Backpedaling to last week’s TT for a moment, Upgrading from a 10- to 11-Speed Cassette, you’ll remember that I went over how I helped a couple of friends figure out how to change their rear wheels from 10- to 11-speed cassettes. Both were eager to upgrade their road bikes with complete new Shimano 11-speed component groups they had purchased, but were stuck because their wheels didn’t accept the new 11-speed cassettes.
“Hey, what about all the other junk?”
After the article debuted, a comment came in from George at Northeastern University, saying, “Nice job explaining the hub body part of it. But, you still have to replace everything else from the shifters, cables, front and rear derailleurs, chain and even the cranks in some cases.”
Even though I had said as much in my introduction, George’s remark got me thinking about whether I could add more about upgrading. I counted the myriad steps involved in upgrading a road bike with all new components. I considered how many videos are available already on YouTube – some of them amazing (like Park Tool’s 12-parter). They can teach anyone with the interest and the right tools how to do it. And, there’s all the documentation on the component makers’ websites, too.
Initially, I concluded that the subject of an entire bicycle upgrade is beyond the scope of Tech Talk. But that didn’t sit well, because I know so many cyclists who love to do their own work. You get the satisfaction of building your own bike and the confidence of knowing every step you took.
And, sure, you might not get everything perfect on the first try, but you’ll learn how things work and can investigate further and perfect things as needed. Plus, it’s something almost anyone can do. It’s a bicycle – a relatively simple machine; not something cryptic like your microwave. Most of a bike’s mechanisms and adjustments are easy to see and make; and with common hand tools (inexpensive, too).
Introducing the Tech Talk Upgrade Series
So, to help George, and anyone else dreaming of upgrading, I’m going to turn this topic into a multi-part upgrade series. However, because of the amount of information already out there and because Tech Talk should add weekly value to your road riderepair and maintenance, I’m going to give this series my own spin.
You won’t find any comprehensive step-by-step instructions. Instead I’ll provide component-by-component professional tips to make the upgrade process go more quickly and smoothly, and ensure that you get professional-quality results when you’re finished.
Think of my tips as “Jim, the bike shop service manager” looking over your shoulder as you work on your upgrade. You can also comment on each story to share and get feedback on any issues you run into.
This week, I’ll go over a few basics of working on your own bike since they’re so crucial to a good end result. Next episode, I’ll get into bottom bracket and crankset upgrades. Then, we’ll look at installing the levers and follow up in subsequent Tech Talks with derailleurs, brakes, and then running the cables and housings and fine-tuning tips.
Getting Set Up to do the Upgrades
The easiest way to do bicycle upgrades or maintenance and repair is by having a dedicated home shop. That way you can leave things in place if you get interrupted and not worry that anything will get disturbed. If you don’t have the luxury of a place to work, you’ll want a surface to work on, plus storage boxes or bins for putting things away safely in-between jobs.
Wherever you choose to work, the area should be clean and well-lit so you don’t lose track of any small parts and can clearly see what you’re working on. It’s also a huge help to have a way to suspend your bicycle. A bicycle repair stand works great for this. You can sometimes use an indoor trainer or even some vehicle car racks in a pinch (working on your bike while it’s on the rack on the back of your car). Or, you can hang your bike from bungee cords or chain, rope, etc.
Suspending your bike lets you operate the gears and brakes to check your work. But, perhaps a more important reason to do it is because it prevents it from falling over and getting damaged when you’re working on it.
Lastly, you’ll want a selection of basic hand tools and some bicycle ones, too. You may already have some (even your take-along all-in-one tool can work) and if so, start with what you have and only buy what you need as you do each component. That way you won’t buy tools you don’t need.
If you have a mostly carbon bicycle, I recommend getting a torque wrench if you don’t already have one. Torque wrenches are the only way to safely tighten components on carbon, which will crack and break with too much torque. If you plan on setting up a complete shop for doing more bicycle work like this, you’ll appreciate my extensive book Your Home Bicycle Workshop,
Next week, in part 3, we’ll look at upgrading the heart of bicycle drivetrains, the crankset and bottom bracket.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.