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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So after searching and learning about the mountain bike culture, I find this common idea all the time. If you are looking to upgrade a piece of your bike, most people will say just buy a new bike with those piece on it. So I'm wondering when the end is? Like you buy a $2k bike and decide later you want to upgrade the fork, is it still the same mindset? or is it only with the lower range of bikes that people feel that way?
 

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Resident Gear Head
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Upgrades and changes can take place on any bike no matter the cost. It is true that a $6000+ bike will have top tier componants but there is still room to upgrade especially as technologies advance year after year.

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So after searching and learning about the mountain bike culture, I find this common idea all the time. If you are looking to upgrade a piece of your bike, most people will say just buy a new bike with those piece on it. So I'm wondering when the end is? Like you buy a $2k bike and decide later you want to upgrade the fork, is it still the same mindset? or is it only with the lower range of bikes that people feel that way?
Often times that is in regards to someone saying they want to by brand-X bike and then will upgrade the shock or wheels later and the resulting advice is to just save money so you can just buy the model with the upgraded component because it will usually be a much better deal and the bike will be much better equipped than the lower lever bike updated with a new fork/wheel/etc.

However if you have a bike you really like, you have used it for awhile and then want to upgrade that is totally worth it. Just don't buy a bike with the immediate intention of upgrading as it will always be a better deal if you just save up more money to buy what you want.

I personally now have reached the point where i just buy a frame and add things as needed, bringing over things I like from my previous bike and buying new stuff where replacements are needed.
 

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29ers Forever
2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude A70
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I like upgrading. That whole custom feel is plain awesome to me. But I can see what you are saying about "buy new bike instead of upgrading old one", to an extent. On bikes that have poor frames, like the Trek 820, it would make more sense to buy a $1500 Trek Superfly hardtail instead, and while the Trek will be on the lower end, it will still be 200% better than the 820. Then over time as you start to find faults with the Superfly, you can upgrade that. It will still have better components all-round, and a better frame.
I hope that makes sense.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
sounds good, it's just discouraging I guess. I got into MTB around 3 years ago and got my entry level bike, and everyone got of snobbed me off at LBS and trails. So I fell out of it. Recently tried to get back into it and coming in to the same thing. I haven't had a time when I had $1k to drop on something like a bike at any time. And when I get that much money, there are so many other life important things I need it for. I just feel like there has to be a group like me. That want to be part of the game but don't have the money for the great gear.
 

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I'm still on the frame of my first bike. I can't say that anyone has looked down on me for it. Of course the frame and bars are the only thing left from the original bike.
I say ride what you've got. When you have a need to upgrade do it. Whether that need is due to component failure or you get really into riding and want a performance upgrade. I started just upgrading if I broke something.
Would I like a new bike? YEAH!
Do I need one? NO.
I'm saving up and riding all I can. The more I ride and the faster/better I get the more I know what I want in my next bike.
Someone being a bike snob? Just outride them and see what they say.

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EMBA MTB Lead Instructor
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It's more personal preference. I have a 2011 Rumblefish that I have yet to find anything to match the fit for me. So I upgrade when I reach the limits of the components themselves. Sometimes its cheaper to upgrade the bike itself and get completely better components altogether.
 

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sounds good, it's just discouraging I guess. I got into MTB around 3 years ago and got my entry level bike, and everyone got of snobbed me off at LBS and trails. So I fell out of it. Recently tried to get back into it and coming in to the same thing. I haven't had a time when I had $1k to drop on something like a bike at any time. And when I get that much money, there are so many other life important things I need it for. I just feel like there has to be a group like me. That want to be part of the game but don't have the money for the great gear.
The only thing that you should need to have fun on a mountain bike is a mountain bike. I ride nothing special now, have had epic bikes in the past but really it is all about riding for me. Look for a better group of riders to ride with, sounds like the main source of your problem is bad mountain bikers. They are out there, try the local forums to see if you can find a good group. Just having the MTBR connection is an instant icebreaker and next thing you know you'll be riding with like minded individuals who are out to just ride.
 

