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The best road bike upgrades under £50 2024 — get a better bike on a budget with these excellent components and accessories

You don't have to spend the earth to make your bike lighter, more comfortable or more high-tech. Here are our top upgrades under 50 quid

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Can road bike upgrades under £50 really make much of a difference to performance? Yes, they can. Here's how you can improve weight, speed and comfort without breaking the bank.

Upgrades that improve comfort – such as a better saddle or handlebar tape – can make a big difference to the way your bike feels, while swapping components like tyres and brake pads can improve your control.

Reducing rolling resistance with lighter inner tubes is one of the cheapest and most straightforward road bike performance upgrades, and changing your handlebar and/or stem can make a big difference to the way your bike fits and to your overall ride experience.

Even a small and inexpensive change can make a big difference.

The best road bike upgrades under £50

KranX Base 145 Road and Commuter Saddle

KranX Base 145 Road and Commuter Saddle in Black

Best saddle for less than £30
Buy now for £21.15 from Baldwins Cycles

The KranX Base 145 Road and Commuter Saddle is a comfortable and likeable budget saddle that doesn’t do anything wrong at all. Okay, it’s a little heavy (335g) but it’s still a strong option.

As with most saddles at this price point, you get a nylon base, chromoly rails, synthetic cover and PU (polyurethane) cushioning. There’s plenty of flex in the base while a central cut-out avoids any excess pressure that could cause numbness.

Reviewer Dave said, “Big wads of padding are by no means a guarantee of comfort; some of the most comfortable saddles I've ever used have been pretty thin. But the amount and consistency of the PU foam used here was just the ticket for me, and I love it.”

Fabric Scoop Elite Shallow saddle

Fabric Scoop Elite Shallow saddle

Best saddle under £50
Buy now for £34.99 from Merlin Cycles
Good price
Could be lighter

You don’t necessarily have to spend big to get a comfortable and lighter saddle. Fabric’s Scoop saddle comes in a range of widths and shapes so you should be able to find one that works for you, though the usual caveats apply: a saddle has to fit the shape of your bum, and if it doesn’t it’ll never be comfy.

It may not be the lightest saddle out there at a claimed 266g, but for the price that's more than acceptable. Offering an impressive mix of comfort, ruggedness and performance, the Fabric Scoop Elite Shallow is an excellent option for many riders.

Genetic STV Road Bar

Genetic STV Road Bar

Best handlebar priced under £30
Buy now for £26.99 from Triton Cycles
Compact shape
Small diameter top section allows you to run thick bar tape
Cable grooves are non-existent
No 'sandpaper' effect for gripping gear shifters

The Genetic STV Road Bar offers a balance of stiffness, comfort and weight, and it comes at a decent price. It also has a compact shape that might be a bonus for less flexible riders who struggle to get down on the drops.

The STV does everything a handlebar should. Made from 6061 series aluminium alloy, it doesn't flex and its slightly thinner-than-usual top section means you can run thicker bar tape for extra comfort without adding too much to the bulk. 

Cannondale HexTack

Cannondale HexTack Silicone Bar Tape

Best handlebar tape for grip and cushioning
Buy now for £24.99 from Cycle World
Easy to wrap
Only available in black or white

Cannondale HexTack Silicone Bar Tape is well-cushioned, easy to wrap, grippy, and can even be reused. It’s more expensive than normal bar tape, but it does make a big difference to the feel of your bike.

The tape is made from a foamy silicone, and though it doesn't directly stick to the bar, it stays in place.

Although the tape has a relatively slim profile it’s nicely cushioned, helping to smooth over bumps and rough patches. It’s also grippy, even in wet conditions, thanks to the silicone material used and the hexagonal pattern across the entirety of the roll.

All in all, this is fantastic stuff.

