6 Upgrades for your Road Bike in 2023

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You don’t have to buy a new bike to improve the way you ride. Instead invest in some key road bike upgrades and transform your existing ride into a lighter, more aerodynamic, more comfortable, and even sexier bike.

Cycling can get expensive fast when you’re looking for specific performance characteristics in a road bike. A bike that takes your breath away might also stop your heart because of its price, but thanks to a bike’s relatively standard design, a more economical bike model can be improved just by upgrading the bike components.

Wheels, tires, handlebars, stems, cranks, and even the frame are all eligible for upgrading if you want to get more road bike performance value out of your bike. First though, decide what are the most important benefits to you, like improved aerodynamics, lighter weight, more durable, or a better fit.

From there you can start choosing the best options that will serve you. Some upgrades may just be for achieving a better fit for your road bike, which is totally worth it because you’ll enjoy riding much more with a bike that fits you. Other upgrades may be bike modifications to improve performance, like adding a power meter. Whichever category you fall into, you probably want to know what the best upgrades for road bikes are.

Through this road bike components guide upgrades you’ll learn:

  • Which part is more valuable to upgrade on each road bike component
  • What to look for in every road bike component upgrades
  • What you can gain from every upgrades


Along the line of cheap bike upgrades that make a huge difference, tires don’t get enough credit.

Tires play a big part in rolling resistance, as well as puncture prevention. The wrong tires can hold you back, weigh you down, or crush your podium pursuits with a single flat. The so-called “right” tyre is the one that’s most suitable for your type of riding. You also get to choose which type of tire:

Clinchers – the most common tyre, clinchers feature an outer casing (what we generally understand as the tyre), and a separate inner tube.

Tubulars – traditionally used by pro racers for their exceptional resistance to pinch flats, these tires have the tubes sewn directly into the outer casing.

Tubeless – it’s in the name, these tires do away with the inner tube by fitting snugly against the rim to create an airtight seal. Liquid sealant is injected or poured into the tyre so that, in case of a puncture, the sealant can quickly fill and seal it. Tubeless tires are becoming more widely adopted as more manufacturers are equipping their bikes with tubeless ready wheels.

Tires come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, tread patterns, and materials so your tyre choice will depend on the riding you’ll be doing. For instance, if you’re an all-around road rider that equally likes to toe the line at local crits or get lost on epic endurance rides, then a tyre that emphasizes good grip and puncture resistance without tipping the scales too much would be your best choice. If you’re a point-to-point racer, then go for a thinner, lighter road tyre with a low rolling resistance.

As referenced above, tires implicate wheel choice as well, which – as you’ll see – is another worthy upgrade.


A wheel manufacturer once played an April Fool’s prank by issuing a press release about their new, rounder wheels. As funny as that sounds, it’s naïve to think we’ve exhausted all wheel innovations because new disciplines, manufacturing methods, and materials all help drive wheel development.

Entry-level stock wheels that come with the bike will fulfill their purpose but let’s say you want to be more aerodynamic, lighter, or reduce mechanical drag, then you’ve got options and some good news too. You no longer exclusively need a set of hand-built wheels to achieve specific performance benefits.

More sophisticated wheel building machines are capable of producing decent wheels for a more modest price. Aside from being round, wheel shape dramatically contributes to their performance, and each shape is defined by what the wheel is trying to achieve.

Aerodynamic – taller rims with shorter spokes (or no rims at all, as in the case of disc wheels), sparse, airfoil-shaped spokes, and a narrow internal channel

Lightweight – a visual indicator may look like machined-out material in the rim, but the best way to prove they’re lightweight is just to compare weights between wheels

Do I need carbon wheels?

This is often the first question when considering a wheel upgrade, but do you? The better question is to ask what you want the wheels to do (carbon may not be the answer). Do get carbon wheels for their aerodynamic gains.

Don’t get carbon wheels for their weight savings (not what you were expecting?) You may be better off with wider aluminum wheels than with skinnier carbon ones if your regular riding surface is more rugged than smooth.

When upgrading road bike wheels, middle-of-the-road wheels and a good set of tires will satisfy most riders, especially when they are clear about what they want.


