1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    New question here. cost-efficient upgrades?

    I'm new to the sport, and have been pouring over this forum and various other sites to better understand bike mechanics and components - I had a quick question regarding upgrades.

    I currently have a Trek 3500. It's basic, but that's fine for me. I got it as a gift and my plan is to ride the thing as much as I can. That being said - what would you say are the most cost-effective upgrades to a bike? Ideally, looking at investing no more than a few hundred $ - is this reasonable or am I completely off base?

    Bike performance, ride quality, you name it - what would be the most useful upgrades? For instance, disc brakes would be awesome but from what I'm reading that's not a very feasible option right?

    Thanks for your help!

  2. #2
    local trails rider
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    Tires that suit where and how you ride. After market tires can be much lighter too, than whatever the manufacturer puts on an entry level bike (and higher level too).

    Contact points. Are you happy with your grips, bar, stem, seat, pedals, shoes, helmet, gloves? If you don't know yet, ride some more.

    In general, I'd say, don't throw money at the bike. Replace things when YOU find a reason to do it.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  3. #3
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    Ride the crap out of your bike and decide what it is about your bike that you'd like to work better. Just because it's not a $5000 bike doesn't mean it need anything upgraded at all.

    Certain things may start to bother you like seat, handle grips, pedals, tires etc. (those are usually the first) If they do or you find something that feels/works better, wait for a sale and so on.

    Edit, perttime beat me to it.
    GTA
    Ontario

  4. #4
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    Re: cost-efficient upgrades?

    avid bb7 disc brakes can be found for about seventy bucks. that was my first upgrade ever. then tires. changed out parts of the drive train as they wore out. also went to a shorter stem and longer bars after.

  5. #5
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    Tires! Tires! Tires! Get the biggest ones that fill fit in whatever tread pattern is recommended for your trails (talk to friends and local shops/clubs about that or browse the regional threads in mtbr). Bigger tire in the front will help with control. Bigger tire in the rear will improve comfort. Beyond that, aftermarket grips and saddle help bigtime with comfort. Koolstop brake pads on v-brakes will improve stopping performance. I agree with everyone else that you don't want to throw big money at and entry-level bike, but if you can find a screaming deal on a better fork, that might be a good upgrade if you're planning to keep the bike longterm. If not, don't bother; you'll get a better fork when you get a higher-end bike.
    2004 Surly Cross Check
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  6. #6
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    hmm seat and grips, comfort is important for longer riders. the rest as you break it or as mentioned spot a screaming red hot deal.

  7. #7
    RTM
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    perttime's advice is solid and that is certainly the logical way to maximize your investments. of course, I really can't talk. I love working on bikes...and its fun to throw a little money at upgrades.

    where you must draw the line is when the upgrade gets too expensive in relation to the overall platform. For example, disc brakes vs. rim brakes...no question, great upgrade...however going from rim to disc brakes would require a major overhaul and big time $$$$, and it may not even be possible in the rear. definitely not worth the investment in this case.

    generally on entry level bikes I suggest tires, saddle, pedals, wider bar & shorter stem. Stay in the $40 price range on each of those components and you can make a noticeable improvement to the bike for around $200. You'll get a quality parts you can enjoy for a season or two, and at the same time you won't be weighed down with regret it if you get a new bike and these parts end up sitting in your basement.
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten." - Benjamin Franklin

  8. #8
    o°<o NYC pebble jumper!
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    Lots of good advice here.. Only replace what you really needs replacing.
    Understandable upgrades would be a seat, grips and pedals.. Those would add to comfort, but definitely not needed. Replace as parts wear, or comfort level diminishes.

    Best thing is to ride the bike and enjoy it. If you do not have it already, invest in gloves, riding shorts/chamois liner and a decent helmet. If you are planning on riding certain trails, maybe look into pads as well.

  9. #9
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    For me, I would keep it simple and save up for a better bike with some of that money.

    Grips-$15, Saddle(if needed), tires (if needed)

    Then ride the crap out of it! The best rider in my group uses an old 1993 kona hahanna and it is truely priceless, the looks on the faces of guys who just dropped $6k on their bikes when he not only out climbs them, but passes on descents as well.

