The Best Bicycle Upgrades to Make

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COME ON! YOU LOVE YOUR BICYCLE! If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have taken so much time to pick it out at the bike shop. You wouldn’t have asked the bike expert so many questions pertaining to which bicycle is best for your needs. All that time choosing the color, geometry, components, and making sure it fits properly would have been all-for-nothing. That’s if you didn’t truly love your bike. BUT YOU DO! That’s why we’re going to tell you what the best bicycle upgrades are, in order to help you make your faithful commuting friend way more comfortable, and better performing.

The best bicycle upgrades to make

By performing bicycle upgrades you can make a new bicycle more comfortable. Or make an older bicycle perform better. Here’s an in depth-guide to help you turn any type of bicycle into a better riding machine ranging from fast and cheap, or crazy and expensive.

The best bicycle upgrades you can make are your handlebars, handlebar grips, bar tape, saddle, pedals, brakes, tires, and wheels:

Many hard-core bicycle commuters are most likely very capable of doing these bicycle upgrades themself. For those of you that are new to cycling, don’t worry.

You can easily get personalized advice on these components by setting up an appointment with a virtual outfitter or visiting your local bike shop.

Your bike shop can quickly and easily install any upgraded components you would like on your bicycle.

Grips and bar tape

Grips and handlebar tape are among the best bicycle upgrades to make.
Grips and handlebar tape are among the best bicycle upgrades to make.

The three most important parts of your bicycle is where your body makes contact. That’s the seat, pedals, and handlebars. You’re constantly putting pressure on the seat and handlebars.

If they aren’t comfortable, they can make for a very painful, and unpleasant ride. The pedals must also fit your style of riding.

  • Flat bars, mostly found on mountain bikes and some cruiser bikes provide lots of control at slower speeds, and around traffic. The problem is that many bikes come with cheap, uncomfortable handlebar grips. By swapping these cheap grips out for higher-quality handlebar grips, you can dramatically improve comfort and control. Try upgrading your grips to softer and squishier ergonomic ones. Even when riding for shorter differences, better grips will make a huge difference. Comfortable grips will damper out some of the vibrations from the road or trail.
  • Drop bars on road bikes, will require you to upgrade the tape that’s wrapped around the bar. Bar tape is more important than just adding color and style. Just like good grade grips found on flat bars, bar tape reduces road vibration. This reduces fatigue, especially while going on longer rides. High quality bar tape can be purchased for under $50. Just remember that applying it can be tricky, so have a bike technician install it for you.

One of the best bicycle upgrades to make is a saddle

Bicycle seat.
Bicycle seat.

A comfortable saddle (seat) on your bike that’s properly sized for your sit bones is extremely important. There’s many different types of saddles available to accommodate your body type and style of riding.

Choose a saddle designed to match your style of riding. As an example: for your mountain bike, choose a mountain-specific saddle that’s padded where your sit-bones hit the seat.

For your road bike, you’ll want a long, lean saddle without much padding, that also saves weight.

Remember that the amount of cushion on your bicycle seat isn’t all that matters. The seat must accommodate the shape and weight of your body. Otherwise it’s going to be uncomfortable and impact your pedaling efficiency.

Firmer saddles are better suited for frequent, longer rides. That’s because your body adapts to the firmer saddle. Making your movements more efficient because you’re not hindered by thick layers of foam.

Handlebars

Bicycle handlebars.
Bicycle handlebars.

One of the most important components that receives the least amount of love, are handlebars. Handlebars come in all shapes, heights, and widths.

Depending on what type of brakes and gear shifters come with your bike, handlebars can be changed. Lighter handlebars will lighten your bicycle. Higher handlebars will provide a more comfortable, upright riding position. While wider handlebars will provide more stability and control. Handlebars are truly one of the best bicycle upgrades to make.

Check out the following drop bar and flat bar variations for your bike:
  • Mountain bikes and hybrid bikes have flat bars and riser bars that put you more in a more upright riding position. Wider bars provide stabler handling. Choose handlebars that are the same width as your shoulders. Switching to a flat bar with a rise puts you in a more upright riding position. This gives you a less aggressive, more relaxed riding position.
  • Road bikes have drop bars. This provides multiple hand positions, which raises or lowers the angle of your torso. Many technological advances have happened to drop bars in recent years in both material (carbon fiber, which can be 40% lighter than aluminum) and shape. Flat sections in the center of the bar give your hands an ideal resting position. There’s also drop bars with a dramatic flair near the ends, giving you a wider, more stable handling position.

As the same with saddles, the bar you choose depends largely on your style of riding, and how well it fits your body.

Pedals are the best bicycle upgrades to make

The best bicycle upgrades to make are pedals.
The best bicycle upgrades to make are pedals.

The most essential part of your bicycle are the pedals. Without pedals, you have no way of transferring power from your legs, to your bicycle.

Make sure you get the right pedal set that matches your riding style, so that you can increase pedaling efficiency, ride feel, and confidence.

