Posted in Cycle and tagged Cycle, bikes, gravel bike, adventure bike
Gravel bike upgrade adventure bike

You've got your first gravel bike...but now you want to upgrade it. Sam takes you through all the best upgrades for your new gravel bike and most importantly, why they help with your riding.

Vitus Substance VRS-2 Adventure Road Bike (GRX 600 - 2021)The bike

We chose to start with the Vitus Substance VRS-2 Adventure Road Bike. It's an aluminium frame with a carbon fork, fitted with Shimano GRX gears and a wide WTB wheel and tyre system. Out-of-the-box, it's a superb adventure-ready bike but we challenged Sam to see if he can make it even better. 

The upgrades

Gravel wheels and tyres

One of the first most effective places to spend your money is on new wheels. They'll transform how your bike feels in so many ways. Here is Sam's top wheel upgrade, plus a fast-rolling and grippy set of tubeless tyres.

DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline 42 gravel wheelsDT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline 42 wheelset

The DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline come in both 650b and 700c options. They feature a 42mm deep rim, straight-pull aero spokes and DTs latest 240 hubs with the ratchet system. They come in at a little over 1500g for the pair and will perform at their best when they're set up tubeless.


DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline 42 Front Wheel

DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline 42 Rear Wheel

WTB Sendero TCS Fast Tyre (Dual DNA/SG2)WTB Sendero TCS Fast Tyre

We've gone for a and chunky 650b 47mm tyre. These will let you take on pretty challenging terrain that you may consider exclusive to mountain biking. You can set them up as tubeless with the reassurance of WTB's SG2 puncture protection, giving you extra confidence on rough terrain.

Another great feature of these tyres is that they are made from two compounds of rubber. The middle is a harder compound allowing you to roll faster on smoother surfaces but when you hit the rough stuff, you've got a grippy soft compound on the edges.

Contact points

Next up, we're going to tackle the three contact points with the bike - handlebars, saddle and pedals. It's especially important to get these right when you're riding long distances on rough terrain.

Prime Kanza Gravel HandlebarPrime Kanza Gravel Handlebar

The Kanza gravel bars from Prime pack quite a punch for their price. Their defining feature is a 16-degree flair on the drops and a 20mm rise on the tops which will help relax your reach and encourage a controlling position.

We've paired them with the Fizik Terra MTX bar tape which is super grippy no matter the weather. I've also added Fizik gel inserts underneath to reduce vibrations for an extra-plush feel.

Selle Italia Flite Boost Gravel TI 316 Superflow SaddleSelle Italia Flite Boost Gravel TI 316 Superflow Saddle

The Flite Boost Gravel saddle is packed with features to ensure you get a comfy ride. One of my favourites is the superflow cut out which releases perineal pressure and keeps you supported in the right places. They've also put some shock absorbers into the side of the saddle to help with impacts and when you pair that with the light gel insert they've placed inside of the saddle padding, it makes for a seriously comfortable ride. It's available in two sizes, S3 and L3 sizes, with the L3 being the wider of the two.

Garmin Rally XC200 Pedal Power MeterGarmin Rally XC200 Pedal Power Meter

These clever power meter pedals will work with your SPD cleats but are easily converted to accommodate SPD-SL road cleats. They're dual-sided giving you super-accurate data so you'll be able to identify whether you're favouring one leg over the other. If you've been doing lots of time on the turbo you'll be used to having power data and with the Rally pedals, you can take that out onto the road. 

Gravel groupset

Campagnolo ekar 13 speed groupsetCampagnolo Ekar

This is Campagnolo's first offering in this exploding niche of gravel-specific groupsets. It's 13-speed which neither SRAM or Shimano offer, and you can get a fairly low gear running on it if you use the smallest possible 38T chainring and their biggest cassette which comes as a 10-44. There's also a 9-36 and a 9-42 available.
The mech works with all the cassettes - no faffing about with short cage and long cage mechs. Just be sure to check the alignment when you fit it - there's little margin for error but we think it's worth it.

Bike-packing bags

Lifeline bike backing bagsLifeline Adventure bags

If you're hoping to take on some big gravel adventures, our friends over at Lifeline have created a comprehensive set of bike packing bags. They're lightweight, waterproof and won't break the bank. We have a combined 21L litres of storage between all the bags in the video but there are so many options to combine to suit your next long-distance ride. 


Upgrade your riding style

Upgrading your gravel bike will only get you so far. The correct gravel riding technique will help you to get the most from your ride.

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About the author

NChamanian's picture
Nassrin Chamanian
Published on: 28 Apr 2021

Pretty OK at bikes. Enthusiasm outstrips ability.