I’ve written before about the changing standards in the mountain bike world, but I didn’t spend much time in that post discussing bottom brackets. They’ve gone through changes too, like so many other components.
A lot of those changes have improved strength and performance, but I’m not convinced that the current standard is an improvement. And a recent product development meant to “fix” the issues with that standard is making me think I’m right.
A quick review though;
The bottom bracket shell on all bikes used to have threads on either side. You threaded a cup onto one side, slid the spindle in, then threaded a cup on the other side. Then cartridge bottom brackets came along – they had the spindle and one cup as a unit. You threaded that into the frame, and put a cup in the other side to hold it in place. No finnicky tightening and re-tightening was required in order to get the tension just right.
In other words, no expertise required.
The Specialized Hardrock.
Now, I just found this bike on kijiji, so if you happen to be selling it, please know that I’m not saying that your Hardrock is the ugliest bike ever. It looks like your bike is rather smartly set up to roll around town, and that’s fine.
In fact, it’s not even really the Hardrock that’s the ugliest bike ever, it’s this style of bike that’s ugly.
Actually, it’s not even this style, it’s the thinking behind it.
I’ve just never been a big fan of Specialized. I’ve owned three of them over the years, but all were purchased on snap decisions. I can honestly say that I’ve never lusted after a Specialized. The very idea is comical to me in fact. They are now the largest bicycle company in the world, and are even less lust-worthy than ever before.
We’re going to dig deep into Specialized here, so you may want to get yourself settled with a snack or a drink before you begin.
1997 Specialized Stumpjumper M2
Specialized is of course known for being among the first to mass produce a mountain bike, the seminal Stumpjumper. I do have to give credit for them maintaining the Stumpjumper all these years – although it’s not same bike at all. Rocky Mountain built the Blizzard for 31 years, and it was still steel at the end, but the current Stumpjumper is a aluminum carbon fully suspended hardtail 29er 650b.
I’ll explain that later.
What I didn’t know though, (and this comes from Wikipedia so have those large grains of salt handy) is that Specialized founder Mike Sinyard just bought a Fisher/Ritchey in 1980 or whenever it was, shipped it off to a factory in Taiwan, and said ‘copy it.’
Full disclosure; this is what the Wikipedia article says;
The first Stumpjumper was produced in Japan and was based on a design for a custom-made bike originally marketed by Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher and Charles Kelly
I read that as ‘Sinyard had a Ritchey copied’ but I could see how that’s not necessarily what happened.
This is something that a lot of companies do, and I have no idea why. I’ve never seen any reasonable explanation for it.
What happens in the world of bicycles though, is if someone tries something, and it sells, then everyone else does it too. Because it must be good, right?
Take a look at this stem;