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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You'd do fine by upgrading that fork to a newer nicer model. One of my co-worker's son is doing the same thing as you. I found him a Manitou Black Comp for with adjustable travel from 80 to 100 mm for only $150 on eBay, and he's buying a Chris King Headset and a new stem. Total budget $300, and he'll have a nice set-up.
Upgrading your wheels will be one of the most noticable improvements you can make. A light wheelset, reduces the rotational weight, so the bike "Feels" faster when you pedal.
Other things to consider when upgrading. New cranks and chainrings will improve the stiffness of the cranks and help improve the shifting. Also, the stock bottom bracket is probably pretty cheap and very heavy. Consider moving to XT level when that one starts to spin rough. No need to do so before, unless you've just got money to spend.
Tires, Tires, Tires. One of the least expensive changes to you bike that will make a significant change of the way the bike rides and handles. Also, you can get some lighter tires to help with the whole rotational weight again!
"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