"CW asks" is a feature series where our seasoned staff answers a range of questions. The series isn't just about delivering knowledge; it's a chance for us to share a bit of our personality and our passion with you. As we dive into some questions, please feel free to send in some questions of your own to email@example.com.
- What three things do you wish you'd known when you first started cycling?
- Does e-bike racing have a place at the most competitive end of our sport?
- If you were given $3,000 right now, which bike would you buy?
- Personality test: If you could keep just one of your bikes, which bike would it be?
- Ride of a lifetime: If you had just one ride left in you where would it be and with whom?
- Who is the greatest cyclist of all time?
- Ride indoors or brave the elements outdoors: how will you tackle the winter season?
- The great sock debate: do socks go over or under leg warmers?
- Tubeless vs. tubed tires on the road?
- SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo? Here's what our staff prefers and why
- What's the 'right' tire width for road and gravel riding?
- What cycling-related items are on our experts' Christmas wish lists?
- Carbon rim brakes, bar ends and straightforward headsets: cycling tech of old we miss
- What are the silliest UCI rules that should be done away with?
Question 15: When it comes to bike parts and accessories, where can you save money and which are worth investing in?
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan, Digital Editor
I wrote an entire feature on this, and I stand by the words I penned at the time: spend on the frame, wheels and tires. Those are the areas you'll see the greatest uplift in performance, with the seatpost and brakes coming in as notable mentions.
Don't bother with expensive handlebars/stems (difficult these days with integrated, proprietary options often required), eschew anything that elevates low weight above all else, bypass ceramic bearings and you can skimp on electronic shifting as it's a 'nice to have' but won't contribute massively to your ride experience, in my opinion.
I'd like to add some caveats on the frame: buy the one you really, really love; it doesn't have to be the most expensive, it just has to fit you and your personality on the bike. I make this comment having swapped onto my 2012 Specialized Amira recently, when my S-Works Aethos was out of action. I absolutely adore my Aethos - every time I look at it I feel a bit excited to get out and ride. However, I've always loved the Amira, too - and it's probably worth £500 all in. Both frames - about a decade apart in production - just suit me, and my riding style: round tubes, nimble, lightweight. It's not really about pouring money into the frame, more, being discerning, packing in as many test rides as it takes to find 'the one' - or, as I advocated in the full article - going custom. Buy once, and buy well.
Anne-Marije Rook, North American Editor
Save your pennies on: disc brake rotors.
Now before you go running off to Amazon or Ali Express to buy some no-name product, l want to add the caveat that I'd advocate for buying on-brand rotors from Shimano, SRAM, Hope, Tektro, TRP or Campagnolo — it just doesn't have to be the top-of-the-line product. The gram-savings are nice but, in my opinion, not worth the extra $40+ dollars per rotor over a mid-range product. In my experience, the brake pads play a bigger role than the rotor. Invest in quality brake pads and stick to a mid-range rotor.
Invest in: a good chamois
Like saddles, a good pair of bib shorts containing a quality chamois is a personal journey. It takes some time to find the one that works for you but when you do, it makes all the difference. Sure, some riders like ultradistance cyclist Lael Wilcox don't need a chamois at all, but most of us aren't so lucky.
Long hours in the saddle can be tough on the body, especially on sensitive areas. A high-quality chamois can provide cushioning and support while preventing chafing and discomfort. Quality fabrics will also wick away moisture to reduce the risk of irritation, saddle sores and other unpleasantness. And a good fitting pair of shorts will prevent chafing and actually provide support to key muscles.
A quality pair of bib shorts is an investment, yes, but the comfort, performance and durability they offer make them worthwhile for any cyclist.
Sam Gupta, Video Manager
Having recently adopted some Hunt Aerodynamist 32’s, I’m inclined to say wheels. These wheels weigh a claimed 1200g; they are undoubtedly very light. I cannot ignore how much rival wheelsets cost to get to this level of lightness. So, considering this wheelset could represent a £1000+ saving compared to rivals I’m confident of saying wheels. However, my pinch of salt here is that I’m yet to spend a proper amount of time riding these wheels, so I could be eating my words after winter.
In terms of what to invest in, I’ll always say tires. Yes, I know, they are horrendously expensive these days and do cost almost as much as tires for your car BUT they are the only component that join you to the tarmac, and you can often find pretty decent deals on tires so finding a discount isn’t hard. Range topping rubber will perform for you in so many ways and it’s something I’ll never cheap out on.
Adam Becket, Senior News and Features Writer
I am an ordinary cyclist. You might think that working for a cycling magazine gifts me this door into the fanciest tech and the most expensive gear, but alas, not really. This means that I have a - relatively - ordinary bike, which I love. I don’t really spend anything more on it than necessary. I’ve already written a column on why I think Shimano 105 is the best groupset, and I am yet to be convinced why I would really need anything more expensive for the riding I do.
The biggest investment on my bike - aside from the frame itself - I’ve made was the wheels and tyres, both things that I feel you need to spend a decent amount of money on. Not just because they’re so central to the whole bike, but the less time you spend fixing punctures the better, and they can give you a huge advantage if you get the right one.
This discussion reminds me, I really need to replace my saddle.
Tom Thewlis - News and Features Writer
I'd say the main thing that's worth spending more on is a decent saddle for obvious reasons!
If you’re going to be putting in some serious miles then you want something that’s more comfortable than what your bike will most likely have come equipped with and that’s going to provide you with the right support while you turn the pedals.
It’s worth trying a few out, like you would do on a bike itself, to find what works best for you and is within your price range. My Trek Emonda which I bought a few years ago came with a pretty run of the mill Bontrager saddle.
There wasn’t anything majorly wrong with it but I decided to spend a bit more on a Fizik offering and wasn’t disappointed. If you can get your saddle right then the rest will fall into place nicely.
As for stuff you can save money on…energy bars! You can easily buy something which does just as good a job from your local supermarket and for half the price at least!
Got questions -- silly or serious-- you'd like for us to tackle? Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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