Calling for some real innovation!

Calling for some real innovation!

April 1, 2020: This is the time of year when we take a break from the daily news and look at areas where real progress is possible in bicycle design. Forget marginal gains – today we’re looking for revolutionary ideas!

The industry likes to crow about disc brakes and carbon frames, but when you really think about it, bikes have not evolved much at all since the 1890s. The very first Paris-Brest-Paris was won on a bike similar to the Humber above, and yet most of the Humber’s features have been carried over almost unchanged to the latest ‘high-tech wonders’!

Looking at a current top-of-the-line bike, you’d be forgiven to think that it dates from the 1890s. Has time really stood still for more than a century? Just consider:

The wheels are still round! How boring. In the past, with rim brakes, you needed round rims to keep the brake pads on the rims, but those days are long behind us. Octagonal wheels may be a bit bumpy, but why not elliptical ones that smooth out your pedal strokes?

The tires are still filled with air! For more than a century, flat tires have been the bane of cyclists’ existence. And still no relief? More than 100 years ago, Germans already invented an airless wheel. Why not update this with carbon fiber?

The diamond frame still reigns supreme! The 1890s Humber has the same frame configuration as the modern carbon bike: Top tube, down tube, seat tube in a triangle, and the rear stays in a second triangle.

Why so little imagination? Already during the 1990s, Trek’s Y-Foil showed the way forward: more aero (maybe), much cooler (maybe) and just a bit heavier – what is not to like? The UCI outlawed the Y-Foil, but it’s not like we adhere to the UCI tire limit of 33 mm on our gravel bikes…

Spokes are still made from steel! Come on – when will we finally give up the little pieces of wire that tie together our wheels? Spinergy showed the way during the early ’90s, and even ultra-retrogrouch Grant Petersen predicted back then that spoked wheels were going to be passé in just a decade. What happened?

Retro rules again: In recent years, bike makers have dusted off ancient technology, rather than move forward with true innovation. Here are some examples:

Sloping top tubes:  They fell out of fashion 100 years ago, but some builders just can’t get with the program. And lately, they’ve been making a resurgence. Incredible!

Bikepacking: Strapping bags to the frame was just a first attempt of carrying a load, before racks were invented. Now we’re back to the roots, I guess.

One-by drivetrains: The old Humber had a single front chainring, because that’s all they could imagine back then. By the 1930s, we had doubles and triples, later came quads and even the occasional quintuple crankset (above), but now we’re back to single rings. Less complicated maybe, but what about progress?

Chains: In fact, the whole idea of derailleurs that bend the chain to get to a different gear ratio is positively archaic. More than a century ago, inventors already had developed bikes with shaft drive and separate gearboxes. A decade later, even cars adopted that technology. At the same time, bikes reverted to the old chain drive. When will we finally catch up again?

Seriously, bike industry folks, is this the best you can do? You’d think that with modern innovations like 3D printing and crowd sourcing, we could finally come up with some truly new ideas!

Or is the bicycle simply almost unimprovable?

Share this post

Comments (68)

  • Iain

    lol… did this go up a day early 😉

    Recumbents are largely ignored with regarding innovation – but look at the options there! Also, there are belt drives, gearboxes in the hub and or the bottom bracket, advances in e-bikes.

    Additionally the same could be said for the petrol car. we have got rid of the carburettor but cars today are very similar to cars 50+ years ago.

    March 30, 2020 at 4:19 pm
  • Fred Lee

    You forgot to mention handlebars. Why haven’t bikes moved to the steering wheel now common in motor-carriages?

    March 30, 2020 at 4:49 pm
    • Furst Lasst

      And our rock-hard saddles. Especially surprising omission for a publication/store that specializes in long-distance cycling. Some kind of bucket seat like on a vintage touring car would win.

      Maybe introduce steering wheels and bucket seats first on TdF and other long-distance race bikes, and then the technology can “trickle down” to the rest of us?

      April 1, 2020 at 9:12 am
  • Jacob Musha

    Two serious comments: 1) Biopace chainrings deserve another look (wrongly-oriented modern oval chainrings aside.)

