We know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But there are some questions you might not want to ask your local shop or riding buddies. AASQ is our weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise. Hit the link at the bottom of the post to submit your own question!

What to do with an older bike when your riding styles have changed? That’s a pretty common question, and one that bike shops see on a regular basis. Whether you no longer race, or you’re riding in completely different terrain, sometimes there are things you can do to extend the life of your bike. Other times, it may be best to move on and pick up something else…

Hello! I don’t ride my 2004 Trek 5200 on the roads anymore (I am older now and the cars are too close!), but since it’s still a good frame, I would like to change a few things to make it more greenway-pothole-bridge-worthy.  Since the wheels/tires seem to be an obvious beginning, what would you recommend? – Todd

Bikerumor: Hi Todd, that’s a great question and one that I used to field quite a bit while working in shops. I’m assuming that by “more greenway-pothole-bridge-worthy, you’re looking for a way to make it more comfortable with bigger tires, and possibly a more upright riding position. While that is possible to achieve, there are some limitations to consider.

First, would probably be the tire clearance of the frame, fork, and brake calipers. I don’t know for certain, but I’m guessing you’ll be able to fit 700c x 28mm tires in it – maybe 700c x 30mm. You want to make sure the tires won’t rub on the chainstays, seat stays, or fork legs, and tires that big will likely make it tough to fit through the brake calipers – you might even need to deflate them a bit to get them through depending on your brake pads, tires, etc. Best option here is to find a bike shop that has the tires in stock and will help you test fit them to see what will be the biggest tire that will clear all of the parts.

It’s probably not worth replacing the wheels unless they are damaged and you really want to keep this bike. A wider rim may improve the tire profile, but it will also make the tires fit a bit wider which could lead to the previously mentioned clearance issues.

Since the 5200 was designed as a racing bike, it has a pretty aggressive geometry with a low front end. A new stem will help to get the bars higher, though you’ll be limited to the positions you can achieve. Steerer tube extenders are generally a bad idea – especially on a carbon steerer (can’t recall if this bike has a carbon steerer or not). If you are really looking for a more upright position, adapting the bike to a flat bar (or more appropriately, a riser bar) might be a good option. You’d need new shifters and brake levers, but with the bike being 9 speed, you should be able to find compatible parts for relatively cheap.

However, realize that even after modifying this bike for bike path use, it still might not be as comfortable as an inexpensive hybrid bike that can run bigger tires and has a more relaxed geometry. Because of that, I’d stick with the biggest tires you can fit, and maybe a more upright stem to tweak the position. If you need more than that, it might be time to look for a new bike. Good luck!

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Damn you can fit tires larger than a 25 on a racing frame of that vintage good on trek if so. Someone gave me a 2004 Fuji professional and I had a used 6800 groupset laying around so it became my commuter but 25 in the back is extremely tight and I have to run a narrow 23 challenge forte up front to clear the forks.

    • Yeah, I own pretty much the same bike as Todd and I’m not even sure it clears every 25 on the market.

      Better to find the most supple 23s money can buy and back off the tire pressure. Use sealant and tubes with removable cores for insurance.

  2. There are also “riser drop bars” like Ritchey’s Comp ErgoMax:

    https://www.bike24.com/1.php?content=8;product=283770;menu=1000,4,133,31;pgc%5B20537%5D=20538;pgc%5B20497%5D%5B20507%5D=1;pgc%5B20%5D=85;orderby=2

    ^Specialized offer something similar. With a +17° stem and a riser bar that would lift things up considerably.

    Another potential option for wider tyres is a 650b conversion, if there’s enough frame and fork clearance. This would require new wheels and brake calipers, but it’s possible to get tyres in 28, 30, 32, 35, 38mm and up.

    There’s an article on doing this here:

    http://www.bikeman.com/bikeman-blogs/650blog/1771-650b-conversion-guidlines

  3. Sell your road bike and buy something that fits wider tires. Or just keep riding it because it still works fine. Simple as that.

    • Correct! Never had issues commuting on my early 00’s road bike in Houston on bike paths before we moved to CO. OK so it would get a bit squirrley in the wet with a narrow 23 up front but even at 85 kg I never flatted on potholes with 70 psi up front. Outside of changing to MTB pedals so you can walk around a bit and adding a riser stem that is shorter along with wider more comfy handlebars. You really cant do much a road bike is a road bike frankenbikes are often way worse and more expensive than just buying the right tool for the job.

  4. Definitely won’t fit 28mm tires. Maybe 25s. Also, all of the old Rolf/Bontrager paired spoke wheels ARE cracked, some just haven’t been discovered yet. But seriously, if you have the old paired spoke wheels, look really closely at the rim around all the spoke holes for cracks.

    A Trek FX would be a much better bike than trying to make an old 5200 more comfortable.

  5. Sell it and buy a hard tail mountain bike. On the bike path you want to get a workout, but you don’t want to be going so fast that pedestrians are hard to avoid. You can also jump off the path safely.

  6. The ergonomics of older handlebars put the shifters obnoxiously low (just see the picture!). Lots of bars on the market (I like Soma Highway 1 or Ritchey Curve) which create a nice flat transition from bar to shifter.

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