After what feels like a pretty long winter, summer is finally here and that means one thing; it's time to give your bike some love and get it ready for the season. Perhaps there are some performance gaps that need addressing, maybe you wore some parts out last season and just need to replace them, or maybe you just want to spend a little money on some tasteful upgrades. Either way, they don't need to cost a fortune, and some of the best upgrades are the least expensive parts of your bike - rejoice!
Touch points are some of the most important parts of a bike - they're the parts that connect the rider to the bike, ultimately influencing the way you interact with the bike and making a big difference to the way the bike feels and rides. Getting touch points right is important because they can have such a large positive or negative influence on the rider's perception of the bike and overall experience. Thankfully touch points tend to be relatively cheap parts to upgrade, and easy to replace.
Often it won't be obvious if a touch point isn't working because it's easy to assume that "my hands are always sore" and write it off as an inevitability rather than something you can change. It's worth experimenting with these parts because maybe that new pair of grips makes all the difference between constant blisters and a comfy all-day ride!
Grips are the cheapest and easiest touch point to modify - they're also considered a consumable part, so expect to have to replace these roughly once a season. Again it's worth experimenting with fat/thin, different patterns, rubber compounds, materials etc.
Some popular choices include the ultra-thin OneUp grips, Chromag Squarewave XL for something fatter and longer, or the Ergon GA2 for an ergonomic shaped mountain grip. Wolf Tooth Karv silicone grips make a great alternative to rubber grips with a soft foam-like compound, or the Ritchey WCS neoprene grips for a more traditional XC foam grip. There's a ton of different styles out there, so it's worth experimenting to figure out what works best.
Pedals are hugely important - a quality pair of pedals will help keep you glued to the bike, keep your feet from bouncing off and gives the rider ultimate control over the bike. Thankfully pedals are another area where you don't need to spend a whole lot to get something good.
A good set of pedals will have metal pins that stick to your shoes rather than just moulded plastic, and pins can usually be removed to tailor the grip to your preference. A reliable set of pedals will mean you can put power down easily, stay on the pedals through rough sections, boosting confidence in the bike. Starting at as little as $50 for our favourite OneUp Composite pedals, they're an easy upgrade to justify and come in a ton of colours to match your ride.
A saddle is the last touch point, and the one where people tend to put up with the most pain - butt pain does not have to be a reality! Everyone's anatomy is different, and that's why saddles come in different widths and styles, and sit bone width is a huge part of the equation. Unfortunately sit bone width has nothing to do with your height or width, so bicycle manufacturers can't really make a best guess based on frame size, so your bike may not have come with the best saddle for you. If you don't know your sit bone width, use this Specialized guide to finding your saddle size or come in store and have us measure your sit bones using the digital tool from Retül - once you know your size you can get the perfect saddle for your sit bones.
Having proper support from your saddle in all the right places means less pain, less chafing and the ability to ride all day long - you won't believe the difference a decent saddle sized your body makes. Thankfully Specialized has saddles at all price points, starting at the super affordable Bridge Sport and moving up to the Bridge Comp and Bridge Comp with Mimic or Power Comp and Power Comp with Mimic for something a little more sporty there truly is a saddle for everyone.
Brakes are one of those components that when they work, you barely even think about them, but when they're not working perfectly, it's immediately very obvious. It's important to keep your brakes in proper working order since they're a vital safety system and being able to slow down and stop properly will give you more confidence in your bike and allow you to ride even faster. Lucky for you we've got a couple of cheap or free things you can do to improve your braking performance!
First off, many brakes will come stock with resin (or organic) compound pads, which tend to be quiet but have less power. An upgrade to metallic (or sintered) brake pads will give an instant power upgrade - just be sure to get the correct brake pad for your model of brake. Next, ensure you perform a proper bed-in procedure for your new pads; this is vitally important to the proper operation of your brakes. If you already have metallic pads that have life left in them but somehow aren't producing much power, it could be that the pads are glazed. If so you can resurface the pads using sandpaper and then perform a bed-in procedure. Doing so should result in amazing working brakes
Suspension tuning and tokens
This is one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make to a full or front suspension mountain bike. First off, get your air pressure and compression/rebound settings right - check out our air suspension setup guide here. If you're finding that your suspension is too linear ie your sag is good but you find yourself bottoming out too often, adding a volume token could be the way to go. Volume tokens or spacers are cheap and sometimes free - many shops will give away tokens for Rockshox 35mm forks (Lyrik, Yari, Pike etc.) since they usually will have a ton of them. Most forks purchased aftermarket will also come with a couple extras, but if not they're as cheap as a few dollars each. Rear shock volume tokens can come as kits of tokens of varying sizes, so you can experiment and see which works best.
Adding tokens has the effect of reducing the available air volume so that the air inside compresses faster and gives more bottom-out resistance sooner in the travel - lighter riders often will find them more useful since they're starting at a lower air pressure. Conversely, if you feel your suspension is too progressive and you would like it more linear, ie your sag is good but you're not using all the travel, you can open up your fork and shock and remove a spacer, since many forks and shocks will come with spacers preinstalled from factory.
Note that volume tokens are specific to your fork or shock, so be sure to get the right ones. Also make sure to follow the factory guide before installing to ensure you don't damage your expensive suspension components.
Tires are the one component directly connecting the bike and the trail, and as such they are vitally important. Tires are one of the best places to spend money on a bike because the results are immediate and obvious, and new or different tires can have a huge impact on the way the bike rides and handles.
Check out our earlier blog post on mountain bike tire choice here for a full rundown, but in short - lighter/less knobby tires can make the bike feel much faster while climbing or pedalling, and more knobby/heavier tires can increase descending performance with more overall grip. Fresh tires are always better than old worn-out ones, and high-end high-performance tires can offer both more grip and speed over cheaper tires.
Specialized tires are a great combination of performance and price, their T9 compound tires proving to work really well for gravity-focussed riding. Maxxis tires are more expensive but perform amazingly, the Assegai being a staff favourite front tire for the shore and the Minion DHR II on the rear. Either way, a fresh set of tires is a relatively inexpensive, guaranteed performance upgrade over old rubber.
As always, feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions regarding what components would best work for you or your bike or head in store to chat with a sales associate.