    2) If Rene Herse were making bikes today, would he still be using steel for frames? Or would he be making molded carbon frames with integrated carbon fenders, racks, etc. I’m curious to see what’s possible in that direction.

    March 30, 2020 at 5:56 pm
    • craig

      agreed the biogroove is nice

      April 1, 2020 at 9:43 am
  • Dennis D Ketterling

    Wait a minute! It’s still March!

    March 30, 2020 at 6:08 pm
  • Steve Palincsar

    Isn’t this Wednesday’s blog post? Posted a couple of days early. I know it’s hard to believe it’s still March – this March seems to have lasted a year already.

    March 30, 2020 at 7:16 pm
    • Jan Heine

      Yes, the post accidentally went up briefly a day early… A joke within a joke? At least one of the jokes is on me!

      April 1, 2020 at 12:04 am
  • Jim Kukula

    The Pinion 18 speed bottom bracket gear box – that’s pretty good thinking!

    March 30, 2020 at 8:33 pm
    • andy huang

      Jim! We meet again, under different circumstances. Hope all is well there.

      Keeping in context, I will note that I proposed a carbon fiber spoke, but my advisor was skeptical given that CF was not so easy to access in 1974.

      April 1, 2020 at 7:48 pm
  • Alan Bergamini

    Another excellent thought provoking post.
    . I personally wonder why it’s taking so long for gps and radar from the auto industry to find it’s way onto the bike. With radar and gps “reading” the road ahead, speeds could increase and steering could have Shimano electric assist to avoid obstacles. Higher speed, no more crashes! What could go wrong!

    March 30, 2020 at 10:41 pm
  • The Coasting Frenchman

    Not to mention the handlebars; wouldn’t it be possible to connect your bike to GPS app on your smartphone, enter a destination, and just let the bike ‘ride you’ there? Humm?

    March 31, 2020 at 3:35 am
  • Mark

    Helium filled frame tubes? And/or rubber sling drive—does away with chains and any need for pedalling—the rider just launches him or her self along the road from a large slingshott. The further they need to go, the further back they pull the rubber sling. Actually, if you could just calculate the coordinates of your destination and launch yourself thru the air (helped by the lighter, helium filled frame)—no need for wheels, sprung or otherwise.

    March 31, 2020 at 4:50 am
    • Steve Kauffman

      You’ve re-invented the Kid-a-pult! Separately invented a decade ago by my wife and myself, it would have, with appropriate targeting, launched a grade school student directly to school without all of that inefficient parental to-ing and fro-ing.

      It never really got off the ground, so to speak. The launching was better thought through than the landing.

      April 1, 2020 at 1:06 pm
      • Mark

        Darn! We’re going to have to go to Patent Court.

        April 1, 2020 at 2:57 pm
  • Mark

    Or to be really radical, you could do away with the frame as well.

    March 31, 2020 at 4:51 am
  • Vincent

    It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes you get it right on the first try!

    March 31, 2020 at 5:44 am
  • Dann

    Fun read!

    It’s funny, people like PVD are trying to get us moving. I wonder how long it will be before the handlebars bars are set behind the steerer tube?


    March 31, 2020 at 7:59 am
  • Gran

    it’ll be April 1, 3020 by the time someone figures out how to make a decent quick-release fender 🙂

    April 1, 2020 at 8:27 am
    • Jan Heine

      We talked about that urgent need a few years ago! Check this post…

      April 1, 2020 at 8:33 am
  • Bill Gobie

    Why still two wheels?

    April 1, 2020 at 8:30 am
    • Jan Heine

      You are right! Cars went from three to four wheels, so we should add another wheels, too, and ride trikes like this one…
      Jack Taylor Trike

      April 1, 2020 at 8:36 am
      • Jon


        And why not add a powerful motor to the four-wheeled vehicle while you are at it? You could go *much* faster, consume irreplaceable fossil fuels really rapidly, cause endless traffic congestion on endless stretches of paved-over farmlands, and ruin the earth’s climate, all with one innovation!

