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Time to upgrade your bicycle tyres, saddle or handlebar?

Whether you’re new to cycling or you’ve been pedalling away at it for a few years, you might be at a stage where you want to make some upgrades to your bike, either to shed or just to make it a bit nicer to ride.

- road.cc's Best Cycling Components 2015/16

We’ve rounded up 10 upgrades costing under £500 that we reckon will enhance the performance of the bike and your enjoyment of cycling. And if you want some more affordable cycling upgrades, here are 10 for consideration.

Handlebar: Pro Vibe 7S Compact — £74.99

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You wouldn’t believe how many shapes and sizes handlebars are sold in, it’s a veritable maze of reach and drop and bend shapes. If they’re good enough for Team Sky, these Pro Vibe 7S handlebars are surely good enough for your bike.

They’re made from aluminium so tough and reliable and, at 287g, not all that heavy. A compact shape means you don’t have to overstretch to reach the drops, ideal if you like to spend time in the drops but don’t want to knacker your back. They’re easy to install with dual cable routing and guides markers for the brake levers and stem.

Read our review of the Pro Vibe 7S Compact Bar

Stem: Easton EA70 Aluminium —  £59.99

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The bicycle stem has a relatively simple job, but it’s a highly visible part of the bike and its aesthetics can be enough to push some people to upgrade it based purely on looks. You can save a bit of weight with a lighter stem as well, though gains are marginal at best. The other common reason for upgrading the stem is to improve your bike fit, and most stems come in a vast range of lengths to suit all shapes and sizes.

This Easton EA70 stem is forged from aluminium and weighs 146g for a size 110mm, which is a very respectable weight for the price. A neat four-bolt faceplate secures the handlebar in place with the company’s Top-Lock system which reduces the weight and makes bike set up a little easier.

Read our review Easton EA70 Aluminium Stem

Handlebar tape: Fabric Hex — £19.99

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fabric-hex-handlebar-tape.jpg

Is your handlebar tape looking a bit grubby and worse for wear? There are myriad options for upgrading the bar tape on your bike, you can choose a tape with more padding if you want a smoother ride, or just go for a different colour. Fabric uses a rubberised foam with a layer of silicone gel for shock absorption in its Hex Handlebar Tape, and it proves to be very comfortable and grippy in the wet and dry.

Read our review of the Fabric Hex Handlebar Tape

Saddle: Fizik Antares R5 Kium — £112.49

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fizik-antares-r5-kium-road-saddle.jpg

Changing the saddle is probably one of the most popular upgrades any cyclist can do, and it all comes down to saddle shape and personal preference. Saddles now come in a huge range of shapes, widths, lengths, with optional channels, gel padding and sprung rails, but helpfully most saddle brands now use a system that helps to choose the right one for you, from your range of flexibility to measuring your sit bones.

Fizik uses the former and the Antares R5 Kium sits in the company’s Chameleon range which is between the Snake and Bull at either extreme of spine flexibility. Saving weight is also a reason for upgrading a saddle, and with its carbon/nylon based and titanium alloy rails, the Antares weighs a respectable 202g. Flexible sides enhance comfort and there’s a reasonable degree of spring in the hollow rails.

Read our review of the Fizik Antares R5 Kium

Tyres: Michelin Power Endurance — £33.99

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Tyres are an easy and popular upgrade, and can either be bought when the original tyres on your new bike wear out, or to replace the cheap and heavy tyres that are sometimes specced on some road bikes.

Tyres really can make a difference to the bike both in terms of weight and rolling resistance. These new Michelin Power Endurance tyres provide excellent durability if you want a tyre to last and last, and stave off punctures very well, while still being reasonably light and fast. They use a new rubber compound that offers more traction and it even says they’re disc-brake ready, able to deal with the extra forces placed on a tyre by a disc road bike.

Read our review of  Michelin Power Endurance tyres

Chain: KMC X11SL DLC — £86.99

KMC X11SL DLC Black-Blue Chain.jpg

KMC X11SL DLC Black-Blue Chain.jpg

Is your chain creaking and groaning and looking a bit worn out? Maybe it’s time for a replacement? You could do much worse than this jolly expensive chain from chain specialists KMC. The high price is down to the ‘Diamond Like Coating’, a hard coating that the company applies to the chain, and which should reduce wear and extend its life on your bike. It’s also available in a range of colours (black, blue, red, green, celeste, orange, pink and yellow) so you can match it to your bike frame, which is a critically important thing for some cyclists.

Read our review of the  KMC X11SL DLC chain

Jockey Wheels: Tacx T4035 — £39.99

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The jockey wheels are easily overlooked on a bicycle but they perform a vital function and if worn can lead to inferior shifting and power transfer, so if the teeth are looking a bit rounded, it could be a good time to replace them.

