I have had a Trek 4300 (non-disc) for about two years. Recently I had the bike stripped. The guy left me the frame, but took both wheels, the seatpost/saddle and almost everything off of the handlebars. He left me one shifter/brake lever, but cut all of the cables connected to it. So now, I am trying to upgrade/replace some of these parts. I went to my local bike shop, and asked them for advice as to what parts to buy, but all they would tell me is that it would be cheaper to just buy a new bike. I would like to prove them wrong. I don't want to spend a ton of money. If I could keep it under $300, that would be great. But at the same time, I don't want to buy crappy stuff.
The main difficulty I am having is with wheels. I still have derailleurs and rim brakes, so I need to get wheels that are compatible with these. My old setup used an 8 speed shifter. But I have to buy two new shifters anyways because they only come in pairs. I have been doing some reading, and I have noticed that most people use 9 speed shifters these days. With the derailleurs that I have, would it be possible for me to switch to a 9 speed, without buying a bunch of new parts? Would I have get a new chain? Sorry for all the dumb questions. I don't know much about bikes, I just want to save money by figuring it out for myself, rather than paying the people at the bike shop. What it comes down to, is that I am trying to decide between getting a 9 speed cassette, or an 8 speed cassette. Also, would it make any difference whether I get an 11/32 vs. an 11/34? would one work better with my current setup? I have no idea what my old cassette was.
Last question. Does anybody have any good recommendations for some decent mtb wheels (26")? I like to hit up the mountain trails near my school, and they are pretty rocky, and rooty. So I need something that can handle some bumps, without warping. I'd like to keep the wheels under $150. I've been looking at the Sun-Ringle Rhyno Lite wheelset, which seems to have pretty good reviews. Any advice? http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...7#ReviewHeader
Once again, I'm sure these are super simple, and stupid questions to you guys. Sorry for being an amateur. I would appreciate any advice you can give.