Gravel bike upgrades: the best improvements for your gravel bike

From tyres to wheels to saddles, we look at a range of products that can enhance your ride

Best gravel upgrades
(Image credit: Kevin Fickling)

While a new gravel bike will be a ball of fun straight out of the box, there are a few upgrades that can make it even better.

Boost your technical handling, reduce the risk of mechanicals or up your comfort; here's a few changes you can make to take your gravel bike to the next level.

You don't need to spend a huge amount to make some big changes. From smaller upgrades like wrapping thicker bar tape around your bars or setting up your wheels as tubeless, all the way through to second wheelsets and dropper posts, there's a huge range of budget and more extravagant options.

If you're still in the market for a gravel bike, check out our best gravel and adventure bikes buyer's guide, or our pick of the best budget gravel bikes.

Our pick of the best gravel bike upgrades

You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.

Here you'll find our pick of the best gravel bike upgrades you can spend your cash on. Read on for more tips about gravel bike upgrades and all-important compatibility.

Schwalbe G-One RS

(Image credit: Anne-Marije Rook)
Best gravel upgrade for enhanced speed

Specifications

Price: $88 / £74.99
Size: 700c
Widths available: 35mm, 40mm, 45mm

Reasons to buy

+
Super easy to set up tubeless
+
Very fast 
+
Reliable grip for a semi-slick tire
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive compared to rivals
-
Look for something with more aggressive tread for muddy conditions

If you're planning on entering a gravel race in the near future - or just enjoy riding fast - then an upgrade to your tyres could prove worthwhile - especially if you're still riding the stock wheels your bike came with.

Dedicated race gravel race tyres like the Schwalbe G-One RS don't come cheap. However they do offer plenty of benefits when you're looking for a tyre that can deliver speed and reduce rolling resistance, while at the same time still providing enough grip and comfort. 

We tested the G-One RS over an entire season, in a 40mm width, and were impressed with just how fast they were. In addition they were plenty durable too, delivering great puncture protection even on rougher surfaces.

Read more: What is the best tire size and tread pattern for gravel bikes?

Best gravel bike upgrades

Stans No Tubes MTB Tubeless Tyre Kit

The best gravel bike upgrade for reducing punctures

Specifications

RRP: £40 / $70
Compatibility: Tubeless-ready rims and tires only, suitable rim tape width and valve length for your wheels

Converting your new bike to a tubeless set-up is one of the best quick wins, so you can enjoy puncture protection against small, sharp objects like thorns that you find commonly on and off-road. It's not always easy to convert, so you might want to seek the help of a mechanic or a friend who's done it before.

You'll need tubeless ready wheels and tyres, tubeless valves and tubeless rim tape, as well as the sealant. Stans No Tubes has been making tubeless equipment for mountain bikers for many years, and this tubeless tire kit is a great way to get everything you need in one package, including detailed instructions.

Depending on your rim and tyre combination, you may need some extra oomph to get the tire seated, like a floor pump with a pressurised flash chamber or an air-compressor.

Read more: Tubeless tires, are you doing it properly?

Easton EZ70 AX bars

(Image credit: Luke Friend)
The best gravel bike upgrade for adding control

Specifications

RRP: £79.99 / $89.99
Compatibility: 31.8mm stem clamp diameter

Reasons to buy

+
Shape allows brake hoods to sit normally
+
Easy to set up thanks to clear alignment marks
+
Degree of flare is well-balanced

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of ergo top might not suit all
-
Not the lightest at 290g

Flared bars are increasingly popular as a standard feature on gravel bikes, although you'll find that there's some range in the angles involved. Some of the best handlebars for gravel bikes, like these EA70 AX aluminum drop bars from Easton, feature a slight flare, which keep your hoods in the same position while widening the drops for a more stable descending posture. Other bars are more extreme, which alter the angle of your wrists as well as giving a much wider drop.

If you're tempted to try flared bars, starting with something subtle like these Easton bars is a good idea. Besides the benefit of increased stability on technical descents, you'll also find you gain some space for a handlebar bag, if bikepacking is your thing.

Parcours Alta 650b wheelset

(Image credit: Future)
The best gravel bike upgrade for reducing your bike's weight

Specifications

RRP: £849
Internal rim width: 25mm
Depth: 35mm
Weight: 1,360g

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight - just over 1300g a pair
+
UK built
+
Robust design
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
650b wheel size might not suit all riders 

Before investing in a 650b wheelset, you'll need to check that your frame can take this wheel size, and pay particular attention to your axle type, diameter and hub spacing. 

If you've decided to make the switch to the smaller wheel size then the Parcours Altas are some of the best we've reviewed. They're lightweight at just a little of 1,300g for the pair, which helps them to accelerate quickly off-road while hold speed on the tarmac.

Read more: 650b or 700c, which is better for your gravel bike?

Corima Essentia 40 wheels in the wild

(Image credit: Luke Friend)
The best gravel bike upgrade for added versatility

Specifications

RRP: £1,279 / $1,570
Internal rim width: 23mm
Depth: 40mm
Weight: 1,600g (pair)

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable over a range of surfaces
+
Reliable hub with good engagement
+
Versatile rim design can handle wide range of tire widths
+
Attractive raw carbon finish

Reasons to avoid

-
A tad heavier than some rival wheels

While the previous 650b wheelset could help you reduce the weight of your bike as well as being a good match for both smaller riders and wider tyres, upgrading to a new 700c wheelset also has it's benefits.

Running 700c wheels will help your gravel bike to achieve an allrounder profile, making sure it maintains speeds well on tarmac surfaces while still delivering on the trails. 

