Assembling New Bikes vs. Old

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I’m putting together a new bike and haven’t ever routed the internal wires for Di2 before. It took a little while to get the hang of it, but after I had it down, it went pretty quick. I was thinking as I was doing it how much different it is assembling a bike now compared to when I first started racing.

Putting a bike together now is really easy compared to the “Campy days”. Just putting the downtube Campagnolo shifters on used to take a while. So many pieces, grease, etc. All you do now is put the levers on the bars and it is done.

Stems and handlebars are a breeze now that the stem have removable faceplates. That was a big upgrade in my opinion.

The bottom brackets too. Cup in each side and done. No more bearings to mess with, grease, adjustment. Easy.

The Di2 wires are a one time deal. You put them in and never again have to mess with them, in theory. Changing cables is a thing of the past. And a good thing too. I hated internally routed derailleur cables. Tensioning them was a hassle. The whole thing was a hassle.

But no matter how much easier the bike setup is now, I do miss the process of tuning a bike before a race.

When I was a kid, working at a bike shop, all the guys that were going to be racing that weekend would get together and nearly completely rebuild our bikes. Bottom brackets, hubs, headsets, all the bearing. Depending on how important the race was, we’d sometimes use oil instead of grease to lube our bearing, knowing we’d have to just take them all back apart and put grease back in them.

I have fond memories of those days. The camaraderie was the reason it was so memorable. And the learning process of how a bicycle really works.

I think it is sort of a lost art. Many guys I ride with now can hardly adjust their derailleurs, let alone rebuild a hub. There is a huge advantage, being a bike racer and knowing exactly what is going on with your bike. Hearing an odd sound and being able to identify it is really important, especially riding off-road. If you don’t know the sounds of your bike, start listening and learning them. It’s important.

Anyway, I guess I’m a little old school in my thoughts, but pretty practical and modern in my practices. Believe me, it a few years, we’ll be saying we used to actually have mechanical cables that ran from the shifters to the derailleurs, and the young guys will look at you like you’re a 100 years old.

Lots of parts in an old Campy downtube shifter.  I, many a time, had to rebuild these for guys that put them together in the wrong order.

Lots of parts in an old Campy downtube shifter. I, many a time, had to rebuild these for guys that put them together in the wrong order.

The wires and such don't seem quite right, but after it is assembled, it looks and works so much better.

The wires and such don’t seem quite right, but after it is assembled, it looks and works so much better.

21 thoughts on “Assembling New Bikes vs. Old

  1. Robert

    Setting up friction shifting couldn’t have been easier, install cable, pull tight, adjust limit screws and go.

  2. The Cyclist

    Nothing personnal but whenever I see these silly electric wires connecting the rear mech to the rear chainstay I just wanna get my wire cutters out and cut that crap.

  3. Calvin Jones

    The age old dilemma. We “love the past”….we just don’t want to live it. But I’m still running the downtube friction, but using the superior Simplex Super LJ,

    (Still have a bag of the plastic washer that would wear and then cause the screw to loosen.)

  4. Larry T.

    Yeah, it all works great once it’s all hooked up – until it doesn’t. Get out your electronic diagnostic tool and your spare shifters, front and rear derailleurs, wiring kit, etc. Find out which part has failed, and replace it with a new one. Don’t have new ones on hand? Poor you.
    Weren’t you the fellow ranting awhile back about having stuff you could FIX?
    Can’t help but notice Vincenzo Nibali is still using mechanical bits despite his sponsor offering electronic. Probably remembers Wiggins throwing his electronic bike to the roadside last year or Evans claiming an electronic malfunction caused him to drop a step on the Giro podium.
    For me there’s something special about the tactile feel of mechanical bits. Fly/ride/drive by wire doesn’t much interest me.

  5. Rad Renner

    Somehow the old stuff made you feel more connected to your bike, like you could really feel it when it was in that perfect state of tune. Maybe it was the steel frames, all the cup-and-cone bearings, the tension of the shifters, or the heavy springs in the brakes, but it all had a very different feel than today. And, yeah, those Simplex Super LJ shifters are still my favorite.

