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Yearly Archives: 2019
Boa Replacement Laces for Cycling Shoes and the Key to Installing a New Set to Make Them Work Properly.
Boa laces are possibly the best cycling shoe tensioning system ever devised. I’ve tried them all; Velcro straps, ratchet straps and Boa laces. Velcro is Velcro. Enough said. Ratchet straps are reliable, but they lack panache. Boa lacing systems are slick, have panache in spades, but the coated cable laces will eventually fray and snap. They’re guaranteed for life, though.
My first lace broke after a year of constant use on my Specialized Torch 2.0 shoes. I filled out an online replacement form at Boa’s website and they sent me two replacement laces with new dials. Free of charge. The down side, they had to be tied and assembled. A YouTube video made the process easier, but it was still intricate work.
The replacements worked for another year, but there was something off… the dials and lacing system just didn’t work like it did, new. I noticed the right lace fraying again, just last week.
This time, rather than wait till the lace snapped to get my replacement (you have to submit a photo to get a right and left replacement set), I decided to look around at other options. Sure enough, Specialized sells full sets for $10. I bought two sets, one for my shoes, and a replacement set for just in case.
The best part, these came pre-assembled. No tying, no screws or special screwdriver tool, you just loosen the lace, unwind it, thread it around the eyelets, and snap the new dial in (you removed the old one with a flathead screwdriver, per the instructions)… I thought that did the trick, one worked perfectly. The other was close, but not quite. So I did a little sluething and figured out what went wrong. Or more to the point, what I did wrong.
The trick is getting the cross-over lace on top. In the following photo, the right shoe is correct, while the left shoe is wrong – the cross-over lace runs under the other:
So, specifically, the “cross-over lace” is the lace that goes from hoop to hoop. The other goes hoop to dial. If the hoop to dial lace is on top, when the system tightens, you end up pinching the cross-over lace to the shoe which binds it up as illustrated with the shoe on the left. The right shoe tightens up evenly and without binding. To remedy this, just pull the loops, making sure when you lace everything through the hoops, the cross-over hoop-to-hoop section of the lace is over the hoop-to-dial part of the lace.
One other interesting tip when installing the pre-tied system; you start with the boa dial upside-down. This way, when you cross the laces over, the dial is right-side-up.
Friends, in my humble opinion it’s worth paying $10 for the set, to have them pre-assembled and to be able to have a spare set waiting should you break a lace and need the replacement immediately. Instead of 10-15 minutes extra per shoe, trying to get them tied right, installation takes less than a minute.
My rule for spare time goes as follows; if I’m saving $150 an hour, it’s worth my time because that’s what I value my free time at. A set of pre-tied dials costs $10 and saves me 20 minutes, or 1/3 of an hour. 1/3 of $150 is $50. In other words, worth it times five.
So, my friends, with that last item, upgrading the brakes so I could fit my brand new, carbon fiber good wheels on my 20-year-old, one time local bike shop loaner, I was done. I’d transformed and completely modernized a classic to a one-off piece of art.
Looking at the before and after and reminiscing on everything that went into the transformation, and having done most of the work myself, I’ve got a sense of satisfaction and gratification that, to refrain from being overly grandiose, just feels good. Bringing the bike along has been a labor of love; and I never thought I’d be able to enjoy the Trek as much as I do with it’s more modern counterpart in my stable. I do, though. I enjoy it just as much, if not a little more, because I built it from the ground up… well, technically, from the saddle down, but let’s not get in the way of a good phrase, eh?
The newer Specialized is faster, more comfortable (the compact geometry is fantastic) and without question, the superior bike and it’ll likely always get more more yearly mileage that the Trek. On the other hand, there exists no other 1999 Trek 5200 like mine – and for anyone who knows what it’s like to ride a classic, sometimes the flashy new bangle just isn’t as cool as the old school classic revived – and that’s exactly how I feel about my 1999 Trek 5200.
Starting weight: Somewhere between 20 & 21 pounds.
Finished weight: 18-1/2 pounds.
Cages and Pedals excluded in both cases.
