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Looking to upgrade a cheap mountain bike for commuting and riding around the city

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Looking to upgrade a cheap mountain bike for commuting and riding around the city

Old 06-20-21, 09:58 PM
  #1  
misttea
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Looking to upgrade a cheap mountain bike for commuting and riding around the city

Hey everyone.

Pretty new to mountain bikes, and bikes in general, so here's a run down of why I'm even posting in the first place. About two months ago, I decided to pick up a "cheap" hardtail bike from Canadian Tire, knowing that the bike has a derailleur system that's dirt cheap and that unsurprisingly barely works after two weeks of use. it's still "rideable," I'm just stuck with second gear on the front and first to fourth, sixth, and sometimes fifth if I win the lottery on the back, and seventh is just a lost cause. I made this purchase because I know that the brakes get the job done, and the frame and front forks are decent for commuting and getting around my city as well as the suburban areas and some light trails, also I like fixing things and replacing components, so I treated it like a project car, get something that needs work and that I can learn on as I go.

Here's the exact bike I got: Raleigh Trailblazer Hardtail Mountain Bike, 29-in Wheels

All that aside, the bike has a 3x7 system, and I'm looking to replace it with a 1x11 system, any good kits or individual parts that aren't too expensive but still are good quality? I'm not exactly sure about what type of measurements I'll need and what not. Tools won't be an issue since my college campus has a bike shop and a DIY repair area that students can use for free.

Other things I'm looking to upgrade/replace/install in order of importance are:
- Kickstand delete (Might do that right now tbh)
- Front and Rear Lights
- Mud Flaps (both front and rear)
- Mechanical to Hydraulic brakes conversion (Replace the discs and pads as well)
- Dropper Post (Preferably wireless)
- Tires
- Better Fork (Air shock maybe?)

Any advice on what to look for and what to avoid for these parts as well is also greatly appreciated.
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Old 06-21-21, 12:13 AM
  #2  
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Do you know what the diameter of the seat post is?

Do you know if you have a freewheel or cassette?
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Old 06-21-21, 06:22 AM
  #3  
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Hey everyone.
- Kickstand delete (Might do that right now tbh) No issue there.
- Front and Rear Lights Buy what you need and budget allows
- Mud Flaps (both front and rear) No issues
- Mechanical to Hydraulic brakes conversion (Replace the discs and pads as well) Run originals until problems occur. Upgrade includes levers
- Dropper Post (Preferably wireless) For commuting and "light trails"?
- Tires When you wear out the originals unless you want to go with street tires where most of your riding is done.
- Better Fork (Air shock maybe?) Total waste of time & money.

Any advice on what to look for and what to avoid for these parts as well is also greatly appreciated.
Honestly major "Upgrades" to a low end bike are usually not ideal. If you feel the need to upgrade something you're usually better off starting with a higher end used platform to start with
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Old 06-21-21, 06:45 AM
  #4  
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Trailblazer - Hardtail Mountain Bike (29") – Raleigh Bikes (raleigh-canada.ca)

Welcome to BikeForums! You won't be able to replace much with the drivetrain unless you also replace the rear wheel. Your bike has a freewheel rear hub which is generally not upgradable. You can get 8- and 9-speed freewheels (and even some no-name 10-speed ones I think), but your options will be very limited. Mechanically, your current drivetrain is basic but also very workable. You should be able to adjust it to shift through all 21 chain ring and sprocket combinations. 3x7 drivetrains are usually pretty simple and easy to work with. If you can't get it to shift cleanly across all seven sprockets on the back, then it's possible the rear derailleur hanger (the shiny bit that bolts to the frame) could bent. If this is the case, no derailleur will shift well.

The best upgrade you can make to the bike for commuting is replacing the tires. Something smooth (perhaps something like a Schwalbe Big Ben or Schwalbe Hurricane) will make pedaling around town a lot easier. You may be able to find a used set of wheels to replace the originals. If you can find a set of wheels with disc hubs, 100/135mm spacing (I presume this is your current hub spacing), and a rear freehub (vs. the freewheel hub you have now), this would make your drivetrain upgrade path much more straight forward. I wouldn't replace the brakes until you figure the drivetrain out -- with the integrated brake/shift levers you have now, an upgrade to hydraulic will require you buy shifters as well; it'd be best to make the brake and drivetrain change at the same time to avoid potentially buying parts you either can't use or will quickly replace.
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Old 06-21-21, 07:32 AM
  #5  
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Before you dump a huge amount of money into this project, learn to properly adjust the current drivetrain. The bike has Shimano low-line components but there is no reason they can't be made to shift properly and reliability.

