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Are Entry-level MTBs Worth Upgrading? (Waste of Money?)

Mountain biking is an activity that a wide variety of people enjoy. Due to the nature of this activity, when your skill level increases you will need a better bike but this can be very costly, so it is worthwhile to upgrade your cheaper mountain bike or you should wait until you have the money to buy a new one?

It’s worth upgrading your entry-level MTB, but be careful not to overspend. While other people may think it’s a waste of money, it’s not a waste of money if you decide to upgrade a few components and if you’re planning to keep riding the same bike for another 3 or 4 years.

Keep reading to know more about how you can decide whether you need to upgrade your MTB or not.

Are Better Components Wasted on an Entry-level MTB?

Mountain bike sunset

Of course, upgrading an older mountain bike will help you to get more value out of your used bike, or you could acquire a cheaper used MTB and upgrade it, this can save you some money.

Before we assess the whole situation, you should understand that trying to make an entry-level bike perform as a mid or high-end bike is a waste of money. Components sold individually are more expensive than parts sold on a bike, and you will never be able to get an old MTB up to the level of newer MTBs in the same price range.

That’s why it’s important to set your expectations on a realistic level. Upgrading some components on your entry-level bike is not considered a waste of money as long as you know where to draw the line.

Because you ride a cheaper MTB be sure not to spend more than 60% of the initial price of the bike because high-end components can cost more than the entire bike and you will still have a bike with a lot of low-end components on it that will have a negative impact on performance.

Upgrading your grips, tires, breaks, or even installing a dropper post can make a ton of difference and besides the dropper post none of these upgrades will break your bank, but if you find yourself in the situation where you want a better drivetrain or lighter wheels then keep in mind that these upgrades may cost more than your current bike and you will be better of getting a new bike.

Is It Worth Upgrading the Fork on an Entry-level MTB?

Upgrading the fork on an entry-level MTB will make it perform better on more technical trails and is one of the most noticeable upgrades you can make to your bike. Despite being a little expensive, upgrading the fork on your MTB will make your rides more enjoyable. Light-weighted forks, in particular, create a massive improvement in your rides.

If you will upgrade from a coil suspension fork to an air suspension fork you will notice a big improvement in stability and comfort but this will be a costly improvement.

If you want an air suspension fork and you have an entry-level MTB I advise you to go for the lower-end models and avoid the more renowned manufacturers like FOX and Rocshocks because these forks will cost almost as much as your entire bike and if you will sell it on the second-hand market you will take a big loss, a good choice here will be a Santour fork, they are cheaper and still offer more than decent performance.

The BUCKLOS 26/27.5/29 Travel 120mm MTB Air Suspension Fork (this is an affiliate link) can be a very good option for an entry-level MTB that can easily fit in a smaller budget.

One more thing you need to know if you want to upgrade your fork, not all forks are compatible with all MTB buckets and wheel hubs, so make sure you don’t have to change those as well because this can drastically rise the price of the fork upgrade.

When Should You Upgrade Your Entry-level Mountain Bike?

Without assessing the state of your old MTB, you could spend lots of wasted money that can, in some cases, buy you a brand-new one. So, when should you upgrade your entry-level MTB without it being a waste of money?

  • If the upgrade doesn’t cost too much: Stating the obvious. In some cases, you will find that buying better components for your entry-level MTB won’t cost too much. It’s okay to buy new components to upgrade your whole riding experience.
  • If you plan to keep using the same bike for years: Some folks treasure their bikes. So, if you find it difficult to give up your old bike for a new one, then upgrading isn’t such a terrible idea. If you want to ride the improved mountain bike for at least 3 or 4 years, then upgrading is unquestionably the best option.
  • If the overall state of your old bike is okay: Your bike can be working fine. It’s okay to wish to upgrade your riding experience with better components. That’s when upgrading a few components won’t be such a waste of money, with the added value of improving your experience. 

What’s Worth Upgrading on an Entry-level MTB?

When it comes to making the decision to upgrade, things might become a bit complicated. You’re certain about how you want to improve your rides, but which components will make a difference? 

Here are the 6 most important components that make the biggest difference when it comes to upgrading an old entry-level MTB:

MTB Saddle

Getting a more comfortable saddle will have a major effect on your riding experience, when I got my full-suspension bike the first thing I noticed is how comfortable the saddle was.

The new bike was much more expensive than the old one and it came with a much better saddle, I can wholeheartedly say that besides the rear suspension and the much better fork the saddle had the most noticeable improvement when it comes to the comfort of my rides.

MTB Dropper Post

This one makes the biggest enhancement to your old bike. If your MTB has a standard seat post, upgrading to a dropper post wood makes tricky descents much more enjoyable.

Cables and Housings

Cables, housings, and the rest of the bike’s components are usually good enough for the design of an entry-level MTB. In addition to them being inexpensive, those parts make a huge difference in your upgraded experience.

MTB Grips

If you cut your rides short because of hand soreness, then upgrading your entry-level MTB grips is a must. They’re not so expensive, so you wouldn’t have to worry about budget, and they’re one of the components that really make a big difference in your experience. Looking for MTB grips that can boost your comfort and control?

MTB Pedals

When it comes to pedals, it’s important to assess their state and not waste your money on anything. If you have clipless pedals or ones with pins, then upgrading them would be a waste of money. If you don’t, then buying flat or clipless MTB pedals will be a huge favor you’re doing for yourself. They give you better control and much more comfort.

MTB Tires

If you’re a rider that enjoys muddy rides, then upgrading your entry-level MTB tires is not such a bad idea. Most low to mid-level mountain bikes come with tires designed for cross-country riding and feature a profile that is not suitable for riding in muddy conditions. Get yourself improved spiked MTB tires for your next muddy ride!

If you want to know if tires really make a big difference, I have written an entire article on the subject, check it out!

MTB Brakes

Brakes are all about flexibility and control. An improvement in your MTB brakes will make you more comfortable in controlling your bike with instant reaction. Changing to hydraulic brakes will make a massive difference in your ability to manage your descent and the braking power of your bike.

Conclusion

To make this easier to decide, upgrading some components in your entry-level MTB is not a bad idea. Actually, sometimes it can take your riding experience to the next level without spending much money on buying a brand new bike. This is particularly true if you’re planning to keep using your old bike for another 4 years or so.

However, changing too much in an entry-level bike will be considered a waste of money. Also, expecting that upgrading an entry-level MTB bike will magically turn it into a high-end bike will leave you with nothing but disappointment.

I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.