How to Rebuild a Road Bike From the Ground Up: Part Seven. The Wheels… And, If Required (Likely), The Brakes.
Wheels are always going to be a source of contention on a bike rebuild. Are alloy hoops good enough for government work, or should one go with carbon wheels? Aero spokes, or standard? Affordable Chinese wheels, or Zipp’s, or Enve’s, or something in between?
Well, I didn’t/don’t have $3,500 laying around to throw at a set of Enve wheels. As awesome as they’d be, the kids need braces. I use a set of alloy wheels (Velocity hoops on Vuelta hubs with aero spokes – they’re very nice wheels, and reasonably light) normally, and especially in the event I’ll be riding in rain or mountains. Carbon fiber wheels aren’t all that bad in the rain, but they’re not great – and I don’t want to have to worry about whether or not I’m riding the brakes too much in the mountains. On the other hand, I also take the Trek on multi-day tours because its easy to take apart and put back together, so I wanted to be able to use the carbon wheels for those tours – and they’re plush to ride on.
I ran into a problem when I put the Ican carbon wheels on the Trek, though. The 1999 Ultegra brakes were made for a 19.5 mm wide rim (at the brake track). The carbon fiber wheels are 23 mm wide. The calipers wouldn’t open up wide enough for the rim. They were close, but not quite. Remember, I upgraded the drivetrain to Shimano 105? Enter the 2019 105 brake set:
The new brakes are made for wider rims and can accept up to a 28 mm tire – and they’re excellent stoppers (vastly improved over the 20-year-old Ultegra brake calipers). My frame won’t accept a 28 mm tire, but will take a 25 on the right rim – and 25’s are vastly superior to 23’s as ride quality goes.
The widest tire I can use on the alloy wheels is a 24 mm Specialized (I use the Turbo Pro because the S-Works are too soft which leads to longevity issues). Trying to put a 25’s on the skinny rims causes the tire to rub the seat stays when I’m climbing out of the saddle. Surprisingly, at least to me at the time, I found the wider carbon rims meant the 25 mm tire has a different profile – less bulbous. This means the 25 mm tire will actually fit betwixt the seat stays, without rubbing. I was already so close to perfect on the bike, and I actually liked the brushed aluminum brakes on the black bike, but I wanted the good wheels on the tour bike…
I was bummed to lose the brushed aluminum right up until I saw the new, black 105 brakes on the bike. Once the install was done, about an hour (the front required a new, longer housing and a trip to the bike shop), all I could say was, “Wow”. The black brakes made an excellent improvement in appearance.
And now I can use either set of wheels on the bike. So, you may wonder, as an aside, do the carbon wheels make a difference? Yes, they do. A small, but not imperceptible, difference. I can go just as fast on the alloy wheels, they just take a little more work contrasted against the deeper-section carbon fiber wheels… and the carbon wheels also take some sting out of imperfect roads. The two of those together add up to significant improvements in ride quality.
To me, this is a superior setup, being able to use two sets of wheels*** on the same bike. As to quality, I suppose it’s important to look at what you want vs. what you can afford. In my case, the Ican wheels are, without question, adequate; an exceptional value for relatively low cost. The alloy wheels, while not ridiculously expensive (I have about $550 into them), are also excellent. Both wheelsets have hubs with sealed bearings. I’ve got well over 30,000 miles on the Vuelta/Velocity combo and probably 5,000 problem-free miles on the Ican’s (they’re relatively new). I like the carbon wheels for nice weather and long tours, while I choose the alloy wheels for easy rides, mountain trips and for when there’s a chance of rain in the forecast.
The wheels could be much farther up on the list of important upgrades in a rebuild, especially if your old wheels are junk or compromised. In my case, I’d already upgraded a couple of times as money allowed.
Updating the brakes was the only thing in the way of having my cake and eating it, too.
