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7 Extremely Cheap MTB Upgrades

By Martin Atanasov

Do you know the feeling right before your monthly salary is due, and you are already looking for what to buy for your bike? Your heart is beating faster, your pupils are dilated, and you have this strange feeling in your stomach. That’s what I call love.

While I’d never tell you that you shouldn’t buy something for your bike every month (this would be blasphemy), I’ll certainly urge you not to spend half of your paycheck on it. After all, you can make perfectly good upgrades for a fraction of the price. In fact, here are seven upgrades that will make your bike work better, look better, and last longer. To top it all off, each will be for fewer than 20 euros.

Wondering if you should buy something nice for your bike? © Profimedia

1. Colour anodised aluminium caps

For some unexplainable reason, using valve caps is considered a crime against humanity in the MTB community. Maybe it’s because riders try to reduce the 2 grams from the caps or simply because they prefer to live their lives on the line. It’s quite fitting for someone shooting down a rocky terrain at speeds that would bring you a hefty fine in most cities. Nonetheless, the valves are not as indestructible as you might think, and protecting them is not out of the question. Especially when you can do it for under 10 euros. A new valve is not that expensive either but a broken one can easily ruin your day.

So just swallow your pride and take a couple of coloured caps. You can even buy plastic ones if you are that cheap, although I’d go for anodised aluminium caps. You can also use them to give a bit of razzle-dazzle to your bike. You can achieve quite a lot for the look of your bike with such a small change.

2. Coloured zip ties

Your bike has a lot of cables and other components that dangle around like crazy when you are riding down a trail, especially if your cables don’t go through your frame. Usually, those parts are stuck with ugly and pretty useless clips that manage to stay in place for about 35 seconds before they break. That’s why professionals use zip ties. A whole pack of coloured zip ties would cost you around 8 euros, and they have hundreds of implementations. In addition, you can stick your brake and shifter cables together, so they won’t hit each other when riding. This will make your rides a lot less noisy, for starters, and the wires won’t hit your frame, which will help preserve it scratch free longer.

3. Electrical tape for chain slaps

Every serious rider knows what a chainstay is and how it can ruin your bike’s look. Unfortunately, if you ride hard, it’s practically impossible to avoid chainslaps. That’s when you land hard after a jump, and your chain hits your frame. Typically, bikes come with a specific sticker that tries to keep your bike fresher for a bit longer. Unfortunately, these stickers are not that effective. To improve the protection of your frame, one good solution is to get a roll of electric tape and wrap it around the area. Electric tape comes in tons of colours. The best part is that whenever the tape gets chewed up, you can always remove it and put a new one, maybe in a different colour. That way, you can change your bike’s appearance while keeping the paintwork untouched.

4. Crank boots

And while we are on the topic of keeping your bike fresher, you should consider buying crank boots. Whenever you are pedalling on rough terrain, chances are you will hit a stone either with your pedal or with your crank. The latter can get deformed or damaged in the process, especially if you decide to go for carbon cranks (which, in my honest opinion, is a mistake from the very get-go).

Even if you don’t damage your cranks, you will certainly scratch the paintwork, which is annoying, to say the least.
Essentially, crank boots are a piece of thin rubber that goes at the end of your crank like a ski mask. Equipping yourself with these boots will allow you to be twice as reckless on your climbs and never doubt whether you can take on a technical climb on rocky terrain. Furthermore, you can also get them in different colours, so your bike would look extra special.

5. Grips and caps

Getting new grips should be a priority numero uno when you get your new bike, and you should definitely go for something that’s comfortable for you. Everyone has different specifications on what is comfortable, so I won’t get into details.

However, if you want your grips to last longer and not start slipping on your handlebars when they get wet or dirty, you should go for lock-on grips. They are easy to install and can be removed effortlessly for maintenance. For about 10 to 15 euros, you can buy this component, which will improve your riding experience immensely.

To make your bike even fancier, you can go for aluminium bar ends. They are not only more durable but also are much easier to get on and off. Much like everything else on this list, they also come in various colours, which is perfect for personalising your bike.

6. Mudguard

Do you have any idea how much better it is to ride a bike without having three metric tonnes of mud in your eyes? A simple mudguard will immensely improve your experience, and you will have the chance to breathe through your mouth as well since you won’t be fed all the mud in the world.

Of course, there are some more expensive mudguards but you can have basic protection for as little as 5-10 euros. They will not only make your ride safer since you won’t have everything splashing in your eyes but will also prolong the life of your bike clothes, which won’t be completely ruined after the first ride.

7. Improve your chain oil

Lubricating your drivetrain is essential for keeping your bike operational. Many riders don’t understand the point behind using good oil and instead, they often go for machine oil, grease or whatever they can get their hands on. Come on! Your bike deserves better. Instead of cheaping out on third-grade bike oil, just give a euro or two more and buy synthetic or even dry lube. It offers much better protection and still costs between 8 and 10 euros apiece. This upgrade should be a no-brainer.

Don’t go overboard with customisation

These seven ways to upgrade your bike without breaking the bank or better yet, for practically next to nothing, should be done with some taste in mind. Don’t go overboard with customisation. If you choose one colour for your caps, try to stick with it for the other components as well. You don’t have to make your bike look like 35 clowns will be riding it tomorrow at a circus show… Or do. After all, the bike is yours, and you do you.