Fizik Vento Solocush Tacky Tape

Fizik Vento Solocush Tacky Tape

Best handlebar tape for all-round performance
Buy now for £25 from Tweaks Cycles
Superb all-round performance
Generous length
Less flexible than some so takes longer to fit

Replacing worn or uncomfortable bar tape can transform the appearance and comfort of your bike, and here’s a luxury bar tape that looks good, lasts well and feels great. It’s also available in a wide range of colours so you can match it up to your bike if you’re that way inclined.

It's less supple than some handlebar tapes and that means that fitting it can take a little longer, but it's worth the effort. This is a high-quality and very effective option.

Easton EA70 Aluminium Stem

Easton EA70 Aluminium Stem

Best stem priced around £50
No protruding bolts
Deep recess for hex keys
Only available as 0 and 7 degrees

The Easton EA70 Aluminium Stem might have a retail price of £59.99 but you can often find it for under £50, hence its inclusion here.

This model sits in the middle of Easton’s range and offers good value and some nice touches. It’s reasonably light too, our 100mm model coming in at 140g. That might not be superlight but it’s less than many at this price point.

The EA70 has a clean look and smooth design, with the main circular profile blending into the faceplate and rear clamp area. The steerer clamp bolts don’t protrude from the side so you can’t knock them when you’re standing up to pedal.

In use, the stem feels absolutely fine, with no discernible flex and no noises or anything untoward.

Look Keo Classic 3

Look Keo Classic 3 Road Clipless Pedal

Best road-specific clipless pedals for under £50
Buy now for £31.99 from Merlin Cycles
Easy to use
Adjustable release tension

If you’re looking to make the leap to clipless pedals, Look's entry-level Keo pedals won’t break the bank and offer excellent performance that belies their low price. They offer lots of support thanks to a large platform, a decent amount of float (foot movement before you unclip), and the release spring tension can easily be adjusted.

There are certainly lighter options out there but these are well-made and robust and do a great job.

Shimano PD-M520

Shimano PD-M520 SPD pedal

Best sub-£50 clipless pedals for shoes you can walk in
Buy now for £28.5 from Merlin Cycles
Great value
Long lifespan
Simple to keep clean and maintain
Not necessarily the prettiest!

If you want clipless pedals that work with shoes you can walk in – as opposed to just tottering around in – and don’t want to spend much money, it’s very hard to go past Shimano's base model double-sided SPDs.

Once these pedals are on, it’s easy to forget about them as they require very little maintenance apart from a quick clean and spray. Because of the dual-sided design, you don’t have to worry about the pedal position in the same way as with SPD-SL or other single-side pedals. 

They’re easy to use, tough as old boots and cheap. These are deservedly considered a practical classic.

Continental Grand Prix tyre

Continental Grand Prix tyre

Best sub-£50 tyre for all-round performance
Buy now for £22.99 from Wiggle
Decent grip
Good rolling resistance
Resistant to punctures

Bicycle tyres can be surprisingly dear but Continental’s mid-range rubber bucks that trend. Although the version with a rigid bead has an RRP of £35.95 (the folding bead version is £44.95), shop around and you should be able to find it cheaper.

The Grand Prix is a really good all-round tyre with decent grip, rolling resistance that’s almost as good as the more expensive GP5000 and slightly better puncture resistance.

It comes in 23mm, 25mm, and 28mm widths, and provides most of the performance of a more expensive tyre at a palatable price.

Hutchinson Challenger tyre

Hutchinson Challenger 700x28 tyre

Best value road bike tyre
Buy now for £25.95 from Westbrook Cycles
Good value for money
Rolls well
Not tubeless compatible if that's your thing

The Hutchinson Challenger is an endurance tyre designed for big miles, and for such a hardwearing tyre it is surprisingly supple, offering great handling in both wet and dry conditions, and good rolling resistance. On top of all that, it’s a bargain.

The Challenger is a firm favourite in the world of ultra-endurance riding, and with a claimed lifespan of 5,000 miles (8,000km), it’s easy to see why. Often brands will use harder rubber compounds to make a tyre last longer at the sacrifice of grip and ride quality, but the Challenger uses a bi-compound rubber. This is harder in the narrow central section and softer on either side of that, so you get the best of both worlds.

