When & How To Upgrade Mountain Bike: Ultimate Guide For 2022

If you have been a mountain bike rider for quite some years, and are wondering how to upgrade mountain bike, here’s a guide that will help you decide what to upgrade and when.

This guide will take you through the cheap, moderate, and expensive upgrades that can be done to your mountain bike.

Here’s How To Upgrade Mountain Bike: An Overview

How To Upgrade Mountain Bike Parts
Cheap MTB Upgrades Moderately Priced MTB Upgrades Pricey MTB Upgrades
Handlebars & Stem Helmet Shock
Tires Shoes Fork
Pedals Tuneup Wheels
Grips Brakes
Saddle Dropper post

5 Cheap Mountain Bike Upgrades To Consider

1. Handlebars & Stem

How To Upgrade Mountain Bike Handlebars
Mountain Bike Handlebars

Is it worth upgrading handlebars?

While the handlebars may seem to be a trivial component of your mountain bike, the reality is that the performance of your handlebars can have a significant impact on your riding.

The immediate advantages would include improved control, weight, and durability, which can have a positive effect on your riding style.

So what are the upgrades that you can make to your mountain bike handlebars?

Below listed are four upgrades which can be done to the handlebars of your mountain bike.

A. Metal/Weight

If your handlebar is made of alloy or steel, you can easily upgrade it to carbon fiber.

Adding a carbon fiber handlebar would typically bring down the overall weight of your mountain bike.

In addition, the firm yet forbearing nature of carbon fiber can be utilized to make handlebars that are great at dampening and absorbing vibrations.

Moreover, carbon handlebars can accentuate the look of your mountain bike, contributing to the swag elements of your bike.

B. Flat/Rise

By now, you may have a clear idea about the mtb discipline that you would be rigorously following.

If your bike has a flat bar, and you have made up your mind to focus mainly on trail riding, you may want to upgrade it to a rising bar, which is highly versatile.

However, if your bike has a rising bar and you have found your love for cross-country adventure rides, you may want to consider upgrading it to flat bars that are considered to be the best for fast steering riding styles.

Flat bars can contribute to the speed and the tightness required on technical singletracks.

C. Width

If you expect your bike to perform like a cross-country bike that is nimble, and you mostly have a difficult time maneuvering through the narrow gaps between trees, you may have to bring down the width a bit.

On the other hand, you need to have wider handlebars if you are more of a downhill person and are in need of better control when riding at speed.

D. Swag

If you need that extra bling but do not intend to invest in carbon fiber, you can go for an anodized alloy bar.

These handlebars are highly scratch resistant and wears down much slower than other painted options.

Along with the handlebars, upgrade your stem as well for ultimate comfort.

2. Tires

Image of Cycle Rims
Mountain Bike Tires

If you are wondering, “should I upgrade my MTB tires,” you are not alone.

There are several others, too, which are not sure whether they can or have to upgrade their MTB tires.

If you have been noticing your tire wearing off, or you feel uncomfortable riding in those tires, it is time that you consider upgrading them.

Replacing your mtb tires with new ones would give you better control, safety, and much more peaceful riding experiences.

Now, if you are wondering whether you can upgrade to bigger tires, the answer is “YES”.

If your tire rims can accommodate wider tires and if your frame has enough clearance, do consider upgrading to bigger tires for your mountain bike.

3. Pedals

Clipless Vs Flat Pedal Efficiency Header Image
Mountain Bike Pedals

Pedals are one of the most durable parts of a mountain bike, and hence we don’t often hear people talk about upgrading them.

However, there is no harm in considering an upgrade for your pedals if you think they have worn out, are old-fashioned, or are not compatible with your current mtb discipline.

So, what are the upgrades that you can make on your pedals?

If you are still using the old toe clips, you can swap them with the advanced clipped-in pedals, which are but known by the name clipless pedals.

It is more likely that your knees, arms, and ankles have taken the beating of your toe clips.

Your body will definitely thank you for swapping old toe clips with their more ergonomic clipped-in version.

If you want to be more adventurous and are contemplating on mastering better mountain biking techniques, then you could upgrade them to flat pedals, which do not bind you to the pedals like the clipless (actually clipped-in) pedals do.