Alas, with that, my rebuild was complete…
*** For anyone opting to use carbon and alloy wheels on the same bike, you must make sure to change the brake pads every time you switch wheels. YOU CANNOT USE THE SAME PADS ON YOUR ALLOY WHEELS THAT YOU USE ON CARBON FIBER – ESPECIALLY VICE-VERSA. First, alloy pads can delaminate carbon rims (alloy pads use a different compound). Second, if you use your carbon pads on alloy wheels, you’ll likely get a piece of aluminum stuck in your brake pad which will ruin your carbon rims the instant you try to stop with the contaminated pad (getting chunks of aluminum stuck in the pads happens all the time – in fact, you should check your pads twice a year – once at the beginning of the season, and once in the middle – or if your brakes don’t feel like they’re gripping right, maybe you hear a bit of a grinding sound…).
Read that last sentence again. The INSTANT… There is no middle ground here, you must change pads for a carbon fiber rim.
Over the next month more people will attempt to sober up than the rest of the year. Usually January 1st and 2nd are our best days. It’s a good time to be in the business of helping people navigate early sobriety, which tends to be brutal for them. It’s our job, those of us who have recovery, to comfort the new people and help them through those first several months. There is no better person for this task, because we do it freely because someone did it for us. It’s a labor of love.
I read a post yesterday, the author of which, whom I’ve followed for some time, questioned why he’d been saved and why so many others aren’t. This is always a tough question for us to grapple with; why us?
The only answer that’s ever given me relief is that I’m good at helping people, and not even in the traditional way. I truly believe that I was spared to do what I’m doing, right this very moment. I believe I was meant to write this blog, it’s as simple as that. My task was first figuring out how I could help, and then to do it.
Sure, I indulge in the cycling a lot, but when I am hit with the inspiration to write a post like this, I don’t pass it up. I don’t fight it, I don’t question it, I just start typing and the words flow as they enter my melon and make my fingertips move.
And invariably, I’ll get a comment from someone saying what I’d written had helped them. I can’t count those who don’t comment, but close their browser a little better for the read. I don’t write for adulation, money, or notoriety.
I write about cycling because I enjoy it, I write about recovery because I’m inspired by my Higher Power. It’s why I was saved from a miserable, depraved existence and I figure it’s best I do what I’m supposed to do and help others, lest God look for someone else who pays attention a little better.
And that brings me to the important point of this post: How to increase your chances of survival in recovery… and your happiness. This is very simple.
Find a way to work with others in recovery. Get out of yourself and your problems and help others with theirs. This works better than anything else I know of to keep me grounded and happy in recovery.
How to Rebuild a Road Bike From the Ground Up; Part Six. The Final Touches, the Paint and Accessories.
I was planning on touching on the headset in this series, as I had a new one installed when I had the frame painted, but it was a pretty simple operation; I told the shop I thought I needed a headset when I was unable to adjust out what caused a speed wobble at 40-mph (thankfully, not a crash), and they agreed after looking at it… it was a rusted mess. The local shop installed a new Chris King. It was simple, but only because the shop dealt with it. I didn’t have the tools to remove or install one, or even the knowledge to pick the right one. Point is, when rebuilding a bike, check the headset to make sure it’s operating smoothly. If not, either install a new one or have your local shop do it.
The paint and accessories will make your bike yours. I picked the colors and decals that I wanted – and opted to refrain from the gaudier Trek accessory decals for that vintage. Instead, I kept it simple by just sticking with “Trek“, a “Made in the USA” decal, and a “Velocity Wheels” decal (because Velocity Wheels are awesome). The point is, this is the one time you’ve got to make the bike entirely yours. My 5200 is now one of a kind:
I had it painted by the techs at our local shop. All I had to do was strip it down and take it in. They did the rest. The cage in the photo above was fused to the boss. They drilled out the bottle cage and epoxied in four new bosses (you can actually see how shiny the new one’s are in the photo). Also, note the new headset.
Now, one of the more finicky decisions I made had to do with the seat post collar – this gets down into the minuscule details on a bike, but they make a big difference when it’s all done. The original seat post collar was brushed aluminum. It blended in to the red frame just fine, but on the black, it just looked off. So I ordered a black one:
Eventually, I got around to putting some decent bottle cages on the bike, too; black and red, of course:
And the cherry on top was a red Punisher decal:
Now, I took a lot of things into consideration when I had my frame painted. First, I had to choose a color scheme. The only question was black on red or red on black. I chose the latter, but I had to think long and hard about it. With the bike finished, blacked out simply looks awesome with the red decals. Well, that and red on black is a bit of a theme in my stable:
The thought was, for the Trek, maybe to go fire-engine red on black, just to change it up a bit, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it.
