Upgrades are a brilliant way of not only improving your road riding experience, they’re also a fantastic way to transform the performance and reliability of your bike and in this article, we’re going to show you 7 things YOU can do, to get the most out of time out on the road.
The best upgrades for road bike beginners – at a glance:
- Bike Computers
If you want to upgrade your road bike and increase your performance, we’ve broken down the top improvements for you to consider.
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Upgrade 1: Tyres
First up, one of the most common components to upgrade are your tyres. It’s also important to note that it’s one of the easiest and least expensive upgrades you can do.
There are many different types of tyre to choose from, so spending a little money on some good tyres would benefit any bike. And, because your tyres are your bike’s only point of contact with the ground, it’s an area where you shouldn’t cut corners.
Keep in mind that your tyre selection will be influenced by the sort of cycling you undertake. If you want to go racing, for example, you’ll need a high-quality tyre that’s both lightweight and low-rolling-resistance. A wider tyre with built-in puncture prevention will provide you more resilience across bumpy roads if you want the maximum comfort and for longer rides or commutes to work.
You should also think about the width of the tyres you choose. Road tyres are typically available in three widths: 23c, 25c, and 28c. The tyre will be wider if the number is higher. You must consider not just the width of your wheel rims, but also the size of your frame. Make sure that your tyre is wider than the width of the rim, and that it will also fit in your frame and fork. Some bikes have the clearance to accommodate larger tyres, so check to see what the maximum size your bike can accommodate.
For a variety of reasons, more riders are opting for 25c tyres for regular use, simply for comfort. With a wider tyre, you may reduce the pressure without risking a pinch flat. Lowering the pressure will improve the amount of road cushioning you have, enhancing your comfort.
Upgrade 2: Wheels
Upgrading can be costly, but changing your wheels can significantly increase your bike’s performance. There are a couple of reasons behind this:
Wheels on entry-level bikes are often on the heavier side so, by upgrading to a lighter wheelset, you’ll shed some grams and make your bike lighter. This will help with acceleration and will make the bike feel more nimble and agile. Aluminum wheels offer the best bang for buck, but the lightest wheels are the top end carbon fibre however these can be expensive.
Upgrading your wheels will also increase your aerodynamics, reduce drag and cut through the air better. It’s important to know what depth of rim you would like, the bigger the rim the more weight you will add and can make the bike more difficult to handle. A good compromise is around 50mm of depth to get the best balance between aerodynamics and weight.
Upgrading to high-quality hub bearings will significantly enhance the feel and performance of your wheels, allowing them to revolve more easily and decreasing noise.
Upgrade 3: Saddles
The saddle is one of three contact points you have with your bike and each of them is well worth considering upgrading.
You won’t enjoy the journey if you’re not seated comfortably on your bike. It will almost certainly make you want to end your bike ride early. You would think that the saddle with the greatest cushioning is the most comfortable, but this isn’t always the case.
The sort of riding you do will have a big impact on the saddle you pick. Road riders will be seeking lightweight performance saddles that may be unpleasant at first for casual riders. The correct saddle shouldn’t give you any pain or discomfort, but if you’re new to cycling, it may take some time for your body to adjust to spending lengthy periods of time in the saddle.
There is more choice than ever before, with saddle makers offering helpful fitting instructions to help you find the appropriate saddle – such as Selle Italia ID experience. The bottom line is that a more comfortable saddle will result in a lot more pleasurable ride.
Upgrade 4: Handlebars
When you think about upgrading, you might consider bigger things like your wheels or a groupset for example. But you shouldn’t overlook upgrading simple components like handlebars.
The handlebar has a crucial role as it controls your steering but also offers road riders a variety of different hand and riding positions. On the top of the bars for in-the-saddle climbing, on the hoods of the brakes for riding uphill or accelerating, or on the drops for sustained high-speed effort in a lower, more aerodynamic position.
One of the main benefits of upgrading your handlebar is that it makes switching between these positions easier. It’s also important to make sure you’re in the correct position as sitting incorrectly can lead to neck or back pain.
Just like a saddle, there are lots of different sizes, types and designs to choose from. So don’t be afraid to try out a few options to see what works for you. Or, get it done as part of your bike fit.
Upgrade 5: Pedals
The last contact point you have with your bike are the pedals. If you have an older pair of pedals that you’ve been using for a while or if you’re new to clipless pedals, here’s why they’ll be a great upgrade.
It’s no surprise that clipless pedals are favoured by road riders for their increased efficiency – one of the main benefits of being clipped in. Since the pedal is attached to the shoe, they can transfer energy during the up-stroke as well as the down-stroke. So, as well as improved energy efficiency, it will also result in improved speed and a smoother pedal stroke.
Clipless pedals keep your foot in place as well, putting your foot in a stable place and allowing you to manage your bike more confidently. This will allow you to ride faster and harder, but it will also aid you in descending. When you’re descending, the last thing you want is to lose your balance. Having a good, dependable pair of pedals will help you feel more at ease and safer.
Upgrade 6: Bike Computer
A bike computer isn’t an improvement, but it’s a simple addition to your rides that may be quite beneficial. Assisting you in not only improving your fitness but also in exploring new undiscovered areas.
They are battery-powered electronic devices that attach to your cockpit and they display a wide range of information, like speed, distance, trip time and some can even provide turn by turn navigation.
Depending on the type of rider you are and the type of computer you buy, will depend on the benefits you get out of it. For most riders, it’s interesting being able to clock up in a day and over time how many miles you’re riding. Common features found on entry level computers are the ability to track your current, maximum and average speed, the duration of the ride as well as the distance.
On the higher end of the scale, you get all of that plus lots more. You can have GPS maps with navigation built in – perfect if you want to plot out a route beforehand, or you need to get yourself back on familiar roads. Lots of models have training programs and monitoring built-in – which will help you know hard to push it and even when you should take a rest day.
There are also great features like smartphone notifications with automated responses and they can integrate with Strava and other training apps too. You can also hook them up to your computer or phone and analyse your past rides to see how you got on and if you’re improving!
Upgrade 7: Clothing
Yes of course you can ride a bike wearing anything you like – no one can stop you – but you wouldn’t go swimming in jeans, so why cycle in clothes not designed for it?
There are two main reasons to buy cycle specific clothing: Practicality and comfort.
Cycling clothing is made with a specific cut and materials. As a result, it will fit better than a typical workout t-shirt. That’s why lycra is used in a lot of road cycling clothes since it has enough elasticity to avoid bunching up when riding. It’s made from sweat wicking fabric that draws sweat away from your skin and allows it to dissipate. To put it in perspective, suppose you’re riding up a really steep hill and you’re already sweating profusely. If you’re wearing a t-shirt, your sweat will make your shirt damp, and you’ll become chilled as a result.
Cycling clothing also makes you more aerodynamic, allowing you to travel faster while minimising the amount of work required to achieve that speed. If you’re going for a long ride through the countryside or trying to beat your personal best on a Strava section, you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible in the saddle. Bibshorts or tights are a great complement since they provide cushioning that prevents chafing, saddle sores, and other unpleasant experiences. Shorts and tights are likewise constructed of lycra, so they will give the same level of comfort and sweat wicking.