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Thread: Wheel upgrades

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    Wheel upgrades

    What are the options when it comes to wheelsets? What advantages do better grade wheelsets provide and at what price? Is this an upgrade?

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    I asked in another forum section about wheel upgrades for my road bike. They were Reynolds wheelset for 399.00, other members told me for 399 your were getting wheels similar to what is OEM on say a 1400 new road bike and that I would be buying pretty much the same as what I have.
    I think you need to spend 700 or more to see a difference is what they suggested which is pretty much out of the question for most hybrid riders since its a big chuck of the price of the bike new.

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    which way do you want to go ? sturdier or lighter ? and how about electricity ?
    consider a hub dynamo in the front wheel?

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    I've only ever had to change a wheelset once, about 3 years ago, but that was on my road bike.
    The wheels on the road bike were deep carbon (50mm) which initially cost me $1700. They were great for flat windless conditions. I rode on them for quite a few years because of the cost to me, but they were totally crap for climbing mountains and with cross winds. I started to hate them.
    I had to change them...So I "down-graded" to low-profile Mavic Open Pro rims (32 spoke) which cost $140 a pair. Then spokes and labour was $40. Also 105 hubs front and back but I can't remember the price. I believe these wheels are perfectly suited to allround conditions. They are incredible for climbing and have no problems with cross-winds. They are also reasonably light because I used a thinner guage spoke, as I am only 62kg, and don't need a heavy guage. These are priorities for my style of riding, but of course you will have to work out what you want from a new set.
    Last edited by giantcfr1; 07-14-14 at 01:30 AM.
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    Upgrade can mean so many things. I put a set of wheels with Chukker rims, 36 spoke 3 cross on Deore hubs on my 7.3 FX because I need the ability to reliably hold a heavy rider (me) while being bullet-proof for gravel riding. These wheels would be a downgrade for many other riders because of the weight of the wheels.

    Light rims with lower spoke counts would be a downgrade for me, but an upgrade for many others.

    As far as price, I will quote the tow truck driver from National Lampoon's Vacation when Clark Griswold asked how much it was to replace the tires on the Family Truckster... "How much do you got?" You can spend a little, or you can spend a lot... the "right" answer depends significantly on your objectives in upgrading, your budget and a cost benefit analysis based on what type of riding you do, and what you hope to improve.
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    +1 to the above post

    I'm cyclesdale, so OEM wheels on my bikes never lasted long. Tried to "upgrade" it by buying wheel set for around $100 ( paid by Specialized)...That lasted little longer than OEM. I did some research online, and I found 2 wheel sets that touring community was very happy with. My best upgrade ever was a set of Velocity Dyad rims. These are perfectly round after several k miles. No issues of any kind. I paid over $300 for the set, and I use my bike on every surface, including some shortcuts via MTB trials.
    It's definitively worth to upgrade your wheels set, especially on a cheaper hybrids. If you are cyclesdale, it's a must.
    Last edited by lopek77; 07-14-14 at 08:06 AM.
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    Wheels are the best upgrade you can make to any bicycle. A standard 105/Ultegra hub with Open Pro rims and double butted spokes will last a long time, is very strong, and fairly light. This is a good upgrade for people with OEM wheels. After that, the sky is the limit. A cheaper upgrade is tires and tubes

    One advantage some high end hubs have is instant engagement. This is a big deal if you ratchet a lot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DorkDisk View Post
    Wheels are the best upgrade you can make to any bicycle. A standard 105/Ultegra hub with Open Pro rims and double butted spokes will last a long time, is very strong, and fairly light. This is a good upgrade for people with OEM wheels. After that, the sky is the limit. A cheaper upgrade is tires and tubes

    One advantage some high end hubs have is instant engagement. This is a big deal if you ratchet a lot.
    What do you mean by "ratchet a lot"?

