Back in January, I did a trial run to install my new Shimano Tiagra groupset on to a frame that I’d bought off Gumtree. The exercise was thoroughly worthwhile because I learnt a lot about how a bike is put together, and there’s no better thing than taking apart a bike that you don’t actually need to use – taking apart the one you use on a daily basis puts a lot of pressure on to get it all working again! It wasn’t perfect, though, mainly due to the frame forks being too wide and the cassette not fitting in the forks well such that I couldn’t put the bike in the smallest cog on the cassette. But still, a good practice.
Well, I’m on holiday this week and it was the time to put the groupset on my commuter – the bike I use on a daily basis. I deliberately did it at the start of this week to give me time to fix things as and when they went wrong. But surprisingly, the main things that went wrong were more to do with taking the old kit off the bike, rather than attaching the new kit on it. It’s all on, and a 23 mile test ride this afternoon suggests that there’s no major issues with it so far. I’ve gone from 8 gears up to 20 – win!
I have learnt a lot from the exercise, so if you’re considering upgrading your bike, here’s some important lessons to consider:
- Get the right tools
- I don’t think I would ever have believed someone if they told me the amount of different tools you need to maintain a bike. There’s a lot more to it than just some allen keys (which are important!). A socket wrench, torque wrench, rubber mallet, bottom bracket tool (x2), cassette removal tool, cable cutter, adjustable spanner, phillips and flat-head screwdrivers… there’s bound to be more, but those are the key ones. Make sure you have and understand all the tools that you need for all the jobs, because there’s nothing worse than getting half way through the job to discover that one all-important tool is missing.
- Cables, inner and outer
- Rather than buying cable sets, I just bought a bunch of inner cables and a bunch of outer cables. This makes for a lot less waste, or at the very least a lot tidier box of kit. Buying them individually appears to be much cheaper! And OMG, but replacing cables makes such a difference. Also, the cables are different for gears and brakes – that’s both the inners and outers. So make sure you get some of both. And cable end caps. And ferrules…
- Too long an outer can cause a problem
- I had a bit of outer just in front of my rear brake caliper which was around 3mm too long and caused my brake to not release properly. I shit you not. 3mm made all the difference; it was basically forcing the inner through too much of a bend, and knocking 3mm off the outer made the bend straight enough to not cause a problem, but still bendy enough to allow the barrel adjuster to work.
- Cassettes are a bastard to remove
- I could not get the old cassette off the wheel. Spent an hour trying to do it, pulled a muscle in my back trying to force the fucker to budge, but I couldn’t get it to move. Took it to the bike shop, the guy did it instantly. In fairness, his spanner handle was really long, so he was able to get a lot more leverage, so maybe I need to get a bigger one (oo-er). When I put the new cassette on, I didn’t put it on tightly. Indeed, it’s on quite softly, tbh. Hopefully it won’t fall off.
- Cables can get jammed in barrel adjusters
- I had some serious issues with cables jammed in barrel adjusters. One of the barrel adjusters in my brake calipers is a write-off (no biggie) as I ended up having to cut the cable as it just wouldn’t come out. Therefore, consider that you might have more trouble getting the kit off your bike rather than putting the new kit on it.
- Front mechs have braze-on and clip-on
- These phrases meant nothing to me initially, but it’s pretty simple; clip-on front mechs quite simply have a round band which goes around your seat tube and is held in place with nothing more than tightening the band. This initially surprised me – I thought it must surely have been held in place with some kind of screw through the seat tube, but no, nothing more than tightening the clip. Measuring the size of your seat tube is potentially the first time in your life that π (pi; 3.14159…) comes in useful. Braze-on, on the other hand, require your bike seat-tube to have a specific thing on to which you attach a braze-on mech. Therefore, the braze-on is the same as a clip-on, just without the round “clip” (round band). If you’re completely unsure, you could always get a braze-on and get a separate band on its own on to which you can attach the braze-on front mech – but if you just have a good look at it, you should be able to tell whether yours has a band round your seat-tube or not.
- Triples are pointless
- I knew this already – having a triple crankset is a waste of time. I think mine was 52/42/32, and aside from comedy value when I first got the bike, I never used the 32 (aka granny) ring. The smallest gear I ever used was therefore a 42/25 (since my cassette was a 12/25). This never caused me a problem. However, today I went in my new smallest gear of 39/30 and holy crap, it’s small! Only needed for the steepest of hills, and even then, very rarely. If you really do need low gears rather than high gears, get a compact 50/34. I’m running 53/39 on both my commuter and my Cervélo, with 12/30 on the commuter and 11/28 on the é. Loving it.
- Bike stands are a must
- SSIA. If you don’t have one, you really should, they are a life saver.