Shifting (or) The Shimano Conspiracy
Once upon a time there was a company called Suntour, they were a Japanese component manufacturer that competed with but never quite got the market share of their neighbor, the big S. Their high end componentry was beautiful, precise, and in almost all cases simple. The name still exists out there in the bike world but has never meant the same thing since the time of their demise during the shifting battles that heated up in the early 1990′s as the then big 3 of quality bike components Shimano, Campagnola, and the Chrysler of the bunch Suntour all vied to redefine how a racing bike shifted with the levers integrated into the brake levers rather than being mounted on the downtube where a daring reach away from the bars was required to change gears.
Shimano and Campagnola rolled out the early versions of the now ubiquitous STI and Ergo Power, sprung ratchet mechanism that seem to magically move the chain with the flick of a lever. This worked, people loved it and with good reason, you are far more likely to make use of your full range of gears if they can be changed without reaching. Once these components stopped working properly though you were basically at the mercy of the bikeshop to get it going again for you. Sure, it is easy enough to learn how to adjust the deraileur and keep the indexing clicking accurately but what if you are greasephobic and mechanically inept, what if a crash threw your dropout from alignment. In that case you’d be walking till you could find a bike shop that could get it sorted for a hefty bill. This was sure to keep the money flowing back to the shops and to shimano as the new shifters were basically paperweights once the ratchet wore out. You were at their mercy and that replacement part would be sure to cost you a couple hundred bucks.
With the old, simple shifters you could just take it out of index mode and find the gears by ear the way our forefathers did and keep riding. Suntour saw this, Suntour cared about you, Suntour wanted you to keep riding, that is why Suntour had to die; and a conspiracy between Shimano, Campagnola, and their connections to the Yakuza the Cosa Nostra and major bike retailers killed them. They had to die because their solution to the great shifting shift to the brake lever was too simple, it was just a mount that allowed your trusty old downtube shifter to relocate next to the brake lever, the Suntour Command Shifter, the poor man’s STI. Command shifters weren’t sleek, the function didn’t seem like magic, it was just a lever that pulled a cable that moved the derailleur just like they always had. Anyone could figure it out, any old downtube shifter could be used with it, and it worked great. This was pulling the curtain back on the wizard of OZ, this was shouting that the emperor has no clothes, with this product on the market how could anyone be convinced to pay $200 to replace a shifter. So you see how they needed to be silenced, and they were, into bankrupcy and the dustbin of bike history. You can still find some of the parts from their hay day on E-bay, fetching quite a price as relics from the era when a bike company cared about you.
With them out of the way there was nothing standing in the way of Shimano and Campagnola from instituting their evil plot to further the dependence of the cycling public on their yearly planned obsolescent parts. Others have tried in vain stand up to the evil axis and their march toward ultra narrow and easily stretched chains and offensively expensive 11 speed cog sets, namely Chris Kelly, another one that fell before them when he reintroduced the poor man’s STI concept.
Well I have nothing to lose and I won’t stand for it any longer, this year I won’t be running a tightly spaced 10 speed cogset through the mud during cyclo-cross season and worrying that the shifting may begin to fade by mid race forcing me to part with hard earned cash before the next weekend. I’ll be running BBW Dummy Mounted Shifters and a sanely spaced 8 speed cogset and a nice wide chain that won’t wear out in a mere 1000 miles. If you are ready to join the revolution give me a call and I’ll make you a dummy mount to and together we can bring cycling back to the huddled masses.
We’re through the looking glass here people.