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Technology: Is It Good or Bad?

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

Les Woodland's book Tour de France: The Inside Story - Making the World's Greatest Bicycle Race is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. For your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

John Neugent writes:

I did my first bike race in 1974 in a Springfield MA park. I was a partner in a bike shop so went with the newest technology. I used Hi-E rims and a 5-speed SunTour freewheel that used aluminum cogs. The rims were so light they felt porous to the touch and you had to true them after every ride. You could optimistically get 100 miles off an aluminum cog, but back in those days it was easy to buy individual cogs.

On a different subject, I just got a 2013 Toyota Camry. It’s a great car in great shape and I was thrilled it came with a normal key since replacing a modern high tech key can cost $100-200 (for a key). But, when I got home, I couldn’t get the key out of the ignition. I tried everything I knew but no luck.

Hi-E rims were made in the 1970s from riveted sheet aluminum. Photo courtesy velobase.com

As a last resort I opened the owner’s manual to find a 15 page chapter on keys. But it mentioned nothing of the standard. The tech writers figured what can go wrong with a key. They hadn’t heard of the ’80s rule. I called the dealership to ask the service department what to do. They said “we don’t know, bring it in.” As I pulled into the parking lot, the GM, who also sold me the car, was in the lot. He came over and I told him the problem. “Oh, the old ’80s rule! Just push the key in when you need to get it out.” Of course, why didn’t I think of that?

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The same thing is happening in cycling. Half the bikes I saw last weekend were electric. The mere thought of having hundreds of relatively inexpensive vehicles with many different motors and battery types frightens me. I went through the moped boom of the early ’70s and know too well what happens in a boom like the e-bike boom were having now.

We can also move onto my pet peeve. Disc brakes. I have nothing against disc brakes. I have everything against the different options there are for axle types and sizes, which no doubt will change each model year. The majority of my disc brake wheel customers have no idea of what they have or need. The chances of them swapping wheels between bikes are small. Likewise, when they buy a new bike the chances of having the same wheel specs are even smaller. Further, it’s often impossible to change the parts to make them compatible.

On the plus side, they are not riding Hi-E rims with alloy cogs.


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John Neugent was one of the first to establish the making of quality hand-built wheels 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.


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