Cyclescheme is the UK's most popular cycle to work benefit, creating more cyclists than any other provider.

Round Up: 10 Ways to upgrade your commute

Round Up: 10 Ways to upgrade your commute

Cyclescheme isn’t only a great way to get a new bike. It can also be used for accessories – and to improve the bike you’ve already got.

Cyclescheme certificates can be used for ‘Anything that is going to help you and your bike arrive at work (warm, safe, and secure)’, as the website says. A bike qualifies, as does essential equipment. And so do upgrades.

Some items are specifically prohibited:

  • GPS ride trackers and navigation devices 
  • Bike racks for cars
  • Cameras 
  • Turbo trainers or rollers
  • Gift cards
  • Nutritional products/foodstuffs

Otherwise you can include it. What might you want? How about…

1. Comfier saddle

Comfier saddle

One person’s perfect perch is another’s undercarriage problem. You need a saddle that suits your riding position and your bum. The faster and further you’ll be riding, the narrower and harder the saddle needs to be – and vice versa, so upright roadsters want wide, padded seats. Whatever the design, it needs to be wide enough to support your ‘sit bones’ and contoured or cut-out so there’s no painful pressure on nerves or soft tissue. Look for ‘anatomic saddles’ and aim to try a few different ones.

2. Better tyres

Continental Contact Plus City

Manufacturers build bikes to hit a budget; tyres are one of the components that almost always take a hit. Whatever tyres your bike came with, there are others that are more puncture resistant, more efficient in terms of rolling performance, or more comfortable. For puncture resistance, look at tyres with ‘plus’ in the name (e.g. Continental Contact Plus City). For performance, consider slicker, lightweight, supple tyres such as Michelin Pro 4 Endurance (in 28mm, ideally). If your bike has big enough clearances, wider tyres like Schwalbe Big Apple that can be run at lower pressures will improve comfort.

Get an accessory package

3. Track pump

Track pump

Also known as a floor pump, this makes it so much easier to inflate tyres you’ll wonder how you managed with a little hand pump. Narrow tyres can effortlessly be inflated to 100psi and beyond, while fat tyres can be inflated in moments not minutes. The pressure gauge takes the guesswork out of pumping, so it’s easy to top up your tyres to the firmness you want for comfort, efficiency, and puncture resistance. Track pumps will inflate all common valve types.

4. Replacement drivetrain

Bicycle Drivetrain

Chains wear out, and if you don’t replace them soon enough they’ll wear out the cassette sprockets and chainrings too. Use a chain checker; the cassette and chainrings should then last several chains. New drivetrain components must be compatible but need not be identical. You could perhaps use the opportunity to swap a worn 11-28 cassette for a new, wider range 11-34 cassette. 

5. Lower gears

Bicycle Drivetrain

Many bikes, especially road bikes, come with gears that don’t go low enough, making hills unnecessarily hard. Don’t suffer in silence. It’s usually possible to fit lower gears to any bike, using larger cassette sprockets and/or smaller chainrings. It’s likely that doing so will introduce gear shifter and derailleur compatibility issues but these problems can be overcome by using different shifters, different derailleurs, cam-wheel cable-pull adjusters such as the Jtek Shiftmate, and other solutions. Sometimes all that’s required – other than a new cassette – is a derailleur hanger extender such as the Sunrace one pictured. 

6. Better brakes

Better bike brakes

So you’ve adjusted your brakes and they’re still not working as well as you’d like? The easiest improvement, particularly for rim brakes, is to change the brake pads; the distinctively coloured Kool-Stop Salmon pads are particularly good. Likewise with disc brakes: fit high-end pads. The nuclear option is new brakes. Budget cable discs? Replace with Avid BB7 or TRP Spyre/Spyke. Or make the leap to hydraulic brakes (or better hydraulic brakes!). This is more expensive for drop-bar bikes as the brakes and shifters are integral units; they’re separate on mountain bikes.

7. Different pedals

Clipless Pedals

Most bikes come with relatively cheap platform pedals. Some come with no pedals at all! If you want clip-in pedals, you’ll probably have to buy them separately. Mountain bike style clip-in pedals are best for commuting: they’re double-sided, so they’re easier to clip into; and you can walk properly in the shoes, as the cleat is recessed. Shimano’s Click’R pedals are the easiest clip-in pedals to get your feet out of. But don’t feel you have to use clip-in pedals. Grippier flat pedals are also available.

8. Dynamo lighting

Dynamo lighting

Lights powered by a dynamo hub in the front wheel are ideal for commuting: they’re always on the bike, whenever you need them; and they never need recharging. Few bikes come with them, so you’ll need a dynamo hub front wheel – and possibly someone to build it – along with dynamo lamps. Get a front lamp with a switch so your lights aren’t always on, and ensure both lamps have a ‘standlight’ that comes on when you stop. Dynamo systems don’t have to be super-expensive. The B’Twin dynamo hub wheel pictured has an RRP of £29.99.

9. Workstand

Bicycle Workstand

You’ll keep your commuter bike in better condition if you own a workstand because it makes maintenance so much easier – especially when it comes to adjusting gears and brakes. No room to leave a workstand set up? Get one that packs away, like the Raleigh Folding Workstand pictured.

10. Retro-fit e-bike kit

e-bike kit

Fancy a helping hand on your commute? You could add electric assistance to a bike you’ve got. Electric bike kits are readily available from Cyclescheme retailers such as Kinetics and Electric Bike Conversions. Prices start at around £400 if you do the conversion yourself but bear in mind that you’ll generally get the service and quality you pay for; the excellent German Pendix kit pictured costs more than many e-bikes.

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