Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bong, bong, bong...

No, that's not what this is about, although one might ask what those engineers and designers were smoking... What that is, is the tolling of the bells signaling the death of the cleanly designed, polished silver road component group - and crankarms specifically. Shimano's Dura Ace was the last hold-out. Some would claim that the 7800 crank with its iconic shape was too chunky, but it grew on me. And it was silver.

Of course you can put together a silver group with various old and new parts from several manufacturers, but the silver "groupset" is a thing of the past. And no, Tiagra doesn't count. This is about high(er)-end groups. Campagnolo went to carbon years ago and even their Record hubs are black (oh how I would love a new Record hub in silver matched up with a nice box-section tubular rim). SRAM jumped onto the road band wagon right away with carbon cranks.

With the introduction of the new 7900 Dura Ace, the bastion of silver cranks has passed. Even Ultegra is now Ultegra SL and colored an Ice Gray. Ice Gray? Sounds cold. I'm sure the new Dura Ace group is fantastic in its function and its intended customer has no idea what 8-speed was, let alone 5 speed, so in that respect, I'm sure they'll hit another home-run.

I do like the fact that they dropped the triple and added a compact crank to the Dura Ace line. I would like to see them add an 11-32 or a 12-32 10-speed cassette, though. I see a lot of road bikes through here still running 9-speed because 9-speed 11-32 and 11-34 are available. And these bikes do already have triples and compacts on them already.

What they did hit a home-run with, in my opinion, is the new brifter with the under-the-bartape cable-run. Finally! A few years ago, I sent an e-mail to the Fulcrum folks in the US. Fulcrum is Campy's Shimano compatible wheel division. Oh sure, they make Campy compatible wheels, but Fulcrum was started to compete with Mavic for the Shimano compatible wheelset market and they chose Fulcrum because if you are a Shimano person, you don't necessarily want Campagnolo on your bike. I mean, sheesh, duh. I thought that since Fulcrum's target customer was folks running Shimano drivetrains that they could kill the brifter market with a Campy shaped/styled/function lever that was perfectly compatible with Shimano drivetrains. So I sent an e-mail to them. Never heard back. I would have bought a set or two.

I'm thinking that the value of this crank has now increased by a huge factor.

(What's playing: Split Enz I Got You)


Guitar Ted said...

Maybe it's just me, but making your component groups look like the ones that came on a Huffy circa 1998 isn't a step forward.

If I spend that much on a crank, I want sparkle, glow, and!

That old Dura Ace crankset is the pinnacle of shimmer and glow as far as I'm concerned. It's just plain beautiful.

blackmountaincycles said...

Oh, don't get me wrong, I think the new DA group is pretty cool looking and is sure to stand out in a crowd. The first guy to outfit his bike with it will sure be the center of attention during his first Sunday outing.

And of course, making your components look similar through out the years won't result in steadily increasing sales. You got to shake it up, make some big changes to grab that instant market share. The road market was definitely put on alert with SRAM Force and now Red. The players won't be sitting idly by - it's a 3-front battle.

But someone had to play devil's advocate with all the fawning over the new Dura Ace...I still like the understated elegance of silver crank ;-)

blackmountaincycles said...

...and with a 110 BCD D-A crank, I'll be we see attempts at turning it into a single speed crank. It will look odd matching up at 34 to that spider shape, though, but it'll happen...

Emily said...

What about Sugino cranks? Pretty high end, and they are all silver. I've always thought they were the cleanest design. Did Sugino abandon the road market entirely for the track crowd, and I just don't know about it yet?

blackmountaincycles said...

Sugino is still a great choice. There just isn't a Sugino "group"