Friday Group Ride #315

Friday Group Ride #315

I am at a very fortunate point in my cycling life that I don’t have pressing needs for a new bike. That is not to say that I don’t know what my next bike will be, but I’m not currently missing out on any flavor of ride for lack of the correct machine. That allows me to (attempt to) be judicious in planning what comes next.

Part of those considerations is what I refer to as upgrade and afterlife. How long will I be able to keep and ride the next bike? How will I evolve it over time? I don’t like to relegate parts to the bins in the garage. I give away most of what I upgrade.

For me, too many of the components on today’s bikes are proprietary. Their frames have no way forward. I avoid that like the plague, and so far I’m plague-free.

I’m good for a new drivetrain every five years. I know. I know. That’s glacial. But I have plenty of friends still 9-speeding their way through life, and they don’t seem to be enjoying themselves any less. Other friends think I’m a dolt for still employing cables, like some retro-plebiscite. I change out my chain annually. That seems to help the rest live on.

Wheels, for me, have a 3-4 year arc. This could be wasteful, but I’m not the best truer, so I can just about limp a pair along for that period of time before they need help beyond my skill set. Wheels are also evolving pretty quickly. Quick releases are going away. Rims are getting wider. These things pose challenges for longevity. Whole branches of velo-evolution are closed off. I find it frustrating.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is your upgrade cycle? For drivetrains? For wheels? For a new bike? I know a lot of you are out there on older frames and gruppos, and I applaud  you. What is the thing that will inspire you to buy new again? For those of you who are early adopters, what have been your biggest disappointments? Di2 chainstay batteries?

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24 comments

  1. Quentin

    Wheels: when the first spoke breaks, I replace the spoke. When the second spoke breaks, I buy new wheels. I always hope the first one is a fluke and I can make it last a little longer, but when one broke earlier this year, it was less than 50 miles until the next one broke.

    Drivetrain: never upgraded one before but I’m now considering upgrading a bike with 9 speed 105 to the 11 speed 105 group, which I have on another bike. I’ve come to prefer the ergonomics of the newer brake levers and that’s as much a motivator as the performance improvement.

    Disappointment: I think the only thing I ever “early adopted” was a Biopace crankset back in the 1980s–definitely a mistake.

  2. Dan Murphy

    Just bought my first new bike in 18+ years. I had been thinking about it for a few years, but didn’t have any real motivation for a new one.
    The previous bike – a ’96 Merlin – was overhauled with new wheels and drivetrain after 11 seasons of 3-4000+ miles

    I think that answers the question.

  3. AG

    I do like new ideas in equipment and technology. But, it takes a technological leap for me to actually buy-in. Small changes in bike design are not enough for me to lay down the credit card. Changing from downtube shifters to integrated shifting was a phenomenal improvement. Going from cantilever brakes on the mountain bike to discs was equally game-changing. So, it’s about every 6 or 7 years that I feel the improvements are significant enough to warrant a new ride.

    I hear there’s a new 29″ wheel standard that lots of people seem to like. The idea might have legs…maybe I’ll check it out in a couple years to see if it sticks.

  4. miles archer

    Upgrade cycle. Lol. I still have the 1987 Diamondback mountain bike that I bought right after college. Great for running errands. I also have a mid-80s Cannondale road bike that I mostly keep on the trainer for the winter. My main bike is a Trek Pilot 2.1 that I bought in 2008. Knock on wood that I don’t wreck it in a crash and I’ll keep it for as long as I’m riding.

    I am intrigued by the idea of electronic shifting though. One of these days I might buy a new bike for that.

  5. Scott G.

    Have 2005 CK, had 9 speed Centaur built it up wheels leftover from a stolen bike.
    Those wheels have had 4 rims, same hubs. Zephyr left crank arm cracked, used
    a 105 arm as a replacement.
    2016, finally built wheels for the bike, got gifted with nearly new ’08 Record 10s shifters,
    added new OX601 crankset, stem & shifters. Still using ’05 Campy front and rear mechs.
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

  6. daveeckstrom

    As a father trying to raise two kids on a teacher’s salary, even “upgrade” is a financial struggle sometimes, so this is less a question of preference as necessity.

    However, I must say it has given me great pleasure over the years to kick the butts of riders who spend their time working to finance the latest bike instead of riding the one they already had.

