19 February 2006

Shimano bike components are a joke!

Once upon a time I was a serious cyclist. That was before the fractured kneecap, inflamed plicas, pot belly and so on. And 20 years ago I acquired a couple of top of the line bicycles. My road bike was the bee’s knees—hand built Reynolds 531 SL frame, Campagnolo Super Record Groupset and Suntour Superbe brakes. It was sold to a happy owner long ago. Still in my possession is my time trial bike, a Kettler, handmade in Germany from very early aluminium teardrop tubing and fully equipped with top-of-the-line Shimano aerodynamic gear. Because I used this bike only against the clock I stripped off every unnecessary part, including most of the cogs, so it now has 2 front cogs and a rear cluster of only 3. Low gears not necessary when sprinting or when young.

So after a break of more than a dozen years from cycling I’ve decided to take it up again to accompany my 9 year old on his flash new aluminium framed Giant. And unsurprisingly, there are a few parts on my bike which could use a refresh. Most notably, the rubber brake hoods are withered, the brake cables are rather stiff and the shoes seem to have hardened up. So down to the bike shop I go to get a few replacement parts, only to discover that Shimano stop making them after 5 years or so. The mechanisms may be in perfect working order, but as far as Shimano are concerned, you need to buy new ones. Even the brake shoes are not replaceable any more. That’s great customer support, eh? Compare that with Campagnolo, Italy’s major component manufacturer. I have an old track bike I bought as a novelty item. It’s in lovely condition but is about 50 years old. Even so, spare parts are still available because it’s equipped with Campagnolo Record components.

Problem is, when you walk into a bike shop, almost every bike is equipped with Shimano components. And they look very trendy and beguiling to the unwary, but you won’t catch me buying them again.

And speaking of Bike Shops, I went into Super Elliots in Adelaide today, and was greeted by some of the most arrogant service I have ever seen. I asked about rubber brake lever covers, and the young bloke scoffs at me and says “That bike’s older than I am.” Yes mate, so am I, but I bet both my bike and I work better than you do. He then suggests I just buy replacement levers for $20, and shows me some for $60, so clearly numbers were not his forte either. Then he just looks dismissive and grunts “Just buy a new bike, mate”. I told him about Campagnolo and spare parts, and he went into a great diatribe about how out-of-date they were, and how great Shimano gear is. That must be why top line racing bikes use Campagnolo, then. I can see why bike shops like Shimano though—all their customers have to buy new bikes after 5 or 10 years when all they need is a set of brake shoes or rubber hoods.

So a great big raspberry to Super Elliots and Shimano.
Go to eebahgum!


Carl said...

absolutely. I bought Shimano on my last two rode bikes -- the first cause I couldn't get Campy clicks then, and the second because I didn't think my wheels from bike 1 would work with the new one.

Not next time. Campy for me

Anonymous said...

Thats because campy hasn't changed in 50 years. Shimano has been changing and improving where as if you look at a 10 year old campy groupset not alot has changed at all.

eebahgum! said...

Hey, anon. Thanks for commenting. I too used to be beguiled by the latest Shimano whizz-bang advances, until I realised from experience that new features were driven more by marketing than (usually) by real technical advances. Look at all those 'cool' centre-pull aero brake mechanisms Shimano brought out in the 70s and 80s. I still have a couple of sets, and they look great, but it's all gone back to side-pull these days.

Campy do change and update their ranges, and new campy gear is much more advanced than the old. But guess what, the old stuff still works and you can still usually get parts for it. My track bike was heavily raced in the early 50s and its Campag Record hubs, bottom bracket and headset are as good as new. In fact, better than most brand new bikes.

As the old saying goes, though it's rarely applied to bike parts, "fashion is temporary, but style is eternal".

Dechert said...

nice share...keep it up...

Big Ocean Fish