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.
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1 February 2006

Speeding up Windows—Startup Items

Any computer running Windows tends to slow down after a while under the weight of accumulated rubbish most of us install. Disk defragmenting and Cleanup tools are provided by Microsoft under Start Menu_All Programs_Accessories_Sytem Tools, and whilst they may not be as good as some commercial alternatives, they're good enough for most of us.

Harder to seek out and destroy are the numerous little startup items that load into the background of your machine. Some of these are essential, but many of them can be useless bloatware, or worse, spyware nasties. It's easy enough to look at what's running by going to Start Menu_Run and typing msconfig to bring up the System Configuration Utility. Under the Startup tab you'll see a long list of items, but how do you tell what you do and don't need?

Some software vendors helpfully give their startup items logical names. The Skype application, for example, is simply called Skype. Others are not so helpful. On my system are a whole raft of Microsoft items with names such as TINTSETP.

Help is at hand, at the marvelous Network Techs website. You can just type the name of the startup item you're not sure about into their search engine and find out what it is, and most importantly, whether you need it. That's definitely one to bookmark.
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