Groupset, wheels and finishing kit
Groupset, wheels and finishing kit
The choice of bike is made, you’ve got your money and now it’s time to fine-tune your decision before you hand over your hard-earned cash.
The majority of off-the-peg bikes are built and specced to a particular price point and each bike brand has a model to fit that price, normally based around a Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo groupsets. You can read more about the intricacies of ‘the big three’ and their respective groupset hierarchies, in our buyer’s guide.
If you’ve researched carefully you’ll probably have noticed that the main components like wheels and groupsets follow a trend of specification relative to that price point. For example, you’ll typically find a Shimano 105 groupset on bike priced between £1,200 to £2,000, though that’s not a hard and fast rule.
Lookout for mismatched groupsets. A bike manufacturer will often substitute in a more affordable component (often the chainset or brakes), rather than using a complete groupset, in order to hit a price point. There’s often nothing wrong with these components per se (the ever-popular FSA Gossamer chainset is frequently found on mid-range bike) but we prefer to see a complete groupset.
Wheels are also often a money-saving exercise for bike manufacturers, and yet next to the frame, the wheelset is the next most important item.
A lightweight set of hoops is likely to be a far more effective than any component upgrade, so look out for decent wheels on the spec sheet, or consider an upgrade further down the line.
Don’t expect anything too fancy on the tyre front either as the money savings here can be quite dramatic. A set of zippy tyres is an easy way to add some zing to a new bike if it was originally specced with dull, cheap rubber.
Purchasing an entry-level bike is going to have a weight penalty, but that does not mean that it won’t be fun to ride. A well set-up road bike that’s also the correct size and fettled within a hairs-breath will still be competitive enough to get you through the rigours of a sportive training schedule and events (and the odd bash at racing, too) for a good number of seasons.
Contact points like saddles and pedals are often a personal choice and with a few weeks riding under your belt only then should you consider if you can live with the original saddle or not.
Many good bike shops will have test saddles available, which you can try before you buy. This is assuming you’ve also bought a decent pair of padded cycle shorts, of course. Handlebars and handlebar tape shouldn’t pose any significant problem or require an instant upgrade.
Sportive or endurance bikes are on the whole going to be fitted with a compact chainset and a cassette that offers a wide range of gear options to get you up those steep hills without too much bother.
Triple chainsets (three chainrings rather than the more popular two) are normally saved for the touring market, although some entry-level bikes can come with a three-ring option.
With the wide range of gears now available, there should be no real need for a novice rider to select anything other than a compact chainset. A standard double (with 53-39t chainrings, rather than the 50-34t rings of a compact) is normally reserved for racers and stronger riders, and if you’re planning on tackling lumpy terrain or hilly sportives then consider whether you really need a standard double.
Semi-compact, 52-36t chainsets are growing in popularity with riders who want to seek the middle-ground between a double and a compact.
Remember, the frame is at the heart of your bike, so it’s important not to be blinded by a gleaming spec sheet if the chassis doesn’t work for you. Once the frame’s in place, you can look to swap the wheels, tyres and other components for more expensive and lighter upgrades as they wear out and you save up the necessary cash – as long as you’ve bought a bike that houses a frame that’s worth the money that you might need to throw at it.
But let’s not forget the one thing that really makes the difference to any bike, at any price point. The ultimate upgrade is you getting out and riding your new bike to get stronger, fitter and healthier. Good luck!