"CW asks" is a feature series where our seasoned staff answers a range of questions. The series isn't just about delivering knowledge; it's a chance for us to share a bit of our personality and our passion with you. As we dive into some questions, please feel free to send in some questions of your own to email@example.com.
Question 19: What has been the best invention in modern cycling?
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan, Digital Editor
I hate myself as I type the words: Smart Trainers.
Let's be honest, road bike technology has come on in incremental shuffles over the last decade. Electronic shifting: nice to have, tubeless tires: nice to have, gears up to 12: nice to have - but in reality, we're still riding around on double diamond frames with round wheels and (mostly) derailleur gears.
Indoor training, by comparison, is almost unrecognisable.
When I first started cycling, we were pounding away at the pedals to The Sufferfest videos (still love them, by the way) and guestimating our RPE based on how much the sweat was obscuring the screen. Now, we can race friends (and foes), crest realistic climbs; hell, people are even taking 'coffee stops' on four hour indoor rides (though you will still not catch me spending more than 2-hours cycling indoors).
Indoor riding is an entirely different experience now compared to a decade ago. One could argue this is to the determent of ye olde winter club run, and possibly even to the handling skills that emerge come spring racing. However, whatever way you look at it, people are riding more and harder all winter, and they're enjoying it.
Anne-Marije Rook, North American Editor
Electronic shifting and GPS computers are two innovations I enjoy day in and day out.
(I know I’m old when I say that) I remember the days of Mapquest, printed cue sheets, memorizing landmarks, and taping directions onto my top tube – only to then constantly stare at my odometer to make sure I wouldn’t miss my turn.
While this fostered a strong sense of local knowledge and engagement with one’s surroundings, I much prefer the convenience of GPS computers. I’ve traveled a fair bit over the years, and GPS computers truly revolutionized the experience of riding in new places. In tandem with services like Ride with GPS, Kamoot and Strava, one can now find excellent biking routes just about anywhere in the world and simply load them onto one’s computer of choice and go! In gravel riding especially, I heavily rely on my computer for safe and reliable navigation.
I was an electronic shifting convert as soon as I first got to play with SRAM’s eTap system back in the fall of 2015. Effortless, precise and instantaneous gear changes at a literal click of the button – what’s not to like? And no cables means no more cable stretch, no more messing with the barrel adjuster and safer bike travel as one can simply remove the derailleurs for protection. I know folks worry about the batteries, but in all my time riding bikes equipped with electronic shifting, I’ve only run out of battery a handful of times. And this is, of course, easily solved by carrying a spare battery.
Innovations in cycling are often small, but looking back over the past two decades (–excluding Mavic’s Zap technology here–), electronic shifting stands out as a transformative technology that has redefined the standards of performance, precision, and yes, even the aesthetics of gear shifting.
Sam Gupta, Video Manager
I guess it’s less of an invention and more of a discovery thanks to R&D and testing, but wider rubber on the roads is great. Thanks to more tire options, disc brakes allowing for more clearance and wider internal rim widths, it’s made for mechanical suspension which serves the masses of road cyclists.
We can now enjoy better grip, lower rolling resistance, and more comfort. You don’t have to spend the earth to get the benefit and it makes road cycling so much better compared to how it was 5 -10 years ago.
Adam Becket, Senior News and Features Writer
I’m good at directions. That’s a brag. I rarely get lost, and I love exploring. However, I love my bike computer, and its ability to tell me where to go - should I plot a route. I also love knowing the time, how far I’ve gone, and what speed I’m going at. I cannot understand what people did in a pre-Wahoo or Garmin age. Did they carry a paper map with them? Did they wear a regular watch? I will never understand.
When I first started cycling, I didn’t have a computer, and frequently just went too far, or cycled for too long, or couldn’t keep track of time, and so I love that all the information I could ever need is there. And when I need to follow a route, whether that’s because I’m with my club or at an event, I can follow it simply. It is a whole new world.
Tom Thewlis - News and Features Writer
I’d probably say GPS bike computers for a couple of reasons but mainly because of the way in which you can so easily download new routes from an app like Strava and simply upload them onto your computer before checking them out.
I’ve recently moved house and had never really ridden in my new area before. I was very much starting from scratch in terms of my local riding as I didn’t really know anywhere but that soon changed.
Via Strava and my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, I soon discovered a handful of different routes which I now use regularly and really enjoy. It’s weird to imagine not having a computer now after so many years with one.
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- Ride of a lifetime: If you had just one ride left in you where would it be and with whom?
- Who is the greatest cyclist of all time?
- Ride indoors or brave the elements outdoors: how will you tackle the winter season?
- The great sock debate: do socks go over or under leg warmers?
- Tubeless vs. tubed tires on the road?
- SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo? Here's what our staff prefers and why
- What's the 'right' tire width for road and gravel riding?
- What cycling-related items are on our experts' Christmas wish lists?
- Carbon rim brakes, bar ends and straightforward headsets: cycling tech of old we miss
- What are the silliest UCI rules that should be done away with?
- Five bike parts to invest in, and five things to cheap out on
- What's the sweet spot to spend on a bike?
- What are some bike hacks you continue to use?
- Bike bells: a useful tool or dispensable noise makers?
Got questions -- silly or serious-- you'd like for us to tackle? Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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