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I received a used road bike that functions, but not well. I completed a triathlon and lots of practice rides, but wanting to upgrade the components.

The crankset is ultegra 6500/170m. The shifters and FD are ultegra (prob 6500 too?) and the RD is tiagra. Not positive about the cassette (is there models markings there somewhere?)

My goal is to slowly upgrade (based on budget) to either 105 5800 or ultegra 6800.
1) can I upgrade the shifters, FD, and RD and keep my existing crankset and cassette for upgrade later? 2) is there an upgrade path that lets me upgrade a few components at a time to eventually get me to a modern groupset? 3) best place to get affordable parts?

The frame is in great shape. Aluminum with carbon fork. Bike weighs in at 19 lbs, fully loaded. Shimano rims, etc. Would prefer to upgrade this bike.

Thank you

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    Components are expensive. Better to save up for better used bike or new bike. – paparazzo Oct 24 '15 at 16:56
  • What do you mean by "not too well"? There is a good chance you could fix the bike by replacing a few wearing parts. – ojs Oct 24 '15 at 17:05
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    I brought it to my LBS for service. They did the work, but 1) the bike sounds like a bunch of chipmonks fighting at 15mph from the RD. 2) the squeek goes away if I push the right shifter in about half an inch 3) the bike fails to shift consistently from low to high on the front crankset. – BigDogTX Oct 24 '15 at 17:19
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    Yeah, go to a different LBS -- you should have near perfect shifting with that level of components if they're not misadjusted. – Batman Oct 24 '15 at 17:41
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    For optimal shifting, let the chain be your guide. An 11sp 6800 chain is thinner than a 9sp 6500 chain. So if you upgrade to 6800, everything that the chain touches should ideally be 6800. So in terms of doing things piecemeal, it doesn't really work. You do have some wriggle-room when it comes to mixing different components, but going from 9sp to 11sp is quite a big jump. Note that there's no problem mixing 11sp 105 with 11sp Ultegra, if you can use that as an upgrade path – PeteH Oct 24 '15 at 18:35
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I received a used road bike that functions, but not well.

Just to point out: If shifting works bad it’s usually a problem with friction in the cables, bad adjustment, bent hanger or worn chain/cassette. Even a relatively cheap Tiagra group works flawlessly when properly installed and adjusted.

I don’t see many options for a partial upgrade because the cassette-spacing has gotten narrower from 9-speed to 10-speed to 11-speed. So you can’t use 11 or 10-speed shifters with 9-speed cassettes or vice-versa.

Anyways, you’d probably have to install new cables and re-adjust for every step so it doesn’t make much sense.

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    11 speed will also likely need a new rear wheel as well as the cassette spacing is wider, requiring a compatible free hub body which will require a compatible hub. – Rider_X Oct 25 '15 at 3:08
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The very first thing you want to do is to (try to) get the bike working well in it's current configuration. As you describe it, it is not a bad bike – identify what by mean by "but not well" and adjust (or have adjusted) the components that are responsible. Then once the bike is running as well as it can, start thinking about what can be done to make it run better.

Then be clear about what your goals are. A "modern groupset" won't necessarily be a huge improvement over what you have now – maybe an extra cog or two, but before spending the money it would be good to know that you actually need that. If you get the bike running well then you can start saying things like, "I'd really like smaller steps between gears," or "I feel like I need a wider overall range." Based on that information you can make some informed decisions (or ask some focused questions) about what you need to change or upgrade.

As a starting point I'd look at the components that are most likely to wear out – your chain and the cassette. They may need to be replaced anyway and when worn they have a negative impact on shifting and the "drivetrain experience."

If you need help sorting out the problems you're having, describe them as be you can – you could edit this question or add a new one. Depending on the sort of problems you're having, you may want to break them into several questions (for example, brake and shifting problems would make sense to split up). Clearly stated single problems are easier to answer so you're more likely to get useful responses.

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    Upgrade chain and cassette first does not address the question. 6500 and 6800 are not chain or cassette compatible. – paparazzo Oct 24 '15 at 20:14

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