Member Question: Component Upgrade Priority on a Custom Frame

author : FitWerx
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Question from SSMinnow

 
"I am in the process of buying my first tri bike. Because of my size (4'10", 102lbs), my fitter suggested buying a custom frame from Seven and they will build it up from there (my road bike is also a Seven). As a result, I have an infinite number of choices for components, wheels, aerobars, etc. Are there certain areas that I should consider upgrading more than others? Are there some that are not worth the upgrade? For example, it was suggested that I could go with Velocity or Zipp 404 wheels, but there is a substantial price difference between the two.


To date, I have done sprints, but my plan is to move to Olympics and beyond in the next couple of years."
 

Answer

 

This is a common question we get here at Fit Werx and you are correct that all the choices can be overwhelming. First and foremost you want to make sure your position on the bike is correct and that the shop designing your bike has the proper experience designing custom frames. Unfortunately we’ve done a number of bike fits for customers who purchased custom bikes through other shops where the custom bikes didn’t fit well or any better than stock geometry bikes.

 

Once your proper position is established, we recommend prioritizing the frame and fork next, then wheels and components. Your position will determine which frame and fork will fit you best and will also determine your best fitting aerobar options. Different aerobars will position you differently, so you want to make sure they can accommodate the proper drop, width and reach needed for your position. Your shop should be able to tell you how different bars will affect your position. Once a proper fit is established, different frames offer a variety of strengths in aerodynamics, lateral stiffness, vertical compliance, weight, and durability. Different riders tend to have a range of priorities and needs when it comes to these areas, so it’s best to select a frame that best matches those characteristics most important to you and your goals.


Once you’ve selected your frame and fork your wheels should be your next upgrade consideration. Wheels can upgrade performance in a number of areas such as aerodynamics, stiffness/responsiveness, durability, and weight. It’s important to identify what upgrades are important to you and your goals. For triathletes seeking improved race day performance, an upgrade to a Zipp 404 wheelset can save you up to 90 seconds per hour over a traditional road wheelset such as the Velocity wheels. It’s also very important for a rider your size to take into consideration the depth of the wheels and how handling will be affected in windy conditions. We frequently recommend a shallower front aero wheel such as the Zipp 303 for smaller riders since it exposes less surface area to the wind and the rider will not be as adversely affected by windy conditions. Of course an even shallower rim such as the Velocity Deep V rim will be easier to handle and could make the most sense if you’re not as worried about aerodynamics and more concerned with the best handling wheelset in all conditions.


For component groups, Investing in Ultegra vs Dura Ace and using the savings on the wheelset is well worth the trade-off. You can always upgrade components down the road. Other areas to consider are upgrading the bearings in the bottom bracket and hubs to ceramic and making sure you take advantage of using an aero helmet, using tires with less rolling resistance and making sure your clothing isn’t flapping in the wind.

  

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date: August 7, 2009

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FitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

Author

avatarFitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

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