what's the model #?
for 5-arm--- xt m730 was 110/74 bcd, I believe the m737 model's on (circa '94) were compact (94/58). then the 4 arms came in and are all the same BCD (for xt anyway... xtr had some oddball bcd in there at some pt). # of teeth is stamped on your current rings, if those work for ya, stick with it. your rings maybe stamped with a BCD as well (or if they say something like hyperdrive c, that equals compact.
sheldon's site will tell ya how to measure IIRC.
as for rings, you can find 'em pretty cheap on epay- otherwise I've often gone with closeout rings from places like cambriabike, universal, etc... I find shimano & raceface rings shift best for that era of parts. sometimes you can find new old stock (NOS) cranksets for cheaper than a set of rings.
For longevity, get steel middle & granny rings.
otherwise, ramps & pins aid in shifting, but aren't necessary if you've got decent technique. Also, 9spd rings will work fine with 8spd, so don't worry about that issue.
Read the sheldonbrown.com link, then you'll know that bcd is bolt circle diameter; logbiter did remember correctly about it also showing you how to measure your bcd (IIRC is shorthand for if I recall correctly). Changing rings is easy, although you'll need to be able to remove your crankset as well so it's a matter of having the tools, too; the chainrings use a 5mm allen wrench and possibly a chainring bolt tool or large flat bladed screwdriver, your crankset depends on the model number of your xt crank. Yes, if your chainrings are worn you probably need a new chain and possibly rear cogs as well...
ok, problem solved. thanks for the responses. ive decided to ditch the 10 year old bottom bracket, crankset, cassette, and chain and get new everything. after i priced replacement rings, new cassette, and chain the difference in price wasnt but about 50 bones so i said why not. im not going with anything fancy. bottom of the line truvativ stuff. its what my LBS suggested for the amount of riding i do.
on another note, guy at the LBS thinks my bike is either an old bontrager privateeer or a schwin homegrown. the mystery continues.....
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