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Thread: Component Envy?

  1. #1
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    Component Envy?

    I'm fairly new to road biking and am educating myself. I've read many threads about "buying a new bike," and appreciate all the good advice I'm getting.

    I am an engineer and understand the "trickle down" theory of bike parts. And it appears even entry-level bikes ($700-$800) are getting better and better, every couple of years, right?

    But much of the advice ends with a sort of a caveat, like "...but if were me, I'd try to find at least a 105-equipped bike..." or something along those lines. I have read all I can about durability, lightness, feel, and quality, and how it improves up the ladder of components.

    So how can a newbie really decide if it's "worth it" to throw a couple hundred dollars more toward the SAME bike but with a rung higher component group? Forgive my ignorance, but how different can they be?

    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oversteer View Post
    I'm fairly new to road biking and am educating myself. I've read many threads about "buying a new bike," and appreciate all the good advice I'm getting.

    I am an engineer and understand the "trickle down" theory of bike parts. And it appears even entry-level bikes ($700-$800) are getting better and better, every couple of years, right?

    But much of the advice ends with a sort of a caveat, like "...but if were me, I'd try to find at least a 105-equipped bike..." or something along those lines. I have read all I can about durability, lightness, feel, and quality, and how it improves up the ladder of components.

    So how can a newbie really decide if it's "worth it" to throw a couple hundred dollars more toward the SAME bike but with a rung higher component group? Forgive my ignorance, but how different can they be?

    Thanks.
    I think there a multiple answers to the question--some folks take a conservative approach, and buy what's affordable--thinking that they may not like cycling over the long run, so they hedge a little, or they simply lack the means to splash out.

    Others are gear-driven, and buy the best they can afford (with seemingly no second thoughts about their commitment)--and these are the used bikes we like to find for sale.

    Buy a bike that fits--and if that takes a professional fitting it is worth it--of good enough quality to get you started. Entry level Shimano is fine--but I would avoid department store/Wal-Mart bikes. If you want to save a little, buy last season's model (about now they should be clearing some bikes).

    Put on some miles, find out if is your new passion. Put on some more miles. By then you will have a much better idea of your "dream" or even just your "upgrade" bike. You may even have got it wrong with your first bike....

    Start planning how you will finance said new bike--do you keep the first one for a bad-weather bike or sell used? Are two bikes even enough? Then you are well and truly on your way.

    You are right, though--the components are not much different and they will have some warranty if bought new if they break.
    Last edited by paredown; 08-21-2012 at 06:47 AM.
    "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Reinhold Niebuhr

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    Many will try to convince you that there is a significant difference in component levels. The truth is that the difference between one group to another is basically unnoticeable now adays.

    Most road cyclist ride on the best gear because that is what herd mentality tells us to do. If everyone in your local club is riding Dura-Ace, at some point youíre going to want to do the same.

    The worth question is dependent on how deep your pockets are, you will justify things using that as a measure. If you have money to burn of course it will be worth it to get RED instead of Rival components.

    I suggest you buy your first bike just based on your actual budget and what looks good to you at that budget. You will be more apt to ride your bike if you like what it looks like. I know itís not the standard answer but I believe it to be true. If you decide you like biking Iím sure you will upgrade your bike down the line.

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    Sometimes there are real differences between the lines. Some of them are performance related (X weighs 200 grams less than Y--and really a 200 g difference would hardly be noticed by most if not all new riders), others are maintenance related--which are only relevant if you are going to wrench yourself (need a specific $150 tool to pull the cranks off, etc)--but when it comes to riding, i think even experienced riders would be hard pressed to tell the real world difference between 4600 tiagra and 6700 ultegra (especially in shimano's case).

    that being said, "105 as a minimum" has become a mantra that everyone bandies about for whatever reason--whether there is a real difference or not at that price point/equipment level, i think the main justification for it has become psychological. Even without empirical evidence showing that Tiagra is just as capable, there may be a mental effect of not taking your own bike seriously if it doesn't meet a minimum spec. This is, of course, ridiculous--but it's also real for many riders.

