If you are reading this article it means you already thought about your next upgrade. This is a natural step for any cyclist. After getting used to your bike you develop an itch to do something to make it better. You don’t want to spend tons of money on buying a new bike, so the natural choice is to look for a way to upgrade your bike. When thinking about the upgrade, cyclists usually thing about two major aspects. One is to improve the components of the bike to get better performance, and the second one is to make the bike lighter. It is quite easy to recommend the components level that provide the best performance for the money. For road bikes you want to have Shimano Ultegra or SRAM Force, and for mountain bikes you want to have the Shimano XT or SRAM X9. Anything beyond this level will not provide you with dramatic performance improvement but will only save a little weight and provide a lot of space in your wallet. This article will mainly discuss the value of weight savings versus the amount of money spent on the upgrade, and you will be surprised to know that most of the people spend their money on the wrong upgrade.
Since we are not changing the bike’s frame, the things we can upgrade is the shifting components and the wheels. Yes you can upgrade the handle bar and the seat post too, if you really want to waste your money. Pinarello has great handlebar for $500 on sale.
The experts will tell you go for the wheels, the rotating weight is the most important. I don’t disagree, so let’s examine the wheels.
-Typical Aluminum Road wheelset that weighs 2,000 gr costs $250
-Typical Aluminum Road wheelset that weighs 1,800 gr costs $500
-Typical Aluminum Road wheelset that weighs 1,500 gr costs $1000
However the problem with wheels upgrade is that it doesn’t really provide the perceived benefit. Wheels are constructed from rims, spokes and hubs. Most of the weight is located in the hub. However since the hub is located on the axis of the wheel in reality it doesn’t constitute a rotational weight in comparison to the rims. Reduction of wheels weight is almost always achieved by using the lighter hubs. Rims and spokes provide only marginal effect as they are already very light. By now you must realize that your wheels upgrade will not provide the “promised” rotational weight benefit as you hoped for but will mostly provide a stationary weight benefit. Is it worth paying the additional $750 to reduce the overall bike’s mass of (150lb rider +18lb bike weight) by 1lb? I hope by now, you can answer that by yourself.
So, what is the best upgrade? Most of the people overlook the obvious. Let’s still aim to attack the rotational weight. What is the most rotational component on the bike that is easily upgradable? The tires and the tubes. You think I am wrong?
Here are some examples:
$20 – Forté Strada K Road Tire weighs 328g (700x 23c),
$35 – Hutchinson Equinox Road Tire weighs 250g (700x 23c),
$40 – Michelin Kromion Road Tire weighs 230g (700x 23c),
$60 – Michelin Pro 3 Race Road Tire weighs 200g (700x 23c),
$60 – Vredestein Fortezza SuperLite weighs Road Tire 180g (700x 23c),
$5 Forté Road Presta Tube weighs 117gr (700c x 19-26)
$10 – Forté Road LunarLight Presta Tube weighs 49gr (700c x 18-26)
So let’s do the math: Upgrading from cheap $20 tires and tubes (that probably came with your bike) to Vredestein Fortezza SuperLite tires + LunarLight Presta you will need to pay = $140. However you are going to save 432gr of highly rotational weight !!! In my mind, this is the smartest choice anyone could make. You can find great deals on line to make this upgrade even cheaper.
Same holds true for mountain bike tires, especially if you are XC or trail rider.
Popular $25 Panaracer Fire XC Wire MTB Tire 26 x 2.1″ – weighs 660gr.
$60 – Specialized S-Works Captain 26×2.0″ – weighs 550gr.
Adding an upgrade of Frote regular $5 MTB tubes (177gr) to $10 Lunar light (99gr) will be a smart choice. The total saving of 372gr of rotational weight can be achieved by paying only $140.
Tubes and tires are the best upgrade the money can buy !!!