Talk some sense into me! (XC bike upgrades)

I am sure lots of us go through this - I just really need an outside perspective to an internal debate I’ve been having for… months.

Background

I started XC in January 2022 after 1-2 years of fairly consistent road riding and 3-4 years of plodding along. Completely fell in love with the sport and sold my road bike the month after I bought my hardtail. It’s all I ride, my 1 and only bike and have so much enjoyment from it. Not to mention I do all my workouts outdoors, including the winter - so my 1 bike gets a lot of use.

However… 6000km later… The Dilema

After 1 season of racing XC, and doing fairly well at 4.5+wkg - my skill levels are catching up and feel that I benefit so much more with bike tech compared to road riding where I didn’t really care much for ‘mariginal gains’.

So I began to upgrade - First the wheels to 25int width (done), and

Now I am thinking of some upgrades for next season…

Bigger forks (100 to 120) , shorter cranks (175 to 170) , new stem (-20) , handlebars (why not), tyre inserts… maybe a carbon back wheel as I have managed to buckle my new wheels within 3 months of owning them (shoulda ran tyre inserts)… Other things about my bike I can’t change annoy me like the 27.2 seatpost, barely enough clearence for 2.35’’ tyres… I can’t stop thinking about upgrades!!

I am starting to think if this is the right way to go about it.

Is upgrading really worth the money? Would I better better off just selling it and getting a complete new bike?

After this past year of riding I’ll probably need to spend a few hundred just on maintaining the bike - I might just sell it as is and buy a brand new bike.

Do you guys have a logic on upgrading vs selling and buying new? What saves you money in the long run?

Is there a point to upgrading if everything on the bike other than the frame remains original?

With the shortage of components at the moment and along with the expense of them it would probably be better to get a new/used upgraded bike. I would also maybe get a lesson or 2 from a skills coach to make the most of that bike. At 4.5 w/kg + you should be towards the pointy end of the race but you can lose a lot on the decent to a good MTB’er.

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Assuming the bike is mechanically sound I only think upgrading makes sense if it enhances your experience. A slightly better drivetrain that is slightly lighter doesn’t really improve experience assuming your current drivetrain works fine. Good brakes are going to make riding more fun. Along with a well serviced suspension system and a dropper.

I hear you on messing wheels up. My last bike I had some alloy wheels for everyday use and switched to the carbon stuff for special occasions. I bought the almost new alloy wheels used for a great price. This placed less wear on my nicer wheels/tires and cassette.

With only one bike, that it sounds like you ride often, there will most likely be a time that it is not available for riding. So maybe a new/used bike to add to the stable makes sense.

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27.2 post diameter is pretty limiting, coupling that with narrow tire clearance, I’d say get the new bike.

We have a whole thread:

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Why does the 27.2 post bug you? Lots of dropper options for it and flexy rigid posts. I’m using a PNW suspension dropper that is made in 27.2 that works well for bigger hits.

I don’t think you’re going to find many full squish XC/trail frames that take wider tires.

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n+1

But seriously, buy a new bike. I went through this same process in the spring. Eventually, you end up spending more on upgrading for an inferior product, not to mention the headache and countless hours spent researching, obtaining parts, doing the build, etc. Find the bike you want, sell your current bike back to the shop, and ride away happy. Several months later, I’m very happy I went this route.

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I bought a new bike for racing (Blur TR full suspension) and kept my hardtail for winter and bad weather training.

Just another option to consider - only spend enough to keep the hardtail running, and out the rest into a new bike. But that way, when they nice bike is in the shop or the weather sucks, you can still ride…

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It all depends on what bike you have. What bike do you have OP? Upgrading a low end bike probably isn’t worth it. None of those upgrade will be the different between a win and loss in a mtb race (nor will the new bike).

If you want them because you want them, that’s fine. But you certainly don’t need any of it unless you’ve got a $700 mtb with spring shocks

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Buy a new bike. It sounds very much like you’ll quickly run up a big bill and end up with a bike that possibly isn’t what you thought/as good as the bike you’re visualising/could buy new.

Just my 2c. And I love upgrading bikes.

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Can you give us the specs of the bike you are running now?

And then tell us what you find limiting or what areas you are not happy with?

Here are some generic thoughts I have:

  • Reading your post, I get the impression you don’t really know what you should upgrade and why. (No offense.)
  • On road bikes you often want to upgrade the wheels first, but on mountain bikes I find the impact is not as big, provided you have quality wheels. I have Stans Arch Mark IIIs, which are quality aluminium wheels mated to XTR M9000 hubs. They are amazing, more than enough. On road bikes upgrading to carbon wheels usually comes with several advantages at once, aero advantages, weight advantages, stiffness (both in the rims and the hubs), etc. On mountain bikes aero is not a big factor.
  • You should be cautious about upgrades that alter the geometry, e. g. by getting a fork with more travel. This will alter your stance on the bike and handling. If you love an XC bike, putting a 120 mm fork on a frame that wasn’t designed for it may make your bike feel more like a trail bike. So be cautious.
  • Don’t just spend money to spend money.
  • Consider whether you need a brake upgrade. I like to overspec my brakes: on my XC hardtail I have 180 mm rotors front and rear. Ideally, I would have liked 4-pot brakes, but the ones I wanted were too difficult to get within a reasonable time frame.
  • Upgrading the suspension components to higher-spec ones can make a huge difference. I cannot overemphasize how big of an upgrade this might be. My previous fully had a solid mid-level fork when it was new (a Rockshox Reba RL), my new-to-me XC hardtail has a top-of-the-line XC fork from 2018. The difference blew my mind.