    As was mentioned before, the most important part of buying your first bike is always the fit. Now it's more complicated than just comparing your height to a "size chart" or going guns blazing and spending $250 on a pro-fitting because both have some caveats attached to them. The frame size needs to accomodate a range of riding positions--because as you get more experienced, your form will change. spending $250 to fit you to a bike before you even know how to ride is pointless, and buying something off a size chart may get you onto a bike that you'll need to radically alter to get the fit you want.

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    Someone over in the mountain bike forums has a great tag line that applies. A quote attributed to Eddie Merckx:

    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades."

    Of course it's advice I have a hard time following...

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    Like most pursuits, the capabilities of the individual are more the limiting factor than the equipment available with modern and ever evolving technologies. The 105 bits will serve any casual rider well, and most people that take themselves more seriously than they should as well.

    That said, if you want it and you'll use it, it's money we'll spent. Lord knows we waste money on less productive things. I do, anyway.

    Find a ride with bits n such that work for you, within your budget, and ride your value out of it, and into it.

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    i am new to cycling. i got a walmart bike for christmas to test it out. i really enjoyed the excercise. so i called a friend up that is really into cycling. he lets me use his spare bike, jamis ventura sport. it has sora components. i made some adjustments to help me feel more comfortable on the bike. but i really enjoy riding the jamis. i noticed a huge difference btw the walmart bike and the jamis.

    another friend wanted me to buy his old bike, a novara strada with 105 components. i rode it a couple of times, but i didnt notice anything different from the jamis. again, i am a new rider so maybe im missing something. but i actually like the jamis better...so why would i buy that bike when i can use the jamis whenever i want? my friend has basically given me the bike.

    so i guess if you can find 105 components within your budget, go ahead, but dont worry about it you get sora components. they work fine for me...no issues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Porschefan View Post
    Someone over in the mountain bike forums has a great tag line that applies. A quote attributed to Eddie Merckx:

    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades."

    Of course it's advice I have a hard time following...
    LOL, that's me.

    FWIW, the quote is a misattribution. But I like it better that way.

    OP, in answer to your question - going from what's on a $700 bike to what's on a Sora bike, you get shifters that will tend to stay tuned better and have more robust function in crappy weather and over time.

    From Sora to Tiagra, you move from a shifter with a thumb button that I find awkward to one that has the same paddle design as the rest of Shimano's mechanical shifters. FWIW, I race a bike with a blend of Tiagra and Tiagra-equivalent parts. Often, this is also the price point where bikes will switch from a steel or aluminum fork to a carbon fork. While a lot of people think carbon forks are the best thing since sliced bread, I don't see it as that big a deal. Get nice tires, learn to find "your" pressure.

    From Tiagra to 105 and above, things get a little lighter and have a more refined appearance. There may be some slight functional improvements, especially (IMO) in the chain rings and cassette. Shifter throws get a little shorter. My nicer road bike has a blend of older 105, newer 105, and last-generation Ultegra. I think that it's more reliable, but I also don't take the bike off-road.

    In retail bikes, often you're still getting hosed on the wheels. Wheels on retail bikes are frequently pretty crappy. The bike industry bows to fashion as much as the auto industry. Most any retail bike will have wheels that will give you a few seasons before you're backed into replacing them, however, and everything else is still a much better deal when one buys a complete bike. Often, the cranksets on retail bikes are garbage lately too. Again, these are good for a couple seasons, usually.

    The other parts on the bike generally are a little nicer working up in pricepoint. I don't think it has much of an impact on function.

    Since you've got the background, consider where the energy losses on a bicycle are. Consider the degree to which component selection can effect them.

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    I've ridden the "best" components in the Shimano (Dura Ace, Ultegra) and Sram (Red) lines and the "worst" in both (Sora and Apex).

    I really like high end gear, but only recently, after 40 years going as budget as possible, have purchased the stuff... because I can afford it. It's fun to ride.

    But whenever I rent a bike, it's almost always Sora or more recently Sram Apex. Those bikes, assuming they fit, do not bother me at all, and do absolutely nothing to discourage me from riding the he!! out of them when I have them. They are totally fun.

    So my advice is: set an upper limit to what you want to spend on the bike, and then just buy whatever bike calls to you within that price range. Don't think about "if I only spent $150 more, I'd get $225 of additional value". That could be said whatever you spend.

    Stick to your budget, buy what you think is the best bike for you within that budget, and then splurge a little on things like shoes, saddle, shorts/bibs. Don't be afraid to spend a little extra money on those things as they will increase your comfort and enjoyment greatly.

