Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Bogotá, Colombia
Bikes: 2005 Santa Cruz Blur Classic
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here are my thoughts given my limited experience.
1. Clipless Pedals
Most (Shimano, Wellgo, Crank Bros, Time) get the job done. You should look for a pedal that has "float" or, in other words, that let's you move your ankle slightly before disengaging the shoe. You should also look for a pedal that sheds mud easily. As far as shoes is concerned, whatever feels good to you is fine.
Time Attacks and Crank Bros pedals get rave reviews around here.
This is the ONLY component is worth saving weight. I see you are looking for the best bang for the buck. I'd say try Sun Rims, Alex Rims or Mavic. They all work wonderfully. And yes, most will fit your bike.
Hope this helps.