Handy bits and pieces to spend your spare cash on

How much difference can you make to the way your bike performs for under £50? A surprising amount, it turns out, especially if your definition of performance includes comfort and practicality as well as factors like weight and speed. Here are 10 good ways of spending that £50 your auntie put in your birthday card.

Cannondale Synapse 3.5mm Bar Tape — £10

Cannondale-Synapse-Bar-Tape-35mm-black.jpg

If you want comfy hands, then this bar tape — the same as used on Cannondale’s Synapse endurance bikes — adds some very useful cushioning, making it ideal for long rides and those commuting runs where you can’t always dodge the potholes.

Bontrager Elite VR-C Road Bar – £44.99

bontrager_elite_vr-c_road.jpg

A new set of bars can really transform the look and feel of a bike plus they give you the chance to drop a few grams too. For under £50 you’re not going to make huge weight savings on a stock bar, but you can save something. The Bontrager Elite combines a fairly classic shape with a more modern shallow drop - it has 93mm of reach and a 124mm drop, it’s a comfy bar too - well according to road.cc’s editor who has them on his bike and It’s also the bar Trek’s pros choose over carbon when given the option we’re told.

At 270g for a 42cm it’s around 55g lighter than a stock bar. If you want to drop a bit more weight – 22g, (we did say a bit) - and you’re willing to go £1.50 over our £50 limit it’s worth checking out the Dead Zero 100.

Deuter Energy Bag — £8.99

Deuter Energy Bag.jpg

Being able to snack while you ride — whether on gels, energy bars, Snickers or Jaff 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 easier to get at too.

Michelin Air Comp Latex Road Inner Tube — £9.72

Michelin Aircomp Latex.jpg

At 75g each these tubes are a bit lighter than the 110-120g that’s typical of regular butyl rubber tubes, but that’s not really the point. Because latex rubber is more flexible than synthetic butyl rubber, latex inner tubes reduce the rolling resistance of your tyres, so you go (very slightly) faster for the same effort. The downside is that latex is more porous, so loses pressure more quickly. You should pump up latex tubes before every ride.

If you want to lose a few grams as well, Vredestein makes a 50g latex inner tube and if you're running tyres wider than 23mm Vittoria do a latex tube that will take 25mm to 28mm tyres for a slight 10g weight penalty, and at £5.99 they're almost four quid cheaper than the Michelins too.

Tektro RL720 Series Brake Levers — £19.69-£19.99

tektro-rl720-black.jpg

There are times, especially in traffic, when you want to be able to cruise along in an upright position so you have the best possible view of what’s around you. With these nifty extra levers you can do that and still brake when you need to.

K-Edge Chain Catcher — £16

K-Edge Chain Catcher on Madison Genesis team bike (©Madison Cycles).JPG

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.

Read our review of the K-Edge Chain Catcher

Shimano Ultegra 6800 R55C4 brake pads & shoes — £9.13/pr

Shimano BR-6800 brake shoes and pads.jpg

Quietly and without fuss, Shimano has been making some of the best brake pads around for years. It’s one of the reasons their Ultegra and Dura-Ace brakes stop so well, and you can improve the stopping power of many cheaper Shimano brakes and the countless clones on mid-priced bikes by fitting Shimano pads and shoes.

Ritchey Classic 220 stem — £39.95

Ritchey Classic stem.jpg

You’d be mad to change your stem just to save weight; even inexpensive modern stems are surprisingly weight efficient. However, the reach to your handlebar is a vital part of getting your bike comfortable. If it’s wrong you can end up with a sore back, neck, arms or hands. It’s therefore worth having an expert figure out where your bar should be, and if you then need a new stem, this shiny little number comes in lengths from 70 to 130mm. If you need your bar dramatically higher or lower than the Classic’s 6° angle allows, take a look at Zipp’s 25° Service Course stem (£42.99).