The Challengers are standard clinchers available in 25mm, 28mm and 30mm widths. Overall, we don’t think you can beat them for the price. They offer a great ride feel and durability, so if you want quick tyres that’ll also last the distance they make a sound choice.

Zefal Pulse A2

Zefal Pulse A2 Cage

Best bottle cage for under £10
Buy now for £4.5 from Merlin Cycles
Good performance
Low price
Erm... it ain't carbon

If your new bike came with no bottle cages, you’ll want to add one or two to avoid dehydration if you ever ride for more than an hour.

There are plenty of bottle cages to choose from and Zefal makes some really good ones. This affordable plastic cage holds water bottles securely with a nice firm grip – there’s no fear of bottle ejection here.

It is tough, lightweight and flexible enough to take any standard bottle. The elastomer gripper is securely fixed and… well, it just does its job really well.

K-Edge Road Chain Catcher

K-Edge Road Chain Catcher

Best upgrade for keeping your frame safe
Buy now for £24.98 from Tweeks Cycles
Prevents damage to your frame
Simple to fit

A dropped chain is an annoyance on a ride, but can be a disaster in a race, leaving you frantically trying to sort it out while the peloton vanishes up the road. Even the most careful front mech adjustment can’t completely prevent this, so a chain catcher is handy insurance.

The K-Edge chain catcher keeps your chain in place, preventing the potentially expensive, composite-mangling disaster of a dislodged chain on a carbon frame.

The braze-on model has been designed to look good and work well, and installation is simple.

It’s a simple product that safeguards your frame and provides peace of mind.

Restrap Tool Pouch

Restrap Tool Pouch

Buy now for £32.99 from Restrap
Really useful size
Simple and secure fitting system
Excellent build quality
Reflectives are minimal

Okay, Restrap’s Tool Pouch doesn’t necessarily break any new ground but it’s high quality and durable and is a great example of how it should be done.

The Tool Pouch is made from tough 1000D textured nylon that stands up to everyday abuse, and it is resistant to rain and road spray. The strap is robust too and there are no zips to wear out over time.

The Tool Pouch has a 0.6 litre capacity so it’s perfectly sized to take an inner tube, a multitool, some CO2 canisters and a few other ride essentials.

Tubolito Tubo Road

Tubolito Tubo Road 700C inner tubes

Best inner tube for saving weight
Buy now for £19.99 from Decathlon
Weigh next to nothing

Okay, as inner tubes go they’re expensive but compared with a tubeless conversion – or a new wheelset – the Tubo Road tubes from Tubolito are a cost-effective way of shedding some weight. They offer good puncture resistance as well.

Compared with a random butyl 700C tube, the thermoplastic elastomer Tubo saves about 70g. That’s per tube, so buy two and you can shave around 140g from your bike.

Fitting is a doddle and Tubolito reckons the rolling resistance is akin to a latex tube – and they don’t often need to be re-inflated.

A spare takes up very little space in your pocket or saddle pack.

CL Brakes 4064 RDX Shimano Caliper Brake Pads

CL Brakes 4064 RDX Shimano Caliper Brake Pads

Best pads for Shimano disc brakes
Buy now for £19.95 from CL Brake Pads
Work in all conditions
There are cheaper alternatives

These CL Brakes 4064 RDX Disc Brake Pads are impressive, offering a performance that’s noticeably better than the original equipment pads they replace. They aren't the cheapest out there but nor are they more expensive than other pads we rate highly.

These RDX sintered pads are designed for road and gravel bikes, and this 4064 version fits J-Type callipers including 105, Ultegra, Dura-Ace and GRX.

The overall quality looks and feels to be high, both in the finish of the backing plate and the pad shape itself.

The RDX pads give a firm initial grip on the rotors regardless of the temperature or conditions, and they maintain the progressive braking feel of Shimano callipers. Overall, they’re noticeably better than the standard Shimano pads they replace. They’re also very quiet and their durability is good.

