The Transformation of a Road Bike, From Purchase to Perfect (or as close to perfect as I can afford at the moment): What to Worry About When Upgrading a Bicycle (and What not to).
Here’s what’s different: Wheels (Vuelta Corsa SRL hubs and spokes with Velocity rims because the Vuelta’s hoops were crap), S-Works Aerofly handlebar, S-Works Crank, Blackburn carbon bottle cages, Specialized cycling computer, FSA carbon wrapped aluminum stem.
Original weight 18.8 pounds. Weight today, 17.2 pounds. The bulk of the weight savings came in the wheels (a pound) and the crank (3/4 pound-ish), though the stem helped a bit as well too (90 grams) and if I want to drop another $2,000 I can take that overall weight below 17 with a decent set of carbon fiber wheels.
The stem/handlebar were lowered by 10 mm. The reach of the Aerofly handlebar is 5 mm less that of the original bar. Stem length and rise are identical between the old and new stem.
The saddle nose was dropped to level to allow for the lowering of the stem. Originally, the saddle was leveled tip to rear but that produced too much pressure where I don’t like pressure. Ahem.
The new wheels roll immensely better than the original wheels. The crankset is vastly superior to the one that came with the bike. The stem? Meh, it looks a lot cooler and 80 grams is 80 grams. The handlebar seems to cut down on road chatter quite a bit but the weight savings were minimal – basically I bought the bar because it looks really cool.
Long story, shorter; I dropped another $2,000 on top of the purchase price to make my bike a pound and a half lighter, look cooler and roll just slightly faster.
The S-Works crankset was absolutely worth every penny. We’re talking a night and day difference. Had it to do over again, I’d buy the set again – and knowing what I know now, I’d pay 50% more. Seriously. The wheels were worth what I’ve got into them (though I’d opt for a more expensive set, hindsight being what it is).
The cheap cycling computer does everything I want it to do, which is not much. Current speed and distance traveled. Throw in that I’ve got average speed and high speed features and an odometer (11,000 miles) and I couldn’t ask for more.
I had the top-rate Body Geometry fit done at the shop where I bought the bike and if I’d have paid for the three hour session, that would have been worth every penny too – even if the only thing that came out if it was lowering the saddle by 2 millimeters (kinda cool, considering I did the initial set-up).
So I’ll get to the point. That’s a $5,000 bike the way it sits. Give or take. Does the extra $2,000 matter over, say an equally appointed Tarmac, or $2,500 for a Venge Elite (which has everything my Venge has except decent wheels and the S-Works crankset) or even $3,000 to go with a top of the line Allez Sprint Expert?
Here’s the trick: I had the money. I paid cash for everything, right down to the bottle cages. My bike is vastly superior to the one I brought home because of the wheels and crankset… but the difference could have been made up for with “want to”. It all comes down to what I can afford and being happy with what I’ve got.
There is a difference between the Shimano 105 and Ultegra lines, but not enough that it would matter if you don’t know any better. Sure, there’s a difference between an aero frame and a standard round tube frame, but not enough a person couldn’t hang in a group.
The only hitch in the giddy up is the wheels. Good wheels matter. A lot.
Let me illustrate it this way:
I’ve got three club rides this year north of a 22 mph average. All three occurred with the Vuelta/Velocity Wheels on the bike. However , two were on the Venge and one on my 17 year-old Trek 5200 that was built long before aero bikes were a thing and weighs four pounds more than the Venge… I swapped out the cassettes and wheels. The aerodynamic advantage didn’t matter. Sure, I absolutely had to work a little bit harder (and yes, it was enough to notice), but it wasn’t so much I couldn’t hang.
“Want to” goes a long way, baby.
To wrap this up, a good bike is worth the moola. They’re fast, quiet, sturdy and smooth. The expensive bikes absolutely ride better that their cheaper siblings and they are definitely marginally faster… and the more you spend, the better they usually are.
That said, as budgets go, I’m better off with a decent bike and a great set of wheels than a great bike with crappy wheels. So if you have to worry about a budget, remember this simple formula if you’re going to ride a lot and/or fast: Shimano 105 components or better (that’s the base race quality drivetrain), the best wheelset you can afford (and they most likely won’t come with the bike), then spend what you’ve got left on the rest of the bike.
