So you've just bought your first mountain bike and are hooked on the sport. Like many riders, you may have the urge to upgrade accessories and components. As you're probably well aware, mountain biking can be an expensive sport, but it doesn't always have to be. A few key upgrades have an outsized impact on the performance of your mountain bike and they don't all have wallet-searing price tags.
Related: 5 things you need to know when buying your first mountain bike
The Best MTB Upgrades
1. Bike Frame Protection
Whether you’re looking to upgrade a shiny new mountain bike or refresh your existing ride, adding a layer of protection to your frame is an investment that always pays off. Think of frame protection kits as body armor for your mountain bike. But unlike your elbows and knees, your bike won’t heal after a crash. Bike wraps are the best way to protect your frame against scratches, chips and gouges that can decrease your resale value, or worse, result in a broken frame.
Related: The Best MTB Frame Protection
There are dozens of companies that make frame protection kits. Mtbr’s favorite bike protection kits come from RideWrap because their products are designed, tested, and manufactured in Whistler, British Columbia, by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers.
What sets RideWrap apart from the competition is that they offer the most coverage for your bike frame and have the most extensive library of protection kits. On top of that, every protection kit comes with all the tools you need for a successful at-home installation. RideWrap makes full bike wraps designed for your make, model, and size for maximum protection, partial kits that will protect the most critical areas of your frame, and shuttle guards to safeguard your downtube from tailgate pads abrasions. RideWrap also makes kits to protect your fork from scratches. Wrapping your bike with RideWrap does more than just protect it from damage. A wrapped bike repels mud and water, making it easier to clean. RideWrap film is the ideal thickness. It ensures your bike frame is safe without being a hassle to fit on the complex curves of a bike frame.
2. Saddle and Grips
Before we get into upgrades that will improve performance, you have to start with upgrades that will improve comfort. If you're not comfortable, it's hard to have a good time on the trails. Contact points are the first place to start when upgrading.
Related: Best Mountain Bike Saddles
If you're experiencing numbness in your hands or rear, or feel pain from pressure points, it's very likely that you need to invest in grips or a saddle that's a better fit for your anatomy. Speaking of fit, while not a component upgrade per se, getting a professional bike fit is a great place to start when trying to get comfortable on your new bike.
Related: The Best Maxxis MTB Tires
Many riders prefer tubeless tires, which lack an inner-tube and rely on latex sealant to seal small punctures from rocks and thorns. On the plus side, tubeless tires improve flat resistance, improve traction, have less rolling resistance, and have less rotational weight. On the downside, tubeless tires require more maintenance, since the sealant must be replaced every few months.
It's also important to match up the amount of tread you need to the type of bike you ride. Of you're riding a cross-country bike, you may want tires that prioritize speed over grip. If you're on a trail bike, grip might be your priority. If you're just getting started in the sport and are working on building important skills, such as cornering and descending, we suggest using tires with plenty of side knobs to inspire confidence.
Matching the proper tires to your local terrain is also a key consideration. If you're unsure of what tires work best in your neck of the woods, don't be afraid to reach out to fellow riders. Mtbr's Wheel and Tire Forum is a great place to start.
If you're more concerned with staying on a budget, there are a lot of quality lightweight alloy wheelsets from brands such as NoTubes that will improve the performance of your bike without costing you a fortune.
5. Dropper Seatpost
In our opinion, the dropper seatpost is the most important innovation in the history of mountain biking. It allows riders to lower their center of gravity when cornering and descending and gives new riders added confidence.
Related: Best Dropper Seatposts
There are dozens of different dropper seatposts on the market. Unlike a few short years ago, most dropper posts are pretty reliable these days. Like any good bicycle component, a quality dropper should function without you thinking about it. The best dropper post for your mountain bike is the one that performs reliably, with little to no maintenance, and balances performance with price.
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