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  1. #1
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    Upgrading components on a 2008 Fuel EX 7

    My 14 year old has taken over my 2008 Fuel EX 7. The idea is that this is probably better than anything we are willing to buy him, new, until he stops growing. The bike is well-maintained. However, he has a serious case of upgradeitis.

    Here are the vitals: https://archive.trekbikes.com/us/en/...uelex7/details

    Upgrading components on a 2008 Fuel EX 7-fuelex7_silverblack.jpg

    We've recently upgraded the horrid Avid Juicy brakes and rotors to XT. (My only regret is having suffered with those too long). He's also put on longer bars with a shorter stem. This better suits his style of riding.

    He hates the triple, and would like to replace it with something like an SLX double ($100). This is a 9-speed bike. Would it work with the SLX crank (marketed as 10/11 speed)? The spacing looks plenty wide enough for the 9-speed chain (I just got one for another bike).

    He also wants a better rear hub/wheel, which I am balking at. He thinks the engagement is too sluggish. I am skeptical, and frankly never noticed any significant limitation, but as he points out, I ride like an old lady. Is there any 26" quick-release rear wheel with a more engaging hub that wouldn't break the bank?

  2. #2
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    I would avoid the new shimano cranks because they use a non-standard bcd, ie not many ring choices. As for the drivetrain, I'd jump to 11 speed 1x setup or at least a 10 speed 1x setup. Your cassette choices at 9spd are limited vs 10/11spd. The 9spd rear derailleur will work with 10spd. SLX 10speed shifters are dirt cheap. Thus what you need is wide ratio cassette which there are many to choose from, like the Sunrace MX3 which can be had as wide as 11-46t. Take your existing cranks and remove the small and large rings keeping the 32t middle ring and you are good to go.

  3. #3
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    What hub do you currently have and what is its engagement?
    I agree with thesmokingman. a 1x might be a good upgrade and would drop a pound.

  4. #4
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    I would convert the crank to SS, and just replace the rear drivetrain. Throw a 32T narrow wide on the middle ring and either nothing or a light bash guard on the large one. 10 speed SLX or XT shifter/derailleur and a 10 speed Sunrace or XT cassette.

    What hub is on there right now? Personally, I'm with you on engagement, no way I would swap a wheel for that complaint on its own.
    WTB: Med Bontrager Ti Lite, PM Me...

  5. #5
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    The hub is whatever stock Bontrager 9-speed compatible came with that wheel-set. I could look for a model number if that would help. I had just assumed I was stuck with a 9-speed cassette unless I got a 10/11-speed compatible hub. (The largest 9-speed cassette I found was 36T, which I guess is why they had a triple crank on it in the first place.) If he gets a new wheel, then a 1 X 10 (or 11) speed would be an easy option.

    There is a limit to how much money he and/or I should put into a 10 year old bike that he will likely outgrow.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by thesmokingman View Post
    I would avoid the new shimano cranks because they use a non-standard bcd, ie not many ring choices. As for the drivetrain, I'd jump to 11 speed 1x setup or at least a 10 speed 1x setup. Your cassette choices at 9spd are limited vs 10/11spd. The 9spd rear derailleur will work with 10spd. SLX 10speed shifters are dirt cheap. Thus what you need is wide ratio cassette which there are many to choose from, like the Sunrace MX3 which can be had as wide as 11-46t. Take your existing cranks and remove the small and large rings keeping the 32t middle ring and you are good to go.
    So much wrong with this I don't even know where to start...no, you can't run a 9/10spd combo willy nilly. Unless you know exactly what you're doing I wouldn't suggest attempting (most things aren't compatible, e.g. shifters/derailleurs).

    Then to suggest going 11spd and using Sunrace over Shimano? There's no point. Shimano cassettes are as cheap or cheaper unless it's wide range 10spd, then maybe.

    And the finale - keeping the 9spd middle ring is just asking for constantly dropped chains. Really, wtf?

    -------
    OP: my personal opinion is let him ride it as is until the stuff gets worn out. Throwing $500 at a 10 year old bike to fix something that's not broken (even one as nice as this) is ludicrous.

    Also, no need for a new hub unless he's doing trials. POE on a trail is more like an ego trip than anything with very few exceptions.

