There are a hundred different things you can do to get your mountain bike back faster and stronger than ever, but here we focus on eight basic, relatively inexpensive upgrades that will show big improvements. This list is in no particular order, but is meant to give you some ideas on getting the most out of your rides.
New tires can dramatically change your riding experience instantly. As your bike sits in the corners of the garage or shed, cold temperatures crack and dry out the rubber tread and sidewalls. This leaves your tires with less-than-stellar grip, puncture protection and sidewall stability. Getting good tires can give you the grip needed to conquer any trail and terrain you encounter.
You may not think having gloves is really a big deal, but on the trails, having gloves can actually improve your ride quite a bit. Hands get sweaty when you’re climbing hills and/or the adrenaline from any given descent kicks in. Gloves give you better grip for all of that, plus they keep your hands protected. I’ve gone without gloves on many occasions only to get slapped by hanging branches, loose rock, and other foreign objects.
There are only three contact points from your body to your bike, and your rear end is the most significant one. Having a sub-par saddle can turn an awesome trail that is normally a ton of fun to a mobile torture chamber, which is obviously not fun. Good, quality saddles these days are made and designed to enable riders at all levels get the most comfort for rides, whether you’re spending one hour in the saddle, or you’re off for an all-day epic ride.
Another crucial contact point is your hands. Getting the right handlebar and stem setup can be an easy way to reduce pain and get some much needed control on the trail. Sometimes you just need a stem with a different length or rise. Maybe you need a handlebar with a wider width or more rise. Changing just a couple small angles can greatly increase your comfort and performance.
The last contact point between body and bike is your feet. You may not think shoes could make a difference, but getting a shoe that allows your foot the most comfort possible and can make a huge difference. If you use inexpensive, poor quality shoes, the straps can bind and pinch, limiting circulation and bringing pain to your feet. The best shoes will have a ratcheting top buckle or some other fasting system and/or a stiff sole like carbon fiber.
It’s good practice to replace your chain every season or two. Not only does it keep you riding smooth, a new chain also creates less wear and tear on your crank and cassette teeth. Put on a new chain and you may be surprised by the impact it has on climbing tricky hills, getting through loose dirt and then bombing down your descents.
When going down any tricky section of downhill, the last thing you want to happen is have your hands slip causing you to crash and ruining your ugly mug. Fresh grips can literally save your face from harm if you get a good set with plenty of stick to the feel. Along with a grippy grip, you want a secure grip well. I prefer to run a lock-on grip, that way I know I won’t have any slip issues and they are much easier to install. (Oury lock-on)
8. Hydration Pack
Most people might view a hydration pack as just a convenient way to carry water, but it’s much, much more than that. Having a hydration pack allows you to do all day rides with confidence thanks to the fact that you can carry all the tools, food, even clothing you need to be safe. Even if you are just doing a short, hour ride, you never know what can go wrong so it’s better to be prepared. If you don’t have one, this is the season to get one, you won’t regret it.
Hopefully this list gives you a starting point on your way to a fun MTB season. This is not meant to be the list to end all lists. If you have some other upgrades you’re dying to put on your bike, let us know!