Guide to Upgrading your Bicycle

=== Introduction ===

Bicycling is an exercise you can pursue during your entire lifetime and if you bicycle regularly, it will be a healthier, more satisfying lifetime. The bicycle is a marvelous tool that lets you walk with 12-foot strides. Bicycling improves your health and your disposition. Using your bike for short trips leaves you and your car In better shape and leaves some of the world’s finite supply of petroleum for your grandchildren.

I wrote this guide to share my enthusiasm and knowledge about the splendid sport of bicycling. This guide tells you how to upgrade your bicycle to fit your needs. It will help you to get more enjoyment and use from your bicycle. You should buy this guide rather than, say, a nice new saddle because this guide tells you which saddle to buy and why it’s the right saddle for you.

=== Upgrading Your Bicycle ===

Upgrading your bicycle is a two-step process. First, you make sure that your bicycle is worth upgrading. If it is, then you upgrade the wheels, tires, gear train, and other components. You don’t want to upgrade a frame that is the wrong size, or the wrong kind, and you don’t want to invest more in a bicycle than the bicycle is worth. When you decide that your bicycle is worth upgrading, spend your money on the important items and do it right the first time.

Section 1 tells you about bicycle quality, bicycle costs, and upgrading costs. Section 2 tells you about the different kinds of bicycles for the different kinds of riders and about sizing bicycle frames to suit your dimensions. The rest of the guide tells you about the various parts of the bicycle, so that you can determine what needs to be upgraded and how you should upgrade.

above: 2014 Fuji Absolute 1.5 Gray. From Fuji's "Lifestyle" series.

=== What’s Different about This Guide? ===

The bookshops and Internet are full of books and blogs by enthusiastic bicyclists whose main research consists of reading books written by other enthusiastic bicyclists, or forum threads on some "passionate" topic. These cycling authors, and bloggers, piece together the conventional wisdom on the subject, add their personal opinions or biases, and voilà, another new bicycle encyclopedia. As the song goes, “Son, this one is different.” It’s based on the 100 technical articles that I’ve written, as well as countless hours spent in my home workshop conducting the tests that furnished the data for the numerous tables found in this guide.

Over the years, I’ve answered more than a 20,000 letters and emails. The common theme to most of these communications has been, “Dude, what should I do to upgrade this part or that part of my bicycle?” Some questions have been asked so often that I have refined the answer and have stored it in my computer’s memory. This guide answers those questions in an organized, up-to-date manner. It tells you how to take the bicycle you have now and upgrade it to fit your needs. With gearing, tires, wheels, and everything else optimized to suit you, you’ll enjoy your bicycle more and ride it more.

This guide is primarily about road/touring bikes – formerly known as “10 speeds”. That is, skinny-tired, dropped-handlebar bicycles equipped with (usually) 10 to 21 speeds. Except for occasional references, I have ignored mountain bikes, single-speed, 3-speeds, track bikes, and tandems; if I had thoroughly discussed them, the guide would have been too long.

This guide isn’t a rehash of my Bicycling articles. To be sure, the timeless prose that I wrote about gear selection five years ago hasn’t changed much in the interval, so I have drawn on earlier research where it’s relevant. But all of the component ratings found in this guide are based on new tests of the latest models.

above: A 1983 Schwinn Traveler (source:

The ratings found in this guide cover only the best-performing and most available models in each component category. By contrast, my blog articles often cover a much larger number and variety of models. That’s because mainstream web site tries to be as comprehensive as possible in its coverage. Since this guide is not bound by such constraints, I have limited my focus to those products worthy of consideration for a serious bicycle upgrade.

above: A 1974 Schwinn Le Tour (source)

above: A 1979 Schwinn Varsity (source)

I agonized for a while over units of measure. Should I use all metric, all Imperial, or cite both units while placing one or the other in brackets? (I really wish that the United States would switch to the international metric standard, but I don’t expect to see it happen in my lifetime.) I finally decided to do what the bicycle industry has done: that is, to use whatever comes naturally. So you’ll find components weighed in grams and bicycles weighed in pounds, cranks measured in millimeters and seat tubes measured in inches. Because this isn’t a textbook, I didn’t include the alternate units in parentheses. If you want to make your own conversions, remember there are 2.54 centimeters to the Inch and 454 grams to the pound.

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