One of the things I've always loved about bicycles is their functional simplicity. There's not much fluff on a bike; every component is present for a reason, and - generally speaking - that reason is to direct and amplify the human body's effort to move forward. Feet connect to pedals, pedals to chain, chain to wheel, wheel to pavement. It doesn't get much more simple than that. Bicycles need nothing except a rider to complete them.
And so it seems almost outlandish to read a sentence like this:
Campy says future firmwear updates may speed the derailleur's reaction.
This was a comment in the latest issue of Bicycling Magazine, taken from a brief review of Campagnolo's Record EPS gruppo (which, for the non-cyclist, is the group of components that form the drivetrain for the bike: the shifters, derailleurs, gears, etc.). The hot new thing in cycling is electronic shifting, where a touch of a button relieves the rider from the dreariness of having to touch a lever to change gears.
You know me. I'm hardly a Luddite. But...seriously? Do we really need bicycles that need batteries and - heaven help us - firmware updates? Isn't it enough that our TV sets and coffee makers now have firmware?
Some of my fondest cycling memories were of riding my old single speed bike up and down the street in front our house in Fort Stockton, attempting to hit the coaster brake at just the right instant when my rear tire was directly on top of a flattened soft drink can, in order to elicit a barely controlled skid that not only sounded like an out-of-control threshing machine, but would also generate a flurry of sparks to rival any fireworks show. OK, I made that last part up, but in my mind, sparks were flying.
Such simple pleasures. Can you actually duplicate those things on a bicycle costing $15,000 (which was the price of the test bike in the article mentioned above)? I think not.
Really. Electronic shifting on a bicycle. This is progress?
Umm. I'll let you know how it works. ;-)