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  1. #1
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    Low-end bike, pondering upgrades

    A couple months ago, I bought a 2006 Kona Lana'i as a commute bike/beater bike. I have zero complaints about it, but while I hoist that bike into my pickup truck, I keep looking at the RD and always ponder what would happen if the little "Acera X" logo was replaced by something more midrange, and the Tourney FD, though shifts well, was replaced by something that might rub a little less if I cross-chain it. The chain is servicable, but I wonder if it would help if it started sporting a Master Link. The brakes work well (they are Tektro M530s), but I keep pondering replacing the levers with Shimanos or Avids so a brake pad replacement is just yanking a small rod, sliding the old pad out, new pad in, replacing the small rod, rather than having to fret about adjusting everything.

    For a commute bike, what would bring the best bang for buck for something ridable... FD/RD to Deore or LX level, a new fork from the original SunTour XCC (which is totally non-adjustable.)

    I'm not looking to upgrade it to XT/XTR level, mainly because this bike is being parked on a college campus (when its not in my pickup's cab or my courtyard), and even though its sporting a set of Pitlocks and a Sold Secure lock (NY lock [1]), I don't want it to be a thief magnet.

    Most likely my first upgrade will be M324s or Mallets so it can be used as flats or clipless, but not sure yet.

    There is so much to upgrade... the issue is finding what gives the best bang for buck for starters.

    [1]: I got a good deal on the bike... the combination of a NY lock, set of Pitlocks, the NY chain, and the special-order Mul-T-Lock I have for it cost more than the bike itself.
    Last edited by mlts22; 11-29-06 at 12:16 PM.

  2. #2
    Death fork? Naaaah!! top506's Avatar
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    1) I doubt that changing the FD will affect crosschain rub. It's more a function of the bike's design and how well the FD is set up in the first place. But the Tourny stuff DOES look cheap, no matter how well it works, so feel free to replace it for cosmetic reasons. You live in the City; style is important .
    2) I'm pretty sure all you have to change is the pad/pad holders to get the quick-change brake pad feature.
    3) My pick for best bang for the buck on derailers is the older Shimano 500CX/LX. They look great, work better, and can be had cheap.
    4) A chain with a quicklink-type link is MUCH easier to clean.
    5) You want to spend money on a urban commuter, put the dough into bulletproof tires and tubes.
    Just my 2 cent's worth, but you DID ask.......
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  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlts22
    A couple months ago, I bought a 2006 Kona Lana'i as a commute bike/beater bike. I have zero complaints about it, but while I hoist that bike into my pickup truck, I keep looking at the RD and always ponder what would happen if the little "Acera X" logo was replaced by something more midrange, and the Tourney FD, though shifts well, was replaced by something that might rub a little less if I cross-chain it. The chain is servicable, but I wonder if it would help if it started sporting a Master Link. The brakes work well (they are Tektro M530s), but I keep pondering replacing the levers with Shimanos or Avids so a brake pad replacement is just yanking a small rod, sliding the old pad out, new pad in, replacing the small rod, rather than having to fret about adjusting everything.

    For a commute bike, what would bring the best bang for buck for something ridable... FD/RD to Deore or LX level, a new fork from the original SunTour XCC (which is totally non-adjustable.)

    I'm not looking to upgrade it to XT/XTR level, mainly because this bike is being parked on a college campus (when its not in my pickup's cab or my courtyard), and even though its sporting a set of Pitlocks and a Sold Secure lock (NY lock [1]), I don't want it to be a thief magnet.

    Most likely my first upgrade will be M324s or Mallets so it can be used as flats or clipless, but not sure yet.

    There is so much to upgrade... the issue is finding what gives the best bang for buck for starters.

    [1]: I got a good deal on the bike... the combination of a NY lock, set of Pitlocks, the NY chain, and the special-order Mul-T-Lock I have for it cost more than the bike itself.
    Probably your best bet would be to dump the front boat anchor...er...fork. Steel steertube, steel stanchions add up to a lot of weight. Nashbar has a Manitou Black for $250 which is a fair price for a good fork. I probably wouldn't go with any fork over an 80mm. But, considering the original price of the bike, $250 is a lot of money to be dumping back into it.

