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Ive only just gotten into mountain biking and I have a 2015 Trek Marlin 5 that I absolutely love, mostly because of the color scheme. Being that a few of my other hobbies include off-roading and firearms, I'm certainly the type of individual that likes to tinker, build, and customize. While most of my discussions with other, more experienced mountain bikers are positive and have helped me in many ways, one annoying phrase that I keep hearing whenever I ask about potential upgrades is "just buy a better bike." This drives me up a wall. Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the logic. But what I think others fail to realize is that I would much rather build something uniquely mine than simply buy a stock bike. Obviously, the best part of mountain biking is the ride. But I find building, improving, and customizing my bike to be a close second. Now, I'm not foolish enough to think I can turn my marlin 5 into a top tier hardtail with a few upgrades, but that won't stop me from making improvements, tailoring it for my wants/needs, and making it look better than it already does. That said, I definitely see myself buying a newer, better, full-suspension bike in the not-to-distant future, but not before I've improved my skill set and earned my stripes on a hardtail. Until then, I'm having fun sinking my teeth into my Trek and making it uniquely awesome. (especially right now since I've got a broken hand and can't ride for the next two months)

Does anyone else get annoyed at the off-putting and dismissive response?

In this regard, of course I'm planning some changes and upgrades to my bike. Those include a wider handlebar, shorter stem, hydrolic brakes, thumb shifters, tires (maybe tubeless one day but tubed for now), seat post (former owner cut the stock seatpost pretty short), saddle, pedals, maybe a new front fork with longer travel, better rear derailleur, and maybe (big maybe) a 1x conversion. Yes I know that's gunna take strategic planning and a lot of money for an otherwise budget/beginner bike, but again, I'm a firm believer in Built > Bought.

Let me know what yall think about the topic.
 

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Always in the wrong gear
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"Just buy a new bike"

Ultimately, it's your bike and your dollars, so you do whatever you want with both.

When you seek advice on a public forum you're going to have to expect a certain amount of differing opinion. Ranting about how you didn't get the answer you wanted isn't going to change the advice given. Most, of not all of us here at one time were in this same position, and either reached out for help, or walked the road you are and learned the hard way, upgrading a cheap bike and taking a huge hit when it was sold, never having been satisfied with the product of the work done.

Here's the nutshell rundown of why you keep getting the 'just buy a better bike' advice:

Your frame lacks many of the necessary elements to make it worthwhile to invest in. It was a cheap entry-level frame to start with.
It isn't the amount of money that you're going to sink into the bike, we all know every bike is a money-pit. It's that there's non-negotiable things that aren't going to meet your demands in a few months, with more experience and skill.
A perfect example is the rear wheel issue from your other thread- you can spend 50% of what that bike cost new to upgrade the rear wheel and have a hub that will accept a 10,11 or 12 speed cassette, but in the end your frame will dictate that you will be using a 135 mm quick release skewer to hold the wheel on. While this may not be important to you today, it will likely matter to you in the future. Through axle wheels have become the standard, be it 142, 148 or 157 mm for good reason. They are better in every way. A Marlin frame will never accept a through-axle wheel.
It is likely, that the 135mm hub spacing also means the chainstays are very narrow, as the bike comes with 2.20 width tires. This means larger, more aggressive, high performance 2.35 and 2.4 tires *might* not even fit in the frame. 2.5 and 2.6 tires that are gaining popularity very quickly are virtually guaranteed to not fit in any way.

I looked at Trek's product page for the Marlin, it wasn't clear if the headtube is 'tapered' or not. It only lists the fork as 1 1/8" steerer. If it a straight steerer head tube not, tapered from 1 1/4 at the base to 1 1/8 at the top, this will severely limit the number of front forks you can install to replace what's on there now. Straight steerer forks have been relegated to fitness bikes and commuting for a while. Even a quality road bike has a tapered steerer.