  10. #10
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    The way I see it, if you're riding and enjoying the heck out of your bike, you've made a good investment, no matter how much money you've spent or what level of hardware you're running. In any case, never worry about being unworthy of the equipment.

    I might also mention that when I'm slogging up that 13% grade, it's comforting to be secure in the knowledge that it's only my miserable corpus that's holding me back.
    Mapie is a conventional looking former Hollywood bon viveur, now leading a quiet life in a house made of wood by an isolated beach. He has cultivated a taste for culture, and is a celebrated raconteur amongst his local associates, who are artists, actors, and other leftfield/eccentric types. I imagine he has a telescope, and an unusual sculpture outside his front door. He is also a beach comber. The Rydster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post

    Since you've got the background, consider where the energy losses on a bicycle are. Consider the degree to which component selection can effect them.
    Thanks for the responses, folks. This is helpful.

    RE: Engineering and Energy Losses:
    I think it's pretty easy. Aero drag comes first. I won't be buying a time-trials bike nor aero bars, so let's call that a wash between all the bikes I'm considering.

    Next is rolling resistance and drive-train friction. Friction of the chain bending around the chain rings and rear cogs would be top for this little category, but I'd bet a cheapish chain that was clean and properly lubed would be a $500 chain that was dirty. So, again, differences between Sora and Dura-Ace are nil, overshadowed by maintenance practices.

    The brakes are supposed to consume energy, so they are not involved in the discussion. Likewise, the front derailleur should not be touching the chain as I ride, so it's out as well.

    In back, the chain does route through the little pulley wheels in the rear derailleur, so they contribute to drive-train friction, but, again, if a Dura-Ace really requires less force to pull a chain through it than a Sora, I'd be shocked. (You'd be measuring it in pico-Newtons!)

    I think I'll find a local shop that will LET ME RIDE some demo bikes and will try to formulate my own opinion about the differences. Until then, less is more, and I won't be aiming too high on the price scale, just based on component group.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oversteer View Post
    RE: Engineering and Energy Losses:
    I think it's pretty easy. Aero drag comes first.

    Next is rolling resistance and drive-train friction.

    The brakes are supposed to consume energy...

    In back, the chain does route through the little pulley wheels in the rear derailleur, so they contribute to drive-train friction, but...

    I think I'll find a local shop that will LET ME RIDE some demo bikes and will try to formulate my own opinion about the differences. Until then, less is more, and I won't be aiming too high on the price scale, just based on component group.
    IMO you've drawn some very wise conclusions on the energy loss from the areas listed. It's (literally) minute and matters only to pros (and those otherwise obsessed).

    You're more apt to suffer energy loss (thus, loss in efficiency) from an ill fitting bike than from any aero/ friction/ bike related resistance encountered. Something to keep in mind during your visits to LBS's and during your test rides.

    Bottom line, fit matters most.

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    I'm helping someone purchase an "entry level bike", so I've been able to compare the different groups.

    There seems to be a small difference between the Sora and the Tiagra. The Tiagra shifting was noticeably better. Between Tiagra and 105, I think you would be hard pressed to tell a difference.

    With the Sram, the Apex and Rival seemed identical, with the Force being noticeably nicer.

    The Shimano shifting was smoother. The Sram shifting was crisper.

    Remember this; All the above observations are coming from someone whose newest groupset is barely of this century (Campagnolo Daytona) and loves his 30 something year old group (Shimano 600).

    Everything, group wise, seemed incredibily close in performance. The large differences seemed to be in wheels and carbon bits. Try to look at the bike as a whole. What geometry is going to work best for you? What are your cycling goals? Get a bike that will fit those needs, and then, ride the crap out of it.

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    ^^^
    Spot on on losses.

    If any of the bikes is shifting badly, bring it up with the mechanic. Most of the ones I know take pride in their work and would rather know if one of the floor bikes isn't working as well as it should. That should help you make a more realistic comparison between different groups. Otherwise you're really just comparing how well different individual bikes have been tuned.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Since you've got the background, consider where the energy losses on a bicycle are. Consider the degree to which component selection can effect them.
    Good advice.

