How to upgrade your gravel bike

So, you’ve got an old or cheap gravel bike, but it has been in the garage for years. Maybe you got this gravel bike because you were a beginner in the sport, but now you’re more experienced, you might want to make some changes to improve your ride.

Maybe your gravel bike is slightly worn and doesn’t have the best technology, but you don’t want to buy a new one because this one has sentimental value or you can’t afford it right now. If you’re a gravel bike enthusiast, upgrading your gravel bike is an excellent alternative to improving your bike and ride quality while not costing as much as a new bike. It is also a fun project to get stuck into. 

Here are our top six upgrades you can make to your gravel bike with our best product recommendations. Customise your gravel bike with some or all of these adaptations to get the perfect ride.

Table of Contents

  1. Wheels
  2. Tyres
  3. Handlebar
  4. Saddle
  5. Pedals and power meter pedals
  6. Group set

1. Wheels

A set of new wheels can make immediate improvements to your gravel bike. Transform how your bike feels for faster rolling and a better grip with wheels specific for gravel riding. We recommend the Zipp 303 S Carbon Tubeless Disc Center Lock Front and Rear wheels for your upgrade. 

The carbon wheels are robust yet light, with hardy spokes and a straight-side rim built with aerodynamics, lightweight and strength in mind. These wheels are intended for tubeless-ready tyres, meaning the recommended tyre pressure is lower. A lower tyre pressure helps reduce rolling resistance and vibrational losses, which enable the tyre to conform to uneven, gravel roads reducing the risk of punctures. 

These wheels are available in 700c size and have a deep 45mm rim profile. You can choose between a Shimano or Sram XDR Freehub. 

Overall, these Zipp wheels help make any gravel bike robust, responsive and stable while remaining affordable.

PIRELLI Tyres - Cinturato Gravel M Classic for a gravel bike

2. Tyres

If you need to upgrade your tyres, we recommend the Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M Classic. These tyres are specifically for gravel and mixed terrain, from compact to unstable and everything in between. The SpeedGrip compound and tread knobs guarantee excellent performance on wet, muddy and gravel surfaces without compromising rolling speed. And with puncture protection, these tyres are robust and cut resistant.

PRO Handlebar - Discover Handlebar for a gravel bike

3. Handlebar

There are particular characteristics to look for when upgrading your gravel bike handlebars. You want to improve their durability and comfort. Luckily, the Pro Discovery Handlebar is perfect for the job. The durable aluminium alloy component is extremely stiff whilst remaining incredibly light, giving you a sense of security when coming downhill on challenging terrain.

Comfort is another factor that this handlebar provides. The 12-degree flare, compact width and shallow drop offer multiple hand positions that are easy to switch between for comfortable riding. Choose between three available widths to suit your size, including 40cm, 42cm and 44cm.

These handlebars are great for the gravel adventurer at a fantastic value. Don’t forget the Zipp Handlebar Gel Pad Set and Tortec Super Comfort Handlebar Tape to give your handlebars extra padding and comfort for years to come. 

BROOKS Saddle C17 Special Lab for a gravel bike

4. Saddle

If you want to upgrade your saddle for a comfier one, we recommend the Brooks Saddle C17 Special Lab. The vulcanised, natural rubber provides a smooth ride by absorbing shock from bumps and ruts. The Brooks Saddle gives you instant comfort on any terrain. As there is no break-in period, you can start riding on your favourite trails or discover new ones immediately. 

The Brooks Saddle is also UV, abrasion and water-resistant and is decorated with a limited-edition creative design on the C17 fabric, resembling topography lines. 

With Brook’s lifetime reliability, you can take this on the gravel trails, bike-packing and off the beaten track for years to come.

5. Pedals and Power Meter Pedals

For data-focused athletes, the ultimate data-gathering power pedal meter you can upgrade to is the Garmin Rally XC200 Pedal Power Meter. The Garmin Rally uses Bluetooth to connect to your Edge Cycling Computer or Garmin Connect App. It measures your power, cadence, symmetrical power between each leg, your power efficiency in each position and where your produce the most power in your pedal stroke. Together, these stats can help you find your strengths and weaknesses and help you improve your riding technique. 

Take these pedals on gravel terrain adventures with up to 120 hours of battery life. Or, easily switch them between your collection of different bikes. The quality of these power pedals is top of the range. However, if you need a budget option, we have you covered. 
The Shimano PD-M8100 Deore XT XC race SPD pedal is perfect for cross-country and gravel trail riding because of its lightweight and durable make. With a forged alloy chrome body, these pedals are tough, and with their additional width, they are extra stable. Furthermore, the slim oval axle body housing sheds mud efficiently, so you don’t have to worry about excessive cleaning and maintenance.

6. Group Set

Shimano GRX RX800 1 x 11 Wide Ratio Groupset is a set of components by Shimano that are specific for gravel bike riders. They’re perfect for the gravel adventurers wanting to spec their own gravel bike. Each group set component is in our online collection, which you can purchase separately.

The Shimano BL-RX810 GRX hydraulic disc brake lever bled with BR-RX810 calliper (left rear), and the ST-RX810 GRX 11-speed STI bled with BR-RX810 flat-mount calliper (right front) are combined gear shifts and brake levers. These are especially good for gravel riding down hills because of the tall hood shape, deep scoop in the centre and anti-slip texture, providing extra grip and much more control and comfort when breaking.

SHIMANO Rear Mech - RD-RX812 GRX 11-speed rear derailleur, Shadow, for single for a gravel bike

The Shimano RD-RX812 GRX 11-speed rear derailleur Shadow for single sits slightly further under the cassette than on road bikes, preventing excessive damage to the derailleur from rocks and undergrowth. It also has a specific design to minimise unnecessary derailleur arm movement and to stabilise the chain on rough terrain. As a result, you get better chain retention and reduce the amount the chain slaps on the chain stay, giving you a quieter ride and uninterrupted shifting performance.

SHIMANO Cassette - CS-M8000 XT 11-speed cassette for a gravel bike

For your cassette, you need a durable and lightweight component. The Shimano CS-M8000 XT 11-speed cassette 11-42T reduces weight without reducing rigidity. Close ratio gearing gives you more efficient energy use through finer cadence control. Lastly, the hard alloy and chrome finish is hard-wearing and resistant to corrosion.

SHIMANO Chainset - FC-RX810 GRX chainset, single, 11-speed, Hollowtech II for a gravel bike

The Shimano FC-RX810 GRX chainset 40T, single, 11-speed Hollowtech II boasts a dynamic chain engagement tooth profile. Its long and thin teeth prevent the chain from bouncing on rough terrain. It also keeps the chain almost silent.

SHIMANO Chain - CN-HG701 Ultegra 6800 / XT M8000 chain, Quick Link HG-X11 11-speed, 116L, SIL-TEC for a gravel bike

Lastly, the Shimano CN-HG701 Ultegra / XT M8000 chain with quick link, 11-speed16L, SIL-TEC is narrow and lightweight with a symmetrical design providing smooth shifts. The outer plate design stops the chain from getting caught, and the Sil-Tec surface treatment technology (PTFE plating) on inner and outer links provides smooth running. Also, the zinc alloy-plated outer links increase durability. Lastly, the inner plate gives better contact with gears providing smoother shifting under high load, efficient pedalling, increased rigidity and near-silent running. 

Upgrade your gravel bike with Swinnerton cycles

Here at Swinnerton Cycles, we have everything you need to create or upgrade your dream gravel bike. From tyres and wheels to seats and handlebars, take your gravel bike to the next level with our best-recommended components for gravel bikes. 

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