- Published: Wednesday, 28 September 2016 00:00
- Written by Administrator
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As they say during this time of the year, especially in the Philippines, Christmas is just around the corner and with it comes of course, our bonuses and other monetary extras that allow us to spend a lot more than any other season of the year.
And whether we accept it or not, one of the greatest joy in a bicyclist's life is to be able to afford the bike of his or her dream with the extra money we do get during these times. Perhaps, by being born to a life of leisure, a person of such lineage may be able to fulfill this dream quite easily, but then again, for the rest of us, this remains a pipe dream. However, there comes a time, inevitable for some and a rarity for others, when some money comes our way and then, this dream is whetted and we begin to make plans to upgrade those bicycle part or parts we have been planning for decades.
Upgrading bike parts depends of several factors and we would do well with (our partners in life, spouses if you will), to let them know in advance about our plans. There is nothing worse than to have our plans thwarted at the last moment because the missus will not let us buy the rather high end cranks we have been wanting because the bunso needs a new pair of athletic shoes or the panganay has to buy a new set of drawing tools for her art class. It’s the bursting of the bubble that hurts the most and we would be carrying this hurt, well may not for long, but it would be there, lurking and festering each time we look at the old timer cranks on our bike.
But what are upgrades for? The first thing that comes to mind is that upgrades are for either form or function. Form is how the bike looks like and function is how efficient, fast and durable the bike is. What we want to have is a balance between the two but there will always be as much opinion on this as there will be bikers. Some would prefer form over function while others would prefer the other option. But how do we go about upgrading a bike without sacrificing one or the other?
Image from here
There are fancy upgrades that do well to make our bikes look their Sunday’s best while there too, are simple upgrades that one can hardly notice but gives a lot of satisfaction when that weekend ride comes and we head up to the mountain trails or to a century ride somewhere up north or down south.
Upgrades can be about speed – which usually involves having lighter weight options for frames, hubs, wheel sets, crank sets, and other essential components that allow the rider to pedal easier and farther. With an infinite budget (or at least within the targeted budget we have set beforehand,) we can have the lightest bike made up of the lightest but strongest material ever. Titanium, carbon fiber, anyone? There seem to be no end as to the kind of upgrade we can avail of for our beloved bikes.
Upgrades to make our bikes more pleasing to the eye are few but only because the best component upgrades are usually the good looking ones as well. Want “tunog-mayaman” hubs? You can have them at even 4 times the price of the nondescript, non-series ones and they look great too. Dull black or shiny green? We can choose any color that matches our frames and they will look fancy together on the road or mountain trails.
Looking for websites for upgrade recommendations, we found that many of them have tires, bars and saddle, brakes, chainrings and wheels on top of their lists. They may have come up with these items mainly because these are the most common “consumables” of biking.
Now, if there is anything in the bike that we should splurge on, it should be on tires not only because they are the easiest to upgrade, but because tires are our most vulnerable contact with the road, even as it is the only thing between us and the road while hurling at breakneck speed or simply cruising down the bike lane. Tire upgrades may not cost that much as compared with other bike components but they can truly spell the difference when it comes to speed, comfort and grip. The right type of tires should allow us to bike faster when needed, avoid falls in uneven grounds, deflect little rocks and pebbles scattered on the road, glide over smooth pavements or adapt to the kind of surface where we bike.
The best brakes give us the greatest confidence when we are after speed and safety in biking. There is indeed a correlation between great speed and brake performance. We can only be confident in biking faster, especially downhill, if we are confident that our brake setup will hold and not overheat due to constant engagement. An overheated disc brake is like having no brake at all.
Gears are designed to convert our energy into motive power, propelling the forward. They are there to increase and make the most of the power we have on our legs. But gears need to be adjusted to the proper ratios in order to work well and here is where the best cranksets outshine the others. There even oval cranksets that are supposed to increase pedal performance.
But even if we have the latest original branded models from Europe or America with prices that break our banks, or the generic ones imported from China and stamped with local brand names, the truth is, any kind of bike can only get as fast as we can pedal. The weakest link in our efforts to bike faster to work or to any destination is our body. And in order to overcome this, we may also need to upgrade our bodies. So what do we do? For some people, it is wearing the right bicycling apparel which is its own motivation to bike better and farther. Some people on the other hand do try and strive to develop a better functioning body.
So there are upgrades too, for our bodies. But then again, upgrades for our bodies can both be about form and function. Generally, however, for bodies, function follows form. A fit body is usually the best looking ones (with the usual exceptions of course.) With bloated stomach for example, one can hardly be described as fit, and such a person may have a hard time pedaling uphill due to added extra kilos of fat. A leaner, aesthetically better body is able to bike faster uphill because of optimal power to weight ratio as opposed to a heavier one who struggles with every stroke uphill because of inadequate or mismatched power to pull the weight uphill. In this case, not even the lightest carbon fiber frame and titanium based components can help because the weight problem is not in the bike but in the biker himself. So losing some grams of body fat may well be a better, least expensive option than to buy more expensive lighter, titanium versions of common bike components and accesories?
Have money, will upgrade… what then?
Thus so far, we have presented two basic options to upgrade – will you opt to upgrade your bike or will upgrading your body be a better option? Being of fit physical health is no match of course against an unfit body. But for some people, having the best bike parts, accessories and components can help them stay motivated to continue bicycling and thus, may someday succeed in shedding body weight. For some, their dream bicycle becomes a secondary goal when asked to choose between a better body and the best bike.
So come bonus time, which upgrade will you choose? Sharing your thoughts with us in the comments can be one of our great motivations here at the Firefly Brigade.