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I’ve been doing road cycling for about 5 years now. I often discuss with friends what they plan to buy next.
We almost always discuss one of three topics: speed, comfort, and safety.
So, I put together this list of the best road bike upgrades that will make you faster and your rides more comfortable and safer.
Let’s dive in.
What Are the Best Road Bike Upgrades?
Below, I list the road bike upgrades worth considering. Most of them will improve your speed. But some will also improve your riding comfort as a side effect.
1. Bike Fit
Many road cyclists forget about bike fit, but it’s one of the most important things. This is because it helps you:
- Prevent injuries
- Improve riding comfort
- Make you faster
When you don’t feel comfortable on your bike, you won’t enjoy your rides and won’t put out the desired power.
So, paying for a professional bike fitting makes sense. The bike fitter will help set a riding position that suits your physiological needs.
You should lower your CdA (the aerodynamic drag coefficient) to improve your speed. This means riding in a more aero position.
I recommend watching the following video for more info or reading my article on average bike speed.
My friend, a former Czech road champion, says:
“Only upgrade the spinning parts on your bike.”
Although it’s a little outdated statement (due to the improvements in aerodynamics), there is a lot of truth in it.
New, deep-section carbon wheels will make you faster if you use shallow aluminum wheels—especially on flats, descents, and rolling terrain. (Source)
When I switched to carbon wheels, my average speed jumped by about 1-2 mph (2-3 km/h).
You don’t even have to buy wheels above $2000. There are many carbon road bike wheels under $1000 worth of buying.
If you are new to wheels, read my guide on choosing road bike wheels that explains available options. Or…
Quality clothing is another often underestimated part of a cycling kit. It helps improve comfort but also speed.
When I mentioned to my pro cyclist friend that I wanted to buy a new bike, he told me to keep the bike and invest in quality clothing instead.
I listened to him, and not only that I felt more comfortable, but I also became faster.
According to Silca, 70% or more of the drag comes from your body, not the bike.
Naturally, all wrinkles make you slower. The material also significantly impacts the speed.
Silca calculated that aero socks could make a 4-8 watts difference. That’s a lot considering we are talking about socks!
4. Tires & Tubes
It’s no secret that tires have different rolling resistance. There is even an entire website testing tires and measuring their rolling resistance called bicyclerollingresistance.com.
Honestly, I am not a big fan of super fast tires because they are often soft, leading to lower durability and puncture resistance.
However, they can significantly impact your speed—up to 26 watts! The inner tubes can add another 5-watt saving per wheel. (Source)
But, you can compromise these savings by inflating the wrong tire pressure. To avoid this, use Silca’s tire pressure calculator.
5. Aero Helmet
Did you know that an aero helmet can save around 15 watts compared to a standard road bike helmet? (Source)
The aero helmet is a way to go if you want additional speed gains. Remember that aero helmets provide little worse ventilation, so the standard helmet is a better option if you live in a hilly or mountainous area.
6. Garmin Varia Radar
One of the best safety gadgets I ever bought was the Garmin Varia RTL515 radar.
It detects approaching vehicles behind to inform you about them through your head unit. This way, you have a better awareness of what’s happening. It also has an inbuilt light to improve your visibility.
The newer generation, Varia RCT715, also includes a camera, so you will have the footage in case of something bad happens.
Bicycle radars are not cheap, but I believe they are worth it.
Also available at rei.com, performancebike.com, trekbikes.com, and wiggle.com
7. Power Meter
Invest in a power meter to improve the efficiency of your training (and, therefore, become faster).
Power meters are affordable these days. They start at around $300, so they are not only a matter for professional cyclists.
There are many reasons to use a power meter. They will provide you with objective, accurate, and consistent data that you can leverage for more efficient training, better pacing strategy, and more.
Road Bike Upgrades FAQ
Depending on your goals (improved comfort, speed, safety), consider absolving a bike fit or buying new equipment like wheels, clothing, helmet, etc.
Riding comfort is the most important for me, so I can focus on my performance instead of discomfort.
Thanks to innovation and new knowledge gained in aerodynamics, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of your riding position and clothing if you want to get faster on the bike.
What road bike upgrades do you find the most valuable?