Mountain Bike Parts

One of my favorite hobbies is souping up cars. Taking what the car has to offer, finding areas that could be improved, and making changes that made the car respond the way I drive. I used to be all about horsepower. But as time went on, braking and handling have become most important.

Much like cars, mountain bikes are a ton of fun with all the tweaking and tuning you can do. Most mountain bikes you buy these days are built with a specific riding style in mind. It may or may not suit where you do most of your riding. No problem! There are a ton of bike parts available on the market from mass manufacturers as well as smaller, made in America, shops.

There’s a lot of choices! Below we talk about all the different parts to a  mountain bike with a focus on featuring American builders.

Mountain Bike Parts Makers

If you look, you’d be surprised how many custom fabricators we have right here in America.

They’re designing, employing, building, AND manufacturing high-end mountain bike components. These guys are dedicated. And as an employer, it’s no easy task to make the decision to not only design, but also manufacturer the parts right here on US soil.

The labor costs are the biggest challenge for them. But for the love of their craft and their country, they choose to do it.

Please, if you’re looking for some fantastic, top grade, mountain bike parts. Go thru our list, find a made in America parts maker, and help them and our economy.

You’ll get a top end product from some of the most talented craftsman we’ve ever had a chance to meet.

Help: If you know of an American mountain bike parts maker that I don’t have listed in this section, please contact me, I want this list to be the most complete list on the web and give all these hard workers as much free advertising as I can.

Mountain Bike Brakes

Most people buy a pre-built mountain bike. The manufacturer makes the decision, based on the price of the bike, which type and grade of brakes they install on the bike. You may or may not like the brakes, but that’s no problem. There are a multitude of parts for aftermarket brakes you can upgrade to.

In general, there are three types of brakes for bikes.

  1. Coaster Brakes: these are usually seen on the cheapest of bikes. The braking action happens when you counter-rotate the pedals. Commonly seen on toddler sized bicycls. Nowadays, there should be no adult mountain bike that comes with these, so don’t worry about them.
  2. Rim Brakes: these are also uncommon nowadays on adult mountain bikes. When I raced BMX bikes, they all came outfitted with rim brakes. Basically, there are brake pads on either side of the rim. When you squeeze the brake lever, the pads would come in contact with the rim of the tire and provide the braking action.
  3. Disc Brakes: the majority of adult mountain bikes come with disc brakes now. These are very similar to what you have on the front brakes of your car. There’s a disc affixed to the wheel, and when you squeeze the brake lever, it puts the brake pads in contact with the disc. Disc brakes have come a long way, and there are two types to consider:
    1. Mechanical Disc Brakes: The brake lever connects to a steel cable, that is connected to the brake caliper. Squeezing the brake lever pulls the cable which in turn applies pressure thru the brake pads to the brake discs.
    2. Hydraulic Disc Brakes: Extremely similar to a car. The brake lever is attached to a piston-cylinder, which in turn uses hydraulic fluid and a hose to attach to the brake caliper. When you squeeze the brake lever, it actuates the piston-cylinder, which compresses the hydraulic fluid, that applies that pressure to the brake pads, with the result squeezing of the brake disc.

Today, the only brake system you should buy on a pre-built mountain bike should include disc brakes, at any price point. It is difficult and very expensive to convert from a Rim Brake system to a disc brake system. But its extremely easy to upgrade a disc brake system to a better one.

Below is our collection of reviews, thoughts, and cool things happening with mountain bike disc brakes.

Mountain Bike Drivetrain

The drivetrain, also known as a groupset, is comprised of several components used in the conversion of leg power into pedal power for your mountain bike. They are also one of the most popular components to upgrade.

