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Old 12-31-12, 12:37 PM   #1
MadProphet
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Questions about derailleurs and shifters - and cassettes

OK, so I bought a DS 8.3. Not the greatest of component sets. I find that, after riding for two months, I like road riding a bit more than trail riding and so I'm getting a second set of wheels with road tires mounted. My question is: the stock setup is an 8 speed rear end. Could I use any 8-speed cassette?

And the larger question: If I decide to switch to say a 9 or 10 speed, I know I'll need to swap out at least the rear-D and gear shift. But will I need cables, etc? Or can I just replace the three pieces: cassette, rearD and shifter?

And one more question: If I use one set of wheels for road and one for 'trail', could they have different cassettes? Maybe a 12-25 for road and an 11-36 for trail? And would the rearD need fixin' to do that?

I don't want to spend a ton on the bike as I belatedly recognize that it's really a starter. But I've been quoted less than $100/ea for the wheels (stock for the model) and I could buy new cassettes and a shifter and rearD of say, Deore XT quality and still keep cost down. I'm just so new to this, I don't know what's what and what I'll need to do with this idea of mix-n-match.
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Old 12-31-12, 01:31 PM   #2
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1. You could use any 8-speed cassette from the same maker as your current cassette. Any 8-speed Shimano (or SRAM) cassette could be replaced with any other 8-speed Shimano or SRAM cassette. Campy is not interchangable with either Shimano or SRAM but I expect that's not a consideration.

2. Assuming Shimano components, to change to 9-speed you would need a new rear shifter, a new cassette and a new chain. Your current rear derailleur should be fine unless you far exceed it's largest cog spec. Changing cables is a good idea unless yours are nearly new.

3. Sure, the two wheel sets can have different cog ranges. Just make sure the chain is long enough to allow shifting into big-big for the widest range cassette. Better is to have two chains, one sized for each cassette. Chains that come with master links (SRAM, Wippermann or KMC) make switching easy.
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Old 12-31-12, 03:47 PM   #3
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I had not considered chain lengths. I simply figured if it fit the largest on the rear (say 32t) and the smallest remained the same (say 11t) that using the chain on the cassette with the lower spread (an 11-25 or 12-25) would be like using the middle gears of the larger spread cassette (11-36 or the current 11-32).

My 8.3 is two months old and - except for clunky rear shifting (along with the occasional double gear switch instead of single) - I really like it. I just want a higher pressure, road oriented tire and don't wanna swap tires on the same wheels. Since I'm buying a second set of wheels, I wanted to find out what I could get away with as far as changes.

For whatever reason, anytime I ask the store I bought the bike from any 'technical' questions, they look at me as if I switched to speaking Latin. There are no 'bike' parts on display. There are add-ons, racks and lights and tubes and helmets. There's lots of bikes. Tons of clothing. TONS of clothing. No bike parts.

I asked about things like changing stem length. Blank stares. New bars? Huh? Wha...? Then I ask about getting a stock set of wheels for the bike to put the new tires on. "That's going to require quite a bit of research." WTH?? The wheel model is emblazoned on the side of the wheel! Here's your computer! You can't look it up?

To be fair, the mech who has worked on my bike has done a great job and is VERY knowledgeable. But he's not out front selling. He's working. Most of the time, I can't get the time of day from any but one guy. He's a star - but he's still blank when it comes to any of my upgrade questions.

After doing some reading and seeing how cheap my components are, and given what I've already said about adding the new wheels/tires, I thought, "hey, I could move from an 8 speed cassette up to a 9 or 10 and get a decent rear-D and shifter". That's why I was asking here. $100 for tires. They said about $150 for wheels. So I was thinking while it's in there, why not change the $9 rear-d for a $50 model and up the shifter (and gear range). I wanted to do it all at the store that does my "tune ups" for free since that way they are working on what they've done. But DAMN it's hard to get straight, precise answers.

So that's why I'm asking here.
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Old 12-31-12, 03:59 PM   #4
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indeed, at most LBSs, the sales guys out front know new bikes and accessories, but very little to nothing about vintage or upgrades/hybridizing, unless you find someone unusual (perhaps the owner of an old shop who's done it all in his day). its the guys in the back room who are the gurus on wrenching, but yeah, they are usually too busy wrenching for random discussions of stuffs like this, unless its a big store with 4-5 'wrenches' in the back. the shop I frequent, the 'back' has a counter for parts sales, and this is usually staffed by someone fairly knowledgeable, any question too hard for them will get bounced off one of the experts who's probably nose deep on a project.
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Old 12-31-12, 04:30 PM   #5
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I had not considered chain lengths. I simply figured if it fit the largest on the rear (say 32t) and the smallest remained the same (say 11t) that using the chain on the cassette with the lower spread (an 11-25 or 12-25) would be like using the middle gears of the larger spread cassette (11-36 or the current 11-32).
Well...
If you're starting from the bigger sprockets, then running a smaller cassette would be a mechanical non-issue - to start with. If you end up favoring one wheelset you may eventually run into trouble as chain and sprockets wear together. Might want to go the two chain route already from the start if you want to avoid that hassle.

