RCUK’s Christmas Gift Guide 2015: upgrades for your bike

What to buy this Christmas to breathe new life into your beloved bike

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, presents are slowly stacking up under the tree – so why not treat yourself – or rather treat your bike – to an upgrade this Christmas.

While Eddy Merckx’s mantra was ‘don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades’, there’s still a lot to be said for giving your bike a new lease of life to inspire you to get out in the saddle, especially over winter..

Want to upgrade your bike? Small changes like a new top cap and bar tape or bigger changes like wheelsets and groupsets can all make a difference either aesthetically or performance-wise

The smallest changes can make a big difference, such as a fresh wrap of bar tape, or you can customise your steed to win extra style points on the club run.

– Five ways to breathe new life into your bike –

And if your budget allows it, a new groupset or upgrading your wheels can transform your ride.

We’ve picked out some options at all ends of the budget scale, so go on – treat your bike. After all, it is basically a member of the family, right?

Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm bar tape

A fresh wrap of handlebar tape can breathe a new lease of life into your bike and how it feels when you’re riding. And Lizard Skins’ DSP 3.2mm bar tape is one of our favourite wraps.

A fresh wrap of handlebar tape can make a big difference to the feel of your ride

It’s not cheap at £32.99 but it’s a luxury roll of tape worth the outlay. It offers excellent cushioning, thanks to the 3.2mm thickness, and is super-grippy.

– Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm handlebar tape review –


DSP stands for DuraSoft Polymer, as opposed to the cork (or cork alternatives) favoured by many other brands, and it’ll last longer than standard tape, too.


Price: £32.99
Website: Lizard Skins

Kapz Top Caps

You might not have ever thought about upgrading your headset top cap but it can add a bit of custom bling to your bike.

Kristian House uses a custom Kapz top cap

The pros do it – Sir Brad’s mod roundel, for example, or Kristian House’s Big Lebowski-themed top cap – so why shouldn’t you?

And if you’re looking for a custom top cap, the Somerset-based supplier of House’s aforementioned design, Kapz, is a great place to start. Laser-etched, traditionally engraved, hand-polished titanium, full colour or even carbon fibre top caps are all on offer, and handlebar end plugs if you really want to go all-out.

Prices vary, but the custom laser-etched headset caps are £24.95 as a guide.

Price: various
Website: Kapz

Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tyres

Your tyres are going to take a big hit if you plan on clocking the miles this winter. But investing in a quality set of tyres can help keep you rolling through the months ahead, and not stranded at the roadside with a puncture.

Continental’s Grand Prix 4 Seasons tyre offers year-round durability

Continental’s 4 Seasons Tyres are among those and are available as wide as 32mm. They’re far from cheap at £54.95 each but they’re fast, grippy and impressively puncture-resistant, so ideal as fit and forget year-round tyres, not just for winter.

– Seven of the best winter training tyres –

If you’d prefer something a little racier when summer comes though, Continental’s GP 4000S II (£49.95) tyres are among our favourites.

Price: £54.95

Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels

Upgrading your wheels can make a big difference to your ride, with many bikes specced with entry-level wheelsets to keep the cost down.

The wheels you ride can make a big difference to how the bike feels

Mavic’s range covers everything from the entry-level Aksium wheels, all the way up to top-of-the-range aero hoops. The Ksyrium Elite wheels here sit near the middle of the range and at £500 represent a realistic upgrade for many riders.

They’re well priced, offer a lovely ride quality, feeling stiff and responsive when putting the power down, and the wide rim is on trend, working well when paired with a 25mm or 28mm tyre. Trickle down tech means the bearings in the hubs are top notch.


Price: £500
Website: Mavic

Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset

The groupset is the mechanical heart of your bike and another area ripe for upgrade if you’re happy with your frame but want to give your bike a new start,.

