Upgrading components can breathe new life into your road or mountain bike. Unfortunately this is cycling and as such, serious upgrades to key parts can hit your wallet harder than Cancellara hits the pavé. This leads to the question: "What inexpensive upgrades are available that will alter how my bike rides?"
With Christmas approaching this is a great time to explore these options - either as a stocking filler or simply because you've spent all your money already and are trying to find something new for your bike that you can purchase with a couple of moths and a small piece of cobweb.
I have limited the budget to $100 (or just a little over) and kept it to items that will noticeably change how your road or mountain bike rides, so no socks, sunnies or gloves!
Before continuing it must be said that the bike upgrades which will have the greatest influence on how your bike rides are wheels and (particularly on a mountain bike) forks. To appreciate any real performance improvements, however, requires a substantial investment of at least a few hundred dollars and potentially much more.
So let's move on.
Changing the stem length on a road bike has the potential to finally get you in the position you were always looking for. This could be a bit longer or shorter, stretching out or compacting your position on the bike. Even small changes here can have dramatic impacts on how your bike feels and the amount of control you have over the steering. As body position changes can have big overall effects, any alterations in the stem department are best run by an experienced cyclist and/or your local bike shop professional.
On a mountain bike, stem length gives a good indication of a bike's purpose. At one end we have cross country bikes with long stems which helps to get your weight forward when tackling steep sections of trail, and at the other end there are gravity bikes with very short 'bear hug' stems designed for maximum control at high speed.
For less than $100 you could purchase a quality alloy stem that fine tunes the way your bike handles or increases your comfort.
Handlebars also dramatically change how a bike feels and how we position our bodies while riding. On a road bike it could be getting a bar with a shallower drop so you don't have to break your back to get in the drops, or perhaps just one with a width that is more suited to your body shape. These are changes that will be really noticeable on longer rides and may help reduce fatigue while also increasing your ability to control the bike.
Similarly mountain bike handlebars can radically change how your ride feels. Converting from riser to flat or vice versa can be the difference from a cruisy comfortable ride to one of speed and purpose! With a mountain bike bar purchase there are many variations of rise and sweep and you could easily pick up a good one for $100.
After wheels, the biggest impact to your ride, particularly on a mountain bike, is to change tires. Tires come in all shapes and sizes from super chunky, heavy gravity styles to lightweight, fast rolling cross country race models.
On a mountain bike a tire change could transform a sluggish, hard ride into a smooth, efficient racer! A tire upgrade is also worth a try if you find grip is troubling you. In my experience I bought a new (and very expensive) bike but had trouble riding it through any loose corners. I just kept losing the front end and thought I'd ended up with a problem bike. My first action was to replace the tyres with ones which had better outside knobs and hey presto! Problem solved. Now I love my bike!
With road bike tires it is the same story. Tires can make or break the ride. Training tires are good for puncture resistance and longevity but a low TPI count also means that they will probably be quite hard and will not track and grip through corners as well. If your road bike feels a bit sluggish, try putting on a higher TPI tyre with a softer compound and see how fast you roll!
Buying a set of good quality tires is possible for under $100 and believe me, it could really transform your bike.
TIP: Speaking of tires, you can purchase a DIY tubeless tire setup for a mountain bike from Effetto Mariposa, Stans or Joe's for well under $100. With a bit of work these kits can transform how your mountain bike rides.
While getting a high end saddle for $100 may be a bit of a stretch, you can still purchase a good road or mountain bike model which could just save your bum. When you are starting out in cycling, finding the right shape saddle is a bit of trial and error and the best place to start is with some inexpensive options.
Even an entry level saddle that fits your unique requirements will be more comfortable than a high end carbon jobby that doesn't!
This is at a more practical end of the bike, but cleats cop a hammering as much or more than any other bike part and need to be constantly replaced. Been riding the same set for some years? Try upgrading to a new set and see how it feels when you hear that positive and precise "click". It may seem like a small thing but it is definitely a worthwhile upgrade.
These are just a few of the main upgrades available at a decent price. Are there any others for under $100 that you can think of? Happy riding and have a safe and enjoyable cycling Christmas!