7 Upgrades to Take Your Bike to the Next Level

by Marc Lindsay
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7 Upgrades to Take Your Bike to the Next Level

While purchasing a new bike or even a brand-new set of wheels can be exciting, there are more cost-effective ways to make your old bike feel — and work — like new. When you aren’t in the market for a new rig, try these upgrades that won’t break the bank but will give your current bike a much-deserved makeover.

1. TIRES

Excessive or large cuts, a flat center or worn tread are obvious signs your tires need to be replaced. Other than providing additional puncture protection, replacing worn tires with a higher-quality tire can also decrease your rotational weight, provide more comfort, better handling and improved aerodynamics. Consider replacing narrow tires with a tire that’s 25mm wide or larger if you prioritize comfort over speed and like to tackle the occasional gravel road.

When you upgrade your tires, also replace your rim tape and old inner tubes, which may not hold air as well after extended use. Worn rim tape can cause your inner tubes to puncture if it comes into contact with the end of the spoke.

2. SADDLE

It should go without saying that if your bike seat is uncomfortable you should look into getting it replaced. But even if you like your saddle, it won’t last forever. The padding eventually loses its shape and doesn’t provide the support it did when it was new.

Look for creases, areas of the saddle that sag or any rips or tears in the outer covering. If any of these areas show signs of damage, consider a replacement. You’ll be surprised how a new, properly fitting saddle can improve your comfort and make your overall cycling experience more enjoyable.

3. CABLES

While it isn’t what most would consider a sexy upgrade because it won’t change the look of your steed, changing your inner and outer cables can drastically improve the braking and shifting performance of your bike.

If your cables look worn, rusted or provide inconsistent shifting, you should replace them. Most cables are relatively inexpensive unless you’re looking to purchase a sealed cable system, which bumps up the price, but may last a bit longer. For those of you lucky enough to have electronic drivetrains, this is one of the upgrades you no longer have to worry about.

4. HANDLEBAR TAPE

Dirty or worn bar tape can make your bike look and feel beaten up. New bar tape gives your bike a clean, pristine look and provides extra cushion for your upper body, which can reduce fatigue and improve comfort on long rides.

At least once per year, or any time you replace your cables, make it a habit to replace your bar tape. It’s one of the easiest, cheapest ways to make your bike look new again.

5. CHAIN

While a new chain can cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $70, replacing your old chain can save you a lot of money in the long run. An old chain can wear out other components of your drivetrain, such as your cassette, chainrings and rear derailleur. It can also affect the quality of your shifting and decrease your overall power output from frictional losses.

To make sure your chain and other drivetrain components last longer, clean your chain after every ride and lubricate when necessary.

6. BEARINGS

New wheels and bottom brackets can get expensive. If you’ve had your bike for a while, chances are these rotational parts aren’t rolling as smoothly as they used to. Instead of opting for all new parts, replacing worn parts you can’t see can be a more cost-effective option that will improve the performance of your bike and make it work like new.

Since you’ll need special tools to get to the bearings of your hubs, bottom bracket and headset, it’s usually a good idea to have your local bike shop inspect the bearings to determine if they need maintenance or should be replaced. You’ll be surprised how much easier this upgrade will make your bike roll and pedal.


READ MORE > TIRES, CHAINS, AND OTHER BIKE COMPONENTS | GEAR TO SPLURGE ON


7. CHAINRINGS

When the teeth on your chain rings wear, it can affect your shifting and power output on the road. While a whole new crankset can get pretty expensive, most of the time you’ll only need to replace the chainrings, which won’t cost nearly as much.

If you’re also looking for an upgrade in the speed department, choosing osymetric or elliptical chainrings instead of more traditional oval chain rings decreases time spent in the “dead zone” of your pedal stroke when not much power is being generated. It also puts less stress on your knees and improves power by as much as 10%.

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