I posted the other day about giving my 20-year-old Specialized Sequoia a bit of a drivetrain upgrade. Currently, my set-up is a Shimano Claris triple crankset (50/39/30) with a Sora FD 3503 front derailleur, an 8-speed rear cassette (28/11) with a Shimano Tiagra RD 4400 rear derailleur, and Shimano Claris ST 2400 shifters. This gives me a decent range of gearing for someone who is a keen commuting and fitness cyclist, and who frequently enjoys long switchback runs of anything from 12 to 20 miles. I'm not a racer, so am not interested in the more serious end of things components-wise. However, I have found that I'd like to have a bit more at the top-end for downhills and fast flats. I also find nowadays that I can get up most of the steeper hills on my runs whilst staying on the middle chain ring, and without getting out of the saddle. I'll usually switch to the smaller chain ring only if I'm carrying a load in my backpack, or if the hills are over about a mile (fortunately, it's quite a flat area, but we do have a few slopes up to a mile long, averaging around 1:7 and occasionally steeper).

So... I'm now thinking about a more serious upgrade...

I'm leaning towards the Shimano 105 R-7000 set-up, and am thinking that the 53/39 chainset with an 11/34 rear cassette would give me quite a similar range of gearing to what I'm used to - but with that extra at the top end (1:4.82 against my current 1:4.55) and with a lowest ratio of 1:1.15 against 1:1.07... so something I could handle easily enough. This would obviously mean new brifters and derailleurs, too, and a new bottom bracket. The other alternative would be a 52/36 and 11/34 arrangement, but that doesn't seem to offer much more at the top end.

Does this sound like a good and feasible set-up for my current bike? I realise, for the money it will cost me, that I could just go for a new road bike. But I like this bike and am comfortable with it. I'm 6' 5", with a long reach and inside leg, and it fits me perfectly - stack, reach, frame size - so I'm reluctant to change it. Also, I've only been used to a triple chainset before. I know there can be advantages in terms of wear-spread over 3 rings rather than 2, and those micro-adjustments that can be made with the gearing. But, as I said, I've used the small ring less and less over the years. Also, I've nearly always had a bit of a problem with chain rub, in spite of optimum set-up with the derailleurs, cable tensions, and ensuring that the chain, jockey wheels, and cables get changed when they need it. Is this likely to be less of a problem with a 2 to 11 set-up over a 3 to 8? Finally, would I need to change the brake calipers necessarily? I want to stick with rim brakes on the 700/25 wheels I've got.

Any suggestions would be most gratefully received.

Thanks for reading.enter image description here

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    You are on a good path. 105 is a nice group at a very decent price point, Personally, you might reconsider your assessment of the 52/36 vs. the 53/39. Yes, the 53 offers a slightly better top speed than the 52 (only 2% more), but the 36 offers a 9% lower gear than the 39 does, and THAT is significant. You may come to a climb that is long enough, into the wind, and add in fatigue from a long day where the extra gear may be appreciated that would not be there with the 39. One can usually find an extra 2% faster cadence, but when you need a lower gear, and it is not there... Just consider it.
    – Ted Hohl
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 17:20
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    the 53/39 chainset Pro racers use a 53/39, and Alberto Contador was known to do races with a 50/34 and a MTB 11-34 cassette for climbing stages. If pro racers don't need bigger gears than a 53/39, and some of the best ever dropped to a 50/34 with a MTB cassette for hills, you don't need a 53/39. Top end? A 50-11 gets 35+ mph/55+ kph at 100 rpm. If you can't spin out a 50-11, you don't need a 53. Can you put out enough power to sprint at 40+ mph/60+ kph? Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 18:02
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    Thanks very much, chaps. Great information - just what I wanted. I had read somewhere else that it was probably wiser to choose the 52/36 over the 53/39 - and, as you say, the difference in top-end speed is marginal. I did wonder, too, whether the rear wheel would be wide enough. It is an 8/9/10 freehub, though, so should be okay. But I may consider a swap-out anyway. The calipers should be fine as they are. I'm a relative newbie to bike maintenance and am not sure if I'm up to all that - but I'll give it some thought. Will just need a BB tool and a torque wrench. Thanks much again. Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 19:34

5 Answers 5


A much less invasive path would be keep the cranks, STIs, and rear wheel you have, go to 52/42/30, get an FD that can accept the 10t jump (none of the 50/39/30-era Shimano ones can), and then either go to an RD with more total capacity or accept a slack chain in small/small. You could also start with just the 52 and a new chain.