Also, get footwear that has great grip if using flat pedals. For clip less pedals, get clip less footwear, with mountain biking style being the easiest to walk in when not on the bike.

Clip less or flats?

There’s two types of pedals to choose from. Clip less (meaning your shoes must have cleats that clip into the pedals) or flats (meaning your pedals don’t require you to wear special bike shoes that clip into them).

Flats (platform) pedals

Platform pedals are great for recreational cyclists and everyday commuters. With flat pedals you can wear any type of footwear you feel comfortable in. This means no shoes with cleats. You can comfortably walk when not riding, because there’s no cleats that can cause you to slip and fall.

Great for cruising around town to the stores and cafe’s, lightweight flat pedals can be purchased for well under $100.

Flat pedals are also very popular with mountain bikers. Mountain bike flat pedals have pins that grip the soles of mountain bike specific shoes, thus providing tight contact between your feet and the pedals.

Clip less pedals

Preferred by serious road cyclists, clip less pedals give you more control over the bike (bunny hopping is a piece of cake). Clip less pedals also allow you to pull up and push down on the pedals at the same time. This increases your power transfer and pedaling efficiency.

There’s also different categories of clip less pedals. Three-hole and SPD are the most common. But the choice comes down to personal preference.

Also, if you use your road bike as an around-town cruiser when not doing fast, longer rides, get a dual-sided pedal. Dual sided pedals have one side made for flats and the other compatible with cleats.

Brakes

Rim brakes.
Rim brakes.

Today’s bicycles are lighter, faster, and more responsive than ever. That’s because cyclists spend a lot of money making their bikes as light and fast as possible.

This requires your bicycle to have brakes that are very responsive in order to stop at higher speeds. Upgrading your brakes will make you faster while descending, and cornering, all while increasing your confidence.

A great way to improve your brakes while not spending a lot of money is on the brake pads. These tiny squares of rubber that squeeze the rotors or rims, will slow your stop your bike powerfully and consistently.

Most bikes made within the last decade use disc brakes. Disc brakes respond much better during wet riding conditions. But disc systems still use pads that wear out over time and will need to be replaced. New pads will help give you more stopping power.

For bicycles that are over a few years old, we recommend replacing the entire braking system. Brakes have improved dramatically over the last few years by becoming lighter and more efficient.

Thanks to in-line hydraulic reservoirs, hydraulic disc brakes are much more responsive and offer better modulation (variations between all-on or all-off) than mechanical disc brakes.

They’re powerful enough to be operated by just your index finger, allowing you to keep more of your hand on the grip and hence have better control of your bike.

Bike tires

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Tires are very important because they are the only part of your bike that makes contact with the ground. You want to choose good grade tires that are puncture resistant. And provide excellent grip on various terrain such as pavement or sandy desert trails.

After riding the same tires, especially if they are the basic ones that came with your bike, you should check them for wear.

Tires that have low tread, or worn sidewalls should be replaced immediately. This makes for a great time to upgrade to tires with less rolling resistance, rotational weight and improved overall speed and feel.

Fortunately, tires are one of the least expensive upgrades and easiest to install. (Switching tires is the same process as fixing a flat tire).

Get tires that have the type of tread that matches where you’ll be riding the most:

For your mountain bike, select tires with wider-spaced knobs for better handling in loose and wet terrain.

For your road bike, choose tires with little to no tread, called slicks, which are meant for pavement only. Only choose wider, knobbier tires if you plan on riding mixed terrain.

Wider tires are becoming more popular on both road bikes and mountain bikes for better traction as well as a more comfortable ride. (Sure, thinner tires are more efficient, but a 28 mm road tire inflated to 100 psi can be significantly more comfortable than a 23 mm tire at the same pressure.)

Gravel riding has become extremely popular. It has roadies searching for wider tires that provide better cushion to decrease road buzz when the pavement turns to gravel.

Make sure the size of the tire matches the size of your wheel. And check your frame clearance to figure out how wide of a tire you can run. Keep in mind, that wider tires tend to be heavier, so there’s a tradeoff between speed and traction.

Wheels

Wheels.
Wheels.

Buying a shiny new set of bicycle wheels can be a very expensive upgrade. But new wheels can lighten your bicycle, and also improve performance.

A new set of upgraded wheels are going to be lighter and more durable, because of better bearing sets, making them more energy efficient. The result is easier rolling, faster wheels.

The cost of new wheel sets vary in prices from $45 to $2,000. The most expensive wheels made of carbon fiber will be lighter than traditional aluminum wheels, while providing better lateral stiffness. Resulting in improved performance, and wheels that stay truer over time.

Lighter, stiffer wheels make an immediate impact on the performance of your bike, saving you a pound or two in overall bike weight while making your pedaling more energy efficient in the process. The result is a faster, livelier ride.

CHECK OUT THE BICYCLE COMMUTING GUIDE: HERE

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