Fabric Scoop Elite Saddle — £40.45

fabric-scoop-shallow-elite-saddle-p25314-52127_image.jpg

You don’t have to spend big to get a more 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. Other sub-£50 options include the Selle San Marco Concor and the Selle Italia C2 Gelflow Racing Saddle.

Prime Women's Endurance saddle — £13.49

Prime Women's Endurance Saddle

The highest-rated women's saddles tend to be out of our price range, but this inexpensive little number from WiggleCRC has generally favourable reviews — some are absolutely rapturous — for its fit and seems to have scored points for its understated looks too.

X-Tools Essential Torque Wrench Set – £27.99

x-tools-essential-torque-wrench-set-internal-black-xttws-1.jpg

If you’re using parts or a frame made from carbon fibre or lightweight aluminium, a torque wrench is a workshop essential. It’s easy to overtighten areas like seat post and handlebar clamps with regular hand tools, and the old adage of ‘tighten it until it breaks then back off half a turn’ gets expensive very quickly.

Airshot Tubeless Tyre Inflation System — £45.99

Airshot.jpg

Fitting a set of tubeless tyres to your bike will make a difference to your ride, better rolling resistance, fewer punctures, what’s not to like? Well, getting the buggers on to a road rim can be a bit of a faff, that’s where the Airshot comes in, basically you pump it up and then blast the tyre in to place. It’s extremely effective. There are a number of similar products out there, but most are licensed versions of this original. If you’re going tubeless – and here’s why you should consider it – then you’ll want one of these too.

About road.cc Buyer's Guides

The aim of road.cc 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 in a 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 road.cc makes money.

You can also find further guides on our sister sites off.road.cc and ebiketips.

Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

16 comments

Avatar
flathunt [245 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

"Because latex rubber is more flexible than synthetic butyl rubber, latex inner tubes reduce the rolling resistance of your tyres"

 

Eh? I tend to keep my inner-tubes on the inside of my tyres, I can see how they might reduce rolling resistance if you wore them superman's-pants style but this is surely horseshit, no? Happy to be educated otherwise.

Avatar
peted76 [1159 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes
flathunt wrote:

"Because latex rubber is more flexible than synthetic butyl rubber, latex inner tubes reduce the rolling resistance of your tyres"

 

Eh? I tend to keep my inner-tubes on the inside of my tyres, I can see how they might reduce rolling resistance if you wore them superman's-pants style but this is surely horseshit, no? Happy to be educated otherwise.

A tyre and a tube isn't one solid mass, so there is resistance on the inside of a tyre with a tube.. 

You get a softer more flexible tube (latex) to mold with your naturally harder tyre = less resistance between the two.

Tubular tyres and Tubeless tyres do not have tubes in, ergo less rolling resistance. 

Bear in mind this is relative, if you're not bothered with the weight and rolling resistance of your tyres, then there's nothing to be concerned about here. When I ran tubes I went with the lightest tubes I could find circa 50grams contis, I now run tubeless, I think it makes me faster on a club bash, but I'd be equally happy riding my bike on a more sedate social without a care of what tyres or tubes I ran.

Avatar
ktache [947 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I like my latex tubes, always have since I got my then 2nd hand getting about bike back in '97 which had them fitted.  AirB back then, pink, pricey. Now Michelins, fairly light and a lovely shade of green, and meant to have lower rolling resistance and better puncture resistance, who knows.  But their one huge advantage is that when I'm fixing a puncture I can mark the hole and the edge of the patch where I need to put the vulcanising solution with a marker pen.

The AirBs were meant to have a coating on the inside which was meant to minimise air loss, but the Michelins do have to be pumped up a couple of times a week, with snakebite problems after a couple of weeks, if you are a bit lazy or forgetful.  I'm a little more fredlike these days so less of a problem.

When I'm running my summer semislicks, supersonic contis, it can sound that I'm riding on balloons.  Bit odd.

