My Equipment

After four years of riding my bike, a 2008 Specialized Allez Elite Compact, it hasn’t changed, but some of the accessories have. I got to thinking on yesterday’s ride about what’s different on the bike than when I bought it. Just a few items:

Drive train: I started with a Shimano Tiagra compact double, then switched to a Truvativ Roleur because it had 172.5 mm crank arms instead of the 175s that came with the Shimano. But I ruined the Truvativ and had the Shimano put back on. So I’m back to where I started, and I’m just fine with that.

Shifters: I popped the cable out of my Tiagra shifter — the right hand one that controls the rear cassette. Bike shop said you can’t service Shimano shifters (I have run into conflicting opinions on that — apparently you can, if you have the time and patience to do it), but all they had on hand was a Shimano Sora shifter. I bought it. It’s okay, but only okay.

Saddle: The stock saddle on my bike was a Specialized Alias, which I liked to start out, but which caused me much discomfort after a while. I switched to  Selle San Marco Ponza, a narrow racing style saddle, which turned out to be good for one hour before it became unbearable. (I rode an MS 150 from Houston to Austin on the thing.) So I opted for something with a little more cushioning — a WTB Speed V — and it was better for my old guy butt. But it lasted for only a year before the vinyl cover ripped apart so badly it was hurting. As a stopgap measure, I took a Performance Forte Classic off my old steel Raleigh to use until I found something permanent. That was in October. I’m still riding the Forte, and it’s working out fine.

Bar tape: Well, we’re going to change bar tape periodically anyway, aren’t we? It’s easy to do, but it takes a little patience and practice the first time. My bike came with blue. I went through two rolls of black, and now I’m back to blue again. I don’t think white is in my future, however.

Headlight, taillight: I don’t ride at night, not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve never had a reason to. However, I do get caught at dusk often during the standard time months, and lights help. My headlight is the one-watt version of the Planet Bike Blaze. As the bike shop guy said, this light is to be seen. If I wanted to see at night, I would have gotten something brighter. I like the strobe setting if I’m riding at dusk — no way oncoming traffic will miss seeing that. I’ve also got a Serfas taillight that wraps around a seat stay. It’s a pretty good light, but the soft rubbery wraps break easily. When the last two go, which may be soon, the light will be unusable.

Tires: I’ve probably gone through more different brands of tires than any other accessory on the bike. It came with the Specialized Mondo, which flatted a lot. I got rid of them in just a few months, and replaced them with Specialized All-Condition. I had a scary blowout while on a fast descent, and was happy to change those. The replacements were Vittoria Rubinos, which developed a flat tread area after less than 1,000 miles. Then I decided to try 25 mm tires, and got Hutchinson Top Speeds. These were flat-prone, too. Continental Gatorskins worked well. They’re not flat proof, but they were darn near. However, when I finally wore out two sets of them, I bought some Vredestein Fortezza SEs. Their flat resistance is as good as the Gatorskins, at least in my experience, but I wish they came in 25 mm. Two millimeters might not seem like much, but my confidence is higher riding on wider tires. I might go back to Gatorskins again for that reason, but I don’t think I’ll wear out the Vredesteins for a while.

Wheels: The stock wheels on that model year of my bike were Jalco Dynamics 270s. I’ve never heard of them, before or since. They’re a little on the heavy side, but they’re also bomb proof. I’ve never had a broken spoke, never needed to have them trued. Our club mechanic isn’t crazy about the hubs, which are by Specialized, but I’m not sophisticated enough a rider — and I haven’t ridden that many different bikes — to know the difference between  these and a top-notch hub. I suspect if I wanted to make one upgrade to the bike that would make a real difference, it would be to buy better wheels.

Pedals: The bike came without pedals. My previous bike had entry-level Nashbar Look-style pedals, which were okay. For this one, I opted for Shimno SPD-SLs. They have the delta shape, but a somewhat wider platform. They’re good pedals. The cleats need to be replaced every year or so.

Water bottles: Hardly worth mentioning, except that I use whatever cheapie bottles I get as favors at organized rides. I’ve never bought a fancy insulated bottle, and I’ve never used a Camelbak hydration pack. I have one bottle cage on the down tube, and a dual cage setup on my saddle above the seat bag.

Seat bag: I got a run of the mill Inertia Designs bag when I bought the bike, and it looks like it’s been around for four years. Unlike many riders who like really small bags, I think the next one I get will be somewhat larger.

Pump: After fumbling with CO2 cartridges for several months, I got a mini frame pump. It’s a Topeak Road Morph, and I think it’s terrific. So do other cyclists who have borrowed it when they’ve had flats. Certainly more dependable than CO2 cartridges, although nowhere near as fast.

Well, that’s my experience with bike stuff. Lots of cyclists seem to love swapping stories about their gear, and why they bought this or that model, and how well they perform — or don’t. Just thought I’d give you a sample of equipment, Noob-style.



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