Oh, and some puritan may scold you for running a long cage derailer and excess chain on the tighter stacked cassette.

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For whatever reason, anytime I ask the store I bought the bike from any 'technical' questions, they look at me as if I switched to speaking Latin. There are no 'bike' parts on display. There are add-ons, racks and lights and tubes and helmets. There's lots of bikes. Tons of clothing. TONS of clothing. No bike parts.
There seems to be a lot of that in the US. More style than function. First time I was over, I wanted to buy some running shoes. Piece of cake right? there's Footlocker, Champs(?) and all the others in every mall. Asked for a model that would help control my pronation, was met with "huh?", then came a incredulous "so you're really gonna go running? We don't sell that stuff. This is street wear."

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...Then I ask about getting a stock set of wheels for the bike to put the new tires on. "That's going to require quite a bit of research." WTH?? The wheel model is emblazoned on the side of the wheel! Here's your computer! You can't look it up?
To be honest, its a widespread belief that bike parts are a lot more proprietary than they actually are. Hang around here a bit and you'll see people asking for help on where to buy a chain or a set of grips for their Schwinn or similar. And the cycling industry is quite keen on rebranding. I've worked on a bike that had Joytech hubs rebranded as Scott for instance. Now, finding a functional match for that bike would be a question of minutes, with lots of potential suppliers, but finding an identical second set would require ordering from Scott.

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After doing some reading and seeing how cheap my components are, and given what I've already said about adding the new wheels/tires, I thought, "hey, I could move from an 8 speed cassette up to a 9 or 10 and get a decent rear-D and shifter". That's why I was asking here. $100 for tires. They said about $150 for wheels. So I was thinking while it's in there, why not change the $9 rear-d for a $50 model and up the shifter (and gear range).

IMO, the advantage from switching to a higher level derailer - as long as everything is clean and lubed - is really very minor. Use what you have, and replace with nicer when wear dictates.

Going to more speeds would require replacing the shifter too, and it will make the drivetrain more finicky.
And it'll probably not buy you any more range.
Smallest stays where it is, and biggest stays where it is. You'll get one or two intermediate ratios which may or may not be useful to you. My commuter has a 7-speed cassette, and it's plenty for the speed range I find useful in urban riding.
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Old 12-31-12, 04:50 PM   #6
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IF your "road" riding is going to be gentle, you can find rather inexpensive single wall rims.
My LBS has replacement rear wheels with 8/9 speed Freehubs for about $45-50. Front for a little less.

Your major cost in going to 9 speed is the shifter & chain. Mostly shifter.
I love my 9 speed "upgrades", but going from 8 to 9 is relatively spendy for just one more gear.
I'd suggest getting the cheapest "hybrid" wheels you can find and either a 12-23 or 13-26 cassette.
I think you'll find the more closely spaced gears will work just fine for your needs.

One of my bikes has a Shimano Tourney (bottom level) RDER and it works just fine with the 9 speed. Just have it adjusted correctly.
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Old 12-31-12, 05:49 PM   #7
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the $50 each hybrid wheels I bought a few years ago had non-stainless spokes 'shimano' hubs that were so cheap I couldn't find them on Shimano's site, and very poor quality Alex singlewall rims. they got me through a year or two, and I was beginning to plan on replacement (spokes were starting to corrode) when the whole bike was wiped out in a car crash (bike was on a front hitch rack on our E150 and got smushed by a collision that totalled said van).
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Old 12-31-12, 06:28 PM   #8
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To the OP: I don't have a lot to add -- the guys in this forum are way beyond any league I plan on joining.

But, like you, I have a Trek DS (an 8.5 which is a 3x9 speed). Mine is a 2012 -- I don't know if you got the '12 or the '13, but the 2013's are very different bikes.

Anyway, like you, I decided to upgrade the rear shifting to get it all up onto the Shimano SLX level. So, I installed a new SLX cassette and a Shimano (SLX level) chain (the bike came with an SLX RD and the shifter was Deore which I can live with).

