Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Gagetown, New Brunswick
Bikes: Cervelo S1, Norco Faze 1 SL, Surly Big Dummy
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I went (am going through) an upgrade process on my 2005 Giant Yukon, and here are my observations:
1. First things that were upgraded were the seat, stem, and bars. This was all about getting the fit right, and took a couple of iterations to find happiness.
2. With the fit corrected, I got more confidence on the bike and started hitting gnarlier trails. This very quickly revealed the limits of the undamped stock SR Suntour springer fork, so I switched to a RockShox Recon 351 Solo Air with the lockout. This transformed the bike from a pogo stick to a trail bike.
3. I started doing longer and gnarlier rides, and I was having trouble keeping my feet planted over some of the crazier stuff, so I switched out the platform pedals I was using for CrankBros Acid clip-ins. This also transformed the bike, because the change in the amount of power you can put down with clip-ins is amazing. Mud, sand, bumpy hills... you just power through because your feet are not going to slip off. There are some learning curve issues - I'm still perfecting the slow-speed bailout - but converting to clipless is HUGE.
4. The response of the driveline was starting to get annoying. No matter how I tweaked it, there was always a heartbeat of hesitation in rear cog changes. So I upgraded the rear mech to SRAM X-9 (along with the cassette, shifter, and chain) and now gearchanges are instant. Plus there is now an extra rear gear, which helps a bit on hills as the transition to the bailout gear is a little smoother.
Next on the upgrade list is probably wheels, but that is only a weight issue. The stock wheels are perfectly fine, just a little heavy.
My advice is to get your fit right, then look at the weakest link on the bike. If you have a damped fork, do the clipless pedals first. If you have an undamped fork, or if you do a lot of technical gnarl, do a good fork first.