    On top of that, consider marketing ploys. For example, take a $1,200 bike with a Tiagra rear derailleur sitting on the sales floor for months. It probably would have sold quicker at $1,400 if it had an Ultegra rear derailleur on it. The ride peformance difference would have been zero, but the sales performance difference would have been noticeable. From that perspective, Shimano 105 being the minimum acceptable is basically marketing nonsense that has penetrated into the mind of your average first-time buyer to an amazing degree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wim View Post
    ... 105 being the minimum acceptable is basically marketing nonsense that has penetrated into the mind of your average first-time buyer to an amazing degree.
    We need a billboard for this!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackbeerthepirate View Post
    ...All the above observations are coming from someone whose newest groupset is barely of this century (Campagnolo Daytona) and loves his 30 something year old group (Shimano 600).
    Very interesting comment. I have a 1987 Cannondale "Team Comp" that I found at a garage sale. It was upgraded at some point to Shimano 600 stuff (cranks, both derailleurs). The frame's a bit too big for me, so it's not "the bike," but I've ridden it quite a bit, so the component comparison is interesting for me.

    The Shimano 600 stuff seems to shift well, quickly, with a nice "thunk" into the next gear. But it's got friction shifters on the down-tubes, which is really foreign to me. But other than the shift method, how does Shimano 600 compare to, say, new Sora? New Tiagra?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oversteer View Post
    Very interesting comment. I have a 1987 Cannondale "Team Comp" that I found at a garage sale. It was upgraded at some point to Shimano 600 stuff (cranks, both derailleurs). The frame's a bit too big for me, so it's not "the bike," but I've ridden it quite a bit, so the component comparison is interesting for me.

    The Shimano 600 stuff seems to shift well, quickly, with a nice "thunk" into the next gear. But it's got friction shifters on the down-tubes, which is really foreign to me. But other than the shift method, how does Shimano 600 compare to, say, new Sora? New Tiagra?
    Friction shifters are a little bit tricky, but if you like the old 600 stuff, you'll love the new Shimano. Riding primarily on the hoods is easier and safer in my opinion.

    Mechanically, the newer stuff will shift with less effort. Very smooth compared to the 600. The Tiagra, to me, was noticeably easier to shift, than the Sora. That could just be an adjustment though. If you are looking for that positive "thunk" into gear, check out the Sram. The technology seems to "trickle down" a little more in their less expensive lines.

    Be sure to compare the cranksets when deciding on a group. Some of those lower end Shimano cranks looked a little on the cheap side to me.

    At the level of bike you are looking at, you will most likely see some with a mixed group. Decide what is important to you, and evaluate the parts that way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oversteer View Post
    Thanks for the responses, folks. This is helpful.

    RE: Engineering and Energy Losses:....

    I think I'll find a local shop that will LET ME RIDE some demo bikes and will try to formulate my own opinion about the differences. Until then, less is more, and I won't be aiming too high on the price scale, just based on component group.
    You've hit the nail on the head on the theoretical areas of energy loss, but also that the differences from "worst" to "best" are miniscule, and really, irrelevant. The stereotype of engineers that I've made based on internet forums is that they can tend to way over think the technical design aspect of things (why? because they can! Most of us can't). Don't do that. Color and shop service is more important than any technical analysis of this stuff.

    The only things I'll reiterate (annd have already, so now I'm harping!) is (1) to select your component family based on how they actually feel to your hands. For example, I have Shimano and Sram. The Sram is hugely more comfortable in terms of ergonomics and shifting method. Both work well, I have a strong personal preference, but it doesn't generalize to anyone.

    and (2) be sure to budget decent money for good saddle (if needed), shorts/bibs (a couple pair), helmet (that fits, not necessarily expensive), and shoes (really important to select on fit and construction, not low price). Yes, we all have budgets, that's fine. But don't cheap out on them any more than you really have to. They will contribute to your enjoyment of the bike more than any upspending on compnent group will.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackbeerthepirate View Post
    Friction shifters are a little bit tricky, but if you like the old 600 stuff, you'll love the new Shimano. Riding primarily on the hoods is easier and safer in my opinion.

    Mechanically, the newer stuff will shift with less effort. Very smooth compared to the 600. The Tiagra, to me, was noticeably easier to shift, than the Sora. That could just be an adjustment though. If you are looking for that positive "thunk" into gear, check out the Sram. The technology seems to "trickle down" a little more in their less expensive lines.

