I'm currently using a 5 year-old Giant Escape R3 (2015)(https://www.giant.co.jp/giant15/bike_datail.php?p_id=00000060) hybrid bike that I bought used (down to $400 from $500 retail price) from a bike shop at almost-new condition (I suspect it was a display/trial model). Thus far I've replaced most of the cables once or twice, cable housing and chain once, and have replaced 2 broken drive-side spokes from the rear wheel (trued by eye). I've also swapped out the mostly bald stock Maxxis Detonator tires with a pair of Schwalbe Marthon GreenGuards. Before then I've had to patch up at least 3 rear tire punctures and am still using all-stock tubes since they still seem to hold air just as well. I'm not religious about cleaning, but I do general maintenance every couple of months particularly after the rainy seasons.

At this point I'm wondering if the following "upgrades" would be worth it:

  • Wheels: Swap stock Spinforce (no, not really) Lites to an entry-level Shimano set like the RS100 ($100). They're the same price as the R501's but I prefer the simpler look (11S spacers also come free).
  • Inner tubes: Swap patched up brandless inner tubes for something fresher like a pair of Panaracer RAir's (2x$11). Do these butyl/latex hybrids hold air for long?
  • BB: Replace questionable VP BC73 with a Shimano BB-UN55 ($19). I do get the occasional clicking/knocking feel when pedalling really hard uphill, but don't notice any play when wiggling by hand.
  • Crankset: Replace stock Prowheel 48-38-28 crank for a similar spec Shimano Acera M361 ($44).

That's as far as the more reasonable changes go. However, I'm also wondering if it would be nice to actually upgrade the groupset ever so slightly (newer Altus, Acera, Alivio mix). Like changing to a 9-speed cassette and replacing the old Altus EF51 shifters with something that doesn't wreck shifter cables. Note that the rear derailleur is also pretty banged up after a few rainy day crashes, but still works mostly fine.

I do eventually plan on buying a higher-end road bike for long trips and commuting, but will retain this one for grocery runs and whatnot. Though this will definitely still be my commuter for at least the rest of the year. Already picked out a pannier rack and some new grips with bar ends.

Any advice or recommendations are appreciated!

  • 1
    If you're doing the labor, and you're only going to drop about $200 on the upgrade, you're probably coming out slightly ahead. Apr 17, 2019 at 12:13
  • 3
    The panaracer tube is not a hybrid, it is simply a lightweight butyl tube like many others on the market: bicyclerollingresistance.com/specials/panaracer-r-air
    – Andy P
    Apr 17, 2019 at 12:32
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    It would help to know the target we are shooting for. What does your current setup do or not do that you would like to change?
    – David D
    Apr 17, 2019 at 13:13
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    A bike 5 years is not "aging" it is nicely bedded in with many years of life left. Some of us ride 30+ year old bikes!
    – Criggie
    Apr 17, 2019 at 22:20
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    Generally spoken shop-bought single spare parts are costly compared to a new bike, so replace only what's necessary. Apr 17, 2019 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


Cable replacements, chain, tubes, all those are "consumables" Even spoke replacement is not an uncommon problem to have periodically. A bike isn't a cellphone to be discarded when its a bit tired - periodic maintenance is easy.

Consider that if you were using a car, there would be oil/filter changes and fuel, perhaps a light bulb every couple years and a windscreen once a decade, plus whatever checks and tests your country requires to licence vehicles. These are all "the cost of using the tool" over time.

Now - your specific points:

Latex tubes will be flat every morning - they're not good at retaining air. But they're lighter than Butyl rubber so good for racing.

I've never heard of latex/butyl hybrid tubes. Could be you're thinking about butyl tubes with liquid latex sealant inside them, ready to seal up holes as soon as they happen. These are heavier again than plain tubes, but can help if you puncture.

Also you can't patch latex tubes - one puncture and they're useless.

Generally speaking, the cost of upgrading components is much higher over time. If your existing component is worn out (say the rear derailleur was busted) then the cost of a like-for-like replacement is the sunk cost, and the difference to a higher spec one is the opportunity cost, or the "cost of upgrade" which is the perfect time to do so.

The common wisdom is first you need to be comfortable on your bike. That means you have the saddle and bars and ergonomics sorted out to suit yourself.

Once that's done, tyres (tires) are the first best upgrade, followed by the whole wheelset. You probably don't want to splurge on top-shelf wheels like Zip, the benefits over mid-range product are marginal, and you'll never be able to leave your fancy bike locked up alone, ever.

Schwalbe Marathon anything tyres are puncture-resistant commuter tyres, which is fine. If your goal is to go fast then race-oriented tyres like Continental GP series would be faster and lighter, but at an increased risk of punctures. Check out http://www.bicyclerollingresistance.com/ for many comparisons there.

