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What makes a drivetrain 'good'?

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What makes a drivetrain 'good'?

Old 04-19-11, 08:13 AM
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ninamaxine
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What makes a drivetrain 'good'?

Apologies if this is a repost - I couldn't find a general enough posting about this one.

I've just started riding a Salsa Casseroll that was purchased complete. The drivetrain components are:

Crankset Sugino XD-350 26-36-48, Silver
Chainring Sugino 26/36/48T, Silver
Bottom Bracket Shimano UN-26 68mm x 113mm
Chain SRAM PC951
Cassette Shimano Tiagra, 12-25T, Silver
Front Derailleur Shimano Sora Triple
Rear Derailleur Shimano Tiagra

I notice that shifting, while still pretty great (compared with the cheapo bikes of my past, at least), is noticeably more difficult/less reliable than shifting on my Homer Hilsen. I'm embarrassed to say I don't know what those components are, and am not near the bike, but they were whatever Rivendell recommended. Any thoughts on whether this is a quality issue or whether certain setups are simply more forgiving than others? I'm just curious whether this can be improved by swapping out a component or two or if this is a bigger deal. The Salsa is tolerable as is, so maybe I'm just spoiled. Thanks!
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Old 04-19-11, 08:22 AM
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What shifting do you find less satisfying, front or back? The components you list are decent quality and should shift very well, particularly when new. Perhaps all you need are some minor adjustments to make them work at their best. If the bike is new, take it back to the shop for a tune up after you've ridden it a few times and have let the cables, etc. bed in.

Higher line components are lighter and sometimes more durable but, in general, don't shift noticably better when new.
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Old 04-19-11, 08:37 AM
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ninamaxine
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
What shifting do you find less satisfying, front or back? The components you list are decent quality and should shift very well, particularly when new. Perhaps all you need are some minor adjustments to make them work at their best. If the bike is new, take it back to the shop for a tune up after you've ridden it a few times and have let the cables, etc. bed in.

Higher line components are lighter and sometimes more durable but, in general, don't shift noticably better when new.
Hmm. I'll have to test that out - I live in a flat area and haven't really needed to shift the front much, but the back doesn't always work. My bike just came from a tune up yesterday (the bike was right out of the box), but I hear you about needing another one soon-ish. I could just work on my shifting skills too. Shifting the Homer is absolutely flawless, and I don't really have to think about it. That's really helpful to know what higher quality does and doesn't accomplish, thank you.
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Old 04-19-11, 09:50 AM
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You left out one important item when asking about shifting...the shifters. But as HillRider stated, your Sora/Tiagra mix should shift well if set up properly (same set up as my commuter and it has worked quite well for thousands of miles - not as smooth as my Ultegra-equipped road bike but just as positive of shifts).
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Old 04-19-11, 10:04 AM
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ninamaxine
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Ah, of course: Shimano Tiagra Integrated shifters.

Maybe when I take it in for the late-spring check up it goes to a different bike shop just for a second opinion on what 'tuned up' means . . .
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Old 04-19-11, 10:10 AM
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First off I'm going to assume that you're familiar with how to adjust the shifting by trimming the cable tensioner at the rear derailleur (RD) and that you've fine tuned it a number of times but you're still having troubles and the trimming hasn't helped much or at all.

The operation of a "good" drive train begins with a solid and aligned foundation. And that foundation is the frame. Since this bike is used I'd suggest that you start by taking it into a shop and have then check and straighten, if needed, the rear derailleur hanger with an alignment guage. Only when the RD is mounted to a straight hanger can the rest of the parts show their true nature and your adjustments do what they are intended to do.

If it turns out that the hanger is straight then you can begin the search for other causes. Typically the next step would be to check the chain and rear sprockets for signs of wear. You can do that by checking the chain for wear (commonly but mistakenly called "stretch") by using a good 12 inch ruler to see if the chain has grown through wear to more than 12 1/16 over the 6 link pairs. If it is badly over then it means that the cassete is likely worn badly as well. Change both out.

If the chain and cassete sprockets are good then I'd suggest that the RD and brifter be flushed and the shifter cables housings be changed out. And for the cost of it and given all the rest of the trouble it's not a bad idea to change the cable. Over time the cable cuts into the inner liner of the housing and tends to grab in the groove it has cut. This'll mean having to remove the bar tape but if none of the other causes prove to correct the issue then this is the next step.
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Old 04-19-11, 10:57 AM
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ninamaxine, Reliability, depenability and quality of operation make for a good drivetrain and the Sora/Tiagra combination have proven themselves to be a good drivetrain. Because your bike has horizontal dropouts, make sure the wheel is aligned.

Is the problem delayed shifting or jumping two gears or something else?

Brad
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Old 04-19-11, 11:10 AM
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Knowing Riv, I'm gonna guess that you have friction shifters on the Homer, either down tube or bar end. They will feel different than the indexed brake/shift levers of the Tiagra line. They will perform differently in that they are more forgiving and will go where you move them and allow you to trim the derailers to get rid of rub. The indexed shifters are less forgiving and must be configured more precisely from the get go, since they are confined to the defined increments of the internal ratchet. There is little wiggle room with indexed shifting, but when set up properly will shift very well, but just differently from friction.
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Old 04-19-11, 12:32 PM
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Haha, I built up an A. Homer Hilsen myself, and the shifting sure ain't perfect.