On the other hand, it would also be a good idea to experience the comfort of clipless pedals if you have always ridden on flat pedals.

It is always a good thing to experience both worlds, to make your journey as a mountain biker more experiential.

Related:

Find out the difference between clipless and flat pedals for mountain biking with our in-depth unbiased guide.

4. Grips

Upgrade your handlebar grips for a better contact with your bike.

You might consider grips to be a petty factor. Although cheap but they are of high importance.

There are different types of biking grips based on pattern, thickness, and hardness available for upgrade.

However, the kind of handlebar grip you choose would depend on your personal preference.

You may have to check out the different types grips before you choose to buy one.

5. Saddle

How To Upgrade Mountain Bike Saddle
Mountain Bike Saddle

It is common sense that the comfort you experience on a mountain bike seat or saddle can have a significant impact on your riding.

Especially for ardent bikers, upgrading their mtb saddles would definitely prove to be worth their investment.

A worn-out saddle not only leads to discomfort but could also lead to bad posture and body pain.

Either visit your nearest bike shop or search online to find a comfortable mountain bike saddle that would give you more comfort and would go well with your mountain bike.

5 Moderately Priced Mountain Bike Upgrades

1. Helmets

Mountain Bike Helmets Under 50
Mountain Bike Helmet

If you are wondering how often should you change your bike helmet, the answer is whenever it breaks or when it has been around five years since you first started using it.

You always want maximum protection from your helmet, and this can be possible when you pay attention to how quickly it’s wearing off.

If you use your helmet more often, the chances are that it may deteriorate in quality quicker than the helmets that are used occasionally.

As mountain biking helmets are more prone to be affected by the UV rays of the sun, the foam that protects the head becomes less effective over time.

The outer shell also may deteriorate in quality with prolonged exposure to the sun.

Another reason to upgrade your helmet would be to swap your low-ventilated helmets with modern helmets that have considerable ventilation and protection.

Some riders invest less in accessories at the time of venturing into mountain biking and may have got themselves a cheap helmet that does not last long.

In this case, as well, it would be ideal for upgrading to a better helmet that offers better protection.

Related:

Check out this guide on affordable helmets to buy for mountain biking.

2. Shoes

How To Upgrade Mountain Bike Shoes
Mountain Biking Shoes

Mountain biking shoes can have a great lifespan if taken good care of.

However, with continued use, any shoes will start showing off the signs of wear.

Please pay close attention to the sole of your shoes to know whether it is time to replace them.

Today there are myriad of options available online and in other market places, with varied features, types, and price ranges in MTB shoes.

3. Tune-Up

Mountain Bike Tuneup
Mountain Bike Tuneup

Giving a good tuneup is an affordable way of upgrading your mountain bike to work like new.

Tune-up is done by an expert mechanic who has an eye and ear for details.

Tune-up is a job that needs to be done with finesse and entails a wide range of services for the following parts:

A. Drivetrain Tune-Up

While lubricating mountain bike drivetrain is an excellent way to boost their performance, it becomes less effective once the drivetrain starts wearing out.

Biking with a worn-out mtb drivetrain may lead to more complications to the cassette and the front chainrings.

Using a drivetrain tune-up kit will help the worn-out parts to be replaced with brand new ones.

B. Degreasing & Lubrication

The entire mountain bike will be cleaned, and worn-out parts will be replaced at this point.

These parts include chain, freewheel, chainrings, rims, derailleurs, and brakes.

In addition, superior quality lubricants must be used on the chain and other components of the drivetrain.

C. Wheel Tune-Up

The cleaning and lubricating process are followed by a wheel job.

First, the tension on the bearings of the wheels has to be adjusted, after which the rims are re-aligned to stay perfectly compatible with the axle.

Wheel truing follows next; this involves hundreds of tiny turns with the help of a truing key, which will is aimed at tensioning the spokes to keep the rims straight.

D. Headset, Bottom Brackets & Gears

The bearings inside the headset and the bottom bracket are prone to take more beatings during mountain rides.

Hence the proper tension on these bearings is imperative for their extended life.

This process involves adjusting the external tension, irrespective of whether the bearing systems are newly sealed or not.