Almost all of my bibs and jerseys are, as one might expect, red, black and white. Having the Trek set up like the rest of my bikes meant I wouldn’t need different kits for each bike. Of course, one isn’t beholden to go to all of this trouble, it just looks fantastic when one does.
And that’s the whole point.
Sadly, a bicycle’s drivetrain won’t last forever. Eventually you’ll have to replace parts of, or the entire, drivetrain. The tricky part is matching up a new drivetrain that’ll work on your old frame. You’ll have to make sure you pick up the right front derailleur (braze on or clamp on). You’ll have to make sure you get the right rear derailleur (medium or long cage, clutch or no clutch). You may even have to decide whether or not you want to stay with a triple crankset or go with a double (I definitely, happily went with the double).
52/42/30 triple 9-speed on the left, 50/34 10-speed on the right.
The problem with my old 9-speed Ultegra drivetrain was trying to find replacement parts for it. The chainrings were in bad shape and didn’t have much life left in them. They wear out over time, and the set on my Trek were almost 20 years-old when I upgraded the drivetrain. The bike wasn’t shifting well between the big and middle chainrings so something had to be done. Unfortunately, decent 9-speed triple chainrings aren’t easy to come by. I also wore out the right/rear shift lever… one too many shifts. I made due for a while with aftermarket MicroSHIFT 9 sp. shift levers, but….
I lucked out one day when a friend asked if I wanted to buy his 10-speed Ultegra drivetrain. He was upgrading to 11-speed. I jumped at the offer and put the Ultegra on my Specialized and transferred the 10-speed 105 drivetrain from the Specialized to the Trek.
To replace a full drivetrain, you’ll need shifters, a front and rear derailleur – unless you’re staying with the same number of chainrings in the front – in that case, you may be able to keep the front. You’ll likely need a bottom bracket (they’re pretty reasonable), a chain, and a cassette. In my case, I’d have changed the front derailleur either way – I wanted the system to match.
After that, you’ll have to make sure you’ve got the right wheels to fit the upgraded drivetrain, and if you’ve got externally routed cables, as my Trek does, you’ll have to make sure to carefully route the cable housings so the cables don’t bind. Here, you’ll have to make sure you get the lengths of the housings right so the bike shifts as it should.
Now, as drivetrains go, you’ll have to pick your poison. You can spend as much as $1,500 for a full Dura-Ace mechanical drivetrain. You’ll blow a bit more than $500 for Ultegra shifters, derailleurs, a cassette and chain, or a bit more than $630 for the set. The real bargain is the 105 groupset… you can get a full set for $350-$500. You’ll give up a little in weight, but the 105 drivetrain is the cat’s pajamas for the price – especially if you’re upgrading an old bike. In my case, I dropped a considerable amount of weight going from a 1999 Ultegra 9-speed triple to a 105 10-speed double (including a new Ultegra bottom bracket in lieu of the old clunker). There was enough trickle down that the 15-year newer 105 set was about three-quarters of a pound lighter.
Of course, there’s always eTap… then you don’t have to worry about cables at all, but that’ll set you back between $1,500 and $2,000.
Drivetrains, particularly cranksets, are a little tricky to get right with the 5,000,000,000,000 and change bottom brackets there are (a slight exaggeration). In my case, the shop just installed a new Ultegra bottom bracket (English threads) and I slid on a standard crankset that I bought off a mechanic friend at the bike shop. In my case, it was simple as simple gets.
Rebuilding a bike is the perfect time to tailor your drivetrain to your specific desired use for the bike.