    80% rider, 10% bike, 10% balls.
    2008 Redline Monocog 29er SS/Rigid
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    FS: 26" Black Flag Expert Wheelset (new), Reba 29 Fork

  10. #10
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    Definitely good tires. I don't really consider the saddle, grips, and pedals to be "upgrades" so much. You can certainly upgrade pedals from a lower performing part to a better performing one, but when talking about the contact points on the bike, comfort is the biggest factor at play. I don't consider changing something for comfort to be an upgrade.

    Putting disc brakes on that bike would require a new wheelset with disc hubs. Doing so for under $200 wouldn't be worth it. You wouldn't wind up with either a wheelset worth calling an upgrade or a set of brakes worth calling an upgrade. If you find a freebie somewhere, it might be worth a second look.

    Like others have mentioned, when things wear out (or break), consider them opportunities to upgrade a little. Huge upgrades might be a little frivolous, but if you get a freebie or a smokin deal, why not?

    I started on a $300 rigid hardtail and the first upgrade I did was to put a $160 suspension fork on it. I rode that bike hard, and pretty much toasted all of the bearings in it. I sold it when the cost of repairs was high enough that I could afford a modest upgrade.

  11. #11
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    If your rig is putting out according to what ever you put it through then keep the money for a rainy day. The bike will let you know when it gets tired. Just keep on with maintenance checks and preventive maintenance and have fun. Learn your rig, what it can do, what it can not do and what you can & can not do. Once you get all that figured out, and continue to converse with riders here on the site or in your area then you should be able to make your own judgment calls without any doubt.

    Have fun,
    De oppresso liber

  12. #12
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    Good advice here, thanks! Answered a lot of my questions...

  13. #13
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    Thanks all - from the gist of it I think I will lay off any major upgrades for now. I'm still very new to the sport and probably wouldn't be able to appreciate a major upgrade anyway.

    All good advice, much appreciated!

  14. #14
    RTM
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    I started on a $300 rigid hardtail and the first upgrade I did was to put a $160 suspension fork on it. I rode that bike hard, and pretty much toasted all of the bearings in it. I sold it when the cost of repairs was high enough that I could afford a modest upgrade.
    holy cow dude, a $300 bike with a $160 fork, ridden to death...and you SOLD it to someone? talk about getting blood from a stone! haha
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten." - Benjamin Franklin

  15. #15
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    Tires are not so much of an upgrade as wear item. When they wear down get new ones that suit your riding.

    Grips and seat are about comfort. If they feel fine as is leave them be. Otherwise just ride the bike. If you want to spend money do it on non bike stuff. camelbak, gloves, clothing etc that will make your riding more fun. Save your money and when the time is right drop $1500 on new bike that is an upgrade from top to bottom. Just don't expect it too change you into a super rider. It probably won't, but it could be a little more fun.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  16. #16
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    I had a 2002 Giant XTC that probably wasn't worth upgrading, but I had a plan. Since 99% of the parts are able to be interchangeable from one frame to another (depending on seat post size and other small things) I decided to pour money into anyways. My first upgrade was a Fox F100 RL fork. I then started to upgrade the drivetrain piece by piece, as I found great deals on some SLX stuff. Wheels, tires, you name it..I replaced it. When it was all said and done, I changed out everything on that frame and rode it for about a year. Then, I found a great deal on a Marin Team Issue Scandium that I picked up and swapped all the parts, except for the seat post and clamp and ended up with a very nice bike.

  17. #17
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    Beside the tires which I agree it's the best upgrade you can do to a bike that would yield most significant difference to the ride, your upgrade now can be about bling. Whatever that makes you feel good and/or personalized your ride. Grips, saddle, color housing, etc. When it comes to performance upgrade from an entry level, I think it's best to skip a level or two to gain a significant difference.

    Upgrading from rim brake to disc is like getting a cell phone contract. The disc brake may only cost $80, then it's the new wheelset, may be new levers, cable and housing, worse may be labor cost to have lbs swap things out for you.

    It's best to just keep riding and learn more about component levels, show up at demo when you can, ride it as much as possible. When you can tell the difference in performance between XTR to XT to SLX, you are ready to spend some money wisely.

