Best Upgrades for Hardtail Mountain Bike


With all the full suspensions riding around, you may be feeling a bit down about your old Hardtail.

But believe it or not, Hardtail Mountain Bikes are still really capable when it comes to most trails.

Just check out GMBN’s video on Hardtail’s and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Regardless, there will come a time when you’re ready to show your Hardtail some extra love, by buying some much-needed upgrades.

As a lover of both Hardtail Mountain Bikes and buying new gear, I am here to help you find the best upgrades for your Hardtail MTB.

First off, I want to say that not all upgrades are created equal. In fact, you may be better off saving up for a new bike instead of upgrading an old one.

That’s why I listed the upgrades below based on ROI. You want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when upgrading your MTB.

1. Tires

Starting off right, a new set of MTB tires will almost always be the best upgrade you can get for your bike.

And this is good news, as a new set of MTB tires are a lot cheaper than that Dropper Post you’ve been thinking about.

All jokes aside, an upgraded set of MTB tires will give you an immediate and noticeable change in the way your bike rides.

Upgrade to a set of tires made for your local terrain and you’ll wonder why you never changed them in the first place.

I have a really good article if you’re looking for good MTB Mud Tires.

But how can something so simple make your Hardtail that much better?

If you actually think about it, this initial upgrade makes the most sense.

Your MTB tires are the only thing in contact with the ground on those sketchy descents and brutal climbs.

They take some bad hits on the trail as they cushion you from the worst and they give you that essential traction on loose turns.

And this goes double for a Hardtail, as there’s no rear suspension to soften the blows or save you from a bad case.

You put all that trust in them for a reason.

Upgraded tires usually means better performance and stability.

This translates to stronger rubber compound, sidewalls and casing.

If you want to experience better traction, rolling resistance, rebound and stability, upgrade the tires on your Hardtail.

2. Tubeless

Closeup of tubeless bike tire

This next one goes well after mentioning tires, however, it can stand in a class of its own.

I’m talking about upgrading to Tubeless Tires.

If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to make your Hardtail better, you definitely need to look into upgrading to a Tubeless setup.

And if you’re already needing to upgrade your current set of tires, there’s no better time to make the swap.

And don’t worry if you think you’re not ready for Tubeless tires, I made a quick guide in this article to help you on your way.

Upgrading to Tubeless hosts a lot of the benefits I mentioned in the heading before of Tires, however, a Tubeless setup takes it a few steps further.

By upgrading to Tubeless tires, you’re virtually eliminating flats and allowing yourself to run lower PSI in each tire.

It’s easy to see the benefit of less flats, however, what about that lower PSI?

Firstly, that lower PSI helps tremendously with Pinch-Flats and smaller punctures.

In addition to less flats, lowering the PSI can give you a significant boost in tire performance.

Lowering the PSI gives you better traction, as the wheels are able to apply more surface area to the ground.

As well, the tires are then better able to confirm to each rock and bump on the trail, making your ride less harsh and more comfortable overall.

Lastly, Tubeless tires help reduce the weight of your wheels and also lowers rolling resistance.

If you’ve already read my article on maintaining tubeless tires, get yourself some Stans Tubeless Sealant and get those tires swapped out!

3. Brakes

This next one may not apply to you if you have a late model bike or if you’re already running Hydraulic Disk Brakes.

If the above sentence doesn’t sound like you, make sure you read the next sentence.

One of the best upgrades for a Hardtail MTB is Brakes, specifically Hydraulic Disk Brakes.

Ask anyone who rides or drives anything competitively and they will tell you the importance of a good set of Brakes.

And while you may think that they’re only good for slowing you down, you’ve got another thing coming.

There are many ways to upgrade the Brakes on your Hardtail.

You can upgrade the pads, buy larger rotors and even swap them out completely for the latest Hydraulic set.

Whichever route you choose, upgraded Brakes help you accomplish the following; better “bite”, less wear and better modulation.

And this is huge for Hardtail’s, as they tend to bounce around a lot more than full-suspensions.

Better Brakes will give you more confidence on steep descents and fast corners, all while helping you maintain more speed.

The modulation I mentioned, gives you better control over the feel of your Brakes.

Instead of losing traction in a turn, you are able to “feather” the Brakes without fear of them locking up.

And that extra bite comes in handy when you’re really needing to stop before a steep switchback.

4. Saddle

Hardtails can help you pump, climb and sprint better, but there is one thing full-suspensions take the gold on and that is comfort.

Most of the upgrades mentioned in this list help improve the overall comfort of your ride, but there is one that can make all the difference in the world. That is a Saddle.