  6. David L

    Probably a dumb question, but does a bike frame, like your Eriksen,that is built pre-drilled for Di2 internal cables still have all cable posts, etc. needed for mechanical shifting?

  7. KU

    This is my biggest pet peve as a mechanic: complaints that bikes are getting “too complicated”. If you can work an iPhone you can set up Di2. How is plug and play more difficult that tuning tension on a precisely actuated cable system? Brand new high end bikes fit together like Legos. If you don’t work with it every day, you have no room to criticize its so called “complexity”.

  8. Bill K

    Remember the old Nags with the clover leaf cut out in the bottom bracket shell??
    The only thing keeping your bearings dry on a rainy ride, was a silly plastic expander tube.
    I could live with downtube shifters but I would never go back to loose bearing bottom brackets.

  9. Gummee!

    I remember the days of re-packing bearings after every mtn bike ride that involved a stream crossing where the water went over the hubs and/or BB.

    On one hand, it was nice to know that your stuff was well-lubed, and well-adjusted. On the other, what a PITA.

    Brinneled headsets? Thing of the past for most of the people reading this blog. Thank doG.

    I still have the old BB and HS tools I bought when I first started riding. I doubt I’ve used the BB tools in over a decade. I’m not going to get rid of em tho. …you just never know!


  10. Mark

    The thing that sucks the most about new stuff is cost. I am as old as you Steve, when I started racing MTB s 700$ could buy a competitive bike . Now 700$ doesn’t buy shit.

  11. Jon Nelson

    KU your right. Bikes today are far from complicated. All you do is screw components on to/ into your frame. If you can operate an iphone you probably could be a modern day “mechanic”. Sadly the days are gone of being what I consider a “real” mechanic.
    Remember the days of a feeling of accomplishment after you installed and finely tuned a bottom bracket and headset. Now it’s cartridge and BB-whatever. Install your derailleurs and plug in the wires. No thanks!!

  12. Dennis

    Well, WE have become dinosaurs. But, like I tell my kids. “it’s the horse that wins the race, NOT the chariot.”
    I still love working on old bikes, because they have character!! there is a lot of finessing that must be done on these classics. And that’s what makes them far more engaging than just slapping the parts on a bike and generally its ready to go.

  13. Gary

    Plug and play kind of. I have been building up my bikes all my life. I just built up a new Ibis Ripley and it took me almost all day because I had not worked with many of the components before. Cable routing, ethirteen crank and BB, new shimano clutch rear derailleur, dropper post. I had the skills to do it, but had to spend the time to make sure I was setting things up right (thanks youtube).

    I think the di2 stuff looks cool and would totally build a bike with it. Then again is would be cool to have a retro bike with Campy super record.

  14. Ken

    I just spent last evening setting up my Google Chromecast. Worked; didn’t work; apple privacy settings demands multiple passwords; reload app; worked, then didn’t work. Saying it’s as easy that makes me want to go all the way back to fixed gear!

  15. Max

    I just feel like a bike starts to lose it’s soul when you start adding the electronics. We now have full suspension bikes with electronic sensors in the shocks. When the front wheel hits an obstacle the rear shock adjusts for it automatically. Kind of cool? Yes….sigh….but what is left for a skilled rider. Electronics have all but killed motorcycle road racing imo. Too much throttle in or out of a turn? No problem! Traction control takes over. Same thing for racing in the rain. All they have to do is flip a switch and it changes the engine mapping to a “program” that is preset for wet conditions. The fastest guys are the ones who can find tune their electronics the best so that they have to put in the least amount of effort come race day. Lame!

    I only ride single speeds. Guess I’m just more of a purist in a lot of respects.

  16. Mark Ehlers

    The same thing has happened with photography, but much earlier Several years go, I joined the retro-grouches and went back to shooting film (shot both film and digital, actually). I even rebuilt my old darkroom and got back to souping my own film and prints. It was a good time. I liken the tactile experience of loading film to the same as re-packing my Campy hubs.

    I’m back to shooting digital again. Mostly because I spend too much time riding these days to be spending them in the darkroom.

  17. Wildcat

    I love the new stuff. Did friction, loved it when I got index, and now I’m glad my son won’t have to live in a cyclist world without STI/the like. The only thing that always changes, 100% of the time – is change itself.


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