There can be a problem with exploding tubes, mostly after just pumping them up, and for older tubes.  Drastic sounding I know, but for me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Avatar
Pierre [101 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
peted76 wrote:

Tubular tyres and Tubeless tyres do not have tubes in, ergo less rolling resistance.

Tubular tyres _do_ have tubes in, but they're usually thinner than regular tubes, and often made of latex. This is why you can repair _some_ tubular tyres when they puncture, by un-picking the threads and patching the tube, then sewing them back up again. This is, however, a lot of faff. And some tubulars are sealed rather than sewn up.

Avatar
cyclisto [407 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I would really like to see a reliable braking test with all shimano brakes using these brake pads. I guess the results will be almost identical.

You latex guys, do you have increased punctures with them? I like the idea of better rolling, but with my butyl tubes and hard skinned tyres I have had near zero punctures.

Avatar
kevvjj [425 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

You can get that Jobsworth torque wrench for ten quid less if you buy it as X-Tools branded.

Avatar
Spangly Shiny [221 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I tried latex inner tubes but returned to butyl after a heat induced blowout coming down Holme Moss. I surmised that it was heat induced because it was the sidewall of the tube that failed. 

Since then I have adopted a tubeless setup which although a bit of a faff initially I am now settled with.

Avatar
earth [417 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
cyclisto wrote:

I would really like to see a reliable braking test with all shimano brakes using these brake pads. I guess the results will be almost identical. You latex guys, do you have increased punctures with them? I like the idea of better rolling, but with my butyl tubes and hard skinned tyres I have had near zero punctures.

 

I read if anything less punctures due to latex stretching more instead of being pierced like a more rigid butyl tube.  I use tubulars with latex inner tubes and clinchers with latex inner tubes and havn't noticed much difference in puncture protection compared to butyl inner tubes.

Avatar
nortonpdj [217 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

The Ultegra brake pads are ok, but I find Kool Stop much better.

Avatar
froze [80 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
peted76 wrote:
flathunt wrote:

"Because latex rubber is more flexible than synthetic butyl rubber, latex inner tubes reduce the rolling resistance of your tyres"

 

Eh? I tend to keep my inner-tubes on the inside of my tyres, I can see how they might reduce rolling resistance if you wore them superman's-pants style but this is surely horseshit, no? Happy to be educated otherwise.

A tyre and a tube isn't one solid mass, so there is resistance on the inside of a tyre with a tube.. 

You get a softer more flexible tube (latex) to mold with your naturally harder tyre = less resistance between the two.

Tubular tyres and Tubeless tyres do not have tubes in, ergo less rolling resistance. 

Bear in mind this is relative, if you're not bothered with the weight and rolling resistance of your tyres, then there's nothing to be concerned about here. When I ran tubes I went with the lightest tubes I could find circa 50grams contis, I now run tubeless, I think it makes me faster on a club bash, but I'd be equally happy riding my bike on a more sedate social without a care of what tyres or tubes I ran.

Exactly, there is resistance on the inside of the tyre and tube and latex tubes reduce that resistance reduces the tire rolling resistance saving about 4 to 5 watts...HOWEVER, you can do the same thing with butyl tubes simply by making sure you use talcum powder or baby powder and liberally cover the tube with the stuff, while it may not quite reduce the rolling resistance as much as latex but it will reduce it between 2 to 3 watts.

This is why tubeless tyres have less rolling resistance than tubed tyres not to mention lighter usually, which could be a good reason to switch IF you're racing, tubeless tires are more difficult to fix flats while out on the road.  Tubed tires are by far much easier to fix on the road which is why tubed tires are the best option for the majority of riders, whereas tubeless are more suited for racing situations where you have a sag vehicle following you because replacing the tire is a painfully long and complicated process.  While some will argue that tubeless tires get less flats because they eliminate pinch flats...I haven't had a pinch flat in over 40 years, a pinch flat only happens to beginner riders.  Of course you can put in a liquid sealant and not have to worry a whole lot with flats on a tubeless tire, but you could do that with a tubed tire, a lot of people do that with tubulars so they don't have to hassle with replacing one on the road, but of course what people do is carry a tube and insert it into the tubeless tire for the ride home.