    Be sure to compare the cranksets when deciding on a group. Some of those lower end Shimano cranks looked a little on the cheap side to me.

    At the level of bike you are looking at, you will most likely see some with a mixed group. Decide what is important to you, and evaluate the parts that way.
    Good info here, IMO. The comparison between Shimano's 600 groupset and their more current (lower level) groups pretty much mirrors my experiences with them, although FWIW mine was Ultegra 600 - so the next iteration.

    Re: the bold statement, in the interest of balance, I'll offer that SRAM's lower end cranksets (specifically their S150) mates to a powerspline BB - similar to Shimano's Octalink's. So both have their trade-offs to meet a price point.

    That said, I think either would prove more durable than (as an example) FSA's.

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    I really like Shimano's low-end cranks all the way down to plain Deore and Sora. I think they got it nailed on how to build a crankset for an external bottom bracket that I don't need to worry about until I trash the bearings.

    I'll take a moment to be a retrogrouch and say I think I did better on bearing longevity with the old cartridge standards. Square taper can be a pain, but Octalink was always trouble-free for me.

    As far as older 600 vs. newer groups - I think that 600 is already an indexed right-hand shifter, which I find a big step up from a friction right-hand shifter. You may just need to turn it on. But, that's before my time; I could easily be wrong. Integrated shifting is very convenient and I like it a lot on my competition bikes. I found I don't like it enough to pay for it on a commuter, and de-evolved that bike to downtube shifters when the SRAM shifter died. Between my bikes with integrated shifting and those without, I can shift off-road much more safely and shift when I'm out of the saddle to climb or sprint on the ones with integrated shifters. I know that some people can shift while out of the saddle with downtube shifters, but I never acquired that skill. I also find it doesn't take anywhere near as much attention to shift with integrated shifters. I'm sure I'd be better with downtube shifters if I used them more, but there you go. I'd prefer to train with others and compete on a bike with integrated shifters. For rides on my own - like I said, I didn't feel that integrated shifting was worth the cost of replacement when the last one on my commuter bike died. The others, I often ride with other people.

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    in my local sport-paced group ride (21-22mph avg) i am the only rider with components below force or ultegra. I use apex, and have built/ridden bikes with rival/force/red and there's no advantage to me to spend the extra money.

    Also - i say don't ride what you can't afford to replace. this may be more true in the mtb world, but still is good advice.

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    Well I will add a slightly different tack and hope I do not sound conceited. Cycling is a lifestyle similar to that of the Harley Davidson crowd or in my case, Ducati. Many of us who are privileged enough to be able to afford it, enjoy the fact that we can buy nice stuff and talk about it. I cant ride well compared to most. Starting riding at 49 with health issues meant a slow start but I am getting better. My bike seriously outperforms me. But I do enjoy how I feel riding a nice bike with all the nice upgrades. Its not for the performance it is for the feelings that it generates. So although all of the advice given on this post has been excellent, I would say if you can afford (not struggle but really afford) to buy a higher level of components, you can benefit at an emotional level. A few extra dollars to avoid that feeling in a few weeks that you wish you had bought the next level up is worth it. Yes I know it is superficial in my case but riding is about fun, enjoyment etc and that element of having good kit cannot be overlooked. Please do not read into this that I believe if you don't have the best kit, you should not feel like a second class citizen if you do not have the best. This forum proves that cycling is a community for all types of people and all levels of equipment. I do not look down on anyone on a bike, I just honestly love how it makes me feel.

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    In terms of road bikes, I have 3 - all different component sets and frame materials. I have other bikes (MTB, classic cruiser, hybrid) as well and also taken yet many others on long test rides. I have experience with several component brands (Shimano, SRAM, Campy) and their levels. From all of this I have derived your answer:

    I can unequivocally say that the most important thing to know about a bike is that the red ones are faster.
    I ride mostly in the honorable pursuit of being kissed on both cheeks at the same time by one blond and one brunette. But not redheads, they scare me.

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    Oversteer has an excellent point. A Timex Iron Man watch will keep at least as accurate time as a Rolex. Given the choice I'd probably take the Rolex, even if it doesn't work better.
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

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