Mountain biking is a popular and exciting sport that offers a great way to get outdoors, stay active, and explore the natural world all in one tidy, fun package.
If you're looking to take your mountain biking experience to the next level, there are a few upgrades that you can make to your bike that will help you to ride faster, smoother, and with greater confidence which means more FUN!
Upgrading your bike tires can have a huge impact on your overall riding experience. As your stock tires begin to wear down look for upgrades that have a more aggressive tread pattern and that are designed for the type of terrain that you will be riding on most often. This can include rocky, loose, or muddy conditions, and will help you to maintain better traction and control on the trails. Check out our blog The Best Strategy to Buying New Bike Tires.
Your pedal transfers power from your legs to your bike. Some bikes come straight from the sales floor without pedals or come with pedals that could stand an upgrade. The right pedal set matched to the riding style will increase proper pedaling efficiency, ride feel, and some provide footwear versatility. Your first decision when choosing pedals is to decide to ride clipless or not? Clipless is when your shoes must have cleats that clip into the pedals or regular flat mountain bike or sport shoes.
Recreational cyclists who don’t want to wear bike shoes with cleats can choose a flat (platform) pedal. If you’re just cruising around town and riding for general fitness, stick with flats, which are less intimidating. Flats are also prevalent in mountain biking. Mountain bike flats have pins that serve to grip the soles of mountain bike specific shoes, thus providing tight contact between your feet and the pedals.
Clipless pedals: If you take your road cycling more seriously, clipless pedals are practically mandatory. Going clipless will give you more control over the bike. Clipless pedals also allow you to both pull up and push down on the pedals, boosting power transfer and pedaling efficiency. Clipless pedal categories vary, but three-hole and SPD are the most common. Check out our blog How to Choose the Best Bike Pedals
Upgrading your brakes can help you to stop more quickly and effectively, which is especially important when you're riding on steep or technical terrain. Look for brakes that have high-quality pads and that are designed to work well in wet or muddy conditions. Check out our blog Braking 101 - A How To Guide on Bike Brakes
Saddles (or bike seats)
Riding does NOT have to be a pain in your butt! There is a wide variety of saddles on the market designed to accommodate different body types and styles of riding. Select a saddle designed for the type of bike you have and the riding you do. If you’re looking for something more comfortable on mountain bike rides, consider a mountain-specific saddle that’s padded where your sit-bones hit the seat. If you’re looking to save weight on your road bike, choose a long, lean saddle without much padding.
Upgrade the wheels to be more durable and lightweight. This will help to improve the bike's overall performance and will also help to reduce the weight of the bike, which can make it easier to maneuver.
Upgrade to wider handlebars, this will give you more control and stability when riding, especially on technical terrain. General rule, look for a handlebar that is the same width as your shoulders.
Consider the following drop bar and flat bar variations for your bike:
- Mountain bikes and hybrid bikes usually have flat bars and riser bars that put you more upright in the cockpit. Wider bars can offer more stable handling on mountain bikes, but you don’t want to go too wide. Meanwhile, switching to a flat bar with rise will put you more upright in the cockpit, giving you a less aggressive, more relaxed riding position.
- Road bikes typically have a drop bar, which allows you to put your hands in multiple positions, raising or lowering the angle of your torso in the process. You can also find a drop bar with a dramatic flair near the ends of the bar, giving you a wider, more stable handling position.
We encourage you to visit your local bike shop to get options on the best fit for you, your bike and riding style.
If you have a flat bar mountain bike or cruiser, swapping out those grips for higher-quality handle bar grips is one affordable way to quickly improve comfort and control. Good, comfortable grips can help damp out some of the vibrations from the trail. If you have a road bike with a drop bar, then you’ll likely want to upgrade the tape that’s wrapped around the bar. Bar tape is more than just a flash of color. Like good grips on a flat bar, bar tape helps reduce vibration and cut down on fatigue so you can ride more comfortably for more miles.
In conclusion, there are many upgrades that you can make to your mountain bike to improve your overall riding experience. By focusing on the key areas of tires, pedals, brakes, saddles, wheels, and handlebars, you can help to make your bike more capable and responsive, and help you to tackle the most challenging trails with greater confidence. Remember to always consult a professional mechanic before making any upgrades and make sure that your bike is still under warranty. Happy FUN riding!