  7. #7
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    I'm pretty much aligned with noapathy; there's nothing really wrong with 3x9 from a performance perspective, and it's easy to make it a 2x9 and gain some ground clearance up front, you will rarely drop the chain up front on a 2x9, - what exactly does he hate about the triple?
    A 36t rear is pretty good sized on a 26" wheel, would that be near equivalent of a 40t rear on a 29? (guessing). 32x36 on a 26" wheel is getting pretty low geared.
    Sluggish engagement?, how long does it take to engage? If it is actually slow and spins a bit before it engages it will likely break very soon.
    I love xt brakes, so that's a good upgrade.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

  8. #8
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    Tell him to stop reading mtbr.com and ride the bike. He'll be able to work in a few years (my son worked as a lifeguard last summer at 15) and have money to pay, or at least chip-in on, upgrades.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Remember, there's always quilting and knitting if pedalling becomes too tough.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    I'm pretty much aligned with noapathy; there's nothing really wrong with 3x9 from a performance perspective, and it's easy to make it a 2x9 and gain some ground clearance up front, you will rarely drop the chain up front on a 2x9, - what exactly does he hate about the triple?
    A 36t rear is pretty good sized on a 26" wheel, would that be near equivalent of a 40t rear on a 29? (guessing). 32x36 on a 26" wheel is getting pretty low geared.
    Sluggish engagement?, how long does it take to engage? If it is actually slow and spins a bit before it engages it will likely break very soon.
    I love xt brakes, so that's a good upgrade.
    Personally I like 2x but kids tend to have a hard time with FD in general. They are also not as strong as adults so they always end up out of range, out of muscle and end up not enjoying it.

  10. #10
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    I tend to agree with noapathy...older bike that's in decent shape I would focus on bang for the buck and keep it simple. My backup (Heckler) was due for a tranny so after I got a new Kona I converted Heckler from 3X9 to 1X9. I spend 90% of my time in middle ring and never use big ring (it was basically a bash guard). All that front derailleur hardware was hardly ever used...there are a few super steep climbs where I dump to granny (22T) but so what. I got a Shimano Zee M640 crankset with BB, 11-34 shimano cassette, 9psd chain, a med cage shimano XT M770 derailleur (mainly because my old one was very tired and worn out) and a Race Face 30T N/W chainring. Found it all for <$200. Existing shifter works fine...all I need now is a bash guard and I'm good to go.

    Keep what you can and only get what's needed to go 1X9. If concerned about lack of low gearing go with 28T or 30T chainring and that will help. Go with a N/W to reduce chance of dropped chains. If replacing rear derailleur, get med cage vs long...some say that helps reduce dropped chains too.
    12 Santa Cruz Heckler
    18 Kona Process 153 AL/DL (27.5)...

  11. #11
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    On my 09 Trance I did a 1x9 conversion back when 1x was starting to get cool. I kept the front 32 tooth chaining and put an inner and outer bashwich setup. They didn't have narrow wide chainrings that I know of, maybe they did but the bashwich keeps the chain on and protects at the same time. Left the rear slx derailleur and 11-34 as is. I just recently put on a Sunrace 11-40 cassette. It doesn't quite shift as nice but it shifts and the 40 is a nice low gear. You can bolt up a 1x11 as long as you go cassette, derailleur, shifter and a narrow/wide chaining up front for best performance. The rear hub accepts up to an 11 speed cassette.

    All that being said, tell him to just ride the bike, it's plenty of bike for a 14year old as is.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by chazpat View Post
    Tell him to stop reading mtbr.com and ride the bike. He'll be able to work in a few years (my son worked as a lifeguard last summer at 15) and have money to pay, or at least chip-in on, upgrades.
    He's in line to do exactly that. (His two older siblings are also life-guards). This is his money he made reffing soccer.

  13. #13
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    Hahaha! That's too funny! Go read the Art's article about gear pull ratios and get back to me with facts and not what passes for them these days.

    For the front, 9/10 speeds mix well enough, but with the rear not so much. Why bother making things more difficult when the whole setup already works? (especially if it's only a couple years till he outgrows the thing)

    Changing gears isn't rocket science, but neither is learning to use what you've got.

    ----

    OP, obviously not my decision and only an opinion. I know when I was that age I just wanted to buy "cool" stuff with my money and had no real concept of saving for the future. Woulda been nice not to have to work all through college, but c'est la vie.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
    He's in line to do exactly that. (His two older siblings are also life-guards). This is his money he made reffing soccer.
    My wife signed our son up for the course over spring break and it ended up being a really good thing. He was able to find a good job close enough that he could ride his bike (actually, it was one of my bikes) to it and it paid more the minimum wage. But now he has grown taller than me and really is too tall for my bikes. I bought him an old Lemond for Christmas as he seems to like road biking more, but I'm still trying to figure out what to do about a mountain bike for him. So maybe try to stick to new parts that could be moved to a new frame once he grows.


    Quote Originally Posted by noapathy View Post

    OP, obviously not my decision and only an opinion. I know when I was that age I just wanted to buy "cool" stuff with my money and had no real concept of saving for the future.
    That's what it sounds like to me. Of course, that still applies to a lot of us here!
    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Remember, there's always quilting and knitting if pedalling becomes too tough.