As for crankset/BB - I'd only change if the chainrings are worn, or the BB bearings are not smooth. Your existing BB cartridge should spin smoothly with no play, so only replace it if there's a problem. $19 for a replacement cartridge unit is cheap, but that shimano one should be good for 5,000-25,000 km depending on weather.

The single best upgrade for a commuter bike is... Fenders (aka mudguards). If you ride in the rain, then life is so much nicer when you get there cleaner.

  • Lots of good info, thanks! So, for instance is it worth it to go from 5-year old stock Spinforce Lites (I assume, sub-entry-level) to a Shimano RS100 (entry-level)? I can't say if the sidewalls are worn out enough or not, but they do look pretty beat up overall just from everyday wear. The hubs seem fine, though I've never serviced them.
    – Enzo
    Apr 17, 2019 at 12:53
  • I don't know anything about the spinforce wheels, but i strongly doubt the RS100's (or any other entry level wheel) would be a meaningful upgrade (other than perhaps looking pretty).
    – Andy P
    Apr 17, 2019 at 13:20
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    @Enzo I hadn't heard of the RS330's before, had to google them. On first inspection they don't appear to be a particularly nice wheelset coming in at >2kg they seem like an entry level wheel at a non-entry level price point. Whether weights are 'noticeable' is a contentious topic, as maths (and experimentation) shows that 1kg is only worth ~1min on a 1000m climb
    – Andy P
    Apr 17, 2019 at 15:16
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    My personal take is that the majority of bike upgrades can be considered vanity projects in the vast majority of cases. Unless racing, a few seconds here or there makes no difference. And at the end of the day its still the engine that counts - I'm in fairly decent shape and I was passed on a climb in the dolomites last summer by a pro on his knobby tyred mtb that made me look like I was standing still.
    – Andy P
    Apr 17, 2019 at 15:20
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    @PeterA.Schneider Lighter wheels feel faster while riding - if you have access to spare wheels then swap them and try it out. They accelerate easier, and less precession on turns makes them turn easier. Plus they're a relatively simple swap.
    – Criggie
    Apr 17, 2019 at 22:17

To answer the 'is it cost effective?' question you have to know what you are getting for the upgrades. Are replacement components going to be lighter, more efficient or more durable? You could say that if you can't feel the difference then there is no point in upgrading a component.

However, if you enjoy the process of upgrading your bike, and the upgrades make you feel better about it, that's a legitimate return on investment too - especially if you can find good deals or good condition used parts.

If the Shimano wheels are substantially lighter they seem like a reasonable upgrade, especially as you could probably sell them as a separate component if you eventually sell the bike (with it's original wheels on).

I'd replace the crank and bottom bracket together, and upgrade to an external bearing bracket.

If you find yourself wanting to substantially upgrade the whole groupset (say to Deore), then it's time to consider a new bike thats a step-up from your current one.

  • Good condition used parts are an option and I've been eyeing some RS11's on the usual auction sites. Shimano parts are generally cheap over here since they're sourced locally. The good EU brands however do demand a bit of a premium. The entry-level RS100's are 330g lighter than the stock pair, so I'm wondering if that'll be noticeable when riding. I'll see if I can find any decent external bearing BB's, though I feel even the $29 Dura-Ace ones may be overkill for my use case. Thanks for the suggestion!
    – Enzo
    Apr 17, 2019 at 14:02
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    I upvoted because you make the subtle yet crucially important point of "you have to know what you are getting for the upgrades. Are replacement components going to be lighter, more efficient or more durable?" As far as I'm concerned, it's impossible to answer "is it worth it" questions without knowing what someone's goals are. As an example: for me, there's little point in upgrading to a lighter wheelset on a commuter bike, lighter wheels are often more fragile which would be counterproductive.
    – dwizum
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:09
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    @dwizum, yep, this question is gonna get some "opinion based" close votes. I answered as if the OP had asked how to work out if upgrades are cost effective for them. Apr 17, 2019 at 18:13
  • @ArgentiApparatus One problem us beginner/casual cyclists have is that we don't know enough about what's out there to confidently make choices. This is why platforms like this are so valuable since we can draw from your knowledge and experience. My main problem with the stock wheels is that I feel like they're currently the weakest part of the bike. I'd like to get into customization and maintenance a bit more, too. So now I'm looking at least branded entry-level parts like the RS100 (RS010) or the RS330 (RS31), but can't decide if weight or durability is a bigger concern on a commuter bike.
    – Enzo
    Apr 18, 2019 at 2:31
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    If you want to experience lower rotating mass, the first step would be to swap those Marathons to lightweight touring tires. They are incredibly heavy (700g+) even if the rolling resistance is good, and you can get reasonably durable 28mm tires below 400g. To get the same weight difference in wheelset you need to spend some real money.
    – ojs
    Apr 18, 2019 at 7:55

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