Bike Upgrades to Make You go Faster
Although it is your power and endurance that determines how fast your bike travels, a few well-chosen upgrades will give you marginal speed gains improving how the bike feels, and indeed how fast you go. If you are considering upgrading parts of your bike, this post will give you insights into where to start.
With this in mind, let’s look at upgrades you may want to consider.
Wheels are the most significant upgrade you can make to increase your speed. Given the considerable speed gains afforded by good wheel design, prices vary, and generally, the more you pay the faster you go.
The world of road bike wheel design is competitive. Companies strive to make wheels lighter, more aerodynamic, and stronger, that crucially have less rotating weight. It is not necessarily the case of paying more to go faster.
Anything that turns on your bike, such as wheels, chainrings and the like, has a rotational weight coefficient. You are working against this coefficient as you turn the pedals. The better wheels have faster hubs which reduce this coefficient, and thus your speed is improved.
When combined with good tyre choice, your bike will feel brand new after fitting new wheels. If you only make one upgrade to your bike, improve the wheels.
As well upgrading your wheels it is a good idea to look at the skewers. These are the quick release mechanism that run through the axels of your wheels. In a sport where every gram counts, lighter skewers make a positive contribution to your speed.
Your chainring is another part of your bike that turns. Having a lighter one brings marginal gains to your speed. As well as improving efficiency, you may want to select the right chainring ratio for the kind of cycling you do.
If your rides involve a lot of steep climbing, you may go for a smaller chainring than if you spend most of your time on the saddle riding flatter roads. According to a Cycling Weekly article where they interviewed CeramicSpeed's Paul Sollenberger the larger chainring gives better efficiency than their smaller counterparts.
The interview is interesting and talks about chain angle and how that increases friction in some circumstances and, in turn, slows you down.
The better chainrings will be lighter and have more precise gear indexing.
What this implies is that the right chainring for the terrain, good gear use, and a good working drivetrain is essential to a more energy-efficient ride than the weight of your chainring. That said, having a lighter one will bring some speed advantages.
It may seem counterintuitive that brakes bring speed improvements, but good brakes give you more control over the bike. In turn, this allows you to be more precise with speed control allowing for better acceleration out of corners.
With good brakes and good brake use, you avoid slowing too much and wasting energy building back up to your natural riding speed. If repeated throughout your ride, this inefficiency depletes your energy levels considerably.
Good brakes and good brake use allow you to cycle more efficiently. Crucially the better brakes are lighter, and the quality of braking is better. By using brakes of this kind, you’ll optimise your energy levels providing marginal gains to your speed.
Tyres are a controversial speed upgrade, but lab test data indicates that tyres designed for less rolling resistance allow you to go faster. If you are planning a tyre upgrade, then it is a good idea to look at this Velo News article to get some insights on the subject.
Most of the gains from less tyre rolling resistance come from speeds upwards of 40 kph.
Pro cycling teams strive to make bikes as light as possible. No aspect is overlooked. As such, you may want to consider the following upgrades to squeeze as much speed as possible out of your bike:
- Lighter saddle – Ensure that the saddle is still comfortable when making your choice.
- Lighter seat post – As your saddle is lighter, it makes sense to replace your seat post. Try a carbon seat post for speed gains.
- Lighter stem – Consider a carbon stem rather than an alloy one.
- Carbon pedals – Again lightness counts.
- Carbon bottle cages – A gram saved is a marginal speed increase.
- Water bottles - If you use 750 ml water bottles you may want to switch to 500/600 ml bottles instead. This can save you a gram and over a 21-kilometre climb that is significant.
Don’t Forget Maintenance
Keeping your bike clean and well maintained keeps it operating at maximum efficiency. Mostly this only requires your time and know-how and is highly cost-effective. Keep your bike in tip-top condition, and it won’t let you down.
Ultimately, it will be your power, endurance, and riding skill that determines how fast you go. If you want to improve, our dedicated cycling technique articles will help you perfect your riding skills.
Better still, join us on one of our Mallorca training camps and receive pro coaching advice. You may even get a chance to ride with the Legend Sean Kelly.
If you’re competitive, making upgrades to your bike will help you ride faster and further. Start with wheels in the first instance. Think outside the box when making bike upgrades and remember that every gram counts.
SportActive – Faster, Fitter, Stronger.