We throw a lot of virtual ink around about the latest-and-greatest mountain bikes and components, many of them measured in the thousands of dollars. And while I personally love awesome, new components and blingy carbon wheels, the facts of life usually mean that I can’t buy those types of components every day… or even every year.
Even if you or I can’t afford to drop over a grand on the latest and greatest drivetrain, that doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable upgrades available that will improve the way our bikes ride! Sometimes, paying attention to the small things can turn a worn-out bike on its last legs into the perfect steed for years to come. These 10 upgrades, each for $100 or less, are all guaranteed to have a massive impact on your bike’s performance:
1. New Mountain Bike Tires
Oftentimes, I think we take our tires for granted. Yeah, all mountain bikes have tires, my bike’s always had tires on it… I’ve never ridden a bike without tires. But since tires are the only part of the bike that touch the ground, the tires you run can make a massive difference in the way your bike performs!
There are two issues that could prompt you to buy new mountain bike tires:
1) You could have the wrong tires for your local trails and the conditions you ride. Oftentimes, the tires that come stock on a mountain bike are cheap (lower cost for the bike company) and are halfway decent for average trail conditions. However, there’s really no such thing as “average” trails: soil composition, moisture level, and many other variables vary wildly from place to place. Maybe your stock mountain bike tires will work well for you, but maybe they won’t. If you don’t have the right tread and rubber compounds for your area, it’s time to upgrade.
2) You could have worn down your tread significantly. Many times, I don’t really realize how worn my tread actually is; it’s not like it changes rapidly enough to notice it. However, when you place a worn mountain bike tire next to a brand new tire, you’ll see the wear… and when you finally get new rubber on your steed, you’ll notice the performance improvement!
Note: you can easily spend more than $100 on a pair of mountain bike tires, but if you shop closeouts online and aren’t committed to buying the lightest tires, you should be able to re-shoe your bike for less than 100 bones.
Maxxis Minion DHF DC Exo Tubeless Ready Folding Tire, 29-Inch
$46.20 Amazon AD
2. Go Tubeless
I fought going tubeless for the longest time, but after moving to Colorado I had little choice: the combination of goat heads, cacti, and sharp rocks is lethal to tubes. However, after a relatively quick, painless, and affordable transition, I haven’t had a single flat with my new tubeless setup! Also, the traction benefits from lower pressure as well as the overall weight reduction are reason enough to switch. Yeah, I’m a believer. For those on a budget, be sure to check out dgaddis’s Ghetto Tubeless How-To article.
Stan's NoTubes Sealant
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3. New Mountain Bike Grips
As a general rule, some of the most important components on your mountain bike are the contact points–IE, where your body contacts the bike. Also, the tires mentioned in #1 and #2 contact the ground, so they’re vitally important as well. However, these contact points are often overlooked when shopping for and upgrading a bike, even though they aren’t expensive.
The right pair of grips for your hands and your riding style can make a world of difference. Often this comes down to personal preference, so I recommend you try out a few different types, but at roughly $30 for even really nice grips, this is a pretty affordable upgrade.
For cross country riders, I personally recommend Ergon grips for weight distribution and comfort. However, if you’re into technical descending, a round grip is better–Oury grips offer great padding in a round form, but they’re definitely thick. Thinner round grips are plentiful.
Odi Rogue Lock on Grips Black
$21.49 Jenson USA AD
4. New Mountain Bike Pedals and/or Cleats
Whether you ride clipless or flats, mountain bike pedals, like any other part of the bike, can wear out. As a contact point, they are very important, but are again often overlooked. However, you can easily get caught spending more than $100 on your new pedals, but if you’re willing to sacrifice a few grams, you can score new ones for well under $100.
If you buy new clipless pedals, cleats will be included, so be sure to replace the ones on your shoes. However, sometimes all that’s required to make a set of old pedals feel new is simply replacing your worn-out cleats.
Nukeproof Shimano Saint-TRP Quadiem-Slate Pads 4Pk
$44.99 Chain Reaction Cycles (US & Canada) AD
5. New Mountain Bike Saddle
Saddles are a very personal component–the saddle that came stock on your mountain bike might fit you perfectly, it might fit you reasonably well, or it may just not be the right size/shape for your anatomy. Finding a saddle that fits properly can make a world of difference, and if you’re willing to buy the budget-friendly model that’s a few grams heavier, many comfortable saddles can be had for less than $100.