I am able to order from most suppliers and manufacturers of good quality bicycle components. I will follow with a short list, but there are too many to list available through the distributors.
Shimano Is one of the two largest manufacturers of bicycle components. I can order and warranty Shimano components.
SRAM is making very popular drivetrains, I can order and warranty their components.
Microshift is available through the larger distributors and I am finding their components worth considering. The advent line is back to the old standard of an interchangeable road and mountain cable pull ration – that is to say, you can change between drop bar shifters and flat bar shifters with the same derailleur – easy, as it should be.
Paul Component Engineering somehow makes components incredibly cool and in the USA (Chico, CA). Their simple brakes feel like fancy hydraulic brakes and it all looks beautiful to boot.
White industries makes beautiful parts in Petaluma, CA. I think the quality is just about the top.
Velocity Wheels The rims are made in the USA and are fantastic. The company offers wheel packages of various price-point starting with imported hubs and up to complete domestic wheels. Remember that carbon wheels are expensive and eventually headed for the landfill.
Thomson is known for high quality aluminum seatposts and stems; they make more than that as well, in the USA.
SON seems to make some of the best dynamo hubs available. I am able to order them through the US importer Peter White Cycles
MKS is a Japanese maker of pedals. I think very highly of their pedals and try to keep some of their flat pedals in stock.
Nitto manufactures handlebars, stems, seatposts and racks. They produce quite a few handlebars for other companies as well. I have found them to be the best quality handlebars I have tried – Made in Japan.
Panaracer is another Japan based manufacturer. They make tires to a very high standard and, I look to them first for most road and gravel tires. The higher quality tires are made in Japan.
Velo Orange designs and imports frames and components, mostly from Taiwan. The quality is very high and I find they sell much that cuts through the junk and BS and serves a very functional bike. Their fenders are top notch. If I worked in an office, I would own their “Neutrino” bike.
Component thoughts, from a bike nerd.
A word about Made in USA
I admit that the cost of USA-made components can feel prohibitive. Most of us that like bikes enough to have too many learn where to make compromises, have some crummy parts that transfer from bike to bike because they are hard to justify replacing, and get a deal on something less than ideal that makes it worth it. For almost all components that have a brand made in the USA, the one at the top of my wish list is made here. There are a few companies making bike components in the USA: Paul component engineering, White industries, Wolf tooth, Wheels Mfg, Chris King and a few more. Unfortunately there are no competitors for a reasonable multi speed drivetrain, but almost all other bits are covered. The components from these companies generally hold their value and, upon resale, are likely to have cost no more than Asian counterparts to use.
The low hanging fruit of complaints about the bike industry is the changing “standards”. The new-fangled bits, and sizes of this or that and incompatibility render some parts that you thought you had useless for your new bike. Most of the changes have benefits to someone who rides, but that may only be at the “highest” levels of competition. Many of the changes are a bummer to the poor, frugal, or sensible. I will discuss a few and keep in mind that in the massive market of bicycles there is a resistance to the less worthy changes.
It use to be a bit more simple – in the 90s, Road 130mm rear hub Mountain 135mm rear hub with quick release skewers, both had 100mm front hubs.
These dimensions are still available, but many changes have worked through to be the norm. Skipping over the iterations, it appears that the spacing has settled in the two main categories to:
Road/Gravel 12x100mm front, 12x142mm rear
Mountain 15x110mm front, 12x148mm rear
These use “thru axles” instead of skewers and provide a needlessly robust system to hang on to your wheel. Unfortunately, these changes fumbled around a bit and there are compatibility issues. Not much is interchangeable, as these spacings determine more than just the opening width in the frame, but also the locating elements of the dropout and the disc brake spacing. Surly has made some of their frames “compatible” in the rear with new and old, but it leaves you scratching your head in the front.
Luckily, the road gravel standard is not actually a new spacing, just the interface. This means that most good quality wheels (hubs) can be adapted to work with your 100/135mm quick release frame. I would not hesitate to purchase a QR frame as it has really not been made obsolete. The thru axle frame, on the other hand, will not accept your old QR wheelset.
