Since the invention of the “safety bicycle” in 1885, there have been few times in history where advances in street bike technology have come as fast as we’ve observed in the last few decades. The changes may not be quite as monumental as the advent of steering, gears, and wheels in the late 1800s, but they may be as important as the growth of the clipless pedal in the 1970s and the advent of the integrated brake/shift lever in 1990 — inventions which changed the way you and I will ride a bicycle for the foreseeable future.
What are the advancements in modern road bike technology which has completely changed how road bicycles operate and perform in the past couple of decades?
Let’s find out.
While many performance-oriented wheeled vehicles changed to disk brakes years ago (such as mountain bikes), the road oriented bike has taken longer to adopt. While cable actuated disc brakes have been available on several cyclocross style bicycles for a while, the first hydraulic disk brake system (similar to what is found on a cruiser bike or higher-end mountain bicycle ) didn’t show up until 2013 when SRAM introduced their Hydro line!
Ever since then, Shimano has jumped in as well, and currently, there are hydraulic brake choices accessible across a selection of component amounts, including those with electronic shifting.
Disc Brake Downsides?
Are there any downsides to disc brakes? Not really, while disc brakes are less aerodynamic and thicker, they do offer performance and convenience benefits over standard caliper brakes.
- A quality disc braking system is typically stronger, more advanced and modulates better than the usual caliper brake. It takes hand power to operate, but weather elements don’t diminish the braking operation. Come wind or rain, pavement or dirt, disc brakes work.
- Disc brakes open up a myriad of choices since it allows the framework of the bike to be built to accommodate a wide array of tire dimensions with little compromise. Some disc brake road bikes can accommodate everything from your standard 700×23 tire up via a wide tire! This is fantastic if you want a bike that rides excellent on dirt or pavement along with looser/rougher surfaces.
- Wheels have become lighter in the appropriate places. Without needing a braking track, disc brake wheels are now constructed with lighter rims.
So, while disk road brakes are not for everyone, they could help provide confidence while opening up new routes for lesser-skilled riders.
Compact 50/34 Chainrings
Supplying lower and simpler to scale gears than the conventional 53/39 chainrings, 50/34 are now the standard on many street bikes.
Additionally, SRAM deserves much credit for making longer cage road derailleurs that allow lower gearing ranges at the rear of the bicycle. When compared with this 39T small front chainring with a 25T back cog that was the most popular low gear on many road bikes not that long ago, a 34 tooth chainring in concert using a 32 tooth rear cog is a lifesaver for many riders when climbing a steep hill!
The net impact of the compact chainring is that street bikes are more comfortable than ever to ride — it takes up less space and creates a pedaling cadence more comfortable for the vast majority of riders.
Though the first electronic shift systems came out in the early 1990s, they had been buggy, and was discontinued after a season or two.
This all changed when Shimano introduced their digital Di2 platform in 2009. With the introduction of Shimano’s Di2, electronic shifting became mainstream, and a system that genuinely improved the way bicycles change gears was born. In addition to Shimano, Campagnolo’s EPS system provides electronic shifting and SRAM introduced its wireless SRAM eTap digital platform in the spring of 2016.
While electronic shifting may seem gimmicky, I can assure you that it is not. As soon as you try it, the benefits pretty clear. Some of these include the ability to change the front derailleur, in ways you would never want to try on mechanical systems.
Now you can also shift at full power, and it will do so nicely. Individuals riding electronic shifting bikes also discovered that they shift more frequently; it takes effort to alter they maintain a more consistent cadence and energy expenditure. This leads to better endurance and cardiovascular performance.
Because the long toss demanded of a mechanical shift lever is absorbed by the electronic push button on a related thing, electronic is much easier on the arm and wrist.
No matter how twisted and tight the cable routing is in the aero bars to the derailleur, it will not matter — the bike will shift great today and the quality won’t degrade in the future. In a word, electronic shifting is simpler.
One more advantage of electronic elements is the effect it has had on expectations and the evolution of traditional shift systems. When of shifting from the systems, the quality was realized, it set a benchmark and ease of use of components in general.
All 3 key component groups have made significant improvements to their shifting (especially in the very front derailleur) of the mechanical classes in the past few decades as they have redesigned derailleurs, cranks, and chainrings dependent on the prerequisites for digital shifting.
I have also noted that digital shifting systems require less upkeep and many of the most modern digital systems are lighter than their mechanical counterparts.
Innovations like range gearing, disc brakes, and electronic shifting have enhanced the experience of bike riding for the masses. It is a great time to be considering buying a brand new bike.