Mountain Bike Upgrades for Under $200
It’s hard not to love mountain biking. Mention of the term conjures thoughts of gut wrenching climbs, thrilling descents, and an all around great time. In fact, I would argue few things are better. However, if there is something not to love about the sport it’s the price tag. Mountain biking is expensive, and even an entry level bike can be a huge blow to your bank account. To make matters worse, the technology changes so quickly that you might feel pressured to upgrade to the latest and greatest.
We’re here to dispel this notion, and want you to get the most out of your mountain bike, no matter what you may be throwing a leg over. Fortunately there are a number of parts and upgrades that can be added to most bikes that can drastically improve the quality of your ride (and not cost you an arm and a leg). Here are some of our favorites:
Handlebars are the main contact point on your mountain bike, and have a direct effect on your control and steering ability while riding. In general wider bars will give you more control, as it allows more leverage to turn the front wheel. The rise or height of the bar should also be considered, as it can increase comfort and reduce fatigue. Carbon bars are light and have a great ride quality, as they reduce hand fatigue and dampen vibrations from the trail. However, carbon bars come at an increased price, but it is well worth it. Alloy bars work fine too, and offer many of the same features as their carbon counterparts at a lower cost.
The length and height of your stem go hand in hand with your bars as far as affecting the overall feel and control of your bike. Changing the length of your stem affects the effective reach, either putting you in a more crouched or more upright position. This can be critically important to your bike setup as it has the ability to cause, or relieve pain caused by a poor fitting bike. Be sure to get the right clamp diameter though, most modern mountain bikes handlebars will fit into a 35mm clamp.
Long miles on the trail can often translate to days of soreness in one’s undercarriage. The repetitive sliding and friction from hours of pedaling can often cause what is referred to as saddle sores. For this reason, investing in a good saddle or seat is of the utmost importance for a comfortable ride. There are tons of saddles out there in all shapes and sizes, and what’s right for you will ultimately come down to individual preference. Come into the shop so we can help you find the perfect fit.
If you didn’t get the hint by now, the quality of your ride is all about the touchpoints. Grips are no exception to this as they are the primary point of contact, allowing you to steer and control your bike. Worn out grips can often cause a lot of chatter and feedback, leaving you with tired hands and sore arms. Upgrading these is easy and cheap, as most cost around $20-40. Lock-on grips make for the best riding experience since they contain clamps on the side of the grip that stop it from moving.
New tires are among the simplest, most effective ways to improve the quality of your mountain bike ride. Since mountain bikes are designed primarily for offroad use, maintaining traction on the surface being ridden is extremely important. New tires will improve grip, enhance traction, and help prevent flats on your rides. Most mountain bike wheels will take either a 27.5” (650B) or 29” inch tire, and perhaps 26” if you have an older model. Tread pattern does make a difference, so we recommend choosing something that’s suited for the trails that you ride.
Ever have your feet slip around on a rowdy section of trail or accidentally slip and nail yourself in the shin? New pedals will fix that. This upgrade is a fantastic way to control and feel of your mountain bike. Most modern flat pedals contain pins that are designed to dig into the sole of your shoes to prevent slippage while you ride. Moreover, even the most inexpensive options are quite durable and can take several rock strikes before being damaged beyond repair. We recommend wearing a flat soled shoe for riding with flat pedals, ideally something designed specifically for mountain biking. If you want to clip in expect improved pedaling efficiency and a locked-in feel, but keep in mind you’ll need a designated shoe that allows a cleat.