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Daily Archives: October 26, 2019

Managing Bicycle Upgrades; The Key is To Upgrade the GOOD Bikes to Upgrade the Backup Bikes

Eddy Merckx was awesome, on that we can (or, at least, should) agree.  I don’t much agree with his “don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades” quote though.

I prefer doing both.

Will upgrades make one faster?  No, they will not.  They will make fast easier.  I ought to know… I upgrade everything on my road bikes.  New saddles, new cranks, new drivetrains, new stems, new chainrings, new brakes, new handlebars…  I like to say the only original parts on my Trek 5200 are the frame, fork and chainring bolts.  My search for cycling perfection has been ongoing and endless.  I’m real close, though.  I think I said I was done more than once, but I was mistaken.

That’s the same bike.

Again, same bike, though this one’s quite a bit more obvious.

What you can’t see in each of those sets of photos is the 3 pounds knocked off each bike.  Original “out of the box” weight on the Specialized was 18.8 pounds.  Today it’s a little less than 15.8.  The Trek was well over 21 pounds.  It’s 18.5 now and I wasn’t even trying to shed a lot of weight from that bike.

The Trek got the wheels, handlebar and drivetrain from the Venge when I upgraded the Venge’s wheels, handlebar and drivetrain.

This latest issue required an upgrade was the handlebar on my gravel bike.  It’s got one of those goofy “compact” drop bars on it.  The reach is a full inch (25.4 mm) shorter that a standard drop bar, and the drop is at least 10 or 15 mm less.  I’ve never liked the bar on that bike and I’m quite tired of the shortened reach.  I feel just a little cramped – not enough to keep me from riding the bike, or even enjoying it, but enough it’s always on my mind when I ride.

Now, remember, we have to follow the pattern here; upgrade the better bike to upgrade the backup bike.  In this case, the Trek 5200 is the better bike, even though it’s 20-years-old, and the Specialized Diverge is the backup, or gravel bike.  If you were following earlier, the Trek got the handlebar from the Specialized Venge upgrade… in other words, the Trek has a Specialized bar on it.  I’ve been okay with this because I love the drop, reach, and curve of the bar*.  But it’s still a Specialized bar on a Trek 5200.  Technically, we can’t have that; I think the purists get their chamois in a wad over mixing parts like that (at least my buddy, Mike does).

It just so happens that I’ve looking for a Bontrager handlebar for about a year now and the perfect handlebar was recently marked down from $99 to $40.  A Race Lite Aero Drop Bar:



While it’s not a carbon fiber handlebar, alloy is more than acceptable for the 5200.  To help justify this, at least in my melon, the shifting on the Trek has been touchy ever since I put the 10 speed drivetrain on the bike, so I was hoping the internally routed cables would smooth out the sharper bends in the cable housing and improve shifting slightly.  It was never bad, per se, the shifting, it was just “touchy”.  The barrel adjuster had to be just right for flawless shifting.  There’s supposed to be a little wiggle room in there.

Well, Wednesday was the day.  After 24 gravel miles with my buddy, Chuck, and some pizza for supper, I showered up and took to reworking all of the cables and installing the new bar.  I had about 2-1/2 hours into the endeavor before the final bolts were tightened.


So there she is, with a shiny, new cockpit.  The frontal area of the 5200 is cleaner for the effort, and I’ve now got a proper Bontrager handlebar on the rain bike…

Which leaves the bar that came off the Trek for my gravel bike… which just happens to be a Specialized.  Friends, every once in a while things work out in the universe.  Err somethin’.  And as a nice little cherry on top, at least so far, it appears the shifting on the Trek is improved for the effort.

So, how tough/easy is running the cables and housings for an internally routed handlebar?  Oh, my friends, there was cussing involved.  On more than one occasion.  And a hack to get the housings to poke out the hole at the back of the bar (use the short end of a 1mm Allen wrench to hook the hole of the cable housing, push the housing with the other hand and pull up on the Allen wrench to lift the housing out of the hole)… then the front brake housing was too short because of how the cable traveled, by about an inch (25mm) so I had to cut and re-run another.  The rear brake housing was too long for the same reason, so that had to be cut (not re-run)…  Then the rear shifter housing appeared to be too long so I cut it down, only to find that it was too long because I didn’t leave enough to get to the shifter – so I cut it, then had to cut and re-run another when it wouldn’t reach properly.  Basically, it was a laugh a minute.

And it was entirely worth it.

This weekend we’ve got quite a bit of rain on the horizon so the Diverge will get its new bar during the deluge.

And would you look at that… only a month after I say the Trek is done, I’ve gone and completed another project for it.  My wife might very well be a saint.

UPDATE:  * This little tidbit will get its own post, and it’ll be a funny one.  If someone notices that you’ve got mixed parts on your bike and is snooty enough to say something about it, you want to have a sufficiently snooty response – preferably a response that ups the snooty factor just a little bit.  My point about liking the reach, drop and curve of the Specialized bar preemptively upped the snooty factor.  There’s more, though.  That’ll be in the new post.