        April 1, 2020 at 12:13 pm
  • C. Phillip Houck

    I think the reason why the bikes of today “lag” behind is that what we have works. Take disc brakes for example. Are they really better than centerpulls or cantilevers? Set these “archaic” brakes up and the case for disc brakes for road bikes appears to be very weak indeed. Meanwhile disc brakes are often more expensive and often don’t maintain their performance and require more advanced maintenance. And for distance riding, the reduced comfort of a disc brake bike can really punish a rider. The real reason the bike industry is pushing disc brakes is because it’s all about the money, not any real improvement in performance.

    April 1, 2020 at 8:33 am
  • Bob Vineyard

    I’ve ridden bikes now for 55+years, [I’m 62] but have gravitated to the much more relaxed riding position promoted by Jeff Jones. Look at the riding position he advocates and the images of the early Paris Brest riders/bikes. Compare that to the position of Jan at the top of the page, down in a tuck, neck craned back, on the drops, cornering on a downhill. For some reason cycling as an industry strongly supports the extreme position of racers/sprinters when most never are riding at those paces where being aero has big benefit. If anything, with wide tires we’re seeing a move towards more comfort, but positioning (as evidenced by most images on this site) is still geared to drop bars and racing. My disclaimer… I have lots of bikes in my stable, from my almost 40 years old custom touring frame, to my custom Cyfac race bike, to my Jones with Compass 55mm Antelope Hill tires. I find the more relaxed riding style of the Jones far more comfortable than all my other bikes.

    So do we really need advancements, or do we need to move back and pay heed to what worked so well in the past? For racing, perhaps all the tech pushes the speed limit, but if speed isn’t the goal, perhaps how we orient ourselves on the bike will prompt new advancements that encourage more enjoyment.

    No disrespect to Jan, but seeing him grimacing, tucked down in the drops, in almost every picture makes my back and neck hurt.

    April 1, 2020 at 8:56 am
    • Jan Heine

      Riding position is related to power output, and to be comfortable, they need to match. I can tell you that I am perfectly comfortable on my bike for 56 hours of Paris-Brest-Paris. A more upright position works well for lower power outputs, a more inclined position allows the rider to put out more power. That is why most performance bikes have drop handlebars, so you can change positions for going slower and faster. More on that is in this post:

      April 1, 2020 at 10:02 am
      • Bob Vineyard

        And hence my comment, most cyclists are not “performance” cyclists always looking for more power output, i.e. going faster. It took me a long time to be convinced of a more upright position with less weight on my hands, but the degree to which my shoulders, arms, neck and wrists have benefited is huge. I immediately feel the difference now when I get back on my Cyfac to ride with the fast boys on Saturday mornings. But I certainly wish I had my Jones 30 years ago for my cross-continent tours vs. my drop-bar (MERZ) touring frame, considering the speeds which I was normally riding. And descending?… what a relief to abandon a tuck and crunched up position to gain a few hundred more yards of roll-out vs. sitting up and enjoying the scenery on the way down.

        All that said, my point is the pictures of the early Paris Brest riders and frames are much more oriented to what Jones advocates today, and those fellows were not lacking for power output.

        April 1, 2020 at 10:23 am
        • Jan Heine

          Your point is well taken. My Mule, which is intended mostly for cyclotouring, has the bars considerably higher than my new Herse, which I use for spirited rides and especially Paris-Brest-Paris.

          However, the photos of the early riders can be misleading, since they were mostly posed: Cameras back then had a hard time catching fast-moving objects. When going fast, the early racers also inclined their backs, it’s just that their reach was much shorter – more like Obree’s original position on his hour-record bike, but a bit less extreme. I suspect the reach got longer and the bars lower when racers realized that this was more comfortable… for riding at high power outputs.

          April 1, 2020 at 10:33 am
          • Bob Vineyard

            And your points as well… when I am pushing to gain speed to make it home before darkness falls, or when the wind is stiff in my face, even on my Jones I’m crouched down and forward, but I lack your flexibility to get into the drops much on my Cyfac.

            April 1, 2020 at 10:44 am
        • andy huang

          Surprisingly I’ve found that my helmet influences my ride comfort. I’ve always ridden a low handlebar position but I notice that my current helmet rides low on my forehead, providing great protection, but forces a more head up position to see the road. In my next helmet, I will be looking for some kind of cutaway so that I don’t have to raise my head as much.

