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.
Our pick of the best gravel bike upgrades
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.
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Stans No Tubes MTB Tubeless Tyre Kit
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 EA70 AX flared handlebars
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 bars, 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.
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. We like these hand-built Gravel/Adventure wheels from London-based Stayer (pictured above) because they allow you to customize every detail.
These are the same wheels that James chose for his dream gravel bike build. He was "very impressed with the performance, build quality and weight of the whole package."
If you're after something a bit more off the rack, the DT Swiss G 1800 Spine 25 are a high performing budget-friendly option, or for those after a set of HALO hoops, the Roval CLX EVO won't disappoint.
Redshift ShockStop suspension stem
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
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.
Salsa Anything Cage HD
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.
PRO Discover dropper post 70
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.
By shifting the saddle 70mm lower as you approach features or steep descents, you can shift your weight over the bike more easily, giving you greater control.
Be mindful that you'll need dropper-specific seatpost bags if you intend to go bikepacking, and you'll need to carefully measure your current set up to make sure your bike will be compatible with a dropper before you buy.
Fizik Terra Bondcush Tacky bar tape
A simple but often significant upgrade comes in the form of bar tape. Making up one of your three contact points on the bike, a thicker tape can give you extra comfort when it comes to softening the vibrations from the rough surface off-road.
Fizik's Terra bar tape was designed specifically for off-road riding, with the Bondcush underlayer and gel backing, bringing the tape's thickness up to 3mm. The 'Tacky' name is a nod to the outer finish, which improves grip even in wet conditions, which is a major plus for gravel riding.
Choose from classic black, navy blue, bright red, tan brown, white or pale khaki.
Why is compatibility so important?
It's all too easy to get caught out on the grounds of compatibility when it comes to making gravel bike upgrades. Some kit will follow road bike standards, and others will borrow from mountain biking, and sometimes it's something new altogether!
You'll need to pay attention to your current frame and build, referring back to your original technical specification if necessary, to make sure your upgrade will work and not just cost you for nothing!
Particular areas to pay attention too are wheel size compatibility, with axle type, diameter and hub spacing, and component diameters like seat posts. If you're thinking of fitting a dropper post, pay close attention to the diameter and how much post insertion your frame allows.
Some gravel bikes are 1X (single chainring) specific to accommodate greater tire clearances, so you'll need to remember this when considering any gearing upgrades.
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