An Evolution Of The Bikes We Ride

2014-01-14 07:30:05
Photo by Margus Riga
2014 has arrived and there is something remarkable about this time and place. The world of cycling has evolved through an amazing transformation and where we are is by no means at a final destination. Even in the past few years - a mere percentile of cycling history - leaps and bounds of technological innovation has given cyclists new opportunities and the means of a faster, lighter and more enjoyable riding experience.
In a snapshot if we look at 2010 it seems like yesterday - nothing more of a blink of an eye has passed since this seemingly insignificant date in cycling history. At a closer look though we can see that this was a phase of transition. 2010 was in many ways the year where we started to see the current design philosophy and the heightened sophistication of modern bikes began to emerge.
If you were a consumer back in 2010 looking at the Norco lineup there were a few products that would likely light your fire. The Norco LT 6.1 was sharper than ever, The Team DH had a brand new look and the CRR was the lightest and fastest road bike Norco had ever designed. To the untrained eye one could say that these bikes were very similar to the bikes of 2014. As you dig a little deeper though the key, technological features of these bikes indicate the beginning of major differences found on today's bikes.
Take the LT 6.1 for example. This bike was the last bike designed before Advanced Ride Technology came into play on the 2011 Range. This bike did however have a tapered headtube, improved rear stay yoke design, a 10mm rear axle, integrated ISCG-05 chainguide mounts and a dropper seatpost. This bike was the turning point from a long travel XC bike to the emergence of All Mountain and Enduro riding styles. No the LT did not have a fancy 1x11 drivetrain but it did use the Truvativ Hammerschmidt and while it didn't have a 142 x 12 rear axle, the oversize 10mm axle was a leap forward from a standard quick release. The LT 6.1 was an amazing bike and it still is but as far as present technology goes this was a crucial stepping stone towards what we have today. The 2014 Range Carbon uses many of the same ideas but in a package tuned to a previously inconceivable level. From wheel size to frame material the new Range is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor from only a few years ago.
Similarly if you take the CRR from 2010 and compare it to the new Tactic frame there are some similarities and evolutionary traits that follow a similar situation to the LT and Range. The CRR took both stiffness and compliance into play in its design. The use of a BB30 bottom bracket, integrated seat mast and oversize downtube made for a bike that was stiff under power while remaining comfortable on the bumps of the road. The technology is by no means as advanced or as effective as the Tactic's press fit 30, power chassis, and ARC-Race stays but they were inspired by the same means. Additionally, the use or Thermoplastic Mesh, EPS and HTR technologies in the carbon layup were all means of making a bike that was stronger, stiffer and lighter than with traditional manufacturing techniques. The new SmoothCore and ArmorLite technologies are more effective and make for an even better design. The new advancements in technology make for an even lighter, stiffer and faster road racing machine.
Photos by Margus Riga
It is conceivable to come to the conclusion that bikes have not changed in this short four year window of time. Products of 2014 use different technologies to achieve the same goals as back in 2010. It is incremental change that compounds to revolutionize the face of an industry though. The ride quality is drastically improved with time and a bike today is significantly better than it was only four years ago. Look back even further and this fact becomes even more clear. 10 years ago disk brakes were still catching on, carbon was not cost-effective and mountain bikes could weigh more than 50lbs. Go back 20 years and the results are staggering with cantilever brakes, rigid forks and seemingly neanderthal technologies.
Bikes change at an inordinate speed. It is easy to shrug off the passing time as insignificant but as time flies by innovations never imagined previously become a reality and the performance, price and your ride quality all reap the benefits. Bikes are an amazing piece of engineering and they are only getting better with every passing year! The only true means of appreciating this fact though is to get out and ride. It is the experience that this constant innovation gives us that is miraculous, not the technology itself.