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Performance-oriented Upgrades

The bike in your garage might already be your dream bike … with a few tweaks. Road, mountain, and gravel bikes can all perform better with an upgrade or adjustment or two. Some of our resident bike experts shared the recent upgrades they’ve made to their personal rigs, and the important factors to consider when making adjustments to yours.

Customize Your Cockpit

Upgrading your cockpit has the highest capacity for increasing your comfort. Handlebars are top of our list for improving ride feel—you can upgrade to carbon, go wider for better control, or adjust the shape to optimize your cockpit for your ride goals.

Our resident gravel expert Hannah says she switched her handlebars to carbon, which sheds weight and reduces vibration compared to aluminum. She loves that her new bars “are a little flared for comfort and handling on chunky stuff.” Hannah also recommends optimizing your bar width. Since her latest steed is meant for bikepacking, she went with a wider handlebar than usual to make room for mounting lights and bags.

Not ready to change up your bars, but want to get rid of those pesky vibrations? Try switching your grip material, or if your hands are tingling, seek out an ergonomic grip shape. Small adjustments to the angles of your shifters and brake levers can also make a difference, and you can even shake up the material of these small parts. Our Bike Shop Manager Luke switched to carbon blades because he says the way the brake levers feel is “super important” to his sense of control on the bike. He also recommends upgrading to wireless shifting if you prefer a clean cockpit to a mess of tubes.

Fresh Wheels & Tires

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: foundation, foundation, foundation. A minor change at the bottom can make a big difference in how your ride performs. At minimum? We recommend taking a good look at your tires. Fresh tread helps you stay rubber-side down—consider if your current rubber is getting bald or cracking, or if you could find a tire more optimized for your preferred terrain.

Wheels, hubs, and even spokes can also change the game. When he’s not managing our social content, Chase can usually be found with dirt under his wheels—and right now, those wheels are brand new. “While a bit of a pricey upgrade, I’ve found that after a number of rides, my new wheelset made all the difference,” he observed, “the additional rigidity makes holding a line and taking corners all the more fun.”

Struggling more than when your bike was brand-spanking-new? It may not just be the difference in being in early- vs. late-season shape. If your hubs have dust or debris inside—yes, even if you prefer to ride on pavement—you could be fighting extra resistance. While Chase opted to upgrade his whole wheelset, one of the bigger differences he noticed was in the hubs: “The additional points of engagement are incredible for techy ups and getting on it quickly during the down.”

Drivetrains Make A Difference

When was the last time you checked your teeth? While you may not need to brush twice a day, your cassette and chainring are imperative to the overall performance of your bike. And as the teeth wear, they can affect the shape of your chain and vice versa, so we recommend replacing both at the same time. And, if you’re already doing the work, why not experiment with a modified gear ratio? A bigger bailout cog or smaller sprinting gear could take your performance to the next level.

While your cassette health is important, the derailleur and shifters that control the chain movement also play a big role in performance. Bike Shop Manager Luke recently upgraded to an electronic system, and explained: “it has an extremely precise feeling to it since the motor will give you the exact same shift motion every single time.” He also mentioned, “setup is important to me as a mechanic and you can’t really beat a wireless system.” We have to agree—this hot new technology is giving all of our rigs that consistency, too.

Even if we’re shifting electronically, most of us still use our legs for a motor. This means to ride most efficiently, we need an ergonomic fit. Did you know that crank arm length is one of the most important measurements on your bike? It dictates the alignment of your joints—and many people are riding with cranks that are too long (and, while less common, some too short). There are countless other ways to customize your bike fit, so we recommend taking some measurements and working with a Gearhead to find the fit that’s right for you beyond the frame.

Gearheads are here to help, from replacing aging components to upgrading your machine—call 1-800-409-4502 or use our live chat feature to connect about size, compatibility, performance, and more.