As to your upgrade proposals, dedhed's editing of your post is pretty much spot on. A high line airshock fork and wireless dropper seatpost on a commuter bike? Why?
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Old 06-21-21, 08:31 AM
  #6  
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As already mentioned, spending a ton of money on this bike is a bad idea IMO. You're much better off trying to find a new or used bike that already has the equipment you're looking for as this project could easily end up costing as much (or more) but you're still stuck with a cheap frame and other cheap parts, handlebar, stem, suspension forks, seatpost, brakes, etc., etc. Either give this bike a good tuneup and understand it is what it is or sell it and get something better. Also contact Canadian Tire for any warranty or free tuneups offered as many dealers offer this on new bikes only 2 months old.

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Old 06-21-21, 08:40 AM
  #7  
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Alright so from what I've gathered from your comments are:

- New front fork isn't worth it
- Dropper Post, The reason why I want one is because the route I take to and from work and the park where I workout has me hopping over a lot of curbs, and I don't know how to do a bunny hop as of right now, so my strategy to get over them is to just get the front wheel over the curb and let the rear wheel just climb over it, and this has the seat hitting my butt and pretty close to some critical areas, which isn't best. As well as this, there are a few beginner trails not far from where I live, and I'd like to try them out once I have the drivetrain issues fixed
- Keep current brake system until it starts to show issues
- New tires after current ones fail
- Don't go too fancy with the lights
- Other small thing I want to do are fine
- Should not have treated it like a project car

Some extra things I want to add are:

Derailleur hanger isn't bent
Second gear on the back has a noticeable warp, First and third may have a slight warp
Only adjustability I have on the rear derailleur is the high and low limit
When putting a lot of force/power through the pedals on the crank when climbing a steep hill or trying to go as fast and humanly possible, the chain feels likes it skips or jumps the teeth on the gear (at the rear), sounds as if something's breaking
Front Derailleur has no adjustability from what I can see
I've played around with the high and low limit on the rear derailleur before to see if it shifts into seventh in the rear after it stopped working, but I only got it working for a good 5 minutes
Currently only using sixth gear, and only shifting down into 2nd to 4th if absolutely necessary
Front derailleur is weird, shifting from first to second doesn't work unless you go directly from first to third, then shift down to second. Third to second, and second to first work fine
Thin film of oil/grease on the front fork where the suspension travels with a little build up where it seems to bottom out or reach as much travel as I've used, should I be concerned about this (I cut off the elastics like a total idiot when I first got the bike because I just thought those were meant to secure tags thats weren't there, then later found out it was a visual marker for suspension travel and how much you were using)
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Old 06-21-21, 09:38 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Front Derailleur has no adjustability from what I can see
I've played around with the high and low limit on the rear derailleur before to see if it shifts into seventh in the rear after it stopped working, but I only got it working for a good 5 minutes
)
Limit screws have no effect on gears in the middle of your freewheel. All they do is limit how far the derailleur travels inward and outward.
The front derailleur itself will have limit screws, but adjustment for the middle chainring will be done at the shifter which will have a barrel adjuster to adjust where the derailleur rests in each gear
The problem with buying a bike from Canadian Tire is that they have no ability to repair the product they sell. One bike shop I used to go to would often have brand new Canadian Tire bikes in for adjustment before their owners were able to ride them safely.
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Old 06-21-21, 11:16 AM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Hey everyone.

Pretty new to mountain bikes, and bikes in general, so here's a run down of why I'm even posting in the first place. About two months ago, I decided to pick up a "cheap" hardtail bike from Canadian Tire, knowing that the bike has a derailleur system that's dirt cheap and that unsurprisingly barely works after two weeks of use. it's still "rideable," I'm just stuck with second gear on the front and first to fourth, sixth, and sometimes fifth if I win the lottery on the back, and seventh is just a lost cause. I made this purchase because I know that the brakes get the job done, and the frame and front forks are decent for commuting and getting around my city as well as the suburban areas and some light trails, also I like fixing things and replacing components, so I treated it like a project car, get something that needs work and that I can learn on as I go.

