Threading a top-notch carbon fibre/CNC machined, short cage race mech into a tubby tourer’s Ritchey hanger might seem a very provocative statement but as my road and life mileages accumulate, I’m drawn to the conclusion there’s nothing new under the sun. Those of you who have lived a muddy life in parallel to asphalt may remember a trend in the early 90s for mountain bikers embracing short cage road mechs…I even recall a few half chrome seat stays on custom steel mtb frames during this era. The reasoning behind this embracing of short-cage designs was primarily that longer arms had greater tendency for collision with rocks, snagging on undergrowth etc. To a greater or lesser extent this small- scale craze evaporated as quickly as it arrived once a few had wept at the sight of their Ultegra mech turning cannibal in protest at being force fed another wheelie inducing ratio.
While I have very conservative set-ups adorning my road and cross mounts, I’m certainly not adverse to a little experimentation. Take my mtb based crosser-a solid winter trainer cum working bike. Wanting minimal maintenance I opted for a seven speed-single ring straight-through block configuration. Initially this sported an LX mech. However, sometime after one in the afternoon of December 16 2001, a red three series BMW clipped me along Streatham high road, seeing man and much loved machine bouncing along terra firma, resultant in cuts, bruises a bent mech and beefy Ritchey hanger. Mario Vaz re-aligned the latter but a short-cage eight-speed 105 unit has sat there, pride of place ever since.
Some will see my reasoning-an 11-19 cassette and 32-tooth ring hardly taxes it but given my earlier commentary, what’s this low-weight, wallet hefty bike jewellery doing aboard my load lugger? Well, until recently I had been running this new old stock Shimano 600 from somewhere in the mid-eighties- it was slick enough and was holidaying in the spares drawer when the RTB was first conceived a decade back. The opportunity presented itself to test a top flight Shimano alternative and while it naturally behaves impeccably across a 53/39 11-23 configuration I was curious as to it’s performance when partnered with a seven speed Ultegra/STX RC command centre oh and an eight speed chain-just for fun. Experience tells me that components work to their optimum as a groupset but compatibility is generally pretty good with sensible A’la Carte pairings too.
Others will doubtless be calling for my abduction in the wee small hours Soviet style and subjected to aversion therapies not dissimilar to those employed Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. Rest assured, the super dooper mech is very much on loan but I think another 105 or similar short-mid cage road mech shall take its place. They tried to make me go to rehab…
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)