My Trek is my rain/tour bike. If we’ve got rain anywhere in the forecast, I take the Trek. When we go on multi-day trips, I take the Trek. In both instances, I’m not as worried about top-end speed as I am about being able to climb any hill I bump into. For that reason, I opted for the compact 50/34 crankset paired with the 11-28 cassette. I can climb anything up to 25% on the bike (and probably more, just never tried anything greater than 22%) and I’ve got an escape velocity of 40-ish-mph (the speed at which you can’t pedal any faster to make the bike go faster). Put simply, the gearing is perfectly suited to how I ride the bike… and with a ten-speed drivetrain, I shouldn’t run into any problems with obsolescence in the next… carry the one… I don’t know, fourteen weeks or so?
The last big thing to discuss here is the crankset, going from a triple to a double. The triple is a bit on the finicky side to keep tuned. Everything has to be just right to hit all of the gears without chain rub. There’s also a lot of overlap between gearing in the three chainrings, which translates to inefficiency. I wanted to simplify the whole experience so going to a double made all the sense in the world. Triples are great, don’t get me wrong… on a tandem.
Finally, with a new drivetrain on my 20-year-old Trek, I’ll have trouble-free shifting and cycling for years to come. That’s exactly what I wanted when I rebuilt the bike.
A little piece of Heaven right here on Earth.
We’re well into the rebuild! We’ve covered the frame, the saddle and the seat post. That’s two-thirds of the foundation on which our new steed will be built. The last piece of that puzzle is the cockpit. As in my last post, this requires I jump around the time line a little bit, so please forgive me; you’ll be seeing photos of my Trek when it was red, compared against its blacked out look of today – we’ll get to painting the frame and the headset in the next post.
The cockpit, after getting the saddle in position, is the next most important thing on our list. We’re going to deal with reach and drop, and the stem will fit in with this. Way back in 2015, after I bought my race bike and upgraded the handlebar on that, I set to fixing some things I didn’t like on my Trek. The handlebar and stem had to go. I couldn’t adjust the old quill stem, so it had to go. Also on the chopping was the godforsaken handlebar. That thing was a monstrosity… it was also a 44 cm handlebar. My new bike had a proper 42 cm handlebar, and once I rode on a properly sized drop handlebar, the 44 just wouldn’t do. Riding a bike with a handlebar that’s too wide isn’t the end of the world, it just feels off. Getting the drop part of the bars right, as drop and reach go, was a bigger deal for me:
I didn’t like the rise in the stem in that setup, but I was willing to live with it. Rather than go with a whole new fork that I couldn’t afford, I opted for a quill stem adapter that allowed me to use a standard stem. I had my ability to adjust the cockpit to my heart’s content; I could have any stem I wanted. It’s the adjustability that we need.
This is the bike after the final pieces were added to the puzzle:
The old handlebar was a Specialized Tarmac bend 42 cm drop bar. I changed that out for a Bontrager (Trek) brand alloy aero handlebar. The reach and drop are similar to the Specialized bar – but this is a little tricky. The reach is a little longer but the drop is shallower. In the end, I’m even a little more stretched out than I am used to.
See, the cockpit is where the bike fit magic happens. The saddle height and fore/aft position won’t change much, so what makes the bike comfortable on the hands, shoulders, and neck is the reach. This means you’ll want the handlebar at the right height relative to the saddle, and with enough stretch, but not too much. That stretch is called “reach”.
Too much reach and you’ll feel like you’re constantly being pulled to the nose of the saddle. Too little and you’ll have a difficult time breathing because your diaphragm won’t work right. In extreme cases, you’re back will be hunched enough that your lungs simply won’t fill all the way.
The ability to adjust the cockpit, with the exception of a handlebar’s reach and drop, is all in the stem and the stem’s spacer stack. We want the right stem for the bike. In the photo above, with the bike on the trainer, the reach was a little shallow and the rise in the stem wasn’t quite aggressive enough, so I bought a 90 mm 17° stem and flipped it so the rise turned into a drop. This added reach and a bit more drop:
Above, the bike is almost in its final form – it doesn’t have the aero handlebar on it in this photo – the bar was just installed a few weeks ago and we got into snow so fast, I didn’t have a chance to get it outside to properly photograph it. Now, I had my good bike to work off of, as far as fit went, so the idea was just “try to make the Trek feel like the other bike”. If this is your first bike, the trick is to be able to honestly evaluate what it is you feel on the bike and compare that to what you want so you can pick parts that will get you into the position you like. With the stem, the most important thing is the length. The pitch can often be changed simply by changing the spacer stack.
