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Hi all. I'm new here and kind of new to mountain biking.

Well sort of.

I've been riding bikes for about 40 years, and have always enjoyed riding off road and doing little stunts and things, but never really anything near the level that your average modern mountain biker does.

I've also always rode entry level bikes, often quite rubbish at that.

Now here's the thing. My latest bike, bought last year, is entry level like all my bikes have been. Except it handles better than any of my previous bikes. Well enough that I find myself doing things I previously wouldn't have considered. In that respect its great, but it's a double edged sword because it also means I'm really finding it's (and my) limitations.

I have done a few upgrades which have made a very positive difference, but I've now arrived at the conclusion that I should save my money for a better bike rather than further upgrades to this one.

In the meant though, I need to do something about the responsiveness at the front end. The obvious choice is to put a decent fork on to replace the dire one that came with the bike. But I'd rather put that money towards a better bike. As a low cost upgrade, I'm thinking of just sticking a half decent tyre on. The front still currently has its original cheapo one.

The bike is a Rockrider 520.

Upgrades/personalisation are:
160mm cheapo front rotor replaced with 180mm ice tech.
160mm ice tech at the back
Decent pedals to replace the factory cheapos
Original 80mm stem swapped for 60mm

Had considered but not done:
Cable brakes swap to hydraulic
Better fork
Wider bars
Convert 3x8 drive train to 1 or 2x 9

Im not ready for an all singing all dancing top spec bike. But am just keen to trust my bike as my ability and daring level increases.

Anyway, that's me. Hello all.
 

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Welcome to the tribe. Now ride your bike. Ride it often, ride it far. Gain stamina, gain skills, gain strength, gain experience. After you make these gains, Grasshoppa, you will then be ready to lose money and time thinking about how to spend your money on bikes.
 

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Upgrading to a new bike is not just a one tier process. Once you've got your new bike you'll realize it doesn't come with very good wheels. Or the fork isn't giving you the performance you need. So two more often expensive upgrades will still be on your wish list.
Or.. .You can skip the fairly expensive new bike route and build from a frame.
You'll need more info then when you just buy a bike.
And a little more skills. Stuff it's good to know anyway to care for your bike. YouTube and the forums are your friends.

Back to your bike. It needs too many expensive parts to start to get it capable for rocky fast singletrack. And the straight head tube and geo based on the current 80mm fork limit what fork you can even buy and fit on the bike. And it has skinny rim 27.5 wheels. Too much money and you're still not on a capable bike.
I'd sell it and move up to a Nukeproof Scout Sport 29 as a minimum.
Scout 290 Sport 2019 | Nukeproof
Tapered head tube.
29mm inner width rim wheels. Current standard Boost 15x110 front hub and 12x148 Boost rear hub.
29 wheels for better rollover and still responsive handling.
Space for 2.6" wide tires you can run at low pressure for better traction because of the wider rims. 2.35 will also work. 40mm, imo, get the best performance out of some 2.6 tires at medium speeds.
130mm fork with relaxed geo. The compression damper is weak. Maybe a future upgrade to a Manitou Mattoc Pro IRT would be a plan.

You can just ride your bike on smoother offroad stuff like this.--

 

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Had considered but not done:
Cable brakes swap to hydraulic
Better fork
Wider bars
Convert 3x8 drive train to 1 or 2x 9
If it were me, I'd do a reality check.

Wider bars can be done fairly inexpensive (relatively speaking). But everything else on this short list... each line item could wind up costing close to or more than the bike cost new. Is the bike worth it to you?

Me personally, I'd save that cash for a new bike and ride what you have like there's no tomorrow.

Now... if the bike is special to you... sentimental, etc., then that's another conversation.
 

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Upgrading piecemeal can be viable, particularly with just a component or two. Once you start doing more than just a part or two, upgrading becomes harder to justify.

Once you get into the "I'm upgrading nearly every part on my bike" territory, it is usually cheaper to just buy a different bike. Thats because the manufacturers can take advantage of economies of scale/bulk discounts in a way that you are not able to.

Here are some rough ballpark prices for you, just to help give you an idea of what it could cost.
  • A new fork will be expensive, even if you buy used. Depending on what you want, even a low-mid range fork can be $150-250 used. Not sure about new
  • I just looked up prices for SRAM NX 1x11 (low end). A deraileur (~$65), shifter (~$30), cassette (~$65), chainring (~$35). And maybe you'd need a new crankset, not sure on that one.
  • The lowest end shimano brakes, are like ~$30-35 per brake (so you'd need 2). I wouldn't go that low end (they describe them as "good for small/young riders" which isn't confidence inspiring imo). The halfway good brakes start at ~$75 ish per end (so again two of them, or ~$150).

So just looking at upgrading a fork, drivetrain, and brakes... you're looking at ~$450ish. And that is a pretty low estimate based on the above numbers.

That gets you halfway to a halfway decent new bike like the Nukeproof scout mentioned above, as well as the Ragley Marley, or Vitus Sentier. Just something to think about.

Things that are "always" safe to upgrade are "customization/fit/preference" types of parts. Like a new seat (finding one that fits you properly can be a huge benefit), grips, and potentially handlebars/stem, pedals etc. You'd likely transfer those to any new bikes in the future, so its not "wasted" money.

...

...

That said... upgrading just a few components can make sense, especially if you're going to upgrade to something way nicer. Typically cheaper bikes... cheap out on some components. And higher spec ones can have interesting mixes of components you do want, with maybe some that you don't need/want/would replace anyway. So potentially buying something nice now, that you could use to upgrade a cheaper bike easily, could be a good choice.

For instance, I bought the lowest end bike in the model lineup when I got mine. The next price point up, cost $600 more, and had the same suspension, but with low end 1x12 drivetrain, and middle of the road brakes, and a hydraulic dropper post.

I personally haven't felt the need for 1x12, so I was fine with the "cheaper" 1x11 drivetrain on the bike I bought, and didn't want a hydraulic dropper post. So then I upgraded to high end brakes for $200, and for ME, the bike is better than if I'd bought the more expensive bike, but for less money.

Thats a pretty specific example... just showing that it "can" make sense. It just does't usually, especially past a certain point.

Good luck making a decision :).
 
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