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I just started riding a few months ago when I got a stock jamis exhile 29er. The last time I rode I had a small fall and I think it bent the rear derailleur on a rock or tree because when I got back on and started to ride it was working fine for a couple minutes then I was climbing a hill and the rear derailleur snagged the chain and rotated from bottom to top snapping the hanger and leaving the derailleur bent beyond salvage. I figure I might as well do a small upgrade (dont want to spend too much). It is an 8/3 gear set up and I want to keep the shifters.

1. What would be a good/better derailleur set?
2. Do I need a different hanger when upgrading to a different rear derailleur?
 

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1. What would be a good/better derailleur set?
2. Do I need a different hanger when upgrading to a different rear derailleur?
With an 8 speed you might be a little limited. What came on the bike?
You can use the same hanger. That said you should replace the hanger. I am guessing when you fell originally you bent the hanger, not the derailleur. Hangers are designed to bend and break off, so you don't damage your as easily.
 

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Vassago Bandersnatch, Motobecane HAL Comp 27.5+, Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 120 26"
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Any 9 speed rear Shimano (with Shimano Shifters) or SRAM (with SRAM shifters) will work with an 8 speed shifter and drivetrain. The front derailleur should remain a 8 speed if possible.

You will need a new hanger to replace your snapped one
 
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