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Fat-tired Roadie
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BSNYC is pretty funny about "bike culture." IMHO, bike culture is a hollow shell. Much better to have cycling friends. Or, just go ride.

Cycling is, and always has been, a gear sport. There's no escaping it: if you're not riding a bike, you're not cycling, period. People can run without shoes and swim naked, and basic running shoes or a speedo are quite cheap. But you (almost, I had a friend who rode barefoot) have to have shoes before you can ride a bike, and then you still need the bike. Which costs an order of magnitude more than a pair of shoes.

That does make things trickier for those of us just getting by. I struggled for years keeping my Hardrock rolling, and I had to put it out of my mind when I went to races and saw what everyone else had. If nothing else, I think it pushed me to develop a more formed idea of what the minimum is, what does and doesn't make a big difference in performance, and how to really minimize COO, while still having a fun, reliable ride. Ironically, I've found racers to be much more welcoming a group than many club groups. The competition is right there in the open.

I'm of two minds about the upgradeitis thing. My Hardrock now has its original seat post and that's it. If I took the hookups I gained after I started racing and spent the same amount of money I spent on that bike over time, or bought a used bike for the same amount of money, I'd have done quite a lot better. But I was in a hurry when I bought the bike, it did get me back into MTB, and it's now a fun and reliable bike. So I don't think I've done so badly with it.

I think a lot of people's upgrades are pretty wasteful, and often pointless. They throw away a component that does a job and replace it with something more expensive that also does that job. Maybe it does it marginally better, maybe it's lighter, maybe it adds one more cog. Whatever, I don't care, the previous part did its job. My Specialized will stay 3x9 until I can't get parts or the big ring starts skipping.

A lot of people's upgrades are way too incremental: they replace the OEM crappy fork with an aftermarket crappy fork. The new fork may suck, but the person who bought it has 200 perfectly good dollars fewer.

A lot of people's upgrades don't really take the context of the rest of the bike into consideration. They get some shiny new shifters or a derailleur, but the rest of the drivetrain is all rivets and sheet metal and Tourney. Or they bolt a fancy drivetrain onto a bike with a pogo stick for a fork. So the bike still doesn't ride all that great, but the person has however many dollars fewer.

A lot of people are too attached to their perceived need for some of the new technologies to be critical of parts executed so badly they make the ride worse. I'm looking at the lowest-end forks and disc brakes in particular. But those still sell bikes that rigid and V-brakes probably couldn't.

I think there are a couple ways out of this. First and foremost, just ask yourself how your bike is actually getting in your way. If it goes, stops, shifts, fits you well, and the suspension gives you a smoother ride and better tracking than a rigid fork would, what do you think you can gain from a more expensive bike? If your bike really is doing something to get in the way of this, take some time to really understand the problem. A lot of the time, it really just comes down to tuning. I have a shiny new bike now and it is faster, but I've only been shaving little slivers off my recorded times different places. Nothing like the swing in times my fitness level can create.

Next, try to get a sense of how far up the totem pole you really have to climb to get reliable function. I love Deore for this. Alivio's not bad, but if I'm committed to aftermarket anyway, the swing in price isn't that big. I hear SRAM X5 fits in at about the same level, but I don't know those parts well enough to comment. Some people will tell you you need XT, XTR, X.9, etc. But you know what they say about opinions. My Hardrock has a blend of old LX, 9-speed SLX, and a Deore Shadow rear derailleur. It works together very nicely and it's easy to maintain. Nice. I kept the old crank until I wore out the first ring and the old rear derailleur until I fell on it, however. They worked fine before those events.

