Purpose of website and brief description
The bike industry is in danger of turning out a lot of non standard stuff we won't be able to maintain. Too many speeds. Too many new fads. Remember Biopace cranks? So this website started out to be an attempt to question some of the madness by documenting parts availability and standards.
But I've got to admit, I'm still not sure who cares. What type of people? What type of bikes? This document breaks out some of those questions into separate chapters.
The audiences are as follows:
- bike enthusiast who wants to configure a touring/commuter bike
- someone who is looking at certain bike models and wants to survey availability of replacement parts.
My understanding of who would be interested is changing as I learn. I know that I, myself have always been interested in how bikes go together. But who else? There definitely are people who are building up bikes and researching this information. So they are probably looking at Surly.
So now I'm thinking that the audience somebody who commutes regularly and is an experienced bike owner. There are numerous YouTube videos of people talking about the stuff on their bike. Those are the type that would browse through an encyclopedia.
For example someone who commutes every day and may do weekend trips. Someone who has already had to replace numerous parts on previous bikes. The question then is:
This website is for the person who regularly uses a bike for commuting and touring. As you may know, if you use your bike regularly in rain or dust, you'll end up having to replace the cassettes, crank rings, chains, bottom brackets, brake parts, cables. And you often end up buying different wheels or changing the handlebar stem or seat post. To replace any of these parts requires knowing how things fit together. Yet these days I came across numerous mechanics who told me there are "no standards".
They are wrong. Although there certainly are models that are non standard, there are still numerous quality standard bikes available. Standard wheels, seat posts, stems, dropout widths, standard brakes, and standard drive trains. This website is all about those standard bikes and components. It explains those interfaces, and then gives you a means of quickly seeing what is available.
Of course you can try to research all these specs on the web. But it takes too much time because the info is disorganized. There is no easy database where you can filter what is available according to any key criteria. In the course of this project, I've had numerous discussions where people make statements such as "3 ring cranksets are dead". It's all 2x or 1x nowdays. Yet when I put all the currently available Shimano Cranksets into a database, I quickly saw there are in fact lots of good "3x" cranksets.
While doing this project, I found out that it's quite common to have bikes built up on demand, rather than just taking a whole package. For example, there are many shops that take a frame like the Surly trucker and then give you a whole bunch of options as to what components you want. Or they will just assemble it with the components listed on the Surly website. For most quality bikes, the key interfaces are published in the specs. Some websites like Surly specify all the frame specs directly. Other bikes list standard components, and by looking up the components you can derive the frame specs. So that is what I did in the "Bike Models" table. Every bike has about 50 fields. For each component, there are usually 2 or 3 key dimensions you need to know. So I explain those dimensions. I tell you what you need to know to look up parts availability or to specify the part. There were a few cases where I had to ask the manufacturer. And even a case or two where the manufacturer couldn't answer the question. Those are the bikes you want to avoid! One guy told me it would be a huge amount of work for him to find out what the hub spacing was on their latest model. I told him to imagine he was a customer looking for the information. I'm not sure it fully dawned on him that if HE can't find the answers easily, that makes the task all that much more valuable. The internet is full of forum websites where people are trying to figure that stuff out.
If you've got a standard frame such as a Surly trucker, you can get the store to outfit your bike with all sorts of different options. You can specify everything from a 3x8 drivetrain to a Rolloff internal hub. The whole bike doesn't need to cost more than $2000. If you are building a touring bike the thing you want is easily replaceable parts. A good 3x8 drive train is every bit as efficient and smooth as the latest 11 or 12 cog cassettes in the long haul. Yet a good 3x8 drive train is less than 1/3 the maintenance cost of some 1x12 drive train.
One way to think about a bike purchase is to select a given frame with standard interfaces, and then specify a sensible set of components. There are shops that do just that. This website is the same idea. In the end you may choose to have a custom bike built up, or you may purchase an entire bike that already has standard components.
What I'm doing is explaining the key interfaces between components, and then giving you a database to look up appropriate parts.
For example, if you regularly use your bike in the rain, you can easily find out how much it's going to cost you to replace your drive train components each year. I know numerous regular commuters who have spent more than $600 a year to keep their commuter bike in good shape. Yet by selecting a bike with a more basic drive train, the cost can be reduced to less than $150. There are $12 chains and there are $50 chains. There are $25 cassettes and there are $150 cassettes.
This website will let you figure out what it's going to cost. And how easy it will be to get parts.
This website has two things:
1. Explanation of the main interfaces
2. Databases of available parts
Here are some things you could do:
- compare the key specs for a number of standard bikes
- look up how much it will cost to replace the drive train
- figure out what parts could be used on your current bike
For example, if you were looking at a given bike, you might want to quickly investigate the availability of replacement chains, wheels, stems, cranksets.
The idea is to figure out how easy it will be to get parts for a given model of bike.
This website explains the important interfaces between the main components on a standard bike. For example, what are the standard dimensions you need to know to buy a replacement wheel.
if you need a new rear wheel, you can list all the wheels available, and filter the list to the ones that will fit your bike.
In order that you know what to specify, there is a master document which describes the standard measurements for each item. For example, to buy a wheel you need to know the dropout width, rim diameter, and brake type. If you already know these things, you can directly search and see what is available.
These days there are some really great videos on Youtube that explain how the different parts fit together. So I link to these videos in explaining each of the key interfaces.
Wheel to frame Interface
Brake mount type
Stem to frame Interface
This started a couple of years ago when kept running into cases where people were spending 400 a year getting their drive trains overhauled. Every year after winter commuting their entire drive train: cassette, chain and crank rings would need replacing. And furthermore, there were lots of people that used to be able to do their own maintenance, but now indexed shifting, more special tools, and the problem of procuring the right parts had made it beyond what they wanted to do. So the bicycle was turning into an expensive means of transport.
I think we can do better. The increasing proliferation of non standard parts, egged on by the marketing departments should be questioned. Is it really the right idea to replace the 3x8 drive train and the standard hub clearances with all sorts of new hub spacings, and 1x drive trains with 11 or 12 cogs on the back? I think not. So I started to look into the whole subject. The first step was to research and document the standards. So I assembled all this information into what amounted to a small book. The main emphasis is to talk about the standards, as opposed to detailed descriptions of how to do repairs. But I found that there were many high quality videos on Youtube that illustrated how things went together, and so I started including those in the document.
The next stage was to start putting small tables of available parts into the document. That was fine, but always limited. So the next and current step is to build little databases for the key parts, and let the reader investigate themselves. So what we now have is little report writers for all the key components. And to tie it all together, a database of standards based bikes (touring and gravel bikes) in which all the interface specs can be collected and compared.
But I found that just documenting the standards wasn't enough. What was needed was to make actual databases of the parts that were