What era of bicycles do you (or your mechanics) prefer to work on? Or can't stand to work on?

I’m not the most savvy home mechanic, so I tend to like simple systems (even anything electronic intimidates me, apart from the fact that I can’t afford Di2-type things).

But if you work on your bike, or if you are a mechanic, I’m curious, which eras tend to have bikes that are easier to work on? Or cheaper to work on?

1900s-1950s (before RDs became the norm)? 1970s-1990s (before lever-based shifters took over)? 1990s-2010s (before discs took over and electronics became the norm)? Some other era or way of separating out eras? In my amateur view, the 1980s seemed to be a nice era, with down-tube shifters, rim brakes, and so forth.

What actually makes for ease, cheapness, or whatever? Somehow, I assume today’s era is the worst, with bar/stem integration, electronics, press-fit BBs, and whatever. (Progress doesn’t always seem to move forward…)

The 1980s were definitely the easiest times to work on my bike for me: all the things you mentioned plus I didn’t need glasses for the fiddly parts.

Seriously: I still love the simplicity of my 80s steel bike, but the modern stuff just works a lot better - and I will never again ride Mont Ventoux with 52/42 x 24/13

I would never buy a bike though where I cannot work on all parts subject to wear myself, including all bearings and cabling.

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It’s not so much era per se as familiarity and efficiency of effort. I can do 90% of the work I would ever need to do, reasonably quickly, on a mechanically geared, rim brake bike. While different manufacturers and components of different vintages have different quirks, the basic principles are the same and I understand them. You also don’t need much beyond very basic tools, and I found that 8, 9 and 10 speed drivetrains were pretty forgiving of some distinctly ‘ordinary’ wrenching. Ultegra 10 speed was probably the high point of this: my TT bike has a bent derailleur hanger, horrible internal routing, and old components, and it still shifts acceptably well.

Fast forward to the latest and greatest tech and I’m less confident. Tbf, setting up AXS is a breeze, but dialling in the FD really isn’t. Campag 12 speed mechanical is very intolerant of imprecise alignments and adjustments, and while Di2 is simplicity itself to index, installing it in the first place is a PITA. Admittedly, I’ve only done it once, and I’m sure it would get easier with practice, but I’m following a manual blind without really understanding what I’m doing, which I don’t like. Finally, if an electronic system simply doesn’t work - which I have seen a few times - then as soon as you work out it’s not a battery issue, you can be into a long process of elimination.

I’m not a fan of integration, because I’m a tinkerer, and unless you’re at a level where 5-6w really matters (in which case I hope you’re rocking at least 5w/kg FTP), it’s just wholly unnecessary in my opinion. It will make no measurable difference to your speed, and having to disconnect a brake line to install or remove an extra spacer is madness, in my opinion; paying someone else to do so is even madder.

I suppose it all boils down to the fact that I much prefer to be able to do the basics well enough on my own bikes, appreciate that work being straightforward, and would rather only take to the shop when I’m stuck or need something more complex doing.

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1980s for sure. They are simple mechanically and don’t require many specialist tools, and the materials are not as torque-sensitive. While easier to work on, they also need to be worked on much more frequently - eg lots more wheel truing, cable tightening and brake adjusting.

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As an amateur mechanic I don’t mind to have to deal with a bit of complexity, I like a challenge and I’m not in a rush. However, what’s not great is the need of costly special tools and proprietary solutions so it’s much more limited in what components you can move from one bike to another.

Just like with cars, I think it is unavoidable as time progress that they will be more complex. However relatively simple bikes exists in parallel, there is still choice, and will be as long consumers buy the stuff.

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Anything B.E. (“Before Electronics”).

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I am a bike mechanic. My favorite bikes to work on are those with Shimano groupsets that have the externally routed cables, the ones where the housing comes straight out from the inner side of the shifters (like the Dura Ace 7800). It is a breeze to replace cables, and they always shift so well. I also quite enjoy working on bikes with SRAM AXS; the front derailleurs can be finicky to set up but once you learn a few tricks, they are great to work on because there are no cables to mess with and adjustments are very easy to make.

As for least favorite, anything that has internally routed cables, especially ones where the cable routing wasn’t well thought through. The Open UP comes to mind, where you have to pull out the press-fit BB to change the shift cables. What a nightmare.

I also really dislike servicing wheels with internal nipples.

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lolol, never knew certain eras had sh-t that was easier to work on than others.

