I've been riding Niner's Jet 9 aluminum race bike since 2008. It got recalled in 2009 and the front and rear triangles were replaced. I have also been riding the Salsa Dos Niner even longer - since 2006 - and that was a special Scandium metal with fairy dust mixed into the aluminum. That original green Dos Niner frame snapped just as I began riding up a hill 2 blocks from my house to start its 5th season, and Salsa's replacement policy got me into a replacement Dos Niner silver frame using the crash replacement policy discount. That replacement frame is now entering its 7th season of service. These are frames that have an expected shelf life of 5 years for the material that they are.
I was reminded on Sunday's 42 mile gravel ride as everyone noticed my Dos Niner making all sorts of creaking noises that it is due for a tear down, clean up, full maintenance, greasing, and check up to see what kind of shape it is all in at the moment...
On top of that, I bought each of the frames mentioned above (original Dos Niner and JET) used during their initial seasons from riders that bought them, and quickly wanted to move on with newer, better, bigger, whatever bikes in the same season they purchased them. That's how I could afford to upgrade at the time. These bikes were both careful, well thought out builds for me at the time...
Fast forward to 2016 and the word that comes to mind when looking at mountain bike components, forks, frames compared to my current equipment is obsolescence. Threaded cartridge bottom brackets, QR 9mm front axles, 135mm rear spacing, non-tapered fork steerers, Rockshox 2008 fork technology, cable pull disc brakes, 9 speed transmissions, aluminum frames, and well - it's like I woke up years later and it has all changed with my equipment only to be found at swap meets, used online sources, and in the basements and garages of guys who collect parts.
Sure, I have upgraded along the way and do own carbon rims, I did upgrade to a tapered fork on the JET 9 back in 2009/10, but that's about it. I am quite aware of it all, but the reality is that I've been servicing and riding last decade's technology. Not that it is bad technology, but it just is what it is.
A lot has transpired along the way with many introductions of things.
After 9 speed, came 10 speed. Then came 11 speed. Are we about to get 12 speed? Not to mention we now have electronic shifting on bikes!!! Triple cranks (3 chain rings up front) changed to Duo (2 rings up front). Then changed to single rings up front. 25.4mm handlebar diameters and stems changed to 31.8mm. And now to 35mm diameter. Handlebar width used to be less than 600mm for mountain bikes. Then it grew to 700mm width. Then 800mm width. What's next? Tubes in tires changed to tubeless tires technology. Rims with bead hooks changed to hookless. Wheel and tires sizes are available in more than the old 26" vs. 29". Forks had the stanchions on the top. Now they come on the bottom. 32mm stanchions were the norm. Now 34mm stanchions are the norm for some. Bottom brackets have gone from cartridge BB's, to external, to press fit, to who knows what. QR 9mm's to 15mm to 20mm to all kinds of things in the rear from 135 to 142 to 148, Boost, non-Boost - and on and on it goes. Rim widths of 19mm, 21mm, 23mm, 24mm, 27mm, 30mm, 35mm, 38mm, 50mm and how wide can we go?
There are adventure bikes, gravel bikes, cross bikes, road bikes, endurance bikes, XC bikes, DH bikes, Trail bikes, Enduro bikes, comfort bikes, recumbent bikes, trikes, eBikes, FAT Bikes, Plus Size Bikes, and on and on. Cassettes that had 11-32T gear ranges. Then 11-34T. Then 11-36. Then 11-40. Then 10-42. Now we have 10-46 and 10-50 cassettes!!! There goes the weight advantage of a 1 x __ gearing system compared to a double.
Some of it I get. Some of it I don't get.
But that's okay. It's not about the bike.
Or is it?
I crushed a nice ride yesterday riding the Dos Niner (creaks and all) on one of our local dirt systems (Banner Pits). I'm coming into pretty good form with all of the volume I have been doing the past 12 weeks, and hit some really good numbers for me due to being at fighting weight again. That all reminded me that it is not about the bike, it's about the rider and the work it takes to go fast. Yes, I will take my Dos Niner bike apart and try to fix all of the creaks and squeaks, but I know the days are numbered for my two well used bikes and all of their aging components. Hey, the Avid cable pull disc brakes on the JET 9 have been in operation for me since 2003!!! 14 years on the same brakes - not bad considering technology for disc brakes has moved miles beyond what I run on all of my bikes. Both bikes have lived beyond their expected life spans for what they were designed to do.
Leaving me thinking - it's time.
Or is it?
Edit: I had read about the upcoming 12 speed and 50T cog from SRAM (as well as 46T from Shimano). Only a day later and bingo, the Eagle has landed. 1 x 12 speed is here and all the 1 x 11 gizmos just went on sale.....!!!!