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The Bike Panel - Best Road Bike Upgrades

November 20, 2015

It's often said, 'don't buy upgrades, ride up grades!'

And while that statement is true, if you know the best road bike upgrades to make to your pride and joy, you can get some free speed.

Victoria sent in a question to our expert bike panel asking;

"I have $1,000 to spend to upgrade my bike. What should I be investing my money in to get the most bang for my buck?"

It seems this question was an easy one for the Bike Panel - 'definitely the wheels...'

The Best Road Bike Wheel Upgrades

Shop for road wheels

Which to choose? Alloy clinchers vs. Tubulars and Carbon clinchers

Alloy clincher wheelsets are generally heavier than a tubular or carbon clincher wheelset, but generally offer better braking and are more robust. They are also a hell of a lot cheaper!

One of the chief complaints of those who regularly ride with tubulars or carbon clinchers is the braking performance. Although huge improvements have been made in recent years to tubular and carbon clincher braking surface, the braking still lacks the power of the alloy surface, and struggles when wet.

Alloy clinchers shimano wheels

If you do invest in a set of tubular or carbon clinchers, be sure to have to appropriate brake pads. There's nothing worse then hearing the caulk board screech of a rider who has the wrong brake pads on a carbon braking surface. And while we are on the subject of braking, there is always the issue of the carbon braking surface heating up, causing poor performance and possibly a tyre blow-out.

Where you ride and the conditions you ride in are also worth considering before you decide on a wheelset. Tubulars and carbon clinchers more often than not have a greater profile than an alloy wheelset, meaning they can be tricky in the cross winds.

It might sound like an alloy wheelset is the way to go, but before you part with your hard earned cashola, it's important to know just how good a set of tubulars and carbon clinchers could be for you. Less weight, greater aerodynamics, and enhanced stiffness are all features of tubulars and carbon clinchers wheelsets that make them so sought after.

The decision comes down to the cost outweighing the benefit or vice versa.

Dura ace wheelset C50

The Best Road Bike Tyre Upgrades

The first thing the Bike Panel would buy is a new wheelset, but as Toby suggests, "leave some money for good tyres."

Do so and, they "can change the way the bike feels."

Shop for road wheels

What makes the best tyre?

Rolling resistance - tyre width and tread pattern

The tyre width is an important factor in rolling resistance. Most of the pro peloton is now riding 25mm tyres (or greater) as opposed to a decade ago when thin was in. As well as providing improved rolling resistance, wider tyres create a better feel on the road and better handling.

Tread pattern is another consideration in reducing rolling resistance, but less of an issue with road tyres. The best tread pattern is virtually no pattern at all. Grooves in your tyres will move when the tyre is under pressure, slowing you down. Look for a smooth tyre surface with little to no tread pattern.

attack comp


Tyre weight doesn't change a great deal, but in order to drop weight manufacturers have to take something out. Normally that means a lighter casing or lower thread count. This results in better performance but more chance of getting a puncture. Around 200grams is a pretty acceptable weight for modern day tyres.

Puncture protection

Puncture protection is an often overlooked element of tyre choice. Many riders will sacrifice a thinner tyre for greater performance. Tyre width, weight and tread pattern are all important, but if have to change your tyres every six weeks because of punctures, you are going to grow very tired of them and empty your wallet in the process. Be sure your tyres have some element of puncture protection, regardless if they are for race days or training days.


Get more great advice by watching the full first episode of the BikeExchange Bike Panel.

The BikeExchange Bike Panel

So who's in this series' panel?

Brand Manager for Shimano Cycling Australia, Toby Shingleton

Pro rider from Specialized Securitor Women's Team, Verita Stewart

Owner of 'The Angry Butcher', Bruce Howard

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