Fit Recovery’s Cycling Dictionary defines “Fit” thusly:
What riding a bicycle makes you. Ride enough, becoming fit is inevitable. See also Healthy, sexy, Awesome.
I wrote a post in my sixth day of writing this blog and it was a doozy. Sadly, nobody saw it because nobody in the community knew me. Back then, I maybe had six or eight people who read my blog.
Humorously, I’d forgotten I wrote the post myself… Then Shay-lon stumbled on it and left me one long, well reasoned, and passionate comment on the post. In that comment she suggested I reblog it to get it out there…
The post, before you read it, is a bulldozer for myths about exercise. Please check it out:
Exorcising the Myths of Exercise… – http://wp.me/p248iZ-1m
1. Fit people are “lucky” to be that way.
2. Running is bad for the knees and joints.
No it isn’t. And I’ve used that one myself….
3. Low impact exercise is better than running or “high” impact exercise.
That isn’t true either, though I’ve used that one too….
The Fit Recovery Cycling Dictionary defines “Fat” thusly:
What a bicycle runs on.
Notice there isn’t any on me? Or maybe let’s just say that there’s a healthy amount of fat on me. Yes, let’s go with that. The point is, there isn’t much on me because my bicycle runs on it. I ride my bicycle(s) a lot and eat a good, balanced diet. Therefore, no fat.
It’s not rocket science, though some try to make it out as such.
The Fit Recovery Cycling Dictionary defines the following words thusly:
A foot covering used to ride a bicycle that makes one walk like a duck and costs a ridiculous amount of money but allows a cyclist to get every last watt of power to the crankset where it belongs – because when you’ve got a bike, who needs to walk? Typically consisting of a leather upper and a carbon fiber sole… Why carbon fiber? Because Carbon Fiber.
The cleat is a hard plastic or metal* that attaches to the carbon fiber sole of a cycling shoe that allows the wearer to clip into and out of pedals.
*One could rightly point out that if the sole of the shoe is carbon fiber, a metal cleat won’t be the best option.
The lever that attaches to a bicycle’s crank arms that accept the cleat that attaches to the carbon fiber sole of a cycling shoe, whereby transferring all possible wattage from the foot to the bicycle’s drivetrain.
Now, there’s a reason all three of these components of a bicycle are included in this post: They’re meant to work together. For those who believe “the pedals that your feet clip into” are too dangerous, this post is for you. No they’re not more dangerous, you’re uncoordinated, don’t know how to use them, and you need practice. The three components, when used correctly and in conjunction with each other, are vastly safer that platform pedals. Not only that, they’re better for one’s legs, knees, ankles and hips because they don’t let the foot bob around to different parts of the pedal. This is, of course, because you had your feet properly aligned and set on the pedals by way of the cleats, which are screwed to the soles of your shoes and clip into your pedals, by a professional at your local bike shop.
While there are those who choose to mountain bike using platform pedals, which I can understand, I prefer to not have my feet bouncing off of my pedals when I’m going over rocks and roots and I like being able to pull up with the back foot while pushing down with the front. But that’s just me.
Pedal, Shoe, and Cleat.
Several months ago I heard a report that said we would go straight from summer into winter. We rode in shorts and short sleeves last night, exceptionally rare this late in October.
We had to pay for the warmth by way of wind though.
The warm-up was an out and back six miles, dead into the wind then straight back. Heading west it was 14 mph and it was some work. Heading back was 21. Soft pedaling. The wind was too loud to carry a conversation in going out so we saved the talking for the ride back.
We rolled out at 5:30 on the nose and I was nervous as always when the wind is that strong because it’s usually a little chippy in the group and so many people get spit off the back early when finding a place to hide gets tough….
Getting situated on the rollout was odd and straight into the wind. The A and B groups were together again this week and two guys went off the front right away because the rest of us were a little slow to get rolling but I got down in the drops and tracked them down. I had doubts right out of the gate because I had to work just to catch up and that put me at second bike so I’d have to take a pull shortly after.
