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Silly Cycling Advice: “Don’t Buy Upgrades, Ride Up Grades”


November 2020

Eddy Merckx once suggested that, to get fast one shouldn’t buy upgrades to our bikes, but ride up grades. Of course, he was also accustomed to riding the best money could buy, so there is that.

Is it good advice, though, for we weekend warriors?

I think context is incredibly important here, because a lot gets lost in glitzy wheels, buzzwords and simple truths. What I believe is most important to the discussion is to acknowledge, we fantastically fit cyclists don’t need the latest upgraded bikes or parts to enjoy cycling. To an extent, we don’t need the latest carbon fiber bauble, that last missing piece, that’ll have us cruising with the A Group, to have a good time cycling. First, that missing link part doesn’t exist. Second, what we want to avoid getting sucked into is the notion that you have to have a Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini or Bugatti to enjoy driving. Of course, as someone who’s got the McLaren of bicycles, the high-end steed absolutely adds to the experience, but I have just as much fun on my classic Trek 5200 as I do my all aero, all the time Specialized Venge. I simply don’t ride as fast, or I have to work a little harder to keep up. From that context I think it’s fair to say we can have a good time cycling on whatever we can afford comfortably.

However, there’s a flip-side to that coin.

Upper left is day one. At the bottom is almost today (I changed the saddle to something that is a tad heavier [30 grams] but doesn’t feel like I’m riding on a bed of nails after 40 miles).

Now, where this gets fun is Day 1 out of the box $3,100: 18-1/2 pounds. 3 months, upgraded wheels, still alloy but much improved: 17-3/4 pounds. Pedals, handlebar, crankset, stem upgrades: 16-1/2 pounds. It would have been lighter at that point, but I upgraded the rims to Velocity’s hoops – they were a little heavier, but vastly more reliable. Finally, I upgraded to carbon fiber wheels, then upgraded the chain, cassette, and drivetrain from 105 to Ultegra and dropped it to 15-2/3 pounds. I could make it lighter, but it’s good enough right where it is.

I loved that bike the day I brought it home, but now it’s vastly superior. The ride quality is immensely improved and I enjoy every minute on it. It’s also my bike. I made the base model Specialized Venge something vastly better and the upgrades mean there’s only one 2013 Specialized Venge Comp like mine because I built it.

So, with all due respect to Mr. Merckx, I choose a better option. Both.

I ride my upgraded bikes up grades. It’s very nice.



  1. Most definitely, both is best!

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