In the next of our Member’s articles we take a look at bikes with Hans Koeppen. The bike is by far the most expensive piece of equipment for triathletes, and the cost can put prospective triathletes off. In the first of a two part article, Hans explains that upgrading an old bike can be both inexpensive and fun.
The tri bicycle – if you can’t buy it, PIMP it! By Hans Koeppen
So, you’re a good runner, the weather is getting warmer and there are all these tempting triathlon events coming up. But spending upwards of 2,000 PLN on new cycling equipment is not really an option for you, especially now that you’ve bought all the fancy WITC dresses that Ken talked you into.
So maybe you’re thinking of doing the races with a used bike? It could be your mountain bike or touring bike? Well, the solution is none of the above. You can’t really compete with such bikes on tri-events held on tarmaced roads. The upright position creates too much wind drag, and the wider tyres add to rolling resistance. It’s a shame to waste your excellent swimming speed and superfast running by using a bike not fit for road racing. You just need an aerodynamic sitting position and thin high-pressure tyres.
The solution is to renovate and pimp an old road bike! This is a project in phases, where good results can already be achieved in the first steps, and once you get the hang of bike mechanics, you can go on further and really create a racing beauty. Here’s how:
Step 1: Weight
Once you’ve found your old roadbike on Allegro or in the cellar of your parents, it will probably look something like this:
So shed weight and get rid of all the fenders, lights, bottleholders, luggage racks and so on! To loosen all the old screws, and also later during the project, meet your new best friend: WD40 spray, a magic formula that does away with all rust and grease [other lubrication products are also available ].
After you are done with throwing away all the unnecessary parts, your bike weight should be around 10 kg. Further weight-shedding is possible by using modern components (see below), so after a successful pimping you might even end up with around 8 kg.
Step 2: Safety
Safety means brakes. Your old road bike probably has this setup:
These brakes are “mid-pull” brakes, where the Bowden cable pulls symmetrically in the middle between the two brake jaws. Keep them for the time being. They fit to the holes in your old frame, and they are very reliable. Also it is easy to get and change brake pads. The downside: adjusting them is a bit fiddly, and they just don’t have “the look”.
If you want to spend a bit, you can try this type of modern road bike brakes:
They are easier to adjust, and just need one hole to be mounted to the frame. But their dimensions must fit your wheels (if the brake jaws are too long or too short, the brake pads will not grip the wheel rims). So it’s best to wait until you also decide to get new wheels (see below) before buying new brakes. It’s best to take your bike to a parts shop and check the fit of the new brakes there before buying. See below on bike shops.
Step 3: Speed
The biggest speed-improving items on your bike will be the wheels. The old wheels on your used bike will probably be OK, but good new ball bearings and new high-pressure tyres will let you feel an immediate improvement. There is no sense in assembling new wheels from a set of spokes and rims (unless you like to solve unconventional puzzles). So just buy modern wheels complete with tyres. This will do wonders not only for speed but also for looks.
The wheels will have “fat” rims and quick-release screws, giving you the feeling of riding a nearly professional bike.
The next item that effects speed is the handlebars. The position of the handlebars dictates your aerodynamics on the bike. The usual roadbike handlebars, both old and modern, looks like this:
Your used roadbike will most likely already have handlebars like this, so you only need to improve its looks with new grip tape (see below). By gripping the lower ends while riding, you achieve a good bent-over aerodynamic position, less drag and more speed. But then again: I’d be a rich man if I got a Zloty for each roabike rider who grips the handlebar on its UPPER part, like on the picture above (thus ruining aerodynamics). It is just uncomfortable to ride with your hands on the lower position for a long period of time. So why not go the full distance and get yourself a modern tri handlebar with aerobars (another optical wow-effect!).
These handlebars are usually a separate set (you can also buy a fixed assembly of aerobar and handlebar, although adjustments are now possible). And when used it looks like this:
The support under the elbows is much more relaxing than the lower grip on a roadbike handlebar. Others might object that a tri handlebar and aerobar cannot be used on a roadbike frame, but this simply not true, see below under Ergonomics. The downside of a tri handlebar is that it does not easily combine with normal brake levers.
You need patience and maybe some extra investment to get a working combination of handlebar and brake levers. A good compromise is mounting an aerobar on normal roadbike handlebars.
So that’s it for this week’s installment of tips. Don’t forget, Hans will be back later this month with some more upgrading tips so keep an eye on the website!
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