Eight of the best upgrades you can make to your bike – without breaking the bank


Eight of the best upgrades you can make to your bike – without breaking the bank

Marginal costs for major gains

Schwalbe G-One Overland gravel bike tyre

Getting fitter and more aero, or splashing out on the latest superbike, are ways to go faster (or lighten your wallet), but few of us have the time or money.


Thankfully, some of the best bike upgrades present simple and often affordable ways to ride faster, further and in greater comfort.

In fact, some of the smartest upgrades will even save you money in the long run by preserving expensive parts.

Others, meanwhile, will see you spend less time fixing punctures on the side of the road, trail or track.

What’s more, unless your bike already has an impeccable spec, well-chosen upgrades can transform your ride, without breaking the bank.

Here are eight of the best upgrades you can make to your bike.


You can also check out our guide to the best road bike upgrades, with more tips for dedicated roadies, or head to our piece on the best MTB upgrades for specific mountain bike recommendations.

Eight of the best bike upgrades in 2022

1. Tyres

Continental GP5000 S TR tyre on Egan Bernal's Pinarello Dogma F
Quality tyres grip well and puncture infrequently while upping your average speed.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

Whether you’re riding a road bike, mountain bike, gravel bike or hybrid, the most effective, affordable upgrade you can often make will be to change its tyres.

While there are exceptions, the tyres specced on off-the-shelf bikes can be underwhelming. It’s an easy area for bike brands to cut costs.

Cheaper tyres will usually deploy cost-saving measures such as using harder, less grippy rubber or a more basic construction with inferior puncture resistance.

Switching to a set of the best road bike tyres can make big improvements to the speed, comfort and handling of your bike.

This might also be an opportunity to convert to tubeless tyres. By ditching inner tubes, tubeless tyres can help stave off punctures and boost comfort by allowing you to running lower tyre pressures. We’ve got a guide to the best tubeless tyres for road bikes.

YT Capra MX Core 4 full suspension mountain mullet bike
Changing you’re tyre casing can lead to a zippier feel or prevent pinch flats depending if you go for weigh savings or protection.
Andy Lloyd / Our Media

Things get a little more complicated with mountain bike tyres, where there are countless options for different styles and conditions, but choosing a set of tyres that match your intentions on the bike can transform the ride.

Brand’s such as Maxxis and Schwalbe offer tyres in many different compounds and casings that can elevate your riding depending on the conditions and surfaces you ride on.

Upgrading your tyres can unlock new levels of riding.

The best gravel bike tyres sit somewhere between the two. If you’re riding a gravel bike, upgrading your tyres to something wider or grippier can help unlock more confidence on rough terrain, while a fast-rolling gravel tyre will boost your speed if the going’s less tough.

2. Handlebar tape and grips

Silca Nastro Fiore bar tape on Pinarello GAN K
Wave goodbye to bad vibrations by upgrading your bar tape.
Oscar Huckle / Our Media

As the contact point between your hands and bars, handlebar tape and grips are designed to provide shock absorption and traction to your bars.

The best handlebar tape is a cost-effective way to make your bike more comfortable – and breathe new life into a machine that’s feeling a bit tired.

Plusher tape will ensure fewer vibrations pass through the handlebars, so riding over broken surfaces and long days out are more forgiving on your hands, wrists and arms.

Plus, handlebar tape offers the opportunity to personalise your bars with cork or leather for a traditional look, or lively-coloured modern synthetics.

However, there’s a knack to fitting the stuff. Read our guide on how to wrap handlebar tape if you’re unsure.

DMR DeathGrip Race Edition mountain bike grips
Grips can make a huge difference to the way your bike feels.
Steve Behr / Our Media

The same can be said for mountain bike grips, where different designs can not only compliment your hand position and traction, but also add individuality to your bikes handlebars.

Different levels of cushioning can affect how you feel the trail beneath you, with riders looking for directness choosing less padded grips.

If your current grips are wearing out, it’s a good idea to replace them with an upgrade to reinvigorate the feel your bike through one of the most important contact patches.

3. Seatpost

Ergon CF Allroad Pro Carbon leaf-spring seatpost
Some seatposts, such as the Ergon CF Allroad Pro Carbon, are designed specifically to improve comfort.

The seatpost extends vertically from a bike’s seat tube and holds the saddle in place. By moving up or down, they also permit saddle height adjustment.

But, while the seatpost has a simple job on the face of it, don’t forget this humble component when it comes to upgrades.

Seatposts flex to varying degrees in order to protect your backside from jolts and vibrations.

Cheaper bikes tend to have alloy posts, which often provide a harsher ride than carbon equivalents.

