Many will use the opportunity to upgrade an entire bike, but for those that can’t, or won’t, impart with that amount of money, it’s also a good time to make selected upgrades on components in order to improve the performance, reduce the weight, or fine tune the fit of your trusty steed. Here’s our take on worthwhile upgrades that you should consider. To put things into perspective, we’ve based our comparisons in this article against the parts you’d find on a mid-range bike aimed at us average bro’s, a 2015 Scott Scale 960 that retails for around R13000. – By Paulo Conde and Gresham Enerson
The wheels that come standard on most bikes are built to be sturdy and reliable, and in order to cut costs, cheaper materials and parts are often used. Upgrading the standard wheelset has a four-fold benefit that earns it a top spot on our upgrade list.
Firstly, a higher end wheelset will be lighter and hence have less mass to rotate with each pedal stroke than a lower end wheelset. Reducing this rotational mass makes a difference to acceleration. Secondly, higher end wheels use better rims that are designed to be run as tubeless without the need for rim tape, so you can put an end to that insufferable torment that comes from trying to seat tyres on non-tubeless rims. Thirdly, the hubs on higher end wheels are designed to engage quicker, which means that the power that you put down when you start pedalling translates to forward movement faster than it would with lower end hubs. Lastly, higher end hubs typically use sealed bearings which means that they will last longer and require less maintenance in the long run.
|As it Comes||Syncros XC39 29”|
|Recommended Upgrade||ZTR 29er Crest / Hope Wheelset|
|Cost||R 5 500|
|Weight Saving||350 g|
|Bang for Buck||4 / 5|
Thankfully technology has come a long way in the suspension realm, and you’ll now find most bikes come fitted with an air suspension fork by default. That said, there are features like remote lockout and rebound adjustment, as well as a level of suppleness and refinement that comes with the more advanced forks that leave them high on our list of upgrades. It’s also an area that you can cut significant amounts of weight, especially if you currently have a coil fork.
|As it Comes||RockShox XC 30 TK Coil|
|Recommended Upgrade||RockShox Reba RLT Solo Air|
|Cost||R 5 000|
|Weight Saving||750 g|
|Bang for Buck||5 / 5|
Up until a few years ago, a 3×9 drivetrain was the only option available, but now there’s 2x and 1x setups that offer a much more efficient drivetrain with less overlap of gear ratios and an obvious reduction in weight. There’s also a lot to be said for the ability to shift several gears effortlessly in the blink of an eye, so it may also be worth considering upgrading shifters and derailleurs if you find shifting to be a source of frustration. Now that the 1x option is available in the mid-range SRAM and Shimano line-ups, this may be the opportune time to upgrade your groupset. 1x isn’t for everyone though, so do some of your own research before tackling this one. Ask others that live in your area that have 1x for some feedback.
|As it Comes||Shimano Deore / XT Mix – 2×10|
|Recommended Upgrade||Shimano XT – 1×11|
|Cost||R 6 500|
|Weight Saving||450 g|
|Bang for Buck||4 / 5|
Some would argue that these bad boys are pretty important items, and we’d tend to agree. Quality braking can lead to improved confidence and speed. Technology has advanced in this respect too, so thankfully most bikes come fitted with a decent hydraulic brakeset these days. Upgrading here will buy you better stopping power and performance thanks to more advanced designs, as well as better adjustability in the form of reach and stroke adjustment. As with all upgrades, there’s also the added benefit of trimming weight.
|As it Comes||Shimano Deore M395|
|Recommended Upgrade||Shimano XT M785|
|Cost||R 2 950|
|Weight Saving||185 g|
|Bang for Buck||3 / 5|
When it comes to cutting costs, bike manufacturers often look to the bottom end of ranges for the seatpost, stem and handlebar. These are parts that most don’t scrutinise too closely on spec sheets, so manufacturers often get by with applying some in-house branding to low-end components to do the job. While there’s nothing wrong with the parts functionally, they aren’t very kind to the scales, so they’re prime candidates when it comes to shedding some pounds. Upgrading these parts also presents a great opportunity to dial-in that bike fit, so go for a professional bike fitting before upgrading to ensure that the parts that you are buying are the correct dimensions for you.
|As it Comes||Syncros FL Series|
|Recommended Upgrade||Ritchey WCS|
|Cost||R 3 850|
|Weight Saving||150 g|
|Bang for Buck||2 / 5|
If you’ve already found ‘the one’, skip ahead. If however you’re still rolling with the saddle that came with the bike, this may be one of the most valuable upgrades you will ever make. The primary reason for upgrading will be comfort, especially if you’re spending long hours in the saddle. As an added perk, you also get to shed a few unwanted grams.
|As it Comes||Selle Royal Sirio|
|Recommended Upgrade||Specialized Phenom Pro|
|Cost||~ R 2 200|
|Weight Saving||~ 60 g|
|Bang for Buck||1 / 5|
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 37, Dec 2015 – All rights reserved