Welcome to the ProBikeKit bike components guide, where we’ll tell you everything you need to know about buying components for your bike.
Bike components are the essential powering cogs of the intricate yet powerful machine that is your bike. A good groupset and component set up can and will transform your bike from something that simply ‘goes’, to something that glides along the road, changes gear seamlessly and transfers power efficiently.
The right handlebars will steer you in the right direction towards victory as you perfect the balance between weight and aerodynamics. Selecting your handlebars correctly is essential as the wrong ones could see you riding in a sub-optimal position for your goals.
Groupsets - where to start?
Groupsets can seem like a minefield when you’re browsing online, do you choose Shimano, or is it Campagnolo that takes your fancy? Well, either one you choose will be a great buy as they are the two leading bike components brands in the cycling industry. But once you’ve chosen your favourite, you then have different ranges. To be quite honest, they’re all great quality components, designed for different levels of rider, and that’s what we’re here to help with!
Groutsets: Let's talk about Shimano
Shimano are one of the most popular component manufacturers, and they possibly have the biggest range, from entry level all the way up to professional quality. There are a huge range of brands to choose groupsets from, but as Shimano’s range is so extensive, let’s take some time to get familiar with the naming systems and what they mean.
If this is your first time buying a separate groupset, chances are you’re replacing a set on your first bike, or building your first bike from scratch. A good choice here would be to go for the Shimano Tiagra , an affordable yet reliable groupset that you can buy with confidence. But for those of you who dismiss the Shimano Tiagra as a ‘lower-level’ piece of equipment, this really isn’t a beginner’s piece; it is simply one of Shimano’s entry level ranges. There are plenty of other non-branded and lesser groupsets out there, but with Shimano, ‘entry level’ means ‘a good starting point’. This range is perfect for the city-riders, commuters and casual fitness cyclists.
Move on up to the Shimano 105 and you’ve taken a step up into the true intermediate territory. The Shimano 105 , is a perfect groupset for those fairly new to cycling, who still want to put in the miles and take the sport seriously. Not exclusively for the beginner, the 105 may also be suited to the experienced cyclist who can’t dedicate as much time to the sport as a regular weekend-rider. The simplicity and easy-design of the 105 means that it’s also great technically for those less interested in customisation and tweaking, and more concerned with getting out there and enjoying the ride!
Possibly the most popular groupset in the Shimano range, the Shimano Ultegra has it all: the state-of-the-art technology from the Dura-Ace top line, with a price tag that says quality but doesn’t warrant a pro sponsorship contract to purchase it.
At the top of the range is the Shimano Dura Ace range . Dura-Ace is the component choice of the pro peloton, and you’ll likely see it in abundance in the Tour de France. So what makes the Dura-Ace range elite? Its ultra-sharp engineering and performance capabilities mean that it’s the number one choice for serious cyclists, and if you’re at the stage where you need to get the edge on your opponents, then the Dura-Ace could be what gives you that advantage.
Now whether you’re buying a chain , a full groupset or an individual chainset , you’ll want to make sure you know what configuration you’re going for, and how it’ll affect your riding. There are three main options to consider when buying a chainset: compact, double and triple.
Now usually, the most common option for cyclists is the compact chainset. The compact chainset will usually consist of a 53-tooth outer ring, combined with a 34 tooth inner ring. This inner ring is particularly useful for steep, tough hill climbs, so if you’re feeling the burn you can knock it down to its compact ring for easier riding.
The double chainset, a popular professional choice, is almost identical to the compact, but with a slightly bigger second chainring (39 rings). With this, you’ll be able to pick up decent speeds and still have the freedom to switch it up and down.
Finally, there’s the triple chainset, this includes three chain rings as you’d expect. This consists of a large ring at 50 teeth, a middle ring at 39 teeth, and a small inner ring at 30 teeth. Triples mean that you can make cycling incredibly easy, shifting into a light-pedalling gear. This type of chainset however, isn’t very popular or commonly found, and is more suited to particular situations where you’d need an easy ride: long-distance touring, hobby-bike, beginners, light city riding etc.
