How to make your Mountain Bike lighter on a Budget
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It can be shockingly expensive to make your mountain bike lighter, and many people don’t even bother with it due to the cost. However, there are some things you can do without breaking the bank. Some of these upgrades might change the feel of the bike drastically, such as different tires. Others might just improve comfort, such as the silicone grips. Either way, they still change how the bike feels to you. There are some other cheap upgrades you could get, like a lighter stem. It’s not included in the list because it doesn’t really change how the bike feels or behaves. Isn’t that the whole point of upgrading your bike, you want to feel a difference after spending money on upgrades. Therefore, here are four upgrades that will make your bike lighter, but also change how it feels to you.
Rotational mass is something you want to minimize at all cost. Even just 100 grams matters when it comes to tires. Forums are a great source for finding the lightest possible tire for your need, for 29ers check out 29er tire weight list on mtbr.com. Just remember not to go too light since those super light “race-day” tires won’t last long and are prone to punctures. Tires aren’t even necessarily that expensive and it’s often well worth paying a little extra for the top model. Lighter weight and better compound, thus better traction, yes, please!
Note: Don’t go too light or you might get frequent punctures and sidewall tears.
2. 1 x drivetrain
Especially many older bikes come with 2/3 x drivetrain. While it offers great range and therefore is versatile, it’s also quite heavy. Let alone the extra complexity it adds to your bike. A single narrow-wide front chainring is lightweight and when paired with a wide range cassette it offers enough range for most people. If your bike comes with a clutch-equipped rear derailleur you can often ditch the chain guide too since the longer teeth profile really grips to your chain and keeps it in place. If you’re looking for affordable Narrow-Wide chainring check out my review of Deckas NW-chainring. After switching to 1 x setup I haven’t looked back since. It’s definitely one of my favorite upgrades to make your mountain bike lighter, and simpler too.
Price: Chinese made ones are less than 20$, naturally brand made ones, such as RaceFace, are more expensive.
Weight loss: Up to half a kilogram or over a pound if you’re coming from 3 x system.
Note: Make sure to get an appropriately sized chainring for your type of terrain.
Lock-on grips are great for maintenance and for someone who likes to change their handlebar set-up often, but their downside is the weight. Even foam lock-on grips are often way over 100 grams and more cushioned grips are even heavier. Many mountain bikers love their ESI silicone grips, but they aren’t that cheap. Luckily, Chinese made ones can be bought for less than 5$ shipped. They might not be as flashy or cool looking as the brand made ones, but from my experiences, their quality is just fine and they’re surprisingly durable. After two months of hard riding, these grips haven’t shown any significant sign of wear. For some people, they might be too soft, but they do absorb those small vibrations very well! For the price, I recommend giving these a try if you’re looking for new grips.
Price: Less than 5$
Weight loss: Depending on your earlier grips up to 100 grams or even more, not bad for the price!
Note: Soapy water really helps with installation.
4. Carbon saddle
Saddles are a so personal that I can’t give much advice on the fit. However, if you’re looking for a lightweight saddle and don’t have much to spend I recommend checking out these Chinese made Carbon fiber saddles (Review). They’re dirt cheap and can often be bought for less than 20$. There are quite a few different models available and having tried two I can say they’re surprisingly different. The quality can be a hit or miss as with any other Chinese made part, but for the price, there’s not much to complain about. I used to be skeptical too, but after riding the same saddle for over three months without any issues I have learned to trust it.
Price: Often less than 20$
Weight loss: Depending on your earlier saddle up to 200 grams, maybe even more!
Note: Check for manufacturing defects before installing, just in case.
There are so many other upgrades that you can do on the cheap. However, many of them don’t really change the feel of the bike that much if at all and that’s the reason they’re not included in the list. If you feel like I missed something on my list feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. Feedback is always appreciated!