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Bike upgrades that won’t break the bank

In a triathlon, especially an Ironman, you spend the majority of the race on the bike. So, if you can make subtle upgrades to your bike, without breaking the bank, you can make some significant improvements. While there are more elaborate ways to get faster, latex tubes, aero helmets and aerobars. Here are a few upgrades you can do that can make a big difference to the weight, comfort and aerodynamics of your bike.

Related: Speed on a budget: Getting aero on the cheap

1) Wheels

A wheel upgrade can really give your bike a new personality and an extra jump when it comes to going a little faster. They drastically change the ride quality of a bike. In addition, if you have the budget you can get a pair that are lighter and more aerodynamic which will make your bike faster in all conditions. While a more expensive investment than the ones below, wheels make the biggest differences to how a bike feels.

Photo: Cam Mitchell

Cost: $500 to as much as you’ve got to spend.

Related: Stand out with the Gray 45/80 carbon clincher wheelset

2) Tires

Your tires are the only part of your bicycle that should make contact with the road beneath you. High-quality tires will roll faster and be constructed from lighter rubber compounds. A squared off or heavily worn tire won’t perform as well and leave you susceptible to punctures. Next time you are shopping for tires, spend a little extra money to get a higher performing tire if your goal is to go a little faster.

Cost: $75 to $150 per tire

3) Saddle

The stock saddle that came with your bike might be marginally slowing you down, especially if it’s not particularly comfortable. A new saddle that fits your behind properly will allow you to get into a more comfortable position on your bike so you can get the most out of your bike when you are pushing hard.  A good saddle will also save you some grams and every ounce counts when it comes to cycling.

Cost: $100 to $300

4) Handlebar and stem

You don’t need to buy an entirely new bike to get yours a bit more aero. Apart from some deep wheels, an aero set of handlebars or clip-on aerobars can reduce the frontal surface area of your bike. Handlebars aren’t all equal either with some being made from carbon or lighter alloy. The shape of the drops can also make a small difference to the position you are able to achieve when in them.

Cost: $150 to +$500

Related: How to get aero for cheap

5) Bike Fit

A poorly set up triathlon bike is miserable. The fit is where it all starts when it comes to performance on a bike. Whether on a road bike or tri bike, it’s important to get a bike fit, especially if you plan on investing in a few races and loads of training hours. When it comes to your setup the priorities are: comfort, power and aerodynamics. In that order, no matter what level of triathlete you are.

Related: Bike fit: Dial in your position with tips from an expert

6) Regular maintenance

Keeping your bike in good working order is not only essential to preventing untimely mechanicals and wearing out components faster but is good for your bikes overall performance. Gunk on your chain and cassette will add friction while precise shifting won’t be possible leaving your struggling to get into the right gear during efforts.

Related: 8 tips for your spring bike tune-up

Keeping your machine looking pristine will also remove any unnecessary weight you are carrying around in the form of girt on your downtube and wheels. So clean your bike regularly and change worn out components as soon as possible. If you want to make your drivetrain run extra smooth, invest in some fancy lube but remember to still clean everything regularly and reapply it frequently.

A version of this story is on Canadian Cycling Magazine.