Following on from last week’s introduction to bike upgrading, in the second part of the article Hans Koeppen now looks at ergonomics, mechanics and last but not least appearance!
Please note this article contains opinions and views which are solely the author’s. Bike fitting is highly important and difficult to do on your own. If you are not very familiar with bike maintenance, consider seeking the advice of a professional to help with seat positioning and general bike fitting.
Pimp your bike part 2 – By Hans Koppen
Step 4. Ergonomics
The major item here is your seating position. While you can find the optimal combination of your body height and bike frame size on many websites, there is always extra flexibility gained from the saddle and seat post. I suggest you buy a new roadbike saddle anyway. The modern ones have just much better padding (gel) and shapes than anything old. Do not buy anything expensive, though. After a season you may want to change for a different saddle again, and might not use the first one anymore.
The saddle and seatpost let you change not only the height but also can be adjusted forward and backwards. This is very important when bending over on an aerobar or finding the exact knee-bending angle. You will probably do a lot of test rides, and adjust it everytime afterwards until you find the optimum position.
Another ergonomic item is the position of the gear levers. Usually with old roadbikes they are on the lower tube, meaning you have to reach down to change gears. My estimate is that in a tri race you change gears at least every 2 minutes. Wind, inclines, quick sprints etc all require gear changes. Hence consider: is it worth reaching down every time? The alternative is a combination of brake- and gear levers. They are just great as your hands never need to leave the handlebar. Though a bit tricky to mount (each has two Bowden cables going in), they are worth the hassle and money.
Finally, consider whether you want pedals that click to your biking shoes. A stiff connection between shoe and pedal allows for a much better power transmission (pulling up AND kicking down) – while cheap alternative are these contraptions:
Although from the last century, you still should be able to buy used ones. You pre-set the strap and when starting just slip in your foot. Very important for triathletes: you can ride in your running shoes and save time in the bike-to-run transition.
Step 5. Mechanics
There is nothing wrong with old gear shifters. W40 spray usually helps to get them going again, and they are already in the right position when you get your used roadbike. Then again, new ones look good and start at quite low prices:
At the latest when you get new wheels, you will also replace the gear wheels (“chain pinions”) and the chain. Even if you keep your old wheels and tyres, you should change the gears and the chain. These things just go together. An old chain will not work with new gear wheels or a new shifter. A special tool is required to fix gear wheels to the wheel hub, so let that be done at a bike shop.
Another thing to be done by an expert is changing the bottom bracket, i.e. the ball-bearing/axle that holds the pedals in position. Strong forces (your legs!) are at work here, and these things get worn out. So you should always have the bottom bracket changed by a mechanic when you start to renovate a road bike. Usually you can keep the pedals and the forward gear wheels (chain pinion) and just change the bottom bracket.
Step 6. Appearance
Hey what with all the mechanical and ergonomic crap, looking good is just so much more important, hehe! Items like handlebar tape or coloured cables can go a long way towards a nice face-lifting. The hardcore option is of course to strip the frame of everything, have it sandblasted and powder-coated in a great new colour. I know places in Warsaw where this job is done surprisingly cheap.
Step 7. Shopping for parts and advice
In my experience it is best to look for shops that advertise bike parts instead of just bikes. The people there will answer questions as best as they can, and will usually not make you feel inferior. One place I can recommend it at ul. Gibalskiego in Wola where there’s a true bike wizard in his little old shop, while another good shop is on ul. Nowowiejska. Above all WITC’s partner skleprowerowy.pl also offers bike fitting and advice.
Wow, thank you Hans for some great tips. With the first big triathlon of the year in Sierakow just weeks away now, upgrading your bike could be a good way of gaining an advantage over the competition
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