          April 1, 2020 at 8:02 pm
      • paulie

        Then why is it, when I lower my bar beyond a certain point, my power output drops 20%+?

        April 1, 2020 at 4:51 pm
        • Jan Heine

          🤣Your position needs to match your power output, but it doesn’t work in the opposite direction: Simply lowering your bars won’t increase your power output!🤣

          April 1, 2020 at 5:41 pm
          • Derek

            Jan, your position on position is oversimplified. The drag penalty of sitting straight up is huge, so even a slow rider can benefit from a little forward lean, and lowering the bars more can be faster, yet does start to reduce rider power at some point. The question is, how to balance power, aerodynamics, and rider comfort to get the best results overall. There certainly is a trend as you say, but a lot of variation from person to person.

            April 1, 2020 at 6:42 pm
          • Jan Heine

            Agree totally. The topic of position could probably fill several books.

            April 1, 2020 at 7:18 pm
      • Derek

        One of my bikes is a Workcycles kr8, which is a cargo bike with a riding position nearly identical to the Humber at the top of the post. It’s meant to be ridden at a comfortable pace, ha! If anything, I ride that bike with MORE power than my road bike. It’s so heavy with my kids and their stuff in it, I sweat bucketfuls even in cold weather. Although it feels weird, I also can get into full aero tuck on it. It’s so fun to go fast on a “slow” bike!

        April 1, 2020 at 6:15 pm
  • David Scott Pearce

    Darn it!

    And there I was, taking the fenders & lights off my Euro-spec Citroën SM!

    And those aficionados who know, know that removing those headlights that turn with the steering is tricky, but it IS worth it in the end for the weight savings attained!

    April 1, 2020 at 9:03 am
  • ronp

    Great post!

    Like the guy above said — RECUMBENTS — and ones with FAIRINGS! etc…

    There would be safety issues if they were allowed to race tour de france etc, but maybe they could be worked out?

    It is great to see the rider’s body and facial expressions during the race too, so faired recumbents would be bad for that.

    Cargo electric bikes can replace car trips and save the planet too!

    April 1, 2020 at 9:09 am
  • mike

    Elliptical wheels to smooth out the pedal stroke…I love it! 🙂

    April 1, 2020 at 9:24 am
  • mobk

    Heated seats: Why can’t cyclists buy heated seats? These have been available in cars for years.

    Air Bags: Even backcountry skiers have their own air bags now. When is cycling going to get with the times? If you crash wouldn’t you rather bounce down the road like a big beachball rather than coming to a sudden stop because of the friction of skin on pavement?

    Antilock brakes. Kids have been skidding their rear tires and wearing them out for generations. Anti-lock brakes would cure this for once and for all.

    April 1, 2020 at 9:39 am
  • Bill Shaw

    UCI rules suck the innovation out of bikes. I ride a Trek Y-Foil 66.

    April 1, 2020 at 9:39 am
    • Jan Heine

      Does the UCI have rules that require round wheels?

      April 1, 2020 at 9:57 am
  • john hawrylak

    Great Aprils Fool Day post, really enjoyed it. As good as George Plimpton’s 1985 SI article about a 168 mph fastball pitcher.

    Is there a 2 or 3 sentence explanation of why the Trek Y-Foil was so much better? Hard to see, seems it’s just 1 tube less, unless it flexes a lot and returns a lot of energy.

    April 1, 2020 at 9:45 am
  • Bob C

    I recall reading somewhere — “Bicycle Science” perhaps? — that the bicycle already is by far the most efficient mode of mechanical locomotion when looking at energy expended vs mass accelerated. And it was so efficient that the author speculated there was little room for more than slight improvement.

    April 1, 2020 at 9:49 am
  • craig

    what a nice piece to enjoy a cup of coffee over, the 6x crankest willl make you Rich! 😉

    April 1, 2020 at 9:50 am
  • Soren Cicchini

    I realise that this is at least partially in jest for April 1 and that you already know the answer but I’m going to say it anyway. Many people want to buy something that looks like what they see winning races, and the UCI has a very traditional attitude, with a significant number of their rules and regulations designed to maintain the traditional bicycle appearance and performance. It’s the same reason that despite radical design changes such as a mid-mounted engine, the brand-new Corvette is equipped with a push-rod V8 – that’s what the NHRA lets American drag racing fans see win on the track.