I rode the Trek for DALMAC, our four-day, 380+ mile trip from Lansing to Mackinaw City, Michigan, and was perfectly comfortable. That’s the goal.
Stay tuned… in Part Five, I’ll get into the drivetrain, following that, I’ll cover the paint and accessories. It’ll be a nice little cherry on top that gets the bike prettied up to make it look like several thousand dollars. I’ll cap it off with wheels.
How to Rebuild a Road Bike From the Ground Up: Part Three. That Which Matters Most, What One Sits On. The Saddle
So I started with the frame, now we’re going to look at the saddle and seat post. I’ve been through five saddles on my Trek. The two most-comfortable were the Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon that I have on there now, and the second saddle I put on the bike, a Specialized Romin.
Please forgive my staging of the bike, I know, it’s all wrong. Getting to what’s important, look at that big, heavy, gnarly saddle on that bike! I rode the bike with that saddle for a few months before I began having problems… erm, betwixt the legs. At first, it showed up as pain on the insides of my legs, directly next to “the boys”, where my leg bones went into the hip socket. After a couple of months riding like that, the pain radiated down to the hamstrings. At that point, I was legitimately hurting. I was running as well, at the time, so I naturally attributed the hamstring pain to a running problem. I was mistaken.
Eventually, I paid a visit to the local shop and they measured my “sit bones” on a piece of memory foam, then checked my saddle. I need a 143 mm saddle, the old saddle was a 155. It was too wide for my sit bones and that caused all of the pain. The saddle was changed, and angels sang in delight. I haven’t had a problem, or a 155 mm saddle, since.
The next problem I ran into was in adjusting the saddle nose up and down. The old seat post had “notches” so the saddle nose was either too high, or too low for me to ride comfortably. I am very finicky in this regard. This ended up being important because, as you can see, I started tinkering with the bike’s setup a little. The stem was lowered as far as it could go, and I rotated the handlebar up a little bit to get everything “on plane”. What I didn’t know is that this is wrong for that style of bar, but that’s not important at this point.
In any event, I went to the shop again, because I had no clue how to find what I wanted, and they picked out an Easton seat post that was infinitely adjustable as opposed to the original “notched” seat post. It’s also carbon fiber, because if you’re going to go and rebuild a bike that you plan on riding for 40+ years, carbon fiber.
Now, a lot of people will get nervous about going from a saddle with a lot of padding, like the one in the first photo, and the one in the second. You don’t need all of that padding, it just cuts off blood flow, anyway. What’s important is getting a proper saddle to go along with proper cycling shorts, that fits one’s heinie. Along with that, a seat post that will allow for the proper adjustment of the saddle, though in my case I have a tendency to be a little picky – especially when a new carbon fiber part is the answer to a problem. Ahem.
If you’re going to do it, it’s worth doing right.
In any event, if you wanted to measure for your own saddle, get a piece of “rigid insulation” from the local building material store, 1-1/2″ will suffice. Cut a piece, say 1′ x 2′ and put a pair of shorts or underwear on. Choose a place a little lower than a normal chair, so your knees will be up at chest height, and sit down on that foam. Your sit bones will leave an impression in the foam. Measure the distance between them (at the center of the impressions). Convert the inches to centimeters or millimeters and Bob’s your uncle. Or just go to the local shop for a quick visit – they should be able to get you sorted out.
