There have been a lot of great bicycle parts over the last 30-40 years, and I have had the good fortune to ride many of them. Even among the great parts, some stood out even more for me. Sometimes it was the design, other times it was the function or performance, and some just made me smile on or off the bike. Following is a list of some of my favorite parts – excluding any Cane Creek parts as they are all my favorite!
Without a doubt, the first one that comes to mind is Bullseye hubs. When I was racing BMX these were the cat’s meow. The design was unique, the construction was tough and simple, and they oozed coolness. I was lucky to get a set laced to Araya 7x rims for my 14th birthday, and I still have them. Along the way I laced them up into mountain bike wheels, but they found their way back to their BMX roots. The red bearing seals in my blue anodized hubs with the classic chrome Bullseye logo is timeless in my eyes.
Unlike now, fifteen years ago carbon fiber was rarely found on mountain bikes. While it had proven its worth on road bikes due to its awesome stiffness and light weight, impact resistance and failure mode were concerns in the dirt back then. One of the last areas to take unnecessary risks is handlebars. But armed with hockey stick and archery experience, Easton brought to market the Monkey Lite Bar that for many was the only carbon bar to trust. For several years I rode nothing but these on my XC race and trail bikes.
The Continental Gran Prix series of road tires have exemplified quality and performance for decades. The German-made tires have always been a step beyond in quality and over the years they closed the gap, and in my eyes now, surpassed the performance leaders. During my time at Specialized I rode a lot of very good tires (development led by an ex-Conti manager), but now I buy Continental tires. They combine suppleness, feedback, grip, and wear into one tire that gives me confidence to rail corners at 40 mph.
There are very few products that were as accepted in a multitude of cycling disciplines as Selle Italia’s original Flite Saddle. When it launched around 1990, its design and 200g weight were remarkable. But what made it legendary was that the saddle found a home on BMX bikes, DH rings, XC racers, and obviously road race bikes. While its shape didn’t fit my shape as well as some others, the Flite has always been one of my favorite bicycle parts.
My next favorite is actually a complete group: the original Shimano XTR group. When I first saw this group at a 1991 company sales meeting and internal product launch I was literally weak in the knees. As my pal Robert Egger likes to say, I was thinking about what I could “beg, borrow, or steal” to get a group. The aura of XTR seems to persist to this day, but that original XTR group truly set an all-new benchmark for design and performance. Many years later when the SRAM guys asked me what made a good front derailleur, I pointed to the XTR M900.
One of the most iconic designs for me is the Campagnolo Super Record Strada crank from the late 70’s. While no parts really worked that well back then, this crank was the epitome of gorgeous. While I think of myself as a Campy fan, I find their recent designs increasingly unappealing from a visual standpoint – sorry Dino and Mario!
Unlike most of the products on this list, Thomson’s Elite post is basically the same as it was twenty years ago, and it is still the go-to zero-offset post for many. The attention-to-detail exudes quality which is then demonstrated through years of unfaltering service. I have many of these, and several are on bikes I still ride. My fondness is likely somewhat attributed to the beautiful handmade wood box I received from Thomson when I was a product manager at Diamondback. Inside was a super smooth dovetailed box was a sample post, and outside the Thomson logo was burned into the wood.
I have more favorites, but these came to the surface with little thought. Parts like these have added a bit more sunshine to my cycling, and my desire has always been to develop products that do the same for others.