    April 1, 2020 at 9:50 am
    • Jacob Musha

      The pushrod V8 in the new Corvette has nothing to do with drag racing or the NHRA. It’s due to cost reasons and the fact that the Small Block Chevy engine been refined for decades. It works very well, it’s reliable, powerful, fuel efficient, and is small and lightweight considering its displacement and power. There’s a reason it’s such a popular swap into other cars.

      April 2, 2020 at 10:24 am
  • Bern

    About 40 years ago I built a set of round-but-offset wheels (they looked elliptical when spun, but that was only because they were not centered on the hub). 24″ rims offset 3″ so the ‘longer’ section fit in a frame designed for 27″ wheels. Imagine the spoke length calculations…
    Had no particular preconception about the function, but kinda hoped for a pump-track-like effect when the wheels aligned just right. But the actual effect was as if I was riding off a curb twice per wheel revolution…
    That’s a lotta curbs…

    April 1, 2020 at 10:37 am
    • Derek

      Check out the Exercycle/Ingo Bike from the 1930’s. It’s a scooter with an eccentric rear wheel, normal front wheel, and a springboard where the rider stands in the middle. It works just like you thought. Somebody even rode it from Chicago to Miami back then.

      April 2, 2020 at 5:58 am
  • George Recker

    The bicycle is known to be more efficient than a Salmon. You don’t see anyone trying to re design a Salmon.
    Whoops I could be wrong, there are fish farms???!!!

    April 1, 2020 at 10:50 am
  • David T.

    I am surprised that self-driving bicycles are not offered yet; there are definite safety advantages , and they could also be used to free up time, allowing the user to stay home and exercise.

    April 1, 2020 at 11:40 am
  • Bob

    If disc brakes aren’t better, why do 100% of all mountain bikes use them? Can you see UCI DH races with cantilever brakes?
    There is lots and lots of innovation in the last 100 years. Please give credit where due. We ride steel bikes and balloon tires not because they are as fast as carbon race bikes, but for other reasons.

    April 1, 2020 at 12:20 pm
    • Jan Heine

      I agree, the spoon brake of the 1890s Humber was not very effective. That is why cyclotourists have used disc brakes (with the rotor also doubling as a rim) since the early 1900s.

      The separate rotor on mountain bikes makes sense in conjunction with ultra-wide tires and suspension forks. Putting rim brakes on a suspension fork is difficult, and the advantage of rim brakes – that the fork blades can be flexible – does not apply to suspension forks.

      However, we should not deny that there has been much progress in bikes. You’ll enjoy this post about the 10 most important innovations in cycling.

      April 1, 2020 at 1:00 pm
      • bob

        Disc brakes are used because they stop much better, in all conditions. This is pretty much universally accepted.

        April 2, 2020 at 1:43 am
        • Jan Heine

          You are right, the marketing hype that ‘disc brakes stop much better’ is pretty much universally accepted, just like most people used to believe that a car with a V-8 was faster than a car with a 4-cylinder engine. That totally ignores that there are many types of disc brakes out there. On the disc side, you have hydraulic vs mechanical, different ways of actuation, different rotor sizes, different setups… On the rim brake side, there are flexible models and stiff ones, the mechanical advantage varies from model to model, the pivots are in different locations, there are direct-mount brakes… and we haven’t even touched on pad material. If you compare a (weak) TRP Sypre disc on an (average) 160 mm rotor with a (powerful) Rene Herse centerpull or canti rim brake with (grippy) Kool-Stop pads, you’ll find that the rim brake will stop you faster when descending a 15% hill at 30 mph.

          From my experience of riding dozens of Bicycle Quarterly test bikes with disc brakes, there are quite a few disc brakes that either a) don’t have enough power to lift the rear wheel if you shift your weight back, and/or b) fade quickly on long descents or c) are so grabby that braking deep into corners is difficult. However, there are also many truly awful rim brakes, especially among the long-reach models that can fit around wide tires. Some are so bad that, in the wet, you have almost no braking at all. I’d even say that a bad rim brake is worse than a bad disc brake.

