Small upgrades to spruce up a gravel bike?

Have a 2021 Norco Search XR A1 2021 Norco Search XR A1 - Gravel Bike Database ts nothing fancy but plan on keeping it around for a while, it currently serves as my gravel and CX race bike and for leisure/training gravel and winter road riding (live in Canada and they salt the roads in the winter so its hard on equipment).

I have a decent enough XC bike I use for XC racing and trail riding and a carbon rim brake road bike I plan to upgrade to something more modern next year.

For my Search, the only change I have made from stock is buying a 2nd wheelset (DT CR1600) to mount road tires on (Roubaix Pro 32s) for winter road riding and an annual spring mixed surface race and to allow me to travel with one bike (2 wheelsets) and ride both road and gravel.

I would like to make some tweaks to it to lower its weight (26.2 pounds without bottles as ridden today) and increase comfort, the saddle needs an upgrade as it gives me numbness at times and is >300g. Was thinking Fizik Argo Vento R3 (I have an like the SLR Boost on another bike but would like to try another saddle shape as the SLR Boosts are like 2x the price in gravel or endurance spec).

Was also thinking bars and seatpost. Maybe the Easton EC90 ALX bars and either the Easton EC90 SL ISA seatpost or the Pro Discover seatpost.

Any thoughts or suggestions, for handlebars or seat posts? Is upgrading the stem worth it if not for fit or to add shock absorption?

By the time I get to upgrading the crappy stock gravel wheelset, will probably instead be looking at a nicer carbon framed gravel/CX bike that comes with its own carbon wheelset.

Good, high quality tires!

Most any stem is good, zero reason to spend more than $100 on a stem, If what is on your bike fits, I’d look elsewhere.


I’ve got 2 races in this year using one of those redshift suspension stems (new for me this year). Highly recommend. Last week was pretty heavy gravel 62m race and I had zero hand/wrist/arm fatigue (which I usually have in a race like this). Yesterday was another 62m race with a ton of washboard, bottles everywhere on the course. I wouldn’t say I was fresh after that, but again much better than when I’ve done that race in the past. I got it after being recommended by a teammate and I’m kicking myself for not trying one sooner. Only negatives are the weight and it does have a little flex when climbing out of the saddle (but I’ve found that it actually helps me stay a little more balanced on the bike and not put so much weight on my hands). You can set it up for different levels of firmness. I went middle of the road and like the feel.


I went from a stock alloy seatpost to a Cannondale SAVE carbon seatpost on my gravel bike It made a noticeable difference in comfort over rough ground. Also went to carbon bars but although that seemed to reduce buzz and give a small increase in comfort it wasn’t as big a change as the seatpost.

Not sure what size seatpost you need (the one I have is 25.4mm so maybe not available for your bike) but there are other comfy options : Best soft-riding rigid seatposts for road, dirt, and gravel - BikeRadar

Oh, and I’m a big fan of tire inserts, but I can only fit 40mm tires and ride very rocky trails so they have a big effect .

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The best upgrade I’ve made to my gravel bike (in fact the only upgrade as I wouldn’t call the instant conversion of the tubeless ready wheels/tyres to tubeless an upgrade) was when I replaced the pads. It instantly felt it handled 10x better.

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Like brake pads?

Yip, the brake pads.

I wouldn’t bother with the Pro Discover post. The stock AL post is probably brutal and 350gr - so a good candidate to upgrade for sure. The problem with the Discover post is that it’s expensive and doesn’t flex as well as advertises (as judged by some review somewhere and a visual judgement of the design). I’d point you toward the Ergon / Canyon leafspring post for the best ride without springs/elastomers. For weight/flex/price, I’d look for a discount Ritchey Flexlogic Ritchey Flex Logic Link Carbon WCS Seatpost, Black | Bikeinn . For a pretty good, light post, I’d roll the dice on any well priced carbon setback post (probably Whisky/Salsa or Prime).
In my experience, I had an ultra stiff stock AL post on my CX bike. It was torture on my lower back. I put the Spec CG-R post on it and the world was a better place. On my road bike, I had a ‘basic’ Fizik carbon R3 post on my road bike and replaced it with the Canyon leaf spring post; (at 200lb) the Fizik was far better than the stock Bontrager AL post and the Canyon was a big step up too. I tried the PWN Coast dropper air suspension post on my XC bike, it worked but not as well as a bendy post due to the angles involved.
Any aftermarket saddle should ride better too because of the lighter rails. The 3d printed, Brooks rubber, Tioga, and SQlab elastomer saddles should have the best ride.

Bars - Again, stock bars are probably 300gr. Any ergo (egg shaped) or aero bar will ride (flex more) better than round bars and give your hands more surface area in most cases. On my road bike and gravel bike I had an issue with the rear being softer than the bars. If you soften the rear, you’ll notice the front more. Moving away from the stock bars made a big difference.
For my bikes, I’ve got the Easton EC70 Aero on my road bike and like them for that use - they are just the right amount of flex. For gravel, I like a lot more outward sweep of the drops (ends pointing outward or virtually pointing outward), wider/longer drops, and surface area. I’ve got 3t aero gravel bars, and quite like them - lots of good options out there. shape is way more important than material. I’d order a few, mount them with the bike on the trainer, keeping the plastic bag on them, and give them a light try in your riding position. Gravel Bars and Flared Drop Bars (Complete List) -


I second the Redshift stem recommendation. Been riding with one for years and love it. It really takes some of the sting out of long gravel rides on rougher roads. I think they have a lighter pro version compared to mine.
Saddles are very personal but I have Ergon saddles on my gravel and xc MTB and really like them.
For gravel bars - I personally do not like the bars with wide sweeping drops. I prefer a smaller 12-15 degree sweep that feels closer to my road bike. I do run 2cm wider on gravel that road. My favorites are Ritchey Butano bars. They have a very nice shape on top (wider with some sweep) and just the right amount of sweep on the drops.
I’m running an Easton carbon seatpost that I like. Comfortable and very easy to adjust.