Best Bike Components

One should not put too much emphasis on a bicycle’s components, as any true cyclist will say that the fun and increased performance comes with training, not with $$$. That said, cyclists–more than any other athletes–like to debate what are the "best" parts and materials, so here are my 2 cents… Most of these components have been used on my own bicycle at one time or another, aside from the IRC tires.

[Note that I wrote this post in June 2002, so it is very outdated. I am keeping it on my site as something of a time capsule.]

Jump to: [Wholly Recommended] [Recommended] [Not Recommended] [Now Obsolete]

Pro Link Chain Lube

This is the first chain-lube that totally lives up to its promises of cleanliness and good lubrication qualities. Just follow the instructions (drip on the chain links, and wipe off excess… repeat if there is some residual chain lube of a different type to clean that out), and this stuff will stay on, keep your chain totally quiet, and not attract dirt. Twice now I have applied it and gone 150 miles without the chain getting any noisier or significantly dirtier! And I believe I can go much farther than 150 miles (I applied it the second time before the 140-mile World’s Toughest Century, not wanting to take any chances. And several training rides after that ride, the chain is still quiet and reasonably clean!) It’s $7 per bottle but could feasibly last you many years. (9/02)

Speedplay pedals

These American-made pedals are the lightest, have the most float (35 degrees), have the best cornering clearance (39 degrees), have the easiest entry (double-sided with large “target” area means clipping in quickly without looking is easy), have slim, durable metal cleats, plus look very cool and elegant. To top it off, the X/3’s with SS axles (while still lighter than almost all pedals except for Speedplay’s more expensive ones) are only $90-100! How can these be beat? (6/02)

CO2 Tire Inflators

Forget that pump! All right, this is a very controversial pick, but I have been using CO2 tire inflators for years (almost a decade in fact). Much lighter and smaller than a pump, one can even covertly hide CO2 cartridges in the handlebars! They inflate tires instantly to over 90 psi, unlike frame pumps that require hundreds of muscle-flexing strokes. Admittedly each CO2 cartridge is a one-shot deal and cost about $1-2 apiece, but that is no big deal if you get only a handful of flats a year.

Michelin Pro Race Tire

Admittedly, I got this top-of-the-line tire since it is available in all-black and I am partial to Michelins. It has a superb ride–very supple, and reminds me of the ride of the long-discontinued Michelin Hi-Lite Supercomp HD’s when the Supercomps (which wear fast) had low miles. Corners great when wet and it seems like I can use higher pressure (say, 10 psi) than the Supercomps while maintaining good ride quality (comfort). After the 202-mile Heartbreak Double, there is no perceptible wear or cuts on the tread (an issue with the Supercomps), and no flats so far. Expensive though (retails for $52 each at Performance, though I got them for $35 by showing them the SuperGo sale price, which they matched.) (9/02)

Pedro’s Ice Wax Chain Lube

I got this water-based/wax lube as a free supplement to Bicycling Magazine a couple of years ago. It does keep the chain clean (in fact, helps clean it) all right, but doesn’t seem to last very long. I had to reapply it every 40 miles or so to keep the chain quiet. It also comes off very easily in the wet. Still, better than having to do a thorough chain cleaning every month when using a traditional oil-based chain lube. Not nearly as good as Pro-line chain lube, though, in keeping the chain quiet (see Wholly Recommended components above). (8/02)

Polar Heart Rate Monitor

A precision instrument, this is a fantastic training tool. It tells me when I’m working too hard or too easy on a given day, in accordance with my training goals. It has really helped me to pace myself, and has been especially useful on some 7 hour rides. I use the Edge version (purchased at a huge discount from the Stanford Cycling Club), but reputedly all Polars are ECG accurate. (3/96)

Minoura Workman Pro Truing Stand

Okay, it’s not a component, but a quality tool. The only self-centering truing stand under $100 ($50 from Bike Nashbar), it is great for truing and rebuilding a wheel. It pays for itself within months. (3/96)

Triple Crankset

Okay, "real" die-hard roadies scorn them, but they are starting to catch on. I admit, I hardly use it, but the RX100 triple that Canny has gives me peace of mind that I will always be able to ride no matter how steep the hill is. And when I do need to use it, it is godsend. Saves the knees, too, and in reality its extra weight (~100 gr.) is inconsequential. Allows use of a close-ratio rear cluster while still providing a wide range of gears. (3/96)

Alloy spoke nipples

They seize quickly (often requiring you to cut spokes in order to true the wheel after a few years) and break or “round” out more more easily than brass nipples (which I’ve never experienced these problems with, even on 10-year-old wheels!) All to save approximate *1 gram* per nipple, or about one ounce per wheel. The only thing going for them, in my opinion, is that you can get them anodized in different colors for a “trick”-looking wheel. But after spending days running around for new spokes and long spoke nipples (for deep-dish rims) because the spoke nipples on my 5-year-old wheel had seized, I cannot recommend them. (6/02)

Glueless Patches

I really liked the idea, but after using Park’s and Performance’s glueless patches for 3 or 4 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that they aren’t nearly as reliable as the traditional rubber-cement type, which I once had a streak of a couple dozen successful repairs with. Glueless patches are good for temporary use, I guess. (6/02)

