With some shrewd investments, you can upgrade or maintain your mountain bike with ease.
It’s no secret that mountain bikes can cost a small fortune. But you don’t necessarily need to break the bank to get out and riding. By aiming for a mid-range bike and a few sneaky upgrades, you can enjoy the sweetest ride possible for your budget. Similarly, even if you have a higher-specced bike at home there are a few bits and pieces to add to improve the ride.
A lot of bikes come with pretty average saddles. Over time these can be uncomfortable, ruining your ride enjoyment. Before you walk out the store with your new bike, ask questions about the saddle on the bike and what options are available for improvement. You might be shocked to hear this, but all bottoms are different, and different saddles suit different bottoms. Try the original saddle out for a few weeks if you want, but remember that its always an option to upgrade.
Don’t leave your bike shop without getting a set-up done first. Most good stores will provide a set-up when your purchase your bike from them. This will get your body in the right position for the ride and make sure your measurements are all in line. However, it’s worth noting that as your cycling progresses, your set-up might require some changes. There are numerous places where you can get a professional bike set-up done, which will greatly improve your riding and help eliminate aches and pains. Start here for Cape Town and here for Johannesburg.
Even the fanciest bikes can come with pretty average grips. It all depends, though, on what you like riding with. Some grips offer better traction, but can rip into your hands – not aggressively, but just enough to sting when you shower. At the moment, silicone grips like ESI grips are popular amongst riders. They are super comfortable, yet more importantly they come in a wide range of colours allowing you to add a personal touch to your bike.
Most riders in South Africa caught on to tubeless tyres some time ago. With our rocky, thorny terrain (not to mention our streets littered with broken glass) tubeless tyres are an absolute must. Many mid-range bikes, though, are still sold with tubes. Before you even consider loading your bike onto the back of your car, you should convert to tubeless. If you are on a budget it might seem like an unnecessary expense, but it’s an absolute no-brainer for our condition. In fact, if you do one thing to improve your ride, it should be to get tubeless tyres.
Every respectable bike owner should have the basics when it comes to bike cleaning. You don’t need to scrub your bike down after every ride, and nor should you spray it (ever) with a high-pressure hose. If you insist on high-pressure cleaning, try to stick to the frame and tyres and away from any moving parts. At an absolute minimum you should have hard and soft brushes, a bike cleaning mixture, chain lube and a chain cleaner. Remember to take these with you on stage races too. Also, after washing your bike, dry the chain before applying the chain lube.
Not necessarily budget friendly, but a biking necessity…
The dropper post – a seat post that pops up and down at your whim – is probably the most important MTB innovation of the last five years. By letting you control the height of your saddle from the cockpit you gain more confidence and control on fast and technical descents. After tubeless tyres, the dropper post should be next on your acquisition list.
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