After installing the parts, I had a heck of a time getting it to shift right. And I finally took it back down to my LBS where I had purchased the parts (I buy ALL my bike stuff there). They had trouble getting it adjusted as well -- he was even checking the hanger... He also noticed the 3 month old cable was frayed and he replaced that.

So, after the new cable and a pro adjusting the RD, the bike shifts like a dream. Click -- and it's in the next gear. No fuss and no noise. The loudest noise comes from the shifter's click.

Functionally there was no reason for me to upgrade. I still get to same place at the same speed that I was before. But I am very pleased with the upgrade. The bike is just easier and more fun to ride.

Best of luck with your upgrade -- I hope you meet with equal success!
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Old 12-31-12, 07:40 PM   #9
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Functionally there was no reason for me to upgrade. I still get to same place at the same speed that I was before. But I am very pleased with the upgrade. The bike is just easier and more fun to ride.
This is the best defense of an upgrade I've ever read.
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Old 12-31-12, 08:16 PM   #10
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you forgot the ALL IMPORTANT REASON!


IT LOOKS BETTER!!!!!

thats at least 50% of why I changed my crankset. the stock Tourney stuff was fugly, bonus, the alloy chainrings I put on it ride smoother/quieter than the riveted steel stuff.
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Old 12-31-12, 10:32 PM   #11
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Both Hillrider and pierce: EXACTLY.

My last bike (2003, before my back gave out permanently) was a Harley Fatboy. HD owners routinely add to their bikes. Many of the adds have no value outside looking better or more fun. I don't even like to think about how many thousands went into it. I don't know about right now in this economy, but it was normal, it was routine, it was EXPECTED, that you would ride around on weekends visiting dealerships and buying bits and pieces. That you'd upgrade pipes and seats and cams and lights and.... plus engine upgrades. My next door neighbor worked his FatBoy down to new metal (tanks, etc) and the day he got it all complete, he turned to me and said, it's time to start again.

I'm not doing that here, I'd like the upgrades to be functional first. That's why I'm asking about what it takes to go from an 8speed to a 10speed. Using higher end components. If it also looks better, so much the better. I realize the Deore or XT or Ultegra isn't going to get me there faster or with less exertion or any of that. I'm looking for functional increases - better shifting, less jump between gear sizes. I'd love, in particular, to have a couple smaller jumps between 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th on my cassette. I spend a lot of time going uphill and spend a lot of my time on my small gear up front and the big ones out back. I'm new and not strong and going uphill in 3rd is a huge victory for me right now.

But if it looks better, well, hell yeah!
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Old 12-31-12, 10:42 PM   #12
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re: gear jumps, for sure, I changed my stock 11-34 to a 13-26, both 8 speed. A) I'll never be pushing a 48:11 ratio on the flats, by the time I spin out 48:13, I'm going darn near 35mph downhill... and B) 28:26 is plenty low enough to climb a mile long 8% grade, which is the steepest hill I expect to be doing any time in the foreseeable future (its the hill I live on, ok). by the time I get to doing more hill climbs, I'll be stronger anyways, and 28:26 will STILL be plenty low.

this 13-26 gave me MUCH closer spaced gears in the ranges I'm riding on the flats where it counts. I can use the big ring most of the time where everything is smoother.
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Old 01-01-13, 12:16 AM   #13
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Pierce - most of my rides include 3-7 miles of 6-8% grade and I'm pushing 28-32 or 28-30. I can occasionally get into 28-28, but not for long and not often. Someday, someday.
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Old 01-01-13, 01:27 AM   #14
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how does that old song go?


/to everything SPIN SPIN SPIN.... there is a season, SPIN SPIN SPIN... /

ok, no wait, that's not how it goes. but anyways. the goal is to keep the pedal RPMs up around 60-90 full turns per second... a racer might do 100-120 rpm when he's going all out. if you can keep your momentum up on a hill, you shoudl be able to spin in a 1:1 gear, anything lower than that is walking speed.

this does require good cardiovascular, you'll be breathing like a steam engine to maintain that pace, and good hydration is critical too. my mile hill is actually AVERAGE 8%, there's 2 stretch's of it that are close to 10%, 100 feet vertical in 1000 feet of horizontal. the last time I rode up my hill, I actually used a 38-26 on most of it and only dropped to the 28-26 for the last half of each of those 10% stretches. and I'm a fat lazy old guy(tm), way out of shape.
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Old 01-01-13, 02:37 AM   #15
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... I'd like the upgrades to be functional first. That's why I'm asking about what it takes to go from an 8speed to a 10speed.
Assuming it's all within the Shimano-compatible family: new chain, new rear shifter, new cassette.

