|Graph of number of rear cogs on Shimano road sets|
Still battling rhinovirus/cold, or what a knowledgeable doctor tells me may be "parainfluenza", I set about doing something, anything, other than laying around listening to myself cough. This yielded the first graph, above, which shows that once marketers and engineers formed their unholy sprocket growth alliance around 8, their upward march of more and more rear sprockets has proceeded at a steady clip.
More, it seems, continuous to be perceived as better, probably faster, and doubtless with higher margins and shorter lifespans as tolerances tighten and dimensions shorten. Where will it all lead, though?
|Adding a rear sprocket every eight or nine years|
Surely, an ever-narrowing chain combined with an ever-widening rear spacing will hit some practical limit, in which someone, hopefully an engineer, scratches their chin and wonders aloud, in the hearing of other engineers, "Will it really make cycling better if we have 13 rear cogs in the year 2030?"
I surely don't know. I'm not psychic, not at all. For example, I'd like to say that I knew how it would all turn out when I bought my Lemond road bike, but I didn't have a clue. I just liked the bike. It has ten cogs out back and three chain rings up front, by the way. Perhaps one day, out near the end of the second graph, we'll look back at it, with the aid of perspective of our then-new super-efficient nanotechnology bottom bracket CVT gear boxes, and laugh at the crudeness of a stack of 10 cogs crowded between the dropout and the hub.
Or, on another hand, perhaps cog count is like PC processor speed, 11 or so cogs being analogous to 3 or so GHz. Which would lead us to divert from the cog growth path, and down an alternate route of ratio adjustment, the multi-core 11 cog, if you will. Instead of having a single 11 cog stack, perhaps 3 or more concentric or planetary multi-core cogs would achieve that ever-increasing number of "speeds" without requiring further chain narrowing or rear spacing widening. Multi-core in '24!
It would be like those early "turbo" add-in boards for the IBM PC, raise your processor speed to untold heights, add these multi-core cog extenders, increase your speeds to 60!
I have wondered in this space before about how many speeds I really need, and will freely admit that my opinion varies between 1, 8, 21, 30, and points in between. However, in the context of market-driven cog growth, that is perhaps the wrong question. The right one would be: how many cogs do you want?