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The Trek 5000, 5200 & 5500 in the USA; More Wins than DJ Khaled

In the United States, one bike stands above all as the winningest bicycle frame in the history of bicycle racing history*; the Trek 5000.  First introduced in 1992, the Trek 5000 frame was one of the first production full carbon fiber bicycle frames.  In the US, they caught on like a wildfire and hung on until the 5000 was dropped for the Madone after the 2007 run (only the 5000 was available that year).   Of course, if you look at that 2007 Madone 5.2, you should see some many characteristics inherited from the 5200.  That said, fifteen years is a long time for a frame to hang on.

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On one hand, by today’s standards, the frame is not all that impressive.  There’s barely any “aero” to it (the front fork is kinda aero), and it’s a little on the squishy side when laying down the serious wattage.  On the other hand, with 25 mm tires on a 23 mm carbon fiber rims**, the bike feels like riding a cross between a Corvette and a limousine.  With alloy wheels and 24 mm tires, at the right pressure, the ride is almost as good.

There is a trick to this frame, however.  In the last few years, it’s become popular to use a wider tire than was used in the good old days.  Back in ’99, people were riding 20 and 23 mm tires exclusively.  Nowadays, 25, 26 and even 28 mm tires are the new norm.  If you’re using 19.5 mm wide alloy wheels, there’s a limit to the tire width you can use in a Trek 5000 frame.  Anything more than a 24 mm tire will likely rub the inside of the chainstays when climbing out of the saddle or when leaning the bike into a corner, thus pooching the paint’s polish (or worse). Other than that minor shortcoming, though, the frame is pretty fantastic.

I’ve put upwards of 45,000 miles on my 5200 frame and I bought it January of 2012 and it’s still going strong and beautiful.  I can only imagine how many miles it had on it before I got my hands on it, but it was a lot.  I’ve got a friend who has the same frame, 2003, who has more than 130,000 miles on his.  The word “durable” doesn’t do the Trek 5000 family of frames justice.

*The history of bicycle racing history… the redundancy was for comedic affect.  I’m sorry you missed it.

** 25 mm tires on 23 mm rims vs. 25 mm tires on 19.5 mm rims:  If the two paragraphs dealing with tire and rim widths were confusing, please allow me to explain.  When a 25 mm tire is placed on a 19.5 mm rim, the tire resembles a light bulb – it’ll go wide at the sides before rounding out.  That same tire on a 23 mm wide rim, will just be round.  It’s that light bulb-ing effect that will cause the tire to hit the inside of the chainstays when sideways force is applied to the wheel.  Therefore, with a wider rim (23 mm) the same 25 mm tire will work where it wouldn’t with a narrow (standard) 19.5 mm rim.  The only trick left for that will be the brakes.  My 1999 Ultegra brakes wouldn’t open up wide enough to accept the wider 23 mm hoops.  I ended up opting for Shimano 105 (7000 series) brake calipers so I could use my older alloy wheels or my carbon fiber wheels (as long as I swapped out the brake pads).

 

Important Question of the Day: Should a Grown Man Take the Time to Wax and Polish a Bicycle?

The obvious answer to that most important question; should a grown man take the time to wax and polish a bicycle?

No, of course not, because your bike is likely powder coated, it won’t need to be waxed. Also, if you own a matte finish, such as the one on my Specialized, without question, no.

However, should you just happen to own a badass vintage bike that was stripped, painted, and shot with enough clear coat your Floridian grandma would be comfortable in Siberia, then the no-brainer is yes…

Sometimes you have to see just how deep you can make that black look.

DALMAC Ready! Two Weeks Early

Technically, two weeks from, today we’ll be finishing up with dinner on day three, look toward the final 72 miles. I’m stoked for this year’s tour, in fact, I can hardly contain myself. For the last four years, I could never really relax on the ride. I was always waiting for the call that something went horribly wrong with my company and I’d have to rush back. It was miserable. I couldn’t get away. Until this year… so, finally, I get to do this ride free from the mental torture I put myself through (for no good reason). I’m looking forward to just being in the moment with my friends.

I just finished getting the Trek ready to go. Notice the wheels:

I made room for the carbon fiber wheels by picking up a new set of 105 brakes, brand new BR-R7000 Shimano 105 brake calipers, they’re fantastic:

Now the bike is completely blacked out… and as an added bonus, it stops A LOT better.