The components of a groupset typically consist of:

  1. Crankset: usually consisting of the cranks and chainring(s). For mountain bikes, there are three varations to consider:
    1. Triple: uses three chainrings on the front crankset. Requres a derailleur and a chain guide.
    2. Double: uses two chainrings on the front crankset. Requires a deraulleur and a chain guide.
    3. Single: uses a single chainring on the front crankset. No derailleur and usually no chain guide. Common slang for it is “1x” or pronounced “1 by”. It’s becoming extremely popular for mountain biking.
  2. Bottom Bracket: the crankset rotates and it requires bearings to make it work. The bottom bracket is a set of bearings that the crankset attaches to. Since the bottom bracket attaches to the frame, the frame manufacturer designs and threads their bottom bracket housing to certain specs. So, not every bottom bracket fits every frame.
  3. Cassette: the cassette is the set of cogs on the rear wheel of a mountain bike. Most contain 7 to 12 sizes of cogs.
  4. Chains: it connects the crankset to the cassette cogs in the rear. There are different sizes of chains for the type of cogs you’re running on your bike. Be mindful of your groupset when picking a new chain.
  5. Derailleurs: These are the components that move the chain from one chainring or cog to a different chainring or cog.
  6. Shifters: This is the component that you use to change gears. They usually reside on the handlebar as a trigger, thumb actuated, lever or a grip-based, grip-shift, rotating lever.

Groupsets are one of the most complicated pieces on a bike to maintain and keep running without failure. Common problems are chain drops, missed shifts, or shifts to wrong gears.

When considering a drivetrain, a higher price usually equals lighter, better performing, and easier maintenance. On mountain bikes, many riders have moved to the 1x Drivetrain to reduce weight, costs, and complexity since it doesn’t require multiple chainrings up front and its associated derailleur.

Mountain Bike Cassette and Hubs Made In America

High end hubs made by American part makers Chris King and Industry Nice offer more points of engagement and higher end bearings. These hubs have a lot of colorful options to add some pops of color to your bike and will last a long time. These models should be your first go to options for building a nice mountain bike wheelset.

Mountain Bike Housing Made In America

Full length enclosed mountain bike housing is a must for those that ride in muddy and dusty conditions. American made Nokon housing is lightweight and comes with a liner that helps the seal the cable from the elements. You can get Nokon housing for shifters or cable actuated brakes.

Mountain Bike Fenders

If you live in the part of the country where you have a lot of sunshine and well-maintained trails, fenders and mudguards usually are not a part you look to add to your mountain bike. There are others that live in less friendly weather and choose to ride in the spring and summer. Either way, if rain or rocky conditions exist on trails you frequent, mountain bike fenders and mudguards will greatly increase your riding enjoyment!

Mountain Bike Frame

This is the piece that holds all the components together. And there is no other piece on a bike that makes the biggest difference in ride performance, capabilities, and style. Below is a diagram of a typical frame setup:

Bike frames are a topic we could dedicate pages and pages of discussion, so we’ll be brief here.

There are certain things in frame design that make one frame better for downhill and another for cross country, as an example. Here are major design considerations:

  1. Frame Geometry: usually lenght of tubes and the angles of attachment determine the frame geometry.
  2. Rear Suspension: Many mountain bikes today incorporate a rear suspension system. And there are alot of different types of designs that incorporate suspension travel, shock mounts, and points of rotation.
  3. Frame Material: There are alot of different metals and fibers used in the design of a mountain bike frame. Light weight and strength are major considerations depending on the style of riding it is designed for. Some of the most common frame materials are, ordered from cheapest to most expensive:
    1. Steel and steel varieties such as the ever popular cromoly steel
    2. Aluminum and aluminum alloys
    3. Carbon Fiber
    4. Titanium
  4. Frame Size: one size does not fit all size of riders. Builders will usually come up with a frame design, and then shorten or lengthen things for different rider heights. Some of the common measurements and terms used in frame sizing to a rider are:
    1. Standover height
    2. Wheelbase

A frame is the single piece of gear on a mountain bike that can transform the performance of that bike. There are a ton of choices and there are a lot of craftsman here in America devoting themselves to the craft of making super high performance bike frames at prices comparable to much lower mass produced frames from overseas makers.

Mountain Bike Frame Builders Made In America

If you look, you’d be surprised how many custom fabricators we have right here in America.

They’re designing, employing, building, AND manufacturing high-end mountain bike components. These guys are dedicated. And as an employer, it’s no easy task to make the decision to not only design, but also manufacturer the parts right here on US soil.

The labor costs are the biggest challenge for them. But for the love of their craft and their country, they choose to do it.

Please, if you’re looking for some fantastic, top grade, mountain bike parts. Go thru our list, find a made in America parts maker, and see if they can provide you what you need.