  15. #15
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    I would buy a cheap bash guard an install it in place of the third ring. They are sized according to the ring underneath. If you don't need a brand name they can be had for $25, but you might need bolts, so call it $30. This will achieve two things. One, your kid will be less likely to get a chaining tattoo, and it will look a little more like the more recently popular 1x stuff now. Adjust the limits on the FD, and you are good to go.

    If you want to do more on the cheap, find a 32 middle ring and a 11-36 speed cassette (if not already). You may as well throw in a new chain to wear into the new cassette. With a little shopping around you could do this for $60.

    Once your kid can complete nearly all of his toughest rides off road without using the small ring he is ready for 1X. You could take him somewhere on a few rides with more epic climbs to show him the value of 2X still.

    I agree that kids don't generally do well with the FD. However, running out of gears sucks. And most kids will bail on the hills rather than mash the pedals. Walking is a really hard way to learn to climb. Riding an "unfashionable" 2X (or 3) and grinding up the hill is much better for skills when you don't have the latest and greatest wide range 1x. The wide range 1X can wait until everything is shot and needs replacement anyway, or the new bike comes someday.

    For the record, I would have given my left arm to have a bike as nice as that Fuel when I was a kid. You have a lucky boy.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by chazpat View Post
    That's what it sounds like to me. Of course, that still applies to a lot of us here!
    Shhhh...don't tell the wife (how many times have we heard that?).

  17. #17
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    You don't need a QR rear hub if you don't want one. All 135mm rear ends will accept a 10mm through axle which will provide the same amount of rigidity as a 12x142 axle. I still have an old 10mm axle I ran back before through axles hit the main stream. All you need is the axle and a 135x10mm hub. You might find something used for cheap?

    Changing components only goes so far, geo is what matters. Best thing you can do is buy an angle set, I believe you have a tapered head tube. If you don't you can buy offset bushings which will lower the BB some too.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by adaycj View Post
    I agree that kids don't generally do well with the FD. However, running out of gears sucks. And most kids will bail on the hills rather than mash the pedals. Walking is a really hard way to learn to climb. Riding an "unfashionable" 2X (or 3) and grinding up the hill is much better for skills when you don't have the latest and greatest wide range 1x. The wide range 1X can wait until everything is shot and needs replacement anyway, or the new bike comes someday.
    The problem with FD is that kids have a hard enough time early on just absorbing everything, skills, and dealing with the pain so requiring or mixing in the ability to time gear changes before they actually need it with a 3x is a big ask. 2x is still tough for them.

    Yesterday I finally saw pics of my 14yr old climbing Dreaded Hill. He was out of gearing and he's got 11-42t/32t because he was walking it up. I've asked many times before to let me know when he's out of gearing and every time he says he's good. Obviously he didn't make the connection lol. I'm going to swap my 11-50t cassette over to test.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by adaycj View Post
    I would buy a cheap bash guard an install it in place of the third ring. They are sized according to the ring underneath. If you don't need a brand name they can be had for $25, but you might need bolts, so call it $30. This will achieve two things. One, your kid will be less likely to get a chaining tattoo, and it will look a little more like the more recently popular 1x stuff now. Adjust the limits on the FD, and you are good to go.

    If you want to do more on the cheap, find a 32 middle ring and a 11-36 speed cassette (if not already). You may as well throw in a new chain to wear into the new cassette. With a little shopping around you could do this for $60.

    Once your kid can complete nearly all of his toughest rides off road without using the small ring he is ready for 1X. You could take him somewhere on a few rides with more epic climbs to show him the value of 2X still.

    I agree that kids don't generally do well with the FD. However, running out of gears sucks. And most kids will bail on the hills rather than mash the pedals. Walking is a really hard way to learn to climb. Riding an "unfashionable" 2X (or 3) and grinding up the hill is much better for skills when you don't have the latest and greatest wide range 1x. The wide range 1X can wait until everything is shot and needs replacement anyway, or the new bike comes someday.

    For the record, I would have given my left arm to have a bike as nice as that Fuel when I was a kid. You have a lucky boy.
    Thanks. This is great advice. (However, we wax our chains.) I think all of our rides around here (Santa Cruz mountains) are "epic" climbs. Even my road bike has an 11-36T cassette and a 46/30T crank.

  20. #20
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    Replace the big ring w/ a bashguard if it doesnít get used. Use the Limit screw to prevent overshifting into big ring. Maybe drop a link in the chain if it allows the length to do so.

    How much is saved already? Tell him to keep saving and offer to match his money (or add whatever$) in a year or two when itís new bike time. This is what Iíd do for my kid.

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