Buying the best value parts

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by Rezillo, 7 Sep 2007.

  1. Rezillo

    Rezillo TwoSheds


    I use a Dawes Discovery 601 for general fitness and leisure riding for trips of 20 to 50 miles. I recently changed my cassette and chain but got rather confused as to what were the best value replacements for me. I could buy a number of compatible cassettes and didn't mind spending more money to get a better quality part that would last longer. However, it seemed that the more expensive cassettes (and chains) were being sold on being more lightweight than the cheaper ones but with no indication of whether they were more robust, or even as robust!

    A Shimano HG50 (the original one on the bike) was £19 but the next one up in the range was £36 and advertised as having lightweight titanium and extra drilled holes to cut weight down. Well, fine if you want a lighter part but is it any better in terms of smooth gear changing, resistance to wear etc. for nearly twice the price?

    I'm not that worried about weight as I'm not looking to scrape those last few seconds off my times and I tend to stuff my rack pack with whatever produce the roadside fruit and veg stalls sell along my routes. Eventually I'm going to have to replace other parts as they wear - pedals, chainrings, wheel bearings or whatever. Do I have a wild stab at parts that cost low to middling prices or risk paying much more for engineering that is aimed at saving those last few grammes of weight rather than improving overall quality?


  2. Tim Bennet.

    Tim Bennet. Entirely Average Member

    S of Kendal
    Hi John and welcome to the forum.

    I think many of us do wonder where getting 'better quality' turns into just getting less weight. I'm not sure about the exact component serial numbers, but I've always believed that the trade off is somewhere around 105 / Ultegra with the Shimano road stuff and LX / XT in the mountainbike ranges. Having said that, Mrs TB has had a XTR front gear mech (new style - bottom swing?) that has lasted years whereas I have been through no end of XT versions of the same thing! But I'm still not convinced that applies to everything.

    Some things like chainrngs do wear better up to the XT sort of level, but do they wear twice as well as those half the price? I'm not sure.

    More expensive tyres do seem to be grippier than cheap tyres. But do they last as long?

    Although I'm keen to support my local bike shop, it's hard to ignore the value of online stores such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cyles, if you are keen to save money.

    Having read through this, I think the simple answer would have been to say 'I dont know!"
  3. OP

    Rezillo TwoSheds

    Thanks Tim,

    Well, even if you don't know, there's some comfort for me not being alone in wondering what it's all about!

    The only conclusion I've come to so far is to look at what the bike came with, which seems to be a mixture of fairly good drive train components and cheap and cheerful everything else, and to go with bits that are least as good but no more than 30 to 50% pricier.

  4. P.H

    P.H Über Member

    My theory;
    Drivetrain longevity is directly related to maintenance and cleaning regimes. The nickel plate finish on the dearer chains and cassettes are easier to keep clean. So, if you’re prepared to look after it, the dearer stuff should last longer. If you abuse it the dearer stuff will wear the same as the cheapest. I know people whose drivetrains are always gleaming and who get years of use from quality equipment. I stock up on cheap chains (£7 ea) and cassettes (£11) at York Rally. Squirt a bit of 3 in 1 oil at them now and then and rarely bother cleaning, they last anything from 5 to 10 thousand miles, I’m happy with that. SRAM make chains and cassettes that are Shimano compatible, they are usually a bit cheaper and IMO better.

    Other components - derailleurs are pretty primitive mechanisms, I’ve had Alivio to Ultegra and can’t tell the difference. Shifters do vary, much nicer feel with the dearer ones I’ve had, same with cables. The quality of bearings can vary with price, both the bearings and the seals, dearer headsets and hubs can be worth it. Rims are another component that is best considered as a consumable, a good wheel builder is the most important choice. Brakes, dearer pads and cables are worth paying for, levers and the brakes themselves are much the same (within the same type). Tyres totally confuse me, I’ve had everything from excellent to dreadful and price hasn’t always been a factor.

    I have no scientific evidence for any of this, only personal experience. When I’m buying something that’s likely to last decades, I’m prepared to spend twice the price for a minor improvement and usually go for mid range. On consumables I need convincing that it’s worth spending more than the minimum.

  5. alecstilleyedye

    alecstilleyedye nothing in moderation Moderator

    i normally ride tiagra/sora (depending on which bike) and the difference ain't big. rode a bike recently with ultegra shifters and guess what, bugger all difference.

    there's no point imho spending a load of cash on lightening the bike unless there's not much more weight to come off the rider.
  6. OP

    Rezillo TwoSheds

    The bit I have trouble with as a relative newcomer to doing all this (at 50, I've only been cycling for a couple of years since I stopped at 16) is working out what bits actually make a difference, and it's interesting hearing your opinions. I've already gone from a Subway One to the 601 and now I'm looking wistfully at a flat bar Planet X Uncle John. However, the 601 is in all honesty meeting all my needs so I'm left wondering if a few quid more on parts as they start to wear out is more sensible, especially as my mileage has gone up to 3k a year (and my weight down by 4 stone).

  7. Keith Oates

    Keith Oates Janner

    Penarth, Wales
    Rezillo welcome to the forum and I hope you like it and return for more, There is an old saying of 'you get what you pay for'. This is probably true with bike parts up to a point but the very top of the range stuff is mostly to satisfy the out and out racers, either road or MTB. I think Tim has got it about right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  8. barq

    barq Senior Member

    Birmingham, UK
    I think what you say about bearings is true of rear mechs. Compare an XT mech with Deore and you'll see that the former uses sealed bearings whereas the latter uses a bushing. I'd pay the extra for the XT. But then I wouldn't step up to XTR - it's a huge price jump to loose a tiny bit of weight. But it is hard to make direct comparisons because it can be difficult to compare like with like, and there is the extra confounding factor of how well is the rear mech adjusted?

    There clearly are some areas where spending more cash doesn't make sense: With disc brakes the pad manufacturers just buy in braking compounds from whoever is cheapest. So even with the big brands you have no idea of the quality you are getting. So there the best policy is to buy the cheapest, because spending more guarantees nothing.

    Funny how we all choose to spend out money isn't it? :blush:
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