I like disc brakes, but they cause a few problems, in my opinion, that I will discuss below. Additionally, the industry is working through standards that limit options as they go, and may be reducing function for some.
The disc brake permits a few things that were less easy to achieve on rim brakes: good working (and feeling) brakes in many conditions at most levels of quality. Even relatively cheap brakes can feel pretty darn good. They have made their way into all categories of bicycle and facilitate some great flexibility on contemporary bikes.
Having multiple sizes of wheel for the same bike can permit you to have, for example, a burly 27.5” mountain wheel-set and a slight 29”(700c) city/road wheel-set that give the bike a similar geometry. For most of us, that would turn your mountain bike into an efficient commuter. You would not need brakes that reach around 3”tires on the mountain wheel-set and the swap is easy. Rim brakes are not compatible with such an exchange of rim diameter. Presumably the lack of need for a rim braking surface cut a little weight at the outer reaches of the wheel (lowering the moment of inertia) and the brakes work fairly well when conditions are wet. Additionally, a wobbly bent or dented rim still brakes well (if it did to begin with).
The downsides are there too, we don’t all need fancy brakes or run 3” tires, but we are suckers for better. You may have noticed a move towards stout looking carbon forks on light and nimble gravel bikes. The torque on the fork from a disc brake is significant and directed to a new location on the fork; while this is not so detrimental to the stout design of mountain bike forks, it is not so compatible with the thin legged forks you may associate with classic road bikes. The fork leg that once was designed with vertical compliance (flexibility in the steel to absorb shock), is now a stiff structure that resists deflection from braking, and, along the way, vertical compliance. This may be a contributing factor in the recent obsession with “supple” tires; they are more necessary than before!
This makes a bit of a chain reaction; the carbon fork is best made with a crown of much greater diameter that needed for steel and this is moving the frames to accommodate carbon forks with large head tubes. Whats the problem? Nothing really, if you like incompatibility soup, but the consumer pays for all of the R&D and changes in the industry – have you noticed how expensive bicycles have become? Often, the value of your bike (pandemics aside) will suffer accordingly.
Another consideration is weight; the steel forks to accommodate this torque is heavy! The weight of the bikes has gone down and the forks are getting stouter – it should be no surprise that this is followed by the sale of a carbon fork on many higher end steel bikes. The carbon is not stronger, it is just able to be made to specifically resist this torque and stay lightweight. The problem that you may have noticed is that we are back to the beginning – where do you get compliance? At this point there are short travel suspension forks for gravel bikes, shock absorbing stems and profiled carbon handlebars, not to mention “supple” tires to aid in correcting the problem. For some, rim brakes are preferable to this day. I certainly consider a carbon fork a liability – failure, though unlikely without an unusual force, may really hurt you. Failure of a steel fork that passes the most basic check is unlikely and even then is less likely to cause comparable injury.
Disc brake mounting:
The standard, for some time, was referred to as an “I.S.” (Itnl. Stnd) mount – pretty adaptable most any disc you wanted and any caliper. You bolted the caliper to the frame with an intermediate adapter to a “Post mount” caliper was sized to the disc diameter – fairly simple. The calipers were mostly “post mount” and this was working out, many suspension forks used a direct post mount on the fork and the frame had an I.S. mount but the calipers matched.
The newer mount, generally for road/gravel is the “Flat mount” and it serves a few purposes … I guess. The flat mount caliper bolts to the frame directly or with a with a very unobtrusive adapter and the tidy caliper fits nicely in a well positioned tab that directs the braking loads of the caliper directly to the frame or fork. It looks nice and tidy to boot. You are constrained to, generally, 140mm and 160mm rotors and you have a new standard that makes your mountain calipers not compatible without unwieldy adapters. Who want’s to put mountain calipers on a road bike though? Anyone that wants to convert to a flat bar set-up might want to do that! I will admit that 160mm rotors should be fine, but I am 180lbs. I think that a loaded bike and a 260lb rider might feel better with a 180mm or larger rotor, especially depending on the terrain; this constraint seems a little bizarre to coincide with the blurring of the line between road and mountain bike in the latest “gravel bikes” many of which accommodate 2.4” tires, braze-ons to carry a heavy load and even dropper posts.
