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Home » Cycling » 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.

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.


January 2017

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Don’t settle for less than what you really want.  You’ll end up buying both items anyway.
  3. Stick to your plan.
  4. 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.
  5. There’s something cool about understated and traditional.  Usually two weeks after you get wacky done, you’ll realize this.  Keep this in mind.
  6. Loud is not the same thing as wacky.
  7. When in doubt, red on black.  It’ll always be awesome and matching kits/helmets are a dime a dozen.
  8. 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.


    1. unironedman says:

      I really, really wanted to love the second-hand leather Brooks saddle I bought as a finishing touch for my Mercian. It should have worked. It didn’t. But I found a new, more grateful owner very quickly and moved it on. Good post though; makes a LOT of sense.

    2. fitnessgrad says:

      I have chosen to nominate you for the blogger recognition award, you may choose to accept or decline. The following details will be within this link:


    3. “The new handlebar for the Venge had no use other than being awesome.” – does it need any other use? 🙂

      “Don’t settle for less than what you really want. You’ll end up buying both items anyway.” – this is the conundrum I’m currently facing with choosing between painting and powder coating. After talking to the guy in the paint shop I fell in love with the finish he showed me, and the added graphics (I want the logo put back on after the colour job), however lots of people keep telling me that powder coating will last longer, and that paint chips.

      I feel like I’m going to go for powder coating but then get it painted afterwards anyway!

      Final note, I really enjoyed reading about the many upgrades you’ve made. I’m still new to the world of bikes but I appreciate how exciting it is to have a project on the go (hello, Regina) – I’ve got all this to look forward to! Thankfully I have an idea of what I want already and it’s eye catching but not too ‘out there’ 🙂

      • bgddyjim says:

        Powder coating is tougher. It is. On the other hand, fixing paint chips usually isn’t all that expensive. A little sanding, some paint and clear and you’re on your way. We save our paint repairs for winter when the snow limits road bike riding anyway.

    4. Brent says:

      Like you, I’ve learned that being in a hurry to get something done is usually the most expensive option, usually involving lots of wasted money and disappointment when the final result doesn’t *quite* click the way I thought it was going to.

      Case in point: I saw a blog post with pictures of 4.0 x 26″ fluorescent orange tires that went really well with the teal blue frame of my fat bike. They were prototypes and weren’t generally available, I found out. So my normal temptation would be to buy them on impulse and worry about accessorizing the rest of the bike later.

      But my goal was to put together a one-of-a-kind classic bike that had mega style coolness. So I gritted my teeth and spent three weeks of solid effort researching what else I could get in orange to match the tires and doing enough research that I was sure I hadn’t missed anything. If I had put only the tires, the bike wouldn’t have looked all that cool. There was no option other than doing it perfectly.

      I finally called back the manufacturer, afraid they had sold out the tires in the meantime. Fortunately, they had three sets available that I snapped up. I bought the rest of the stuff — pedals, grips, bottle cages, bottles. It took some work: I found Camelbak bottles in light orange and teal, matching both the tires and the frame color, but they were only available in England. I even managed to get matching orange screw-on valve protectors for the tubes, a nice detail.

      And when I put it together, all that orange completely popped. It was aggressive and vibrantly colored but not overdone — I could have put orange in a couple more places but it would have been too much. Just like you said about “loud is not the same thing as wacky.” Everything worked; I didn’t have to go back and buy more stuff to fix what didn’t work from a slapped-together and hastily implemented plan.

      If I had been sloppy or in a hurry when I spec’d out the upgrade, it wouldn’t have been much fun and I would have been unhappy with the result, probably riding that bike a lot less than I do.

      The result was absolutely worth all the time and expense: whenever I take the bike out, it’s a conversation starter. And virtually every ride, at least one car pulls up next to me, rolls down the window and says “cool bike!”

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