Now, technically all of this happened just in the nick of time. The idea for the Trek was to leave the alloy wheels on it, then swap them out for my good wheels for the tours I take it on, Midwest, our up north road trip, DALMAC, but while cleaning the alloy wheels up after the new calipers went on, I found a hairline crack at one of the spoke holes in the rear wheel. Eventually that wheel would have failed. For the time being it’s holding its true, but the hoop will have to be replaced.

Before yesterday, the Trek would have been sidelined till I could get a new rim. Instead, I just swapped out the brake pads, slid on the good wheels from the Venge, and I’m ready for today’s Assenmacher 100 and DALMAC in a week-and-a-half.

I never thought I’d be able to get that old 5200 to where it is today. She’s come a looooooooooong way from the good old days.

Now, if I had a dollar for every time I wrote here that the Trek was finally done, I’d have… um, carry the one… ten bucks. The point is, I’m there. Again. So I’m not going to write the words again. I’ll just say I’m excited for where the bike is. Again.

For me, it started as a shop loner and has been transformed into a personalized work of mechanical art. Lance never had it as good as mine is today when he won the TdF on his. To me, that’s kinda neat.

Just a Little Bike P○rn for a Cap to 2018

How much Difference is there Between an Entry-level, a Mid-level, and a High-end Road Bike?

I had an interesting conversation with a new kid to the group who rides an early-90’s steel Specialized Allez 14sp with down tube shifters the other night… We both rode the same route with the same group and finished with almost the exact same time – 28.2 miles in 1:13:42 or 23-mph (my buddy, Chuck, got 23.1 on his Garmin). Those who read this blog regularly, know what I rode. For those who don’t, I ride this:

The new guy to the group is 25 years younger than I am and about 15 pounds lighter. He spent most of the ride at the back because as soon as he got up to third bike, he would struggle to hang on so he’d tap out and head to the back for shelter, creating a hole that needed to be filled by the cyclist behind him. After the third time I asked him, politely, to stay at the back (I was about to explain myself after the ride, but he jumped in and said he fully understood). I spent my usual amount of time up front, pushing the pace, though I did shorten my turns which worked a lot better for me this week.

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So, what’s the difference between a modern high-end carbon fiber super-machine and an old-school, down tube shiftin’ steel steed with the least aerodynamic wheels known to man?

In all seriousness, you can’t really measure the bikes without power meters and loads of data that I don’t have (nor do I care to bother with it). I can tell you this; one look at me and that kid and you know who’s the fitter of the two (it isn’t me). I’m taking my lumps up front, he can’t hold the pace three bikes back.

That’s the difference between a modern 15.75 pound aero super-steed and a 23 pound lugged steel steed. With the old-school road bike, you can go very fast with the right amount of youth and want to. Same with the modern super-steed… It’s just faster and less effort with the modern rig.

To be fair, you put a decent racer on that Allez and me on my Venge, I’ll likely get creamed. You put a rider of similar talent and fitness on that Allez and me on my bike, it’ll be an ass kicking in my favor. In short, there’s a wide gap between an old-school 23 pounder and a modern, light aerobike.

How about something a little more modern? My gravel bike is a 2016 Specialized Diverge A1 Sport. Retail was a little more than $1,100 if I remember correctly. It weighs 23 pounds, just like that Allez I mentioned to earlier, but it has all of the modern goodies. Integrated shift/brake levers, disc brakes, carbon fiber fork… You put me on that bike and I’ll struggle to keep up with my normal group. I would likely have to hide a lot, but I could do it with a lot of extra want to. Still, I wouldn’t be having fun like I do on my Venge. That seven pounds and change is noticeable, but being able to shift at will, without having to move the hands is a huge plus next to the down tube shifters.

How about modern components on an old frame?

Now we’re talking. Modern 10sp. drivetrain on a 1999 carbon fiber race frame. 18-1/2 pounds, decent wheels, nimble, but still lacking when you really step on the gas.

On the Trek I can not only hang with the group, I can take my lumps up front, and have a relatively good time. There is a small difference between the Venge and the Trek, mainly in wheels and aerodynamics. Both of those matter, but not enough that it can’t be made up for with a little extra want to.