Don't put the kind of money and effort you're talking about into a heavily-used, 20 year old aluminum road bike. You're already past the end of normal expected service life.


First of all, Shimano 105 is a nice sweet spot price-to-performance-wise, and would be a nice upgrade (I transferred an Ultegra 6800 11-speed setup to a 1994 Trek frame that I use on the trainer with no regrets or issues).

Things to consider:

If you are planning to use your current wheelset, your rear wheel's freehub is most likely not 11-speed compatible (not wide enough). You probably have what is known as an 8/9/10 speed freehub. The Shimano 11-speed 11-34 road cassette (105, or Ultegra) is an exception in that it WILL fit an 8/9/10 speed freehub (the 11-34 comes with a 1.85 mm spacer that you would NOT use - it is only used if putting the cassette on an 11-speed freehub). The 8/9/10 freehub you have does limit you to the 11-34 cassette, which limits your options. Should you upgrade/replace your wheelset to one with an 11-speed freehub in the future, you can utilize other 11-speed cassettes if you wish.

(from my comment): Personally, you might reconsider your assessment of the 52/36 vs. the 53/39. Yes, the 53 offers a slightly better top speed than the 52 (only 2% more), but the 36 offers a 9% lower gear than the 39 does, and THAT is significant. You may come to a climb that is long enough, into the wind, and add in fatigue from a long day where the extra gear may be appreciated that would not be there with the 39. One can usually find an extra 2% faster cadence, but when you need a lower gear, and it is not there... Just consider it.

Chain rub: Every setup can be a little different, but I have found that the Shimano 2x11 configurations to be pretty forgiving on chain-rub compared to their 2x9 and 2x8 offerings (not much experience with their 2x10). Over three different road bike/gravel setups using Ultegra 6800/8000 series I only experience a minor chain rub in my small chainring and the two smallest rear cogs (11 and 12), and these are severe cross-chaining shift locations anyway that a rider should avoid when they can. I have found with the Shimano 11-speed offerings that if you follow the instructions in the Dealers Manual (available for free from the Shimano website) that they set up very nice and usually trouble-free. Shimano 105-7000 series cable shifting offers one micro-adjustment position in addition to the primary position for each chainring position (I usually only use the primary position and rarely ever need to micro adjust from that).

Wear - 3 chainrings vs. 2 chainrings: This really depends on how a rider uses their front chainrings and how well they maintain their drivetrain more than anything. Drivetrain maintenance and periodic chain replacement will do more than most anything else to prevent premature chainring and cassette wear. And you mentioned that you primarily run in just one chainring now, so this really is not a concern for you.

Brake calipers: Make sure you get the brifters (brake-shift levers) for cable-actuated brakes, not the hydraulic ones. You are probably ok your current calipers if they work good. Check to see what calipers you have on your bike and see if they are found on this compatibility table from Shimano. Your prospective ST-R7000 levers are on the left, look for your calipers on the right and heed any warnings if they are indeed incompatible. The more recent Claris calipers are listed on this table as compatible, but it doesn't hurt to check. If yours are not listed, give them a try anyway and make a subjective assessment compared to your previous brake levers. If they feel safe, they should be good.

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  • If you are doing your own work on putting this upgrade together, you may need some new tools. One to install the new bottom bracket. And optionally a torque wrench to tighten the left crankarm to the Hollowtech II axle (12-14 Nm). A torque wrench is a tool you will use more and more in bicycle maintenece and repair.
    – Ted Hohl
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 18:25
  • 105 used to be a sweet spot, but with the new version being electronic only (although there are rumours of mechanical being offered later) it seems to no longer be the case. Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 22:49
  • @VladimirFГероямслава That may be true of the most recent version of 105, but the 7000 series of 105 is still a bargain for an 11-speed mechanical groupset for the quality level it offers, and the question related to the 7000 series.
    – Ted Hohl
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 2:16

The Numbers: Your current triple gives 119.9 gear inches in the hardest gear 50:11
and 28.3 gear-inches when in low gear of 30:28 This is spread over 24 gears.

By comparison, the new setup offers 127 gear inches at 53:11
and 30.3 gear inches in 39:34. Spread across 22 gears

Source https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html

Is it worth doing? Maybe.