    I'm totally unfamiliar with that term and have been pondering the quality of various hubs.
    You can have my Disc Brakes, when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

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    Interesting and informative replies. I was wondering how someone might do annual upgrades to their bike in order to get a much better bike over the course of several years. So, let's say you start by buying an "affordable" bike then spend $100 to $200 each year to upgrade some aspect of it so that over the course of few years you'd have a high end bike that you paid for on the "installment plan." I don't know if this is a sensible strategy or not, but was trying to think it through. So one might start with easy things like tires, then derailleurs and shifters, then brakes, wheels, etc. For example, the Giant Escape 1 is $650 and the Escape RX is over $1,100. The differences between these bikes appear to be component sets (Shimano Altus vs. Shimano R460) 9-speed vs. 10 speed, and the wheel hubs. My guess is that I could purchase these upgrades for less than paying for the RX and do it over time. What do you think?

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    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    Interesting and informative replies. I was wondering how someone might do annual upgrades to their bike in order to get a much better bike over the course of several years. So, let's say you start by buying an "affordable" bike then spend $100 to $200 each year to upgrade some aspect of it so that over the course of few years you'd have a high end bike that you paid for on the "installment plan." I don't know if this is a sensible strategy or not, but was trying to think it through. So one might start with easy things like tires, then derailleurs and shifters, then brakes, wheels, etc. For example, the Giant Escape 1 is $650 and the Escape RX is over $1,100. The differences between these bikes appear to be component sets (Shimano Altus vs. Shimano R460) 9-speed vs. 10 speed, and the wheel hubs. My guess is that I could purchase these upgrades for less than paying for the RX and do it over time. What do you think?
    Someone else might be able to offer more detail, but my guess looking at those two bikes is that most of the difference in cost is due to the lighter frame, which you can't really upgrade. Generally that's the case when the price jumps that much, in my experience. Other upgrades depend on the frame/fork too -- for example, if they're fitted for disc brakes if you ever want to go that route, whether your rear wheel will accept a cassette with more gears, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
    What do you mean by "ratchet a lot"?

    I'm totally unfamiliar with that term and have been pondering the quality of various hubs.
    I am referring to backpedaling a bit (not a full revolution) and pedaling. This can be done several times. There are several instances where this can be done, mainly to prevent pedal strike: rocky terrain, pedaling thru corners, walking speed hops, and also for technical riding

    An instant engagement hub will start propelling you instantly whereas a standard hub might take a few degrees of rotation before engaging. Sometimes this small difference is enough for a dismount vs pedaling on.
    Last edited by DorkDisk; 07-14-14 at 11:15 AM.

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    I asked this in a separate thread and am wondering if anyone can give any opinions on whether or not this would be an "upgrade".

    I have an 8.2DS that has OEM Bontrager AT-750 (?) as the stock wheels.
    does anyone know if the Element wheels that are stock on the Cannondale Quick would be any sort of an upgrade?
    i.e., stronger, lighter, etc, etc?

    I'm only asking for the sake of cosmetic reasons.
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    Senior Member ColonelSanders's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DorkDisk View Post
    I am referring to backpedaling a bit (not a full revolution) and pedaling. This can be done several times. There are several instances where this can be done, mainly to prevent pedal strike: rocky terrain, pedaling thru corners, walking speed hops, and also for technical riding

    An instant engagement hub will start propelling you instantly whereas a standard hub might take a few degrees of rotation before engaging. Sometimes this small difference is enough for a dismount vs pedaling on.
    Thanks for that explanation.
    You can have my Disc Brakes, when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    Interesting and informative replies. I was wondering how someone might do annual upgrades to their bike in order to get a much better bike over the course of several years. So, let's say you start by buying an "affordable" bike then spend $100 to $200 each year to upgrade some aspect of it so that over the course of few years you'd have a high end bike that you paid for on the "installment plan." I don't know if this is a sensible strategy or not, but was trying to think it through. So one might start with easy things like tires, then derailleurs and shifters, then brakes, wheels, etc. For example, the Giant Escape 1 is $650 and the Escape RX is over $1,100. The differences between these bikes appear to be component sets (Shimano Altus vs. Shimano R460) 9-speed vs. 10 speed, and the wheel hubs. My guess is that I could purchase these upgrades for less than paying for the RX and do it over time. What do you think?
    Interesting you talk about these 2 bikes because I just bought an Escape 1 and set off on upgrades/changes. From what I can tell, the RX aluminum is the same frame. The main difference is in the drivetrain. The RX uses road components versus the Escape 1. The shifters are Tiagra level which is around a Deore level on an MTB group set. The drivetrain is also a 2x10 on RX versus a 3x9 on Escape 1.