Kool Stop Dura 2 Dual Compound brake blocks

Kool Stop Dura 2 Dual Compound brake blocks

Best rim brake pads
Buy now for £7.95 from High On Bikes
Solid stopping power
Decent longevity
A little prone to picking up road grit

At some point, your brake pads will wear out and need replacing. Sometimes, you might want a bit more power than your regular brake pads can provide. There are many aftermarket brake pads available so you don’t just have to automatically replace yours with original manufacturer equipment.

The dual-compound design of these Kool Stop blocks provides great braking performance in a range of conditions, especially when it’s wet. These are noticeably better than many original brake pads fitted to new bikes.

Flinger Race Pro Clip Mudguards

Flinger Race Pro Clip Mudguards

Best clip-on mudguards for all-round performance
Buy now for £49.99 from Tweeks Cycles
Easy and quick to fit
Adjustable stays
Good coverage
Would benefit from extra length at the back and storm flaps
32mm tyre coverage looks tight

We're big fans of these Flinger clip-on mudguards, our reviewer Liam saying that they offer a near-perfect performance at a sensible price. We like that! Although the retail price is outside of our £50 limit, shop around and you might be able to find them below that. 

All Race Pro guards accept a maximum tyre size of 32mm. If you'd like to commute on your regular road bike while keeping spray off then these are a great option. They're quick and easy to install and once in place they stay secure, with the stays fitting to the frame via a rubber band that can be cut to length.

Lifeline Torque Wrench Set

Lifeline Torque Wrench Set

Lifeline Torque Wrench Set

Best value torque wrench set for upgrading your bike
Buy now for £35.99 from Wiggle
Wide torque range
Good variety of bits
Feels a little plasticky

Okay, this one isn’t exactly a road bike upgrade but it’s a really cool tool to help you when you’re fitting new components and accessories.

Tightening bolts to the correct torque is vital. First, you need to make sure the bolt stays tight. Second, you need to make sure you don’t over-tighten or you could do irreparable damage – and you really don’t want that to happen.

Lifeline’s Essential Torque Wrench Set will help you get it right. It’s affordable, easy to use, accurate and very well-equipped. It’s an excellent addition to any home workshop.

Giant Recon TL 100

Giant Recon TL 100 rear light

Best lightweight rear bike light
Buy now for £20.49 from Cycle Store
Good run-times for its size
Side visibility could be better

A lot of people like to run lights even during daytime riding and the Giant Recon TL 100 is bright enough to get you noticed in all conditions. It’s small – a 3cm cube – and lightweight – just 39g – yet still manages to offer a 100-lumen output.

Run-times are good when you consider its tiny size: three hours on constant full power and 18 hours on low flash. LEDs behind the switch change from green to red to indicate battery life, and the light will automatically switch itself to low flash mode before it runs out of juice.

The level of waterproofing is great and you can’t argue with the price.

If you want a small front light too, you can buy the Recon HL 100 together with this Recon TL 100. This combo has an RRP of £44.99.

Deuter Energy Bag

Deuter Energy Bag

Best top tube bag for easy access
Buy now for £14.27 from Amazon
Easy & stable fixing
Looks good
Not waterproof

Being able to snack while you ride — whether on gels, energy bars, Snickers or Jaffa Cakes — is the secret to staving off the dreaded bonk on long rides. A top tube bag like this is a comfortable alternative to stuffing your jersey pockets, and is easier to get at too.

The Deuter Energy Bag doesn’t reinvent the concept of a top tube bag in any way but does make a mundane item look good and is easy to fit and use.

Once strapped in place, the bag is stable even on a round profile top tube (it’s even better on a flat-topped tube), with minimal side-to-side movement. There are two zipped compartments, the main one on the top the primary compartment, with the zip on the side giving access to a slim pocket – ideal for cash or cards.

