The Ugly Truth of Accessorizing a High-End Road Bike: Well, it ain’t cheap to begin with. If you do it like I did, it’s worse.
I’ve done “before and after” photos of my Venge (“after” being the work in progress is finally complete) but I’ve never done a full montage of all the different variances (Newest to oldest, top to bottom):
The way I did it is, far and away, the most expensive way to set up a road bike. Not only do I have thousands into getting the bike “perfect” (in my estimation), I’ve got hundreds more into stuff that seemed like it might be okay at the time but just didn’t have much of a chance of panning out. In fact, I’ve got $120 just into bottle cages that I don’t use anymore – on top of the $100 into the two that are on there now. For instance, the reds didn’t quite match on one set of cages… just simple, little, silly intricacies.
Now, some of the upgrades (the handlebar for example) weren’t exactly necessary but they served a dual purpose. For instance, I liked the original bar that came on the Venge so much that it went onto my 5200 because I absolutely hated the original bar on that bike. The new handlebar for the Venge had no use other than being awesome. An aerodynamic bar, Specialized maintains it saves something on the order of a second per mile but I installed it for the style watts. The old gray Keo pedals that were originally on the Venge went onto the 5200 as well because the red Keo’s are inarguably perfect for the Venge.
My wheels are a whole different “you get what you pay for” saga. The original wheels that came with the Venge are heavy and slow. They’re on the rain bike now. The new Vuelta wheels were excellently light and only cost me $350 but the rims were so weak I kept busting spoke nipples on the front wheel when I went for an extra hard acceleration and I couldn’t keep the back wheel true. Eventually I swapped out the rims for much finer quality Velocity hoops and my problems have ceased – so I’ve got $550 into a 1,550 gram set of decently aerodynamic and very fast set of wheels. That actually turned out to be a pretty good deal after a lot of consternation.
Some of the choices were a mixed bag, like my FSA Stem. It’s the same length and rise as the original stem but it’s something like 80 grams lighter (and it looks really cool). It also cost me $165. Expensive, not all that necessary, but cool lookin’ and light.
I learned my lesson on my Trek 5200 though, once it was painted… New is on the left:
The Trek was a little easier, of course. I pulled the stem off of my 3700 mountain bike (I bought that stem as an upgrade to give me a little more reach on the bike years earlier). I mentioned the handlebar and pedals earlier. The cages were simple, because black works excellently (though I almost went with red just to add a little more color). The Trek didn’t go through very many changes after I settled on the red, white and blue until it was painted two years ago, I went from Blue bat tape to black, that’s about it.
The point is, with the Venge I had a funny way of trying to go cheap then ending up trying to upgrade my way out of a stupid choice that was only close to what I wanted. I’ve always wanted to put carbon fiber cages on the Venge, from day one, but I thought I could get away with the plastic cages. First one set, then another because I didn’t like the first set. Then another because the second set gripped my water bottles too tight. Then I finally ponied up and bought the actual cages I wanted all along.
If I’d have planned my Venge out a little better I could have been rolling on 1,400 gram Rolf wheels.
So here are a few tips that might help you avoid my mistakes:
- Plan your bike’s accessories out ahead of time. Know what you want to do and stick with it. If something just doesn’t work, don’t try to stick it out. Take the item back immediately.
- Don’t settle for less than what you really want. You’ll end up buying both items anyway.
- Stick to your plan.
- Different is good! Um, to a point. The wilder your aspirations, the sooner you’ll abandon your plan and the more embarrassed you’ll be that you thought it was a good idea in the first place.
- There’s something cool about understated and traditional. Usually two weeks after you get wacky done, you’ll realize this. Keep this in mind.
- Loud is not the same thing as wacky.
- When in doubt, red on black. It’ll always be awesome and matching kits/helmets are a dime a dozen.
- This last one is important. It’s cheaper, by a llloooooooonnng shot to buy a better bike as a package that it is to upgrade a bike later on. There are reasons that justify doing it this way, it did make sense in my case, just be prepared to spend $5,000 on a $4,000 bike.
If I had to boil all of my mistakes down to one problem, it would be thinking that even though something I’d bought wasn’t perfect, maybe I’d grow to like the accessory as time went by. That just didn’t happen, so I spent even more to do what I should have done in the first place.