Tuesday Tune-Up: Finishing Touches – Component ChoiceWritten: June 12, 2012
Bike Tart's Musings, Cockpit - Bars, Stem, Seatpost, How To, Maintenance, New Kit, Setup & Position
Tuesday Tune-Up – Round 3. ‘Finishing Touches’ – Episode 3.
This week: Component choice.
So easily the wrong choice of components can ruin the look of a bike. I quite vividly recall a bike that was sent in to me for a Bike Crit-ique which had followed every one of my own ‘rules’ (matching collar & cuffs, black brake tracks, black saddle rails, matching bar tape & saddle colour) to the letter – except the components he’d chosen introduced colour to the bike completely unnecessarily. It just didn’t look right. In another, more recent example the whole bike was draped in FSA K-Force kit and looked like a rolling FSA advert:
There’s two elements at play here – one of matching components to each other, and one of matching components to the bike. For me the answer to both is as simple as balance, ageing and the consideration of how your bike will most often be photographed.
Take the FSA example above – total overkill where nearly every possible aftermarket component was FSA-branded. Yes they all match each other, but there’s no balance to that matching. All that’s needed is a couple of key components to match to tie the look of the bike together somehow. There’s also the colour balance to watch though, and there was a lengthy post last week which covered the detail on that.
Match the components to suit the age and style of the bike and you can’t go wrong. If you can’t perfectly match the correct age then go with a more modern equivalent – Campag Athena on a classic steel frame for example. On some bikes you can stretch this (Super Record will hardly look awful on an eight year old Colnago), but more often than not it doesn’t work. This Speedvagen is perfect evidence:
Budgetary constraints might be an issue, but if you can afford a frame of this calibre (not to mention wait for it to arrive!) and wheels of that depth then you can at least afford a chainset that matches the bike – regardless of how classic you might consider a square taper Campag chainset to be.
What about how the bike will be photographed?
This is simple because your bike will most often be photographed side-on. Sure, other shots will be taken, but this is the one that counts so match the components to make it look its best for that shot. It is for this reason alone that I am so particular about the ‘collar & cuffs’ – matching the stem to the seatpost. On this front I’ve heard other arguments about how the stem and bars should match, or how all three should match, but I’m afraid collar & cuffs is just now how it should be – again, for the simple reason that from the side-on shot your brand of bar is irrelevant along with the fact that for many components the manufacturer doesn’t even offer a bar (Tune and Thomson both spring to mind).
I don’t claim to be perfect though – I reckon half the problem with my Pegoretti was that visually I couldn’t fall in love with it, and most of that was down to the fact that it needed significant expense to change everything that it needed to make it look right. The wheels didn’t quite suit (they at least needed silver spokes), it needed a Campag groupset and all the black finishing kit on it probably needed to be silver. I even ran it with non-matching collar & cuffs for a while in attempt to better match the style of it! Putting it right was all expense I just couldn’t justify though, and ultimately the frame wasn’t right for me.
Yes there are some, but not many. On a custom bike you might find that the seatpost and stem are custom painted (Baum are a prime example), or that you have a custom stem (the likes of Feather offer this). In these instances not matching the stem and post is acceptable – they’ve either been painted to match which negates any difference in brand, or you just spec the most suitable seatpost to match your custom stem. Folk running integrated seatposts can be excepted too, but it shouldn’t be considered an excuse as there are plenty of matching ISP heads and stem available (Tune, Ritchey [bleurrrrgh], KCNC, Ratio).
And the bars?
As long as they don’t look awful, spec the bars that fit you, that you find comfortable and that you like the feel of. Simple.
Well there’s the saddle for one thing. Fit aside, this is the most important part of the bike to get right – and many would even argue the saddle forms part of the fitting process. But how to get it right visually? Well in truth I’ll let you forgo that, for the most part at least. Brooks and other leather saddles can be incredibly comfortable, but run anything other than traditional wheels or have a bike that’s anything other than steel or raw titanium and they’re struggle to suit the bike. SMP saddles just do not look right on any bike regardless. So yes, focus on comfort, but for the best way to make a saddle look good on a bike run something in keeping with the style of the bike and preferably something with black or carbon saddle rails. Yes it’s another OCD of mine, but it does finish a bike off beautifully.
Finally when it comes to bar, stem and lever alignment – once again, fit is king. However, if you are able to align the bottom edge of your drops to the angle of your stem and get the flattest section of your levers hoods is angled to do the same this offers the cleanest finish on any bike regardless of the bar, stem or levers you run. The Argonaut above is a perfect example of this, and if you check the Speedvagen above again you’ll see what it looks like when this isn’t done.
So there you go – simple consideration for balance, ageing and photography plus a couple of extra pointers. Get it right and your bike cannot fail to look good. Easy.
Next week: Wheels.
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