    If this is only a commute bike, you could also go with rigid fork for $50 which is a more reasonable upgrade for an inexpensive bike. Do a magnet test on all the components and consider replacing anything that the magnet sticks to. I'd suspect the bars are steel and the chainrings, if not the whole crank. Tag those for replacement but don't go crazy. You can easily spend what a whole new good bike is worth. You might consider just saving up for a new bike and keeping this one as a beater.
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  4. #4
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    You may hate me for being practical like this (we all love upgrading things), but if it's your commuter I'd say if it ain't broke, don't fix it! Cheap and functional is best and that's what you've got. Commuters shouldn't be upgraded except for:

    The only things to add are items that increase your safety (lights, reflectors), comfort (aka bike fit, fenders), security (replace quick releases with hex nuts), and convenience (rear rack?)

    If you are going to spend any money, do things that will actually matter for your *commute*. Fancier derailleurs don't mean squat - the cheap stuff works suprisingly well when maintained and fully functioning. Use them until they break! You obviously don't care about weight because you'll be carrying 30 lbs of bike locks! Why not just leave a decent quality U-lock attached to the bike rack so you don't have to carry it. Leave a second one if you need to lock up the other wheel - though personally I'd just get rid of the quick releases assuming your wheels are cheap anyway. Just don't make it convenient to steal them.

    And get the flat/clipless pedals. That would be a useful addition. Just don't spend big bucks as pedals are easily removed and stolen. I'd probably use the $30 Performance Bike Campus pedals for a commuter, though the Shimanos or Mallets are surely much nicer. For convenience you might want to buy a pedal that uses the same cleats as your other bike's pedals. That may be worth more in convenience than the difference in pedal performance or price.

    As for the fork, I swapped my heavy suspension fork for a cheap chromoly fork. The thing weighs about 2 pounds and cost $40 *including* installation. Ask your bike shop about Tange Chromoly Mountain Forks from their supplier. Much more efficient for street use and bomb-proof, too.

    Just my "practical" two cents. You want your commuter to be fully functional, but completely cheap and *undesireable* to potential bike thieves.

  5. #5
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    [QUOTE=TrackSmart]You may hate me for being practical like this (we all love upgrading things), but if it's your commuter I'd say if it ain't broke, don't fix it! Cheap and functional is best and that's what you've got. Commuters shouldn't be upgraded except for:

    The only things to add are items that increase your safety (lights, reflectors), comfort (aka bike fit, fenders), security (replace quick releases with hex nuts), and convenience (rear rack?)

    If you are going to spend any money, do things that will actually matter for your *commute*. Fancier derailleurs don't mean squat - the cheap stuff works suprisingly well when maintained and fully functioning. Use them until they break! You obviously don't care about weight because you'll be carrying 30 lbs of bike locks! Why not just leave a decent quality U-lock attached to the bike rack so you don't have to carry it. Leave a second one if you need to lock up the other wheel - though personally I'd just get rid of the quick releases assuming your wheels are cheap anyway. Just don't make it convenient to steal them.

    And get the flat/clipless pedals. That would be a useful addition. Just don't spend big bucks as pedals are easily removed and stolen. I'd probably use the $30 Performance Bike Campus pedals for a commuter, though the Shimanos or Mallets are surely much nicer. For convenience you might want to buy a pedal that uses the same cleats as your other bike's pedals. That may be worth more in convenience than the difference in pedal performance or price.

    As for the fork, I swapped my heavy suspension fork for a cheap chromoly fork. The thing weighs about 2 pounds and cost $40 *including* installation. Ask your bike shop about Tange Chromoly Mountain Forks from their supplier. Much more efficient for street use and bomb-proof, too.
    QUOTE]

    +1 on all his points. However if this is your entry into clipless pedals, I recommend going for SPD or Eggbeaters which allow you to walk with the shoes, but you dont have to go for fancy models. Rigid fork will also be less of a thief magnet. Get as many locks as there are places you lock your bike. Keys are a lot lighter than locks. Get slim slick tires for commuting, but not till your current ones are wearing down. Dont think of upgrading anything until the current stuff breaks.

