Author and Bicycling Magazine columnist Bill Strickland tweeted the other day that he found the first reference to "laterally stiff, vertically compliant" used in the magazine back in 1972 in a review of a bicycle by Atala.
That got me thinking about how many bicycle brands today use that phrase. The reviewers of course get more mileage out of it than a set of Conti Gatorskins, but I wondered if the brands themselves ever fall back on it. So I did a Google search on "laterally stiff vertically compliant bicycle."
Now I know the internet is big, so I expected to see as many as a few thousand references, many of them computer or bot-generated. The actual number was a shade north of a few thousand. I found 497,000 pages on the internet with "laterally stiff vertically compliant bicycle" in them.
Looking at the first page reveals the expected reviews, some talk on the forums, consumer perspectives where clearly the hype has been taken hook, line and sinker, and also some expected satirical use. (BikeSnobNYC, by the way, has so much GoogleJuice that the use of the phrase in the comments of one of his posts made the top 10 results.) But if you start to flip through the pages one by one, as I did, you'll see some recognizable URLs begin to appear: Cannondale.com, Cervelo.com, JamisBikes.com. In fact, look long enough, as I did, and the list of bicycle brands using some Google-friendly variation of the phrase "laterally stiff vertically compliant" to describe their bikes - earnestly, not ironically - starts to look like the list of the largest booths at Interbike, and the brands that want to be compared to those in the largest booths at Interbike:
Trek / Gary Fisher
Renovo Hardwood Bicycles
This is the part of the blog post where I would draw pithy conclusions, if they weren't so obvious.