Saturday, 10 November 2012

Installing upgrades to make riding upgrades easier?

Time for a quick update on the actual bike I am riding and some changes that have been made to it over the last six months.

(There has also been a further update to this blog post, reviewing the conversion detailed below after a few hundred miles of use which can be found HERE ) 

As regular readers of my blog will know, earlier this year Mrs Pixie bought me a new bike for my 50th birthday present (she is a very generous Pixie and I am extremely lucky to share the Pixie cave with her) The bike in question is a Specialized Secteur Elite which was chosen because it offered Sportive friendly frame geometry (taller in the headset and therefore less likely to break an ageing Pixies back), a sensible compromise between price & specification and I liked the colours!

Over the course of the last 6 months I have grown to really like my Secteur, I know there are fancier and more expensive bikes out there that would possibly be a bit more comfortable or maybe make me a few seconds faster in a Sportive, however all in all the Secteur I seem to rub along nicely together. Despite being happy overall with the Secteur there were a few aspects of the bikes specification that I felt would benefit from a bit of an upgrade.

First things to get changed were the seat and seat post for items that promised a ride that would insulate me from "road buzz"  and be easier on my bum, namely a new Specialized S Works carbon seat post and a Selle Italia Max Flite gel saddle. I am pleased to be able to say that both of these modifications have been a complete success, ride quality has been much improved and my bum no longer gets numb!

Selle Italia MaxFlite and S Works carbon seat post

Swiftly following the saddle and seat post was a wheel change. A bit of an impulse e bay bargain saw me becoming the new owner of a brand new pair of Shimano RS10 wheels complete with new Schwalbe tyres and a new Ultegra 12-27 rear cassette for not a lot of money. The Shimano wheels and some Continental GP 4 seasons tyres were installed together with the original Shimano Tiagra 12-30 rear cassette. Again these changes made quite a bit of difference to how the bike rides and definitely made it feel a bit livelier on hills. 

Next up was a need to look at the brakes. My wet Welsh hill climbing trip with Simon from Total Cycling Performance had highlighted how inadequate the standard fit Tektro brakes were on long fast descents in the wet, providing only minimal retarding capabilities which were "we'll stop eventually but not anytime in the immediate future" in nature. As luck would have it, Wiggle had a sale on (actually I think it's a continuous sale) and I picked up a very natty looking pair of FSA Energy brakes. The FSA brakes were supplemented with some Swissstop green pads and as they say the "job was a good 'un" We now have stoppie inducing brakes on the front and more than enough power in the back. As a bonus they even work in the wet.

FSA Energy brakes

The Secteur actually stayed in this specification for about 6 or 7 weeks and to be honest I was really happy with how it was riding and performing - reliable, comfortable, quick enough for a Sportive newbie and good fun. However, some time ago I decided that for l'etape I wanted to have the perceived security of a couple of really low "bale out" or "granny gears" of the sort provided by the new generation of 32-12 and 34-12 MTB type rear cassettes.

The existing Tiagra 12-30 cassette when combined with a compact chainset provides for a pretty wide set of gear ratio's, with the lowest two gears being low enough to stay in the saddle on all but the steepest of climbs, however what this does mean is that there is one big gap between the gears where a a 16 tooth cog would normally be found on a 12-27 cassette which can make itself felt when trying to "crack on" on flat roads. What I wanted was a set up that would provide for a low set of granny gears for later in the day on long hilly Sportives, whilst maybe tightening up the gaps between the intermediate gears and decided a conversion to a "triple" set up might be able to provide this in conjunction with a 12-27 cassette.

There is a weight penalty when converting to a triple set up, however for a rider at my level I think the increased range of gears that are made available is probably beneficial enough to outweigh the increase in weight. Besides, I can just lose a couple of pounds of body weight to counter the weight of the new crankset.

Of course a conversion of this type isn't as simple as it at first seems and as usual my "inner perfectionist" surfaced and took the opportunity to "upgrade" some components that were working perfectly well but were ripe for upgrading at the same time.   

So whilst I say the Secteur stayed in it's then current specification for 6 or 7 weeks, this was only because I was I was collecting together the various components that I wanted or needed to fit as part of the triple conversion. 

In the end I had a pile of new parts that contained the following;

  • Shimano 5703 levers
  • Shimano 5703 Triple cranks and chain set
  • Shimano 5703 front derailleur
  • Shimano 5700 GS rear derailleur
  • SRAM 10 speed chain
  • Hope stainless steel bottom bracket
  • Front chain catcher
  • Jagwire Pro Racer cable set
  • New gel type bar tape
  • Red hoods for the 5703 levers

I elected to utilise my trusty copy of "Zinn and the art of road bike maintenance" and complete the instalation of the new components myself. This decision was made on the basis that if I can rebuild a 1978 XS650 Yamaha motorcycle, I should be able to cope with a push bike! Well, the conversion took me probably a day to complete, over the space of a week, working on the bike when I could grab an hour or two. 

Shimano 105 50/39/30 crank set

Shimano 5700 105 GS rear Mechanism

Hope road specific stainless steel bottom bracket

Chain catcher

Shimano 5703 / 105 levers and after market hoods

Look no cables!

I'm actually really pleased with how the conversion has finished up, the 5703 levers and concealed cable routing have really tidied up the look of the bars and the shifting action of the levers seems to be a lot crisper than the old Tiagra levers. The SRAM chain went on with no drama and was chosen because it allows the use of the SRAM powerlink system for joining and making roadside repairs. The chain catcher may be working but as the front set up is shifting flawlessly it hasn't had to do any work yet! The rear 105 GS rear derailleur feels like it is providing a cleaner shift than the old Tiagra component (although to be fair, the Tiagra rear mech' performed well and was only occasionally reluctant to shift cleanly when under load) The Hope bottom bracket? Its a bottom bracket, it looks nice in its anodised red finish and it feels buttery smooth. Hopefully it will provide long and trouble free service over the winter? 

In theory the conversion to a triple set up has increased the number of available gears from 20 to 30. However the actual ratio's achieved in each gear mean that their is some overlap between what is actually produced by each of the front chain rings, so the actual number of unique gears is a little less than 30.   

At the present time I have kept the Tiagra 12-30 cassette on the rear wheel to see what a 1:1 or 27 inch low gear will be like to ride with in the real world. I suspect it might be a touch to low and I wont be surprised if I find myself swapping it for the new Ultegra 12-27 cassette that I acquired with the RS10 wheels as this should in theory give me a lowest gear that is the same as the compact/12-30 set up and provide me with the missing 16 tooth cog.

Testing of the new set up has so far been limited to very short local rides, however I have another session in the Welsh hills with Simon and a couple of hilly Sportives, planned in the next month, so I should start to get a feel for whether either of these cassettes are going to give me the spread of gears I want or whether I may want to try another cassette.

I'll report back sometime in the future on how this set up is performing and I will provide an honest assessment of whether the expense and the slight weight penalty of the triple conversion is actually worth it when compared to the compact/12-30 cassette set up.

Whilst sitting in the garage this morning getting the bike ready for a training run, I realised that the only original bits left on the bike are the frame, forks, bars and stem.

Hmmmm....that means I've got nearly all the bits required to complete the build of a second bike sitting in the garage. I feel a new project coming on, anybody got a cheap frame and forks they don't need?  

As always thanks for taking the time to stop by and read about my journey to l'etape and associated Pixie ramblings. I hope you can pop back again some time in the future to see how I'm getting on.

Dha weles diwetthaVP 


1 comment:

  1. Dear Pixie,

    Please can I wave my frame above your parts bin. I need a winter bike and have no cash... :o)

    Good luck with your training.