Adjusting a mountain bike’s gears and brakes is quite time-consuming.

These parts are brought into perfect alignment, and the cables, brake pads, and house are replaced if required.

Aligning the brakes to the rims will help in eliminating squeaks.

The efficiency of the brakes is improved by adjusting the cable tension and the position of the brake arms.

While the rear brakes are adjusted to become snappier and stiffer, the front brake is made to work slightly softer.

The derailleur cables are replaced or lubricated at this point.

The tension of the cable and positioning of the derailleurs are adjusted for perfect shifting.

The limit screws are also set on the derailleurs to prevent the chain from skipping off the cogs.

A safety check is carried out by filling the tires to the required pressure and by securing the components and accessories properly on the bike.

This process of mountain bike tune-up is essential to prevent accidents or falls that result from worn out or lost parts.

4. Dropper Post

A dropper post is considered to be one of the most exciting innovations in mountain biking.

With a dropper post, you can adjust your bike’s seat without getting out of the bike.

Much more convenient than a quick-release clamp or the traditional adjustment using tools, it would be a great addition to your bike if it does not have one already.

However, not all bikes can incorporate a dropper post.

You may have to check with your mechanic/bike shop whether you can include one on your bike.

It is also possible to make your dropper post shorter or longer if you wish to do so.

3 Pricey Mountain Bike Upgrades

1. Brakes

While mountain bike brakes are fixed and adjusted when you go for a tune-up, you can also opt for a brake upgrade alone without other tune-up services.

This will ensure that you can trust your brake’s stopping power when you are on the trails.

2. Forks

While upgrading forks is no cakewalk, doing so could transform your riding experience completely.

Sram and Fox are some of the most sought-after fork manufacturers that are compatible with all mtb needs.

Some other forks to consider are Rockshox Recon, and Manitou Markhor, Magura, and DT Swiss.

Should you go for a better travel when upgrading your mountain bike forks?

Ideally, it is better to stick to the original travel of your bike, as the bike frame would be compatible with the original travel.

However, you can opt for a travel adjustment feature, which will enable utilizing the suspension based on the nature of the terrains.

When you upgrade your suspension fork, go for one with rebound damping for smooth handling.

Also, go for advanced compression adjustment, which allows low-speed and high-speed compressions for better impact resistance and versatility.

3. Wheels

Is it worth upgrading your mountain bike wheels?

Definitely, they are if you want to try new disciplines or are unsatisfied with your current wheel size.

Wheel size largely determines the rolling resistance of your mountain bike.

You may want to upgrade your 26″ wheels to 29″ or 27.5, to overcome obstacles more beautifully.

However, in most cases, you will have to change the fork and frame as well in order to change the wheelset.

3 Common FAQs About Mountain Bike Upgrades

1. What should I upgrade first on my MTB?

The answer to this is quite simple.

What is the one thing or the many things that are currently bothering you or causing discomfort while riding?

Once you have made the necessary upgrades to those components, you can consider upgrading the contact points on your bike.

Contact points are those points that come in touch with your body while riding the bike.

It includes the handle grip, the pedals, and the saddle, the performance of which significantly contributes to the comfort of your riding.

After these parts are taken into account, you can consider upgrading the tires, handlebars, and so on.

2. Is it worth upgrading the old mountain bike?

It would depend on why you want to upgrade your old MTB and the cost that would incur in the process.

You can get an estimate of the upgrades required and compare it with the price of a brand new mountain bike that offers the features that you are looking for.

3. How often do you replace your mountain bike?

There are people who have been riding a single bike for decades, and there are those who prefer to upgrade their bikes once in every two to three years.

Upgrading your mountain bike will enable you to get the most of the latest developments in the field of mountain biking.

Lastly

I hope now you know how to upgrade a mountain bike, and I hope you have answers to many questions regarding mountain bike upgrades.

If there’s more you would like to know about MTB upgrades, you may please comment your questions below.

P.S. If you found this post to be helpful, we have similar definitive guides on how to plan a mountain biking trip , how to buy, test and keep your mountain bike long-lasting. Also, how to keep your MTB chain from slipping.

Do check those out too.