Then, after he got gapped on the stage and lost his chance of winning the Vuelta, he had the audacity to say “I don’t deserve this.”

What? You don’t think you deserve this? You deserve this and then some. You have terminal stupidity, and it’s just a matter of time before you succumb.

Of course Campagnolo, the maker of his drivetrain, is not off the hook either. Because how was eleven speed ever a good idea? Any of us that remembers the days when road bikes were called ten speeds probably finds it a bit perplexing that they can cram ten gears where previously only five were present. Ten are more than adequate—why on earth would we even want eleven?

Apparently nobody wanted eleven, and it’s a pseudo innovation they’re trying to force on the market, a technique Shimano previously had a monopoly on with blockbusters like biopace and rapid rise. But Campy wasn’t content to be Euro and exclusive, or to make high-quality components that lasted for years but were still completely rebuildable. They needed to do something pointless as well. Because if there were a point to it, why would the question be asked “ten or eleven?” If eleven were truly better, everyone would be running it, and there would be no need to ask.


  1. Why didn't you include the actual quote? :)

    It's really, really hard to cheer for Cadel when all he does is bitch & complain.

  2. Now, now. This is a family blog. I wasn't going to include the unnecessary rest of Cadel's diatribe. I liked that he said "I do everything right...." Um, no, you don't.

  3. I worked in a bike shop in the late 80's and have been a Campy fan ever since. But I agree what is the point of 11? 20 options seems more than reasonable to me. How many duplicate ratios are there in 20 and how many more in 22? Probably way too many.

  4. Blackdog, agree with you about Campy being solid stuff. I've heard too many mechanics sing its praises to think otherwise. I just think eleven speed was a huge gaffe. They were looking for innovation and went the wrong direction.

    Electronic shifting on the other hand is true innovation. It's way expensive, but in ten years, mechanical shifting on high-end bikes will be as out of place as a square-taper bottom bracket is today. But I expect it to be on the mountain bike that electronic shifting really finds its home, rather than on the road. If Shimano comes out with a 2x10 electronic XTR, it will be all anyone (who can afford it) wants to ride.

  5. Poor Cadel. I feel bad for him.

    I've noticed in professional sports things just don't seem to go right a lot of the time. It must be a tough life. I sure prefer scraping my way along.

  6. I know what my largest and smallest have. An to tell the truth that is recent. Just ride the bike. Getting caught up in gear ratios and the like will make you slower. I know a pro-con team mechanic. He enjoys when the riders ask for a climbing cassette only to get the cassette back post stage with the 2 largest cogs unused. It is the legs that matter. Not the cassette. Except for you one gear q****s

  7. I have a terrible time remembering all the technical details of my bike, but I sure as heck know I run Shimano 10 speed. If I were pro, I think I'd know a bit more.