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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bicycle tire Tire Bicycle frame Wheel Bicycle wheel


Okay... I recently started doing Adventure Races (off-road biking + running + kayaking) and realized after my first one that my Schwinn from Target isn't going to cut it. The races are typically 12-16 miles of semi-technical single track. (lots of climbing, some logs, creek crosses, etc) But since I'm still beginning, I wanted something on a budget in case it I get bored and it starts collecting dust 6 months from now.

I picked up an '03 Diamondback Topanga for a great price and based on a little research determined that it was a decent intermediate frame to start with. Right now it rides pretty well, but I want to put a few bucks into upgrading the performance. (It looks like it was probably outfitted for retail at a Dick's or something.)

Based on my setup below, can anyone suggest what I should upgrade that will produce the biggest bang for my buck? Front derailleur? Rear? Brakes? Headset? Shocks? I can post some close-ups of the components if that helps.

THANKS!

'03 Diamondback Topanga
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Shimano Altus Brake Level/Shifter combo
Shimano Crankset (model?)
Shimano Alivio Rear Derailleur
(brand/model?) Front Derailleur
Weinmann ZAC-19 Double Wall Rims
Kenda Kinentics Tires
(brand/model?) seat post & headset
TekTro Front/Rear brakes (model?)
Avenir Seat
3x8-speed
 

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Rear derailleur would be your first upgrade. Go out and buy an XT rear. How are the shifters functioning??? 8 speed shifters are almost impossible to come by nowadays but can be had. They are still pricey though which I dont understand. I know bikenashbar has some shimano alivio's for like 20$. XT's can be found but usually at about 70$-80$. Front derailleur isnt really used that much but if you use it frequently I would upgrade that also to and XT. How are your tires? Panaracer XC pros would be a good option if you need to upgrade but they arent very good in the mud.
 

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I go with Nickmast, start with the rear mech. Make sure you get a good set of cable inners/outers and try to go for a single run of cable. Closely following the rear mech should be cassette and chain. These three upgrades will make an enormous difference to your riding experience. You'll find yourself flying along so quickly that you'll be needing some better brakes...
 

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local trails rider
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Ride it as it is until something breaks or you find out for yourself what you do not like about the bike.

How is the fork?
 

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pronounced may-duh
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I disagree. The lower end shimano derailers work just as good as the XT stuff.

I recommend clipless pedals and shoes. This will keep your feet on the pedals and help your riding in ways you didn't know posible. You can get a package deal for around 100.00 -150.00

Next I would start to shed some weight. Kevlar tires (50.00 - 80.00 for a pair) and a Ti railed racing saddle (100.00) would be the most cost effective weight reducing upgrades. Anything beyond that is a waste of money. Already I have suggested 250.00 - 320.00 in upgrades. If you were to do something major like the fork or disc brakes you would be better off buying another higher end bike.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Great advice, guys! Thanks. Good idea to 'wait and see'. I will race this bike for the first time at the end of the month and I think I will probably see how she does, then start thinking about upgrades. What I probably need most is a professional tune up. The chain has a slight rubbing when I'm in the three highest/downhill gears and I'm really on it. I tweaked on it a little myself but it's still not perfect. My LBS wants $65 though.

perttime: The fork seems good. I have heard that the Judy Rock Shox are heavy but work and so far that seems to be the case.

Another question: What's the deal with the stem height. My stem basically sits right on top of my top tube. (My mtbk vocab is still not great, so I hope I'm explaining this right) I've seen other bikes that have anywhere between 1/2" and 2+" of height on the vertical bar before the stem angles up to the handle bar. I've read that this can dramatically change the feel/ride of the bike. Is it adjustable? Do I need different components? Thanks.
 

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pronounced may-duh
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to raise your steel your fork's steerer tube would need to be longer. That tube was cut to this dimension when your bike was assembled. So basically you would need a new fork or replace the fork crown and steerer if posible. Thats kinda expensive and probably not worth it.

As an alternative you could get a stem that has a steeper rise. But yours is pretty steep already so anything steeper may have a negative effect on the handling. There are also stem riser attachments but they are just plain goofy
 

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The original quetions was, in brief, "Based on my setup below, can anyone suggest what I should upgrade that will produce the biggest bang for my buck?"

With all due respect, what exactly are the benefits of a $100 saddle!?! Maybe I'm missing some kind of trick here but if I can get an XT mech and cassette and and XTR chain for £100, or a saddle with frickin ti rails, I know exactly where my money would go, every time. Every single time.

Steve
 

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Maida7 said:
and a Ti railed racing saddle (100.00) would be the most cost effective weight reducing upgrades. Anything beyond that is a waste of money.
I gonna have to disagree with that. Before a ti saddle I would lose as much rotating mass as possible. Mainly the wheelset. He already suggested lighter tires but I would also get the lighter wheelset before the saddle
 

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Lose the Tektros.

You want to stop, don't you? Get some Avid Single Digit 5's with Rim Wrangler 2's.

Lose the Weinmans and get Mavics with Deore hubs.

Swap the Altus for Deore, you won't need to replace the shifters, cassette, or brakes that way, since if you upgrade to a nine speed, you need new gear and if your shifters are integrated into your brake levers--those may need to go.

Get some better tires. I like something by MAXXIS.

Swap the pedals for clip-ons or platforms.

A fork is pricey. Marzocchi makes sweet ones, that's my next upgrade.

A titanium seat is for 3000 dollar bikes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
More great advice... keep it coming!

I appreciate the responses. REALLY! I'm slowing trying to educate myself on the whole mountain biking scene and the various opinions help a lot.

