Re: [CR] Old & new


Example: Production Builders:Cinelli

Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 10:31:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Tom Dalton <tom_s_dalton@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [CR] Old & new
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
In-Reply-To: <3CE8497B.8050502@nonlintec.com>



>One thing you can be absolutely sure of: if some purported technological
>improvement could have been conceived long ago, it was. And, if it's not
>in common use, there's probably a reason for it; most likely, it has
>some kind of flaw that may not be as obvious.

I find people's inability to embrace this notion very distressing. When people think they have some great new insight because they could add feature X to an existing product, they usually have an inflated view of their own genius, or a poor view of humankind's abilities in general. I suppose this is a strong statement, but that's how I see it.

I remember a motorcyclist customer once visiting "my" bike shop and stating that it would only be a matter of time before bikes went to belt drive just like motorcycles had. It was all I could do not to sarcastically say, "wow, I bet nobody has considered that, you sure are smart, and bike engineers sure are dumb." Around the same time a friend of mine told me that he was thinking about trying to develop an electromagnetic vavle system for the internal combustion engine... at the time I wasn't certain that it had been tried before, but my intuition said it had. Of course, certain F1 teams have revived this idea, but I have little doubt that it was first tried within two decades of the invention of the Otto cycle engine.
>The only real improvements come from the infusion of other
>technologies, such as materials.

Particularly materials, I'd say. Suspension forks were around in the a hundred years ago. The recent ones are actually light enough to use on MTBs.

Tom Dalton Bethlehem, PA

Steve Maas <smaas@nonlintec.com> wrote: Mark Poore wrote:
> Thanks Chuck for old vs. new comparison of the Duquesne and Trek. It
> never ceases to amaze me, particularly with bikes, what might seem new
> and innovative had been thought of long ago.

Some years ago, when I was the editor of a technical journal, I occasionally would receive submitted papers that seemed to cover very fundamental material. I would always send these to the oldest reviewer I could find, and invariably he would reply that the same material was published in a paper that appeared decades ago.

One thing you can be absolutely sure of: if some purported technological improvement could have been conceived long ago, it was. And, if it's not in common use, there's probably a reason for it; most likely, it has some kind of flaw that may not be as obvious.

When a technological product (like, for example, the double-triangle bicycle frame) has been around for well over 100 years, it gets pretty well optimized. It reaches a point where all the good ideas have been thought of. The only real improvements come from the infusion of other technologies, such as materials. But that happens much more rarely than most people think, and the point of diminishing returns arrives very quickly. For example, the step from mild steel to, say, 531 is a big one, but from 531 to other alloys is much smaller.

Of course, if you can't create something that's better, you can always create something that's different. Then, you can call it a great improvement, hype it shamelessly, and sell it for big bucks. That doesn't happen with bicycles, though...

Steve Maas
Long Beach, California