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How do I upgrade my bike?

Bringing a few controversial (budget bikes) and non-controversial threads (which of these TT bikes is best) together... I'd like to know what I should be looking for when considering upgrades.

Obviously whatever I buy should be red and expensive, and I should probably wax my legs and eat more porridge, and train until my eyeballs pop out (did I cover everything?) but what do I consider next? [:D] Actually, I already do the eyeball-popping.

What I'm really after is some advice from the more experienced guys as to what to look for in my current bike that will tell me I need to upgrade. e.g. I am a creature of comfort, and the forks were killing my wrists, so I bought some inexpensive carbon forks (Planet-X, £100) with carbon steerer and it has made a big difference.

I can understand the need for more aero wheels, and I know it makes a measureable difference, so let's put that on the list.

Also, I'm slightly suspect of my gearchange when standing on the pedals. It feels a bit rough. Would an upgrade fix this? How? And why?

What can I look for in my frame to tell me I need to change it? (Other than having 'Halfords' written on it). How do I tell that my bottom bracket isn't stiff enough, or that there is too much flex at the rear? What are the signs that say "Get something better. The bike is holding you back!"

You can probably tell, I'm on a budget like many others. I want to understand my upgrades rather than trust the blurb in a marketing brochure.

Long post... did any of it make sense?


  • jon_gjon_g Posts: 318
    made sense to me! and i'm in the same position at the moment. looking at getting some planet x aero wheels, but not sure if i should just wait till next year and go the whole hog and upgrade to a whole planet x bike.

    would upgrading the gears make much of a difference?[&:]
  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    I was under the impression that wheels are the best/most bang for buck upgrade..but am totally bewildered by the choice & what about swapping them in & out with my current drive train? Will the change be crisp or a bit iffy? Thanks for this post..I thought it was just me.
  • MGMG Posts: 470
    Hello folks,

    I was in a similar position a while back, so bit the bullet and bought some GORGEOUS planet x carbon 50 (clincher, cant be dealing with tubs) and trust me they rock!! Had mavic ksyrium wheels but wanted somthing a bit more aero, but not too extreme. These wheels are fast, on the flats they just go!! Cant wait for Windsor where they get their first outing!!

    Sorry to say theyre not red, dont say zipp on them etc.. but they are carbon and they look the bollox!! If you can stretch your wallet theyre a great wheelset.
  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    At the risk of .........

    You will go faster on a better bike.

    Firstly decide what you want to upgrade first.

    I would go for wheels if you are happy with your current frame set up, if you have any doubts about frame set up/geometry then upgrade your frame first.

    Framewise for anything longer than 20km comfort or willingness/ability to adapt your riding position is a major issue. Faster frames - TT/tri frames have more aggressive geometry and dimensions; the rider is directly over the bottom bracket, is more stretched out and of course are more aero - this adds a weight penalty in the less expensive frames, the more expensive can have the same surface area but with a higher grade /lighter composite which is more expensive. So if you want to change your frame it in order to get faster you must bear this in mind. If you are not up for the aggressive TT type frame then the old chestnut of light weight vs. flex comes into play. Lighter bikes are faster but only if they are stiffer. I'll not write about my issues with various frames but you have to spend a lot of money to get this right. Anyway alloy is stiffer than carbon and at certain price points its also better if not lighter. If you want a brand name then Cannondale is the one or Principia. Principias are excellent performers and can be picked up 2nd hand in excellent condition as their owners really cared for them, and now are selling them to buy carbon - as its only now that carbon technology is good enough to surpass Principia. I'll finish later! PS ALL THE BEST - I mean that life is too short!

  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    OK, thanks treefrog.

    I can understand the wheel thing: it pretty much comes down to the fact that a spinning set of spokes and rim is an aerodynamic catastrophe, so blade spokes and deep rims makes an obvious upgrade.

    I'm still unsure about lighter weight wheels: I know from motorbikes that lighter wheels = greater acceleration and turn rate, but I don't think either of these is a huge issue on a 'pedal' bike until you have dealt with some much bigger issues....

    .. which brings me onto frames. You've touched on my biggest area of confusion: stiffness. I've read so many reviews talking of stiff solid frames, and others talking of frames needing more flex. Help me on this: stiff bottom bracket and chain stay = good? stiff seat stay and cross bar = bad? stiff bottom tube (umm goes from bb to stem?) = good/bad depending on how stiff they make it?

    And materials: carbon = flexible in certain directions, can be light, but if you need it to be stiff is heavier than alloy. Alloy is good for the stiff bits, but loses out to carbon in weight terms if it is allowed to flex. Oh dammit, now we're both confused.

    I'm coming to the conclusion that the deep desire that I have for a carbon frame, regardless of my budget (and I mean that my budget will be low) is not necessarily healthy. i.e. I can get a Planet-X carbon framed bike for £1000, but might well be better off looking at alloy at that price. And much as I would love a TT frame, I'll be using it for training, sprints, olympics and hopefully 70.3 and IM, so I need the versatility of a road frame and maybe stick clip-ons on it for the seating flexibility you mention.

