How much difference does the bike make?

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How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 12:05 pm

I'm sure there are as many answers as there are people in the room but I'm wrestling with this at the moment and would appreciate some opinions.

Without giving my life story, I rode a lot in my mid to late 20's, then pretty much nothing through my 30's. I started riding a bit more from 2003 when I moved from Sydney to the coast and have started riding much more seriously/regularly since September last year. For 10 years I lived here and had no idea there were other serious cyclists here and I was riding at lunch time oblivious to their existence.

My road bike is more than 20 years old. It is a Giant 7 speed CroMoly frame. I have been perfectly happy riding it up until recently, but now I am riding with all these guys who have carbon bikes, compact cranks, 10, 11, 12 speed. I get the 'retro' tag a lot but I consider it a badge of honour to be able to keep up with them, which I often can :)

The first ride I did with these guys, I had to pull out near the end. Felt like I was floating. I put it down to fitness, which has improved quite a lot since and I can now keep up with them. Now I don't know if they are just being nice, probably, but they are always saying "yeah but look at the gears you are pushing, look at the weight of your bike". They almost had me convinced that I needed a new bike. But I don't have 3 grand or more to spare at the moment. I could buy a cheaper second hand 10 speed or something.

However my thinking is that if I have to work harder up the hills, won't that be better for me long term? I mean if it becomes about making it easier, don't I lose some benefit? I don't know. Isn't it like I'm lifting heavier weights or something?

So I'm torn about whether to stick with the old Giant (and the bragging rights that go along with dropping someone on a carbon fibre frame, which I have been able to do) or save up for a new bike and keep the old girl for Sunday rides.
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by BNA » Wed May 07, 2014 12:13 pm

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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby Nobody » Wed May 07, 2014 12:13 pm

Lower gearing would make a difference depending on terrain. If you need to stand before everyone else because of taller gearing, then you are losing efficiency.

Weight doesn't make a lot of difference. Probably the least of your problems. Lose the weight off yourself by making your diet healthier before worrying about the weight of your bike.

You don't need to spend $3K on a carbon road bike. Plenty of cheaper alloy road bikes around that will do the job fine. Eg:
http://www.cellbikes.com.au/Cell-2014-L ... gory=12632
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby herzog » Wed May 07, 2014 12:18 pm

Sounds like your current bike has paid its dues and can be put out to pasture as a commuter or pub bike.

Time for a new one!

It will make a difference, partly due to lower weight better drivetrain etc, but there's also the motivational aspect of the new bike. It gives you a shot in the arm.

You definitely don't need to spend $3k.

Look at lightly used (1 year old) bikes or brand new ones which are last seasons model and you should be able to pick up a carbon 10 speed with 105 level bits for around $1000
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby Sychen » Wed May 07, 2014 12:23 pm

If your current bike does what you need it to why change? It's want vs need.

If you want a new bike sure go ahead.
If you need a new bike... Sure go ahead.

I would say keep the bragging rights until the tool cannot fulfil your requirements.

Just my opinion... In the end the choice is yours. Don't cave in to peer pressure... They probably just want to feel better about being beaten by a "retro".
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 12:33 pm

Thanks for the replies. Yes I need to consider second hand a bit more seriously. Part of the problem is that I ride with the local bike shop owner, and of course he would like to sell me a bike :)

Yes I do often find myself standing sooner/more often, but what I do find is that at least some of the other guys tend to drop back a handful of gears to spin up the hill, and if I keep my pace up I tend to go past them pretty easily. The problem is that I can't sustain that for long and the longer hills kill me. I know that spinning up a hill is not exactly easy, but I can't even contemplate it with the gearing I have.

So do you think there's anything in the thought that riding a heavier bike with higher gearing might work in your favour long term? Or am I just handicapping myself?
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby Dirty32 » Wed May 07, 2014 12:53 pm

Why dont you go and 'test ride' a few newer bikes that are in your budget or that you'd consider buying, and let us know how you find it?!
I'd be interested to see what you think.

Obviously if you are blown away by whatever you ride and notice a maaaassive difference, you have your answer. If not, then surely you can objectively work out whether you want to spend the money on it, or you are happy to keep the current bike going. You are obviously not without a bike, so take a few out and take your time... You can be selective and take your time in weighing up your options and finding the right deal and if you find you dont want a new bike, you havent lost anything.

In saying that, I agree with the want vs. need thing. You probably dont "need" to buy a new bike, but I am sure we'd all like one most of the time (and that probably goes for a lot of material things in life).

