Best Areas to Put $$$ into Your Bike
Bang for your Bucks!
Remember when your Grandma would send you a birthday card with a 20 spot in it and you couldn’t wait to get to the toy store and fine a shiny new toy to tease your sibling with? You dreamed about the sweet new action figure or sparkly dress up shoes that your 20 greenbacks would get you! Let’s face it; you endured too many sloppy kisses and cheek pinches to not get your money’s worth. You wanted to get the best possible toy you could for your hard earned $20 from Grandma. So, fast forward to today and you may find yourself in the same situation with your bike. You have some extra coin to spend and you’re ready to drop some weight and purchase a bit of speed. You’re stuck wondering where the best place to put your money is going to be and your goal is to find the best bang for your bucks. It’s a great question and it seems to come up pretty often. So, here are a few areas that can offer you a pretty good return on your investment!
Wheels and Tires: Wheels are potentially the biggest and most sound investment you can make to your machine. The first place to look when buying a bit of speed is to look at things that rotate. Your wheels and tires directly affect the biggest inhibitor of your speed: Rotational weight. Any time you can reduce the rotational weight on your bike you can reduce the energy required to turn those spinning objects. Thus, by reducing the weight of your wheels and tires you essentially reduce the amount of power it takes to bring the wheel up to speed and keep it there. Unlike the Flywheel principal we all learned in Physics, bicycle wheels require a direct effort from you to impart constant energy into motion and by reducing that effort you can gain some speed!
Aside from rotational weight, a better quality wheel offers a higher quality hub and spokes as well as a butter build. By increasing the quality of the hubs and bearings you can reduce the friction and resistance that the bearings create when rolling and again make small reductions to the energy required to pedal the bike. Add to that an increase in strength and stiffness to the spokes and overall quality of the wheel build and you can not only get a faster wheel and a better feel from the road or trail. Tires are also an important piece of the wheel puzzle and are a great place to make positive changes to your riding experience. Often overlooked, your choice of tire should be specific to the type of riding you do and can also positively affect the ride quality of a new set of wheels.
Crank Set: Building on the principal of rotational weight reduction, your cranks are another great place to purchase a bit of speed and drop some weight. Cranks are often the first component that many of the big box bike manufacturers cut with a cheaper and heavier replacement to control the costs of their product. Many times when a bike is listed with Ultegra or Dura Ace components, the cranks are downgraded to a second tier brand or model to help control the retail price and remain competitive with the other big box brands. So, if your sweet machine came stock with some nice Dura Ace shifters and derailleurs and a wally-world-worthy set of cranks, you may want to think about an upgrade. A better quality crank set will not only reduce the bike and rotational weight, but improve the shifting quality, as well as increase your pedaling efficiency with a stiffer crank arm. I have found that the mechanicals of bikes tend to work better when you keep the families of components together; it just seems to cost a bit more to do that.
Brakes: Not always at the top of the list for upgrade, your brakes are another component that can be overlooked when thinking of dropping some coin in your bike. However, the brakes are also another part that gets the axe when controlling costs. It has become very commonplace for manufacturers to replace the group matching brakes with a house brand or off-brand set of brakes to help control costs. In some cases the quality of the brakes are on par with the rest of the parts, but more often than not, the brakes are cheap and made of poor quality materials. These low quality knock-offs typically don’t work well or even reliably and can cause some real safety and functionality issues. With poor quality materials, cheaper brake sets will rust and corrode quickly and can cause sticking or spongy feeling brakes which can result in some poor stopping power. In addition, a lower quality brake may not hold an adjustment very well and could slip into a position where the brake may drag on the rim and really slow you down. Talk about a major drag; try riding with your brakes on during your next ride or race! Good quality brakes are a bit more expensive, but well worth the cash to upgrade to a more reliable set for better braking.
Are you ready for some upgrades? Feel free to give me a shout and schedule some time to look over your machine and find a good place to stick some cash. If cycling is your passion, and you want to show you bike some love, some nice new parts are often the trick!