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What Bike Components Actually Make Sense To Upgrade?

Fresh tires on fresh wheels are a sure way to upgrade your ride. Max Ritter photo.

So, you bought a new mountain bike. It already rides wonderfully, but there are a few things you start to notice that could use some improvement. That fact is, no bike is perfect right out of the box, especially not for your unique riding style. It might be time to upgrade some componentry like tires, wheels, and the cockpit to eke out that extra bit of performance from an already stellar bike. 

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Upgrading wheels and tires can make the most noticeable difference here.  Lighter rims make for snappier acceleration, grippier tires will help in cornering traction, and an anti-flat insert can prevent trailside nightmares. What does that come out to? A faster, smoother ride on the trail. 

Schwalbe Tires

Schwalbe has been in the rubber game since 1922, longer than most. We tested the new versions of their Magic Mary and Nobby Nic tires, two aggressive tires oriented at the enduro and downhill crowd, that now feature their updated Addix rubber compounds.

Testers summed up the performance of both tires: The Magic Mary is great at what it’s meant for: traction. Holy crap does this tire keep you glued to the ground in corners and on loose ground. I see this one being a great tire for aggressive riders or those who really care only about the descents. Rolling resistance be damned, this tire makes me feel like a superhero on the way down the hill.

Schwalbe's Nobby Nic and Magic Mary are a sure bet for grip in all conditions. Connor Johnson photo.

The Nobby Nic is an excellent tire for the everyday rider on everything from short travel trail bikes to 150mm enduro machines. I’d totally put these on my bike front and rear if I were cranking out endless miles of singletrack with the occasional gnarly section or descent.

Schwalbe ProCore:

What if there was a magical way to prevent flats and rim damage for aggressive riders?

Both of the Schwalbe tires had trick up their sleeve, or rather, inside their casing: Schwalbe’s ProCore system. Basically a road tire within a mountain bike tire, it is designed to prevent pinch flats and rim damage, and the system works flawlessly. In several months of long-term testing, testers have not only reported zero flat tires, but that the ride quality of their wheels has improved. More importantly, having a little bit of extra protection provides that extra confidence when bombing through sharp-edged rock gardens, or when landing weirdly on jumps. The system significantly decreases tire roll, especially when considering the lighter weight tires, like the Nobby Nic, testers could run. The 40 PSI inside the inner tire supports the sidewall of outer tire, giving it shape and locking it on the rim.

Installation is relatively simple, but it should be noted that over time, we frequently had to add air to the system to keep it at a rideable pressure. Air likely escapes through the two-part valve stem slowly over time, but you should really check tire pressures before every ride anyway, so we can call that a non-issue.

Carbon wheels that actually make sense in all conditions, all the time: NOBL. Max Ritter photo.

NOBL Wheels:

Just like bike frames, the carbon vs. alloy debate now runs rampant throughout the wheel world. Are carbon mountain bike wheels worth it? Won’t they just break every time you hit something sharp? NOBL’s carbon wheels provide a compelling argument to upgrade to lightweight, stiff (but not too stiff), no-nonsense carbon wheels.

Tester Branham Snyder, who has spent most of his season aboard a pair of NOBL wheels shares some notes:

"Trail feel, trail feel, trail feel. Man, these wheels are fun. For a long time, carbon wheels have been too stiff. They make the ride quality harsh, your forearms are blasted after just a bit of technical riding, and you get flats left and right because the rim acts like a freaking knife-edge rock when you ride gnarly stuff. BUT, this wheelset offers up wheel flex (in a good way) in gobs. The wheel can bend and track the terrain without the need for pro-level skills, yet it’s still stiff enough to offer all of the benefits expected of a carbon wheel. The weight is remarkable, too. Admittedly, I’m accustomed to heavier weight wheels, but these wheels feel like featherweights, making the bike accelerate like a freaking rocket, and making it easy to toss the bike around, both on and off the ground."

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