Maybe you’ve just got yourself a new bike, maybe you’ve been given some vouchers to spend. Let our team help you make your new ride – or your old ride – that bit better, with our top tips for upgrading your bike.
So you’ve just paid out for a new bike, and no doubt it came without pedals so you needed to buy those too, which might make you resent making any ‘unnecessary’ upgrades. I for one have put up with an uncomfortable saddle for months on end, but it’s only from having found the right one that I’ve realised the importance of a well fitting saddle. Ideally you need to have your sit bones measured and choose a saddle the correct size, but other factors to consider are padding, your riding position, rail material… But once you get it right, and go for a big ride out without noticing your saddle either during or after the ride, you will be so glad you took the time to research the perfect one.
2. Dropper Post
If you’ve never ridden a bike with a dropper post, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Sure, if you’re doing an uplift, or only one descent, you could manually lower your saddle at the start and put it back up at the finish. But the ability to get your saddle down and out of the way while riding along the trail is a huge confidence booster – no more tiptoeing over the top of your saddle as you tackle a surprise drop, just push the button and your bottom is free to move where you need it to be. Personally, I think the longer the better, though you’ll need to check you’ve got the standover room. It’s also worth investing in one with a decent thumb-friendly actuator – the easier it is to hit that lever, the more often you’ll be using the dropper.
If I was on a desert island and was allowed only one upgrade on my bike I would have to choose ditching those stock inner tubes for a tubeless setup. Going tubeless is a fast and relatively pain-free way to make your bike more reliable, save a little rotational weight, and give you the ability to run lower tyre pressures. If you know you’re getting a new bike and plan to pick it up from the bike shop the best way to go tubeless is have the shop do it for you. If you’re lucky your bike might come partially set up for tubeless out of the box and may even come with a set of valves included, meaning that its a super affordable upgrade to make.
Even if you have an older bike it’s an easy upgrade option and there are plenty to tubeless kits available on the market today which include everything you need to get the job done. There are a few tricks to ensure your tubeless project goes smoothly such as ensuring your tyre isn’t too loose on the rim if it is just add a few extra layers of rim tape to your wheel. Make sure you use a good quality sealant, a search on the Singlertrack Forums should give you a good idea of what sealant you should use and which to avoid. If you’re planning to do a few tubeless setups or having particular trouble getting your tyres inflated then I’d recommend getting hold of a ‘charger’ style track pump too.
4. Flat Pedals
If you’re relatively new to mountain biking and have been told you need clip-in pedals, we’re here to tell you that you don’t. At least, not yet anyway.
The suggestion that ‘flats are for beginners’ is a common myth perpetuated by roadies and old-school XC racer types. Yes there are advantages to clip-in pedals, but there are also advantages to flat pedals too. Flats are a great way to build confidence on your new bike, since they allow you to remove your foot quickly and easily. And because you’re not rigidly attached to your bike (like you would be with a clip-in pedal), flats can help to teach you better technique – particularly when you’re learning how to bunnyhop, or when you’re dropping your heels down to weight the pedals on a rough and bouncy downhill.
New bikes sometimes come with flat pedals from the shop, but they’re usually of the cheap plastic variety and tend to be horrible to ride with unless you’re on a bike path and it’s dry. Look for a quality set of flat pedals that have a big platform, replaceable metal pins, and well-sealed internals. For a more comprehensive guide, check out our Flat Pedal Group Test here.
5. Tyre Treads That Match The Conditions
New mountain bikes tend to come with reasonably average, all round tyres fitted. Usually with inner tubes (and we’ve covered the joys of tubeless up there…) but the actual tyre tread, compound and casing can make a huge difference too. Production bike tyres are usually made to a budget and, while you might have the same tyre tread pattern as your heroes, the compound they’re made from is usually far harder than an aftermarket tyre. Treating yourself to decent tyres can transform your bike – the knobbles will be softer and grippier and the tyre casing will also conform to the terrain better.
In addition, you can choose a tyre tread that suits your riding and your riding conditions. If it’s going to be winter for another six months, pick something knobbly so that you’re never defeated by soft terrain. If you’re going to be riding gravel trails, towpaths and smooth trail centre tracks, then you can get away with a lower-profile tread pattern that will let your wheels roll smoother and faster, which is great for longer rides.
Maybe you’ve already done all these things – did it make a difference? Perhaps you’ve got another idea? Drop your suggestions in the comments below.