Overall, this is a neat and attractive bag that’s ideal for easy-to-reach snacks and accessories on longer rides

Genetic Driser-16

Genetic Driser-16 handlebar

Best road bike handlebar for under £50
Buy now for £49.49 from Triton Cycles
Good combination of features
Well priced
The riser section may be out of bounds for mounting lights or other stuff

This bar is unusual in that the drops flare outwards by 16° while the tops rise 20mm from their central point. This rise will come in handy for those looking for a more upright position for long rides on or off-road without getting a new stem or – for anyone who has maxed out their steerer tube – a new fork.

Genetic describes the top sections as ‘semi-aero palm friendly’, meaning even extra-large hands get plenty of grip with just a single layer of bar tape.

The flare makes for a wider stance and confident handling at speed, even on rough roads. The end of the drop section is straight for a palm’s width and immediately above that is a pistol grip for all-out efforts where you need access to the shifters and brakes.

All in all, the Genetic Driser-16 is a cracking handlebar for more adventurous riding, and with the 20mm rise and wide tops, it may well suit you for less-rigorous pursuits as well.

On top of all that, the value is good too. Although the RRP is £54.99, this handlebar is available for under 50 quid.

Best road bike upgrades under £50: how to choose and what you need to know

What should you upgrade first on a road bike?

If there’s a particular component that’s affecting your comfort, start there. If your saddle makes you numb half an hour into a ride, change to one of the best road bike saddles. Similarly, if your handlebar and stem are the wrong size, your bike won’t fit properly. You’re better off spending time and a little money getting the fit absolutely spot on before you start thinking about saving weight or making your bike more aero.

Beyond that, the tyres are a weak point on many bikes. They’re an easy way for brands to cut costs and make a price point. Downgraded groupset components and wheels are really noticeable, but cheap tyres can slip under the radar. Changing to some of the best road bike tyres can improve handling, comfort, and speed.

Upgrading to some of the best road bike wheels will often make a big difference to the way a bike performs too, although that’s beyond the scope of this article with its £50 price limit.

If you’ve never used clipless pedals before, adding them to your bike will provide a much better foot-to-pedal connection and could transform your experience of riding. We have a couple of pairs in here that make the price point.

Is it worth upgrading a cheap road bike?

You’re never going to turn a bargain basement bike into a super-high-end Tour de France race machine but you can usually make good upgrades for reasonable money.

You’ll sometimes find that stock components aren’t to your taste. The classic example is a saddle that you don’t find comfortable. What’s perfect for one person can be a pain in the ass – literally – for another. There’s no point putting up with a saddle that doesn’t work for you. There are thousands of other options out there, many of them at decent prices.

What is the best road bike upgrade for speed?

When you’re riding at typical road bike speeds, a huge chunk of the power you put out goes towards overcoming aerodynamic drag. Most of that drag comes from you – your body and whatever you're wearing– rather than your bike, so anything that you can do to make your ride position more efficient will make a significant difference to your speed.

You might have had a bike fit and already be riding in an efficient position. However, you could be wasting energy if you’re riding in a position that’s too upright or your handlebar is too wide. If this is the case, swapping your bar or stem – or even reducing the stack of headset spacers – could make a difference.

That said, bike fitting is notoriously complicated so head down to your local bike shop and get some expert advice before changing these components.

What are the best road bike upgrades for the money?

All of the upgrades suggested in this article will make a difference to the feel and/or performance of your bike without costing a whole lot of cash. The ones that will make the most difference depend a lot on your current bike and the components fitted.

Changes to the bike’s contact points – the saddle, handlebar and pedals – can transform the way a bike feels. A wider handlebar or a longer stem can alter the fit significantly and even replacing old and tired handlebar tape with a well-cushioned and grippy alternative can make your bike much more comfortable.

Upgrading a component for one that’s slightly lighter won’t make a whole heap of difference to the way your bike rides, but if you’re prepared to change a few components those little differences can add up. It’s that whole ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ philosophy that has been popularised by Team Sky/Ineos Grenadiers.


Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.