We all love a good makeover story. Houses, cars, and, let’s be honest- people. We root for the underdog, we cheer for the misunderstood, we hold our breath when they pull the screen away to reveal the facelift (of an old neglected building, of course). We can’t help ourselves. It’s just so darn satisfying.
Well, what if we said you have the perfect makeover potential sitting right there. No, not you. Over there. That bicycle sitting in your corner/ garage/ backyard/ parent’s garage/ back alley/ porch. How did we know you have a bicycle sitting in your corner/ garage/ backyard/ parent’s garage/ back alley/ porch? Because we’re very, very smart. And also because we hear it all the time.
It goes something like this- You have a bike and you like it, maybe even love it, but you don’t ride it. You don’t know why exactly- it’s not very comfortable, it’s not very convenient- but you don’t. You do want to ride a bike but you don’t want to get a new bike because you have a perfectly good bike already. Sound familiar? Thing is, it’s not a perfectly good bike...not yet, anyways.
So, let’s change that. Let's turn that bike you have into the the bike you ride.
BEGIN WITH A TUNE UP
Visit your friendly bike shop and get a tune up. They’ll clean up the drivetrain, true the wheels and adjust the brakes and derailleurs to get rid of those grinding, squeaking, rubbing noises. A little tune up goes a long way in making your bicycle more enjoyable to ride, so start here before deciding what to replace.
GET TOUCHY FEELY
The touch points are where you interact with the bike so these are the places you’ll notice improvements the most.
Saddle Make sure it fits, make sure it’s comfortable, and make sure it’s sexy. A saddle makes a big difference in how those rides feel and a nice saddle can instantly transform the look of a bicycle. As a general rule, steer clear of soft and squishy. I know, it feels nice to squeeze with your hand but squishy means more surface area between your saddle and your buns which means more rubbing and pressure which will not feel nice in the end.
We love The Brooks B17 saddle. Leather saddles have been around for ages, like 100+ years, and they’re still making them and people still love them. Why? They’re classic and comfortable and they only get better with age. I'm not going to sugar coat it- there’s a break in period. It starts off like a rock but slowly becomes a nice leather hammock for your bottom. It’s why people take their Brooks saddle with them when they sell a bike and put it on the new one. Trust us on this.
Grips + Bar Wrap Most of your weight ends up in the saddle but you’d be surprised how much also ends up on your hands and the grips. Pick out something to you like that feels good and remember: the grips are to your saddle what your belt is to your shoes - it looks best when they match but, hey, rules are made to be broken and you’re a rebel with your own sense of style so just get what you think looks good.
Here are a few we love:
Ergon grips: maybe not the most timeless looking (unless you go for the Brooks leather ones) but just give them a try. The flat paddle-like design distributes the weight better making them really comfortable.
Natural cork: inexpensive, comfy and has a nice look. Also you can get some shellac and go nuts giving it a nice gloss and protection from water. There is both wrap and grips and they’re all good. For a little upgrade go for the Portuguese cork grips.
Newbaums Oh boy do we love our Newbaums. So many colors. So affordable. You can change the colors weekly if you want. They don’t hold up as long as other types but again, they’re inexpensive so it’s not so bad. Just an excuse to change those colors.
Pedals These aren't as sensitive to your comfort as the saddle or grips but don’t underestimate the comfort of a nice platform pedal and don’t miss the opportunity to dress things up a little.
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
Literally. Here's how to make that ride a little smoother.
Tires Stepping up a size or two on tires can add a lot of comfort to the ride. When you go bigger, you can run tires at a lower pressure which means a softer ride. If you’re converting your bicycle into a commuter, especially in LA, remember the state of our roads... try and get as big as you can fit under there.
Handlebars We see this a lot. A beautiful vintage road bike past its years of performance racing with perfect patina and charm out the wazoo, but it’s still built for maximizing output and aerodynamics. Throw some upright bars on it, a set of city levers and some comfy grips and save a fortune on your chiropractor bills.
Drivetrain If that bike has been sitting around for awhile, odds are things aren't spinning and shifting as smooth as they used to. Hopefully the tune up did the trick but sometimes old parts just don’t hold up and a new derailleur, chain or shifters can turn that gritty grinding feeling into something more like smooth butter.
"You do want to ride a bike but you don’t want to get a new bike because you have a perfectly good bike already. Thing is, it’s not a perfectly good bike...not yet, anyways. So, let's change that."
After this, it's all about adding those pretty details, likes lights and bells, and getting extra function and utility with bags and baskets. We'll talk more later about dressing up your bicycle for your lifestyle, but in the meantime you can catch up with our last blog post about making sure your bicycle is the best bicycle for what you want to do.
WHEN IT MAKES CENTS (IN DOLLARS)
Before we go, let's talk budget. Maybe you only have a little bit to invest in this bicycle of yours and you're wondering how to get the most bang for your buck. Maybe you're not sure if it's worth putting money into at all. Here's how we'd breakdown priorities:
First $100: Tune up + new grips + a bell
$200: (Everything above) + a saddle + a combination of tires, bags or a new handlebar set up depending on your needs.
$300: Same as above, but go for a little better quality all the way around
$400: We still recommend fixing up vs. new. A new bike around this price point will cost you more to maintain than it did to buy.
$500-700: Now you can get some really cool fixer-upper bikes and put some good stuff into them.
$700+: Start considering a new bike but you still may be able to stretch your dollar further by getting a really cool old bike and shining it up nice.
$1000+: Ok, at this point, it better be something classic and/or rare otherwise it’s time to pull the trigger on a new bike.
Remember to factor in the cost of labor for installation and buy this stuff from your local shop. Some shops, like ours, even offer free install for most accessory purchases, but if you bring in a box from Amazon, you're gonna be charged for install and every bolt necessary.
Plus, c'mon, support small business Folks.