Road bike handlebars
Handlebars are such an integral part of your bike setup, you need to be able to navigate your way through every mile, turn and up every hill. Your handlebars are in constant contact with your hands throughout your ride, and so they must be the right ones for you, choosing carefully means that you’ll be able to optimise your ride and have complete control over your bike.
You’ll have to consider what sort of handlebars will suit your type of riding. If you’re looking for an all-round good pair of handlebars, then you’ll do well with a standard pair of road bars. Road cycling handlebars are the classic curved, sweeping shape, with the ‘dropped’ look, complete with ample room for your brakes and hoods.
This style of handlebars is pretty flexible, as you can adapt a few different hand positions. You can either grip the drops in an aerodynamic, tight position (suitable for racing or fast speeds on flats), grip the flat bar in the middle (as you would a hybrid bike or mountain bike), or rest your palms on the brake hoods. There is no right or wrong grip, and most of it will depend on personal preference and comfort, with riders often switching and changing frequently during rides. At top level, certain grips will prove to have an advantage for certain levels of incline and sections, but feel free to switch it up and play around, you’ll have a good feel for your bike and what moves it best from first-hand experience (pardon the pun).
A select few in the cycling community aren’t really concerned with the intricate turns and long-climbs; they just want to go fast; really fast.
Triathletes and time trialists– are 100% dedicated to speed, praising all things aerodynamic and wind-resisting. If you’re one of these cyclists, then the aero-bar is the handlebar for you.
The aero-bar is a variation of the classic road bar, but lacking drops. Instead it features additional forward-reaching bars that extend out in front of the bar, placed close together in the centre of the bike. This allows for the rider to get deep down into an aerodynamic position, and ride out the flat stretch or rolling terrain ahead. These are what you’ll see on the time trial stages of the Tour de France and other big tours.
If you don’t feel as if you want to invest in a full aero bar set, but you still like the idea of assuming the position, then you could go for the halfway-house of aerobar extensions which attach to your regular handlebars and can be removed with minimal hassle.
Bar width and drops
As far as measurements and sizes go, handlebars aren’t too complicated. What you’re looking for predominantly is the correct width- you’ll find this buy aligning it with your shoulder width. To find the correct width, you can measure your shoulders from the socket to socket, looking for the little ‘pointy bits’ on the front that indicate the edge of your shoulders. Then, once you have your measurement, add 2 cm onto it to allow for arm movement. So if your shoulder-to-shoulder measurement came out at 40 cm, a 42 cm handlebar set would be the right fit for you.
Handlebars are one of the more cosmetically customisable aspects of your bike, which is why you’ll see riders with bright pink handlebar tape in the Giro, or a bright, bold white; you might even see the more adventurous rider sporting two alternating colours. Whatever style you go for, handlebar tape is down to one thing: personality. It’s not just colour either, there’s a variety of different materials available: leather, cork, carbon, and ‘bubble’ texture!
Either way, handlebar tape is completely down to personal preference.
Other handlebar accessories
To top off a bike redesign, you can add in some bar end plugs to give your handlebars a complete look, or maybe you want to match your brake lever covers to something else on your bike. You can customise to your heart’s content. We have a wide variety of handlebar spares and accessories
Your saddle is arguably the most important part of your bike, your seat for the duration of the ride. But it’s not just a case of comfort for your behind, the quality and positioning of your saddle determines how your hands rest on your handlebars and where your feet fall on your pedals.
Besides the ergonomics, saddles also vary on style for riding and performance. Saddles with plenty of padding and a wider build are no doubt built with the tourer or slower, the long distance rider in mind. A narrow saddle, although quite severe looking, will be all about speed and aerodynamics.
To attract your handlebars to your forks, you’re going to need a stem. Although a stem can seem like a non-descript component that doesn’t need to be high-tech or flashy, having a lighter weight on any piece of your setup can help bring down those personal bests and help you improve race performance.
Handlebar stems come in varying lengths, so you can choose how far out you’d like your handlebars to sit. You can even choose the angle based on whether or not you’d like your bars to sit higher or lower.