We know that pressure that most beginners to road biking feel when researching and purchasing their first road bike. It can be stressful, because first, you don’t know what you really want out of a bike yet; second, you want the best fit despite not yet knowing exactly what that may be; you obviously want the best quality for your money; and you want something durable so that you can begin riding and start figuring out what you love most about cycling.
The world of cycling is a journey — and without sounding too New Age about it, you start out with trust in your first bike.You begin riding and will notice aspects that you like and dislike about your ride. That’s when you can begin researching or asking more advanced bikers on how to upgrade or fix the aspects you don’t like. The journey to finding the right kind of road bike, the right brand, and the right components for your unique desires and needs takes some time — some more than others. Some riders are picky and want perfection while others are just fine with enjoying their ride without much thought to improving it.
If you are the type of rider that wants to improve your road bike (whether it is an entry-level bike in need of changes or you plan on purchasing a brand new, beginner/intermediate cycle), it is just as important to know what your bike really doesn’t need. You will see articles, even on our own site here at roadbikes.io, that have shown you the latest trends in road biking, new gadgets and upgrades, as well as the current evolution of biking.
But the truth is, your road bike will not always need most of these upgrades in order to be a great bike — most bikers are not time trial chasers, and most aren’t hopping around on their CX (cyclocross) bikes, jumping off canyons. This means that for the most part, the newest trends and upgrades that are popular among biking/racing aficionados, aren’t necessary for the rest of us.
We have listed five upgrades to your bike that are not needed (despite their growing popularity) in order to have a great road bike. Remember, trends and innovations are great, but there are tried and true components and aspects to cycling that don’t truly need upgrading for you to have a great experience. Understanding what you don’t really need will help you save money, get you a quality bike where you can find out for yourself what you don’t like over time, and will still offer a great biking experience without investing hundreds into trends that may not even matter to you.
I have never met a cyclist who said that they needed carbon wheels. Yes, much like carbon bike frames, carbon wheels are cool. They look great and they just sound cool when you tell people. They’re also more aerodynamic, so they’ll make you quicker, right?
You may get a bit of quickness out of them, but for the typical road cyclist full carbon wheels are way too expensive to be worth it. Even if you buy a carbon frame bike, the odds are that carbon wheels aren’t standard. Trust us, you do not need carbon wheels for a great bike — in fact, most riders don’t have them. I don’t have them. It’s just not necessary unless you’re pro, a time trial chaser, or a super enthusiast (in which case, you don’t even need to read this particular article).
There is also another thing to consider if you do purchase carbon wheels: if your bike has rim brakes (and we’ll get to the topic of brakes later on), braking will likely be worse than with alloy rims, especially if you are riding in wet weather. So, carbon wheels aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
However, it’s all up to you personally — if you want them, get them; but be aware that you don’t actually need carbon wheels.
Everything is “aero” these days — aero frames, aero seatpost, aero wheels, even aero bottom brackets — but when it comes to aero, cyclists have been enjoying road bikes for a hundred years without the super-sleek, futuristic designs that may look incredibly cool, but may not be right for your desired type of riding.
While faster is better (and if the price is right, you’d be crazy to reject it), an aerodynamic frame can promise speed, it comes at a cost. Not just literally in terms expense, even the best aero frames for the typical consumer can be less comfortable and a bit heavier — if you are racing, then definitely invest in one, but if you are interested in road biking, an aerodynamic frame won’t make your rides more fun, it will just make your bank account emptier.
Pro cyclists, time trialers, competitive riders, and other cyclists use tubular tires because they make the most sense for racing professionally. When pro racers get a puncture, all they need to do is wave their crew over for a new wheel or whole new bike — unfortunately, the rest of us don’t have a car following us with tons of extras and a luxury experience.
If you don’t know much about bikes yet, swapping out a tubular tire on the roadside can be tricky and will mean getting back on a patched bike that must be carefully ridden back home or else the tire will become unstuck.
Modern clincher tires are perfect for riding and easier to live with. So, if you don’t want to worry about your tires or are sick of tubes, try tubeless ones instead.
You remember us referencing brakes in the first section, when we spoke of carbon wheels, right? While there is no question (at least to us) that disc brakes function better than rim brakes, this doesn’t mean that your bike absolutely must have them.
Disc brakes are a part of a growing trend that took off in the last couple of years. There are many that are still ride-or-die rim brake enthusiasts and racers don’t use them (many biking authorities, such as in Britain, still haven’t allowed disc brakes in their racing). So, this trend towards disc brakes are still new to the industry and it seems like every new bike has them.
If you want to save money, lighten up your bike, and want to give rim brakes a try as you enter road biking for the first time, you can pass up the disc brakes. Discs are a great choice if you ride in all types of weather or your bike train/road has a lot of high speed descents, but if you are like most cyclists and do not ride these terrains and are on a limited budget, disc brakes may not be the best fit for you at the moment.
First, discs are heavier than rim brakes and if you buy cheap cable discs, they require higher maintenance — this may be too much trouble if you are looking for a nicely priced bike that is solid. If you can afford the proper gear, disc brakes are worth trying, but don’t think that you need them — rim brakes are an excellent choice for most riders.
If you are going to invest in a more expensive bike, despite being a new to intermediate cyclists, you can always purchase a rim brake bike that offers conversion-to-disc capabilities — that way, you can try out rim brakes and enjoy the lower cost, while being able to upgrade to disc brakes later on if you wish to.
Most of you remember riding bikes as a kid — all we had was mechanical shifting — and it worked great for us, bar a few scrapes and bruises as we flew across the handlebars due to our childish inexperience as we attempted to jump curbs in the nearest cul-de-sac.
If you have had the experience of it, there is something satisfying about simply pressing a button and getting a perfect shift — but, like the rest of the components on this list, electronic shifting is a luxury that you can definitely live without.
Mechanical groupsets are perfectly suitable (and sometimes preferred) for most riders. As long as you maintain them and replace your cables occasionally, you will love never having to charge your bike (or worse — forgetting to charge it and wanting to go for a ride).
Whether you are a brand new rider looking for your first entry-level road bike or an intermediate rider trying to stay on budget; just know that there are things you can live without on your bike and still maintain an excellent ride. Not only will you save money, but you can enjoy an excellent riding experience without trendy components that you likely don’t even want.