Finally, sports equipment drops value really fast, about like cars bought new. So if you don't have the dollars for something that you've put a little thought into and expect to make a real difference in your ride, don't be afraid to leverage other people's money. BSNYC observes that some people are really bicycle collectors who ride their collectibles every now and then. The secondary market can be a great source for everything but the newest (flakiest!) parts. Take a little time to educate yourself about how the different parts fit together before you bid/email the CL seller/whatever. My Hardrock's shifters and fork were bro-deals from teammates and the saddle was EBay, a same-model replacement for one I bought secondhand and later broke in a fall.

Bottom line: does your bike work? Great, you're not missing much; go ride with mountain bikers and not mountain bike collectors. If not, really educate yourself about the problem before blindly throwing parts at the bike. At their worst, the toys can really obfuscate this sport.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
BSNYC is pretty funny about "bike culture." IMHO, bike culture is a hollow shell. Much better to have cycling friends. Or, just go ride.

Cycling is, and always has been, a gear sport. There's no escaping it: if you're not riding a bike, you're not cycling, period. People can run without shoes and swim naked, and basic running shoes or a speedo are quite cheap. But you (almost, I had a friend who rode barefoot) have to have shoes before you can ride a bike, and then you still need the bike. Which costs an order of magnitude more than a pair of shoes.

That does make things trickier for those of us just getting by. I struggled for years keeping my Hardrock rolling, and I had to put it out of my mind when I went to races and saw what everyone else had. If nothing else, I think it pushed me to develop a more formed idea of what the minimum is, what does and doesn't make a big difference in performance, and how to really minimize COO, while still having a fun, reliable ride. Ironically, I've found racers to be much more welcoming a group than many club groups. The competition is right there in the open.

I'm of two minds about the upgradeitis thing. My Hardrock now has its original seat post and that's it. If I took the hookups I gained after I started racing and spent the same amount of money I spent on that bike over time, or bought a used bike for the same amount of money, I'd have done quite a lot better. But I was in a hurry when I bought the bike, it did get me back into MTB, and it's now a fun and reliable bike. So I don't think I've done so badly with it.

I think a lot of people's upgrades are pretty wasteful, and often pointless. They throw away a component that does a job and replace it with something more expensive that also does that job. Maybe it does it marginally better, maybe it's lighter, maybe it adds one more cog. Whatever, I don't care, the previous part did its job. My Specialized will stay 3x9 until I can't get parts or the big ring starts skipping.

A lot of people's upgrades are way too incremental: they replace the OEM crappy fork with an aftermarket crappy fork. The new fork may suck, but the person who bought it has 200 perfectly good dollars fewer.

A lot of people's upgrades don't really take the context of the rest of the bike into consideration. They get some shiny new shifters or a derailleur, but the rest of the drivetrain is all rivets and sheet metal and Tourney. Or they bolt a fancy drivetrain onto a bike with a pogo stick for a fork. So the bike still doesn't ride all that great, but the person has however many dollars fewer.

A lot of people are too attached to their perceived need for some of the new technologies to be critical of parts executed so badly they make the ride worse. I'm looking at the lowest-end forks and disc brakes in particular. But those still sell bikes that rigid and V-brakes probably couldn't.

I think there are a couple ways out of this. First and foremost, just ask yourself how your bike is actually getting in your way. If it goes, stops, shifts, fits you well, and the suspension gives you a smoother ride and better tracking than a rigid fork would, what do you think you can gain from a more expensive bike? If your bike really is doing something to get in the way of this, take some time to really understand the problem. A lot of the time, it really just comes down to tuning. I have a shiny new bike now and it is faster, but I've only been shaving little slivers off my recorded times different places. Nothing like the swing in times my fitness level can create.

Next, try to get a sense of how far up the totem pole you really have to climb to get reliable function. I love Deore for this. Alivio's not bad, but if I'm committed to aftermarket anyway, the swing in price isn't that big. I hear SRAM X5 fits in at about the same level, but I don't know those parts well enough to comment. Some people will tell you you need XT, XTR, X.9, etc. But you know what they say about opinions. My Hardrock has a blend of old LX, 9-speed SLX, and a Deore Shadow rear derailleur. It works together very nicely and it's easy to maintain. Nice. I kept the old crank until I wore out the first ring and the old rear derailleur until I fell on it, however. They worked fine before those events.

