My current bike is a Ribble Winter/Audax Frame, which is an aluminium frame with carbon forks. I’m aiming for around 65miles/day on the ride.
I chatted to the technician in Ronde (Andy?) about whether it would be possible to do the ride on my current frame, and the main issues that came up were comfort, carrying-capacity, gear ratios and how easy it would be to fix wheels..
Aluminium frame plus carbon fork equals stiffness, which means bumps come through to your hands/bum. A short (aka racy) geometry makes it good for turning, but less clearance between feet and mudguards / panniers – I’m already banging my feet on my front mudguard when I turn. No ‘tweaking’ will change the underlying material or size of the bike, I’m stuck with it, or I change bikes.
The front forks won’t take panniers. I don’t know that I do want front panniers, but the option would probably be useful, especially if camping stays on the cards — need to price out the camping/non-camping options. However, this doesn’t mean the bike can’t used — I could simply replace the existing forks with steel ones with eyelits.
Also, at present I can’t fit a rear pannier, because my rear brake is a side-pull, and the arm that guides the cable in is in the way of the arm that connects the pannier to the frame. So, I’d need to change my rear brakes. Ronde’s technician guy (who’s name escapes me right at this second) mentioned that canti-levered brakes were actually more powerful than calipered (which are what side-pulls are an example of). Not that power is a big problem for me at the moment — braking problems are at present more due to loss of grip between tire and road surface than about not being able to stop the tire spinning.
I’m riding a standard two-ring chainset (ie 52/39), with an 11-25 cassette on the back. The technician recommended switching to a compact chainset (50/34) and a 12-28 or 12-30 cassette, giving an option of an almost 1-1 ratio 34:30 for longer sloggier hills. That change could be done on the existing bike or a new one. He also recommended switching to the 105 set because he thought the performace would be noticably better, but that Ultegra/Dura-Ace would wear through too quickly. Avoid SRAM because rarer, so would be slightly more difficult to get parts for. Not much difference in availability between Shimano and Campag. Some people have a strong preference for one brand than the other (I’ve only ever used Shimano, so don’t know).
Strongly recommended, above all, changing my existing wheels, which are machine built, narrow-guage, to something hand-built and wider. Hand-built means it can be hand-repaired, especially so if it is a simple J-style spoke. Hand-repaired means things like getting a buckled/bent wheel or broken spoke can be fixed by me, if needs be, or easily by a shop. Also a fatter rim, with a greater tire volume, will give me a little more comfort in the ride.
Existing wheels need replacing (~£200). Fronts forks need replacing (~£100). Drivetrain probably needs replacing (£400), or at least new non-calipered rear brake (~£20), and new chainset/cassette (£110/£40), ie ~£170. And still frame won’t be ideally sized (feet!). Also, as an aside, buying bits for a new bike can’t go on cycle2work (though I might use the scheme to buy a racer, if I could make use of the Ribble, so not really money ‘lost’). Plus a pannier rack for ~£40 (another £30 for front?) So it is £540–£770 for the upgrades. Whereas a new bike might be around £1500 all in (and that’s more like £1100 after getting on to the cycle2work, more on that next). So, a new bike is definitely more, but maybe not crazy amounts more..