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Best value cycling upgrades for road bikes

  • What upgrades help me go faster on my road bike?
  • What should I upgrade on my road bike first?
  • How to improve my road bike?

These are all general questions new cyclists have after purchasing their first road bike.

We could talk about the most common things you find when researching these topics online and suggest you spend more money on things like aero wheels, an aero helmet, or other stuff that all requires... you guessed it... more money.

But what if we took a different approach and answered these questions in a way that didn't cost more money?

Where do we begin?

SPOILER ALERT - It's Yourself.

It's important to note that everyone is different and many factors will determine what and or how you adjust to make your new road bike or ride better.

The cart the horse is pulling is only going to go as fast as the horse pulling it. Rather than upgrading the cart right away, let's make sure the horse is setup for success to pull the cart as fast and efficiently as possible. Some bike brands selling you 'fast' upgrades won't like this... but we aren't here to sell you that nonsense.

In no particular order, I have listed some important topics to understand before upgrading your road bike;

  • Bike Size - Did you get the correct size bike?
  • Bike Fit - Did you get fitted to your new bike?
  • On-Bike Position - Are you able to maintain the on-bike position you had while being fitted to your road bike?
  • Overall Fitness and health - Are you able to put out decent power for an extended amount of time?
  • Basic understanding of aerodynamics and wind - Do you know how important aerodynamics are for efficiency while cycling?
  • How to ride in a group - Do you know how to ride in a group?
  • General bike maintenance - Is your bike in optimal running condition?

Bike Size

You wouldn't wear shoes too small or too big would you? What if it was a great deal? Of course not... Don't make the mistake of getting a wrong size frame / bike. Get measured at a local bike shop that specializes in high-end road bikes to make sure you know what size bike you should be on. Many bike manufactures measure their bikes and frames differently so don't be afraid to consult with the shop or seek experts input on this matter. Besides the frame size, other factors such as handlebar width, stem length, and crank arm length also adjust based on bike sizes.

Bike Fit

Now that you know what size bike you should be on, a proper fit will make sure you are able to put out the most power (go the fastest) and be comfortable (efficiency) to enjoy the most out of riding. It's not uncommon for shops to have you 'test' the position and come back for minor adjustments if needed. Seat post height, saddle position, stem-length, and cleat positioning / adjustment are some of the basics for getting fitted.

On-Bike Position

Don't fool yourself and try to have an aggressive position when getting fitted for the first time. It's important to be comfortable and make sure the position you are being fitted for is sustainable. Over time, you may be able to get more aggressive if you'd like but starting out comfortable will allow you to grow into other positions as you get more serious with your riding. Remember, comfort is efficiency.

Overall Fitness and Health

Are you in good shape? What's good shape mean to you? Can you run a mile in under 10 minutes? 9 Minutes? How about 8 or 7? 6!? Be honest with yourself, set some realistic goals, and work towards reaching your goals. It's important to know you can't out-train a bad diet. Practice makes perfect.

Basic Understanding of Aerodynamics and Wind

Did someone say FREE SPEED!? Aerodynamic drag accounts for 70 to 90 percent of resistance while riding your road bike on flat surfaces. That's why efficiency is important and understanding how to be the most efficient in overcoming drag. Having a good bike fit, position, and wearing the correct apparel (did you know we make function-driven roadwear?) makes a massive difference. 

Your bike makes up a VERY small percentage of aerodynamic drag in relationship to your position on the bike and the apparel you are wearing. If you want to take advantage of the fastest aero bikes, please make sure you are already going as fast as you can with what you currently have and don't fall victim to some brands BS marketing claims.

How to Ride in a Group

Don't rush this. If you are new to cycling, please take your time and understand the dynamics of group riding and etiquette. Do you know what it means to 'hold a wheel' or 'cross wheel' or how about 'taking a pull'? Don't be intimidated but educate yourself on these things before jumping in. Cycling in groups can be safe as long as everyone in the group is respectful, well-informed, and follows all the laws while riding. 

General Bike Maintenance 

What if I told you a clean and well maintained bike can make you go faster? Just like your car, having the correct tire pressure, routine oil changes, and many other factors make sure things are running as efficient as possible. Starting with the basics, a clean chain, proper tire pressure, and ensuring all the bearings spin smooth will help you get off to a good start.

Conclusions

As noted in the beginning, our recommendations generally do not cost money in the form of purchasing more stuff to make you faster. Rather, it's an investment in either what you already have or investing in making sure you are making the most out of your riding to be as efficient as possible.

If you have any questions regarding road cycling, please don't hesitate to send us a message. We would be glad to help!