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The Best Value Mountain Bike Upgrades & Modifications

Mountain bikes are amazing machines, letting riders explore deep into the wilderness, and kick up the adrenaline levels. Their price tags, however, can quickly climb into the thousands of dollars. Rather than dump out the dough for a brand new bike, there are many upgrades that you can make to you current mountain bike. While upgrading some mountain bike parts, like lightweight carbon fiber wheels, may cost a pretty penny, there are lots of smaller and cheaper changes that you can make that will help dial in your ride. Looking for ways to upgrade your mountain bike parts? We put together this list to help you get the most out of your bike, and at all price level, from cheap upgrades under $100 to $500+ mountain bike modifications.

Mountain Bike Upgrades Under $100

There are a surprising number of cheap mountain bike upgrades that cost under $100. These pieces of gear may not be as flashy as a new wheelset, but they will let you customize your off-the-shelf mountain bike to your specific tastes and needs. The best mountain bike upgrades don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, check out these cheap bike modifications.

Mountain Bike Pedals

The first areas of focus when upgrading your mountain bike should be the areas of contact between you and your bike. Upgrading your pedals, whether they are flats or clipless, can give you better grip and a more solid connection to your bike. Pedals are also one of the cheapest mountain bike components to upgrade. Some riders prefer the efficiency and precision of clipless pedals, while others prefer flat pedals - check out our guide to bike pedals for more. 

Mountain Bike Grips

Your hands are the next bike-to-rider contact point to focus on, and you can greatly enhance your connection with new grips and handlebars. These are one of the most affordable upgrades you can make to your bike. What kind of grips you prefer comes down to personal preference. Bike grips vary in thickness, hardness, and pattern. We recommend that you try out several different styles of bike grips and see what works best for you.  

Mountain Bike Handlebars & Stem

The width of your handlebars, and the length of your stem are critically important to your bike setup. This combination has the ability to cause, or relieve pain you may experience from a poorly fitting bike. Changing the length of your mountain bike stem changes the effective reach putting you in a more crouched or more upright position. In general, wider handlebars will give you more steering control. It may take some time to dial in the correct stem length and handlebar width for your personal style. Upgrading to carbon fiber mountain bike handlebars can also help shave some weight from your bike. Dialing in your stem and handlebars are one of the best value mountain bike upgrades, as they really can change the way your bike handles and how comfortable it is to ride.  

Mountain Bike Saddle

Your mountain bike saddle, or seat, can make or break your riding experience. If you’re putting in long miles on the trail, getting a comfortable seat is priceless. As with all bike contact point components, which saddle is right for you will come down to what is comfortable for you individually. Your best bet when choosing a new saddle will be to go into your local bike shop and find the perfect fit.  

Chamois & Mountain Bike Shorts

In addition to a more comfortable saddle, you can also wear padded chamois liner shorts while riding your mountain bike. Together, you have a cheap upgrade that will have your backside smiling and ready to take on the trail. Pair these liners with a proper pair of mountain bike shorts, and you’ll be ready to hit the trail. Shorts and pants not made for mountain biking tend to wear out quickly in the backside, and don’t provide the same level of padding or protection. Biking-specific shorts are durable enough to stand up to the wear and tear of your saddle, as well as the occasional crash.  

Mountain Bike Tires

Swapping out the rubber on your bike is a great way to shed some rotational weight, and better equip your mountain bike to handle the specific terrain you ride. More so than almost any other cheap mountain bike upgrade, new tires have the ability to change the quality of your ride. Finding which tire is right for you will depend in large part on where you are riding. Finding the right balance of weight, width, and tread can be a bit tricky. Check in with your local bike shop to get an idea of what might work best on the trails you ride the most often. One major upgrade you can make to your tires is by ditching tubes altogether, and go “tubeless.” Tubeless bike tires setups seal your tires right to your rim, offering weight saving and more benefits - check out our guide to tubeless bike tires for more.  

Mountain Bike Upgrades From $100 - $250 

Bike Helmet

Still rocking that old bike helmet your parents bought you a million years ago? It’s time to drop it. Newer bike helmets offer lower weight and better protection, perhaps upgrading to a more safe technology like MIPS. Get that weight off your head and let it breath with a nicely ventilating new helmet.  

