Author Topic: Bike components - what's quality?  (Read 4685 times)

galaxie

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Bike components - what's quality?
« on: March 06, 2013, 08:53:55 AM »
Hi folks!  I want to know about bike components (derailleurs, brakes, whatever) -- how do you evaluate them and know what's quality? 

I am pretty decent at bike maintenance but I have a knowledge gap as far as parts, because I haven't had to replace anything major yet.  But a local workshop co-op is doing a "build your own bike from scratch" class (with welding and everything) that I want to take, and I will need to choose components for my hypothetical future bike when I do that.

onemorebike

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 09:15:28 AM »
What a can of worms that question is. The answer is "it depends".  :)

Are you building a mustachian bicycle? Do you want to build a sherman tank? A light and fast race bike? Courier bike? Mountain or road?

Unfortunately it is hard to make any assertions without that information. You can easily look up the range of quality, say, for Shimano but last year's versus this year's versus five years ago all range in quality. For example, the top of the line five years ago is probably lower end in the newer stuff. The good news is that all of the components will make your bike operational - some are just sleeker or lighter than others.

I'd be happy to help further if you have more detail to share!

-onemorebike

anastrophe

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2013, 09:26:26 AM »
"It depends."

My opinion is that above a certain price point, everything is just about weight and appearance. There are certain design changes that offer more or less convenience (for example, old cup-and-cone bottom brackets are bulletproof but heavy and kind of a pain to maintain, so cartridge BBs were a huge tech leap forward--and external BB like Shimano Hollowtech II cranksets are a different design altogether) but many parts (front derailleurs, notably) have barely changed in design in the last 30 years. With those that haven't got big advances in technology, you're paying more just for a things like a different material, slightly more convenient clamping mechanism, a few ounces of weight, or color. So then you have to decide, what are those things worth to you? And as onemorebike mentions, it might be worth it to you to get spendy for your fancy road bike, but your winter commuter doesn't get more than what you can fish out of the bike shop's parts bin.

My recommendation is that you just build this bike with whatever you can get, and then upgrade as necessary once you know how all the different components fit together. There are a million parts on ebay, sometimes in full matching sets, that would be fine for a starter project. Once you know what you don't like, then you can swap them out for better quality as things go on sale:)

BlueMR2

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2013, 10:13:45 AM »
Hi folks!  I want to know about bike components (derailleurs, brakes, whatever) -- how do you evaluate them and know what's quality? 

I am pretty decent at bike maintenance but I have a knowledge gap as far as parts, because I haven't had to replace anything major yet.  But a local workshop co-op is doing a "build your own bike from scratch" class (with welding and everything) that I want to take, and I will need to choose components for my hypothetical future bike when I do that.

Look at the price and that's a pretty good indicator.  Quality and price seem to track pretty well together for bike components.  That said, even the cheapest parts are fine for most people.  At the top end it just gets silly.  I doubt there's more than about 3 people than can really tell the difference between Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra components, and the Dura Ace can cost up to as much as twice what the Ultegra does for the same part.  :-)

galaxie

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2013, 10:16:02 AM »
My current bike is outfitted for commuting (often in Weather).  32mm tires, fenders, rack, etc.

This bike would be a lightweight "fun" bike for trips where I don't have to carry a lot of stuff.  It's also a bit of an art project, and I have plenty of time to think & research before I get started.  I want it to be the little bike I love to ride.

However, if the art project is successful and I like the outcome, I'm considering subsequently building a Bakfiets-style bike for carting around my hypothetical future kids.  So, I'm guessing wildly different components for that one.

SmackDab

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2013, 10:26:28 AM »
Definitely agree with what has already been said: paying more for components generally gets you lower weight rather than an increase in overall quality or reliability. If you're truly interested in reducing the weight of your bike, you'll get more bang for the buck with lighter wheels rather than lighter componentry.

For shifters/derailleurs/brakes you'll probably want to stick with Shimano or SRAM for value and parts availability (Campagnolo tends to fare less well in these areas). For SRAM, the shifting/braking action is basically the same across all groups until you get to their top of the line RED group, which is crazy expensive. Similar story for Shimano, although I'll note that their Sora and Tiagra groups are 9-speed, which can actually be slightly more reliable than 10-speed.

TheDude

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2013, 11:52:12 AM »
Lots of good advise. If I were looking for a good price to function ratio in a road group I would go with SRAM Rival. If you want to go more expensive I think Shimano Ultegra is a solid gruppo. You pay a lot for a little upgrade to Durace or RED.

kendallf

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2013, 05:58:36 PM »
Something that I don't think has been touched on here are the real advantages of old-school parts on a commuter/touring bike.  $40 downtube or bar end shifters, cheap cranks that fit square taper bottom brackets, and mid range derailleurs (basically anything except the cheap plastic ones found on the bottom of the line Walmart bikes) work better than fancy road grouppo parts for such riding. 