The saddle can be a tricky thing, too. I don’t want to leave the impression that picking mine for the Trek was easy, it was anything but(t)! I’ve been through five saddles before I finally found the best; a Bontrager (Trek) Montrose Pro Carbon – 138 mm:
Each of those saddles had positive points. The Romin (above, when the bike was still red) was great. The Specialized Aria, upper left, wasn’t a good fit. The Bontrager mountain bike saddle (the one with red pinstripes, upper right) was quite nice, but just had too much padding. It hurt to ride that more than 65 miles on it. The Selle Italia (lower left), if fit perfectly, at exactly the right height, felt great (surprisingly), but I switched that saddle to my race bike because it was incredibly light… and when I put it back on the Trek, I just couldn’t get it right again – it was especially rough after 75 miles. As the Trek is my distance bike, I decided to go a different route and, after checking the profile against the Specialized Romin that I loved so much, went with the Montrose. That saddle proved to be fantastic at any distance I could ride (up to 104 miles this last year). Just the right amount of give and padding… plus, carbon fiber.
The saddle, and in my case, the seat post, were integral parts of making my bike enjoyable over the long haul. The choice should never be taken lightly, one’s butt depends on it.
The easiest way to tell if something’s amiss; if you feel like, after 40-ish miles, you’re riding on barbed wire, that’s a tip-off.
Check saddle height, fore/aft positioning, then tilt (nose up, nose down). If all of those are right, maybe it’s time to look into a different saddle. Width and profile, I found, are the most important:
The contoured Montrose upper-left and the Romin below; bueno. The flat SLR upper-right? Not so much. The flatter saddles are for highly flexible people. I’m not one of those.
So that covers the saddle and seat post. We’re going to have some fun in part four…
Let’s hit the ground pedaling, my friends. For those who clicked on this post for insight, welcome. For my friends, thanks for reading.
Picking the frame for your road bike is a big deal. As a noob, I had no idea what I needed, so I did what a lot of noobs do right off the bat; I bought a bike that was two sizes too small. That first one doesn’t count. For my second bike, the owner of our local shop, who has a vast expertise in all things cycling, set me up with a shop loaner. I paid right around market value for it and I immediately brought it home and cleaned it up. Having someone who knew so much about cycling was incredibly important.
So that’s it, on day one. A Trek 5200 T (for “Triple”), 1999 vintage. I’m 6’0″ tall and that’s a 58 cm standard frame. I have it on authority from the shop owner that more State Championships were won on that frame in the USA that any other frame in history. When I bought it, my plan was to upgrade it as the times changed, so I was still riding it when I had to trade in my road bike for a trike (hopefully not till I’m will into my 90’s). Therefore, size was imperative.
One can size a bike with an internet calculator but a calculator can’t possibly take into account how you want to ride on that bike. The calculator recommends a 57, 58, 60. or 61 cm frame for me. It doesn’t differentiate between old-school standard frames (as shown above), or modern compact frames. The new compact frames afford for a taller rider on a smaller frame, thus I’m a 56 in a compact and a 58 in a standard. Also, the bigger frames won’t suit the style of riding I wanted as a younger man (late 40’s now, early 40’s when I took that photo) and definitely enjoy as I grow older.
That’s my other bike, a 56 cm compact frame race bike.
See, I didn’t know it then, but I’m all about the aggressive riding style (high saddle, low bars, very aerodynamic). Choosing a larger frame would change the geometry so the handlebars would end up being too high. They say sitting upright is more comfortable, but I beg to differ, at least to a certain extent. I can’t comfortably ride any lower that the Trek and Venge are set up for. I’ve tried, I’m not flexible enough.
The main point is, I didn’t happen on all of that information by magic, and I wasn’t smart enough to get it off the internwebz. Most of my frame size knowledge came from the local bike shop owner. Some I came across reading internet articles, but that only added on to the base I got from the shop. It’s good to get to know the knowledgeable staff members at your local shop. They’ll help you avoid costly mistakes… like buying a bike that’s two sizes too small.
Starting with a frame, properly sized, is the most important aspect of building a bike. Everything after is built on that foundation.
The last important point to cover is get a fitting done at that local shop. If you want to ride an aggressive setup, tell them before you start. That’ll save both your technician and you some headache. Bike fitting technicians tend to assume most people want to ride in the industry’s idea of comfort, which would be more upright, so if that’s not you, let them know ahead of time.
Stay tuned for part three, where we’re going to start digging into changing parts to suit what we need.