    Now if you step up to the RX composite, you get the carbon frame and fork and the component set changes again.

    You could do the spend $100-$200 upgrade option each year and end up with a different bike. Will you be able to tell? It all depends on you. The cost can get expensive but you'll have a bike that is uniquely yours. Or you could go my route. I got an Escape 1 and have changed out everything except the wheel set, frame, and fork. All in, I've spent a shade under $1200. I decided to stick to a MTB 3x9 drivetrain because I like having the super low granny gear and I had some spare parts laying around. The other thing is that if you shop around, you can get parts really inexpensively. Look to PricePoint, Nashbar, eBay, Amazon and shop around. If you can install the parts yourself, you'll save yourself some money as well. If you go to an LBS, the parts will cost you more. Also, you'll have to research to understand which parts work with what.

    For me, my upgrade/change list:

    Crank Brothers Iodine 2 handlebar
    Thomson 90x10 stem
    Thomson setback seatpost
    Bontrager Nebula Saddle (my stock Giant saddle didn't fit my sit bones too well)
    Ergon GC5 grips with bar ends
    Azonic 420 platform pedals
    Shimano XTR shifter/brake combo
    Shimano XTR v-brakes
    Shimano Deore LX 26/36/48 crankset (wanted XT cranks but I would have had to change all the chainrings and all of the current XT cranks are 3x10)
    Shimano XT front/rear Deraileurs

    My goal? Better drivetrain performance and some lighter weight. My bike stock in the small size with the stock equipment was just a hair under 27 lbs. My bike now weighs 25.3 lbs.

    Back to the wheels. I'll say what everyone else is saying. Upgrades depend on what you're looking for. Lighter weight? Stronger wheels? etc... I'll be changing my wheels and cassette as well. For me, it's about weight and looks. I think the factory Giant wheels are ugly, I hate the schrader valves (there are 3 bikes in my garage and this is the only one with those valves), and I want lighter weight. I'm currently eying the Easton EA70 wheelset with a Shimano 9sp aluminum cassette and Shimano XT chain.

    At the end of the day, will it matter if you can't tell? I say, test ride the bike, see if you like it, and ride it and change parts as they need changing. But if you're like me and have an itch to scratch and want to change just to change, then that's ok too.

    As it sits now, my bike is unique and I don't think I'll see another one like it and I like it that way

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    You will have a bike that is far better than the RX. Good for you. You're right that these two Giant bikes share the same frame so that's what made this thought experiment interesting to me. I think one would find similarities in the Trek fx line or the Specialized lines - the same basic bike with changes in components as the price rises. It seems to me that getting a lower-end bike (made with the same frame) then upgrading would actually be less expensive than buying the better bike. Plus, how big a difference do each of these components make?

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    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    You will have a bike that is far better than the RX. Good for you. You're right that these two Giant bikes share the same frame so that's what made this thought experiment interesting to me. I think one would find similarities in the Trek fx line or the Specialized lines - the same basic bike with changes in components as the price rises. It seems to me that getting a lower-end bike (made with the same frame) then upgrading would actually be less expensive than buying the better bike. Plus, how big a difference do each of these components make?
    How big a difference it makes can be either real to the end user or perceived, LOL. As you step up the component chain, you'll get lighter and more durable equipment. It'll also function better. But will you be able to tell? Perhaps. My partner has a '14 Trek FX 7.4 and I rode it back to back with mine to see how different the drivetrain feels. I can tell that mine shifts quicker and the gear changes are quieter. But, his bike with the medium sized frame weighs as much as mine does and there are no upgrades on his. I just like monkeying around with parts and changing things and I have a mad money allowance that I get to spend with no questions asked so that's my justification for parts. At the end of the day, I enjoyed my stock bike just fine. I like it better now because it's unique . I'll also add that I can't go any faster now than with the factory parts. If I want faster, I'll get a roadie, but for now, I'm quite happy. There's always n+1, LOL.

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    Another clydesdale here 6'4" 240lbs, after breaking couple spokes with the stock PX2 wheels on my Escape 1 (depending on your LBS it can cost anywhere between 20$-35$ to fix spokes), went to Harris Cyclery and bought the Mavic A319 wheels 36 spokes with Deore LX hubs which cost me 300$ with tax and labor. So far so good after that. They suggested hand-built Velocity A23s for 360 (which was going to be >400$ w/tax&labor) but went with the machine built Mavics.