Functionally this gives you more hard gears, the equivalent of one-more click (plus a bit). But how often are you riding in top gear and find you're spinning out? My 50:11 would be doing 51 km/h at 90 RPM, and a 53:11 would be almost 55 km/h.

At the other end you've lost a little in the low gears. This would only be a problem if you're on a steep climb and finding your low gear isn't low enough, resulting in very low cadence/RPM and the risk of "stalling" at 4~5 km/h but that needs a very steep road.

My personal suggestion would be to get a 10 or 11 speed chain, cassette, rear derailleur, and left shifter. Also, redo the gear inner/outer cables with new, and fit new brake pads/cables.

Why? A new rear derailleur will shift much better than the old 8 speed which will have wear. The existing triple will probably shift the 11 speed chain well-enough, with the only tweak needed being squashing the front derailleur's cage a little, a millimetre or two.
I have a 9 speed deore rear end working with a 5-speed triple crank. Your new 11 speed rear should work okay with the existing crank/chainrings.

New Cables help everything feel fine, and new brake pads give you more confidence to ride fast.

Only downside here is that you won't get any more hard/high gears, but unless you're bouncing in the saddle in 50:11 then you can work to increase your cadence.


Renaud, Criggie, Nathan, Ted, Vladimir - thank you very much. I'm very grateful for the time you've given to answering my questions, the detail you've given, and the benefit of your collective knowledge.

I absolutely take the point about spending around £500 on these components for a 20-year-old bike. It's something I thought over for a long time myself. I did spend some time looking around for a new bike, and couldn't see much that was the 'fit' for me (in terms of both physical fit and performance fit) under around £1500 - though, having said that, the current model of Sequoia is available for £1200, with similar entry-level components. This is what led me to think about upgrading what I already had - and, as a bike salesman said to me, 'Why spend out on a new one when you can improve your existing one?' I liked that honesty! The frame and forks are in good order (I do tend to look after my stuff!), and although I've done many thousands of miles on it, they've all been on tarmac and generally good roads. Even so, time and stress still take their toll, I know. The frame did actually come with a lifetime guarantee (still have the documents and original Owner's Manual) - but I take that point that it's no guarantee against failure, and getting it replaced will be time-consuming and may not be to my satisfaction in terms of what I'm offered. It's a good selling point for them - but I wonder how often they have to follow up on it.

I've had quite a few bikes in my lifetime, but this Sequoia has always been the best. It fits me like a comfortable pair of shoes. I did actually have a professional 'sizing' before buying it, and it was the one suggested for me from that - in terms of frame size, stack and reach, performance requirements, durability... and budget (it was £700 in 2003, so the equivalent of around £1200 now). I wanted an upgrade from my previous flat-bar hybrid, but something that retained the durability and practicality of a hybrid with a bit more of a performance edge - and the Sequoia fitted the bill perfectly.

Hmm... The info you've all provided has given me much food for thought. It's a lot to take in and think about. This is the great benefit, of course, of putting something out there to get other objective viewpoints. Too often when you're trying to find the right solution to something and are relying solely on your own judgement and instinct, it can lead to all kinds of uncertainties or difficult situations - as I know to my cost with other things!

I'll take stock for now. I'll give some thought to all of your suggestions - major upgrade, less invasive upgrade... or a new beast entirely! In the meantime - yes, there is still life in the old bike yet! I've been doing more and more of my own maintenance work on it during the last year or so (lockdown got me moving that way, as work needed doing that I couldn't get done any other way). I'm building my tool base as I go, have got a good maintenance stand, and have managed to keep my current set-up in good trim. It's actually, I think, running a little better (and quieter) than it used to after getting serviced at my local maintenance shop. Probably because we tend to lavish a little more attention on the work when it's our own property.

Thanks again, everyone.

  • I think we all appreciate the response, the gratitude expressed, and the time you took to craft it. I get to be the bearer of bad news in that when put in as an answer, it does not fit the format of Bicycle Exchange (or other Exchange sites) as it is not like a traditional forum. That said, you should transfer this information into one or several comments (comments are limited to 500 characters) attached to your original question - that will retain them. This "answer" will eventually be flagged and deleted. Best of luck with your upgrade decision.
    – Ted Hohl
    Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 0:19
  • Thanks. Will do. Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 14:12

On the choice of groupset in case of upgrade, I join the general consensus that a Shimano 105 7000 series is the best way to go.