  6. #6
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    Yep, I've got a low-end mountain bike I use for most of my commuting - particularly in winter. Trek's bottom-of-the-line high-tensile steel mountain bike (the seat tube is chromoly - big deal), with Shimano's bottom-of-the-line Acera drivetrain. It's been 100% reliable in a few thousand miles of commuting.

    1) First I got some 1.25" slick tires for $10 each from Performancebike.com or Nashbar.com. This is the biggest performance upgrade you can make. Weight is irrelevant on flat ground (physics says that once you get up to traveling speed it doesn't matter what the bike weighs). And it is not noticeable on uphills unless you drop several pounds off your bike. Not something that changing derailleurs will accomplish.





    2) If you want further efficiency, you can get a rigid fork. My front shock weighed 5 lbs when the bike shop took it off! The Tange Chromoly Mountain Fork weighed just 2 lbs. However, weight savings was only part of the benefit. You stop wasting energy on bouncing the pogo stick - instead it goes into moving you forward. This is still minor compared to getting 1.25" slick tires. For $40-$50 though, including install, it's not an expensive upgrade.





    3) Get fenders if you plan to be an all-weather commuter. The full fender variety can be a bit rattley, but keep you very dry when roads are wet. Easy-to-remove alternatives are (http://mtbr.com/reviews/Extras/product_121896.shtml) and (http://mtbr.com/reviews/Extras/product_121897.shtml). Those will keep your butt dry and mud out of your face, but won't keep nice clothes completely clean.

    [IMG][/IMG]



    4) Make sure you can be seen. Get some rear blinking lights (Planet Bike Superflash or Cateye LD1000 are the most recommended on this board). Some Scotchlite reflective tape can be had from Ebay or from your local autoparts store. I use the high-intensity silver/white variety. It is the brightest they make and very inconspicuous on metal bike parts in the day time. At night, however, it glows extremely brightly in car headlights (or camera flashes). About $5 for a three-foot roll at AutoZone or similar places.




    Clipless pedals can be more efficient, too, if your ride is long enough and has stretches free of traffic lights and stop signs. I use them on my road bike (my "fair weather" commuter), but not on my mountain bike (my everyday commuter). The dual pedals are a nice way to get the best of both worlds, but are more annoying to clip into than straight clipless pedals.



    If everything else on your bike functions, I'd leave it alone. Fancy parts won't make your commute any faster or more comfortable. But they will make your bike disappear a lot faster though when thieves see it!

  7. #7
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    Good wheels/tires ebay-V-brake wheels are cheap now

    Change your wheels out-it will be 2 lbs lighter if you chose the right tires. You could probably buy a set of XTR hubbed 517 wheels on Ebay for maybe$100- $120. V-brake wheels are selling fairly cheaply now that everyone wants disc brakes.
    Wheels are universal-you can fit the good wheels to another bike , if you sell this bike in the future. My sons bike has those inexpensive Shimano deraileurs-I can't really tell that they shift any less wheel than the XTR XT stuff on my bikes.
    Brakes-you can buy XTR V-brakes-front and rear for maybe $35-$40 on Ebay.They look cool-not sure they are much better than the cheapo ones-the pads seem to make the most difference.Once again, you can take this upgrade with you if you sell it.
    Luck,Charlie

  8. #8
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    +1 killing the suspension fork. Commuting on suspension is so inefficient. Even if you will be taking the bike off-road occasionally, suspension is not necessary. My first single-speed MTB was rigid forked, and you should have seen geared/suspension riders looking at me as I passed them on a 15 year-old steel single speed.

    [RANT MODE ON] WTF is up with suspension these days? Everybody gets 80mm+ of travel? These are bicycles, not motorcycles. Learn to ride with some finesse. Unless you race downhill, I don't see it. My first fork was an original Manitou 2, with 1.5" of travel, and I loved it. I've had much more modern forks since then, but I miss my Manitou because of the low travel and the super rigid ride (with replacement elastomers). The only thing I didn't like was the independent leg travel.