Choose a carbon set of hoops like the Corima Essentia 40 - named for the 40mm rim depth - and you'll be ready to tackle a variety of surfaces. With a switch of tyres you can even turn your gravel bike into a reliable road machine thanks to the versatile nature of these wheels, that work with tyre widths ranging form 28mm to 50mm. We found they worked equally well across gravel trails and less-than-perfect tarmac roads.

Read more: Corima Essentia 40 full review

Redshift Shocktop suspension stem fitted to a gravel bike

(Image credit: Future)
The best gravel bike upgrade for added compliance

Specifications

RRP: £149.99 / $149.99
Compatibility: handlebar clamp diameter 31.8mm, steerer clamp 1-1/8 inch (28.6mm), rider weight limit 135kg / 298lbs

Reasons to buy

+
An affordable solution for adding compliance
+
Fit most bikes

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest - 238g

With up to 20mm of 'travel', the ShockStop stem from Redshift takes some of the harshest road (or should we say groad?) bumps out of your ride. Rather than dulling trail feedback completely, this stem is designed to reduce the fatigue experienced by your upper body over longer rides over rough terrain.

If you find that's something you struggle with, or are looking for a bit more comfort, the Redshift ShockStop stem could be for you. Choose a combination of the five included elastomer inserts to modulate the degree of flex, according to your preference and rider weight.

CANE CREEK THUDBUSTER ST SUSPENSION SEATPOST

(Image credit: CANE CREEK)
The best gravel bike upgrade for increased comfort

Specifications

RRP: £169.99 / $169.99
Compatibility: 27.2/30.9/31.6mm seatpost diameter, max rider weight 150kg / 330lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Tool free adjustment
+
Adds compliance

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires a minimum of 100mm of exposed seat post 

The fourth generation of Cane Creek's short-travel (ST) seat post, the Thudbuster aims to do just that: take the bumps out of your ride. The 'travel' tops out at 50mm, although this is easily adjustable using the elastomer insert according to rider weight.

The Thudbuster works best on rougher terrain, for people looking for a bit more comfort in their ride at the sacrifice of a little extra weight. Just like suspension stems, these can help reduce fatigue over long distances in the saddle.

Ergon SR Allroad Core Comp saddle

(Image credit: Tyler Boucher)
The best gravel bike upgrade for improved comfort without a weight penalty

Specifications

RRP: $140 / £129.99
Width: 139 mm (S/M) and 152 mm (M/L)
Length: 262 mm
Weight: 288g (M/L size)

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable
+
Multiple size options
+
Multiple price points

Reasons to avoid

-
Currently only offered in men's option

Another upgrade that can enhance the comfort of your gravel bike is to change the saddle - and unlike the suspension seat its unlikely to come with any weight penalty.

A gravel specific saddle like the Ergon SR Allroad places a premium on reducing vibrations and 'road shock'. In the case of the Ergon it does this by sandwiching a layer of closed cell particle foam - called Infinergy® - between a top layer of orthopedic foam and a nylon composite shell, which is then covered by a microfiber outer layer. 

We found that its impact was most notable when riding narrower tyres, which also makes it an upgrade that gravel racers might wish to explore. 

Read more: Ergon SR Allroad Core saddle full review

SALSA ANYTHING CAGE HD

(Image credit: SALSA)

Salsa Anything Cage HD

The best gravel bike upgrade for bikepacking trips

Specifications

RRP: £35 / $35
Compatibility: You'll need three bosses to bolt into

Reasons to buy

+
More robust than previous versions
+
Versatile shape that'll hold a range of items

Reasons to avoid

-
None!

Bikepacking bags that attach directly to the bike rather than hefty pannier racks have been revolutionary. In a lot of cases though, they do limit your capacity more than traditional pannier setups. If you're planning a long trip or one where you'll need to carry more equipment or water, the Anything Cage from Salsa can give you extra options.

You'll need three bosses to use the cages, which are becoming increasingly popular on new gravel and bikepacking builds. Attached to your fork legs or other mounting points, the Anything Cage allows you to store either large water bottles or extra bags, secured with the supplied straps or your own.

If you don't have three bosses to mount to, there are some strap-on options on the market, but these don't tend to be as secure as this bolt-on mechanism.

Rockshox reverb axs dropper post

(Image credit: Future)

Rockshox Reverb AXS XPLR dropper post

The best gravel bike upgrade for technical terrain

Specifications

RRP: £229.99 / $299.99
Compatibility: 27.2mm seatpost diameter, SRAM AXS wireless technology

Reasons to buy

+
AXS wireless system makes it easy to set up
+
Works without fault

Reasons to avoid

-
Minimal travel

Another technology that's been inherited from gravel's gnarlier older cousin are dropper seatposts which really come into their own tackling technical, steep terrain that challenges the limits of gravel bikes. They certainly won't be necessary for everyone, but if this sounds like your cup of tea, it might be something to consider.

Functionally, the Rockshox Reverb AXS XPLR dropper post is faultless. However, the question is how much you'll use it, vs the cost. If you're often attacking steep, gnarly terrain with sustained descents, it's well worth considering, if sawtooth profiles are more common and you're not really pushing your bum right over the back of the bike or down low to the top tube, this might not be a worthwhile investment.

FIZIK TERRA BONDCUSH TACKY BAR TAPE

(Image credit: FIZIK)

Fizik Terra Bondcush Tacky bar tape

Thye best gravel bike upgrade on a budget

Specifications

RRP: £31.99
:

Reasons to buy

+
Soft the touch
+
3mm thickness adds comfort
+
Available in a range of colours

Reasons to avoid

-
None!

A simple but often significant upgrade comes in the form of