Sunday I got an extremely rare treat as the first stage of the Amgen Tour Of California brought the world’s top professional cyclists right to my exact neighborhood. I biked down to the bay to watch the depart and I also rode the final finishing kms which I know quite well having ridden it hundreds of times. There was some kind of vendor/sponsor fair at the finish area and I noticed this company that seems to make car racks that attach to the vechicle with suction cups.

Batman can design bat-themed gadgets, Spiderman can make strings shoot out of his wrist, the Incredible Hulk can turn green and double in size faster than typical steroid users, etc. My two main super powers are as follows. First, if you give me a pen and I start to write with it, the ink will stop flowing. It is a gift I can’t explain. Second, and almost back on topic, my mighty superpowers release all suction cups anywhere near me.

I have lived long enough that even with this superpower I have attempted to use products that incorporate suction cups dozens of times. My success rate is 0%. Maybe it’s my ability to withstand a combination of extreme temperature and weather fluctuations, harsh impacts and vibrations, extreme duty cycles, and almost obnoxious parsimony, but suction cups do not work for me. Imagine my terror at discovering people who believe that suction cups are a good way to hold a bicycle (or a kayak!) to a car. (Digressing again… funny story… two days ago I got passed on the freeway by someone who had an Amazon Fresh delivery bag "strapped" to the top of his car with a surfboard strap. Less than a minute later I saw the bag sitting on the pavement. People are idiots.) It’s not really a superpower but my engineering background helps me choose which vehicles to avoid following and if I ever see one of these suction cup racks, you can bet that I will not be behind it.

Let me now shift topics to shifting gears, bicycle sprockets actually. I just came across this pretty good article describing the history and current state of bicycle shifting technology (though they fail to mention my preferred systems, aero bar mounted shifters and Gripshift, and my least favorite system, Shimano "Rapidfire").

My first comment on this topic is to editorialize about STI. I have no conceptual problem with integrated shifting from the brake levers on road bikes. It seems like a good idea. But I have never used it personally. I simply am too poor. The cost of a set of integrated shift/brake levers is comparable to the price in my head that an entire bike should be. I’m not sure that a technology that doubled the cost of bicycles was really great for cycling. Well, certainly not so great for bicycles with gears. I would love to see an overlaid plot of STI and fixie adoption over time.

Now that I’ve gotten my miscellaneous bike rambling out of the way it’s time for the real topic - electric shifting systems. This actually relates to the suction cup thing because, just like suction cups, another technology I will not bet my life on (harsh conditions play a role here too) is batteries. My policy is simple - use whatever you want, but these systems should be banned by the UCI as they currently exist. I’m not against the electric actuation per se. What I believe is wrong to bring to the sport of bicycle racing is carrying around batteries. To me that’s starting down the road of an ebike (which I’m a big fan of outside of racing). And, yes, I am consistent. I don’t think bike computers or race radio units should be allowed if they involve energy that is not from the rider produced during the race. Half of the rationale for this is conceptual - it’s a human-powered race. The other half is practical - I really hate the idea of so much attention and development going into products that will be extremely annoying and expensive to people who ride a lot (but who are not on sponsored racing teams). What do I mean by "a lot"? Let’s just say that I stopped using bike computers because changing the batteries became too much of a hassle (and I gave up on the wireless one I once bought after about two weeks). I also know this from trying to manage battery powered lighting in a freezing climate (obviously a different climate than the Tour of California started in). After using my Schmidt Hub Dynamo for a while it became clear that, all things considered, batteries are nowhere near ready to compete with my legs at generating power.

Update I just noticed this insane report in the NYT about real reports of motorized bikes in real velosport events. Motors should be allowed, of course, but we need to ban the batteries (and fuel?) in any form.