          For me, that is of little relevance, though. I don’t like to ride bad equipment, so the question is whether the best rim brakes can offer performance that equals the best disc brakes. And not just absolute braking power – once you lift the rear wheel, you have enough and more doesn’t do you any good – but also modulation. I think the answer is that they can, and they have a few other advantages, too.

          Don’t get me wrong, many disc brakes are great, and good rim brakes aren’t easy to find, so it makes sense that most production bikes have moved to discs. But that doesn’t mean that all rim brakes are obsolete.

          I wrote more about this here:

          April 2, 2020 at 9:05 am
  • Michael Kahrl

    What about click-in saddles and handlebars? If we need to be locked into our pedals why not the other two contact points?

    Let’s stop relying on gravity and body weight to provide downward force. 30% greater efficiency; a number I made up following just like the clipless pedal claims.

    April 1, 2020 at 1:03 pm
    • Jan Heine

      Why haven’t we thought of that before? I recall that in the 80s, there was a saddle with a backrest, so you could push back. The UCI outlawed it.

      April 1, 2020 at 1:18 pm
  • PhilG

    We have regenerative braking for cars, so how about for bikes? And I don’t mean for e-bikes, I mean for ordinary push bikes. The heat generated from braking could power a biochemical reaction that produces energy gels for the rider to consume. Think of the weight savings when bike packing if you don’t need to carry food!

    April 1, 2020 at 1:07 pm
    • Jan Heine

      Brilliant idea! A simple flywheel might do the job, too. Spin it up to slow down, and reconnect it to speed up again.

      April 1, 2020 at 1:17 pm
  • PhilG

    Since we have inflatable tyres nowadays, why not make the entire bicycle out of the same material? With careful folding the bicycle could be stowed in a small satchel. Also the ride would be more compliant and comfortable.

    April 1, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    Sometimes to find innovation you have to step outside of current definitions. We see this all the time in tech, where innovation sneaks up from outside the prevailing market definition, e.g., Microsoft thoroughly dominated computing until computing came to include the internet and cell phones.

    Right now there is a massive innovation in the cycling space in the form of electric assisted bikes. These bikes are making cycling accessible to more people more of the time. Electric assist started in dedicated bikes aimed at the commuting market and is on a trajectory to dominate that market, already true in Europe and underway in North America. It also is starting to dominate the mountain bike category in Europe. Electric assist is now being offered in racing bikes where it can sustain you on a hard climb or help you keep up with the pack. People who have ridden them claim that the experience is much like riding a road bike as opposed to a commuting bike.

    Additionally, since the better e-bikes include some sort of torque sensor mechanism to match the application of electric power to pedaling effort, they include the key components of a power meter and could function as such. So you could do a ride on an e-bike and compare your effort to an unassisted ride, perhaps putting out equal or greater effort than you or your friend might have while unassisted (presumably going faster, climbing more, riding longer).

    I would imagine that electric assist could be even more valuable for gravel or adventure bikes than pure road bikes, as it could help with difficult terrain, steep climbs, and even with the often mundane ride to the start of the gravel segments.

    Electric assist will have a huge effect on cycling. It will affect the infrastructure, that is, the usage of roads and dedicated bike paths/lanes, hopefully for the better by bringing many new cycling adherents into the fold to help lobby for better facilities. Over time it will undoubtedly affect many aspects of bicycle design – drive trains and frames and possibly other areas. One small area that is bound to be affected sooner rather than later is electric lighting. While long distance riders rely on electric lighting for our events (brevets, etc.), the market for electric lighting is actually driven by the far larger bicycle commuting market. As commuters switch to electric assist we will see the substitution of generator hubs by battery powered lights, since it’s extremely inefficient to convert stored battery power to mechanical motion and back again. This is already starting as Busch + Müller now has a dedicated line of lights for e-bikes that accommodate the different voltage outputs of electric assist systems and are incompatible with generator hubs.