    I think the rider's weight should be the biggest decision factor for upgrading wheels. I don't think I'd have upgraded the stock wheels if it wasn't for the breaking spokes every other 100mile ride. If you want to climb hills faster, then spending money on a road bike is wiser.

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    Senior Member ColonelSanders's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simplybao View Post
    Interesting you talk about these 2 bikes because I just bought an Escape 1 and set off on upgrades/changes. From what I can tell, the RX aluminum is the same frame. The main difference is in the drivetrain. The RX uses road components versus the Escape 1. The shifters are Tiagra level which is around a Deore level on an MTB group set. The drivetrain is also a 2x10 on RX versus a 3x9 on Escape 1.

    Now if you step up to the RX composite, you get the carbon frame and fork and the component set changes again.
    The frame of the Escape 1 is made with ALUXX grade aluminium and the Escape RX's frame is made with ALUXX SL grade aluminium.


    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    You will have a bike that is far better than the RX. Good for you. You're right that these two Giant bikes share the same frame so that's what made this thought experiment interesting to me. I think one would find similarities in the Trek fx line or the Specialized lines - the same basic bike with changes in components as the price rises. It seems to me that getting a lower-end bike (made with the same frame) then upgrading would actually be less expensive than buying the better bike. Plus, how big a difference do each of these components make?
    With the 2014 range FX's, you could have bought a lower end FX(i.e. FX 7.2) and have the frame being made out of Trek's FX Alpha Gold Aluminium, the same as the frame in the FX 7.6.

    But for 2015, if one buys below the FX 7.3, you drop from the FX Alpha Gold Aluminium to the FX Alpha Silver Aluminium.

    Specialized's Sirrus aluminium range consists of the following frame material :

    Sirrus - MSRP $520 - A1 Premium Aluminum
    Sirrus Elite - MSRP $820 - E5 Premium Aluminum
    You can have my Disc Brakes, when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
    The frame of the Escape 1 is made with ALUXX grade aluminium and the Escape RX's frame is made with ALUXX SL grade aluminium.




    With the 2014 range FX's, you could have bought a lower end FX(i.e. FX 7.2) and have the frame being made out of Trek's FX Alpha Gold Aluminium, the same as the frame in the FX 7.6.

    But for 2015, if one buys below the FX 7.3, you drop from the FX Alpha Gold Aluminium to the FX Alpha Silver Aluminium.

    Specialized's Sirrus aluminium range consists of the following frame material :

    Sirrus - MSRP $520 - A1 Premium Aluminum
    Sirrus Elite - MSRP $820 - E5 Premium Aluminum
    Correct.

    I'm not familiar with the Trek grading, but I am with Giant's and Specialized's. There is a distinct difference between Aluxx and AluxxSL, and A1 and E5 respectively. The higher grades are lighter, dampen road noise more effectively through much more complex butting/shaping, and stronger.
    Whether this matters to a given cyclist is a separate question, but the differences are real.

    That is the essential difference, for example, between a Giant Escape and a Giant Escape RX. Wheels aside, one can do nothing to 'upgrade' the essential characteristics of the former in relation to the latter; given equivalent wheels/tires/components, the latter will always be a slightly nicer bike overall than the former. That's in part what one is paying for at retail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by badger1 View Post
    Correct.

    I'm not familiar with the Trek grading, but I am with Giant's and Specialized's. There is a distinct difference between Aluxx and AluxxSL, and A1 and E5 respectively. The higher grades are lighter, dampen road noise more effectively through much more complex butting/shaping, and stronger.
    Whether this matters to a given cyclist is a separate question, but the differences are real.

    That is the essential difference, for example, between a Giant Escape and a Giant Escape RX. Wheels aside, one can do nothing to 'upgrade' the essential characteristics of the former in relation to the latter; given equivalent wheels/tires/components, the latter will always be a slightly nicer bike overall than the former. That's in part what one is paying for at retail.
    This is good to know. I didn't look too close at the details on the frame. But since I already have my bike, it's a moot point for me, LOL. I've still done the upgrades and it was fun.

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