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The Beauty of Simplicity in Bicycles

by John Neugent

Tech articles | Commentary articles |

John Neugent probably knows more about bicycle wheels than anyone else alive. Maybe more about bikes as well. He's spent his life in the bike business, at every level. He now owns Neugent Cycling, a firm devoted to delivering world-class equipment at the lowest possible price. If you are in the market for a set of wheels, please, check out John's site. He really knows his stuff. —Chairman Bill

John Neugent

Author John Neugent

The Beauty of Simplicity

In the old days before there were cycling computers, the Huret Multito was considered the best cyclometer. It would measure distance fairly accurately and attached to the front hub so you couldn’t really see the distance travelled until you got off your bike. Back then, racers would track time rather than miles.

huret Multito

A Huret Multito from a simpler time.

The only training manual in the early '70s, as far as I know, was the Cinelli (C.O.N.I.) Manual. To describe effort, it said, during the spring, ride until you were tired but not whacked. Like in the Who’s musical Tommy, “he ain't got no distractions, don’t hear no buzzers and bells.” Things were simple.

Cinelli Manual

The famous Cinelli manual. Here's Chairman Bill's copy.

I remember when I got my job with Sachs in the late '80s, I was driving with Gerard Huret (the son of the founder of Huret). Shimano had introduced index shifting and he asked me if we needed it. I said we don’t need it, but we have to have it.

The industry has a long tradition of chasing features over benefits. Companies have to feed two beasts. The marketing beast and the development beast. The marketing beast has to have something to sell. The development beast has to justify their overhead. And so it goes.

Being considered almost old, I can say you don’t get wiser. Little kids are often as wise as I am. But you have experience that tells you, over a long period of time, what was gained and lost, often gaining features without any real benefit.

A bike race is human competition. They could be riding real 10-speeds of the early '70s or the rocket ships of today. It’s still human competition. I never was, and will never be competitive. I don’t care. I don’t use any computers and prefer to ride without even a watch. A ride is about getting away from all of that chatter, I ain't got no distractions, don’t hear no buzzers and bells.

I was at the start of the Tour Of California’s Pismo Beach stage. The announcer interviewed a rider, I forgot who, and asked him how many miles he trained in a week. He said, I don’t go by miles, I go by time.

Maybe there is some hope.

John Neugent was was one of the first to establish quality hand building in Taiwan around the turn of the century. He now owns Neugent Cycling, a firm devoted to delivering world-class equipment at the lowest possible price.