Finally, sports equipment drops value really fast, about like cars bought new. So if you don't have the dollars for something that you've put a little thought into and expect to make a real difference in your ride, don't be afraid to leverage other people's money. BSNYC observes that some people are really bicycle collectors who ride their collectibles every now and then. The secondary market can be a great source for everything but the newest (flakiest!) parts. Take a little time to educate yourself about how the different parts fit together before you bid/email the CL seller/whatever. My Hardrock's shifters and fork were bro-deals from teammates and the saddle was EBay, a same-model replacement for one I bought secondhand and later broke in a fall.

Bottom line: does your bike work? Great, you're not missing much; go ride with mountain bikers and not mountain bike collectors. If not, really educate yourself about the problem before blindly throwing parts at the bike. At their worst, the toys can really obfuscate this sport.
Really cool post. Your right about upgrades, I have to evaluate what is really needed. That's when I got so discouraged. Going into a LBS or looking online and trying to get answers on parts, and people just telling me well get this bike instead. I get that, if I get the new bike that's higher level, I get the whole thing. But I don't need the whole thing. I haven't had one problem with my riding style with my entry level gears/brakes/frame. So why would I technically need all those are parts that are one step up and not get the one part i need.
Alot of this is coming from being a car guy also. If you want to change an exhaust, no ones going to tell you to buy a new car. That's what I don't get with bikes.
 

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If you're lbs is giving you **** for what you have, find a new lbs man. I keep my bike under 28lbs and I upgrade as **** breaks but besides that, I'm not into upgrading for the sake of upgrading.

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Fat-tired Roadie
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I'm not much of a car person. I can figure out that I've sheared off the flange between the two mufflers on mine, and I know the belts shouldn't squeal the way they are lately. But I dropped the car at the mechanic. I'm really not set up to do that kind of work.

I'd observe that a muffler costs much less than a complete car. A suspension fork can easily cost as much as an inexpensive bicycle.

Another facet is that a lot of people like to do projects for the sake of doing them. Nothing wrong with that, and I enjoy the occasional major revision on one of my bikes too. You just need to consider the source when you look for information on bikes on the 'net.

I learned a lot on sheldonbrown.com. Sheldon Brown was more of a touring cyclist, but suspension and disc brakes are really the only thing that's different on a MTB. His site is a great source of technical information that's not terribly impressed by the newest gadgetry. It's also a good source for some of the information you may need to help answer cross-compatibility questions.
 

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Yeah!
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tl;dr

Ignore snobbery, it never changes. I received a smart-ass "Nice Bike" as I'm rolling down a trail on my brand new Cannondale F5 with eleven boys and two other adults from my scout troop in tow. I'm sure the small group of 20-somethings with $2500 rides were looking at my 350Lb butt and thinking I'd be selling the bike in weeks. I don't, and never will care about people like that. Enjoying the **** out of your ride, ignore the asshats.

At the end of the day, most want to help people avoid making a regretful decision regarding their ride. There comes a point when upgrading components on a given bike is going to be more costly than getting a new bike because of the high retail cost of individual components. It is easy to pay double to triple the cost for a given component that what it costs on a new bike. Due to this, when someone is posting about wanting a sweet ride, and a responder notices that their bike came with not even trail ready components, knowing that, to have a sweet ride is going to require they replace everything, and maybe even the frame, yeah, that's when it's time to sell the bike and put the proceeds towards a new ride.

So, how do you know when to follow this advice? Really comes down to how much you like what you've got. If you think the bike works great for you, but maybe the fork is a bit too harsh... swap out the fork. If, however, you feel the rear derailler shifts slow, the front derailler drifts, the brakes are weak, the seat is uncomfortable... but the pedals are great... save the pedals for your new bike.
 

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Lots of great advice. Andrew in particular nails it IMO.