You’ll get a top end product from some of the most talented craftsman anywhere.

**If you know of an American mountain bike parts maker that I don’t have listed in this section, please leave a comment below, and I’ll get them added to the list.**

616 Bicycle FabricationYESMIYES
Bob Keller FrameworksYESMIYES

Mountain Bike Seat

I once was given advice to invest your money on things you commonly handle. In a house, that would usually be doorknobs, flooring, and faucets, which can make your house ‘feel’ more custom, unique, and of higher quality. The same principle could be applied to mountain bike components.

For a mountain bike, that would be grips, shifters, pedals, and the seat (or saddle as it’s often called).

For some, a great bike seat is one area that those on a budget overlook. Instead of opting to get lighter wheels, a better frame, etc. A serious rider may re-consider the importance a great saddle can make to your overall endurance and comfort.

Mountain bike saddles are mainly made up of four parts:

  1. Shell: it provides the shape of the seat. Usually made out of plastic, but some high-end models use carbon fiber for lower weight.
  2. Padding: some seats have padding and some don’t. It is applied to the shell. My BMX race bike didn’t have any for durability and weight considerations. I wouldn’t wish those for any adult nowadays!
  3. Cover: this is what goes over the padding. Usually made of leather, synthetic material, or some combination of other materials.
  4. Rails: rails attach to the shell. They are also the attachment point for the seatpost. They need to be durable and are usually made of aluminum or an aluminum alloy.

They come in a variety of designs. Comfort is highly dependent on one’s anatomy, whether you’re male or female, and how it feels for that particular rider.

We discuss some of our favorite saddles below.

Mountain Bike Seatposts Made In America

A seatpost may seem like a trivial item on a mountain bike, but if you’ve ever had to adjust a terribly designed seatpost, you know how much of a pain they can be. American made seatposts from Thomson and Moots are industry standard designs that are fitted on anything from a XC racing bikes to downhill machines. These seatposts are lightweight and incredibly strong. The head is also designed well so that won’t move over time and is easy to adjust if need be.

Mountain Bike Steering

We’ve grouped mountain bike steering into those components used in steering the mountain bike. Components we’ve included are:

  • Handlebar: the handlebar is what you grab to steer the mountain bike. There are many different designs, shapes, and weights to consider. Depending on your style of riding, Downhill, Enduro, Fatbike, Freeride, or XC, you probably would want a handlebar designed for that type of riding.  Major considerations are:
    • Handlebar geometry
    • Handlebar width
    • Handlebar shape
    • Handlebar weight
  • Stem: the handlebar attaches to the stem. The stem is a vital piece of equipment whose sole responsibility is to keep a firm grip on the only thing controlling your bike, the handlebar. Usually the focus on higher performing stems revolves on reduced weight while providing superior grip onto the handlebar. They primarily come in two sizes (based on the thickness of your handlebar), which are 31.8mm and 35mm clamp sizes.
  • Grips: the grips are attached to the handlebar. They’re what you’re hands grab and are one of the most important things to upgrade as soon as you get your mountain bike. They’re highly subjective and usually require buying a few sets to find the perfect one for you.
  • Headset: The headset is a set of bearings that install in the headtube. They allow the stem (and handlebar) to rotate the front fork. There are primarily two types of headsets
    • Threaded: the headset attaches to a threaded fork (make sure you buy a fork with the proper length for your frame and headset). They come in two types, loose ball bearing and internal ball bearing.
      • Loose Ball Bearing: commonly used on the typical kids bike. They’re cheap and reliable, but heavy.
    • Internal Ball Bearing: mainly an asthetic thing. The bearings are internal to the headtube providing a cleaner look.

All the components that make up steering your mountain bike are highly customizeable. Innovation is happening everywhere, even in something as simple as steering components. We’ve collected several articles we’ve found interesting below.

Mountain Bike Stems Made In America

A nice stem can really class up your cockpit and is often more lightweight than your stock setup. Companies like Moots, Thomson, and Twenty6 Products make their stems in the USA with precision CNC equipment. Check out the wide selection below to find the right angle and length stem you need for your ride.

