Velonews did a thing a long time ago and asked a bunch of us what we thought the best cycling innovation has been throughout our careers. I can’t remember all the answers, but there were some pretty interesting one.
I said that I thought that clipless pedals were the best upgrade. It would have been hard, at the time, to convince me that something better had come along.
That was until I read the article and Thurlow Rogers said that lycra shorts with synthetic chamois was his answer. I was like, duh. Of course he was right.
I would much rather be riding around with toe clips, with shorts with synthetic chamois, than clipless pedals and having to ride shorts with leather chamois.
When I think back upon it, I’m not sure how I got along with leather chamois. They could be horrible. Better shorts had better chamois, but the “maintenance” of the chamois was horrendous.
Washing the things was a hassle. They would get all slick and slimy. Then they would take forever to dry if the weather was humid.
I don’t know how many pairs of shorts I had that had blown out chamois. There is nothing like riding with a hole in a leather chamois. I used to buy replacement chamois and try to sew them in. I’m not good enough with a sewing machine to accomplish that task with any type of success. It was always a disaster.
I didn’t realize that Kucharik still replaced chamois. Kucharik was the first pair of lycra bib shorts I ever rode in. They will replace a leather chamois for $45. That seems like a crazy good deal. I’m thinking about sending in a pair of chamois-less shorts to them and have them put in a leather one. Then I can go back to memory lane and see if it is as bad as I remember.
So, clipless pedals would be #2. If I had to pick more then Di2 shifting would probably be #3. For sure STI shifting on the brake levers. Then Di2 shifting. Shifting on the downtube wasn’t efficient and it could cost you a race. It is strange thinking about how shifting in a race was part of the tactics. Watching when your competitor was shifting was integral in one up sprints. I don’t know how many races I won by jumping when the guy I was racing with was shifting.
Clincher tires have improved a bunch. Sealing tires up tubelesss off-road is obviously a big innovation, but I’m sort of pre-dating that with the road comparisons. There really weren’t MTB around when the chamois were leather.
I’m not sure about the frames. Titanium has improved a ton, being lighter and stiffer. There wasn’t carbon around, so obviously that is a game charger, weight-wise. Frames have differently gotten way stiffer for the weight, but I probably could get along riding a 1978 Colnago Super frame with modern equipment.
Wheel technology is a big deal though. The wheels we ride now are way faster than a 32 spoke wheel of yesteryear. The lower spoke count and rim depth takes away a ton of wind resistance. I used to race on 28 hole wheels, I ever had a 24 spoke front wheel when I was really young. They were light. The rims would weight around 260 grams, but they were not reliable. It was so easy denting a rim back then.
Anyway, that is my list off the top of my head this morning. If I missed something, which I’m sure I did, just leave a comment.