Upgrading an older road bike

nbuuifx Posts: 302
edited September 2019 in Workshop
I have my now aging Trek SL1000 road bike. I'm generally quite happy with it but I think it is time to replace a few bits on it. The gears are not changing like they used to and tweaking them doesn't seem to last long or work right across the range. So I'm either rubbish at indexing them or its all getting worn.

I have no idea how many miles the cassette has done. I've never changed it. I bought the bike second hand about 6 years ago. I do a mix of road and MTB so sometimes I don't use the road bike for a good while.

Anyway I'm wondering as it is getting old if it can be upgraded at all whilst replacing rather than replacing like for like? It currently has a triple chain set, it seems to me like there is a big overlap between the gears. I very rarely use the smallest front chain ring (twice that I can think of and they were both horrendously steep banks!). I think I'd prefer a double or with the right hearing maybe even a single. Can the bike be upgraded to this or is it uneconomical? I have a go at any job and have in the past fully striped and rebuilt bikes.


  • Upload a photo with a close up of the front and rear mechs. That'll tell what groupset it has and cost of upgrades.

    I'll hazard a guess at 9/ 10 speed in which case very cheap. Normally new chain, cassette and cables will solve all
  • photonic69
    photonic69 Posts: 2,416
    Keep an eye on places like Facebooks Bike selling pages and the classified here for people selling whole or nearly whole groupsets due to upgrades. If you go Tiagra or upwards you'll most likely need a new rear wheel as the freehub possibly wont take 10/11 speed cassettes.

    Sometimes. Maybe. Possibly.

  • manglier
    manglier Posts: 1,209
    Check the spacing of the rear dropouts. If it is 130mm you can upgrade the transmission to 10/11 speed easily. Just remember that you will need the appropriate shifters for your upgrade.
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    I'll go and take a look in a bit. I think from memory it is 8 on the rear. I'm pretty sure they are Sora shifters at the moment.

    I'm not too worried if I have to get a different wheel as the braking surface is getting pretty worn on the wheels.
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    From a quick look they are Sora shifters.

    The front mech is a bolt on Shimano one. Tiagra I believe.

    The rear mech is a Tiagra 8 speed.

    The dropout is 130mm.

    From a quick look, I could do with some proper STI shifters, but not sure what for the rest. Any thoughts?
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    The current setup has 52, 42, 30 front rings.

    Oddly the rear cassette is not what I expected. It was supposed to be an 8 speed Tiagra. However it is an 8 speed SRAM and looks to be a bit off on the gearing. I was expecting something like a 10-30. However it is a 12-26.

    Perhaps this is why I have found the gears overlap a lot and the small ring has been a bit useless.
  • Mad_Malx
    Mad_Malx Posts: 5,002
    nbuuifx wrote:
    The current setup has 52, 42, 30 front rings.

    Oddly the rear cassette is not what I expected. It was supposed to be an 8 speed Tiagra. However it is an 8 speed SRAM and looks to be a bit off on the gearing. I was expecting something like a 10-30. However it is a 12-26.

    Perhaps this is why I have found the gears overlap a lot and the small ring has been a bit useless.

    That is fairy standard triple gearing. Triples do overlap a lot.
    Don't think any road bikes have 10 tooth cogs and pretty sure you wouldn't need 52x10 top gear. At the bottom 30x30 is more a loaded tourer gear than fast road or sportive.

    My recollection is that an unworn sram cassette should be fully compatible with Shimano.
  • Mad_Malx
    Mad_Malx Posts: 5,002
    ...but if it's all a bit old you might need to change chain and cassette anyway.
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    I've found an old review which seemed to suggest it would have had a 11-32 cassette originally. Giving a range of gear ratios from 0.94 to 4.73.

    My current setup gives a range of 1.15 to 4.33.

    A more modern 2x11 setup with a 34/50 chainring and a 11-30 cassette would give a range of 1.13 to 4.55 but the ratios look more usable on the other gears with less of a jump between them.

    I do feel that I could do with a bit more on the top end than the current top.
  • 11-30 and 34/50 is also quite a mental gear.

    Depends on your weight and riding style but 11/12-28 and 34/50 is usually enough to climb most hills with exceptions of course. That way the gears at the back also remain nice and close.
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    I'm 6'2, and weigh just under 14stone.

    My riding style is not the normal recommended. I tend to prefer to power through at a lower cadence rather than change down the gears to keep spinning.
  • Ok fair enough. You are not a featherweight though so a bail out gear is always handy on big climbs, but it does depend on your local terrain.

    It should be a fairly cheap fix if you stay 8 speed.
  • New BB chainset and cassette. Its a bit of a fiddle to sort the front gear as your shifter has 3 settings but obviously only 2 gears but it can be done easily enough.
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    I live near the top of a hill. Or house is about 875 feet above sea level. The top of the hill is around 900 feet. Most surrounding places are at around 400 feet above sea level. We've got loads of hills in just about every direction. I purposely avoid the worst ones.

    So just to clarify...

    Is the suggestion that I stay with 8 speed but sort of convert to a double at the front? Would I leave the smallest chain ring in place but have it set so it can't be selected?