But personally, I would consider more seriously the possibility of frame failure (as scenario). It's a risk, given the frame is in aluminium and as Nathan pointed out, the bike has probably gone further than its design specification (congrats for that by the way). If you upgrade and then the frame fails, you'll end up with new components that you've paid with a premium (because sold separately + labour), that you may not be able to use them with a new frame, because standards have changed (the standards you have are for entry-level bikes, but only a handful brands sell entry-level frames separately). Mid-range road bikes now use thru-axles, wider hubs and hydraulic disc brakes.

The thing is that if you are very picky about the characteristics you search for, bikes are not commodity products: if you want a specific model with a specific groupset with an unusual size, in the worst case, it can take months before it's available (example: Canyon is one of the only manufacturers that publish estimated delivery dates, the next round for entry level endurance road bikes is "up to October 2023", Specialized shows (in Belgium) zero availability for the Allez range with rim brakes). Given you use the bike extensively, if you don't want to wait too long, you will have to compromise on something (colour, components/cost, fit, model, brand, shop,...). Large sizes are both a blessing and a curse from that point of view: they stay longer in the inventory, but it may take more time before a new batch is manufactured.

Also, if you really want to upgrade, another interesting thing to check are the warranty conditions and if you have the paperwork in order: it's common nowadays to have first owner lifetime warranty, but not sure it was the case 20 years ago. That being said, in that case, it's unlikely that Specialized maintains an inventory of 20 years old frames, so they will replace it by something they consider "equivalent", or propose you a new bike at a discount (given the supposed rarity of such warranty replacement, I would assume it's decided on a case by case basis). And again, it can also take weeks or months to get the replacement, and the replacement will come at the full discretion of Specialized.

If you don't have other alternatives and want to have an upgrade, I think it would be a reasonable to go beyond the pure cost estimation and see how hard finding a replacement will be (availability, models,...). In the meantime, you still have a working bike that give you some time to find a good fit. And of course, that doesn't prevent you from using/enjoying the bike as it is in the meantime.

The issue here is that all scenarios are very speculative, but given you use the bike a lot, some level of certainty might be a factor to take into consideration.

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    @KevinMarman Much better to ask this kind of question in the chat. In terms of brakes Hydraulic Disc>Rim Brake>Mechanical Disc. So I would rule out this Cannondale just for that reason. While the reasoning for gravel is true, if you want to gravel, then a proper gravel is a better starting point (40mm is the sweet spot for me). 32mm tires are more in cyclocross category than gravel, and it's easier to fit 32mm road tires on a bike designed with a 40mm clearance than the other way around.
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 16:03
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    @KevinMarman Great choice. We don't usually do recommendations here, but Canyon has one of the best price/quality ratios on the market. They also have another huge quality: they only use components from reputable brands. Personally, I'd prefer the 6 with disc brakes to the 7 with rim brakes (there's also another important difference: tire clearance, 28mm vs 35mm). But keep in mind that rims are wear items with rim brakes, but not with disc brakes. Rim replacements can be expensive because of labour, so you'll get back the price difference (you know how fast you wear the wheels).
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 16:47
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    Importance of using branded components (including wheels): you can find spares for cones/bearings/freehubs,.... Given you can wait, Canyon also makes sometimes sales, so you can also wait for one of theses (but I know it's difficult to wait when the decision has been take though). Also, another recommendation if you consider the 6 with discs: replace the aluminium seat post by a carbon one, it makes a significant difference in comfort (Canyon VCLS 2.0 are very good - better than suspended seatpost to my opinon - I have the two, but a simple carbon one will make a difference as well).
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 16:59
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    @KevinMarman Between the 6 and 7, the difference is basically Tiagra vs 105 and alu vs carbon seat post (that can be easily changed after), the rest is identical. The 35mm clearance is given by disc brakes vs rim brakes, not 6 vs 7. The 105 is "marginally better" than Tiagra: they both shift very well, the range is identical, the difference between 10 and 11 speeds is mostly relevant if you want to optimise your cadence. Hydraulic disc are only better than rim brakes in wet, but are mostly good because they "enable" wider tires, which is a comfort improvement that you will enjoy all the time.
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 19:43
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    That being said, in terms of "future proofing", it's hard to predict how things will evolve: 105 is now entirely electronic and 12-speed, so the question depends on what they will do with Tiagra. They can decide to leave it in 10-speed, or change it to 11-speed. Mechanical 105 is a safer bet from that point of view.
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 19:56

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