You don't need to remortgage your house to spruce up your pride and joy. These ten best mountain bike upgrades are guaranteed to be good for your bike and your bank balance.
Here are ten upgrades that will transform your ride and protect your purse: tyres, cockpit, saddle, brake pads, cleats, pedal pins, gear cabling, plastic pedals, rotors, tubeless and grips.
If upgrading your current bike feels like it might a waste of time and money, head over to our guide on choosing the best mountain bike and think about starting afresh.
The tyres that come fitted as original equipment on bikes are always a compromise in terms of optimum terrain, durability and rolling speed. As such they may not the perfect for your needs. So upgrading a front tyre could transform your grip levels, allowing you to descend faster and corner harder. While changing the rear tyre could give you more climbing traction, better puncture-resistance or faster rolling. Carefully choose your rubber compound and sidewall thickness according to where and how you ride, then you can always keep the tyre you’ve taken off to use as a spare.
For a more in-depth list of recommended rubber head over to our buyer’s guide to the best mountain bike tyres.
2. Go tubeless (from £30)
New bikes often come with inner tubes fitted, so the sealant doesn’t dry up in transit and the tyres don’t go flat on the showroom floor. But you can unlock easy weight savings and improved puncture resistance by converting them to tubeless before you hit the trails. Most new bikes will come with tubeless-ready rim tape installed, and some will even come with tubeless valves in the box, but if not you can buy them individually or as a kit. You’ll also need a bottle of tubeless sealant to complete the job. Buying one of the best tubeless charger pumps will also make the conversion painless.
For a more in-depth list of recommended models, head over to our buyer’s guide to the best tubeless sealants.
3. Buy a set of plastic flat pedals (from £20)
A good set of metal flat pedals can cost around £100, but slash that spending with composite versions of your fave design. DMR, Burgtec and HT have grippy, durable and lightweight composite pedals for as little as £30 and they can actually end up lighter and more durable than their alloy counterparts in some cases.
For a more in-depth list of recommended models, head over to our buyer’s guide to the best mountain bike flat pedals
4. Upgrade your cockpit (from £100)
While stock cockpits are much better nowadays – including shorter stems for more direct steering, and wider bars for more control in the rough – it can still be worth customising your contact points to suit your riding style and position. Changing a stem length, stem rise, bar width, bar rise or even bar geometry, can let you tune your weight balance and get you in the right place for more confident riding. Read our guide to mountain bike geometry and weight balance to find out more.
5. Upgrade your saddle (from £50)
Are we sitting comfortably? If not, it’s time to change your saddle and start enjoying your riding again. While saddle choice is a personal thing, firm and not-so firm favourites, like the SDG Bel Air 3.0 or the Specialized Bridge are a great place to start.
6. Upgrade your grips (From £15)
Just as tyres are your bike’s principle contact with the ground beneath you, your grips are your first point of contact between you and your bike. Despite this, they can often be places where manufacturers save money. Ditch the hard and slippery cheap ‘n’ nasty grips off your bike and slide on some rubbery joy. Not only will you feel more secure, but you may even improve comfort as well.
For a more in-depth list of recommended models, head over to our buyer’s guide to the best mountain bike grips
7. Upgrade your brakes with bigger disc rotors (from £20)
If your brakes lack bite, or overheat on long descents, you could try increasing your rotor size. This is also a great mod if you are planning on taking your bike to the alps. You have the opportunity to save weight by choosing a rotor with an alloy spider should that be important, and don’t forget you’ll probably need adaptors to space the calipers away from the frame.
For a more in-depth list of recommendations, head over to our buyer’s guide to the best mountain bike disc rotors.
8. Upgrade your brake pads (from £10)
You don’t have to get down to the metal backing for brake pads to fail; they pick up contaminants and wear unevenly too. Replace with some organic pads if you want maximum bite and quiet efficiency in the dry. Or go with sintered metal pads if you want durability and wet weather performance. Or do what some riders do: go organic up front and sintered in the rear.
9. Fit fresh cleats or upgrade to longer flat pedal pins
New cleats can return clip-in pedals to their former glory, bringing back that positive connection and making you feel faster and more secure. And for flat pedal riders, a set of fresh (and longer) pins for your flats can really up the grip and feel factor.
10. Upgrade your gear cables and outer casing (from £10)
Cables stretch over time and water and grit can get inside the outer too, making even the poshest of shifters and dropper posts feel slow and clunky. Swap them out for a Shimano or Jagwire or Fibrax mtb gear cable set and feel like you’re in charge again!
With one or more of these upgrades, you’ll love your mountain bike – and your mountain biking – even more than you did before. Bargain!