The only problem with the Trek is sprinting on it. According to Strava, I can lay down some watts when I’m sprinting. Some of that is wasted on the Trek because the frame is a little squishy in the bottom bracket area. When I step on the gas with the Venge, it jets. As for the minor weight difference, it’s noticeable, but it’s not big enough to keep from choosing the bike for major tours – I actually prefer it.

What it all means

I’ve got a full range of bikes, from old school to entry-level to expert. The differences between the newer bikes are pretty minor excepting the weight of the Diverge – it’s prohibitively heavy. The shortcomings of the two bikes (the Trek and Diverge) can be made up for. The old school bike, not so much. When each little thing is a little more work, the shifters, the weight, the wheels, the frame… Too many of those little items and it just becomes too much to overcome with “want to” – it’s too much to hang with my normal group.

On one hand, the human engine is a funny thing. It can make up for a lot of technological shortcomings. On the other, looking at the bikes above, if you think there are only marginal gains between the Cannondale and the Specialized Venge, you’re wrong and you’ve bought something that’s unsaleable. Either that or you’ve never ridden a super-bike (which is quite okay, by the way – those things are freaking expensive), so you don’t know any better anyway.

Modernizing a Classic Road Bike; The Trek 5200, for All the Right Reasons

The initial question that must be answered when considering whether or not to modernize a classic road bike is, “Do I want to alter the bike from what was originally intended?” With my Trek, I struggled with that question mightily… for about five minutes.  For others, especially when it comes to older bikes, that Q & A might not be so easy.

I bought the 5200 used in January of 2012 because that was about all I could afford and the first road bike I bought was entirely wrong.  Too small, down tube shifters, and old-timer heavy wheels.  Over time I took the Trek from a nine speed triple (27 gears) to a ten speed compact double (20 gears) that I’m absolutely pleased with. I like the bike a lot more now than I did when it was a triple, and the reason for this is a little geeky.

So, the 5200 has been my “rain” bike since late in the 2013 season when I bought my brand spankin’ new Specialized Venge.  The Specialized became my “A” bike the day I brought it home.  Over the years, though, I came to appreciate the simplicity of the Trek and how it’s built.  External cables, exceptional components…  As parts wore out, it became increasingly clear that I wanted to use the Trek on multi-day tours rather than the Venge.  The Specialized was great, but if anything went wrong with the Trek, I knew I could fix it blindfolded.  The Venge is a little more labor intensive that way.  Going back to geeky, I knew, from the voluminous articles I’ve read about road bikes over the years, that triples have a lot of overlap gears – doubles, therefore, are more efficient.  Let’s look at the new gearing versus the old:

The top speed is a little misleading – I can get 40-mph out of the 50/34 (I’ve done it).  The 52 tooth big ring is closer to 43-mph.  That said, the granny gear is what’s important to me – I travel to a lot of places with hills, so I want to be able to climb anything that comes at me.  You can see, the new gearing and the old are almost identical at the low-end.

Getting back to the overlap, look at the triple chart.  52/15 is almost identical to 42/12.  52/19 & 42/15.  52/21 and 42/17 match up exactly… and you can do the same thing for the baby ring and the middle ring.  You’ve got another five overlap gears between those two.  You’ve got 27 gears with the triple, but you only need 19 or fewer because of all of the overlapping gears.  In other words, the triple is inefficient.  Using the compact double, there is some overlap (50/24 & 34/17 for instance), but I use a double different than a triple on the road.  The overlap isn’t quite as wasteful.  The transformation was slow, though.  It took some time.

As purchased in 2012 (with the addition of a modern saddle – the original was too wide):

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The first thing to give out on the Trek was the wheelset. The Rolf wheels were bombproof as wheels go, but one too many rides in the rain and the brake track thinned and blew out – the aluminum brake surface wore too thin. The wheels were simple enough to rectify because, even being a ’99, the rear dropout width was the modern 130mm. I had a spare set of wheels that went on the bike. The headset was next to give out. The original headset was a mess after decades of abuse, so when I got the bike painted the stock headset was upgraded to a new Chris King. Shortly after the paintjob, the right shifter broke – again, after almost two decades of hard use, they were simply beat. Rather than change the drivetrain, I decided to go with MicroSHIFT 9sp. shifters to save money. They were only $75 shipped to my doorstep and I installed them myself. They worked flawlessly.