Ultralight butyl tubes

These tubes are comparable to latex tubes in weight, and are less porous than latex ones. In fact, Michelin ultralight tubes seem to retain air as well as regular tubes (the other brands I tried don’t). That said, the frequency of flats noticeably increased when I tried them for a while. Furthermore, due to their small diameter and easily tearable thin rubber, the chance of successfully patching a flat is greatly reduced. (3/96)

Foam handlebar tape

Definitely a personal choice, but I prefer the elegant feel of padded vinyl. And foam tape gets soiled way too easily and is difficult to clean. I haven’t tried cork tape yet. (3/96)

Alloy water bottle cages

All right, so I’ve actually been using my Blackburn alloy water bottle cages since the very first day I bought Canny in August of ’93. I like the fact that they are lightweight (39g), red-and-white (matches Canny’s color scheme), durable, and made in the USA. But… they oxidize like crazy! The result are black marks on water bottles until they look like crap! So if I were to do it again I would probably get those Italian stainless steel water bottle cages with those cute little buttons. (7/98)


I know that Ed Pavelka of Bicycling magazine swears by them, and I have tried ones that mount on helmets, eye glasses, or handlebars. I have yet to find one that doesn’t rattle around and strain the eyes. Using my ears and looking back works well enough for me. (3/96)

Update (over 6 years later): Mirrors are a necessity for recumbents. I’ve been using the helmet-mounted Third Eye brand for a couple of years, and it’s okay. However, due to rushing air current it moves out of place over ~35 mph, which is distracting and requires me to do a quick re-adjustment. So with my regular bike I still do not use a mirror. (9/02)

IRC tires

These tires are cr*p! My friend Ken has them on his ‘Dale and claims he gets a flat on his IRC Paperlights every 20 miles or so (exaggerated but he was getting a flat on every century we rode!) But what prompted me to put them on my "Not Recommended" list was when I built a rear-wheel for a friend and then tried to mount a IRC Triathlon on the new rim. It took me 45 minutes, and after much cursing, it *still* pinched the tube! I have put on/taken off tires at least 50 times in my life and never have I had such a problem. Some say that Michelin Hi-Lite Supercomps are hard to mount, but putting them on is nothing compared to these. (3/96)

Update (over 6 years later): My friend Mike has IRCs on his Trek (they came on it), and he reports getting a flat every 200 miles or so! I’m not sure what model the tires are (they have wires instead of kevlar beads, so probably aren’t their high-end ones), but that’s not a good endorsement. Still not recommended! (9/02)

Now Obsolete

Michelin Hi-Lite Supercomp HD’s

(Formerly “wholly recommended”.) I swore by these tires! Supersticky, super puncture resistant (once went 2500 miles without a single flat), very supple, reasonably lightweight (205-225 gr.), and reasonably priced (~$20 via mail-order), they are as close to perfect as they get. Cornering bite is phenomenal! Their only drawback is that they wear quite quickly (~1200-2000 mi.) Also (in years 1999-2001) known as the Michelin Hi-Lite Classic. Alas, after 2001 Michelin seems to only market gimicky, expensive (2-3X as much) tires with weird colors nowadays. (3/96)

Selle Italia Flite Vanadium

(Formerly “wholly recommended”.) After 2 years of using a comfortable but heavy and quickly torn Vetta Gel saddle, I splurged a little and got this $44 leather-covered seat. The Flite is the original ultra-light low-profile saddle that is deserving of "classic" status. The new vanadium-railed version, at only 210 grams, is about as light as the titanium version, but costs less. Nowadays Selle Italia still makes “descendants” of this classic saddle, but the trend seems to be towards saddles with pressure-relieving cutouts to increase comfort and decrease the risk of E.D. (3/96)

Sampson Stratics Clipless Pedals

(Formerly “recommended”.) Definitely the most controversial pedals on the market, these pedals have significant plusses and minusses. They’re ultralight (my titanium-axled pair weighs under 200 grams!) and have superior cornering clearance (39 degrees). Their platforms are huge and rigid for optimum power transfer. Entrance was tricky at first, although now I can do it pretty easily without looking. My main gripes are the cleats. They are huge and not fun to walk on. And they break relatively easily; I now keep a spare in my seat bag after almost having to abort a century because of one. (3/96)

Ritchey Aero Vantage Rim

(Formerly “recommended”.) In Nov. 1995 I was forced to build a new rear wheel as the original Mavic MA rim developed a dozen cracks and was impossible to true. I chose the Ritchey due to its light weight (395 gr.), aerodynamics, and affordability ($39). It has stayed remarkably true and, with it’s V-shaped crossection, looks very cool. (3/96)

Vetta C-20 cyclecomputer

(Formerly “not-recommended”.) Actually, I like this little gadget, but as many people on the net can attest, its quality is suspect. It eats up batteries relatively quickly. It is easy to break the cadence sensor in its recommended location. (I obviated this problem by modifying the sensor and using silicone to attach it right under Canny’s bottom bracket shell, out of view and touch.) Occasionally it doesn’t respond to the click of a button (so you have to click it twice). That said, it is loaded with features, most notably cadence, and it has been very reliable for me after I replaced the wiring harness. But if I were to do it again, I would opt for an Avocet or Cateye. (3/96)

A particularly pretty picture of Canny, at the 1999 Solvang Double.

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