Well, Siskel and Ebert have their thumbs up/down, and TV guide has their cheers and jeers, so I think it's time for a critique of what's good and bad in the bicycling arena.
Aero bars are definitely a good idea. I've got them on all my bikes except the mountain bikes, even the tandem. Now that we're into the third generation of the product, there are a lot of the old ones around for real cheap. I consider myself a pioneer in the aero bar field, owning one of the first John Tobin originals. I think if John had been doing serial numbers, I would be in the single digits. It's still the most comfortable one I own, unfortunately it's attached to a bike I rarely ride, and will probably remain so, corrosion being what it is.
The jury's still out on STI componentry. I should preface this by saying that my experience with the stuff is actually quite limited. The only time I tried them was at a NEAR or GEAR, when I rode a bike on a windtrainer a total of 0.25 virtual miles in order to get a free T-shirt. Still, that doesn't prevent me from making didactic pronouncements on the merits of the product. This is the beauty of journalism. My impression of my brief encounter with STI is that they are very nice. On the other hand, my equipment tends to deteriorate rapidly, and I wonder how STI works after it goes out of adjustment. At least with the regular indexing, you can dial it out and go back to friction when things go sour.
I'm sure I don't want to try an electronic derailleur. Electrons and I don't get on very well. Witness the number of fires I've had with my headlight battery. Just two wires, after all, a 50-50 chance of getting it right. I think I've been averaging about 20%. They really do burst into flames when you hook them up wrong (don't try this at home). So I'm sure an electronic derailleur would choose to crap out in the 13 tooth cog just as I'm starting up Smuggler's Notch.
The Donohue thumbs up definitely goes to glueless patches. This, like self- adhesive stamps is one of the truly notable inventions of the 20th century. My personal problem with this is that I have about half a gallon of rubber glue and a lifetime supply of patches, so I figure to buy my first glueless patch kit around the year 2014. As you can guess, I have never actually used one of the glueless patches, so I have no idea if they work or not, but they seem like a great idea.
Another great idea that failed me miserably was the cordless cyclocomputer. The first model I bought barely got out of the driveway before crapping out. I read recent ads saying that the new models are greatly improved. I think the translation of this is that you can get twenty miles or so out of them before SCD (Sudden Computer Death). Maybe I'm unduly bitter, but after my first experience with cordless computers, I'm afraid to try them again. Still, it's such a good idea, I really wish they worked.
Another really good idea is the bike chain wear gauge. Sure, the cost is exorbitant considering what it is, but you have to pay for development. Granted, developing this tool is not exactly rocket science, but no one had done it before. Anyway, the tool is a great idea, quick and easy way to gauge chain wear without getting too much grunge on your hands.
The way it works is that when you put it on the chain, you turn a little knob until the tool is taut between two chain links. At this point you look on the gauge, which is located on the circular thing that you turn. There's a blue region (good chain) that has numbers from 0 to three in both directions. A new chain should theoretically sit on the 0, and progressively wearing chains head toward the 1,2,3 in the blue, and then to the dreaded red zone. Once you are in the red zone, you should think about a new chain. Only trouble was that I put a brand new chain on and it started at two in the blue zone. There's no way to calibrate it, so you have to take its predictions with a grain of salt. That's OK, I wasn't really planning to throw my chain out until it had maxxed out in the red region, anyway.
Another great invention is the chain pliers. This device looks like a pliers, except that the business end has a pointy bit like a chain pin. It also has a high mecnanical advantage, and basically, you can break a chain at a single bound with a good squeeze. The only problem, is that if you are a bit too energetic, you will force the chain pin all that way out. Anybody who has tried reinserting a chain pin once it's left the side plates of the chain realizes how hard this is. Ranks right up there with finding a contact lens at the bottom of a swimming pool. They should have made it so that at maximum extension it stops just shy of popping the pin but NOOOOOOOOO! Still a good idea.