You’ve clocked up the miles on your new road bike but what can you do next to improve your cycling?
Whether your bike is brand new or second hand, you can start looking at making improvements to eek out that little bit extra from your bike. There are so many bike upgrades that you can make, it can be confusing starting out.
In this article, we have broken down the top upgrades into 6 key areas for you to look at if you want to upgrade your road bike and help improve your performance.
Spending money on tyres is one of the best upgrades you can do to a road bike. Investing a bit of money into some quality tyres can do wonders to any bike no matter how much it cost. That’s because there’s a huge difference between cheaper, entry-level tyres and top-end rubber and given how important tyres are, it’s not an area to skimp.
The type of cycling you want to do will dictate your tyre choice. If you want to go racing, a high-quality tyre will be both lightweight and offer low rolling resistance. If you want maximum comfort and durability for long sportives or cycling to work, a wider tyre with puncture protection built into the rubber will offer more smoothness on rough roads and better durability.
If you crave buttery-smooth rolling, going to the widest tyres your frame will fit is an easy way to ramp up the comfort factor. You can spend a lot of money on tyres, but there are good options in the mid-range, given how important they are to the performance of your bike, and the fact you don’t have to replace them that often, it’s worth getting the best you can afford.
If you hate punctures, you may want to embrace tubeless! Most road bikes use tyres and inner tubes, but just like the car on your driveway or your mate’s mountain bike, many road cyclists are ditching inner tubes for a tubeless setup.
The benefits of tubeless often include lower weight, better rolling resistance, more comfort and fewer punctures. You do need dedicated tubeless wheels, which many road bikes are sold with, and special tubeless valves and liquid sealant, but the investment can be worth it for the extra performance. We’ll admit that setting up tubeless can sometimes be a little tricky, but it’s much easier than it ever used to be and getting better all the time, so you can really enjoy the benefits.
You might not believe it, but not all drop handlebars are the same. There are a gazillion shapes and designs to choose from so if you’re not getting on with your current handlebar, you could try a different design.
Things to look for in a handlebar are the reach, drop and width to suit different cyclists. Too wide or narrow can decrease comfort, however long reach and big drops can put your back out if you’re not used to it.
If you want to save weight and improve the ride quality, a carbon fibre handlebar might be a good investment, though the weight savings over aluminium aren’t always as big as you might imagine. Another popular choice is the aero handlebar with internal cable routing, if you’re going racing and want to reduce your drag. There are many different shapes available so we’d recommend having a look around and see what might work for you.
Are you sitting comfortably? Well if you’re not and you find yourself squirming on the saddle and finishing with a sore behind, then it’s time to whip that saddle off and try another one.
Saddles come in many shapes and designs so it’s a case of finding the one to suit your shape. Take a look at our saddle buying guide to see what saddle could be best for you!
Another reason for upgrading your saddle is that it’s a component that can offer easy weight savings. Look for one with titanium rails or if you’re feeling flush, carbon rails and base for the ultimate saddle upgrade.
Short of changing your frame, upgrading your wheels is often the best way to seriously improve the performance of your bike. Wheels on entry-level bikes are often on the heavy side so you can look at shedding the grams with an upgrade to a lighter wheelset, often aluminium wheels offer the best bang for buck. The lightest wheels are very top-end carbon fibre, but you do need deep pockets.
If it’s speed you’re after and a touch of bling, then carbon fibre wheels are the ultimate upgrade, injecting a lot of performance into any road bike. Carbon wheels used to be the preserve of sponsored professionals but they’re now much more affordable, though not exactly cheap, making them much more accessible than ever before.
Decide your budget and your main requirements (weight, aero, width, looks, tubeless) and then start shopping.
Join a cycling club
Riding on your own is incredibly enjoyable and we love the solo ride, but sometimes it’s nice to have some company and joining a club or a regular organised ride in your area is a great way of meeting some like-minded cyclists.
Riding with a group can be safer. The miles can pass by more quickly compared to riding solo. Riding with others is very motivating whether it’s going the distance or increasing your speed. You can discover new routes and share your favourites too. Your bike handling skills can benefit from riding in a group, and you can get invaluable tips from more experienced cyclists. You can find clubs in your area on the British Cycling website, have a look on social media, or your local bike shop might organise a regular group ride.