Archive for January, 2011

BTCEB Blog No 36: Internally Route This

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

If I had to pick a single bad design idea for bicycles my number one choice has to be internal cable routing. While internal cable routing may make sense for the leg shaving time trial crowd it makes zero sense for mountain bikes.

To an extent it all boils down to this. Do you want crud and water collecting inside of your frame or do you want crud and water collecting inside some disposable cable housing?

Throughout my years of being a bicycle mechanic I’ve wrestled with a lot of bikes that had used internal cable routing and no one, not one manufacture had designed a system where threading a cable through a top tube or through the inside of a swing arm that nearly approaches the ease of replacing a cable with an external housing guide system.

Personally I blame a defunct fame builder and designer from the early seventies for trying to popularize the idea on mountain bikes. While internal cable routing may offer small frame builders a way to distinguish themselves from their fellow road bike building torch wielders when the idea was translated into mountain bike designs that’s when the nightmare started.

The first off road should have alerted the designer to the fact that internal cable routing design was going to problematic, especially considering the fact the designer had set up shop in the in the Pacific North West. Let’s see… what went into the frame as a length of tightly wound strands of stainless steel had somehow turned into a snarl of rusty wire… Maybe if I keep with this design idea that somehow things will change.

That’s the definition insanity right there. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. A pragmatist would had looked at the design flaws then would have taken a different approach, but a fanatic would not alter their thinking and keep with the same approach with regard to evidence to the contrary.

I’m astonished to see the sheer number of frames out there that still sport this fatally flawed design. And just not high-end bikes either! There’s plenty of mid-range (eight hundred dollars and higher) that somehow have adapted this unexpected trapping. It’s not as if a commute bike all of the sudden is going to be subjected to wind tunnel tests in order to shave off tens of thousandths of a second in order to win a time trial or absolutely every gram needs to be accounted for due to gram deficits.

It seams as if that carbon fiber tube manipulations, hydro formed tube sets and swing arms of full suspension bikes all conspire against straight lines. Sure, a lot of the new swoopy and bladed frames are the hot new thing in road bikes, and many aluminum bikes can now be manipulated to yield to a designer’s whim. I get it; many of these new designs are visually appealing except when you look just a little closer.

Now I can’t fault some one wanting to try something different, I just hate working on it. Let’s face it; tiny wires don’t like to be forced to perform acrobatic tricks while burrowing through long lengths of tubing, so no matter what it’s internal diameter is it is still a pain in the butt.

Really, if I wanted to learn how to do an angioplasty I would have gone to medical school.

You know, if something was a bad idea twenty years ago it’s still a bad idea. Just don’t get me started on electronic shifting systems.

Adam H