RCUK’s Christmas Gift Guide 2016: upgrades for your road bike

From added glitz and glamour to some serious performance enhancements, treat your bike to some upgrades this Christmas

With the run-in to Christmas approaching the final straight, even the least organised will have started checking off their present list.

Mum? Sorted. Sister? Check. Other half? Doesn’t my bank balance know it. Bike? What do you mean, no? Your beloved bike is as much a part of the family now, so why not treat it?

There are plenty of means to upgrade your road bike from the cheap to the top-end

Something as simple as a fresh wrap of handlebar tape or a bit of custom bling can make a big difference to you ride and keep you motivated for winter training.

And if your budget allows, upgrades such as a new set of wheels or a groupset will make an even bigger difference, and help you kickstart your 2017 in the manner you hope it will continue.

So, with that in mind, our latest Christmas Gift Guide takes a look at the top upgrades to buy for your bike this Christmas. Go on – you (and the bike, of course) deserve it…


Lizard Skins DSP Handlebar Tape

A fresh wrap of handlebar tape is one of cycling’s guilty pleasures, and if you’ve never bothered upgrading you might be surprised at the impact it can have on how your ride feels.

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

There are countless options on the market, but Lizard Skins’ DSP tape is an RCUK favourite, offering stretchy and seriously grippy tape.

We were big fans of the brand’s 3.2mm tape when we tested it, while the slightly thinner (and therefore cheaper) 2.5mm option is one you’ll see a lot of in the WorldTour peloton.

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Niner YAWYD custom top caps

OK, so there’s no real performance benefit to customising your top cap or your bar ends, but it’s an unobtrusive way of adding some bling to your bike.

Sir Bradley Wiggins has swapped his for a mod roundel, while we snapped Kristian House’s “The Dude Abides” top cap last year, but Niner have taken another angle with their YAWYD custom top caps.

Niner say their YAWYD are perfect for motivation (pic – Niner)

Niner’s YAWYD (You Are What You Drink) top caps are compatible with 1 1/8” steerers and are built to allow you to pop your favourite drinks bottle crown over the top.

They call it inspiration for the climb – a reminder of the rewards which await once the ride is done. What more motivation could you need?

Website: Niner

Michelin Power All Season tyre

As the only point on the bike in contact with the ground, your tyres are a more obvious place to look for an upgrade, and in the midst of winter it’s something robust you’re after.

Michelin’s new flagship Power range launched earlier this year, and their Competition tyre proved a great option for summer riding.

The All Season’s grip comes through the compound and strategically-placed cutaways

The Michelin Power All Season, meanwhile, is their rubber for all seasons – and the new grip compound and tread ticked all our boxes when we put it to the test.

Offering a sprightly ride despite their beefier construction, with a low rolling resistance, we could find little to complain about with our test set.

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Wheels are another area prime for upgrading, particularly if you’re bought your bike off-the-peg – it’s by down-speccing the wheelset most brands keep their pricing down.

And for many cyclists, a full carbon rim – and the weight saving that can offer you – is one seriously desirable upgrade, let down by only one factor: price.

Cosine’s 55mm full carbon clincher wheelset is a great value for money £600

Wiggle’s in-house brand Cosine have done their bit to tackle that here, though – £600 for a full, 55mm-deep aero carbon clincher wheelset, means serious return for your hard-earned cash.

OK, let’s not beat around the bush, £600 is still a serious investment, but you’re not going to find better value for money if it’s full carbon clinchers you’re after.

Website: Wiggle

Fabric Scoop Flat Pro

Are you sitting comfortably? There’s plenty that affects your comfort on the road bike, but the saddle is perhaps the most obvious.

The Fabric Scoop Flat Pro has a nylon base and carbon fibre rails

And Somerset-based brand Fabric claim their Scoop Flat Pro – one of our RCUK100 items this year – is the most advanced of them all.

Fabric have expanded their range of wares this year, but saddles are their bread and butter and the Frome brand blend form and function to an impressive degree.

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Gold chain

We spotted KMC’s 11-speed gold chains on the pro bikes of riders such as Matt Brammeier in recent times, and it’s another way to add a touch of bling to your bike.

KMC’s gold chains offer a touch of bling

The brand’s X-Bridge system is designed to offer quiet, quicker and smoother shifting, so it’s not just looks you’re upgrading either.

But, as any bang average footballer to have turned up to five-a-side in gold boots will have learned, if you’re going to go for the flashy look, you can expect plenty of stick if you don’t have the skills to match.

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Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset

Another product fully deserving of its place in our RCUK100 for 2016 was Shimano’s fourth-tier gruppo, Tiagra 4700.

Of course, the Japanese firm’s new, updated flagship Dura-Ace groupset has stolen the headlines for 2017, but Tiagra is well worth raving about.

The Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset, thanks to trickle-down tech, is now a decent upgrade for the everyday cyclist and well worth shouting about

If you can afford Dura-Ace, by all means go for it, but if a two-grand groupset is out of reach, trickle down tech means Tiagra is a great option for the everyday cyclist.

Stepping up in terms of both function and aesthetics, the new Tiagra is on a par with the previous iteration of the third-top 105.

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Far and Near brake hoods

If you like to colour match your bike and accessories, the chance to swap out your brake hoods might appeal to you.

With a range of colours available, and hoods built to fit both Shimano and Campag, there’s plenty of choice out there and the brand pride themselves on how closely they match the originals construction-wise

Far and Near’s custom brake hoods mean you can add a flash of colour, or colour-match your hoods (pic: Far and Near)

Want to swap out your existing hoods for white, red, Ferrari red, pink, blue, green, celeste, yellow, black & fluoro yellow or orange? Far and Near have you covered.

Website: Far and Near

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