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« Shared Path Etiquette | Main | The Weight Weenie »

Selling the Benefit

My last article, “The Weight Weenie,” was meant to be a light hearted poke at people who obsess over the weight of their bike. It turned into an interesting discussion on other issues besides weight.

Weight, or rather its reduction, is not a recent fad; it has been around as long as I can remember, and was probably there since the bicycle was invented. The old ordinary bicycles, (The Penny Farthing.) dating back to the late 1800s, were sometimes advertised weighing as light as 18lbs.

Go to any seminar, or read a book on selling, (Or marketing as people prefer to call it.) and you will learn that you always “Sell the Benefit” to the consumer. In other words, “How will the consumer’s life be made better” if he buys whatever it is you are selling. In the case of a bicycle, how will it improve your performance.

One can build or manufacture just about anything then put up some wonderful sounding argument stating why it is of benefit to the user. Most of these statements cannot be proved or disproved.

Even when these theories are disproved, nobody really cares least of all the company who has made a lot of money, and everyone just moves on to whatever the next trend is.

In the late 1960s Cinelli built a frame that was absolutely devoid of all brazed-on fittings; stating that braze-ons weakened the frame.

Gear levers, cable guides, etc. all had to be clamped on to the frame. (Picture left.)

Later people realized that the clamps held moisture and started rust spots, and the clamps sometimes caused stress risers and tubes often broke adjacent to the clamp.

For a while every other framebuilder followed suit, because it saved a tremendous amount of time, but the frames did not cost any less. (Which was of course the real reason.) Cinelli had stumbled on an incredibly simple way to cut labor costs; then actually sold the idea to the consumer as a benefit.

At the time Cinelli charged double what anyone else did for a frame. There is a psychology of it costs more, therefore it must be better. Also if it costs more you win the one-upmanship game.

There was much discussion in my last post about a flexible frame being of actual benefit to the rider. The big question here is, “How much flex?” Aluminum for example makes a very strong and lightweight frame; however, it has little or no flexing qualities.

Back when I built frames they were made by brazing a high tensile steel tube into a lugged joint. In the case of Columbus, the tubes were heat treated and were like a very strong steel spring. When you heated the tubes to braze the joint you actually softened the tubes, thereby losing a little of the strength.

Remember Cinelli’s argument that braze-ons weakened the frame; actually there was a grain of truth in that statement. However, brazing the lugged joint and attaching braze-ons is part of the frame building process. The tubes are actually designed to withstand losing some of the strength during the building process; this is why tubes are butted. (Greater wall thickness at each end.)

The trick is to braze as quickly as possible, using just enough heat to get the job done, but not heating the tube a greater distance from the lug or braze-on than necessary; thus retaining as much of the tube’s inherent strength as possible.

Because a frame is like a very stiff steel spring; when the rider makes a sudden effort as when he jumps in a sprint; the frame gives or flexes slightly. This is desirable, but the operative word here is “Slightly." It is like the difference between an athlete jumping from a concrete track or floor, and one jumping from a Tartan track surface or floor made from wooden boards.

There is an old Briticism, (A saying from the UK.) that “Bull shit baffles brains.” I am left to wonder have certain manufacturers made a frame so light that it is flexible. Having done so they are going against the wisdom of the ages that a frame needs to be stiff; so then the marketing wizards come up with some “New Tech” that says flexible is good.

I am not saying this is so, I am simply just asking. At the same time remembering Cinelli’s “Braze-ons weaken the frame" statement, and more recently the Sketchers shoe company’s Shape Up shoes that the maker’s clamed would give you a great looking butt, by simply wearing them and walking around.



Reader Comments (5)

Well, I cant say that a small amount of frame flex DOESN'T produce a quicker accelerating, less tiring ride, but I would bet that it would vary for every rider depending on body weight, physical strength, body position, tire type, frame geometry etc etc and as a result it would be impossible to produce a frame that would suit every condition. I would think, as with downhill skis, different riders will find different bike frames more suitable and comfortable than others. And I certainly am not convinced that the reason it MAY be quicker is because the frame stores energy and releases it as forward driving force during the dead spots in the pedaling stroke.

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergabriel

One of my treasured possessions is a Campgnolo bolt-on bottom bracket cable guide. I have no recollection what bike it came off of now, only that it seems to be the perfect solution for a common problem. Was that solution better or worse than other solutions? I doubt it.

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTimJ

We use to test the flex in a frame by setting the bike aganst a wall and putting the pedal at 6oclock position and pushing the pedal towards the wall, The stiffest frame in the 50s was a Bates BAR with cantiflex 531 tubes, The sloppest one was a Hetchins with curly stays. No big science test but did show quite a lot of us the frame that could wake a difference when getting ot of the saddle up hill or in a sprint. I have done the same test on some of my bikes and the Carbon Concorde Xlade is by far the stiffest, my 1973 Legnano 531 a close 2nd and my 2005 Mercian 725 third, My 1953Rotrax was very close the 1953 Claud not so good was a welded with Bi lam lugs. BUT it all for fun, The weight and equip also makes a difference, OF COURSE the bloody rider is the one that counts

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

Dave Neded to change subject this one is going no where!

June 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

There comes a point when too much dialogue ruins things. People can talk too much.
It’s not about physics, biology or mechanics. It is about the rider and his bicycle. And no Zukerberg, you’ll never come up with an algorithm that represents cycling.
Science can only go so far in understanding the amalgam of cycling. I prefer the poets who choose their words carefully, the artists who capture emotion in their images and the athletes that embody what it is to climb mountains on a bicycle.
Their succinct style conveys what cycling is all about. Perhaps this can only be understood by those that experience it.

June 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

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