Top 5 mountain bike upgrades you don't need

Is it just a case of want rather than need when it comes to these MTB upgrades?

Which 5 MTB upgrades can you 'probably' do without?

Far be it from us to dissuade you from buying bike stuff, but not all upgrades are born equal. So, here are the things you should think twice about before spending your hard-earned cash.

1. Ceramic bearings

Ceramic bearings made their way into the world of bicycles a few years back, and when they did they arrived with the promises of smoother rotation and increased durability over regular stainless steel bearings.

They also arrived with a crazy high cost, with many parts that feature ceramic balls fetching ten times that of a regular, stainless steel alternative. However, this didn’t stop ceramic balls from making their way into everything from hubs and headsets to bottom brackets and even jockey wheels.

Our advice? Unless you’re royally wealthy, astonishingly fast or really, really hate maintenance, they’re simply not worth it.

2. Carbon handlebars

Do you really need to go carbon?
Do you really need to go carbon?

Swapping a bar for one of a different width, height or sweep measurement can make a real difference to the way your bike handles. When it comes to materials though, we’re a lot more sceptical.

Carbon handlebars are commonplace in the world of cross-country racing, where grams can actually matter, but they’re also a very expensive way to shed weight and for most riders a regular alloy bar will do just fine.

Some people shop for a carbon bar specifically to reduce vibrations at their hands, but we would suggest first picking up a set of better grips or paying more attention to your suspension and tyre setups.

3. Expensive pedals

Would a cheaper pair do the job just as well?
Would a cheaper pair do the job just as well?

Another critical contact point on the list is pedals. In particular, expensive fancy pedals that do little more than save a few grams.

Let’s put it another way: expensive pedals certainly aren’t bad, but budget pedals are just so damn good nowadays and are available for a fraction of the cost.

Take Shimano’s M520 SPDs, for example. The cleat mechanism is basically the same as Shimano’s uber pricey XTR models and once clipped in it’s hard to tell them apart.

Those who prefer not to clip in can also find some pretty amazing flat pedals at outrageously low prices too, just take a look at the Superstar Nano-X or the Nukeproof Horizon Pro for a couple of excellent options that won’t break the bank.

4. Disc brake rotors

Unless the disc brake rotors are worn out or the wrong size for the riding you’re doing, don't change them
Unless the disc brake rotors are worn out or the wrong size for the riding you’re doing, don't change them

Unless the disc brake rotors on your bike are worn out or undersized for the riding that you’re doing, then our advice is to leave them be.

We’ve seen lots of expensive after-market rotors perform identically — or in some cases worse than the parts that arrive as standard kit. Spend your money elsewhere.

5. Carbon wheels

Carbon wheels might not actually be the best choice for you
Carbon wheels might not actually be the best choice for you

When it comes to upgrading your mountain bike, new wheels are among the first things we’d recommend, but be careful with carbon rims.

BikeRadar testers have found that many of the carbon hoops we’ve tried give a harsh ride, especially in a 650b size.

If you stick with alloy, you have a plethora of excellent options for considerably less cash. So unless you can try before you buy, we’d suggest you stick with good old fashioned metal.

Oli Woodman

Section Editor, UK
With more than 10 years of experience riding mountain bikes, Oli knows the good from the bad when it comes to gear. He's a total bike nerd and loves few things more than fettling with spangly riding bits. Also, he seems to have a talent for crashing hard but emerging unscathed.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Loamy singletrack
  • Current Bikes: Marin Pine Mountain, Pinnacle Dolomite
  • Dream Bike: Honda RN01
  • Beer of Choice: Corona
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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