To me, you seem to have earned the right to have a good look about and test the theory for yourself. You might or might not find that you want to / need to treat yourself!
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby Nobody » Wed May 07, 2014 12:56 pm

silentC wrote:So do you think there's anything in the thought that riding a heavier bike with higher gearing might work in your favour long term? Or am I just handicapping myself?
It might damage your knees as you spend more time in higher gears doing lower cadence and causing excessive knee pressure. Spinning up the hill is more efficient. Standing and stomping only works for shorter hills. You'll "blow up" quicker that way.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby MattyK » Wed May 07, 2014 1:00 pm

If you're not racing, don't feel compelled to judge your performance by the standards of others. As long as you're enjoying it, great. If you're not enjoying it, do something else.

A new carbon bike should make your riding a little faster, but that doesn't necessarily mean easier, nor more fun. Plus if it breaks or even gets a little chip then it's a big loss. Your old bike will be way more durable.

If running out of low gears is the main issue, surely you can just get a new (eg compact) crankset?
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby herzog » Wed May 07, 2014 1:04 pm

On a 20 year old 7 speed it may not be that simple to just switch the crank to a compact.

He may find that it is necessary to replace a good portion of the drivetrain.

By the time that's done and factoring in labour you're close to the new or newish $1000 bike threshold.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby cyclotaur » Wed May 07, 2014 1:16 pm

You like your (old/heavy/undergeared) GIANT, keep riding it.

...or... find one of these on special and blow ém away ! :D
Here's my blog - A bit of fun :)
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 1:17 pm

Why dont you go and 'test ride' a few newer bikes

I did have a ride on a mate's Specialised - Haberfield to Parramatta and back. He had it fitted by Steve Hogg and I didn't dare change anything, so the seat was too low and it became a bit uncomfortable after awhile. I liked the convenience of the STI gear changes (I'm still down tube) but it wasn't changing down properly and you had to go two clicks and one back on some gears. The brakes were a bit grabby. It all felt a bit weird to be honest, largely because of the fit, but also the hoods are huge compared to the ones on the Giant, just felt strange. Otherwise it was nice enough to ride, but not many hills on that ride...

We're a bit light on with bike shops here (one a 'proper' bike shop the size of a bedroom, the other a Sports Plus) but I might ask the local guy if he'd be prepared to let me ride one some time. I happen to know that he has a second hand Merida in his shop right now that is my size. He want's $2k for it. Last year's model. Ultegra yadda yadda...

By the time that's done and factoring in labour you're close to the new or newish $1000 bike threshold.

Yes exactly. I looked into it, although I was looking at making it 8 or 9 speed rather than adding a compact crank. Didn't think of that. Trouble is I then get into this circular thing of wanting to keep it 'original' and buying something more modern. Then it's back to why do I need it...

I'm torn because I like new toys (who doesn't) but two kids in high school, mortgage, all the usual stuff, can I justify it just to be able to spin up a hill. Or maybe I should just HTFU and tough it out like they did in the olden days :) If working harder makes you stronger, then I can tell myself I don't need a new bike and I'm better off without it. See where I'm going?

Anyway, I guess I'll procrastinate some more (good at that) and something will land in my lap one day...
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby __PG__ » Wed May 07, 2014 1:27 pm

My best time on my 20 year old steel roadie up Kinglake was about 27 minutes.
On my new super-duper dream bike its about 25.
That's a 7.3 km climb at just under 4%
The difference is less than a minute up the Dandenongs 1-20.
My times up Mt Donna Buang are much the same...although when I did it on the old bike I was fitter than when I did it on the new.
The new bike is lighter (by 2.5 kg), infinitely stiffer but unless you are really putting the hammer down it doesn't make much difference.

My new bike is much more comfortable and the riding position is much better. It descends much better too, a combination of different geometry and a stiffer front end (quill stems have much to answer for).

I highly recommend compacts (or lower) gears for climbing. On my old bike (lowest gear a 39-25 or 26) my knees would often be sore after a long day's climbing. I used to be able to get up Kinglake/Devils' Elbows with lowest gear of a 42-23...that was bloody hard work.

Like you, I found that I had to stand to do most of my climbing but it taught me skills that most of the newer cyclists don't have.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby lobstermash » Wed May 07, 2014 1:34 pm

You should be able to spin up the hills just fine on the old bike. Modern bikes may have 11 speed cassettes, but the inner and outer cogs haven't changed very much. Bike weight, compared to all the other factors that influence how much effort it takes to go at speed x, is largely irrelevant.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby __PG__ » Wed May 07, 2014 2:33 pm

lobstermash wrote:You should be able to spin up the hills just fine on the old bike. Modern bikes may have 11 speed cassettes, but the inner and outer cogs haven't changed very much. .

