Things Are Gonna Get More Complicated Before They Get Simpler

Awhile back I lamented the demise of mechanical Shimano Ultegra, and now the reviews are in for the latest electronic-only version of the World’s Most Boring Bicycle Transmission:

Unsurprisingly, it sounds like it works great–it’s Ultegra after all, and part of what makes it so mind-numbingly boring is how well it’s always worked. (If you want exciting you go for Compagnolo, because clunky, hard-to-push buttons mean “Italian passion!”) Also, I had an earlier version of electronic Ultegra, I never had a single problem with it, and as someone who sat up and drifted off the back of the pack years ago my thoughts on how Shimano goes about designing the latest version of its racing products are completely irrelevant anyway.

I mean sure, the idea of having to use an app to adjust a derailleur instead of turning a screw slightly fills me with terror:

My initial notes on the app were that it was buggy and confusing. Over and over the app crashed before fully connecting. At one point I tried an older tablet to see if an older version of Android would be more stable. It was not and I worried I’d end up with a “bricked” system like many reviewers on the Play Store. Eventually, I managed to connect and update the firmware on all the pieces of the system. From there the whole experience changed. I haven’t experienced a single crash since then. 

Once things were working smoothly, I was able to get to the reason I opened the app in the first place. I was experiencing a tiny bit of chain rub on the front derailleur in the 21 tooth cog of the cassette. I needed to micro-adjust the position of the derailleur. 

Then again, at this point in my life changes of any kind fill me with terror. Also, I can certainly remember trying to tweak a derailleur drivetrain as a young cyclist and failing miserably, so this is whole thing is probably much more user-friendly, objectively speaking. If anything, my contempt for a drivetrain you can adjust via a phone app is probably just rooted in spite: “If I had to figure out which way to turn those stupid screws, then they should have to do it too!”

Then there’s the “multishift”–or what in the analog days used to be called “friction mode:”

There are also options for setting up multishift and synchronisation. Multishift is the ability to hold down the buttons for continuous movement across the cassette and synchro shifting can be either full synchro or partial. In the multishift setting, you can set how many gears it will move through when you hold the buttons as well as how fast it will move. When it comes to synchro shifting, full synchro means that you only have to worry about shifting up and down the rear cassette, and the system takes care of deciding when that means moving the front derailleur. Semi synchro means when you change the front derailleur, the rear will move a couple of sprockets in the opposite direction to maintain a similar cadence.   

That’s all fine, but I admit to be deeply suspicious of the automatic front shifting feature, because once you’ve surrendered control of your front chainring, your personal property and individual liberties will soon follow, until eventually you’re just Zwifting away for all eternity in a goo-filled pod:

Automatic front shifting, single-ring road drivetrains…oh, sure, they’ll say it’s about performance and reliability, but it’s really about control:

Indeed, the only thing that makes me more suspicious than the plot against front shifting is the campaign of fear around factory chain lubricant:

Those of us in the business of making fully optimized race chains do a break-in run with factory grease as part of full race optimization prep – but that is a very different process to going and riding your bike with factory grease on the chain. It is a controlled run (power and time) in an extremely clean environment, for a specific purpose as part of the prep.

Outside of that very specific process: DO NOT — I repeat DO NOT — leave on factory grease unless your specific aim is for your chain to have a dramatically shorter lifespan vs if you had cleaned it off to run a proven top lubricant choice.

If you see anyone, anywhere promoting leaving on factory grease as the best thing, or that removing factory grease is a mistake – please help me kill this zombie that just won’t die, and diplomatically refer them to this column.

Jeez, get a grip!

Yo don’t need to give it the “Silkwood” treatment, just put it on and ride. It’s a bicycle chain, for chrissakes, not a spent fuel rod!

Finally, it seems as though Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, who has called for “breaking the car culture,” seems to bending it repeatedly but to no avail:

Brooklyn’s staunchly anti-car Borough President Antonio Reynoso copped to driving with an expired registration and parking with an expired city-issued parking permit — after Twitter sleuth @placardabuse posted photos of his dark grey Nissan Rogue parked in front of a sidewalk ramp outside Borough Hall.

“Hi @BKBPReynoso. Is this your car, with the expired @nysdmv registration, using an expired @NYCCouncil placard?” @placardabuse posted on Twitter Friday night, along with photos of the parked vehicle and its City Council-issued placard and plates.

Yes, that’s my bad, genuinely,” Reynoso tweeted in response the next morning.

As he further explained:

It’s certainly simplistic to suggest that because Reynoso has a car and makes mistakes with it this somehow invalidates the good points he makes about driving in the city, so you can save your “Get Out Of Hypocrisy Jail Free” card because that’s not what I’m saying:

However, his response raises more questions than it answers. Why keep the car if it’s not only “seldom used,” but the “bane of [his] existence”? As an elected official in the public eye, wouldn’t divesting himself of it not only simplify his life but bolster his cause and increase his political currency? Advocates certainly called de Blasio to account for his SUV use on a regular basis:

“I do stay in touch with what people are going through,” the mayor insisted today, “and I knew it for years and years because for years and years I never even had any car.”

Yet oddly that same outlet chose not to cover this story, citing his bewildering tweet:

Though it is worth nothing the person who wrote the Streetblog article about de Blasio also co-wrote the Post article about Reynoso.

Anyway, there’s certainly no sense or nobility in shaming people just for the sake of it, and there’s nothing wrong with Reynoso owning a car if that’s what he’s into. However, it does seem both fair and productive for an outlet like Streetsblog to ask why he sticks with this car that he hates, especially given his feelings about cars and the city, and why it’s so hard to keep the registration current and to park it legally. According to “How’s My Driving?,” he has more tickets in the past five years on the car he rarely uses than I’ve had owning and street-parking a car in New York City for pretty much my entire adult life–and that’s with a city-issued parking placard. A frank conversation about how that even happens seems like it might yield some insight into how to actually address the city’s car problems, instead of giving people who are already skeptical of all this car culture criticism yet another reason to dismiss it all as BS.

Otherwise, if even the person who cleared Borough Hall of cars (and whose reputation is on the line as a public official) offers little more insight than “that’s my bad,” why would we expect better behavior from anyone else?

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