Join Date: Feb 2005
Bikes: Trek 5500, Colnago C-50
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A friend of mine had the same problem. The bike was a Giant with carbon fiber main tubes and aluminum lugs, chainstays, and seatstays. It fit her well and so did the gearing, the crankset was 110 BCD with something like 48-36-26 rings. Three different mechanics had tried to restore the shifting including flushing out the shifters and replacing the cables and housings. But the front shifter was just not engaging. The owner didn't want a new bike even though she could easily afford it. So I volunteered to upgrade it to 9-speed (10-sp was not available yet). I replaced the shifters with 105, rebuilt the rear wheel with a new 105 hub using the old rim and spokes, Ultegra chain, and new bar tape. I donated a lightly used 9-sp Ultegra 12-27 cassette out of my parts bin. I left the RSX crankset and derailleurs on the bike. The parts came to a total of $300 retail including a six-pack for labor.
I was really surprised at how well it shifted on the initial test ride, as well as any bike I've ever ridden, better than most triples.
This particular frame was built with 130mm dropout spacing so there was no need to spread it. In fact I would not have tried to spread this type of frame.
I'm not necessarily recommending that anyone else make this upgrade, it really depends on what the rest of the bike is worth compared to buying a new bike. In this case I probably would have done 10-speed if it had been available.