Here are some safe upgrades that will have a huge impact:

  • Tires. What kind of tires suit you best depends on a whole number of factors, terrain, riding style, etc. But this is super important.
  • Tire inserts.
  • A dropper post. You mentioned you have a 27.2 mm seat post, which indicates to me that you have a fixed seat post. I’d replace that with a dropper post. No question that this will improve your riding.
  • Clothing and things like backpacks. On a mountain bike you tend to be exposed to more varied weather and at least where I come from it is normal to bring along a jacket and other things for a lot of riding.
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Buy a new bike, keep the old bike as backup. With 2 mtbs you always have 1 to ride when the other is getting important work done like suspension service. I’d go with a Specialized Epic, which is what I’m currently looking for.

Also it depends a lot on your trails and other factors but I tried a 120mm fork and did not like it compared to 100. The 100 just seemed easier to navigate through technical tight trail that didn’t need a 120.

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That’s another options, although I would probably choose a second bike that complements the first. And here I don’t quite know what @C_Nay is looking for.

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Hi All

Thank you for all the advice!

For your further information.

My bike

Love the components, XT is amazing!

Upgrades Currently
Alloy 25int width wheelset by SILT 1500g - love them but buckling them after 3 months is disappointing - to keep in my mind i race twice a week for about 3 months.

27.2 crankbrothers dropper - its fine, when i first got it i didn’t know how to take care of it so I got it very scratched up :frowning: still works fine though.

Garmin rally pedals (fat boys) with the existing 175mm cranks and its pedal strike galore (this is also attributed to lack of skill). But as I am getting better at ratcheting its less common. Also hence my interest to upgrade to 120mm forks and 170mm cranks. The bike has a 65mm bb drop which I think is considerably lower than other bikes on the market.

My main issues
Low BB height (pedal strikes)

Hardtail - although there are pros and cons to this I race on natural trails so I see myself lose a lot of time on rooty sections (up or down) - although most are on full sus, the best guy is on a hardtail - he is a national champ tho

Max tyres 2.35.

My terrain
I race 2-3 local club leagues on very tech terrain - often wet and super rooty, tight, rocky… might as well be an enduro track. Some of the guys that race and create these natural tracks race EWS and hence me having bad handling (inexperience) plus a limiting bike serves as a double-whammy! But i am learning super quick and I love slippy conditions!

Also to note - I ride to the races which is 1+ hour there and 1 hour back. So the hardtail has been great for on-road rides.

One and only bike
Unfortunately for my current circumstances I can only afford and have space for 1 bike. This may change in the future but for the time being its just this. If I buy another bike it would be around 3.5k EURO. So - lowest spec canyon lux - or higher spec exceed.

Dilema
For the time being I am leaning towards just keeping things until they break and upgrading it then - As it was my first year of riding, I haven’t learnt how to maintain things well so it’s likely I will need an overhaul after this winter. I train outdoors all year round (6-10 hours depending on season) so my components take a lot of abuse.

Also this makes space for other investments as others point out - clothes (baggys for skill sessions), lights for night riding and other quality of life stuff.

My main worry is going down a rabit hole and end up with an upgraded bike, costing the same as if i bought a new bike in the first place. What do you think of my current bike - does it have a decent skeleton to build up upon?

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First of all, nice bike! I have ridden Cube mountain bikes for years, and they are very good bang for the buck/Euro.

That’s valid. Let me summarize the points I have noticed.

  • You wrote you cannot have two bikes.
  • In the future you want to upgrade to a fully.
  • You have unscheduled downtime because of component failures.
  • On technical sections, you feel like the people on fullys have an edge.

What do you think of the following:

  • I was glad to read that you already have a dropper post, so that bit is covered already.
  • Make sure the touch points — seat, pedals and handlebars — are to your liking. If not, upgrade them. Fit >>> spec. For bars, err on the wider side, you can always cut them to size.
  • Get a second set of wheels. Nothing super expensive, a pair of quality alloy rims. (I have Stans alloy rims and am super happy. Don’t worry about weight, my hardtail comes in at 9.8 kg without saddle bag :grin:) Put a pair of tires on that is different from your current tires, e. g. for skill sessions or when you have to race in muddy conditions/unusual conditions.
  • Get tire inserts for all four wheels.
  • I noticed that at least in the product photo Cube put on cheap Deore or Deore SLX rotors. Exchange those for XT rotors with IceTech. They are much better.
  • I recommend against 170 mm cranks, you should go for 165 mm cranks to make changing them worth it.

