NCAA - DUAL CHAMPIONS!
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: From Sarasota, FL sitting in front of a computer spewing random thoughts!
Bikes: Intense Uzzi SL, Masi Speciale, Trek 3700 Nashbar Single Speed, Old Cilo Road frame
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I agree, get a decent fork and your bike will feel 100 % better. I personally like Marzocchi's. But I rode a friends bike with the new Rock Shox Psylo's and they felt smooth. (Still not as good as my zokes!) I'd replace the stock headset with a good sealed one. A good quality, yet affordable one is something like a Cane Creek C2. (around $40) Get a Chris King if you've got the money to spend. It'll be the last one you'll have to buy! (around $110)
Most people would then say the wheelset. I disagree. Granted, this is rotational mass and a worthy upgrade, but since you're a beginner, you're eventually going to whack a wheel. Replace them once you destroy them. You're going to be learning a lot of new skills that will put a lot of stress on your wheels. I'd hate for you to buy a nice wheelset and destroy it the next ride. Ride the ones you've got till they're trash. Same goes for the shifters and derailleurs.
After the fork, I'd upgrade the cranks and the bottom bracket. This is an area where there is a significant difference between a Sugino Stock crank with a cheap bottom bracket and lets say a Race Face LP Crank w/ ISIS splined bb. There are a lot of nice stiff, strong and light cranks available. Also, the chainrings will shift a lot smoother. Plus, it's a significant appearance upgrade.
My next item would be the brakes. You DON'T need disc brakes. It's costly, and unless you do nothing but downhill is muddy conditions they're more than you need. If you plan on upgrading to discs, you might as well just buy a new bike. It's more cost effective getting them with the bike vs buying brakes, rotors, new wheels and dealing with having to learn to bleed brakes. This could easily add up to $500. $450 more than I'd spend on brakes for this bike! Buy a set of Avid Single Digits or Shimano Deore Vee brakes and move on to the next upgrade!
Next, I would replace the heavy stock generic items in the cockpit. This includes the seatpost, usually very heavy, the stock seat, handlebars and stem. This may not seem logical, but manufacturers usually use the lowest grade material for these items. Replacing these with quality aftermarket products will cut down a lot of weight.
After these upgrades, then go for the shifters/derailleurs, cassette and chain and then a nice light wheelset.
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "WOW, What a Ride!" - unknown
"Your Bike Sucks" - Sky Yaeger