While a new saddle may not be the first thing on your list of upgrades, it is definitely a worthwhile investment for Hardtail riders.

And not just for comfort reasons. An upgraded saddle can get you better performance out of yourself and your MTB.

If you’re still riding the factory seat that came standard with your bike, there’s a good chance it’s not the best fit for your “sit bones”.

And I’m not just talking about the usual saddle soreness that comes with the breaking in period.

A bad saddle can get in your way, cause discomfort, and even ruin a ride all together.

If you find yourself struggling with soreness after most rides, it may be time to upgrade your saddle.

With the fact that a MTB saddle is so specific, make sure you keep this upgrade in the front of your mind.

5. Grips

MTB Brake lever

Continuing with the theme of comfort and performance, a good set of MTB grips can prove to be a worthwhile investment.

As a Hardtail lover myself, I am well aware of the beating your hands take while you’re ripping up a trail.

Rock Gardens down steep descents and root after root can have you feeling like your hands may just shake loose.

And if you’re MTB gloves don’t have enough padding; you can even expect a few calluses at the end of a ride.

For a cheap and easy upgrade for your Hardtail, grab yourself some Chunky Grips by ESI or even upgrade to the ERGON GS1 MTB MARATHON RACING GRIPS.

I am a fan of lock-on grips, as these prevent any slippage.

6. Pedals

MTB Pedal

This next upgrade can be a bit subjective depending on the type of pedal you prefer, however, there’s almost always room for improvement.

With that being said, a solid upgrade for any Hardtail would be a new set of pedals.

I ended up buying a budget set of MTB pedals for my first bike, as I was already a little over budget on the Mountain Bike.

I see why they were considered budget pedals, as they were bulky, heavy and unforgiving if your foot happened to slip.

I finally upgraded to a set of Chester’s by Race Face, a relatively inexpensive flat pedal, and it made all the difference in the world.

I was able to reduce weight, improve grip and confidence, and on top of it all, they were a lot more forgiving on my shins should I slip.

These are just a few of the benefits of quality MTB pedals.

MTB pedals are one of your main points of contact with your Mountain Bike. Working with your legs and lower body, your MTB pedals make up your foundation on the bike.

Where full-suspensions allow a certain amount of flex in the Mountain Bike, Hardtails use your feet and legs to soften blows and control the bike.

This is why it is so easy for you to lose your grip on the pedals on a rock garden or on a cased jump.

While some consider this a selling point for the upgrade to Clipless Pedals, a quality set of flat pedals can solve most of your issues.

Even if you’re already using Clipless Pedals, upgrading to a better set can significantly reduce weight, improve maneuverability, and provide a more comfortable ride overall.

7. Handlebars and Stem

If you’re already an avid Mountain Biker, then you’ve probably noticed the trend of wider handlebars over the years.

In fact, most of the newer performance Mountain Bikes are already coming standard with wide handlebars and shorter stems.

If the industry standard is changing to adapt this new setup, then it must be a good fit for you.

And I agree, I think that wider handlebars and a shorter stem are the perfect upgrade for a Hardtail.

The wider handlebars give you more control over the bike, while the shorter stem maintains that quick input response.

And make sure you shorten the stem when you buy a wider handlebar, as the two work in conjunction.

When you widen your handlebar, your arms tend to compensate, and it moves your body forward.

By shortening your stem, you not only gain that extra input response, you also rebalance your weight between both wheels.

8. Dropper Post

MTB with Dropper Post

You knew it would make the list at some point and time and here it is.

Upgrading to a Dropper Post is one of the best upgrades for a Hardtail Mountain Bike, and in fact, if you have all other components in order, this is a no brainer.

Although you most likely won’t be hitting any crazy downhill sections on a Hardtail, being able to drop and raise your seat on command is a priceless upgrade.

And if you need a little direction on buying a Dropper post, check out this guide

But be aware, Dropper posts can be a little pricey. For a budget option without settling on quality, check out PNW’s Dropper Posts.

9. 1X Drive Train

closeup of 1x drivetrain

Finishing up with one of the more popular trends in Mountain Biking, consolidating your gears down to a 1X Drivetrain can really improve your riding.

Be wary here too though, as Drivetrain upgrades can get a little pricey.

Regardless, if you plan on keeping your Hardtail for a while, a swap to a 1X chainring can prove to be a worthwhile investment.


In conclusion, there are many ways to upgrade your Hardtail to make it better.

The best things to keep in mind though, is that some upgrades deliver better ROI than others.

In addition to this fact, you may be better off upgrading to a new bike if your goals prove to be too expensive.

Whatever you chose, have fun showing your bike some love and care, and make sure you get out and ride!

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