Oh, and the last bit:

  • Start putting your dream ful sus together. Obsess over specs. Peruse the internet for boutique brands you have never heard of. Pivot? What is that? And isn’t Yeti a mythical animal? Or look at less popular, but insanely great brands like BMC that feature very interesting tech like integrated dropper posts. Don’t limit yourself, you can dream!
  • Start putting away a few €/£/¥/$ every month. Nothing feels better to be able to buy your dream bike outright.

If you want to stick to a hardtail, your current bike is a great basis for upgrades — assuming you like the geometry. If you do and you don’t plan on getting a new bike for a few years, go for it.

I bought my XC hardtail used. The frame is from 2014, a mid-spec Merida carbon frame. In 2018 the previous owner asked his LBS to take off all the parts, throw them away and put the best-of-the-best on it: a full XTR groupset, carbon everywhere, Worldcup-level fork.

He used it for four more years and then sold it to me for a pittance. Well, he took the XTR brakes off, so I bought XT brakes two months ago. I also had to replace the handlebars, because of overtorqued the bolts and cracked it. But that was also a blessing as the old ones were a few cm too short for my taste. This bike is unbelievable — I’m getting components I would have never bought myself. Yes, the geometry is a bit old school, but the carbon seat post makes it super comfortable and the fork is just magnificent. Oh, and I put on Rotor Q-Rings — they were 29 € on sale and, eeeh, I just wanted them. :grin:

PS The coating on the cranks was worn off through hours of riding by the previous owner. Don’t care. :slight_smile:

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For a XC bike, that’s a decent spec out of the box!

You’ve fitted a dropper so that’s the first suggestion taken care of! The tyres get good reviews, but I’ve never ridden them. For wet, slippy conditions I like Vittoria Barzo’s front and rear. I find them really grippy.

I don’t think you’ll solve the pedal strike issue with 5mm shorter cranks - that’s likely to be technique. As is the buckled wheels. You need to ride a hardtail with a bit more sympathy than you would a full sus.

If I had that frame, I would be looking at using it as a base for upgrades. I’d be looking at saving weight, and I reckon you could easy shed 1kg from it by looking at the right places…

  1. Forks - something like Fox Factory (or performance elite) 32 stepcast will save a chunk of weight and perform much better.
  2. Chainset - upgrading to XT will again save a chunk of weight.
  3. Bars and stem. A good carbon bar will absorb some trail chatter and save weight. Your stem is also pretty heavy. (A super light, but expensive upgrade is to Bontrager RSL integrated bar and stem, but it’s a one shot upgrade and a pricey mistake if you order the wrong size)
  4. Cassette - upgrade to an XT cassette to save a big chunk of weight. XTR will save even more, but you’ll enter the world of diminishing returns.
  5. Rotors - stick on some XT Ice Tech rotors. Lighter and better performing.
  6. Saddle. Unless you really like it, look for something lighter.

Smaller gains - if you haven’t already done so, ditch the QR seatpost clamp and get a collar with a bolt. (plus who doesn’t love a bling seatpost collar!!)

The biggest upgrade though is the rider. Worry less about power and more on skills.

I’ve been on a similar journey, coming back to XC after a long break, and have upgraded a Trek Procaliber 9.5 into a sub-10kg race bike for half the price of buying a similar spec off the shelf bike.

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@OreoCookie and I weren’t in communication when we posted almost the same thing!!!

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Great minds think alike!
As soon as I lifted my bike out of the box, I knew I had done the right thing. Quite the upgrade from a entry-to-mid-spec fully that weighed 13.4 kg.

Also, great selection of upgrades. :+1:

PS Beautiful bike. The matching grips are a nice touch.


I never even rode my bike in it’s original spec. I’ve replaced everything except the brakes and shifter!!

Once you start the custom bike build, there’s no going back🤣

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This is exactly my route for upgrades!

Forks - Sid 35 120mm
Chainset - 170 (165) XT with 34 as I do road riding
Bars and stem - MT Zoom 740 and -17 (the cube has a high stack and with 120 even higher so I will need to get low as its my prefer position).
Casette - Nothing for now as its impossible to find stock
Rotors - I have XT on my new wheelset
Saddle - I have Antares R1 from my old roadbike - my saddle for the passed 3 years!

I think my main worry is that i am going to end up with a completely new bike!

I have my previous wheelset from the original cube that I have kept - I was thinking of putting dual forekaster or forekasters back and nobbly nick front on this for wet days. Currently i am running Foreksaster front and recon rear @ 2.35 - Loving this combo.

Another route I considered is buying frameset only 2-3 years down the line and swapping parts over. Once my work/life situation is a little more balanced.

Thanks for all the advice - you made me feel like i am not wasting my time upgrading :slight_smile: In fact it excites me to try to get my bike sub 10 and unique!

My only decision now is 100 sid ultimate at 1300g or 120mm at 1500… hmm

And here is she!

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and when looking back - did you find yourself you saved money or lost? But you are obviously happy with the result so thats most important! Beautiful bike! I almost bought the lowest spec procalibre!