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.......Using higher end components. If it also looks better, so much the better.
But more speed gear wears decidedly faster. Sprockets are thinner, chain plates are slimmer. The jumps and clearances between gears are narrower. On my MTB it doesn't matter much, it doesn't log that much mileage, and mud, sticks and power shifts are the main reasons for wear anyhow. On my commuter, I'm quite pleased to stay in the 7-speed era. It can go a full winter, if not more, without needing any tuning. And that's at about 70 miles/week.

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... I'm looking for functional increases - better shifting,
Well, OK, some of the rear derailers that has folded metal plates making up the parallellogram can be a bit sloppy, but the main contributor to precise shifting is adjustment, the condition of the cables, the cabling run and general lube and cleanliness.

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... I'm looking for.... less jump between gear sizes. I'd love, in particular, to have a couple smaller jumps between 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th on my cassette.
....which you can get just as well from sticking an 8-speed "road" cassette in there.

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... I spend a lot of time going uphill and spend a lot of my time on my small gear up front and the big ones out back.
Bicycling is basically more about endurance than strength, there's another post here about spinning and cadence. Don't fret about not muscling it up a hill. Keeping the revs up and the load down is safer for your knees anyway. And a tight stack cassette is nice for that.

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....I'm new and not strong and going uphill in 3rd is a huge victory for me right now.
That's 3rd out back, right? On a triple front, consider the big ring front to be flat/downhill only - particulary as your bike is listed as having 700C wheels.

Thing is, upgradeitis can be real costly. Bike parts are a lot more expensive bought piecemeal than when bought as an assembled bike.
If you get into cycling seriously you''ll probably "outgrow" that bike pretty soon anyhow, in which case you're left with a blinged-out bike that's still a starter bike at heart.
Financially, and ultimately performance-wise, it's probably more sensible to make a "new bike jar", and set it at the kitchen counter. And whenever you get the urge to do something marginally functional to your bike, stuff money into the jar until the itch has passed.
But, it's your money. If you're fine with that, go ahead.
But my list would be: "road" tires, "road" cassette (maybe on a set of "road" wheels"), and a rigid fork. Or a nicer/lighter sus fork with lockout. Several Rockshox forks have adjustable travel, and your bike should be able to use an 80 mm travel fork w/o any drama.

A nicer fork, whether rigid or with a good lockout would do a lot more to your ride than a new derailer and more speeds.
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Old 01-01-13, 07:51 AM   #16
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More gears just triggers significant expense with little gain.

Ten speed stuff is more costly and some of the parts are less durable.

Plenty of the 8 speed stuff has bling.

Do the work yourself, its rewarding and not that difficult.


Pay retail for the parts, and worse yet, pay someone to do the work, and you will be way ahead just selling your bike, and picking up what you want used. Realize whatever you upgrade, a basic bike will more than likely have a basic suspension, basic frame, etc.

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Old 01-01-13, 10:05 AM   #17
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Personally I'd go for the second set of wheels, stick an 11-30 HG51 8-speed Cassette on it, and leave well enough alone. I'm guessing you probably have a Shimano HG31 12-32, 8 speed Cassette on there now. The differences in the cassettes will give you a bit more top end with road tires and will still let you use your existing chain.



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Old 01-01-13, 10:29 AM   #18
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OK, so I bought a DS 8.3. Not the greatest of component sets. I find that, after riding for two months, I like road riding a bit more than trail riding and so I'm getting a second set of wheels with road tires mounted. My question is: the stock setup is an 8 speed rear end. Could I use any 8-speed cassette?

And the larger question: If I decide to switch to say a 9 or 10 speed, I know I'll need to swap out at least the rear-D and gear shift. But will I need cables, etc? Or can I just replace the three pieces: cassette, rearD and shifter?

And one more question: If I use one set of wheels for road and one for 'trail', could they have different cassettes? Maybe a 12-25 for road and an 11-36 for trail? And would the rearD need fixin' to do that?

I don't want to spend a ton on the bike as I belatedly recognize that it's really a starter. But I've been quoted less than $100/ea for the wheels (stock for the model) and I could buy new cassettes and a shifter and rearD of say, Deore XT quality and still keep cost down. I'm just so new to this, I don't know what's what and what I'll need to do with this idea of mix-n-match.

This is the key to your question not worth all the cost and time, some minor adjustments will most likely be needed to switch between the to wheelsets also.
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Old 01-01-13, 10:31 AM   #19
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wrk101 and Burton: After all this (and other discussions as well) - that's exactly what I'm going to do. The stock wheel set is $51 for the front plus $75 for the rear. I'll find out tomorrow if that's inclusive of brakes and cassette, but even if not, I'll simply add them.