Gears and Hubs
I am not alone in the thought that the gear race is a bit ridiculous. New drive-trains do often work quite well: clean shifting, a wide range, clutch derailleurs and low weight. The engineering that you will pay for to have these things is worth it to some, but we will all pay more for the new standards to be in the common market; and some of these improvements do not do much for many riders. The “advancements” that I can get behind are single narrow wide chain-rings and clutch derailleurs. The ones that I don’t get excited about are those that have created new freehubs, super thin chains, and derailleurs with such long cages that they are looking for trouble.
The classic Shimano HG free hub could take a cassette with cogs from 11 teeth up to 11 speeds (12 really) – that is a lot of gears, if you want more I think a 2x (two chainrings in the front) can get you where you need to be. The limitations of a 1×11 are your high gear (or low, depending on which you prioritize) and, depending on the size of the largest cog, the step size between them. I am often on a single speed, so the level of discontentment with the gear range that “must” exist to bring yet more gears is hard to comprehend. Sram ‘reinvented the wheel’ with a freehub that can accommodate a 10 tooth cog, and of course Shimano followed with a new (microspline) freehub as well. The utility of a 10 tooth cog is that you can get a higher gear range without needing a rear derailleur to accommodate an enormous (and heavy) cog. You can also run a smaller (or keep a smaller) front chainring and get a relatively high gear and keep the low gear you had. Great, but if you are not in a race, I am not seeing it as worth ditching such a flexible and ubiquitous standard. A ten tooth cog will wear fast, the cassettes are expensive, the single speed cogs you had in your parts bin don’t fit the free hub; again the benefit goes to those in the upper edge of competitive riding. A couple of companies have produces a nine tooth cog, but I don’t think that is on the mainstream horizon yet. If you are wondering why the new designs, it is is simply a matter of diameter; you need to fit the axle, bearings and freehub equipment in a circle that can still accommodate the inside diameter of a ten tooth cog.
Note that the new drivetrains are more prone to problems for the simple reason that they are squeezing more out of what is basically the same chain. The chains have been adapted (at great cost to the consumer) as well as the chainrings and cogs, but the constraints still come at a functional cost. The tolerances are lower and there is less wiggle room to keep you rolling. Racers appear to throw a chain more frequently with the new drivetrains and it is no wonder. If you are not seeking every last gear advantage, consider a 9 or 10 speed drivetrain. If that is not enough gearing, a double in the front ought to make you happy.
A note to the very casual rider looking for a less expensive ride. If you just ride around flat-ish ground, consider a single speed. The simplicity and efficiency is fantastic. The discussion around efficiency of gearing and spin rate is relevant to racers and long distance riders, but for those interested in just a bit of exercise, the repositioning and accommodations of the body to the “wrong” gear are part of a more thorough use of your body mechanics. This can, of course, be overdone – don’t wreck your back trying to pedal a steep hill in high gear, but it is clear that some portion of the injuries to long distance riders comes from the repetitious motion in the same prescribed pattern. Fitting a bicycle to prevent this is difficult, and not in the interest of the grocery getter or casual rider The gear ratio can be adjusted to your local riding and adjusted fairly easily. The other major reason for this is maintenance – I have jumped on a lot of bikes owned by others and the shifting and gear mechanism is commonly horrendous. Between poor initial quality, cable stretch, chain wear, and derailleur alignment lower cost bikes with many gears tend to become that bike that makes biking not happen. Single speeds, while they still should be maintained, are often the bikes ready to go after a stint in the shed. A fairly low gear will take away the top speeds on flat, but prevent you from stalling out. A fixed gear bicycle is promoted by some, but I would not go this far – there is an element of danger that only some desire.
There are also internally geared hubs of a broad range of …range and cost. At the lower end the efficiency and weight are cons, but a good option for some.