Ask a Mechanic: Best Carbon Upgrades for your Road Bike

Don asks, “What are the best, or most noticeable carbon upgrades that I can make to my road bike?”

Regardless of whether you ride a carbon or aluminum frame, there is a select list of upgrades that will make a rather large difference in the way that your bike performs. Although this list is specifically referencing carbon parts, don’t be scared off. Upgrading to carbon doesn’t have to mean buying the lightest, newest, and most expensive products on the market. The most important things to consider when upgrading are comfort and function, not just weight savings, so base your upgrades on those.

Without a doubt, the most noticeable carbon upgrade that can be made to any road bike is the addition of carbon wheels. Although they are likely the most expensive upgrade to make, the gains you’ll experience in switching to carbon wheels will be equally as large. Losing extra rotational weight will make the bike be more nimble through the turns and will be more responsive to input. A lighter carbon wheelset also allows for faster acceleration and is easier to maintain speed on. Finally, a carbon wheelset will be more comfortable than an aluminum one, making for a better overall ride experience.

Arguably the most important touch point on your bike is your handlebars. For those still running aluminum handlebars, switching to carbon bars will be a dramatic upgrade. The biggest difference in switching to carbon bars is comfort. Carbon handlebars absorb much more road vibration and chatter, allowing you to spend more time in the saddle with ease. On top of offering comfort, carbon also offers stiffness, meaning that you’ll lose less power through the handlebars when getting out of the saddle to climb or sprint. Finally, carbon is typically lighter than aluminum, so for those inclined to spend the money, grams can be shed quite easily.

Finally, let’s not forget the seatpost. Although some might argue for a saddle upgrade, our recommendation is for a seatpost upgrade. Saddles are a great way to save weight, but they aren’t the best way to increase comfort in the same way that a seatpost will. Upgrading to a carbon seatpost eliminates a lot of road chatter that would otherwise go straight into the saddle and your more tender parts. This holds especially true for those of you who do a lot of gravel riding, cyclocross racing, or off-trail exploring.

We hope you enjoyed today’s show and when you get the chance, shop wheels, bars, and seatposts at art’