As an axiom: you can put a Corvette motor in a Honda Civic, but it's always gonna handle like a Civic. You might really like how it handles now, because you've never driven a corvette. But when you do, you'll realize that what you're missing. No amount of anything will make your Civic handle better than it does.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Personally if I was going to start making modifications/build up/personalize a bike (which I generally always do as well) then I would at least recommend starting with a modern frame that isn't already limited/out of date. Like Impetus mentioned above, thru axles and boost spacing are almost a must these days if you want to experience any real improvement from upgrades.
That said, don't let anybody tell you how to spend your money if it makes you happy! No matter what you post on a public forum you will ALWAYS get someone who feels inclined to disagree with you. At the end of the day does it really matter? I've found that most forums require you to weed out 98% of the garbage to find 2% helpful info pretty well regardless of the topic.
 

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People can be dicks when it comes to advice which is further exacerbated by the anonymity that the Internet provides. I've seen people show up for their first ever group ride only to have roadies nitpick every aspect of their bike apart. All that out of the way...

There is a constructive way of saying that the frame that you have does not provide an ideal platform for upgrading. Saying "Buy a new bike" is the dickish way of doing it.

I was in the same boat as you are. Having been a road rider most of my cycling life, my first mountain bike was a Giant Talon 5 which is about as low end as one can get. With a 3X8 drive train, it rode well and stopped when I needed it to, but it was not a good frame to upgrade. QR wheels and somewhat heavy. I gave it to a friend who wanted a bike for his son. The stipulation was that it can never be sold.

At the same time as this, I was building up a bikepacking bike for riding the Tour Divide. I picked up a Foundry Broadaxe frame (carbon with 12x142 TA) and built from there. I do all of my own bike work including builds. It is a great feeling to take a pile of parts and put them together into a ride able bicycle. I might pay a bit more for the end product, but I get to choose exactly what I have in it.

FWIW. I've never owned a FS bike and never will. Too much weight and complexity IMHO.

Here are my last 3 builds. Each has exactly the components that I wanted in them.





 

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"just buy a new bike" is the most sound advice anyone can give you. Riding that bike into the ground ND replacing inexpensive parts here and there is wise, but spending significant amounts of money "upgrading" it because the color scheme tickles your fancy is a waste of money. If that's not the answer that validates what you wanted to hear, don't ask for advice.

Is your bike a fashion accessory?
 

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Wanna ride bikes?
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Obviously, the best part of mountain biking is the ride. But I find building, improving, and customizing my bike to be a close second.
Agreed, function over form. Sounds like you're pretty focused on how the bike looks. You "absolutely love it because of the colors".

I'm all for making a bike look good but it has to be fun and durable first.

In this regard, of course I'm planning some changes and upgrades to my bike. Those include a wider handlebar, shorter stem, hydrolic brakes, thumb shifters, tires (maybe tubeless one day but tubed for now), seat post (former owner cut the stock seatpost pretty short), saddle, pedals, maybe a new front fork with longer travel, better rear derailleur, and maybe (big maybe) a 1x conversion. Yes I know that's gunna take strategic planning and a lot of money for an otherwise budget/beginner bike, but again, I'm a firm believer in Built > Bought.
So basically you're keeping the frame and spending a lot of time and money "upgrading" a bike that probably isn't worth it. I think your friends are right, there are better ways to spend your money and it should start with a better foundation. The frame is the most important part of my bikes.

To a degree it depends on where/how you ride and what your goals are. If you are a more casual rider and dressing up your bike is fun for you then go for it. There's nothing wrong with that. But like you pointed out, no amount of money will make it a "top tier" hardtail.

Before you dump a bunch of money in the Trek, I'd demo some other bikes to see if more modern geometry interests you. Borrow a friends bike, find some demo's, etc. If you get back on your bike and you're completely satisfied with it then you can justify the investment. Just recognize that adding all those upgrades is not going to significantly increase the value of the bike, it's pretty much money down the drain.
 

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Cycologist
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My main bike is what many would consider an outdated entry level full suspension, a 2014 SC Superlight 29. MSRP was $2000 I think. It is non-boost and quick release, old geometry and still 3x10 and with tubes. None of this has kept me from being able to keep up with people I ride with, I'm often waiting for them despite them being on newer and much more expensive bikes. And more importantly, none of this has stopped me from having a blast on the bike. Now I am lightweight so I suspect the lack of thru axels is less of an issue than it would be for someone heavier. Tubeless isn't as big of an issue where I ride, I very rarely get flats (my SS is tubeless).