I'm sure weight is definitely an issue, but as a novice will I really notice half a pound here-or-there? (The saddle with titanium rails seems a littel excessive.) Right now I am mainly concerned that the bike shifts smoothly while I'm climbing or taking rough terrain. Also that there are no cataclysmic failures during my races (chain popping off or slipping, shifters or drivetrain breaking, etc).

That being said, hopefully it will hold together until I can ride it hard and evaluate the feel from experience. After that, it would seem that derailleurs and/or brakes might be the first order of business(?). (That comment about stopping sounds good. You know... in case I have to once in a while. Not sure what "Avid Single Digit 5's with Rim Wrangler 2's" are, but I'm sure I can find out.) Then I might start shaving weight. (I've read the Weinmann rims are heavy and not particularly strong.)

Thanks to everyone, again!
 

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Maybe a chainset would be a good upgrade but if you will change to 9 speed you will also need a rear mech, cassette and chain as well as gear pods and since they are combined with brake levers you will need to change those too, so you will end up paying a lot. You also have the option to get an 8 speed chainset, cheaper for now, but what if you want to upgrade to 9 speed later, you will have to change it again ending up even more expensive!!!! Maybe if you find a really good deal, or just leave it untill you decide what you really want.

I would go for clippless pedals/shoes deffinately,

A wheelset will reduce the weight (get some disc hubs if you are planning to upgrade to discs later).

Also you can find good deals on easy to change parts like seat, post, stem and bar to reduce weight a little bit more (it is not a necessity though as your current look quite fine).

I would wait for the fork if it is a Judy. I am going for a front disc upgrade now and i have ordered a front deore mech db really cheap. Your fork can accept a disc I see.
 

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I am not sure how good, and valuable, your frame is. Judging by the current parts, I think it is probably a good entry level item. To me, that means that expensive upgrades are not really worth it. Just keep it functional and stay away from "bling".

Titanium seat:
I, too, think that is a bit excessive.

Brakes:
Do you have adequate power for what you are doing now? Do you have enough "feel" to keep from locking the brakes? (Avid makes some pretty good brakes)

Stem/riding position:
Your handlebar does not seem to be particularly low. If you feel you absolutely must get it higher, a bar with more rise is probably the easiest option. To go lower, a stem with less rise should be easy to find.
 

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Ride the bike as it is. Well not completely as it is.

First shift out of that gear as you are currently cross-chaining the bike which is hard on the drivetrain. Stay out of the Big front, big rear (and the biggest 3 rear gears). Same for the small front, smallest 3 gears...
 

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Webtoes
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Ride it 'til it dies or at least until you figure out that you are in for the long haul in the sport/hobby we call mountain biking. When you figure that out then buy a nicer bike. By then you should have acquired enough knowledge to know what you would like to see in your next serious bike purchase. I'm not knocking your bike, it's just that I don't believe the frame is deserving enough to sink expensive upgrades into it. Just maintain it. Replace items as they wear out, but w/only sensible replacements, nothing fancy. Think about it. Would you put Brembo brakes on a Chevette? (Chevette was a little harsh. Your bike is much better than that, in an apples to oranges comparison. That example is like polishing a turd. Just attempting to make a point.) Or, say if you were to upgrade the fork for example. It could easily cost more for a fork than what you paid for the whole bike in the first place. Save your money and get a better bike as a complete package (with the best frame you can afford).
 

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SteveUK said:
The original quetions was, in brief, "Based on my setup below, can anyone suggest what I should upgrade that will produce the biggest bang for my buck?"

With all due respect, what exactly are the benefits of a $100 saddle!?! Maybe I'm missing some kind of trick here but if I can get an XT mech and cassette and and XTR chain for £100, or a saddle with frickin ti rails, I know exactly where my money would go, every time. Every single time.

Steve
If you want to change your rear mech for XT, it means you would go for a 9 speed (as far as I know). This would mean changing cassette, mech, chain and shifters. I think that the highest level mech that shimano offers with 8 sp is LX. Well, you could find XT, but you must search for it

Forget about the saddle, unless your current saddle is unconfortable.
 

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Hi Tiger,
My friend and I did an 8 hour adventure race a couple of years ago. His bike was almost identical to yours and it did just fine. Here are the things that you need for that race:

Clipless pedals and shoes -- makes a huge difference in your efficiency which is important in any endurance oriented competition.

Camelbak with room for your required gear (first-aid pack, food etc...)

Small seat bag for bike stage only gear (like tube, bike tool, etc...) so you don't have to carry it with you on the running stage.

Everything else is really pointless for that bike and its intended use. Spend your upgrade money on more adventure racing specific equipment, like a water-proof map holder for trail running, bike mounted map holder, nice compass (I really like my thumb compass), and quick drying trail running shoes. If you find you really enjoy mountain biking than save your money up and buy a nicer bike.

I'd also recommend buying the Zinn mountain bike maintenance book and a good multi-tool so that you can learn how to adjust your own deraillers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks again. It seems to be a growing consensus to ride it as-is and wait for more experience to decide what I need. The clipless pedals sound like a good upgrade to explore.

I just put the seat bag on last night. Got to have somewhere to store my tube, Goo, etc. My racing partner carries a Camelbak, but I don't care for them, so I use a belt carrier on the run and my two water bottles on the bike. If I'm really into it a year from now, I'll look into a whole new bike. (I really like the Gary Fisher frames)

About 'cross-chaining'... I don't think this is a problem. My three highest/downhill gears that are causing the rubbing problem on the front derailleur is coming from my large front ring and three smallest rear gears. I'm pretty sure this is just a tune-up away from being fixed. But it also doesn't shift quite as smoothly as I'd like, which may require better gear. But for now, it should do.
 
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