    Often innovations are resisted because they don’t fit the current market definition and electric assist for racing bikes will be resisted for a while by road and adventure riders and probably forever by purists on the grounds that they provide an “unfair” assist, just as derailleurs were once thought to provide an unfair assist to the single speed bicycles of the time. I imagine that in five years time electric assist will just be another option on your new bike. Do you want DI-2, eTap, or cable shifting? What gearing do you prefer on your rear cluster? Do you want e-assist or are you sticking with unassisted?

    April 1, 2020 at 3:32 pm
    • Jan Heine

      E-bikes are changing the fundamentals of what bicycles are: With human-powered bikes, the goal is to use the very limited power output as efficiently as possible. In other words, how fast can I go with 100, 200 or 300 Watts. Once you add a motor, that concerns fall by the wayside. And with that, a lot of the beauty of bicycles is lost. Suddenly you’ve got 500 Watts at your disposal whenever you want. Now the goal become how to up battery capacity without increasing weight, so you can have those 500 Watts for longer. Bicycle design goes from a mechanical question to an electronics one. And much of what attracts us to bicycles is lost.

      As another commenter pointed out, you could say that the true progress of bicycles has been adding a motor and two more wheels: modern bicycles are called cars. And we’re just luddites who are refusing to accept that motors are more powerful than our legs, and we’re riding totally outdated machines as a result.

      April 2, 2020 at 10:23 am
    • Jacob Musha

      E-bikes are not bicycles but a branch of motorcycles. Motorcycles with pedals have been around almost as long as bicycles themselves. But now they are powered with electric motors instead of gas engines. The distinction is absolutely black-and-white and easy to define, yet people today somehow get confused. If the forward motion isn’t 100% human powered, it is not a bicycle. Unless you want to change the definition of the word.

      Motorcycles are cool and have their place, as do e-bikes. But neither are bicycles.

      April 2, 2020 at 10:44 am
  • paulie

    Maybe you guys at Bicycle Quarterly can start a big project to come up with at least some of those innovations we’d like to see . . .?

    April 1, 2020 at 4:54 pm
  • Larry T

    Great stuff! We all need a smile or three these days. My stock reply to those (either in the bike industry or those who suck up to the bike industry for various reasons) who insist the “evolution (or in their view – improvement) of the bicycle must not be stopped” is: “OK, sure. No problem. We didn’t. The result is things like these –
    Fantastic machines for sure and lots of fun to play with. If you desire one, buy one, but don’t force them on us, OK?”

    April 1, 2020 at 11:57 pm
  • João Santos

    Almost all being said, why would we want to change something that been improved as the years passing by, when the final result is probably unbeatable if we look to the relation function /cost/weight /pleasure(and sometimes pain)!
    So why would we want to change all this? 🤔🙂

    April 2, 2020 at 2:26 am
  • Carson Torpey

    There ia an organization, The Wheelmen, whose purpose is to preserve and ride bicycles from the 1800’s through 1932. Its members study and recondition and study antique bikes and parts and then use them. Their magazine, The Wheelmen, contains articles about the bike technology from that time period as well as collecting, restoring, and saving the history. The Bicycle Quarterly magazine has similar articles about the history of bicycle components and bike brands.
    It is very interesting how many of today’s inventions were in use 100 years ago. Even in the 1890’s there were steel racing bicycles weighing around 19 pounds and the everyday some bikes were only 25 pounds.
    If anyone is interested, try a one year membership to the club and receive the two magazines for that year. Back issues are available too. Go to

    April 2, 2020 at 7:25 am
  • Federico Quiroga

    Saludos a todos desde Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Argentina. En mi opinión, con el paso de los años, hemos visto muchas innovaciones de la que solo perduran la más eficientes, económicas y bellas. Creo que esto se debe a que la bicicleta es ese vehículo sencillo que jamás nos falla y al que volvemos cuando nos cansamos de toda la tecnología de los otros(automóviles y motos llenos de electrónica).

    April 2, 2020 at 9:02 pm
    • Jan Heine

      ¡Es la verdad!

      April 2, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Comments are closed.

Are you on our list?

Every week, we bring you stories of great rides, new products, and fascinating tech. Sign up and enjoy the ride!

* indicates required