You can adjust your shifting with the wiggle of a lever, no need for finicky indexing "tune-ups".  The cranks last forever and nice sealed bearing bottom brackets are $20 when you need one.  You can use 7-10 speed rear cassettes with a matching chain, they all work with non-indexed shifters, and the 7-9 speed wear items (chains, cassettes) are cheaper and more durable than the 10 speed parts. 

You can also mix and match MTB components this way; I often use a MTB wide range cassette on my climbing road bike for more gearing options.

For more (LOTS more!) on this philosophy, look at http://www.rivbike.com/; another good source of more reasonably priced touring-oriented parts is http://www.velo-orange.com/.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2013, 06:00:39 PM by kendallf »

Russ

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2013, 08:21:46 PM »
Something that I don't think has been touched on here are the real advantages of old-school parts on a commuter/touring bike.  $40 downtube or bar end shifters, cheap cranks that fit square taper bottom brackets, and mid range derailleurs (basically anything except the cheap plastic ones found on the bottom of the line Walmart bikes) work better than fancy road grouppo parts for such riding. 

You can adjust your shifting with the wiggle of a lever, no need for finicky indexing "tune-ups".  The cranks last forever and nice sealed bearing bottom brackets are $20 when you need one.  You can use 7-10 speed rear cassettes with a matching chain, they all work with non-indexed shifters, and the 7-9 speed wear items (chains, cassettes) are cheaper and more durable than the 10 speed parts. 

You can also mix and match MTB components this way; I often use a MTB wide range cassette on my climbing road bike for more gearing options.

For more (LOTS more!) on this philosophy, look at http://www.rivbike.com/; another good source of more reasonably priced touring-oriented parts is http://www.velo-orange.com/.

+1
solid, nicer old stuff is great. Much more accomodating in poor conditions, easier to work on, better cross-compatibility, and way less expensive. Indexing in general isn't the devil, but I would caution you against is older shimano integrated brake/shift levers. After a while the grease in them gums up and there's no good way to get inside and fix it. Friction DT or bar-end shifters are the way to go on most bikes anyway though, so that's really not an issue.

I imagine older components would do well for an artsy look, too. Beside the parts having that well-loved vibe, you'd probably also feel more invested in the project by looking up the perfect set of components, checking compatibility, etc.

For the bakfiets, if you end up building one, you could check out new models to see what their drivetrain spec is. Anything heavy-duty would probably do well. Older midrange mountain components or a nice-ish internally geared hub sound about right.

It blows my mind that people are going around recommending $800+ Rival kits, or even mentioning something like Ultegra or DA. They're nice of course, but you'd need to have a darn good reason to drop that much coin on not even a whole bicycle.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 05:27:01 AM by Russ »

TheDude

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2013, 08:57:19 PM »
What makes you think that you need to go buy a new set of Rival or Ultegra. I bet you could put together an 9 speed set for about $300. I wouldnt go so far back that using square bottom bracket. You can make it work without much problem but newer stuff is more fun to ride.

Russ

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2013, 09:24:53 PM »
Used Rival goes for around 500, and since you said
I would go with SRAM Rival. If you want to go more expensive I think Shimano Ultegra is a solid gruppo.
I inferred that you weren't talking about 9s Ultegra. The levers alone for that kit run about $150/pair used in decent condition btw... although running bar-ends would knock that cost out I suppose.

Anyway, that wasn't really directed at you specifically. Just a general statement about where I thought the thread was headed. I agree older Ultegra bits could be bought for a decent price.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 05:24:45 AM by Russ »

anastrophe

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2013, 04:57:13 AM »
What makes you think that you need to go buy a new set of Rival or Ultegra. I bet you could put together an 9 speed set for about $300. I wouldnt go so far back that using square bottom bracket. You can make it work without much problem but newer stuff is more fun to ride.

I like square bottom brackets. They're pretty easy to install, they last forever, and you can get them for almost nothing comparatively. If it ain't broke don't knock it:)

capital

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Re: Bike components - what's quality?
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2013, 12:53:14 PM »
It's important to make sure you keep your square-taper cranks tight, however. I've busted a couple of crankarms by not making sure they're tight enough, and once you ride around on the crank when it's loose, you strip out the taper, and it's irreparable.

Pretty much any Shimano or SRAM components work fine these days. My girlfriend's $400 mail order cyclocross bike has 2300, the entry level Shimano component set, and it's given her no trouble. I rode across the US on a used bike with Sora/Deore/Tiagra components, most of which are still chugging along nicely. The wheels on the bike did fail: it's worth putting in more money for handbuilt wheels.

When it comes to brakes, proper adjustment and good brake pads often make as much difference as any other factor. Dual-pivot brakes, as opposed to the older single pivot models, are usually easier to adjust. Tektro makes quality brakes at great prices.

Building a bike from scratch is pretty much always more expensive than buying a complete bike, however. It's only worth doing as a learning experience or fun hobby project, rather than as a way to save money, unless you spend a lot of time hunting down cheap used parts, and even doing that is generally more expensive than finding a decent complete used bike.