    Finally (sorry about all the questions) if I upgrade from Tiagra to Ultegra or Dura-Ace I'm saving a few grammes, but I guess I'm getting a more reliable shift, particularly when I'm standing on the pedals up a hill and go for the next cog up - currently this goes 'BANG' and makes me worry for my chain and life.

    Perhaps I should go for the single speed ex-GPO bike, and just develop ultimate quads to get it up the hills?
  • gaterz1981gaterz1981 Posts: 233
    ultegra got advantages of dura ace without the cost, will change lots better then tiagra.
  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    Continue with frames ...

    Flex is not good. The reason why some say that flex is good is because they think it makes for a more comfortable ride. This is not really true. Flex means that your energy is being spent on twisting (and weakening the frame) as opposed to moving the bike. The stiffer the frame the better, the ride can be damped if necessary by judicious use of seatpost saddle, stem and handlebars, shorts,gloves and bar tape.

    Cheap carbon frames and pre 2005 carbon frames are suspect... I think, because cheap carbon frames are either too flexy if they are lightweight and are aimed at people who want a carbon frame but cannot afford a real one. Pre 2005 composite technology was not quite up to the mark in many cycle frames - I know this from motor/aero engineering friends who were using balso wood on their cars instead of low grade carbon until the quality improved circa 2005.

    The nature of triathlon definitely steers you away from flexy frames as triathlon cycling is racing as opposed to sportive cycling which to a greater or lesser degree is "touring". Bigger cyclists tend to go with alloy Indurain currently rides a Cannondale, Backsted has a specially built alloy "Bianchi" Cipollini, Hunt, O'Grady and many of the top sprinters prefer alloy frames for the sprint.

    Once again if you :have budget limitations, are big -over 85kg get an alloy frame and get a stiff one. Avoid Italian alloy frames as they tend to flex - they are built with sportives in mind and Italians tend to be whippet-like. Weight need not be an issue with alloy - it is possible to build up a very light alloy bike that is also stiff. As I've said Cannondale do it well but also the Storck Vision Light and any of the pre 2004 (Danish built) Principias which are available secondhand.

    No matter what make sure the bike is set up to suit you.

    Wheels make a huge difference, but like frames they flex, and there's the clincher/tubs debate. More spokes less aero but less flex and heavier, less spokes more flex but maybe more aero and lighter.This is why good wheels are expensive. It takes a lot of engineering, many exotic & expensive materials and expertise to get the correct combination. Also the heavier you are the less options you have as most wheels flex noticebly when a big rider puts the power down on a climb.

    Groupset upgrades are a bit more cut and dried. All groupsets beyond 105 and veloce work well and are a significant improvement on lower groupsets. The more expensive groupsets are lighter and smoother. A groupset upgrade will not give you the same returns as a frame or wheel upgrade, but if your current groupset is passed it then you will see a big performance improvement following replacement or upgrade.

    Get yourself measured up try a few bikes out USING YOUR IDEAL SET UP.

    Then settle on a frame brand that fits you (remember each brand has its own specific measurements).

    Then research and get the best deal going.

    Wheels - don't throw money away on substandard wheels - try Pete Matthews in Liverpool- he will build you a suitable wheelset at a reasonable price and will give good advice on builds - rims, hubs, spoke number, spoke type, dishing etc etc.

    I'm tired and am now off to my carbon fibre bed!

  • sfullersfuller Posts: 628
    So at what point (money-wise) would you say is the carbon-alloy cut off point?

    As Im looking for a new bike and have been leaning towards to Focus Cayo, this has a carbon frame but after reading this makes me think 'is it cheap carbon? should i go for alloy?'

    So I ask you Treefrog et al, what is the cut-off point (In your opinion) and what do you think of the Focus Cayo? also, any recommendations for a bike around £1000?


  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    ...and, just as importantly, what is the cut-off in terms of functionality? eg is the focus Cayo likely to be stiff but heavy, or light but too flexy. I'm assuming cheap carbon is in use here.

    I think £1000 is becoming an interesting price point, largely driven by the popularity of the various "cycle to work" schemes.

    *Edit.... and now I've read treefrog's second post PROPERLY.... It look's like I'll be aiming for a nice stiff alloy frame, possibly with carbon seat stays and/or fork IF, and only if, I can afford the carbon bits to be decent ones.

    You have swayed me away from the Planet-X and Focus carbon frames, I think. Wouldn't mind a go one either, though, if anybody has one and lives near Southampton [:D]. Sounds like you really need to get your bum on the seat and see how it goes.
  • jon_gjon_g Posts: 318
    Thanks for all the advice treefrog, after us bitching about you saying spend more now we're asking for your help![:D]

    what about the planet x tt frame? thought that was pretty good, but it is pretty cheap. it's had good reviews in 220 and on some other sites (been googling it quite a bit as i'm debating whether to get that or the cannondale slice)

  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    Ok its late so I have to be brief - I'm on the bike coaching at 06.00!