We were north of 20 mph though o the turns into the wind were mercifully short. As soon as the lead guy tapped out I got into the drops and hunkered down. He moved to the right and the wind hit me full blast, as if it pushed me back for a pedal stroke though I regained my composure pretty quickly. I stayed up front for about a half-mile and tapped out.
I let off the gas, intent on drifting all the way to the back but found out the hard way that it was going to be one of those nights… A hole opened up meant for me, only six guys back – there were probably fifteen in each pace line. Now, depending on the group you ride with there are two schools of thought to go with in this situation. I’m a strong B rider and a weak A, so riding in the front rotation for too long can really take its toll. On the other hand, it’s chippy the farther back you get in the group, with virtually no room to hide from the wind. It’s almost a damned if you do fall back, damned if you don’t scenario.
I took a gamble and dropped into the slot they’d opened for me. I figured to hell with it, I’d give it everything I had. Recovering wasn’t easy but I quickly found a good rhythm that I could live with so I stayed in the front rotation. Mile after mile I stayed with the front group and ended up looking for the bike of the guy who’d taken a turn up front before me… as soon as I saw his front fork, I’d give a couple of strong pedals and take a spot behind him. It was an absolute shock when I realized that our group had dwindled down to a little more than a dozen about ten miles in. Later, in the parking lot, I would find out that guys had started dropping as early as three miles into the ride…
At this point I was feeling pretty awesome and had just come off a turn at the front. Big Joe was still with us but he was taking a spot in the center of the two lines. I was in the right pace line and the wind was howling at us from that side… His position meant I had to keep to the right of the guy in front of me so I was catching a lot of wind and almost working as hard as the guy pulling the group. They call this the gutter.
Rather than panic and try to stick it out though, as I once would, I did the smart thing. I fell back a little bit and got behind Joe and drafted to his right (there was more than enough room in our lane as small as the group was at that point). Then I waited patiently and the first time he moved too far to his right, I came up on his left. I’d effectively switched sides in the pace line and was drafting just to the left of the guy in front of me… Now I had Big Joe protecting me on the right and I was catching a draft from the guy in front of me. It was perfect.
Then came the tailwind and the hills. Imagine climbing a hill – any speed bump with an incline will do. What would a normal speed be? Maybe 18-19 mph? Now imagine 28 mph. The two strongest guys in the group managed to work themselves up front at the start of the second hill and it’s a half-miler, not just a speed bump, and they put the hammer down. I was only a few bikes from the front and an inch from falling out of the group when Greg looked back and realized he’d just decimated the group. He dropped back to 20 mph to let everyone catch back up – and I caught my breath.
I chose to speed up and waive the guys behind me up because I was so close to falling off on the way up that hill… I didn’t want to create a gap and screw anyone else’s ride up – I know I hate it when that happens to me and I don’t have the gas to catch back up. I didn’t fall off the back though, on any of the hills.
I stayed with the main group all the way to the 20 mile mark where I slipped off the back with Chuck C. and waited for Mike and Diane on their tandem. We’d managed a 21.5 mph average with all of that headwind. With less than 10 miles to go and what should have been a crosswind or tailwind all the way home – but the wind had shifted to the northwest.
The next three miles were mainly tailwind though and we absolutely rocked them out. On a slight mile-long descent into Vernon we were easily holding 28-31 mph. From there it was a left turn and we were bucking a cross headwind but we managed to keep it between 21 and 24. Chuck and I did our fair share to help Mike and Diane and we were working really well together. Another couple of miles and we were set free to enjoy a cross tailwind all the way home. We only dropped below 24 on one or two climbs.
Coming into the finish, Diane and Mike were up front laying down a blistering pace. With less than a mile left, Chuck took the lead and picked the pace up. With 200 meters left he surged, much to my surprise – he was going for the sign like it was a race… So I obliged. He went wide left on the final right turn to block me off so I upshifted and jumped out of the saddle and put the hammer down. I think we were north of 34 mph at this point but I was too busy trying to overtake him to look down. With a hundred meters to go we were neck and neck but I had more left. I put the hammer down and lurched forward crossing the line by a bike length.
From there it was all laughs, smiles and fist bumps as we sat up and rolled the last few tenths to the parking lot.
I’m bummed the season is almost over….