The 5 best bike upgrades (after wheels)

The 5 best bike upgrades (after wheels)

You have a lot of choices when it comes to bike upgrades but which ones are most likely to help you perform and feel your best?

That partly depends on the money you can and want to spend and the type of riding you do.

Wheels tend to be a first priority for most cyclists but there are other upgrades small and large that can give you a genuine boost in performance. 

Take a look at the below items and assess your goals and level of involvement with the sport before deciding which bike upgrades would benefit you most.

Saddle

Personally, after buying new wheels, getting a comfortable saddle was a high priority. 

Of all the potential upgrades, I’d highly recommend putting a new saddle at the top of your list.  Nothing impacts your ride quality and comfort more than a saddle perfectly fit for you!

Saddles are a very personal choice so it’s hard to make any specific saddle recommendations as everyone’s anatomy is different.

I’ve used Specialized saddles for many years and I highly recommend any of their models. As a comparison, I tested the Kontact saddle which claimed to have a unique design that made riding more comfortable.

But, it only took me about 10 miles to realize what a poor fit it was. It’s amazing what a different shape and a few centimeters in width can make for your comfort level.

Meld is taking a clever approach to help get a saddle perfectly fit for you. They send you a kit that measures your posterier dimensions and you send it back. They then deliver a custom saddle with your exact dimensions. Pretty clean and simple process!

Any reputable local bike shop will offer a fitting system that helps you narrow your options. You may not be able to take it for a test ride but just make sure there is a solid return policy in case it’s not comfortable.

Brakes

Modern road bikes are rocket ships and it takes nothing for them to get up to high speed. Braking properly is crucial if you want to stay safe on the roads.

I use to ride a Cannondale with 105’s and braking on fast descents was always a bit sketchy. I had several speed wobble incidents which put the fear of god in me. I felt like I had to be extra cautious every time I descended and never really felt comfortable.

I now ride a Trek with Ultegra brakes and the difference has been amazing! Everything is smooth and I feel like I have increased stopping power and stability especially on longer descents which are always a bit nervy!

Below are the “mid-range” braking systems for each of the respective groupsets and are a step up from entry level braking systems:

 

 

Indoor trainer

O.K., so technically, this isn’t a bike upgrade but if you want to sustain your fitness level in the off season, an indoor trainer is a great investment!

And, with the hugely popular Zwift software that connects wirelessly with most “smart trainers”, you’ll have an immersive training experience that lets you compete against other riders and feel like you are in an actual race.

Each of the below “smart” trainers are compatible with Zwift and other training and workout programs:

 

 

P.S. It’s best to use a trainer tire for your workouts to reduce noise and prevent you from wearing out your regular tires.

GPS Computer

Part of the joy of riding is to escape the omnipresence of technology in our daily lives but if you are at all interested in tracking your progress and motivated to improve, a GPS device is a must have upgrade.

I currently have the Garmin Edge 520 and it provides all the data I need. It seamlessly syncs with Strava/Garmin Connect and it’s a breeze to use.

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative that just displays speed, distance, and riding time, the Cateye Velo 9 cycling computer is a nice easy to use option.

Tires

Tires are often an underappreciated upgrade but one that  significantly impacts ride quality. It is the contact point with the road so a high quality set of tires is instantly noticeable.

Many bikes come with cheaper tires installed giving you plenty of room for improvement. Better tires give you improved rolling and puncture resistance, better handling, and help you “feel” the road.

Your three main tire options are clinchers, tubulars, and tubeless. For the vast majority of riders, clinchers are an ideal option and will perform best but for some perspective, check out this article that does an excellent job of outlining your options.

I’ve ridden on many tires including Continental, Schwalbe, Michelin and each have their advantages. I’ve mostly ridden Continental tires across their entire range and I’ve had only two flats after several thousand miles.

If you want to take a deep dive and learn more about the technical aspects of tire analysis and options, check out this site.

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