I stated at the beginning I didn't want to spend a lot of money - there's no sense (that I can figure) in putting a $600 wheelset on a $600 bike. I'll ride this one till summer and keep it for what little off-roading I will do but I know now I want a flat bar road bike. The heavy Suntour suspension fork is not needed. And for reasons I've already outlined, I want better components. My reasons are good enough for me.

My tires are here and hopefully the bike store I purchased from will have the wheels when I go tomorrow. I'd love to start riding on the new tires by next weekend. It's time for a tuneup (which I have scheduled for tomorrow morning) so perhaps they can get that rear-D working better and the rear brake. If adjustments are all that's needed, I'll ride for the rest of the winter/spring with no complaints. February 10 is a local ride of 40 miles. It will be my longest ride ever and my first group ride. It's what I've been building up for and why I've been seeking some road components. To be honest, I'm not sure if it's not all an exercise in futility as my back may stop me long before I make 40 miles. I'm "training" for it now and next week, according to my schedule, I'll be trying a 30 mile ride. I should know then if it's all folly.

I've been seriously looking at the Spot Acme for my upgrade (plus adding a two speed Patterson crank). I'm going up to Portland during this month and I'll try one out then. Looks like a nice compromise and I absolutely like the belt and IGH driveline. On my 'bent trike, that is what I always hankered for - but there are no belts for trikes....yet.

One more thing: I appreciate so much the help and tone of folks here. Many times on forums, no matter what the OP (or sometimes, anyone, posts - it's attack time. I expected some to attack because they don't want it changed or they love their 8.3 and why shouldn't I or cause they love the attack. I didn't get that here. Instead, even if I was responding with disagreement of opinions, I got great suggestions and feedback. That's just so cool and speaks a great deal to the people who are here. Thank you.
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Old 01-01-13, 10:45 AM   #20
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Another consideration is N+1. If you want a flat bar road oriented bike, lots of options out there, namely hybrids. Dump the dopey suspension seat post ($15) and you can have a nice bike. Lots of used hybrids out there, at attractive prices.

One thing about used bikes, I encourage people to aim high. The better stuff, that might have sold for $400 more than the basic stuff, on the used market, might sell for $50 more. For this small increase, you get better everything: frame, wheels, derailleurs, etc.

Since you already have a bike, you have the luxury of time. Time + patience + aggressive looking = DEAL.
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Old 01-01-13, 11:07 AM   #21
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Agreed. Been checking the CL for weeks now. Not sure where else to find used bikes, but I'm going to keep looking. Love to find a two-year-old higher end for cheap. I see bikes are like cars - they lose 40% soon as you wheel em outta the store.
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Old 01-01-13, 11:53 AM   #22
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Check the moving/garage sale sections too.
I've found some of my best buys under generic "bikes".
Often people don't want to bother packing a bike in a moving van.
Or maybe disgruntled ex wives?
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Old 01-01-13, 12:32 PM   #23
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'Speeds' is a hardware count, what Ratios do you need ? count teeth.. Big ring divided by hub cog
is a ratio..

judge what ratios are most useful ..

need tight spaced or wide difference, range?
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Old 01-01-13, 04:38 PM   #24
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one great way to find old bikes.... hit up garage sales in your area, and ASK about bicycles even if they aren't on display. grandma will go "Oh yeah, there's ____'s old bike he never rode" and pull out a near perfect but dusty piece of reynolds 531/campy and sell it to your for a song ok, that's optimal outcome, but you get the idea.
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Old 01-02-13, 02:29 PM   #25
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I guess I don't get it. I went to the LBS. First off, the 'stock' wheels aren't available. I've read enough (now) that I know that many OEM parts are not off-the-shelf parts from the manufacturers. Like the stock derailleurs on my bike. They aren't part of the normally available groups. I get that now. I have a $700 bike.

When I asked about upgrading to a better derailleur set, they all just kinda looked at me. It was then it finally hit home that it's a cheap bike (to them). You don't go around upgrading the cheap stuff. There were so many ummms and I don't knows that I caught on. They did finally, after two hours, come up with a set of wheels that would fit for $165 without rotors or cassette.

I then spoke to another shop, one where there's a bit more emphasis on fixing than selling and he said it straight out - it's not worth it. OK.

So I had them swap out my tires. With the money I've saved in all that, I'll find a good, used road bike. I know I've been saying that for the past couple of posts, but I was really hoping walking in and talking face-to-face would result in something different.
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