    1. daveeckstrom

      btw, 2007 LeMond Chambery 10 speed ultegra, 1990’s GT Avalanche 9 speed XT , both meticulously maintained by me (with generous ancient parts-locating help from my amazing LBS guys). My kids have nicer bikes than me, I guess that’s what Dads do.

  7. Dave

    The replies so far should be a wake up call of sorts to the authors here. Interest in the latest, greatest pro-level equipment is weak at best. Here in the real world where income is earmarked for groceries, or education, or kids’ health care, “upgrades” are very far and few between.

    Like Miles Archer above, I chuckle at the thought of an “upgrade cycle.” I’ve got a hard tail 1993 Specialized M2 with a rigid fork, and thumb shifted 7 speeds that is an awesome around town chore bike and commuter. I’ll only git rid of it if it breaks.

    My Rival equipped 2009 Lynskey R330 will be my forever road bike (I’m 54 yrs old). If I never buy another bike I’ll be happy….plus it doesn’t hurt that I love to ride it. I only replace as needed and don’t upgrade for the sake of upgrading. I’m meticulous about keeping the drive train clean and have replaced cassettes and chains together at 15,000 mile increments. The derailleurs, crankset and brakes are stock. I had to replace the original Fulcrum 5 wheels when I pulled a spoke through the rim at mile 28,000. I’m on my second set of Fulcrum 5’s and couldn’t be happier with their durability on the rough chip-seal roads around North Texas. Since I got the bike I’ve averaged 5700 miles per year. Hopefully since retiring last year I’ll get more in…….just last month I was able to get in 700 miles. I’d like to hit 8,000 + miles for 2016. Did I say that I love to ride my bike? To hell with upgrading.

    I’m happily looking forward to riding my rim-braked, quick release wheeled, 10 speed manuel shifted, titanium bike for the rest of my life.

    1. Padraig

      Normally, I stay out of the comments to the FGR, but I do feel called upon to respond here. The comments section here at RKP is something that, unlike with a great many other media outlets, really matters to us. It has informed and swayed some of our editorial decisions, though it does not drive our choices. While I appreciate that many of the riders responding here are talking about bikes and components that are relatively modest within the larger scheme of the bike market, when I go to Google Analytics to see which posts are most successful for us, the story is quite different. When it comes to talking bikes, our big picture pieces, such as my one on stage race geometry and why that went away, are our most successful. After that, our posts in which we compare/contrast different products are next most successful. And after that, the upper end stuff gets the most readership. When I do reviews of more price-point oriented products, in terms of readership numbers, they aren’t too successful. The upshot is that because I live or die by what I can charge for advertising, I’ll continue to focus on the sorts of stories within our editorial mandate that drive the most traffic. That’s not to say I won’t review price-point bikes and gear, but it would be suicide for me to stop reviewing top-tier bikes and products. One last note: in reviewing a group like Dura-Ace, many of the features found there are common to lower groups, such as 105; we still have the ability to talk about the advantages that component group represents relative to competition.

    2. Spider

      Even if we can’t afford the latest and greatest it is still enjoyable to read about the pinnacle of bicycle technology.

      We can’t expect the site to review 10 year old bikes (or others to read about them) – just because we like riding them!

  8. Fuzz

    After 17 years on a Lance Armstrong EPO special (’99 5200), I went for Di2 and disc brakes (Roubaix). You absolutely do not need electronic shifting for a road bike, but once you have it, there is no going back. And you absolutely do not need disc brakes on a road bike, but once you have them, there is no going back. My experience in the dirt made me curious to go that route, but it was Padraig’s comments over the past few years that pushed me over the edge. He was spot on.

  9. Pat O'Brien

    If I start touring in a serious way, my next upgrade will be a touring frame with disc mounts. What brakes? TRP Spykes. I was an early adopter of 29 inch wheels on my mountain bike. It was not a mistake.

  10. Ric Kellen

    I just upgraded my frame, new S Works Tarmac to replace SL3, whats that, about 4 years. Kept the Dura Ace components and switched them over. I see no reason to switch them out, Dura Ace stuff never wears out. Prior to that it was about 6 years for a new bike. I am not on any set schedule, I sort of wait for an opportunity to present itself.

