I bought a '12 Forza from REI. I love the bike. I've already made one mod. I changed the stem to the Easton EA50 so that when I ride it's more forward leaning (I've had back issues being too vertical). I'm thinking about making more in the future so I'd like some input.
Here's my components list (taking from rei.com)
Fork: SR NEX, 63mm of travel
Crankset: Suntour XCT, 48/38/28
Shifters: Shimano Acera
Front derailleur: Shimano FD-M191
Rear derailleur: Shimano Alivio
Rear cogs: SRAM PG-830 11-30, 8-speed
Hubs: Joytech Alloy, 32h
Tires: Freedom Ryder Sport, 700x35
On the rims it says 622x14.
I have yet to really do any off roading, although there are light smooth trails near my house. I've mainly used it for commuting and some recreational use on a MUP (~30 mile bike rides every other week). I'd like to do a century ride, but neither my conditioning or my butt would be able to do so yet. I'd like to do a 60 mile tour around Albuquerque by the end of the summer. At some point I'm thinking I'm going to buy a touring bike--looking at the LHT--and making this more for off road use, but that won't be the case for the time being. So I'd rather not change the fork (besides, that seems like it'd be too much of a hassle/expensive).
I've read that hubs are a great first upgrade, others argue wheels and I see tires as well. Given my component list what do you think would be the first thing to upgrade to make a smoother ride? I get irritated that my front derailleur sometimes can't always generate enough power to move my chain from a smaller chain ring to the bigger one; I've had this looked at by a bike tech. Perhaps that might be worth considering for safety. I would like a smoother ride overall though too, so any help on an upgrade path would be much appreciated.
Also, this extends to my next question:
I read the article on Sheldon's site--http://sheldonbrown.com/tire-sizing.html
--about tire sizing and whatnot and it appears that my tires aren't safe for my rim size. This is a little disconcerting since I would trust REI, perhaps my favorite store, to err on the side of caution. Looking at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_5775
as well as Sheldon's site it appears the tires are best used for rims 18-22mm (17-21C is listed on the tire's sidewall). My rims are smaller than that. A smaller tire seems like it'd be not only be safer, but potentially be faster if I went with a tire that would be good for touring. I'm thinking 700x23 or 700x25. Any thoughts and suggestions on a tire that would suit me? I expect to carry loads up to 30-40lbs at some point if that makes any difference (I'm 150lbs). I'm thinking this might have to be my first "upgrade."