Mountain bike upgrades can get very expensive, very fast, but they don't all have to. Here are 9 of our favorite cheap mountain bike upgrades.
1. Guard your chainstay
Most mountain bikes come with either no chainstay protection or a minimal clear piece of tape. Why is that important? If you’re going over drops or jumps, your chain will often slap against the chainstay. Along with producing an annoying sound, this will damage your chainstay over time.
There are a ton of ways to guard chainstays but our favorite is to simply wrap a used inner tube around and tape the ends. It’s essentially free and you can just replace it when it gets torn up.
2. Get new tires
Whether your tires are worn down from use or you got a new mountain bike that came stock with cheap tires, many out there could see an immediate upgrade in performance just from getting new tires.
The first piece of information you'll need is the size of your wheels. Most current mountain bikes come in 26", 27.5" or 29" wheels. To find your wheel size, just check the markings on your tire.
Pay attention to a tire’s design and intended use. If you mostly ride on gravel trails, your optimal tire will be different than if you mostly ride on muddy trails.
This is the most expensive upgrade on the list, but it will also provide the most improvement in performance.
3. Get new grips
Just like tires, your grips could be either poor quality or worn. There are a ton of different grip styles out there so we’d recommend going to a bike shop and trying a few to see how you like the feel.
Lock-on grips are more secure and much easier to take on and off to work on down the road.
4. Get new bar ends
Along with the new grips mentioned above, new bar ends will look better and be easier to service when needed.
5. Consider your pedals
While the thought of riding clipless pedals on a mountain bike could seem scary at first, if you’re mostly riding non-technical, cross country trails, they could be a massive upgrade.
Not only do you get more power with clipless pedals, you feel more connected to the bike and trail.
6. Add grip to your shifters
Some riders have trouble with slipping off the shifters, especially when riding in rain or mud. Grip tape will fix this easily. Just cut out the right shape and stick it on top of your shifters.
If you get grip tape for this tip, you can also use it to protect your chainstay, we mentioned in the first upgrade above.
7. Remove the dork disc
A dork disc is a clear spoke guard often found on the rear wheel of mountain bikes. It’s designed to help keep your chain from popping off into the rear wheel, but there’s no real reason this should happen unless your rear derailleur is seriously hurting.
Why do most people remove them? Because they can look a little silly, especially if they get yellowed with time, and rattle around.
You can either break it off or simply remove the rear cassette and then take it off if you’re comfortable and have the tools.
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8. Bust out the zip ties
If the cables in your cockpit are driving you crazy with rattling or just looking messy, you can use zip ties to neaten things up. Just make sure you leave enough slack so the cables can all move easily when you turn your bars. If you’re struggling to leave them space to move, you can even use two interlocking zip ties to connect cables.
You can also replace the c-clips on your cable housings on the frame. Zip ties will hold much better than the c-clips over time.
9. Maintain your bike
It’s easy to just put your bike away when you get back from a ride and not think much about it until your next ride, but it’s not the best way to maintain its performance.
The drivetrain, brakes, suspension, and cables are a few systems that will run much better with regular touch-ups.
If you’re afraid to tackle the work yourself, get your bike tuned up at a local bike shop. If it’s been a while, you’ll probably be shocked at how smooth your bike feels afterward.