Do You Really Need
A New Bike?
Our answer may surprise you
WHEN TO UPGRADE
The frame is the heart and soul of a mountain bike, so
begin your process of elimination with one simple question:
“Is the frame worthy?” There is no reason for upgrading or
rebuilding a bike with an average-quality chassis that may
have had its service life beaten out of it two years earlier.
“Service life” refers to the number of cycles (events that
stress the structure) that a frame can endure before it
weakens. Manufacturers use laboratory testing to extend
the service lives of their frames and suspension components well beyond the length of time that an average person
will ride the bike.
“Average person” is the key phrase. If you read MBA, you
probably exceed the definition of average. So if you ride
often and hard, you should buy a new mountain bike every
five years. And if you are an aggressive jumper type, a lot
sooner than that.
Titanium and steel frames are least affected by fatigue,
but a top-quality aluminum or carbon fiber chassis can last
a long time too. Assess your riding style and the quality
and condition of your frame. Cracks in the paint or frame
near the junctions and bent tubes or loose suspension
pivots are big problems.
THE UPGRADE OPTION
If you believe your frame is worthy of an extensive upgrade
(and we caution against going this route), there are only two
reasons we can imagine where it might make sense.
You love your bike: The only reason to upgrade your
existing ride is that you are absolutely in love with it and have
ridden most of the parts into the ground. If the frame is still in
great condition and you are willing to spend some serious
cash to overhaul all of the worn-out components, go for it.
Overhauling a well-loved mountain bike means shelling out
for a new cassette ($75–$100), chainrings ($80), a chain
($30–$60), a bottom bracket ($50) and probably pedals too
($80–$350). That will cover the worn-out parts. For safety’s
sake, you should consider replacing the handlebar
($60–$150) with the next better item, as the bar takes a lot of
Although it may come worded slightly differently, the most common question we get from riders is, “Should I upgrade
my existing bike or buy a new one?” Okay, we’ll
answer it one more time.
Bucks per mile: If you ride often and hard, you should buy a new
mountain bike every five years. If you are an aggressive jumper
type, the date of freshness expires a lot sooner than that.
A wheel good upgrade: Wheels are always overlooked, but
properly tensioned spokes give the wheels a lively feel. Have a
good shop tune them up ($80), or consider upgrading to new