The snappily titled Tacx T4035 Jockey Wheels are the upper end of the aftermarket replacement jockey wheel market, but they work to justify the price tag with ceramic bearings and teflon material in each wheel which, if the claims are to be believed for ceramic bearings, can reduce the resistance in the drivetrain and last longer.

Read our review of the Tacx T4035 jockey wheels

Wheels: Kinesis Racelight Disc — £449.99

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It’s quite probable that you’re reading this as the owner of a disc braked road bike, and you might be thinking about investing in some new disc-ready wheels for your steed. These Kinesis Racelight Disc wheels are a fine upgrade wheel on account of their sub-1,600g weight and aluminium rim that is tubeless-ready. Bung in thru-axle compatibility and you've got a well-rounded product. And at £400 they’re a bit of a bargain.

Read our review of the  Kinesis Racelight Disc wheels

Read more: Buyer's Guide to road bike wheels, plus 17 of the best

Wheels: Halo Evaura D 700C — £459.98

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Halo Evaura 6D 700c wheelset.jpg

Wheels are a hugely popular upgrade for cyclists, and for good reason; a wheel can make a big difference to the performance of any road bike. Weight is often the primary reason for upgrading wheels and weighing 1,573g yet costing under £300, these Halo Evaura wheels are a good value upgrade without breaking the bank. The rims are fashionably wide (24mm) which means they’re a good base for wider tyres - 28mm tyres go on just fine.

Read our review of the Halo Evaura D 700C wheels

Groupset: Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset — £499.99 (discounted online price)

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shimano-ultegra.jpeg

Okay, so we’ve been sticking to recommended retail prices (RRP) for most of the products in this guide so far, but what if you have a shop around? Well, you’ll find some healthy discounts, that's what. Such as this brand new Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset, for example, which can be had for a staggering £479.99. That's a massive 50% cheaper than it should be.

Read more :10 of the best Shimano Ultegra-equipped road bikes

Upgrading the entire groupset, from the cranks to the brakes levers, mechs and brake calipers, isn’t the quickest upgrade but if you’re coming from one of Shimano’s cheaper groupsets, it’ll offer you improved shifting and braking and save some weight to boot. It might just be cheaper than buying a brand new bike as well.

Read our review of the Shimano Ultegra groupset

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

22 comments

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Duncann [1281 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

For me, a £500 upgrade would be a new bike... 

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michophull [147 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

Upgrade ? What you mean is buy again something you've already got.

In the world of marketing, there is a thing known as FUD. It stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. It is a subtle way of convincing people that what they've got is not really good enough.

You will notice this a lot next time you see ads on telly etc.

Avatar
earth [401 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

For £89 I would hope KMC have not done the same with the diamond coated chain as they do with the Titanium Nitrided chain.  They only coat the parts of the chain that you can see.  The parts that contact each other are bare metal and so it has no effect.

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Vejnemojnen [271 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

or go budget..

 

deda zero100 bars: more forgiving over rough surfaces, cheaper, lighter

some generic gel bartape for half the price

chorus 11spd chain: more mileage, better shifting

deda zero100 stem, same price, lighter weight..

oh, and you can get better wheels for the price too..

http://www.aerycs-shop.de/aerycs-wheelsets-Road-Clincher/aerycs-wheelset...

 

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Mr. Sheep [60 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes

I'd need an awful lot of convincing that £50 jockey wheels are one of the ten best upgrades one can do for under £500...

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tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Saw something recently that showed posh jockey wheels giving less than a watt back. 

 

I'd only do jockey wheels if I wanted a bit of bling.

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Duncann [1281 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes
Mr. Sheep wrote:

I'd need an awful lot of convincing that £50 jockey wheels are one of the ten best upgrades one can do for under £500...

Presumably they replace the horse...?

Avatar
Mr. Sheep [60 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Duncann wrote:
Mr. Sheep wrote:

I'd need an awful lot of convincing that £50 jockey wheels are one of the ten best upgrades one can do for under £500...

Presumably they replace the horse...?

Avatar
Jackson [393 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

If you're training, spend the lot on a power meter.

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fustuarium [246 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Mr. Sheep wrote:

I'd need an awful lot of convincing that £50 jockey wheels are one of the ten best upgrades one can do for under £500...

 

Hope ones are £30 and in six colours. That's a free £20 bet on the Grand National.

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hsiaolc [368 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
earth wrote:

For £89 I would hope KMC have not done the same with the diamond coated chain as they do with the Titanium Nitrided chain.  They only coat the parts of the chain that you can see.  The parts that contact each other are bare metal and so it has no effect.

Some people do have money to burn for this kind of thing. 

