New parts or new bike?

I’ve been having trouble with my knees ever since I started commuting by bicycle. I tried adjusting my bike fit on my own, but some of the measurements really require a trained eye. (Said eye being in the skull of somebody other than the cyclist sitting on the bike.) So I took a ride to City Bikes after work a few weeks ago to see if they could help me adjust my touring bike for less painful riding.

The guys at the shop did their best not to laugh when I wheeled in my 20-year-old bike. They decried the overly large frame, fixed-length stem, and old-school drop bars. But keep in mind–The conventional wisdom back in the mid-80’s was to buy the biggest frame you could just barely stand over. The only adjustment one could make to the stem was to raise or lower it. If you wanted more “reach” you had to buy a longer stem, which is precisely what I did when I first bought the bike. And drop bars only came in one style back in the day. They went ahead and fitted me, but I guess I had already done a pretty good job myself–they weren’t able to find anything that could be adjusted that needed it. Thus, no charge for the fitting, but they did strongly suggest that I buy a new, modern bike with a smaller frame. They showed me a bunch of bikes, but the only one that caught my eye was a Specialized Sequoia Elite for about $1100.

So now I’m in a quandary–do I put money in my old bike or buy a new one? $1100 sounds like a fair bit of money for a bicycle, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a car! Instead I decided to see what I could do with my existing bike first. I spent about $300 at Peak Adventures and replaced nearly the entire drive train with pretty nice components: Xpedo RF-L3 clipless pedals, FSA Gossamer triple chainring (53/39/30T) with 172.5 mm cranks and megaexo bottom bracket, Shimano Tiagra rear derailleur, and a new chain. The only original drive train components now are my 6-speed casette (28, 24, 21, 18, 16, 14T) and the wheels. I wouldn’t mind replacing the casette sometime, especially since I now have a 9-speed derailleur, but if I have to replace the wheels I’m going to be thinking very hard about just buying a new bike. (Decent wheels can be pretty expensive!)

If I do spring for a new bike, I’m not fixated on the Specialized Sequoia. I’d be looking for a touring bike–something with a rugged frame, drop bars, fittings for panniers (preferably front and rear), triple chainring or possibly a compact double, clipless pedals, and those very cool integrated shifters/brake levers (my favorite feature of the Sequoia)!

But before I drop that much cash I’m going to see how I do on some long-distance rides with my old Tribute. I’ve got a nice flat 100-mile ride this Saturday: Bike Around the Buttes. I haven’t done a ride this long for many years, so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

About Jim Vanderveen

I'm a bit of a Renaissance man, with far too many hobbies for my free time! But more important than any hobby is my family. My proudest accomplishment has been raising some great kids! And somehow convincing my wife to put up with me since 1988. ;)
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4 Responses to New parts or new bike?

  1. I wish I’d heard about BAB sooner — the short course would have been a great way to open my bicycle season.

    I’m in much the same quandry as you. I have a 19 year old bike that has miles, love, and more than a little cash invested in it, but I’m afraid it just won’t suffice anymore. I can’t really justify even replacing components because its so old and the real problem — a rickety bottom bracket — is probably unfixable. French bike with wierd sizes and all that.

    But since I’m only a fair weather cyclist, and not a regular one at that, it’s hard for me to justify the expense of a new bike. I’ve been looking at some of REI’s low-end road bikes, but not very seriously.

  2. jim says:

    I think there’s still room to sign up for BAB, although I think at this point you’ll need to register in person on the day of the event.

    Re your old bike–bring it in to Peak Adventures (at CSUS) and have them take a look at it. (Let ’em know I sent you.) They’re honest, got great prices, and if they can’t fix your bike you can at least check out their KHS bikes. (You’ve probably never heard of KHS, but they’re good bikes with excellent components, very reasonably priced.)

  3. Pingback: SonicChicken weblog » Blog Archive » Bike Around the Buttes checklist

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