Here's the exact bike I got: Raleigh Trailblazer Hardtail Mountain Bike, 29-in Wheels

All that aside, the bike has a 3x7 system, and I'm looking to replace it with a 1x11 system, any good kits or individual parts that aren't too expensive but still are good quality? I'm not exactly sure about what type of measurements I'll need and what not. Tools won't be an issue since my college campus has a bike shop and a DIY repair area that students can use for free.

Other things I'm looking to upgrade/replace/install in order of importance are:
- Kickstand delete (Might do that right now tbh)
- Front and Rear Lights
- Mud Flaps (both front and rear)
- Mechanical to Hydraulic brakes conversion (Replace the discs and pads as well)
- Dropper Post (Preferably wireless)
- Tires
- Better Fork (Air shock maybe?)

Any advice on what to look for and what to avoid for these parts as well is also greatly appreciated.
It will cost more to do this than to get a better bike. Don't do it

the basic frame,wheels etc are low end and will always be, so you are basically throwing money and time away

Just tune and work on the bike you have and learn, it is pretty clear you are new at this and you will end up way over your head (been there, done that)

lights are important
tires are often the best upgrade for the buck
Kickstand is handy for a around town bike
Mud flaps? do you mean fenders?

Beyond that, IMHO much of this is way overkill for commuting and around town

Dropper post.... not needed for around town and wireless????
Suspension fork.....not needed for around town
move to a 1x11
move to to hydraulic brakes
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(looking for Torpado Super light 56,57 or so)

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Old 06-21-21, 11:31 AM
  #10  
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Every $5 you spend upgrading that bike will be a wasted $10. Seriously. A waste of time and effort and money. If you can't get your 3x7 drivetrain to shift properly then you won't be able to get a 1x11 drivetrain to shift properly. Furthermore you will have to replace just about every moving part on the bike, and even if the 'upgrades' are all successfully completed, the bike is not going to be any better for how you are using it. Lastly, putting newer or better parts on a bike meant primarily as transportation is a way to attract attention from thieves and lose your bike altogether.

Save the $00s or $000s you would have to spend to make that cheap bike into a 'slightly upgraded cheap bike' and keep your eyes on Key-G-G and Fascistbook marketplace for a better bike.
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Old 06-21-21, 01:05 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Only adjustability I have on the rear derailleur is the high and low limit
The critical adjustment you do have available on the rear derailleur is the one you haven't mentioned: the barrel adjuster. This fine-tunes the indexing of the derailleur, or the positioning of the derailleur under the rear sprockets. You actually have two barrel adjusters for this on your bike. One at the front shifter (the right shifter) and one on the rear derailleur itself. Lefty-loosy on either of the barrel adjusters to effectively lengthen the housing, pull more cable, and swing the derailleur closer to the wheel. Righty-tighty on either adjuster to effectively shorten the housing, loosen more cable, and relax the derailleur, away from the wheel. I find this easiest to do at the derailleur itself, and it's more intuitive here. The derailleur will move in the direction you turn the barrel adjuster nut. As you look at the back of the derailleur (at the barrel adjuster nut), turn it left to move the derailleur to the left. Turn it right to move the derailleur to the right.

You said the derailleur hanger is not bent, but a very small variance here (far smaller than you can visually guestimate) can cause you issues. Have you had this checked with a derailleur alignment tool at bike shop?

Originally Posted by misttea View Post
When putting a lot of force/power through the pedals on the crank when climbing a steep hill or trying to go as fast and humanly possible, the chain feels likes it skips or jumps the teeth on the gear (at the rear), sounds as if something's breaking
This is consistent with a derailleur that's not indexed or aligned correctly. It may be out of position under the sprockets or even aimed to the left or right (via a bent hanger) just enough for this behavior to set up.

Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Front Derailleur has no adjustability from what I can see
The derailleur itself doesn't have a barrel adjuster, but the shifter has one. This is used similarly to how you fine-tune the rear derailleur. Loosen the barrel adjuster to pull more cable and move the derailleur outward (towards the larger rings). Tighten this adjuster to relax the derailleur away from the larger rings.

Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Front derailleur is weird, shifting from first to second doesn't work unless you go directly from first to third, then shift down to second. Third to second, and second to first work fine.
This sounds like an index adjustment issue. Park Tool has some great videos on how to index derailleurs. They would be great resources for you on this.
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Old 06-21-21, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by hokiefyd View Post
The critical adjustment you do have available on the rear derailleur is the one you haven't mentioned: the barrel adjuster. This fine-tunes the indexing of the derailleur, or the positioning of the derailleur under the rear sprockets. You actually have two barrel adjusters for this on your bike. One at the front shifter (the right shifter) and one on the rear derailleur itself. Lefty-loosy on either of the barrel adjusters to effectively lengthen the housing, pull more cable, and swing the derailleur closer to the wheel. Righty-tighty on either adjuster to effectively shorten the housing, loosen more cable, and relax the derailleur, away from the wheel. I find this easiest to do at the derailleur itself, and it's more intuitive here. The derailleur will move in the direction you turn the barrel adjuster nut. As you look at the back of the derailleur (at the barrel adjuster nut), turn it left to move the derailleur to the left. Turn it right to move the derailleur to the right.

This is consistent with a derailleur that's not indexed or aligned correctly. It may be out of position under the sprockets or even aimed to the left or right (via a bent hanger) just enough for this behavior to set up.

The derailleur itself doesn't have a barrel adjuster, but the shifter has one. This is used similarly to how you fine-tune the rear derailleur. Loosen the barrel adjuster to pull more cable and move the derailleur outward (towards the larger rings). Tighten this adjuster to relax the derailleur away from the larger rings.

This sounds like an index adjustment issue. Park Tool has some great videos on how to index derailleurs. They would be great resources for you on this.
Just watched the park tool video about index adjustment, and after around 10-15 minutes of shifting through the gears and listening, I was able to figure out that there was an indexing issue and that the H-limit was out of wack, I've spent the last 10 minutes listening, adjusting and fine tuning (to the best of my ability) the barrel adjusters, and with the bike upside down and just pedaling by hand, everything sounds good and is shifting through the all the gears nicely. I'll be going on a ride tomorrow and I'll update if the tuning has changed how I ride the bike. Also did this for the front and it's all gears are working as they should be.
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Old 06-21-21, 06:36 PM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Just watched the park tool video about index adjustment, and after around 10-15 minutes of shifting through the gears and listening, I was able to figure out that there was an indexing issue and that the H-limit was out of wack, I've spent the last 10 minutes listening, adjusting and fine tuning (to the best of my ability) the barrel adjusters, and with the bike upside down and just pedaling by hand, everything sounds good and is shifting through the all the gears nicely. I'll be going on a ride tomorrow and I'll update if the tuning has changed how I ride the bike. Also did this for the front and it's all gears are working as they should be.
Don't be surprised if you have to turn the barrel adjusters a click or 2.
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Old 06-21-21, 07:55 PM
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Do you have a nephew or neighbor kid?

Borrow their 20” bmx frame bike.

Learn to bunny hop.

Start by doing this. Ride up and down your street. While riding with your shoulders fairly close to the handlebars, point your toes down and pick up the back of your bike with the pedals.

Do that over and over.

Way easier on smaller wheels. Something about mass being further from the axle.
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Old 06-22-21, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Just watched the park tool video about index adjustment, and after around 10-15 minutes of shifting through the gears and listening, I was able to figure out that there was an indexing issue and that the H-limit was out of wack, I've spent the last 10 minutes listening, adjusting and fine tuning (to the best of my ability) the barrel adjusters, and with the bike upside down and just pedaling by hand, everything sounds good and is shifting through the all the gears nicely. I'll be going on a ride tomorrow and I'll update if the tuning has changed how I ride the bike. Also did this for the front and it's all gears are working as they should be.
I'm glad to hear that it's better. Hopefully, you found the video where they take the process from the very beginning: disconnect the cable, set the barrel adjuster to where you have some adjustment both ways, and start with the limit screws, etc. That will get your rough cable adjustment (where it's fastened to the derailleur) close. Then the barrel adjuster should get you the rest of the way.

