Sorry for the length this post has reached. Please scroll down to Edit #2.
Original question: "I recently bought a used 2019 Allez with an installed power meter. The previous owner installed a 105 crankset and bottom bracket to accommodate the meter. Otherwise, the bike has all stock components. I'd like to upgrade the bike for performance, focusing on 105 components. Assuming a budget of at most $500 and excluding new wheels, how would you prioritize upgrades? Which upgrades would provide the most noticeable benefit to a novice racer?"
Thanks to everyone for all your advice and suggestions on how to improve the question. My initial question was overly ambiguous. I was worried about adding too much detail all at once to the original post, but I'll add the specs and a few other details about my experience with the bike and what I know from what the previous owner told me.
Here are the main specs:
Crankset: Shimano 105 52/36 (upgraded)
Cassette: SunRace, 11-32 (8-speed)
Derailleurs: Shimano Claris, 8-speed (rear)/Claris, clamp on (front)
Shifters: Shimano Claris (8-speed)
Brakes: Tektro, alloy, dual-pivot
Chain: KMC X8 w/ Missing Link™, 8-speed
Wheelset: Axis Sport
Tires: Espoir Sport, 60 TPI, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection, 700x25mm
Here’s a link with all the specs: https://99spokes.com/bikes/specialized/2019/allez
So my bike is the base level 2019 Allez, just upgraded with a 105 crank and bottom bracket.
I’ve ridden about 600 miles on the bike since buying it in mid-September. My longest ride to date on the bike was a little over 30 miles. I’ve mostly been riding it about 15-20 miles at a time to train around an hour a day.
I’ve enjoyed the bike, but lately, I’ve started to notice some issues. The drivetrain doesn’t always shift gears smoothly and the shifters themselves are not very responsive. (I sometimes have to push the levers almost all the way in to shift.) Lately, the gears have started to sometimes grind a bit when shifting. I’m concerned with the state of the drivetrain. The brakes are adequate most of the time, but do not stop as smoothly and are not as responsive as I would like.
The previous owner told me the bike was in one accident which caused surface damage to both shifters (they’re scratched up significantly but work other than the issues I just noted) and the rear derailleur is scratched up significantly, although I can’t be sure it is responsible for the shifting issues.
The cassette has some wear on the teeth as well and it would be nice to upgrade that to 11-speed to reduce the jump between some of the higher gears.
As to why I didn’t buy a better bike since I have $500 to budget now, I didn’t have the extra money back when I bought this bike and I bought it on a bit of an impulse after looking for months and being unable to find a good entry-level road bike. I was really impatient to get a road bike after spending about 6 months riding my old heavy mountain bike everywhere. That’s a long story I won’t get into now. I also don’t anticipate being able to save up $2k+ for a much better bike any time soon. So, I’d like to make this bike the best I can in anticipation of using it for (hopefully) several years to come.
To sum up, I think I need to replace the shifters and rear derailleur and I would like to upgrade the cassette to an 11-speed at the same time. I’d like to upgrade these components to Shimano 105. I know I’ll need to get an 11-speed chain as well if I upgrade these components. At this point, I realize I’m talking about replacing most of the groupset minus the crankset which I already have.
Should I just buy the full 105 groupset (which I’ve seen on eBay for around $580) and then sell the superfluous crankset?
Or would I be better off just buying better wheels and replacing the shifters and derailleur if they ultimately fail? I discounted the option of buying better wheels in the original question, but if that would make more sense given all I’ve explained here, please let me know.
I hope these notes have helped to clarify my position. I’d really appreciate any additional advice. Thanks!
Thanks to everyone for providing so much more detailed advice! I’ll try to sum up what I’ve gleaned from reading through the answers and comments.
- Thanks to @VladimirF for pointing out that I could remove the power meter by removing the crank arm. Rookie that I am, I wasn't aware of that. I'd previously said I couldn't sell the bike because I didn't want to lose the power meter. Does anyone have any idea what this bike would sell for without the power meter and in the condition I've described?
- @JoeK mentioned the Axis Sport wheels limit me to a 10-speed groupset, so without replacing those wheels I will have to consider upgrading to 10-speed Tiagra components instead of 11-speed 105 components (e.g. cassette, rear derailleur, chain). This is fine since Tiagra components are cheaper and I’m unlikely to make full use of the advantages of 105 over Tiagra at this point. Since I do need to replace some damaged components, I think I’ll have to keep the Axis Sport wheels and look at Tiagra replacements for the damaged components.
- @thelawnet mentioned that replacing the tires would provide greater improvement in performance than replacing any aspect of the drivetrain. I checked the provided link and it looks like picking up a pair of Grand Prix 5000 tires (recommended by MaplePanda) would work well given my budget.
- @thelawnet also mentioned checking the components of the drivetrain more carefully to see what might be damaged (e.g., the hanger and rear derailleur in particular) and whether some of my issues could be addressed by replacing/cleaning cables. Since I don’t trust myself to inspect everything yet, I will take the bike back to my LBS to have these issues checked before buying new components. I still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to maintaining and upgrading bikes.
- Both @thelawnet and @Michael mentioned it might be worthwhile to upgrade the brakes, which I could do either by purchasing the entire Tiagria groupset or by purchasing 105 brakes separately if I only purchase select components from the Tiagra groupset.
- @thelawnet also mentioned issues related to the chainset and the bottom bracket. I can confirm that the bottom bracket was changed to the round SM-BBR60 round bracket used with Ultegra/105 when the 105 crank was installed with the 4iiii power meter.
With all this said, my current plan after digesting all this great advice is to first take the bike to my LBS for inspection (it needs a tune-up anyway) and then, if the derailleur/shifters/hanger/cables turn out to be significantly damaged, I’ll look into purchasing Tiagra replacement components. I just checked Ebay and noticed the entire Tiagra 4700 groupset is available for just under US $300. Add in the GP 5000 tires at about $100 on Amazon and that leaves $100 in my budget to cover cables (if needed) and at least part of the fitting costs at the LBS.
I’d end up with a Tiagra crankset that I wouldn’t need if I bought the entire groupset, but maybe I could just sell that to recoup some of the excess costs if I go over budget a bit.
Do you all see any major problems with this approach to upgrading my bike? I assume Tiagra would be compatible with the 105 crankset in the same way the Claris and other components are, but please let me know if I’m mistaken.
Overall, here are the changes I have in mind, after considering everyone’s advice (assuming all the check with the LBS shows components need replacing):
Rear derailleur: Upgrade Claris 8-speed to Tiagra 10-speed
Front derailleur: Leave current Claris (no indication there is anything wrong with it)
Crank: Keep current 105 with meter
Shifters: Upgrade Claris 8-speed to Tiagra 10-speed
Cassette: Upgrade SunRace 8-speed to Tiagra 10-speed
Tires: Upgrade Espoir Sport to GP 5000
Chain: Upgrade KMC 8-speed to Tiagra 10-speed
All of this would come to around $500, maybe a bit more. My budget didn’t include fitting costs, just components. Please let me know if any (or all of this) would be inadvisable.
I would really like to upgrade the wheels and then upgrade to all 105, but that would just be way out of budget even if I sold the current bike.
Thanks again to everyone! I’d upvote all your comments but apparently I can’t do that since I’m so new to the site. I’ll definitely be sticking around to learn more from you all.