I have added a dropper post, replaced the crappy Avid brakes with Shimanos, swapped in a new fork and changed the saddle and pedals and of course, replaced the tires once the old ones were worn. I have thought about changing to a 1x drivetrain but what I have works and I don't see it being worth the money to change. I always thought I would change it at some point but now, I think I will just wait until I get a new bike. Same with the wheels; they are not tubeless ready.

I'm sure my bike does limit me in some ways but blasting down the mountain as fast as possible isn't really my goal. I'm not slow going down, but there are certainly plenty of riders faster and that's ok.

Your bike is entry level. I would be smart about what upgrades I make to it. Certainly replace the simple things if you want to, handlebars, stem, pedals, etc., but I don't think I would invest in a fork unless you find a really good deal and you're likely to be able to swap it to your "better bike" when you get it. Unfortunately, standards change so quickly now, that may not be possible. If you get a new fork, you'll either have to get a new wheel to match the thru axel or later get a new wheel (for the new bike) to match the quick release, unless you can get an adaptor for now.
 

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I get where you are coming from and I also very much upgrading and messing around with stuff coming from the automotive hobby but the thing is that some bikes just aren't worth sinking a ton of money into and that is one of them. Outdated QR wheels and outdated geometry. If you really like messing around with things and want to build up a bike to be your own, maybe consider buying a frame and slowly save/build it up while continuing to ride your current bike. Plenty of frames here for not a lot of money. https://www.chainreactioncycles.com/us/en/mtb-frames/mtb-hardtail-frames?f=2258
 

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Everyone's different...for example, color appears to be very important to you. We all have priorities on what we want our bikes to do well. I'm more focused on performance, reliability and bang for the buck.

My previous bike was a 2012 SC Heckler and I LOVED that thing. I rode the hell out of it for 5 years. Just from normal wear and tear I went through multiple drivetrains, wheels, brakes, etc. I do all my own mntc and it brings me joy tinkering and making it 'right' for me. But after awhile, I realized there was a limit to what was sensible regarding improvements...mostly because it was a 26er. Nothing wrong with 26 but sinking more money into it vs considering an upgrade didn't make sense. Your list of improvements will make it better that's a lot of $$ to throw at an outdated design.

Regarding 'Just buy a new bike'...when I bought the 2018 Kona 1.5 years ago the difference in geometry was huge and this bike is light years ahead of my Heckler regarding FUN. When it's time you will be pleasantly surprised at how much better new bikes are.

But if you're happy with what you have don't worry about what anyone else says...just get out and ride it.
 

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Why not do both? Get a modern frame....then buy the individual parts and build it up as you see fit, in your own time-frame, with exactly the parts you want. In the meantime, ride the heck out of (and improve your skills) on the Marlin.

when you're finished, you'll have two bikes...and two bikes is better than 1.
 

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Ride what you like!
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Don't listen. Your bike is only four years old. Any new bike you buy will also be "obsolete" next year. That's thanks to mountain bike marketing, not facts.
 

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It almost seems like a right of passage to upgrade your first budget mtb to ridiculous amounts, when you should've just ridden your bike for what it was, while saving money for something better. Live and learn, I guess...
 

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Don't listen. Your bike is only four years old. Any new bike you buy will also be "obsolete" next year. That's thanks to mountain bike marketing, not facts.
The Marlin 5 was "obsolete" by two generations the day it came out. It's a fine beginner bike but any rider and tinkerer will quickly fine it's limits if they ride hard or try to put anything modern on it.
 

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It almost seems like a right of passage to upgrade your first budget mtb to ridiculous amounts, when you should've just ridden your bike for what it was, while saving money for something better. Live and learn, I guess...
Many people simply insist on learning the hard way. I did the same, but working in a bike shop meant I had a steep discount and performed all my own work, from building wheels to servicing suspension.
 

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Sounds like you already have a list going, handlebars, stem, seatpost, saddle, pedals, tires is where I'd starts with it. Save some money and ride the sh!t out of the bike until stuff breaks. From there you can decide if you want to invest in a new fork and wheels and so on....Sounds like your bike is perfectly capable though, no sense in buying a new one, unless of course you already have the wife's approval as mentioned earlier.
 
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