    Oh, and don't get me started with rear suspension... if there's any better way to let someone like me pass you on a climb, I'm all ears.
    No way the time's being made up on a descent...[/RANT MODE OFF]

    <the above rant considers MTBing experiences in Utah, Colorado, and Austin -- so it doesn't apply to tree rooted trails>

  9. #9
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    Where are you guys getting a rigid fork installed for $50 total? Both LBS in my area want around $100-$110. I want a rigid fork, but I just have too many financial pressures to blow $100 bucks on want...especially when I want about $1500 dollars worth of other crap.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adiankur
    Where are you guys getting a rigid fork installed for $50 total? Both LBS in my area want around $100-$110. I want a rigid fork, but I just have too many financial pressures to blow $100 bucks on want...especially when I want about $1500 dollars worth of other crap.

    Your LBS can get a Tange rigid fork for around $20 from his Quality Bike Parts Catalog (I know, they let me thumb through and look it up). Add another $30 for profit and install. My LBS only charged $42 when all was said and done - maybe they are just nice guys? Not all bike shops are equal. I'm sure some shops will try to charge some outrageous labor fee just to change a fork (a 10 minute operation with the correct tools).

    You can buy the fork yourself and install it yourself if you have the tools or you are willing to improvise with homemade 'tools' (2x4 piece of wood, hammer, hacksaw for cutting steering tube).

    Type the words Tange and Mountain and Fork into the Airbomb.com website. Here's an example: http://store.airbomb.com/ItemDesc.asp?IC=FK2431

    Nashbar also sells a rigid fork, but charges more for theirs (it looks exactly like the TANGE fork, you can bet that Tange makes it for them and they rebrand it and charge more!):
    http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...and=&sku=13284


    *** Be sure to know if you need threaded or threadless. If you need a threaded fork, the steerer tube length will be important ***
    Last edited by TrackSmart; 11-30-06 at 09:01 AM.

  11. #11
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adiankur
    Where are you guys getting a rigid fork installed for $50 total? Both LBS in my area want around $100-$110. I want a rigid fork, but I just have too many financial pressures to blow $100 bucks on want...especially when I want about $1500 dollars worth of other crap.
    They're $40 here, and I'd install it myself, which puts you at $50 after shipping: http://aebike.com/page.cfm?PageID=30...nsearch=Search

    You could probably get a used bike cheap off craigslist ($20 - $30) and avoid shipping. Just rattle-can the fork black.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets
    They're $40 here, and I'd install it myself, which puts you at $50 after shipping: http://aebike.com/page.cfm?PageID=30...nsearch=Search

    You could probably get a used bike cheap off craigslist ($20 - $30) and avoid shipping. Just rattle-can the fork black.

    Another Site - They sell them in ALL SIZES - for $38. If you need a threadless, 1 1/8" fork, and you are not gigantic tall (aka big head tube), you can probably find something for peanuts on ebay...
    http://www.triathlete.com/store/product.php?id=28827


    You can see the black Tange fork in the photos of my bike in this thread. Your local bike shops have got to be crooks to charge $110 to install a cheap rigid fork! The Trek 820 *retails* for about $280. And you get an entire bike, plus assembly, plus service. That fork would cost you 40% of the cost of an ENTIRE ENTRY LEVEL BIKE. Absurd!
    Last edited by TrackSmart; 11-30-06 at 09:17 AM.

  13. #13
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    Really cheap-turn suspension fork rigid.

    I kinda like suspension forks for city riding, but I'm old and sensitive to bumps etc. A cheapo rigid for can be had off Ebay for maybe $25 delivered.You can install it yourself-no problem. Use a length of copper tubing as a drift (or use a punch)to knock the bottom race off the old fork-and reinstall it using a big adj wrench and a hammer.
    If you are dead set on making it rigid you could do that with some plastic tubing(glue some rubber padding on both ends. Substitute the tubing for your springs. Over time the tubing will get banged down and you will develope some play-the rubber padding will slow this a little. I would be tempted to just increase the preload of the fork with some washers to make it a bit more efficient(less bob-pogo-ing).Put as many in as you can screw the cap back on the fork. Don't waste $40 on a cheapo rigid fork-waste it on high quality used wheels that can go on a better bike someday.
    Luck,
    Charlie
    PS-If you do go for a rigid fork-don't go the cheapo route-get a used, or discounted new(Nashbar) carbon fiber fork(used under $100) that you can install on a better bike someday. Don't cut the steering tube(if new)-just shim it with spacers, so one day you can put it on a better frame.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by phoebeisis
    Don't waste $40 on a cheapo rigid fork-waste it on high quality used wheels that can go on a better bike someday.