    Then replace the cassette at the rear for a more usable range.

    So I would just need a new cassette, new chain rings for the middle and biggest, new chain?

    Would I need new shifters. Maybe some relatively cheap Claris 8 speed STI shifters? If so would I but the double or triple?

    Please correct me if I've gone down the wrong route!

    Or am I better just to leave it as a triple and perhaps change the cassette on the rear?
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    I've spent a few hours researching and reading up on this but I'm still not 100% clear.

    I'm getting to the point where I think that I might be over complicating things by wanting to change to a double, and perhaps it is easier to just stick with what I have.

    I've read things that have confused me further with different pull ratios from different STI levers.

    So I've tried to go back to basics and think about what I actually want...

    I'm not that bothered about weight savings - the bike is relatively light for how much it cost, and certainly feels lighter than a lot of the entry level road bikes in the shops at the moment.

    I would like a little more on the top end, it seems daft to remove the granny ring when it could come in useful at some point. I might as well just not use but have it there for if I ever need it.

    In an ideal world I would prefer proper STI shifters, as mine you have to move your hands back up to press the little lever at the top - but I'm not that bothered by it.

    As an aside (but slightly related) - the brakes aren't great. I put new pads on and adjusted them and they work fine in the dry but are fairly bad in the wet. Once wet they seem to create a sludge quickly. The brakes, I think are some relatively basic Tektra ones. They will just about work in the wet (although I wouldn't like to do an emergency stop) but I have to pull much harder when it is wet. I brake earlier and have to maintain a lot of pressure. On a long bike ride in the wet my hands start to feel fatigued by the amount of pressure I have to maintain to slow down to a stop! I only mention this as a change of brake calipers might increase the need to change the shifters which in turn might increase the value in changing to something else - I guess the braking surface on the wheels is getting quite worn too.

    So if I went all in, I'd be looking at getting some gear, preferably 105 or better. I'd need new shifters, new brake calipers, new chainset including BB, new cables, new wheels, new cassette, new KMC chain, new front and rear mech. To buy all this new would cost around £400 for the groupset and £150 or so for the wheels. so £550 should sort everything out. As I get to that point though I'm starting to wonder if I should just sell it on and buy a new bike! They look to fetch around £100-£150 second hand.

    I could buy something like this for £888:
    https://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/CBPXSLPRI ... on-rival22

    But other than being new and carbon, it isn't hugely lighter. Mine is around 9kg, that one is 8.3kg.

    So I'm a bit stuck as to what the best option is!

    On the flip side I could get lucky with a groupset removed from another bike, and some wheels removed from a new bike.

    OR - My other option is to forget the *would be nice* bits and go for just the essentials. Get a replacement cassette for £15 and a KMC chain for £10 and get on with it.

    Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
  • 105 groupset around 300 quid.

    Aksium wheels around 150.

    New tiagra also very good and perfectly rideable.
  • nbuuifx
    nbuuifx Posts: 302
    Had a quick look at the bike. Degreased and cleaned the chain and gears. I noticed that the rear mech is a 9 speed Tiagra not that I figure that will make much difference.

    I also figured I should measure the chain as I have never done it.

    It seems a long way out. I just wanted to check that I was doing it right. I used a 12" steel rule. Place the zero mark on the centre of a pin. I then expected the 12" mark to be 23 pins further along. (So the 1st pin and the 24th pin) however the 12" mark is just touching the leading edge of the next pin (25th pin or 24 on after the initial pin). Which seems to be a lot more than the suggested 1/16" on. Is this right or am I doing something wrong? Do they get that far out without snapping?!
  • Buy a new cassette and chain, new cable inners and outers.
  • Ok fair enough. You are not a featherweight though so a bail out gear is always handy on big climbs, but it does depend on your local terrain.

    It should be a fairly cheap fix if you stay 8 speed.

    At 6ft2 he's not a porker either. :)
  • I didn't suggest he was
  • timothyw
    timothyw Posts: 2,482
    The SRAM cassette is probably the original one - trek triples of that vintage came with SRAM cassettes, I know because I had one.... they're fully compatible although you'll probably find it cheaper to replace with Shimano.

    Your existing wheels will be able to accommodate up to 10 speed cassettes, or 11 speed so long as you only use 11-34 tooth cassettes.

    Do you have access to cyclescheme/another cycle to work schemes? You can now buy components on them, and the tax benefits are better when you spend under £500 anyway.

    If so, buying a new groupset is practically a no brainer.

    Tiagra 4700 is ten speed so you don't need to worry about wheel compatibility. 105 is also great for the money, but you need to make sure you go 11-34 (or buy a new rear wheel also).

    Campag Centaur is also great, put it on a bike recently and love it, although that creates questions over whether you replace your rear wheel with something campag compatible, or use it with Shimano/SRAM 11 speed cassettes (which I'm doing).

    Certainly I don't think you'll regret the upgrade.
  • Bit late to comment but had exactly the same idea. I priced up a secondhand groupset plus new cables, bottom bracket, associated tools and it worked out cheaper to buy a 2 year old bike with the spec I wanted, which I did and so much nicer,