Gravel bike upgrades: the best improvements for your gravel bike

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 for under £1,000.

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.

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

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 EA70 AX FLARED HANDLEBARS

(Image credit: EASTON)
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 bars for gravel, 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.

>>> Best gravel handlebars

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

(Image credit: Parcours)
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

-
None! 

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?

REDSHIFT SHOCKSTOP SUSPENSION STEM

(Image credit: REDSHIFT )
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.

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 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 when making gravel bike upgrades?

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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