  11. MattC

    Road: still riding my 09 Cdale Caad-9 (aluminum frame w/ Carbon fork) w/ 2003 Campy Record 10 spd (full group moved over from my badly dented 2003 Caad-7 frame). And it’s really not that harsh at all since I found out about proper tire pressure (w/ 15% sag, as recommended by all tire mfrs). Early on I just pumped them both up to 120psi cuz that’s what everybody else did and it was pretty bad…. STUPID! I only weigh 145, and both tires are 23’s, front now pumped to 80, rear to 100, and it rides pretty fantastic!

    MTB: JUST RECENTLY (the day after Xmas to be exact) I FINALLY got a new Mt-bike…my old one (which I still have and use as a backup) is a 2003 Santa Cruz Blur w/ full XTR (still all the original 2003 components except for the new Shimano XT Ice-tech disc brakes…my sole upgrade over the years). The new bike is beautiful and fantastic (a FS niner of course) w/ SRAM 1×11. Never thought I’d like it, but I won’t be switching to the double like I figured I would. This new bike is OH SO MUCH faster than my old heavy Blur! Totally changed my PR’s to a whole new level from the moment I got it, and it’s just a freaking JOY to ride! Tech has really changed in the MTB world for sure!

    I had demo’d a few new mtb’s and road bikes (saved 2 years for a new bike cuz I don’t have a lot of leftover $ for something that I don’t REALLY need). The reality was that the gulf between my 09 Cdale and a nice new carbon wonder-road bike was x, and the gap between my 13yr old near 30lb 26″ Blur was XXX. So my money went there and it was the right way to go.

    Upgrade cycle? Yeah..right. Not gonna happen. I might do this or that to it in future years, but the new MTB is built to the hilt off the floor, no real real need to do anything (except the Ergon grips and a dropper-post which I put on right away, and now wider tires). Now it’s just about keeping it alive and lasting as long as possible, just like my last MTB. I figure 13 years from now when it’s time for another new bike (also I’ll be 68 yrs old) we’ll have anti-gravity bikes or something.

  12. chuckster

    Have mostly 10spd across a number of bikes between two of us – Shimano/Sram mix (Dura-Ace, Ultegra, Rival, SRAM MTB groups), so that makes chain/cassette replacement a seriously affordable option, quality parts are still available and will be for a while, and I think it’s a good plateau for another perhaps 4-6 years for us – maybe more… but still drooling over future purchases over 1-2 years (hopefully) fat bike(s) going to 1×11 setup (to replace super-affordable but fun Pugsleys), some sort of cross/disc/wide tire clearance bike and a quality FS 29″ that’s had a few years of good reviews.

    I agree that proprietary components are a bummer (man was I sad when externally “pretty” headsets like Chris King became a rarity!)… hopefully a few years of thru-axels on road bikes will settle into another standard but I guess that’s wishful thinking!

  13. winky

    Wheels only. Once they start giving trouble, they’re gone. It’s usually 3-4 years, I guess. Otherwise only if it breaks. No “upgrades” per se.

  14. Tom in Albany

    1999 Serotta Titanium. Still 9-speeding along. What may move me along is a desire to try multi-strada rides, as Padraig refers to them. Also, my back hurts and I don’t know that I can upgrade my quill stem. It’s a sweet, Ti stem with the Serotta logo.

  15. Lyford

    Three years ago I started riding again after years away from it, using my 30-year old Univega road bike. Bought a used 2003 LeMond which got me excited about riding more, put a used compact crank and wider wheels on it, did more riding, but even after a fit it wasn’t right for me. This spring I replaced it with a barely-used Scott Solace, my first bike with current-level components(Ultegra 6800) since the 1980s.
    I didn’t notice a big change in shifting performance compared to the 6500 9-speed on the LeMond, but the extra low range(11-32 vs. 11-27) is nice to have. The most important change was that it fits me properly.
    Two years ago I updated my mountain bike from a 1986 solid-fork Nishiki to a used Niner. That was a major upgrade, and I’m happy I did it. I did swap a couple of components for nicer used ones I found on ebay.
    I have no immediate plans to replace either of those. The next big purchase might be a dirt-road bike.
    Would I like newer/nicer hardware? Sure! But I know that the best way to improve my performance is to get my butt on the bike, not buy more stuff. And my recreation budget has to cover more than just cycling, so I’m happy to buy lightly used gear instead of new.

    1. Spider

      Agree. Found that getting a better fit on the new bike was a much bigger change than going from aluminium to carbom (Santa Cruz Blur 26 to a Tallboy 29).

