For the small price of $30 I recently switched back to ODI lock-on handlebar grips and breathed a big sigh of relief on the first ride. Instantly the ODI grips helped me ride better, and restored some confidence and control that had been missing with my previous bar grips.
And that got me thinking. Are there any other high performance upgrades, just like the ODIs, that can deliver a bigger boost to your mountain biking than their low cost might suggest?
And three more upgrades came to mind, including one addition that I think will surprise you.
So, here are
Four high performance, low cost upgrades you shouldn’t ride without
1. 700mm bar – upgrade cost $30
Many mountain bikers still ride with a narrow handlebar, but the days of narrow bars (under 680mm) for the average height and reach cross country mountain biker is dead.
The short answer is that a bar width of at least 700mm, often combined with a slightly shorter stem than used with your narrow bar, will give you increased confidence and control in the rough, and in high speed situations, where better bike control really counts. Sure it makes the trees that bit closer, but the pros of a wider bar far outweigh the cons.
If you’re currently running something like a 660 bar, and you’re 5 foot 7 or taller with average reach, consider a wider bar for better bike control. (6 foot 3 + riders should be looking closer to around 730/740mm) If you want to test before you purchase, borrow your mate’s shorter stem and secure your lock-on grips 20mm off each end of the handlebar to simulate 700mm. Ride that for a week and feel the change.
Above are are two quality 700mm bars that can give you that increased control at an affordable price.
2. ODI lock-on handlebar grips- upgrade cost $25
I might sound biased, but ODI offer the best range of mountain bike grips. And who cares if they’re heavier than foam grips? I prefer function over featherlight, thanks! ODI grips are made using just the right consistency rubber, and my hands/gloves don’t slip.
Following my recent switch back to ODI grips I’ve found my bunny-hops are snappier and higher, even with a busted left thumb. ODI grips are almost sticky, but they’re not, which makes them like magnets for my hands. And that means I can ride with a more relaxed hold on the bar, and generate better flow on the trails. BINGO! Better performance.
At right are the exact ODI lock-ons I use. If you’ve got small hands, go for the lower profile ODI Ruffian.
3. Grippy, quality tires – upgrade cost $33 per UST Tubeless tire or far cheaper for tubed versions
Not all tires are created equal. As with cars and motorbikes, good quality tires that are matched to your style of mountain biking and the terrain you ride, can boost your capability and help you corner, climb and descend better.
Don’t expect great performance from department store tires, or from those low-profile race tires that aren’t designed for your rough-country weekend ride.
Here are two of my all-time favorite tires that suit a very wide range of trail conditions.
4. Comfortable Helmet with a well designed head retention system – cost $70
Yes. A helmet made the top 4!
Sure, it’s not the most exciting purchase, but a good helmet can make a big difference to your performance. How? By letting you focus on the trails, instead of being distracted by some annoying, poor fitting thing strapped to your head.
A good helmet won’t bounce around your head on descents, dig into your skull on those annoyingly long climbs, or just plain irritate you everywhere in between. When you’ve got a good helmet you don’t even notice that it’s there.
If you need to give your old helmet the flick, like I do, make sure your new helmet has a well designed head retention system. One that forms to your head shape comfortably and holds the back of your skull securely.
I broke my own rules and purchased my current helmet based on price. But never again! I’m going to switch back to a Giro or Bell soon. Probably this helmet here
Click here for more mountain bike gear recommendations from Chris at mtbtips.com.
And while we’re on the subject of upgrades, check out the mtbtips High Performance Upgrades Giveaway for your chance to win the $200 USD Grand Prize. Don’t live in the US? We’ll convert the Prize to the currency of your choice.
Here’s the 9 second competition trailer below to whet your appetite