Stock mountain bikes can come with tantalizing features, but at the end of the day, nobody knows you better than you do.
Nobody knows how you like to ride and what you value in a bike. Zero companies are going to hit every single mark on your wish list, so why not upgrade your mountain bike yourself?
These mountain bike upgrades help you out in various ways, from handling and control, traction and comfort, to hydrating and maintaining your bike’s structural integrity.
One simple upgrade could change how you ride your mountain bike forever, and for the better.
1. High-Tier Tires
Tires make a huge difference. The stock tires that your bike comes with from the manufacturers may not be up to snuff.
Information included in your bike purchase normally doesn’t cover the brand and type of tires included with your bike, which is why you should inspect it for yourself.
Depending on what you’re rocking, upgrading your tires could be a necessity, not just a good idea. High-tier tires are better for rough and rugged terrain that falls outside the realm of your normal mountain biking trails.
If you hit jumps and spend more time in the air than most mountain bikers, you’re going to burn through stock tires much faster than you think.
Quality over quantity is definitely a motto you want to ride with when it comes to tires.
2. Comfortable, Supportive Saddle
Your saddle is extremely important. While you may spend a fair amount of time standing depending on the terrain you’re used to riding on, your saddle is important.
When you need to lean back and rest, your seat should not only be comfortable, but supportive.
Spinal alignment is critical to staying comfortable and efficient while you ride, especially during those long strides where you’re on the saddle for ten minutes at a time with no diversity in the landscape.
Bike seats are tricky, though. Some of these saddles look really overdone—you just need enough cushioning that it won’t sink in and push the seat stem up through it to the point where yu can feel it when you sit down.
Support is important. If you’re planning on taking long trails with a lot of sitting down time, you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t get a high-quality seat that can actually stand up to the task.
Nothing is worse than thinking about ending your bike ride because your tailbone starts to hurt. The point is: a seat upgrade is an investment.
3. Water Bottle Holder
Perhaps the most simple, DIY-friendly upgrade you can make to your bike. Mountain bikes tend to come with inexpensive plastic water bottle holders built into the A-frame, but like I said—they’re plastic and inexpensive.
They’re not going to last you for too long. Time for an upgrade!
Stainless steel water bottle holders are a popular choice, and are often equipped to fit specific refillable water bottles of odd sizes and shapes.
Your water bottle holder should have some sort of fastening system so that your bottle doesn’t jostle around while you ride. The noise alone can be maddening if it’s just jangling and clanging against the metal.
4. Phone Mount
This is more personal preference, but having some AirPods connected to your iPhone and having the music selection in front of you is a personal preference of mine.
On top of that, how many of us use our phone for GPS? When you’re traversing new trails, this could be invaluable.
Phone mounts are a bit tricky, though, because if you have a large phone you might have to DIY the whole thing. We don’t want them to interfere with turning, so if possible do not mount them to the handlebars near the handholds.
Alternatively, you can use this opportunity to record yourself while riding home similar to a dash cam. Or, you could use a smaller phone mount to hook up a GoPro to your bicycle for the same reason.
Either way, you’re going to have some excellent shots of you hitting the trails, just be sure the phone mount has a way to secure your phone properly so you don’t lose it.
5. Sturdy Grip Handlebars
Having a solid grip on your handlebars is important. Without that, you have no traction on your hands (or gloves) to connect to the bike with.
While the handlebars aren’t going to actually change because of the grips you use, handlebar grips do help you with tons of pain points that mountain bikers have.
A quality handlebar grip upgrade means better traction, less slipping, and a better connection to the force of the handlebar than anything else.
Aside from that, better handlebars are less of a risk of slipping and causing injuries. Hands get sweaty, gloves can fail you, but if the handlebar is already grippy enough, you won’t have to worry about that too much.
6. Improved Brakes
With better brakes, the goal is to reduce the amount of time you’ll have to bleed them. Bleeding brakes means gently removing air bubbles from within the hydraulic fluid located in the tubes of your mountain bike brake lines.
That hydraulic fluid is important, because it directly controls how well your brakes are going to function.
Air bubbles make the hydraulic lines provide a looser feel when you squeeze the brake triggers on the handlebars. You can feel the difference in the way that your brakes apply to the front wheel. It’s a pretty significant change.
The less air bubbles, the tighter the triggers will feel when you squeeze them, which is exactly what we want. Bleeding your brakes can be time-consuming, but don’t shrug it off to bicycle repair shops to handle. They charge you an arm and a leg.
7. Suspension Forks
You might not think that upgrading your suspension fork is even worth your time, but this literally holds your front tire in place, and it’s worth taking a look at.
Low-end suspension forks are more prone to bending and buckling under pressure from highly intense, high-octane rides that include jumps and being rough on your bike.
The spring system is what you really want to look at.
Air spring systems are your best bet, and if you know what to look for, you can end up with highly durable materials such as magnesium forged aluminum, or other equally sturdy alloys.
You’re constantly putting pressure on your suspension fork; it’s worth taking a look at and considering an upgrade.
8. Replacement Handlebars
How are your handlebars? Be honest with yourself. It’s not an easy task to replace your handlebars, but if you’re already replacing the fork, then it’s as good an opportunity as any to look at replacing your handlebars.
You can buy flexible, plastic and vinyl-based handlebars that have tons of flex to them, but with supportive aluminum or steel riding through the middle.
This can be more forgiving on your hands if you grip the handlebars extremely tightly, without giving up more than a few percentage points worth of control over the front wheel.
Personally, I enjoy cruiser handlebars on mountain bikes, even though that isn’t the norm (nor is it advised, mind you).
You can have fun with this and put whatever you want on your mountain bike, just keep control, handling, and the way that it rides in mind if you like particularly bumpy off-road trails.
9. Dropper Post
Find yourself readjusting your seat multiple times through a ride? Maybe you like the seat low when you take it nice and slow, but higher when you’re hitting those rugged trails?
Dropper posts are replacements for the post that your seat currently sits on. If you’re going to swap your seat out anyway after reading this, you’d might as well go full 360° and swap out the post, too.
Droppers allow you to easily adjust your seat without even having to hop off your bike.
Just reach underneath, drop the post where you want it to, and keep the wheels spinning the entire time. You can come off a trail, flip the dropper, and be in the right spot in your seat before you make it to the main road to enjoy a leisurely stroll home.
These don’t seem like a big deal at first, but once you try riding with one, you’ll never be able to go back.
Tricking it Out, One Modification at a Time
Handlebar grips, better seats, higher tier tires, the list goes on and on. Your mountain bike isn’t limited by what the manufacturer lists on the sales description.
The sky’s the limit, and your imagination is everything here. Some of these upgrades seem fruitless, but once you use them, you’ll never be able to go back to stock parts again. Find out how to modify your mountain bike to your liking, and get to it.