Instead of upgrading your entire groupset, which can implicate frame design to accommodate internal cable routing and disc brakes, start by addressing individual parts.

For example, the weight savings for upgrading your cranks can be startling and can improve your overall efficiency. So can upgrading your chainrings and/or cassette to sizes that are more appropriate for where you ride (52/39 11x28 to 50/34 11x32 or vice versa can make a gigantic difference in your ride enjoyment, depending on where you ride).

Groupset parts routinely wear out so instead of just replacing them, next time consider upgrading them.

Handlebars and stems

Conflicting opinions about whether or not these components are worth upgrading are each anchored by reason but it’s not up to you who to believe, but rather to decide what you want your bike to do for you. Handlebar shapes and widths, and stem lengths and angles both contribute to the rider’s comfort. If you find yourself cramped or too stretched out either along the length or width of your shoulders and torso, a different handlebar and stem might provide some relief.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for the performance benefits of a “slammed” stem, which is when the stem is positioned at a negative angle relative to the handlebar, you may be making yourself uncomfortable and prone to injury for no reason.

Do upgrade your handlebar if it is too narrow or if you would like more position options for your hands. Flared bars or riser drop bars also provide additional stability and steering control.

Don’t upgrade your handlebar for marginal performance gains. Contorting yourself to improve your aerodynamics may cost you in watts generated so it may be a zero sum (or even a negative) gain to alter your position.

Tip: a cheap and easy way to upgrade your handlebar is to simply install new tape. Handlebar tape is available in a variety of materials, and you can even get gel inserts to place at strategic touch points.

Do upgrade your stem if you would like to make incremental changes to your cockpit positioning for greater comfort.

Don’t upgrade your stem if it makes you uncomfortable on your bike. You’ll gain far more performance advantages with a finely tuned bike fit because you can’t upgrade your way out of a poorly fitting bike.

A note about bike fit, a professional bike fit by a skilled and experienced fitter will give you data on your unique measurements. These precise measurements can help you choose the best bike for you.

It’s important to find someone who’s independent of specific bike brands, which own some bike fitting systems and may be slightly biased about which bike is best for you.


Since the frame is considered the base of your bike, this is a somewhat unusual upgrade but let’s say you want to turn your aluminum bike into a race-ready machine and you come across a carbon fiber frame for sale, this offers you the chance at an upgrade without having to go all in all at once on a tricked-out racing bike.

Or maybe you want a bike that’s bomb-proof for commuting or winter riding – this upgrade may be the best deal around since many frames can be bought used or refurbished for an excellent price. Road bike Frames have evolved over the decades to include a variety of materials, each with their own pro’s and con’s.

Power meter

While not essential to the basic functioning of your bike, a power meter is an invaluable training tool. You’re in luck too, since they come in a number of designs and placements on the bike, as well as a range of prices to fit nearly any budget. What to look for in a power meter:

  • Accuracy – the +/- margin of error for power measurement
  • Metrics – which data the power meter measures
  • Connectivity and compatibility – ANT+ and/or Bluetooth, android and/or iOS
  • Energy source – battery or rechargeable
  • Software – Easy to install? How does it get updated?

Upgrading your road bike either part-by-part or all at once can give you that new bike feel without the angst of actually buying a new bike. If your aspirations for 2023 are to ride more, improve your race results, or ride a little smarter, bike upgrades are an easy (and often cheap) way to achieve those ambitions.

Choose tires and wheels that fit the way you ride. Riding topography is different throughout the world and only you can decide which tires and wheels are best for where you ride.

Upgrade your components to support your performance goals like lighter weight, comfort, improved aerodynamics, and better pedaling efficiency.

Get a bike fit from a professional who’s “fit” his or her business to your unique needs.

Add components like power meters and clipless pedals and set new goals for 2023!

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Further reading

Buying a bike might seem like a simple task, but there are plenty of things to consider to zero-in on the perfect bike for you. Different bikes are designed for different purposes and the price should not be the only deciding factor.

Road bike sizing can vary significantly among brands, which is the main reason for finding your bike size before you buy. A bike that’s a perfect fit also helps you ride more efficiently, avoid injury, and simply makes riding more fun. Understanding what affects bike sizing will not only help you choose wisely but will give you more control over how to fine tune your fit.