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I am going to try commuting to work via bike and am really excited about it. The problem is, I haven't really ridden a bike in the past 15 years, when I was in high school. I used to love biking but it just was never really possible to bike to work until now. What are some big ways in which cycling has changed in the past 15 years or so?

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closed as too broad by Neil Fein, mattnz, freiheit May 21 at 17:10

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Unless you are talking really high end bikes, very few things have change. Things have changed more in the mountain bike market with disc brakes and suspension, but road bikes haven't changed all that much. Other than integrating the shifters into the brake levers (Shimano's version was introduced in 1990, 24 years ago), I don't think there's been too many significant changes. –  Kibbee May 20 at 15:38
    
In terms of things introduced on bikes in recent years I can think of disk brakes and electronic shifting - the latter of which is still very high end and uncommon. But in terms of just commuting I agree with @Kibbee. There are the rules of the road which won't have changed any, there is still a small proportion of drivers who behave like idiots, ditto cyclists, most likely still as many potholes (although they may have moved!) etc. –  PeteH May 20 at 16:02
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You might want to check locally to see if there are more cycle paths so you don't have to ride on the road - I know in some parts of the world these have come on in recent years. Depends where you are. –  PeteH May 20 at 16:45
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The last really significant change was the introduction of indexed shifting, I think in the 80s. This is significant not because of the convenience of indexing but because it became possible to shift under load. There is always lots of new gee-whiz stuff that manufacturers push like disk brakes and carbon frames, but they're only significant to maybe 5% of cyclists. –  Daniel R Hicks May 20 at 16:45
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This question is looking to start a discussion; have voted to close for now, but maybe it can be edited into something more specific? –  Neil Fein May 21 at 1:16

3 Answers 3

One thing that I think has changed significantly is the quality of department store bikes. It used to be that you could go down to your local department store to get a quality bike. I'm not sure exactly when the transition happened, whether it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago, but at some point, almost all the bikes at large retailers became extremely low quality. Canadian Tire used to be a place to get a pretty decent bike. I use a 20 year old Canadian Tire (SuperCycle) as my rain bike.

You pretty much have to go to a bike shop, or at least a dedicated sports store to get a decent quality bike that you can depend on. And when you are commuting, you want something you can depend on.

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Yeah, used to be the much maligned Huffy would give decades of service in brutal conditions. Now you're lucky if it lasts a season. –  Daniel R Hicks May 20 at 21:59
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Best place to get a commuter/beater bike is at a yard sale... –  RoboKaren May 21 at 0:10
    
Or a LBS which specializes in them - they're still primary use on college campuses. –  Batman May 21 at 0:40

A few differences off the top of my (mtb) head:

Materials:

  • Hydroforming of aluminium tubes
  • Wider use of carbon for frames and wheels, not just top end bikes and on aggressive mountain bikes

Technology:

  • Disc brakes, both hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes are standard on mountain and hybrid bikes but slowly gaining momentum on touring, road and cyclocross bikes
  • Electronic shifting on road bikes, Shimano D12 and other brands use servos to power shifting for more responsive and lighter changes
  • Clutch derailleurs on mountain bikes to eliminate chain slap
  • Dual chamber air sprung suspension, dual chambers provide negative pressure
  • Remote everything, cockpits are now designed so that all manner of adjustments can be made to a bike on the fly such as seat height and suspension firmness
  • Dropper posts on mountain bikes, while gravity posts have been around for years hydraulic posts are now common for dropping and raising saddles on the fly.
  • Thru axles are slowing taking over QRs as standard on mountain bikes and have less flex than QRs
  • Tubeless wheels, no longer do many wheels and tyre sets require tubes
  • Various different full suspension designs, but there's no best design
  • Tapered head tube on mountain bikes to provide more stiffness
  • Narrow-wide chain rings to support 1x drive trains
  • Press fit headsets and bottom brackets, while headsets are a bit older and been available 15 years ago there are now numerous standards of press fit bottom brackets
  • Through axle crankshafts (what's the right wording here?) BBs no longer have an integrated spindle and that is part of the crankset, again for stiffness

Geometry:

  • 29" mountain bikes to roll over things better
  • 27.5" (650B) mountain bikes to roll over things a little less better but to turn better
  • Slacker head tubes on mountain bikes for more stability downhill

Bike Types:

  • Cyclocross European mud racing on road bikes has become popular across the world and now most brands carry a cyclocross off road bike in their range, good on both road and gravel and hardy commuters
  • Enduro European gravity racing paired with climbing (either aggressive XC or mostly downhill racing however you want to look at it) has become a term to describe previous all-mountain bikes. Usually fluro colours with about 160mm of travel
  • Fat bikes large tired (wide) mountain bikes

Performing Enhancing Drugs

  • Apparently people no longer take them, it's no longer the in thing to do

The Olympics:

  • BMX became an Olympic sport

Safety

  • All mountain/endure helmets providing back of head protection
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Great answer, although mid to high end MTB centric - I would love to spend a couple of hours debating the real reasons behind most of these changes (IMHO extracting more $$$ from more wallets summerises most of these). –  mattnz May 21 at 0:07
    
Also: (road): ramps and pins on cogs to improve shifting performance and increase the maximum jump, leading to the compact double (making a double instead of triple a reasonable non-racer option). An increase up to 11 gears in a cassette. Tapered steerer tubes (headset wider on bottom than top) –  freiheit May 21 at 0:13
    
Theres a difference with a cross bike and a commuter cross. some can do both (Kona Jake the snake), while others are really only suited for commuting (since they're heavy) or cross (since they lack things like rack mounts). I'm not sure about the drugs either. –  Batman May 21 at 0:43

Others have mentioned changes in the available equipment and the increase in bike lanes and paths.

Two major changes I've seen in my area are

There a few questions that mention Los Angeles that may also help you.

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