Shimano’s Ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset sits second-top in their range (Pic: Shimano)

While you might already know if you’re a Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo fan, Shimano’s Ultegra 6800 11-speed mechanical groupset is a popular upgrade option, sitting second-top in the Japanese firm’s range.

Ultimately, you’re getting the same performance as the pro-level Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, but just adding a little more weight. While the list price is only a fraction less than £1,000, if you shop around shop you can find an Ultegra groupset for less than £500.

Price: £999.99
Website: Shimano

Jagwire Road Elite Link cable/brake kits

It may not be top of everyone’s wishlist when it comes to upgrades, but your cables are a fundamental part of the bike and Jagwire’s Road Elite Link cable kit is a high-performance upgrade to the standard housing your bike will have come supplied with.

Jagwire offer high-performance upgrades to your bog-standard cable housing

Formed of hundreds of single links, interlocked to form one ling piece of housing, the result is a rigid, compression-less, lightweight and easily mouldable casing.

Jagwire’s brake kit is half the weight of a traditional housing system, while the cable kit can knock 20 per cent off – so it will appeal to the weight weenie within you too.

Price: £59.99 (gear), £54.99 (brake)
Website: Jagwire

USE SpinStix Wheel Skewers

Another part of your bike you may not have considered upgrading are your wheel skewers, but it’s another affordable bit of kit to swap and, like a headset top cap, can add a bit more bling to your bike.

Colourful and crafted from lightweight titanium? Perfect

Affordable, of course, is relative, but if you’re looking to splash out then USE’s SpinStix skewers are a smart-looking option.

Not only do they come in a choice of four colours – red, silver, black and blue – they are also crafted from titanium which means they weight just 55g/pair.

Price: £44.99
Website: USE

Fizik Arione R1 saddle

If it’s improved comfort you’re after then your perch is prime for an upgrade.

The Fizik Arione R1 is a popular saddle in the pro peloton

Saddle comfort is object, with one’s man throne another’s bed of thorns, but we’ve plumped for the Fizik Arione R1 saddle for this list because we like it. So there.

Weighing in at just 145g, the carbon-braided saddle is a long-standing favourite in the Fizik range. The Arione saddle is for flexible riders classed as ‘snakes’ on Fizik’s Spine Concept fit chart, but otherwise there’s the Antares R1  for ‘chameleon’ with an average degree of spine flexibility, and the Aliante R1 for bull’s with a ‘rigid spine’.

Of course, £220 is a lot to spend on a saddle, but the Fizik line-up is wide and includes a range of saddles with the same shape, but made from different materials to bring the cost down.

Price: £219.99
Website: Fizik

LOOK Keo 2 Max Blade pedals

Chances are you’ll already know what pedal system you prefer, whether it’s LOOK, Shimano, Speedplay, Time or something else.

The Keó 2 Max Blade pedals use a carbon blade to set clip in tension rather than the spring coiled system of the original Keó 2 Max pedals

If you’re a LOOK fan, or fancy a change, then the excellent Keo 2 Max Blade pedals are the French brand’s most affordable ‘Blade’ leafspring-engaging pedals.

– LOOK Keo 2 Max Blade pedals –

Made from a carbon composite, as opposed to the full carbon fibre (and more expensive) Keo Blade 2 pedals favoured by the pros, the Keo 2 Max Blade pedals offer a positive, snappy engagement and provide a solid base for putting the power down

Price: £109.99

K-Edge XL out-front Garmin computer mount

If you have a Garmin computer then the K-Edge XL is one of the best out-front mounts on the market. It’s designed specifically to accommodate the extra size of Garmin’s largest computer, the Edge 1000.

The K-Edge XL out-front computer mount is designed for use with the Garmin Edge 1000

Let’s not beat around the bush, an RRP of £39.99 is a hefty investment for a computer mount but it’s a quality bit of kit.

The mount is made from CNC-machined aluminium and is available in gunmetal, black, blue and red, so looks classy on the bike.

Price: £39.99
Website: K-Edge


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.