    I will turn your point around sfuller! At what low cost can I get a great alloy frame? For me I would say do some research and look for Cannondale, Storck, Principia (pre 2004). These frames are top notch alloy frames and are noted for their stiffness, lightweight, geometry etc. The caad 9 Cannondale complete bike sells at 900 quid, the Storck for 300 -400 quid but its frame only - no forks and you have to trawl the small ads of cycling weekly to find the Principias.

    I have tried various carbon frames ; Dolan, Cannondale 6/13 aero, Kuota and none of them were as light or as stiff as my alloy framed bikes (Principia) but they all cost more.

    Possibly the cheaper end of composite technology has improved but the only carbon frame to convince me that I was getting something better was the P3C.

    Why ? Excellent build quality, Geometry is excellent for me - I can set it up exactly how I want, light, stiff, and aero. It is the complete package. Also it impressed my engineering friend a composites and aero expert. Look a the number of imitations Orbea, Specialised etc

    I have tried the Slice, I got a test ride on one of the first models brought into the UK. It impressed me and for value for money you simply cannot beat the fully built up basic model at 1500 - get it set up correctly and you will fly. Furthermore it is well equipped but also upgradable

    I have no experience of the Focus and have limited experience of Planet X; a clubmate sold his virtually new alloy one to buy a Cannondale and a tester (time triallist) I met regrets buying an aero one because he really should have saved or borrowed a little more to buy a ... guess what P3C!

    Other frames I can speak about as having tried them are Litespeed Ghisalo- a noodle (flexy), DeRosa Merak - beautiful but flexy when you really put the power down, Kuota - quite heavy and the frame did not fit me. My hierarchies are stiffness, lightness, "aeroness" and lastly cost!!! Isaac sonic - almost bought one until I tried the ...P3C

    However the bottom line is try them out, ask owners, research specs - weight, stiffness there's a German lab that publishes all the data you will post the name again, and try bike specific forums to see what us bike nerds and snobs say

  • sfullersfuller Posts: 628
    guess Ill take a look at cannondale then..... got to say Treefrog, you seem to know your shit!
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    Love this thread,cause it kinda handles about my problem a bit too. I have 1000£ to spend (max), ride a 5 year old ridley triton, veloce, standard wheels. I really doubt between new (aero/TT) bike or upgrading the one I own. Read some interesting things here, though I still can't decide.

  • BARNYBARNY Posts: 157
    I had a similar dilema recently about how to spend a wad of cash that landed on my lap.. I had what is an entry level bike - Guess RB1 - I eneded up going the component upgrade route as I was happy with my frame size weight and ride, and looks! and felt that I coudl have a fully pimped bike with an ok frame, or spend money on a frame and same level components - I got some nice bars, light crank, nice seatpost, nice stem and nice wheels along with ultegra group (by nice I mean carbon!). My bike rides great now and is much lighter and I feel goes very well... for me that was the right choice. Without much experience in frames I didnt wat to risk it - components were for me a much safer upgrade for my cashio.
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Good call, Barny. That's exactly the kind of question I'm trying to sort out the answer to, except I'm one stage behind you bike-wise. I need to be able to tell what really needs upgrading and why.

    Also, that's probably the engineer in me wanting to understand it all.

    From frog's advice I'm slowly being drawn towards the Cannondale caad5. It looks like a rock-solid frame with a TT-friendly geometry and some reasonable components, sitting on a set of wheels which are... errm... round. The point seems to be that for the money I won't get a decent stiff carbon frame, so why not get a much better alloy one.

    Sometime much later I will start doing what you are doing now: bunging better (stiffer/lighter/more reliable) componentry at it.

    Actually, the wheels are Shimano R500, which seem fair enough as an entry level wheel but the bike is crying out for an upgrade. Planet-X Carbon 50s, anybody?
  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    Bopomofo I spoke to a guy today on a Planet X alloy bike at the sportive. Whilst he was happy with the bike in that it did what it said on the tin, he was jealous of the guys on the lighter specials which in his words are "a kick on the arse more expensive"! I thought of you!
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Bless you, treefrog. [:D]

    Actually, I thought of you when I saw the couple of threads running about getting a carbon bike whatever the cost i.e. Focus and Planet-X carbon frames for a £1000. I'll cross refer them over here to save you some typing.

    I'm still leaning towards the better quality alloy, rather than getting carbon just because it is carbon. Hopefully you approve! [:D] I said CAAD5 above, I meant CAAD9.

    I've also been thinking how tempting it must be to buy a bit of dura-ace here and there, maybe one bit every month, until you are fully blinged-up.

    Do you have an opinion on Felt frames? Specifically on the F75? I think there are a few manufacturers doing similar things - a good frame with basic components and budget wheels to get you an upgradeable bike. Is that the case with the Felt?

    On the other hand, I could always just chuck £1000 of bling at my Halfords frame: it may be a heavy old bus but my God it must be stiff. You can't have that much metal and it NOT be stiff, surely?
  • hbhb Posts: 22

    if you want a red expensive bike buy a ferrari one they are only about 4 grand i believe.

    seriously though i would rather build a bike rather than buy one of the rack as it were then you get exactly what you want
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