They have. My 1994 bike came with a 53-42 crankset and originally it was a 12-21 rear and I had to put in a special request to get it swapped to a 12-23.

A few years later 53-39 became standard. Compacts were still a decade away.

I'm wagering his lowest gear is a 42-23 or 42-21.

Like the original owner I went looking for compact cranks compatible with an 8-speed drivetrain...they are very difficult to find. Here is one one option
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 2:38 pm

Comparing my bike to the other guys, they have a smaller small chain ring and larger low gear in the cassette (depending on the bike). My lowest gear is 39:23. With a compact crank and 10 speed, they might have 34:25.

I can certainly spin up some of the hills, but there are a few that need me to get out of the saddle in my bottom gear. There's one for example that is 6% over 2.4km. A lot of it is fitness I know, but by the time I get to the top of that, I am pedalling squares.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby Derny Driver » Wed May 07, 2014 3:11 pm

Just get a new cassette. You can 7 speed with 25 or even 28 teeth.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 3:18 pm

OK, not a bad idea. I didn't think you could still get 7 speed (so I was told) but looks like there are some on-line sources. 12-28T would make a bit of difference. Suppose I'll need a new chain too...
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby lobstermash » Wed May 07, 2014 3:37 pm

You could always install a third chainring...
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby __PG__ » Wed May 07, 2014 4:03 pm

7 and 8 speed chains are compatible. You'll find a big difference between a 39-23 and 39-26 for example.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 4:21 pm

Found one on Wiggle for $25 (12,14,16,18,21,24,28). Only problem is it's black, everyone will know!

The chain is pretty worn, so I might need a new one anyway. And then there's the chain rings....

Oh well, so much for keeping it original. This is where I get back into that circle again. Keep it original. Buy something more up to date instead. Do I need a newer bike.

I wonder what it's like to be decisive!!
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby Derny Driver » Wed May 07, 2014 4:30 pm

Replacing cassettes and chains is just basic maintenance. The chainrings are probably fine. Keep the old 'hard man stack 'cassette in case you ever want to restore it to its original vintage glory.
I used to enjoy blowing away $80,000 Beemers in my home built Datsun. Its whats under the hood that counts, not how pretty it looks.
I won 11 B grade scratch races on my old 6 speed steelie before I got promoted to A grade and upgraded to 9 speed carbon (that was a while ago).
Theres a lot of joy to be gleaned by doing some damage to your mate's egos with the steel clunker :)
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 4:40 pm

Yeah I know what you mean (not about the A grade racing, I could only wish..) I used to drive a HiLux ute with a Holden 253 V8 in it. That used to cause some raised eyebrows...

About the maintenance, yep it's all getting towards the end of it's life now. No way I can get original parts for it, so I either have to replace them or stop riding it so much...

Anyway I think it will be a good stop gap while I decide if I need a new bike.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby barefoot » Wed May 07, 2014 5:02 pm

"Retro" road gearing is brutal.

42:23 is a shocking gear to have as your lowest gear in the hills. There's a good reason why normal people now ride bikes with 34:28... or lower.

You can get a cheap compact crank for next to nothing (eg http://www.velogear.com.au/bike-parts/b ... nkset.html ). Yeah, heavy compared to modern high-end cranks, but whatever. Since you're using downtube shifters (with friction shifting on the front), a triple crank would be easy to incorporate - although I'm too lazy to find a cheap one right now. I'm a big fan of triple cranks.

You can get a 7-speed MTB cassette for even closer to nothing (eg http://www.velogear.com.au/bike-parts/b ... nrace.html ).

That will get you the same 34:28 as what most of your buddies are running. Yes, the gaps between gears will be bigger than what you're used to, but at least you'll have the low gears for spinning up hills.

New bike one day? Yeah, sure. But you can have a rideable bike for much cheaper to see you through for the time being.

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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby silentC » Wed May 07, 2014 5:16 pm

It's 39:23 but I see what you mean.

Is that Sunrace stuff any good? I looked at the Velogear site earlier but brand-snobbery kicked in I suppose. I have bought stuff from them before.
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Re: How much difference does the bike make?

Postby KGB » Wed May 07, 2014 5:23 pm

39x23 ain't that bad!
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