A well-adjusted drivetrain and some smoother tires will get that bike feeling like a whole different machine.
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Old 06-22-21, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Alright so from what I've gathered from your comments are:

- New front fork isn't worth it

- Should not have treated it like a project car

Thin film of oil/grease on the front fork where the suspension travels with a little build up where it seems to bottom out or reach as much travel as I've used, should I be concerned about this (I cut off the elastics like a total idiot when I first got the bike because I just thought those were meant to secure tags thats weren't there, then later found out it was a visual marker for suspension travel and how much you were using)
If “project car” is your frame of mind consider that a lot of hop-up parts for an STi will also bolt to an Impreza TS… but you shouldn’t

There’s not much to go wrong in a Suntour fork. It really is just like a pogo stick. Not sure what you found to cut off, they don’t normally have an o-ring for travel. The grease is just grease. There is maintenance you can do if you want (wipers and bushings, cleanup and new grease) but it’s not going to change much.

Better forks are better, and still exist, but it’s a whole topic of its own.
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Old 06-23-21, 12:02 AM
  #17  
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- Mechanical to Hydraulic brakes conversion (Replace the discs and pads as well) Run originals until problems occur. Upgrade includes levers
Why? Properly set up with the right pads cable actuated discs work just fine and are better than caliper brakes in the wet.
If the advice is to not throw $ into upgrades on an entry level bike that includes the brakes in this case, imo.
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Old 06-24-21, 05:17 PM
  #18  
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Quick Update:

- Bike rides really well, I can shift through 1st to 6th with no issues and the front derailleur works fine
- 7th gear worked for 5 minutes and then stopped working, but this isn't really a big issue since my regular riding around the city rarely has me putting down a bunch of power to go fast (Even if I do need 7th I can just used the largest chainring and 6th gear and still get some good power and speed), Looking into fixing that in a few days once I have some time
- The bike feels totally different, some climbs that I would have to stand up and really grind and dig deep on because I was locked into 6th are now astronomically easier since I can actually use the higher gear ratios, still hard but I don't feel like I have to skip leg day anymore
- Keeping the bike as is, only going to get a set of cheap lights and mudguards/fenders for rainy days and my really early morning commute to work

Last edited by misttea; 06-24-21 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 06-24-21, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by misttea View Post
Quick Update:

- Bike rides really well, I can shift through 1st to 6th with no issues and the front derailleur works fine
- 7th gear worked for 5 minutes and then stopped working, but this isn't really a big issue since my regular riding around the city rarely has me putting down a bunch of power to go fast (Even if I do need 7th I can just used the largest chainring and 6th gear and still get some good power and speed), Looking into fixing that in a few days once I have some time
- The bike feels totally different, some climbs that I would have to stand up and really grind and dig deep on because I was locked into 6th are now astronomically easier since I can actually use the higher gear ratios, still hard but I don't feel like I have to skip leg day anymore
- Keeping the bike as is, only going to get a set of cheap lights and mudguards/fenders for rainy days and my really early morning commute to work
Nice .... thanks for the update
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Old 06-25-21, 02:01 PM
  #20  
cpach
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That all sounds very sensible. If you find the drivetrain working insufficiently, probably the easiest thing to do would be replace the rear derailleur with something SLIGHTLY better. An Alivio or Acera rear derailleur isn't very expensive (or a similarly priced Microshift derailleur honestly) but shifts considerably better than Tourney, which is kinda junk, though you can generally get it working.

Cable actuated disc brakes very a fair amount in quality. If you really can't brake quickly it may be advisable to replace them, either way better cable actuated discs or hydraulic brakes. A cheap compromise might be a better brake just on the front.

Somewhat generally bike manufacturers can buy parts at WAY below dealer cost, and most new bikes are worth much more than the sum of their parts at retail. You'll pretty much never save money buying a cheaper bike and upgrading it to match a more expensive one. New bikes are hard to buy right now so I'm doing more upgrades of older bikes than I would normally, but your bike really isn't a great platform for significant upgrades.
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