"Mountain bike culture" is BS. Nobody has any more say on how it's supposed to be enjoyed than you do, and equipment doesn't mean jack **** when it comes to who's a 'real' mountain biker. Anybody can swipe a credit card. After a lot of years of riding, I still get 'that look' sometimes from people on fancy new bikes when they see my 8 speed drivetrain, old t-shirt, lack of paint, and 26" tubed wheels. Often enough, it's while they're riding a trail that I helped build. These are the often same guys that will ride right by someone doing trailwork without even a 'thanks', or abandon slow riders on group rides; they're commonly referred to by those in the know as 'douchebags'. Don't strive to become more like them; create your own scene.
 

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EAT MORE GRIME
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it is all BS. if you have a bike that works, ride that bike till the frame busts or otherwise becomes unridable.

no one needs upgrades, ever. perhaps if you seek a certain type of bike or component fine,

but chasing 'the latest and greatest' is a suckers game. not needed unless you think someone cares what you ride and worry about it
 

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I haven't had a time when I had $1k to drop on something like a bike at any time. And when I get that much money, there are so many other life important things I need it for. I just feel like there has to be a group like me. That want to be part of the game but don't have the money for the great gear.
I'm with ya man, I'd totally ride with you if we were near each other. I think spending 1-2K on a nice (or decent?) bike is a heck of a lot. I ride alone most of the time so I don't feel like I'm lagging behind or slowing anyone down, it's a lot of fun. I do like to do downhill runs on my hardtail and if anyone gets mad at me for slowing them down I'll give them the finger and tell them to buy me a $2,000 bike.

Upgrading my front suspension from a Suntour XCM to a Suntour Raidon ($200) has made a big difference. Next I'm going to upgrade my brakes and I'll be set until I have an income that justifies spending thousands on a bicycle.
 

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Andrew nailed it. You've gotta consider what you actually have and consider what you want to do with it.

If you have a quality frame, it may be worth throwing more money into upgrades. If you have a cheap frame, it may not be worth upgrading as much. There's a pretty strong emotional component, too. If you LOVE a bike, it's going to be worth more to you than a whole new bike that you may or may not like. If you hate a bike, it's probably not worth putting much money into for upgrades.

It's kinda ridiculous to take a $500 bike and spend $1,000 on a new fork for it. Sure the fork will be awesome, but the frame will still be a tank. I suppose if you plan on upgrading the frame, too, it might be okay. But with all the different standards on certain things these days, there's not a lot you can count on swapping to a new frame if you change a lot.

Like me for example - I ride an 11 year old full suspension 26" wheeled 9 speed bike. I upgrade stuff as it wears out, but it's going to get tougher and tougher to find new 9spd quality drivetrain parts. If I keep the bike too much longer, I'll have to start downgrading just to keep it running. Tires aren't a problem right now, but depending on what happens with the wheel market, my selection may start getting smaller. Forks, wheels, and axles are another trouble spot. Tapered steerers, through axles, wheel sizes are going to make it harder and harder to find replacements if I break something in the future. 2015 XTR wheels will be 29" or 27.5" only. That will start to trickle down over time, too.

So my bike is/was pretty nice. I've probably spent over $3000 on it in the original purchase price plus new parts since I've owned it. My old disc brakes wore out this winter and I put new SLX brakes on it. I intentionally avoided buying anything better because of the age of the bike and because I decided that an upgrade of that level just wasn't worth it for that bike.

I am trying to plan out a new bike purchase to replace it. I will part it out and sell probably most of the parts. Some of them I will keep because I'd still use them (for example, the 9spd rear derailleur would work as a spare for my commuter, and SLX hydro brakes are still pretty damn good), but probably not the wheelset, crankset, or fork. Whether I keep the seatpost, stem, handlebars, etc will depend on what I wind up getting.

You have to look at each proposed upgrade individually to decide if it's worth it for the bike you have. Gotta look at what you have first and try to be as objective as possible about whether a particular upgrade would be a wise expense.