  18. #18
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    Perttime nailed it from the first post. My exact list of upgrade preference is:

    -Pedals (always)
    -Grips (almost always)
    -Tires (usually let the old ones wear down first)

    Apart from that, just save your money and only replace things that need to be replaced. Someday you might find that what you want to do with your bike doesn't match with what your bike wants to do and when that happens you'll be glad you didn't sink a ton of money into it. If that day never comes then you'll probably realize that every time you upgraded something that needed upgrading (like when you broke a derailleur) left you with a pretty decent machine.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  19. #19
    Endo Pro
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    I also am a new rider. I ride an entry level bike, Trek Marlin, that pretty much everything under the sun would be considered an upgrade. Trust me that I've looked at every single upgrade I could possibly imagine. Yet the more I read and the more I ride I've come to the conclusion that the bike is capable of everything within my current abilities. The only upgrade I've done is switching out the cheap pedals to some good flats, Azonic Switchbacks, so I could stay better connected to the bike. Everything else for me has been apparel like good riding shorts and a Camelbak. So as my abilities improve or something of comfort is needing replaced then I'll consider more upgrades.

  20. #20
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    I agree with everyone else that you don't want to throw big money at and entry-level bike

  21. #21
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    +1 to tires and contact points. A different fork would be pretty high-yield too. A $300 fork on a 3500 is perhaps an error in proportion, but either a used fork on EBay or a rigid for about $80 could still be an improvement.

    I find I often need a different stem to nail my fit. I prefer to spend about $10 on a stem, since my technique for finding the right one basically boils down to "guess and check."
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  22. #22
    Happy Trails
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    cost-efficient upgrades?

    I learned the old fashioned way (errrr the hard way) ..... The best upgrade for an old bike is a new bike. Ride the hell out of that bad boy and save your lunch money for a new one.

  23. #23
    mtbrmembernewuserbeginner
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    Have the same bike. 2/4 people that mentioned disc brakes, mentioned that you need to change out too many other components for it to be worth it. This is true. It's confusing, b/c they offer the 3500 disc, and you look at it (as a new-bee) and say, "I can just add that later." But you can't.

    What I've done:
    WTB dual compound grips (lessens vibrations on hands)
    Avenir cushiony type memory foam blah blah saddle (great on the sensitives)
    padded liner shorts (these AND the seat are necessary for me)
    Avenir Thorn Resistant tubes (to save me from "bikers' bane" goat-head vine thorn thingies otherwise some areas would just be 'offlimits')
    Various lights for various conditions.

    The next thing I'm looking at is pedals (probably within the next few weeks)
    and drivetrain (because I just don't like some of the combinations rubbing and skipping action)(BE CAREFUL!)

    I just got my first set of arm pads, but they don't seem to fit right… will probably try something else, and knee shin pads sometime soon.

    lastly the tires, but that's the least important thing on my list right now, so, probably won't bother till the stock ones are worn.

    Helmets, gloves, pack/water/pump/patches/tools is all really personal so I don't see there being too much advice on it aside from reading the relevant sticky in this (beginner) forum.

    Actually, for the pack, specifically the water bladder (on the cambelbak I already owned) I was thinking of changing that out for an Osprey brand one b/c the bladder is attached to a rigid piece of plastic. I think this would distribute the weight over my back a little more evenly than the ballooning out of the cylindrical shape of the current bladder.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by cruc_fauwn View Post
    Avenir cushiony type memory foam blah blah saddle (great on the sensitives)
    padded liner shorts (these AND the seat are necessary for t me)
    You need a different saddle. Your saddle should be comfortable without special padded shorts. If your saddle is uncomfortable in normal shorts, you might think you need more cushioning, but you probably need less. Its somewhat counter-intuitive, but usually slimmer, harder saddles with less cushioning are more comfortable since too much padding and foam and whatnot tend to compress your soft tissue over time. It should be wide enough to support your sit bones (everybody's are different) and have a cutout or similar device to reduce pressure on your perineum. Stretched leather saddles, like Brooks', are the best of all since they actually mold to your sit bones.
    2004 Surly Cross Check
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  25. #25
    mtbrmembernewuserbeginner
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    Oh… okay, I think I replaced my saddle before I got padded liners so I never tried the lines + the harder/normal(?) saddle. I should try the other combination out sometime soon.

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