Like this site? Help us to make it better.


10 smart bike upgrades for under £100 — get comfier, go faster, climb easier

What are the best replacement components to buy that make your bike better?

Eddy Merckx once famously said that you shouldn’t buy upgrades, but should ride up grades. Riding more is almost always the best way to improve your cycling, but there are some component changes that will improve your comfort, safety and speed. Here’s a selection that each cost under £100.

10 great upgrades for under £100

Continental Grand Prix 5000 tyres — £70.00/pr

2020 Continental Grand Prix 5000 tyres

Why: Faster rolling; improved comfort (if switching from 23mm to 25mm or 28mm)

Our long-standing tyre recommendation, the Continental Grand Prix 4000S II is no more, but its successor is superb and rolls slightly better, especially if you take the opportunity to switch to tubeless.

The Grand Prix 5000's main claim to fame is its low rolling resistance. As a tyre rolls along, it flexes, and this flex absorbs energy; the tyre literally resists rolling. Tyres with thin tread made from flexible rubber, and light, supple casings have low rolling resistance. Problem is, they also tend to be easily punctured. The success of the GP 5000 is down in part to a layer under the tread of fabric made from Vectran, a high-strength synthetic fibre. This helps ward off punctures, though they still happen. It’s not as effective as the thick anti-puncture layer in a tyre like the Schwalbe Marathon Plus but it’s considerably better than nothing.

While you’re buying new tyres, consider going up a size or two. The 28mm version of the GP 5000 rolls superbly and can be run at lower pressures to improve comfort and road holding.

A pair of these comes well under our budget, so consider adding Michelin or Vittoria latex inner tubes too (both about £10), to further reduce the rolling resistance. Can’t be bothered pumping your tyres up daily? Fit a pair of Continental’s 50g Supersonic tubes.

Read more
All tyre reviews on
Buyer’s guide to tyres
The best tyres for winter riding

Shimano Dura-Ace brake cables — £28.99 & Dura-Ace gear cables — £29.99

Shimano Dura-Ace cables

Why: Slicker shifting and braking

It's easy to forget about your cables. They deteriorate so gradually you might not notice your gears don't shift as well as they did when they were new, and your brakes need just a little more effort. These two kits have everything you need to spruce them right up and have them working like new — or even better if your bike manufacturer skimped on cables as many do. The polymer linings on the inner wires mean these cables keep working well for longer too.

USE Duro Carbon Seat Post — £64

USE Duro Carbon.jpg

Why: Less weight, less road buzz

USE is better known to road cyclists for its Exposure lights, but it has a long history as component maker, particularly of seatposts. At 162g in 300mm x 27.2 post, this is a light post.

Weight aside, carbon fibre seatposts have the advantage that they’re usually more flexible than those made from aluminium, reducing the road buzz that gets through to your bum.

Read more: All reviews of seatposts on

Fizik Aliante R3 K:ium Saddle — £82.50

Fizik Aliante R3.jpg

Why: Improved comfort; less weight

At 215g, this classic saddle lops almost 100g off a typical stock seat and is famously comfortable. The usual caveats apply, of course: everyone’s bottom is different, so what suits other riders may still give you a bum rap.

More broadly, changing your saddle, and carefully adjusting its height, angle and fore-aft position, can be the biggest comfort improvement you can make. If you’re not sitting comfortably — if cycling is literally a pain in the arse — then go shopping for a better seat.

Read more
All saddle reviews on
Buyer’s guide to saddles
Buyer's guide to women's saddles
Buyer's guide to performance saddles — improve comfort & save weight in one upgrade

Women's saddles: Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow — £49.99SDG Allure Women’s Ti-Rail saddle — £69.99

women's saddles

Why: Improved comfort

We're listing two options here because experience shows women have considerably more problems finding the right saddle than do men. The Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow is a 178mm wide, the SDG Allure 143mm, so they fit different sit-bone widths and different riding positions. They are however both saddles that devoted riders swear by. 

Shimano Ultegra 11 Speed Cassette & chain — £93.50 - £97.70

Ultegra cassette and chain.jpeg

Why: Better shifting; less weight; chance to change ratios

For the most part, Shimano shifting systems work best if all their components are made by Shimano. If the company that made your bike shaved a few cents off the bill of materials by using a non-Shimano chain and sprockets, then you’ll get slicker shifting if you fit Shimano parts when they wear out.

With its alloy carrier, the Ultegra-level CS-8000 sprocket set is in Shimano’s value-for-money sweet spot. It can be found for around £70, weighs 212g in an 11-23 (the Dura-Ace cassette is feathery at 166g, but costs three times more) and Just Works™. In a bundle with an Ultegra chain, it’s a no-brainer.

Ultegra brakes — £85.00

Shimano Ultegra R8000 brakes

Why: More stopping confidence

The brakes on many less-expensive bikes are, frankly, not great. In particular, the cheap unbadged brakes you often find on sub-£1,000 bikes lack feel and oomph. Replacing them with these solidly-built stoppers substantially improves braking feel and power, and if you can brake with more control, you can go faster.

Shimano says these brakes should only be used with Super SLR levers, but that’s all current Shimano brake/shift levers.

Hope Stainless Steel Bottom Bracket — £95.00


Why: Improved reliability and durability; pretty colours

Hope’s bottom brackets have an enviable reputation for durability, with plenty going strong after five years or more of mountain bike use. Your cranks spin on Swiss INA bearings, and the whole unit is very tidily machined.

Because the sleeve between the two threaded bearing holders is aluminium not plastic, the Hope bottom bracket is slightly heavier than a Shimano unit, but to make up for it you can have it in a choice of colours.

Shimano 105 R7000 SPD-SL Pedals — £71.60

Shimano 105 R7000 SPD-SL pedals

Why: Light weight, excellent durability and reliability

Shimano’s SPD-SL pedal system is popular for its reliability and function. The 105 version is light thanks to a carbon fibre body and durable because of its stainless steel top plate and excellent, easily-maintained bearings. As with many Shimano pedals, you can remove the axle unit, fill the body with grease, and screw the axle back in, forcing fresh grease into the bearings.

Read more
All pedal reviews on
Buyer’s guide to clipless pedals
Buyer's guide to high-performance pedals

Wahoo Speedplay Walkable Cleats — £44.99

2021 Wahoo Speedplay Zero pedals - cleats.jpg

Why: easier walking for Speedplay Zero users

If you have a set of older Speedplay pedals, then you know the system’s biggest weakness is that the cleats are very awkward to walk in. To make things worse, any significant amount of walking, or even frequent touching down at lights, erodes the aluminium outer plate.

Speedplay’s Walkable cleats fix both these problems by putting a rubber cover over the cleat mechanism, so the metal is protected. This is the latest, all-black version of the Speedplay cleats. If you want the original yellow versions with Cleat Buddy plus to keep crud out when you're walking around, they'll cost you £49.99.

Explore the complete archive of reviews of bike components on

About Buyer's Guides

The aim of buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.

Our guides include links to websites where you can buy the featured products. Like most sites we make a small amount of money if you buy something after clicking on one of those links. We want you to be happy with what you buy, so we only include a product if we think it's one of the best of its kind.

As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.

Here's some more information on how makes money.

You can also find further guides on our sister sites and ebiketips. buyer's guides are maintained by the tech team. Email us with comments, corrections or queries.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Latest Comments