If we’re asking about non-mechanics, then I think it’s fair to ask how we all define “work on”. I’ve built up rim brake era bikes mostly from scratch (I had shops install BBs and headsets), which is how I know that I can’t do this as well as a pro mechanic.

If we’re talking about adjusting derailleurs, then right now it doesn’t matter to me which era. Di2 is easier to adjust than my mechanical derailleurs, but I can do both. If we’re talking about routing cables, I am ill-inclined to route cables through an internally routed frame, and I don’t have an internal routing kit anyway. But cutting cables and housing is something I could do myself, albeit I don’t have a good cable cutter right now.

Checking and replacing brake pads seems simpler on dual pivot rim brakes than on disc brakes. For disc, I have to peer into the caliper and I can barely see the pads. Pretty sure I could take out the disc pads and measure them, although space is probably a bit tighter than on rim brakes. I never learned to adjust cantilever brakes well at all. I can do my road rim brakes better but not perfect. Right now, for disc brakes, I believe I can tell when a rotor is out of true, and I can align the caliper. Aligning the caliper on hydro disc is simpler than rim brakes, I think. I have not tried bleeding my calipers, and I am pretty sure I will make errors there, but I think I could pull it off.

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No mechanic worth their salt is going to care what generation they’re working on… it’s all the same shit, just in a different sack. Poorly maintained gear is the worst to work on and newer stuff is often more straightforward in that it’s more remove and replace work than it is repair work and things like internally routed cabling ads more time but none of it is challenging enough that it becomes a preferential choice between eras.

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I agree, nothing is easier than setting up with down tube shifters be it 9, 10, 11 speed etc. It literally only takes a few minutes to set up if the cables are externally routed.

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As long as the bike is clean before I start I don’t care too much. Hate it when old mate turns up with crap all over the bike bike and asks for a hand.

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I like the finish and industrial design qualities of a lot of vintage components but for me stuff like cassette freehubs, threadless headsets and outboard BBs are childishly easy to work on versus thread-on freewheels, threaded headsets and square taper BBs being really easy. There’s the often lousy tools interfaces on old stuff (like two prong freewheel removal - yuck), and a bit lengthier fiddling with old stuff to get the bearings just right.

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Thread-on freewheels - that really is bad old news.

But the worst experience for me, lately, was working on the rear wheel of my wife’s beloved 70s Dutch step-through: it took three different sizes of spanners to remove, and I ended up with a couple of parts that didn’t make sense anywhere within the assembly. A bit as though generations of helpful neighbors had opened their secret toolboxes and provided spares.

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Yes freewheels sucked and breaking axles with them too.

I think Campagnolo 10 speed was a good era, parts were repairable, choice of Ergolevers or down tube shifters. Carbon used sparingly but not excessively.

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Yeah, I think the issue of forgiving tolerances is definitely relevant, at least for people like me who might not be skilled enough to get things just right.

It’s an interesting one. IIRC the width of a cassette hasn’t changed since the 9 speed days, but we now have 11 and 12 speed cassettes in the same space.

I can pretty confidently install and index a Shimano 10 speed system in reasonably good time and it will shift well with minimal noise. It may not be quite as slick or crisp as a pro job, but you’d be looking for the difference, if that makes sense.

I spent a whole day, more or less, installing then trying to absolutely dial in 12 speed Chorus indexing last week, and it’s still not absolutely perfect. It’s brilliant stuff but my word, it’s fussy.

This isn’t entirely accurate… most 12 speed cassettes require a 12 speed specific freehub or they make compromises to fit. 9-11 speed cassettes will near universally fit on the same freehub’s but the actual width of the cassettes varies a fair bit, and the width and spacing between cogs differs.

12sp Campy isn’t that finicky, you just have to do it right… start with the high side alignment under no cable tension and barrel adjust all the way in, tension your cable lightly, move in three gears and check your barrel adjustment for alignment on the third cog, move in three more, check again making small 1/4 adjustments, move in three more and check again, then set your low limit (make sure you put in enough low limit to not shift into the spokes ahead of time or just be careful on the granny shift), and then set your b-screw last… 5-6mm gap is all you want.

And then it’s even more puzzling when you reassemble minus the mystery parts and everything works as it should/better !

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8-11 speed…and now 12 w/ Shimano.

The exception is Campag, which went to a different axle length between 8 & 9 speeds, so there was no backwards compatibility there.

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