Mountain Bike Shoes

Picking up a nice pair of mountain bike shoes will go a long way to keeping your feet solidly in contact with your flat pedals, or keeping you locked in to your clipless pedals. The grippy soles of bike shoes made specifically for flat pedals are a nice upgrade over regular street shoes. They will also have stiffer soles that will keep your feet happy, and push power to the pedals.

Bike Tune-Up

While getting your bike serviced isn’t a shiny new component, it can make a dramatic upgrade to your ride. Professional mechanics can clean up the bearings in your suspension’s linkages, dial in your drivetrain, and get your mountain bike running like it’s brand new again. Don’t overlook simple maintenance as a fix for issues you may be having. Check out evo’s stores in Seattle, Portland, and Denver to get your bike some professional TLC. 

Mountain Bike Upgrades From $250 to $500

Dropper Seat Post

Adding a dropper post is easily one of the best mountain bike upgrades you can make. If you don’t have a dropper post yet, you will certainly question why you didn’t get one sooner. With a remote actuation that mounts on the handlebars, these seatposts allow riders to change the height of their seat without getting off their bike. No more messing with quick release clamps, or even more annoyingly, fishing out a multitool from your disheveled pack. While a $350 dropper post might not seem cheap, it’s some of the best money you can put into your bike.

Mountain Bike Brakes

Brakes are one of the most important components on a mountain bike. The last thing you want is to be second guessing your stopping power as you race down the trail. Upgrading your mountain bike brakes will give you better stopping power, more adjustability, and less “brake fade” on long descents. Brake fade is that mushy feeling you get after long descents when you’re really working the brakes hard. Nicer mountain bike brakes offer more adjustments that can help you dial them in to your exact preferences and to keep them from rubbing on your rotors. 

Mountain Bike Upgrades for $500 and Up

Mountain Bike Wheels

The wheels of your bike are a huge opportunity to shed some weight and make your bike ride better. The weight you lose here is also the most impactful type of weight - rotational weight. This means the weight that you must power around with every turn of the wheels. Less rotation weight means less effort pedaling. Some riders may upgrades their wheelsets in order to get a stiffer feel, and/or to accommodate wider tires. High-end carbon fiber mountain bike wheels can cost more than some bikes, but they are also one of the most noticeable upgrades you can make to a mountain bike.

Mountain Bike Fork

Upgrading the fork on your mountain bike can give the bike a whole new feel, especially when dealing with rough terrain. Nicer forks typically offer better dampening properties and more adjustments that allow you to customize the feel and performance. It is also possible to add some travel when upgrading your mountain bike fork. Keep in mind, however, that your bike frame geometry is build around its stock fork. This means you wouldn’t want to upgrade from a 100mm travel fork to a 160mm, for example, as it would have a big impact on the way the bike handles; adding 10-20mm of travel is generally okay though.
These various upgrade parts can help you improve the performance of your mountain bike without throwing down the cash to buy a new one. Even the cheapest upgrades can have a big impact, too. Likewise, don’t forget that new bike parts are not always the answer for your mechanical woes, sometimes the proper maintenance to you existing components is an upgrade in itself. Upgrading your mountain bike is a fun process, making it truly yours, so take these tips and build up your dream bike. 

Need a tune up? Bring your bike in for maintenance at any of our flagship locations for assistance:

Rental and demo bikes are available at evo Seattle, evo Portland, evo Denver, evo Whistler, evo Salt Lake, and evo Snoqualmie Pass. (Note: The cost of up to three bike demos can be applied toward the final cost of purchasing a new or used bike from us.)

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This is evo. We are a ski, snowboard, wake, skate, bike, surf, camp, and clothing online retailer with physical stores in SeattlePortlandDenver, Salt Lake City, Whistler, and Snoqualmie Pass. Our goal is to provide you with great information to make both your purchase and upkeep easy.

evo also likes to travel to remote places across the globe in search of world-class powder turns, epic waves, or legendary mountain biking locations through evoTrip Adventure Travel Trips. Or, if you prefer to travel on your own, check out our ski & snowboard resort travel guides and mountain bike trail guides.


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