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Rebuilding My Wife’s Gravel Bike to Upgrade the Shifting

November 2020

This is one of my favorite times of year. It’s unfit to ride today, with rain, thunderstorms, winds in the 40-mph (64 km/h) and temps in the mid-40’s (7 C). I’m tired from a long season in the saddle and I can look forward to a few easy weeks, picking and choosing when I ride outdoors and tinkering on the bikes when it’s too nasty outside or I simply lack the desire – Friday was a perfect example, mid-40’s, breezy, cloudy… I just wasn’t feeling it so I rode indoors on the trainer.

I went to the bike shop yesterday, to say hi and check out the new bikes (slim pickens right now, though the new Roubaix by Specialized is almost nice enough to get me in trouble!), and the parts for my wife’s gravel bike were in. COVID has everything behind. What should have been a few days to get the parts, took three weeks.

My wife took my daughter to the gym yesterday, so I got right to it once I got home from the shop. I’m knee-deep in the upgrade and, with the new Sora drivetrain, her gravel bike will be better than mine when I’m done (hopefully some time this morning, if a friend has a brake cable I can bum till I can replace it tomorrow). The new drivetrain, consisting of two new shift/brake levers, a cassette and chain, will run less than $300 when it’s all done and be worth at least $1,200. That Claris drivetrain sucked.

The previous generation of Claris was its own design, and it was terrible. The 2017 Sora is, without question, vastly superior and based on the 105 line. I’ve been running that on my gravel bike going on three years now and love it. With the rebuild of my wife’s bike, I’m going through and resetting everything to factory specs, cleaning things up, and more important, lubing old bits and bolts. Specialized replaced her rear wheel under warranty a couple of years ago with a vastly superior DT Swiss build because her old wheel cracked in several places… so she’ll be a little lighter than me when it’s all over.

I’m excited for her, too. She loves her gravel bike, so she’s going to be enthralled when I’m done. I’ve got everything set up to the rear brake (which, again, need a cable) and it’s shifting like a dream contrasted against the old system. She loved her bike before when the drivetrain was crap. Next chance she gets to ride it, she’ll be in for a nice surprise.

As a final note, there’s a reason I went with Sora 9 speed rather than jump to Tiagra 10 speed or 105 11 sp.. With 9 speed components, the front derailleur won’t matter and can stay, but with the new rear derailleur and cassette comes the requirement of a 9 speed chain. It just so happens 8 speed chainrings are compatible with 9 speed drivetrains. I don’t have to upgrade chainrings and/or the crank, so not only did I save money by going with Sora over 105, I didn’t have to replace the crank or chainrings to go with the upgrade as well. I figure I saved $400 going with Sora over 105, maybe $350 over Tiagra.

Thank God for autumn! And bike projects! I’m in my tinkering glory!


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