Because of the mild winter and the more level route to work I had put on quite a few more miles on my good ol' Schwinn Super Le Tour. Sure, it is showing its age but until I have the necessary cash flow to afford something better (like the All-City Space Horse), the Schwinn will have to do.
My buddies from West had been appalled when I joined one of their tours a couple of years ago and was able to keep up with their $1k-2k gear in spite of a very wobbly rear wheel. That was the first thing I changed and that's when I started noticing some other faults on my ride.
1. Bottom bracket had probably 4 mm play in the bearing. I fully expected that I would have to order a special part and hesitated to tear the old bracket out but to my great surprise the guy in the NOW Bikes shop pulled one right off the shelf. Installation went very smoothly though I screwed up my front derailleur adjustments a bit. When I tested, the chain fell off and I did not slip out the clip baskets in time, got various bumps and srapes and wrecked my mirror. Other than that it provided a big difference, it shaved off about 5 minutes from my 26 km ride to work in Minnetonka.
2. Next were some actual bike shoes (Shimano SH-MT33L) and some Shimano PD-M324 combo Clipless/Clip Pedals. I chose the former because I wanted a shoe that I can walk in when needed and the latter because I do occasionally want to ride in regular shoes. All in all another major perceived improvement, over my worries I got used to the clips rather quickly. Unfortunately, I could not test them in regular commuting conditions since my place of employment reorganized and got rid of my department in late April. Since then, I have had multiple occasions to use the shoes on shorter and longer rides and I especially appreciate the more efficient up-stroke.
3. A few years ago I had replaced my gear cassette with a new one and thinking I'd gain something I had opted for a 6-speed cassette. My rear derailleur did not have any adjustment options so I was basically riding without the top and bottom gears. It worked just fine but not using these gears seemed like a waste. So I upgraded (if that is the right word since I paid less than $12 at Amazon) to the Shimano Tourney TX35 Rear Derailleur. I installed it today, took about 30 minutes, including the adjustments and it works great, including gear one and gear six! And because I opted for the combo pedals I was able to test the Schwinn without switching from my Crocs to my bike shoes.
The question now is: do I really need a new bike?