If your bike has started to feel a little tired or outdated, you may be able to revitalise your trusty steed with just a little investment.
My own first road bike has been taken apart and re-created repeatedly, and my husband’s old Kona MTB (14 years old, steel frame) is still going strong, albeit sold to a friend who thinks it’s the best bike since the Penny Farthing.
Upgrades don’t need to cost the earth – little £10 tweaks here and there could turn a weary churn into a rolling joy.
Here’s a look at some of the most inexpensive replacements that will make the biggest difference, for the smallest amount of cash:
If your gears aren’t feeling as crisp as they used to, then replacing the cables might be the answer. Over time, cables can stretch. You can fix this by simply tightening them using the barrel adjusters, but there will come a day that this doesn’t do the job – and at this point you’ll want to invest. This will set you back less than £5, for the inner and outer cable you’ll need – personally I usually opt for Clarks Universal Gear Cable.
For a guide on how to replace your gear cable, check out this one we wrote earlier..
The same way, if you’ve got cable brakes that are feeling a bit unresponsive you can start of by twisting the barrel adjuster to tighten it – but eventually you’ll need to replace these. This will set you back about £10, and again I’d usually opt for Clarks. New cables can make a world of difference, making the brakes feel sharp like they did on your first ride together.
If you currently ride on flat pedals, thinking about upgrading to a clipless system could give you more power with every pedal stroke.
Flat pedals allow you to push down on the pedal, but riding clipped in you can benefit from a full circle motion, which uses quads, hamstrings, calfs and hip flexors – giving your legs and lower body a more effective workout, and getting you to your destination more quickly. Admittedly, with your pedals you will also need to buy shoes to clip into them.
There’s a different style of pedal out there for everybody, from mountain bike style SPDs which are quick to release and allow you to walk without resembling Bambi on ice, to hybrid pedals that have a flat platform as well as a clip in mechanism so you enjoy the best of both worlds – check out our post on pedal choices for more info.
Tyres are your contact with the ground. Reducing rolling resistance can turn a long, slow slog of a ride into a speedy whoosh.
Unless you’re buying a pretty high end machine, bikes often come with slightly more lack lustre tyres than might do the frame and components justice. Tyres are a consumable item, and manufacturers know you’ll upgrade in time.
Over autumn and winter, you’ll want tyres that combine speedyness with grip and durability. Important as it is to feel the ground moving fast beneath you, no one enjoys spending time by the side of the road fixing punctures (or no one I’ve ever met).
My own personal recommendation for regular road commuters would be the Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons. Designed with the tough conditions of Paris-Roubaix in mind, you know you’re in safe hands.
Having the right cassette for the terrain you plan to tackle make a huge difference. A wide ration cassette (eg 11-32 – where the biggest ring has 32 teeth) will give you a huge range of gears. If you live at the bottom of a big hill, and you want a low resistance gear to get you to the top without leg-pressing your way to the top, then think about opting for a wider ratio.
However, if you live in a flat area, and have no intention of getting out to tackle the hills, then you can go for a narrow ratio cassette (eg 11-23) – this means that the difference between your gears will be very small, so you can coax the chain into that perfect gear without any clunky judders between them.
For a guide on replacing your cassette, see our post on fixing the most common mechanical problem with bikes in London.
Every bike needs a saddle – and they all come with an acceptable and functioning perch. However – bums are like snowflakes: no two are the same.
Your standard issue saddle might be just perfect for you, but if you find you get uncomfortable – experience chafing, numbness, saddle sores or areas of pressure, don’t put up with it – swap that saddle. An uncomfortable perch can turn an enjoyable ride into a test of pain management, and that doesn’t need to be the case.
We gave some advice on choosing a saddle here.
Appearances aren’t everything, but they do matter – especially when you spend a lot of time looking down at one item. Bar tape, or the grips on your handlebars can get a bit ratty over time – sweaty hands, oily gloves and repetitive friction all play their part. If you want to make your bike look a little smarter, upgrade this one key item for less than £20 and you’ll be smiling as you glance down to your handlebars. With endless colour choices out there, it’s tempting to do this monthly just for a little change…
Those are our key bang for your buck upgrades. Would you add any?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.