Some seatposts, such as the Ergon CF Allroad Pro Carbon with its leaf-spring design, are also designed specifically to offer more flex than a typical post.

A lighter and more comfortable carbon seatpost is a smart upgrade at reasonable cost.

Bold Unplugged Ultimate full suspension mountain bike
Dropper posts make off-road riding more enjoyable as you don’t need to dismount to drop your seat for technical descents.
Ian Linton / Our Media

Dropper posts can make a huge difference to how you ride you mountain or gravel bike, allowing you to lower your saddle height via a lever on the handlebar making it easier to position your body over the rear wheel.

While they are still expensive, dropper posts are widely considered to be one of the best innovations for mountain bikes in the last decade, with many riders reluctant to go back to ridgid posts.

4. Saddle

Prologo Dimension saddle on the Orbea Orca M20 road bike
A saddle with carbon rails is a worthwhile upgrade.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Saddles are another component that can be underwhelming on otherwise impressive bikes.

Saddle choice is highly personal, too, so replacing your existing seat with something more comfortable for your rear-end will make a big difference to your enjoyment on the bike.

Saddle design varies significantly from one model to the next, with varying levels of padding or features such as pressure-relieving cut-outs, while many saddles also come in a choice of widths.

Some saddles, meanwhile, are designed for a racier position on the bike, often with a shorter nose to allow you to get into a more aggressive, aerodynamic riding position.

As saddles are a highly personal choice, we recommend trying before buying, but our guide on how to choose a bike saddle will get you started.

5. Cleaning kit

bike ceramic cleaning kit
Washing a bike is much easier when everything’s to hand.
Tom Marvin / Our Media

Bike cleaning kits contain everything you need to keep your bike looking smart and running smoothly.

These typically include a bike cleaner, degreaser and chain lube. Brushes and sponges are also normally included for applying and removing the products.

Such kits are often worth more than the sum of their parts. They’re easy to keep tidy and organised for when you need to clean your bike after a ride.

Everyone wants a clean bike but, more importantly, keeping your bike clean will improve the efficiency of your drivetrain and preserve your components in the long run.

6. Service

A shop mechanic working on a bike in a workstand
A good service will have your bike running as new again.
Allan McKenzie / SWPix.com

Regular servicing can iron out more minor niggles, such as squeaking brakes and mysterious creaks.

A good mechanic will spot signs of drivetrain wear that, if acted on, can save a lot of dosh down the line.

An ageing chain, for example, will chew through your chainrings and cassette.

Replacing the chain as it approaches its end is far cheaper than leaving it too late and having to buy expensive drivetrain parts.

A full service at your local bike shop should also look at often-neglected parts of the bike. Bearings in the rear hub and bottom bracket benefit from an occasional clean and grease.

While a service isn’t as fancy as a shiny new part, your bike will run like a dream after spending some time with a good mechanic, and it could save you money in the long run.

7. Bike fit

Female cyclist having a professional bike fit
A professional fit can help you sit more comfortably on the bike.
Immediate Media

If your bike isn’t the correct size – or it’s the right size but doesn’t offer a good fit – that’s an issue.

A correctly fitting bike is more comfortable and efficient, and therefore, more enjoyable to ride.

While most bikes offer a degree of adjustability, there are limits – and if yours is significantly too large or too small you may want to consider trading it in.

For less experienced riders, it’s a good idea to visit your local bike shop to ask for advice on how to perfect your position on the bike. If you’re looking to buy a new bike, a good shop will also be able to help you choose the right size and cover basic setup.

More advanced riders, or riders with specific niggles and fit requirements, may want to seek the advice of a professional bike fitter. These aren’t cheap, but some cyclists, whether racers or injury-prone recreational riders, swear by them.

8. Wheels

Syncros Capital SL wheelset
Wheels are often ripe for an upgrade.
Ashley Quinlan / Our Media

Okay, we’re getting into more expensive upgrades here, but wheels are another component ripe for switching, if your budget allows.

Some brands are prone to scrimping on wheels to lower the cost of complete bike builds. Many mid-range bikes roll out of the factory on wheels that don’t do the frame or rest of the build justice.

As a result, one way to improve the ride of your bike is to upgrade from its stock wheels, whether that’s to lower weight or improve aerodynamics.

Switching from alloy to carbon wheels, for example, is one of the pricier bike upgrades, but still much cheaper than a new bike.

The best road bike wheels are lighter, faster and increasingly compatible with wider tyres, adding additional comfort into the mix, too.

In addition, spare wheelsets may enable you to use the same bike, particularly a gravel bike, on a variety of terrain.

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