These days, not all of us have the money or the time to splurge on expensive upgrades, but fortunately some of the most effective upgrades are simple and affordable. They can give you the boost you need to ride faster and farther, more comfortably.
Upgrading your bike can even save you money in the long run, keeping your bike spinning along for years to come. But where do you start? On your next ride, consider what feels like it isn’t working well, or what is least comfortable. Does the ride feel bumpy? Are you slipping on your handlebars? Do you limit the time spent on your bike because the seat is uncomfortable? Consider these things and check out the list below. Keep a note of the things you think could make for a better ride and upgrade them over time to spread the cost.
You can even make some of these changes yourself, with the handy involvement of a YouTube video. Be resourceful and creative, you’ll be picking off those Strava segments in no time.
Honestly, you won’t be getting PB’s with this upgrade, but if you haven’t cleaned your bike this winter then you absolutely must! Nothing will keep your bike ticking over than a good clean every so often.
A rinse after your rides is a good place to start – especially if you ride near the coast or on gritted roads, but treat yourself to a decent cleaning kit like this one from Muc Off and your bike could feel good as new. Take off your chain, get into all the parts that could do with a light scrub and apply some fresh chain grease afterwards (but make sure to avoid getting grease on your brakes, using only brake cleaner, or soapy water, if needed!).
Get a service
Much like a good clean, servicing your bike will ensure all the expensive parts stay in tip-top condition. You can get different levels of bike service depending on your budget, from a quick once-over and recommendations for improvements to updating worn parts, straightening a wheel that’s buckled, or indexing your gears.
In some places, you’re able to get a free ‘bike health check’, which might be known as a ‘Dr Bike’ check. Even doing something like this can give you a good place to start for learning which parts to replace or upgrade.
Get a bike fit
A bike fit can be the difference between a long and comfortable ride, and the potential for pain and injury. It is the process of modifying your bike to maximise performance, comfort and efficiency. Bike fits will be based on three key things: your goals for riding, your current physiology and the link between the two.
But we’re on a budget, so how much does it cost? Well, again, they can vary in price up to a few hundred €s, but that would be a serious professional fit with the use of technology. A minor fit can be an affordable way to create minor alterations to the height and angle of different bike parts to best suit your body and style of riding.
A saddle fit with a new saddle can make a world of difference. The type of riding you do will determine the type of saddle you want to get, as well as how comfortable it feels for you. Remember that everyone’s anatomy is different, so what is comfortable for one person, might not be for another.
Much like bikes, you want a strong and light saddle, but these do come at a cost. But of course, it’s still cheaper than buying a whole new bike. Commuter saddles are those designed for people who likely won’t be wearing padded shorts. They’re usually big and cushioned. They’ll be comfortable on short journeys but aren’t designed for the long haul.
If you’re off-roading, then flex and comfort are the priority for these saddles. They’re usually well-cushioned to absorb the shock from the terrain – that’s if you’re even sitting in the saddle, which a lot of the time you won’t be.
Road bike saddles on the other hand are designed to be comfortable over long periods of time with your bum on the seat. They support a better ride, and often take some getting used to – so don’t be put off if you’re sore after your first couple of rides.
Get some advice and pick a saddle that suits your riding and you’ll benefit almost instantly. Then have it properly adjusted by a professional so the angle is just right for your body.
Upgrade your wheels
Upgrading your wheels is potentially one of the most noticeable improvements you can make for your bike, but it’s definitely not the cheapest – hence it’s slightly lower down on the list.
When you’re pedalling your bike, you’re using the strength of your legs to turn the wheels. So, the lighter your wheels, the easier it will be to turn those wheels and the faster you’ll accelerate.
On a similar note, upgrading your tyres can make a ride more enjoyable. Whether you’re a roadie into slick skinny tyres, or a mountain biker into the nobbly ones, you’re likely to feel a benefit. If you want to go the whole way, upgrading to tubeless tyres is one way of ensuring you spend more time riding your bike and less time fixing punctures.
We hate to say it, but if you want your bike to go further or faster, then getting fitter is the best way to do it. Technically getting fitter is free, but it will cost you time. Whether that’s simply getting out and getting the miles in or doing a bit of cross-training, every little bit helps.
Get extra miles in by cycling to work or adding in an extra loop on your commute. Join a cycling club – which are often cheap compared to a gym membership, and you’ll be more motivated to get out and go further on your rides.
Cross-training is one sure way of building endurance and getting stronger so you can tackle climbs and long rides with confidence. At-home HIIT videos or cycle-specific strength training is free to access on YouTube, and you don’t need to do much to start seeing a difference. If you’re new to strength training, then incorporating just three 20-minute workouts into your week could make a difference.
Upgrading your bike on a budget is a great way of saving you money whilst increasing your enjoyment of riding your bike. But you’re also saving the planet! Of course, a new, shiny bike would be wonderful but by using what you have and making the most of it, you’re saving on new materials. The benefits are endless.