Painted, new headset, saddle, carbon fiber seat post, stem, handlebar and 9sp MicroSHIFT shifters 2016:

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Eventually, a friend was selling an Ultegra 10sp. component group that I put on the Venge and I took the 105 drivetrain off that and put it on the Trek.  A used Shimano crank for ($20), some new chainrings ($60), a new Ultegra bottom bracket ($40 installed) and I was ready to roll.

Today – 2018: New compact crank, new Ultegra bottom bracket and bearings, 17° stem (flipped), 10sp Shimano 105 drivetrain:

Whether good or lucky, my ’99 Trek was easy to upgrade – at least the parts I installed myself were easy (everything except the bottom bracket and headset). The headset was a little tricky because, if memory serves, there was only one available on the market that would fit the bike. The bottom bracket was a happier story; ultra-easy. I did agonize over the stem for a bit, though. I was stuck between going with a 17° and a full-on-crazy drop with a 25° stem. I’m glad I went with the 17 in the end. The 25 would have been too much drop for me to reach comfortably.

Other than that little bit of consternation, everything fit and worked perfectly.

I think, eventually I’m going to change the brake calipers to something a little more black but that’s way, way on the back burner.

So, from a 21-pound 52/42/30, 9sp. triple to a 18-1/2-pound 50/34, 10sp. double…  Having to do it all over again, would I alter the original again (obviously, the worn-out parts had to go anyway)?

In a heartbeat.  I was never much for nostalgia anyway.  The bike is faster, lighter by 2-1/2 pounds, and more enjoyable to ride… not to mention, it looks a lot better.  In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.  1999 was the only year the triple got it’s own designation as the 5200T.  In reality, what I did was upgrade a rare bike – doing what I did in the automotive world would be a pure travesty.  Thankfully, as bike geeks go, it’s less about altering a classic and more about making an old bike into something that’s more fun to ride.  I’ve taken that bike on every tour I’ve done for the last two years, and I couldn’t be happier.

I took a fine classic and perfected it.

Would the whirling dervish purists get their undies in a bunch over what I’ve done?  Without question – but they’re not riding the bike, so let them whirl.

Screw Riding Up Grades… Buy Upgrades? M’kay, I suppose, but why not Both? My Submissions

The guys (and gal) over at GCN, on the tech show, have a new segment – a spinoff of the old Eddy Merckx quote, “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.”

While I think throwing the greatest cyclist of all time under the bus is a little uncalled for, I do love the premise! Of course, I prefer both.

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2013 Venge Comp

ORIGINAL:

Tarmac bend alloy handlebar, Specialized adjustable stem, Axis 4.0 wheels (1990 grams!), FSA Gossamer crank (172.5mm), Shimano 105 10sp. drivetrain.

TODAY:

S-Works Aerofly handlebar, FSA 110mm carbon-wrapped alloy stem (-90 grams), S-Works crankset and carbon spider (-340 grams), Ican 38mm carbon fiber wheels (-570 grams). Shimano Ultegra 10sp. drivetrain (-200 grams), Blackburn carbon bottle cages (-46 grams), SRAM PG-1070 cassette (-50 grams-ish), SRAM 1091r chain (–30 grams-ish). 25mm Michelin Pro 4 tires (+30 grams)

Before:18.8 pounds.

After: 15.75 pounds.

Then there’s my Trek 5200T 1999

1999 Trek 5200

The only parts on that bike still original are the brakes and chainring bolts. It went from a 20 pound Ultegra 9sp. Triple to a svelte 18.5 pound Shimano 105 compact double (50/34) 10sp. drivetrain. The drivetrain for the Trek came over from the Venge – the plan was hatched to upgrade the Venge to Ultegra and put the 105 components on the Trek after the original shifters went bad and were irreplaceable so I went to the Chinese MicroSHIFT equivalent (which worked spectacularly by the way). Then a friend announced on a ride that he was interested in selling his Ultegra 10sp drivetrain that he’d just upgraded to 11sp. I jumped on it.