Avatar
hsiaolc [368 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Defintily I think Seat, wheels, tyres and also chainset are the things thats good to upgrade if  your own kit is not up to par. 

I am not sure about the KMC chain and the jocky wheels.  I personally will not even consider that. 

 

Avatar
hsiaolc [368 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Duncann wrote:
Mr. Sheep wrote:

I'd need an awful lot of convincing that £50 jockey wheels are one of the ten best upgrades one can do for under £500...

Presumably they replace the horse...?

 

LOL thats funny.

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stenmeister [351 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

By the time my jockey wheels need replacing, it's usually time for a new rear mech or whole groupset anyway.

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part_robot [304 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

For me the best upgrade for my money was tyres: GP4000s II or Scwalbe One's (and latex innertubes if you don't mind pumping them up daily). I measured a 15-20W total reduction in rolling resistance versus my more conservative GP 4 Seasons.

As a slight aside, I found KMC chains noisy on my Ultegra Di2 whereas Shimano Ultegra/Dura Ace were not. I wonder if any one else has this problem?

Avatar
Simon E [3265 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Mr. Sheep wrote:

I'd need an awful lot of convincing that £50 jockey wheels are one of the ten best upgrades one can do for under £500...

Agree. Nothing wrong with the stock Shimano ones, all of mine lasted far longer than the disappointing BBB set I tried.

Most people don't "upgrade" their saddle, they replace an uncomfortable perch with one that they like sitting on. And I also don't see any point in "upgrading" a stem unless yours is made of plasticine.

Brake pads, now these are what I call an upgrade - that is, ones that work better than the OE blocks of wood and don't sand your rims down. I like Kool-Stop Dura 2. If your brakes don't have cartridge pads then switching to these is usually an improvement too.

Decent tyres, yes they are always worth trying, though you don't have to spend £50+ for a pair.

Handlebar tape. I've not tried many brands but for me the £5 cork tape from Planet X was just as good as the pricey stuff that had been on before.

Avatar
CycloTron07 [19 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
earth wrote:

For £89 I would hope KMC have not done the same with the diamond coated chain as they do with the Titanium Nitrided chain.  They only coat the parts of the chain that you can see.  The parts that contact each other are bare metal and so it has no effect.

 

I've got one of these chains, but not for £89!!!  They're not any better than the standard KMC SL level chains, the DLC is purely for the bling factor - I bought mine because it was the only decent all black chain I could find at the time.

Took 2 links out for proper fitting to my bike and lo and behold, the DLC is only applied to the exterior of the chain, not to the bits that matter, like the pins and rollers.

Still, nice chains if you can get it cheap.

 

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Hipshot [61 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Upgrades under £500? Oh, come on.

In terms of bang for buck, losing a day's pay by taking the day off work to go on an epic  ride will do more for your actual 'performance' than all of the above upgrades put together.

Just worth bearing in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

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srchar [803 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I upgrade the wife's CAAD8 w/ Sora whenever she complains about something. So far, the upgrades have consisted of:

- Selle SMP saddle (£36) to cure "bum hurts"

- SRAM Apex brake calipers (£20) to cure "brakes don't work very well"

- Tiagra 4700 chainset + BB (£70) to cure "the pedals feel like they're bending when I stand up"

- Fulcrum Racing 5 LG + GP4000s (£189) to cure "the brakes rub when I stand up and there's no grip in the wet"

I would suggest that all of those are worthier of inclusion in this list than the mostly valueless "upgrades" above. £50 for jockey wheels? A whole new groupset? A chain that costs the same as four Chorus chains? Come off it.

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rix [224 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

My latest upgrade under £500 was Stages powermeter (€504 includes free shiping). Although I have Ultegra, 105 crank looks and works just fine!

https://r2-bike.com/STAGES-CYCLING-Power-Meter-Shimano-Ultegra-6700-Gene...

//lh3.googleusercontent.com/-xOrCedW5U-iiTlVj3SUb1L40xLVawMelC0t04_hb2fD4XaNkfYWnvyc37d1bzGkv4rud_PSncNOxzc)

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Grumpy17 [92 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

As the proud owner of a pair of ceramic jockey wheels -which were in fact less than £20- I understand tests have shown they can save you about 4 seconds on a 25 mile TT. Just saying...

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cyclesteffer [329 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I found this carbon seatpost a great upgrade and wallet friendly. I've had them on two of my bikes for thousands of miles this year, fitted with saddle bags. I thought they would get "rub marks" but the laquer must be good as it's untouched. Tredz always lob fiver vouchers at you so you can probably get it for £34. http://www.tredz.co.uk/.RSP-Elite-Carbon-Seatpost_50752.htm Much recommended and a comfier ride to boot!