To avoid the "too incremental" upgrade Andrew mentioned, you have to try to tease out whether the spec differences between what you have and what you want will make any real differences in performance FOR YOU. I tell customers a lot (I work in a bike shop) that a rider who has a lot of saddle time on different parts may be able to tell the difference between two incrementally different parts, but a rider who is newer probably won't. Take the differences between SLX and XT (anything, really). First, find some bikes that use those parts if you can, and test ride them. Try to determine if you actually can tell a difference. Another thing to keep in mind is that some differences won't be apparent until you're really pushing the component hard, or when you take long term use into account. Neither of which will you be able to tell on a test ride.

To avoid the "overboard" upgrades, there's no hard and fast rule. For me, if an individual component would cost more than the entire bike did brand new, it's PROBABLY not worth it. There are a few exceptions, I suppose. Good forks are just flat expensive. I can't see myself EVER spending $2,000 on a new fork, which would put it above the cost of even quite a few high end frames. But I guess some people would really put that kind of fork to good use and it might be worth it to them. It's also important to look at the rest of the bike. If your bike came with an Alivio drivetrain, throwing on a couple XTR flashy bits is kinda pointless because the entry level stuff you DIDN'T upgrade will still hold the bike back.

For me, the highest level components are just unnecessary. I can tell a difference in performance most of the time, but that difference doesn't make a damn bit of difference in my riding most of the time. My bike came with an XTR rear derailleur. It was nice, it worked well, and was cool. But when it wore out and stopped working well, a new XTR was just too damn expensive. I bought a 9spd XT derailleur that had been sitting on the shop's shelf for several years (the new stuff is all 10spd anyway) and negotiated a small discount on the part. Saved a ton of money and still got a derailleur that works perfectly well. I'd have bought a 9spd SLX if the shop had one.

Coming at it from an entry level standpoint, replacement of components tends to be a higher proportion of the overall cost of the bike if something breaks or wears out. Add to that the fact that entry level components tend to be less durable and frequently have shorter service intervals that new riders are ill-equipped to handle on their own, and you'll find that an entry level bike costs more than you expect to keep rolling. It's not a knock against you or your bike, it's just the way it is. Midrange stuff tends to be the best value. If you want to do an upgrade, upgrading to solid midrange gear is usually not a bad choice. You get longer service intervals with a modest cost of replacement and service. The longer service intervals space out those expenses. High end stuff usually has longer service intervals, too, but the cost of replacement can be astronomical (consider an XX1 cassette - a high end wear item, with a replacement cost in excess of $400, while a 10spd XT cassette still costs less than $100 and a 10spd SLX can be had for less than $50) so the really high end stuff also tends to be a poor value for riders on a budget.
 

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Rollin' a fatty
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Hate it when I'm at the trail head and people just look at the bike and say blah... Mtb bike snobs are just as bad as the road bike snobs. If your bike is not up to their standards or don't like the way you dress they don't even talk to you; that also happens at the shops too, ignore it.

My bike is 3 y/o, paid $975 for it and have upgraded some stuff just because I already had the parts, for cosmetic reasons and wear and tear. The only things OE on my bike are the frame, wheels, tires, brakes, rotors, shifters and derailleurs. It has SRAM X5 and Root brakes, may upgrade to something better when it breaks or wears out, the fork was another story; the OE fork was ok for dirt paths and some singletrack but sucked on rooty, rocky trails which is what I most ride. Considered several forks and noticed that the "nice" ones cost was about or more than the whole bike, no way I'll spend that much, got a Reba on eBay for a lot less and I'm pretty happy with it but it was about half the cost of the whole bike.

You can upgrade any bike, the question is how much are you willing to spend wisely. For an entry level bike upgrading to XT or XTR is a waste of money, SLX or even Deore are great upgrades, the same applies for SRAM, why get the latest XX or X0 when the X5 or X7 works just as well. Upgrade smartly and you'll love your ride.

Don't let the bike snobs ruin your fun.
 
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