      Mountain bikes are much more pronounced in their technology changes than road – hub design alone can kill off your bike in 5 years. Quick release to 15mm through axles to boost width spacing.

  16. Dan

    Just purchased the “nicest bike of my life” a couple months ago – NOS ’12 Trek Madone 6.9 SSL frameset w ’15 Force components – and I’m already swapping and upgrading – don’t like SRAM shifting and the 39/53 is tough for our 15%+ grades, so I’m going DA 36/52×11-28 – bars were compact, I like traditional, so on go SL-88s, and of course the stem must change to match and grow 1cm – tires need to be 25s – and shortly I’ll want DA laced wheels or maybe a PowerTap – so, a few months and 1K miles in, I’m close to reworking most of the bike – but I love the frameset and will push all the old parts on Craigslist, so circle of life I guess..

    All that said, I still have fond memories of a custom Rock Lobster steel frame/fork that was briefly in my possession 10yrs back – sold because of tight finances at the time – I’m thinking my next upgrade may be a retro-grade to something similar..

  17. Geoffrey Knobl

    Upgrade? I’ve had a bad habit of wrecking bikes, most notoriously by putting on the roof of my car and attempting to drive into my garage… twice! But I’ve also had frames go bad on me. This last time, while on a work stand outside, the wind came up and blew the thing over. A bent aluminum rear triangle was the result. The next result was me feeling, again, like an idiot and finally deciding that instead of using Trek’s trade-in program for a “cheap” Al/carbon bike frame at a discount I would opt to finally get my forever bike. You see, over the last decade+, I’ve used that offer by Trek to move components over from frame to frame. I wanted something that would take a bit of abuse, like a fall, and not have an impossible to fix situation. I feel a steel frame ought to suffer this. Hopefully, it won’t have to as I won’t be using that mechanics stand again but will keep it in my garage upside down when cleaning or just lay it down on a flat piece of grass, not a driveway.

    But this new frame can’t take the old 9-speed components. I had to upgrade to 11. I went with Sram Rival, which is a compromise but I’m not rich. That means my rear wheel won’t work so that’s a new wheel too. And also the shifters won’t transfer. Neither will my crank, a dura-ace triple when they first had such. I was able to reuse the 105 brakes though. In short, even saving what I can, I’m out a lot of money. I hope this one will last as I need it for every ride. I won’t/can’t get separate bikes for commutes and long event rides. It will get a new chain every year as normal, get cleaned in the garage, and hopefully live a very, very long time as a commute and long ride bike. It will be my everything bike into retirement. If I ever upgrade anything intentionally, it will be electric shifting. I don’t think I’ll have need for disc brakes.

    What is the frame? A Gunnar Sport.

    P.S. I do like and want more reviews of cheap to mid-level stuff. Dura-Ace, SRAM Red just ain’t gonna happen to me unless a long lost, unknown, rich uncle dies and leaves me everything.

  18. Kimball

    I enjoy reading about the top of line stuff even if I can not afford it. The features that gain traction trickle down eventually. Everyone I know who has moved up to electronic shifting loves it so that’s tempting, but I am a bit troubled how fast Shimano stopped making replacement parts for the first generation 10-speed Ultegra Di2; 5 years old and no new replacement parts available.

  19. Will

    Interesting commentary on this topic. I am fortunate to have multiple bikes of varying ages over the 20 plus years that I have been riding. All but two, have been through complete upgrades. One that hasn’t had a drive train upgrade is a 2000 Somec Fuego, Columbus Utra Foco, with Dura Ace, which doesn’t shift like new, but is well maintained. It does have a set of Enve Wheels installed earlier this year and its never been faster, or more comfortable. The other is a full suspension mountain bike.

    Wheels, four years max, due to poor roads, and the best upgrade one can make.

    Bike longevity is more tied to technological advances than anything else, due to compatibility of components, particularly with mountain bikes. My average is seven years with the newest being a carbon Tarmac S Works frame acquired used, that started life with the 9 speed Dura Ace Group from the Somec and the same used Enve wheels, which has since been upgraded to used Dura Ace 10 Speed and new Zipps. What can I say, we do what we have to to support our habits….a little at a time.

    I have been a slow adapter of new technology, with one exception, suspension forks. No regrets! Next bike will be a steel frame, with plenty clearance from one of the NAHBS participants.

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