Mountain Bike Grips Made In America

A good pair of grips is crucial for the proper cockpit feel. Everyone has their personal choice as to which style of grips they like best. You can see my list of my favorite grips in this previous article I wrote on the topic. Fortunately there are a lot of great American grip makers like Oury, ODI, Lizard Skins, and ESI.

Mountain Bike Headsets Made In America

Installing a quality headset on your mountain bike is an important piece of a good bike build. These headsets are made in the USA by Chris King and Cane Creek. They are two of the most highly respected headset makers in all of mountain biking. A high quality headset will last longer because it has better bearings and seals to keep dirt and grime out, have no slop because the tolerances are tighter making the fit better, and they also look better than standard offerings. Make sure you have your headset installed by a professional with the right tools.

Mountain Bike Suspension

Mountain bike suspension is an innovation that provides a cushioned ride by suspending the rider and bicycle, insulating them from the road terrain. It is usually split into two conversations, front suspension and rear suspension.

  • Front Suspension: when talking about the front suspension, it’s usually referencing the front fork. Suspension forks utilize an internal spring and damper to suspend the rider and bike. Suspension forks are highly sophisticated pieces of equipment and earn their high costs. The better ones are adjustable. They are designed for a specific riding style, such as Downhill, Enduro, Fatbike, Freebike, and XC. What makes one better suited for a specific riding style are:
    • Amount of Travel
    • Weight
    • Durability
    • Strength
    • Handling Characteristics
  • Rear Suspension: a shock absorber is built into a frame design, where the rear triangle supporting the rear wheel is allowed to articulate. There are alot of variations on spring placement, which makes for cool and interesting bike frame designs. There are alot of different designs for a rear suspension, with too many to list here, but in general they can be placed into two primary types:
    • Single Pivot: this design uses a single point to pivot the rear of the bicycle. Typically the pivot point is where the rear triangle framing attaches to the bottom bracket.
    • Split Pivot: this design uses two or more pivot points.
  • Rear Suspension Shock: all rear suspensions use a shock. Just because a builder designed a frame design to use a specific rear shock, doesn’t mean you’re dedicated to using only that shock. In fact, there are a lot of aftermarket shocks you can use to upgrade your ride and change some of the riding characteristics of your rear suspension.

We’ve gathered some of our favorite fork and frame builders below, with many of them American made.

Mountain Bike Wheel

We’ve grouped mountain bike wheels, rims, tires, tubes, and spokes into this components section.

Mountain bike wheels or rims come in three primary sizes:

  • 24″: usually junior sizes or jump bikes, and sometimes on Freeride mountain bikes
  • 26″: original mountain bike wheel size universally used for all sizes of riders
  • 27.5″: became the popular size replacing many of the mountain bikes using 26″ wheels. Bikes using a 27.5″ wheel are commonly called 650B Bike.
  • 29″: ever growing in popularity, the 29’er wheel is fast becoming the de facto standard, replacing popular 27.5″ wheels. A mountain bike with 29″ wheels is commonly referred to as a 29er.
  • Fatbike Wheels: like standard mountain bikes, they come in 26″ (2″ tire width), 27.5″ (2″ tire width) and 29″ (3″ tire width) wheel sizes, but of course the width of the rim is much wider than a standard mountain bike rim to accomodate the wider tire. They also come in two unique sizes:
    • XL: this is a 26″ tire but is extra wide, usually using tires of 3.5″ width
    • 2XL: this is also a 26″ tire but is even wider, usually tires of 5″ width

Mountain bike tires are usually of a knobby design and come in three types:

  1. Tubes: traditional design using an inner tube
  2. Tubeless: much like a car, there is no tube involved. Lowering weight. They provide performance benefits as they can usually be run with lower air pressures gaining more traction and rolling resistance.
  3. Tubeless Ready: tires that can use tubes or go tubeless.

We discuss a variety of our favorite mountain bike wheels below.

Mountain Bike Wheels Made In America

Mountain bike wheels can make or break your riding. Nice wheels stay true longer and are much more durable. Keeping weight down on your wheels set can really add performance because your wheels accelerate quicker and brake faster. Lighter weight wheels make your whole bike actually feel lighter than it really is. These wheels from Industry Nine and Velocity are made in the USA with quality components.

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