Here is a video on how to replace a tubeless tire, the gunk on the rim he's cleaning is the old sealant; also note the sealant has to be used to seal the tire to the rim and prevent leaks which I don't understand why sealant needs to be used since cars don't need sealant to seal the tire to the wheel, so why weren't tubeless bicycle wheels built the same way?  Also note in the video the fancy fast high pressure pump needed to seal the bead, little difficult to carry that on the road which is why people carry a tube; see:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K_y3MtqZUY 

 

Avatar
froze [80 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
earth wrote:
cyclisto wrote:

I would really like to see a reliable braking test with all shimano brakes using these brake pads. I guess the results will be almost identical. You latex guys, do you have increased punctures with them? I like the idea of better rolling, but with my butyl tubes and hard skinned tyres I have had near zero punctures.

 

I read if anything less punctures due to latex stretching more instead of being pierced like a more rigid butyl tube.  I use tubulars with latex inner tubes and clinchers with latex inner tubes and havn't noticed much difference in puncture protection compared to butyl inner tubes.

I agree, I haven't noticed any difference.  What the latex advertisers show is a Michelin butyl tube being pulled over a piece of jagged glass and the tube rips, they do the same thing again with a latex tube and the glass doesn't even penetrated the tube, a great presentation except for one small problem, a tube isn't deflated inside the tire, it's inflated which allows a tube not to flex due to high air pressure pressing hard against the tire, object penetrates tire and because the tube can't flex due to the high pressure the object penetrates the tube which is why you and I, and others, have noticed no difference in flat protection.  I tried latex tubes several times over the last 40 years and I always went back to butyl because I can't tell the difference in flat protection, can't feel the watts I was saving, could feel that the tire felt more subtle, could feel my billfold was lighter from paying more for a tube, thus I couldn't justify spending more money for latex; however if I was racing I would use latex because while the watts saved may be nothing I can feel it's still there, and it could determine me placing first or second depending on how long the race was.

Avatar
Mungecrundle [1101 posts] 4 months ago
8 likes

I tried latex, but apparently on a club ride I am expected to wear lycra.

Avatar
IanEdward [213 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Quote:

Tubular tyres and Tubeless tyres do not have tubes in, ergo less rolling resistance

That's assuming the construction of the tyre sidewall hasn't changed to accommodate being tubeless. When I ran 'ghetto' tubeless on my MTB many years ago, it was with lightweight sidewalls designed for tubes. They took a lot of sealant before they were airtight but the improved rolling resistance was noticeable.

When I went UST the tyres had thicker sidewalls so not as much weight benefit and they didn't ride anywhere near as nicely as the non-UST tyres I'd used previously.

Not sure about the construction of road tubeless? Are the sidewalls the same thickness as a standard clincher?

I've got latex tubes in my CX tyres as I can't be bothered with tubeless faff. Tried them on my good road bike but since it unfortunately also gets drafted into commuting duties I couldn't be bothered with the constant re-inflation.

Latex on my CX bike seems a winner so far, I 'rimmed' both wheels pretty hard trying to bunnyhop on a tarmac section to shed some mud, deserved to pinch flat but didn't, happy days!

Avatar
andyp [1591 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I like the sound of the 'Dead Zero' bars.

Avatar
Al__S [1293 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I love the way that with the k-edge chain catcher, the addition of a simple tube clamp makes the band-on version £34 (£35 at RRP) more expensive than the braze-on version

Avatar
matthewn5 [1230 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
cyclisto wrote:

I would really like to see a reliable braking test with all shimano brakes using these brake pads. I guess the results will be almost identical.

If you have those one-piece pads as so many cheap OSM brakes do, these will be like night and day. Better brake pads in alloy shoes are far more effective.