Another Crushing Blow To The Shifter Cable Industrial Complex

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that making declarations about your beliefs is extremely foolish. Our tastes, needs, desires, sensibilities…all these things change constantly throughout our lives, just as we ourselves change. One day you’re eating vegan and the next you’re eating paleo. Yesterday you believed in this:

And now you believe in this:

After all, you need a loan when you go from “One Less Car” to “Fuck It, I’m Leasing a Hyundai.”

And so on.

For this reason, I try very hard not to delude myself into thinking, “This is the last bike I’ll ever buy.” (And not just because buying bikes is for suckers.) I mean, I can’t even commit to one bike for a year–though in my defense the bike I was committing to was this:

“Yeah, no shit! Why the hell would anyone ride that thing for a day let alone a year?,” you’re no doubt wondering.

Well…it’s a long story.

All of this is to say I’m very reluctant to say that I’ve found the last road bike I’ll ever “buy,” though it is extremely tempting:

The truth is, I don’t know how many more Fred years I’ve got left in me. It seems as though with each passing year my hands and wrists become a little less tolerant of the curly-type bars like they use in the Tour de France, and I grow similarly less tolerant of my own reflection in storefront mirrors when I see what I look like in Lycra. In the meantime, however, I can’t think of what more I could possibly want out of a road bike. It rides beautifully, it’s a perfect embodiment of everything I wanted 20 years ago when I was at Peak Fred, and even by modern standards the only thing it doesn’t have is disc brakes, and I don’t even want those anyway.

Plus, disc brakes aside, there’s nothing stopping me from updating the parts. For example, I could always go electronic, which is a relatively cheap affair now that SRAM Rival Etap is out:

Now, I should point out that I have absolutely no interest in putting SRAM Rival Etap on this or any of my bicycles, for the simple reason that I have no interest in electronic shifting–which I can say because I used to have electronic shifting on that zany wooden bike:

The stuff worked flawlessly, over the course of the year I charged it maybe three times, and I can’t say a single bad thing about it. Even so, if given the choice, I’d still go with mechanical stuff over electronic, for the simple and perhaps obstinate reason that, psychologically, I just prefer actual levers that pull actual cables. In fact, I bequeathed the Renovo to Classic Cycle in exchange for the Litespeed:

In the process, I gained the road bike of my dreams, Classic Cycle gained what is undeniably their Mona Lisa (people travel from as far as the other end of the shop to gaze upon it), and, most importantly, the termites of Bainbridge Island, WA gained a repast that will last them for decades.

As for SRAM Rival Etap, I mostly mention it because I got a press email about it, any online retailer I ever ordered from sent a marketing email about it, and every cycling-related media outlet is currently flogging it. In fact, I tried to ignore it, but even existing in the same universe as SRAM Rival Etap felt like getting beaten about the face and head with a hard salami until I acknowledged its existence. So finally I acquiesced and looked at the press email, which went heavy on the “disembodied hand” theme:

Like, really heavy:

So what does SRAM Rival Etap mean to the cycling world? Well, I guess it means electronic shifting is officially cheap now, which in turn means you now have NO EXCUSE to use inferior technology:

However, even if you’re an old fusspot like me it’s hard to get too annoyed when you consider that there are probably more mechanical shifting levers available now than at any other time in human history, and if you insist on tugging at cables like a deckhand instead of adding yet another item to your life that requires a battery there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from doing so. For that matter, there’s also nothing stopping you from attempting to hack a SRAM Rival Etap rear derailleur to work with a remote dimmer switch so you can have electronic friction shifting on your Rivendell.

If you try it, let me know how it goes.

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