Greetings readers from Sydney Australia. My name is Ray English and a few of you may recall my "Limey" accent when you called Wheels Manufacturing in the 1990's or maybe met me at an Interbike, yes I was the old Guy! For the rest of you I started work in the bike industry in 1974 and worked in retail, distribution, manufacturing and now as a seriously old guy do journalism writing for local Australian bike magazines. I first raced in 1961 and saw my first Tour de France the same year. For the riders and mechanic of that Tour things were simple, steel frames, a 10 speed gearing,with down bar or handle bar end shifters, brake levers for braking, laced up wheels, toe clips and straps. Weight around 22-23lbs for the bike. Fast forward 50 years, carbon fibre everything, hi-tech everything, 22 gears about 15lbs.
The 1961 Tour was 2750 miles long the 2011 Tour 2143 miles long, 600 miles less, but despite shorter stages, better roads and bikes weighing 25% less the average speed of the winner increased by just 2.35mph! If 1961 winner Jacques Anquetil had ridden the 2011 Tour on his 1961 bike given better roads and shorter stages would those two factors alone have increased his average speed by 2.35mph? Of course we will never know but are we technically kidding ourselves we can buy speed? Is the bike industry inventing for inventing sake? I am all for improving helmets, lights and clothing but electric shifting, GPS, carbon fibre bottle cages???...learn how to ride friction gears, read a map and find a TA spring steel bottle cage on EBay!...before you ask, I do still ride down tube friction levers, toe clips and straps, can read a map and put black tea, lemon and honey in my bottles!