There's plenty of reasons for looking at upgrading your road bike - perhaps you've had your current bike for a few years, and you're looking to improve your performance but not quite ready to buy a completely new model. Maybe you feel that your improved level of fitness and cycling skills warrant a higher grade of componentry. It could even just be for the sake of it - we all deserve to treat ourselves every once in a while!
Whatever your reasoning, below we’ve suggested some upgrades and changes you can make to your current bike that will, hopefully, make it feel like a new bike and help improve your performance.
Although probably the most expensive component to upgrade, a good set of wheels can save you considerable time and weight on the bike, making them a worthwhile purchase if you want to improve your performance and go faster!
What makes them so effective? Wheels carry the rotating weight of the bike, therefore, making them lighter makes a significant difference to the overall weight and feel of the bike, especially when going uphill.
Another benefit of a better set of wheels is they will likely be stiffer. Stiffer wheels improve power transfer, which in effect means that you will go faster for the same energy output.
By upgrading the wheels, it also allows you to choose the rim depth. A great all-round choice is 42mm as these provide a great balance of lightweight and aerodynamic performance, but to get the most aero benefit, you could plump for 55mm or even 65mm.
While deep-section wheels, like 55mm or 65mm, do have a slight weight penalty when compared with dedicated lightweight climbing wheels, there are significant aero benefits to be had.
As the only contact point between the bike and the ground, tyres play a vital role when it comes to cycling. As a result, ensuring you have a good quality set can make a big difference for the overall performance on the bike.
Upgrading to better tyres will mean improved grip, increased puncture protection, less weight, lower rolling resistance which all lead to one thing – more speed.
By upgrading your tyres, this also gives you the opportunity to change the size of the tyre. More riders are riding wider tyres, so this could be the perfect opportunity to try something a little wider. On a road bike, providing the bike frame and brakes can accommodate them, we'd suggest running either 25mm or 28mm tyres, as these can offer more comfort without sacrificing speed.
While on the subject of tyres, it's certainly worth considering moving to a tubeless setup if you haven't already. Tubeless tyres have numerous benefits, including better puncture protection, improved comfort, better grip and less rolling resistance and we think they make a great upgrade from a clincher system.
You can find out more about tubeless tyres by reading our guide to tubeless road tyres.
Here's an upgrade that isn't quite as visible as the others on the list, but a significant one to consider nonetheless. Over time, bearings wear down, meaning they're not as effective. Increased friction because of contamination, for example, really can affect your speed.
Replacing the bearings on your bike, especially in the bottom bracket, can transform a tired ride into something much smoother and quicker. It'll also increase the overall efficiency, so an improvement to the bearings can improve your average speed too.
When changing the bearings, pay attention to the material you use. Although they come at a cost, ceramic speed bearings have little to no friction - this means you'll get maximum power transfer for every pedal stroke. Ceramic speed is a popular option in the time trial or triathlon scene where maximising every watt is essential.
The groupset on your bike refers to the parts responsible for actually making forward movement, so it makes sense to think about upgrading the components that make up this part of the bike. A top-of-the-range, entire groupset can be costly, but considering how important it is, it's one to consider when looking at upgrading a road bike.
By buying a higher spec groupset, you'll be saving weight, and you'll be getting smoother, quicker shifting between gears. If you're not running electronic shifting, this could be the perfect time to consider doing so. Electronic gears allow for immediate shifts at just the press of the button, and since it uses electronic signals rather than pulling a cable, there's no cable wear so you shouldn't need to replace your gear cables.
If changing an entire groupset is looking too costly, how about upgrading just your drivetrain (cassette, chain and chainrings). We'd suggest changing these at the same time as these wear together.
By changing the groupset, it allows you to review your current gearing. If you've been finding yourself looking for that extra gear when climbing, perhaps you should consider a cassette with a wider range. Likewise, if you've been 'spinning out' your current gearing when flying along on the flat, maybe get chainrings with more teeth for that extra bit of speed.
Handlebar / Stem
Moving to the front of the bike, and there are gains to be made here too. Most standard road bikes will come with alloy handlebars, but if you're looking to save weight on your bike, then upgrading to a carbon set will undoubtedly make a difference. Thanks to the stiffness properties of the material, carbon handlebars can be really efficient too.
The same also applies to the stem. Although only a small component and the weight savings won't be huge, depending on your current one, you could save up a couple of hundred grams by switching to a carbon stem.
By changing your stem, it also gives you the flexibility to try a new design – for example, a negative degree stem will drop the front end of the bike down, making you more aero for ultimate performance gains. Whereas if you've been a little uncomfortable on the bike, a shorter stem will put you in a more upright position and could make you more comfortable. We would, however, always recommend having a proper bike fit before making any significant adjustments to your position.
Another aspect to consider while we're on the topic of handlebars is bar tape. Possibly the cheapest way to upgrade your bike and although it may not come with a massive amount of performance gains, it can have a substantial effect.
The new tape can provide improved comfort as it will offer more padding than old, well-used bar tape, and it'll also make your bike look much fresher. Handlebar tape comes in many different colours and designs, so it's also an excellent way of personalising your bike, helping it to stand out from the crowd.