Editor’s note: This post is brought to you by the gear experts at evo
Often mountain bikers like to focus on the big-ticket items like that new bike, or a longer travel fork, or those carbon wheels. Sure, having the latest and greatest is always rewarding, but there’s this idea called the “cost-reward ratio” and if you apply it to mountain bikes, you’ll quickly realize that the upgrades that make the biggest difference for your riding aren’t the expensive, exciting purchases, but instead the smaller, humbler gear and accessory choices that affect every ride you go on. And even if you do have a new bike, with the nicest components, these accessories can help you enjoy it to the fullest. So here’s our take on the smartest ways to dial in your mountain bike kit, and the purchases that can make the biggest difference for your everyday rides.
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If you’re not riding in bike-specific shoes, you’re blowing it (and probably blowing your feet off the pedals, too). The number one way to make mountain biking more fun is to get mountain bike shoes. If you ride with clipless pedals, shoes are a prerequisite, but many flat pedal riders start off with whatever they can find in their closets.
Grippy mountain bike shoes are specially designed to work with your pedals to keep your feet securely locked down, and help you better transmit power to the pedals. Investing in proper footwear will go a long way towards not only your comfort, but your confidence—knowing your feet are secure. Some of the best mountain bike shoes, like those from Ride Concepts, are styled like classic skate shoes, but they don’t ride like them at all.
Related: Improve Your Cornering with evo
Once you’ve got your shoes sorted out, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your mountain bike helmet pretty regularly. Sure, it’s not as sexy as a new drivetrain or brakes, but your helmet is your most important piece of protective gear. If you’re riding in a used or hand-me-down helmet, retire that thing immediately and go grab a new one. Helmets wear out. Even if you don’t have a big, catastrophic impact, small crashes, or even just getting thrown around in your car will make your helmet less effective at protecting you. And your brain is important, invest in something that’s going to keep it safe. Most mountain bike helmet manufacturers recommend replacing your helmet every three years.
Beyond safety, helmets have a big impact on comfort too. A good helmet will keep your head cool and allow air to flow around it. And it will feel comfortable. Your helmet should stay firmly in place, without you having to crank it down tight. If your helmet is leaving your face sweaty, and your head sore, you owe it to yourself to shop for a new one.
The phrase “bike clothes” evokes images of tight, brightly colored spandex. But the point of bike clothes isn’t to make you look like a garish elf. Instead, they’re specifically designed to help you stay comfortable and protected. The most important piece of bike apparel is your shorts. The best mountain bike shorts have secure pockets so you won’t lose your phone on a ride, have a bike specific fit and materials, and have a padded liner or chamois to keep you comfortable through long days in the saddle. For new riders, a good liner or chamois can be the difference between loving your day on the bike and walking like a cowboy for the next few days.
When you’re shopping for bike shorts, it’s a good idea to think about your typical riding conditions. Ride in the wet a lot? Plenty of bike shorts have waterproof coatings. Like to ride in kneepads? Look for something with a longer, wider cuff that will fit over them. Sure, your gym shorts might feel fine for shorter rides, but as you grow as a rider, you’ll come to appreciate a good pair of bike shorts. And they’ll last for ages if you take good care of them
But what about bike parts? Everybody wants to upgrade their bike components, make their ride their own. When it comes to buying new parts, the smartest place to start is the touchpoints, where your body interfaces with the bike. Bike brands are generally pretty good at deciding which parts should go on which model, but when it comes to touchpoints, everyone is different, and a generic saddle or grips might not be the most comfortable option for you. So, as you upgrade your parts, we recommend starting at the saddle, grips, and pedals. These are parts you’ll notice every time you ride your bike, so they’re worth getting right.
If you’re experiencing any pain, or numbness when you’re sitting in the saddle for long climbs, this is a great place to start. These are not “normal” afflictions that all riders must deal with, instead, they’re signs that you need a saddle that better fits your body. Check out our guide to choosing a bike saddle for more.
Grips are a very personal choice. Brands make different thicknesses to work with different hand types, and use different patterns and rubbers. It’s a good rule of thumb to always try out grips while wearing whatever riding gloves you prefer, that way you’ll be sure they work for you. Plus, grips often come in several different colors, letting you add some flair to your ride if you want to.
Finally, getting the right pedals can help your confidence and riding. We’re not going to try and settle the debate of flat vs clipless pedals, but we will say that no matter your preference, it’s worth it to invest in your pedals. Flat pedals offer many options from materials to the number and length of pins. There are a wide variety of pedals available, so consider the type of riding, and the shoes that you’ll be using them with when choosing. Pedals, especially flat pedals, can be another place to add some unique style to your ride with many color options available.
We are evo – a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, skate, camp, and lifestyle retailer based in Seattle, Washington, USA, with stores located in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Whistler, and Salt Lake City (coming soon). We also offer trips to remote locations across the globe in search of world-class powder turns, epic waves, and legendary mountain biking through our evoTrip Adventure Travel Trips.
evo explores the collaboration between culture and sport by seamlessly joining art, music, streetwear, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking , and wakeboarding. Our aim is to bring all things relevant to the urban, action sports lifestyle into one creative space. Whether it is on the website, on the phone or in our stores, our aim is to make all who come into contact with evo feel welcome and excited about their experience.