    PS-If you do go for a rigid fork-don't go the cheapo route-get a used, or discounted new(Nashbar) carbon fiber fork(used under $100) that you can install on a better bike someday. Don't cut the steering tube(if new)-just shim it with spacers, so one day you can put it on a better frame.

    The Tange rigid forks are surprisingly nice - the fact that they are inexpensive is a bonus. These are bomb proof, much lighter than suspended forks, made of high quality chromoly steel. They can easily handle cross country riding - however I'd certainly get a better bike and a quality suspension fork if I were a more than occassional XC rider.

    I looked up the Nashbar Carbon fork out of curiousity. I'm sure it's a nice product. However, it's only 0.5 lbs lighter than the tange fork and costs $150 compared to just $40. If the price difference were small, I'd say carbon all the way.

    Many commuters find themselves looking at road bikes and cross bikes after a few months on the mountain bike or hybrid. In that case, he'd have dumped money into a soon-to-be-unwanted commuter with a fairly expensive carbon fork. Don't end up kicking yourself later when you decide that what you really want is a cross or touring bike, but you've already dropped all your money into an entry-level mountain bike. Just my thoughts.

    Good luck with your upgrades! Sorry for all of the side banter in your thread. Some folks appreciate nice things (like carbon forks and lightweight wheels), some of us appreciate most-bang-for-the-buck (like chromoly forks and more-than-sturdy-enough-for-commuting, but cheap, mountain bike wheels).

  15. #15
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    I agree-Tange is nice.Have one from 28 years ago.

    Tracksmart,
    I agree the Tange forks are nice;I bought this one-new-about 1979-for maybe $12-$15.It served me well and is still in fine shape.
    When I was saying Cheapo-I had in mind the no name ones you buy off ebay for $10 with another $10 for S&H. I suspect they are strong enough, but they probably give a pretty harsh, dead ride it you use high pressure tires.
    I usually try to get the Nashbar stuff when it is on sale, or a return, or off ebay.$150 fork on a $150 used bike does kinda strain the "bang for the buck" meter-A $40 fork does kinda stay in the ballpark.
    However, I have rarely regreted buying a high end part or bike. In truth the low end stuff is pretty good now, so I doubt it would be regretable either.He wouldn't go wrong with the Tange fork; I wonder, do they still chrome plate them-I love polished chrome!!
    Get what pleases your eye, but keep in mind resale or future use on the "BETTER BIKE" we all buy in the future.
    Luck
    Charlie
    Attached Images Attached Images

  16. #16
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Do: brake pads, master link. Also check that the chain isn't worn and replace it if it is. Then maybe upgrade saddle, tires, add rack, lights. Beyond that start looking at new bikes for a non-commuter role.
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

    - Will Rogers

  17. #17
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    Yep. That sums it up well. As for the Tange mountain fork, it comes in

    "Any color - so long as it's black"
    -Henry Ford


    DMF is also on the same page.



    Quote Originally Posted by phoebeisis
    Tracksmart,
    I agree the Tange forks are nice;I bought this one-new-about 1979-for maybe $12-$15.It served me well and is still in fine shape.
    When I was saying Cheapo-I had in mind the no name ones you buy off ebay for $10 with another $10 for S&H. I suspect they are strong enough, but they probably give a pretty harsh, dead ride it you use high pressure tires.
    I usually try to get the Nashbar stuff when it is on sale, or a return, or off ebay.$150 fork on a $150 used bike does kinda strain the "bang for the buck" meter-A $40 fork does kinda stay in the ballpark.
    However, I have rarely regreted buying a high end part or bike. In truth the low end stuff is pretty good now, so I doubt it would be regretable either.He wouldn't go wrong with the Tange fork; I wonder, do they still chrome plate them-I love polished chrome!!
    Get what pleases your eye, but keep in mind resale or future use on the "BETTER BIKE" we all buy in the future.
    Luck
    Charlie

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