Aside from shifting, I'd assert that what makes a drivetrain good is a good chain. Free from rust, not totally mucky, sufficiently lubricated, and not worn out. Given that the Casseroll is new, I assume you're good there.

For good shifting, the above posters have covered the important bits really well. One thing I'd add is that the Rivendell folks seem to have a pretty strong strain of perfectionism (they claim 7 hours per bike build), which gets you fastidious cable work and derailer adjustments. The folks who assembled the Casseroll may not have cut the cables to optimum lengths or gotten the interfaces where the housing meets hardware really flat. It's also entirely possible that the cables just need to be trimmed so that the derailers are in better registry with the indexed positions. One more challenging aspect could be the mounting position of the front derailer. I still find this subtle and difficult.

I really don't think that upgrading parts will help your issue. Instead you need to improve the quality of setup. If you're a real perfectionist who is new to bicycle mechanics, you can try to get these things better yourself. Expect at least a couple iterations. But a ruined set of shift cables are a cheap price to pay for the knowledge gained.
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Old 04-19-11, 12:47 PM
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@Bradtx: The shifting just doesn't 'take' sometimes, then a second try shifts me two gears. Also, it's fussier about downshifting while pedaling uphill. Of course I'm careful there even with the Homer, but it's near impossible on the Salsa, even on a gentle grade while letting up on the pressure.

@vaultbrad: The Homer has bar end shifters, friction in the front and indexed in the back (and can be set either way). I've left them set as Riv sent them to me and really like both. Even the indexed side is just perfect.

@FLYcrash: Sounds like you may have nailed the problem, and sadly, perfectionists are harder to track down than component upgrades. You're probably onto something that I should just become one myself, but that's kind of a leap.

Thanks, all, for giving me a handle on the issue.
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Old 04-19-11, 09:57 PM
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I will absolutely advise at least being able to do your own bike work as its fun, less expensive, and you can make sure things get done exacly the way you want them. New shifter cables and housing can be had for cheap to do some experimenting to figure out the issue. I'm not saying that you fall into this category, but I often hear folks talking about their bike like its some kind of mystical machine that is impossible for any but the most competent mechanic to understand, when really they are remarkably simple. Give it some fiddle time and don't be afraid to screw up a couple times.
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Old 04-19-11, 10:13 PM
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I thought your post said that you just bought the Casseroll and it's fresh out of the box [ as in brand spanking new ]?
If this is true is the shop close enough to take the bike back to?
I would take it back and explain that you were having issues w/the shifting.
You could even ask that someone test ride the bike.
I'm sure it's acombimation of your being used to bar ends and the cables maybe not having been prestretched.
Though I echo the joy/satisfaction that comes with learning to do your own repairs [ not to mention time and money savings ] I also think it's important to give the shop a chance to do right by you.
The majority of mechanics in a LBS take pride in what they do and would like to learn when something isn't working or meetin the customers expectation. Give em a chance to make you satisfied and share some helpful info w/you.
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Old 04-20-11, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by SuperFatDave View Post
I thought your post said that you just bought the Casseroll and it's fresh out of the box [ as in brand spanking new] .
I made that assumption from the OP also but, actually all the poster said it was new to them and "purchased complete". They never said it was indeed brand new.

So if it was bought used and had been ridden a lot, there is no end of things that could be worn or improperly adjusted.

Ninamaxine: is the bike brand new or just new to you?

Last edited by HillRider; 04-20-11 at 08:09 AM.
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Old 04-20-11, 08:22 AM
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Good call HillRider!
Waiting for the next response as well.
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Old 04-22-11, 06:43 PM
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It is a brand new bike, only ridden about 25 miles so far. I couldn't find the bike in town at all and had to mail order it, then took it to be tuned up. I'll definitely take it back to the shop and ask about the adjustment. Thanks!
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Old 04-22-11, 09:26 PM
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What makes a drivetrain good? In order of my priorities: Smooth, reliable shifting. Light weight. Quiet running. Low maintenance. If you bought a used bike with a mixed component set you'll have to live with the mistakes of the one who put it together or figure out what's wrong. It could be as simple as a mis-aligned rear derailleur. You'll have to learn the basic things to look for, like the derailleur and chainline alignment, correct chain type and length, condition of sprocket teeth, freewheel/cassette bearing adjustment, etc.
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Old 04-23-11, 06:13 AM
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Cool!
Keep in mind that any and all teething issues w/the bike will pretty much require you taking it to your LBS, since you got it online.
Gives you a chance to build a relationship w/the shop.
Enjoy your ride!
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Old 04-23-11, 06:50 AM
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There is no one thing that makes a drive train good. Everything works together. You can have all low end components and, if everything is right, it'll work smoothly and silently. All Dura Ace but with a just tiny kink in the shift cable, not so good.

The trick is finding the tiny defects - a kink in the shift cable, a derailleur hanger that's not quite aligned, a cable housing that's not quite square. When the shifting is absolute crapola it's probably going to be something fairly obvious and it's easy to fix. When it "works OK, just not to your satisfaction," that's actually a lot harder to diagnose. Frankly, I think that most bike shops are more geared toward making the bike useable than to achieving super smooth drivetrains.
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Old 04-23-11, 07:24 AM
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So, are you going from friction to indexed sti? It may be as simple as getting a complete swing of the shifter.
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