Upgrade path for MTB

Hey folks,
In March I picked up a new Epic Evo,
base build with NX and alloy wheels. I absolutely love it. It’s my first full suspension, after eight years of avidly riding the same hardtail. I plan to get a couple of seasons out of the stock parts, but it’s fun thinking about how I might upgrade it in the future. The first change I would like to make would be the wheels, as the stock set is heavy. Recommendations for a wheelset that balances value, weight, and durability appropriate for xc marathon style riding welcome here. Then there is the drivetrain to consider. Would it make sense to upgrade the wheels to another HG driver body, locking me into NX? Do the nicer after-market carbon wheelset even typically still offer HG? Or would it be better to bite the bullet and get an XD wheelset + GX upgrade in one fell $woop? I would only do this when the cassette was worn out anyway, so really the only extra expenses would be shifter and derailleur? OR could I keep the NX shifter? My understanding of all the compatibility is foggy at best; hoping someone can clarify. Thanks!

Depending how much you’re going to spend on upgrade parts, I’d seriously consider buying the next model up in a few seasons time.

I love upgrading parts, but without looking up the spec for your bike, it might have lower level suspension to match the wheels, groupset etc.

With regards your specific questions, I wouldn’t stay with HG driver. You could use your NX 12 speed shifter and der with a GX or Shimano 10-51 cassette. As a value and weight/performance proposition I think HUNT Wheels are still pretty hard to beat. I had a set of the XC Wide for a bit over a year and they were flawless. I only sold them to fund a build of my own wheels for the fun of the project.

I’m not a SRAM drivetrain fan, but from what I understand NX isn’t highly regarded so I’d upgrade there to GX or Shimano XT whatever suits your preference. (But you don’t need to upgrade to run the 10-51 GX cassette)

The world is your oyster on upgrades, and if your shock and fork are already at a reasonable level then you’ve got the same frame pretty much as the models above and can spec it the way you want over the next few years. Less money tied up in parts on the shelf too :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.

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Agreed. I was looking at upgrading my MTB this spring. After quite a bit of research, I decided it make more sense to sell it on TPC and buy a whole new ride. So glad I did it.

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XT shifter, deore derailleur is a pretty cheap route to shimano with only a minor weight penalty to XT. Even the SLX stuff is great and budget friendly. I would also add SLX brakes, love mine, no different to XT (kind of, but not really).

Dt Swiss XR1700 wheels are a pretty nice wheel set for the money +/- 1600 grams, 350 rear hub and have been pretty bomb proof for me. I upgraded to a 64 tooth ratchet from ebay. No experience with Hunt, but they look like an awesome budget set.

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Just picked up an Epic Evo (base model) as well. This was the first and only epic evo the LBS has been able to get for over a year so got it. Would have loved to move up to a higher spec, but I like the dove gray and want to support the LBS.

Wheels & tires are going to be my first upgrade. I have the GX on my other bike and NX shifts pretty dang close. The weight is a bigger difference than performance IMO. Like you I’m going to ride that drivetrain and when it needs replacing think about an upgrade.

Other than that maybe a Fox SL dropper… Fork…Suspension… Cranks… Carbon handlebar… But in reality I’ll just ride it as is and then probably sell it & get a new bike. :smiley:

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Got the comp version of this bike.
First thing I would do as you say is ditch the wheels. They are over 2kg(!). I got a used pair of Roval Controls, and it transformed the bike! Hunt has some really good and super light XC and trail spec wheels for less than 600$!

I would ditch the NX along with replacing the wheelset. Lots and lots of used GX or higher spec being sold as people are upgrading to AXS etc.

I would leave the stock suspension. The frame is well designed, and I don’t think a higher end shock is going to make much of a difference.

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Enjoy the the bike for what it is. As parts wear maybe bump up a level in. Keep it it good shape, save up. Sell it and add your savings to get your next level bike. It is more the rider than the equipment most of the time. The current cost of bikes/equipment is insane!

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Have a 21 Revolver with NX Eagle, my plan is upgrade the wheels (can use them on future bikes too) and the cassette to X01 (the stock NX cassette will likely be approaching end of life this year). I’m sure GX shifting feels better but don’t find the NX shifting troublesome. With the wheel and cassette swap I can save 815g and can assess what kind of impact that has on my riding speeds to see if I want to invest in a whole new lighter bike in the future or more upgrades to lose weight. If there isn’t a notable difference I will probably keep the bike longer and not bother with further weight saving upgrades and instead continue focusing on what I have been focused on, having good tires in good condition and keeping the bike well tuned and maintained (suspension service, cables/housing, brake pads and bleeds, etc).

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Thanks for telling me what I want to hear!

Definitely. I am LOVING the bike, smashing all my strava PRs, and having an absolute blast. I won’t replace anything for some time. Just enjoying some daydreaming

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This seems like a good plan. My understanding is the NX Derailleur won’t work with any cassette GX or higher though, can someone confirm?

Good to hear. One area always worth spending some money on is trying different tires. Tires are so specific to the terrain that you ride on (even trail to trail in your area) and are subject to personal preferences, that it’s impossible to make blanket statements about what’s best.

Yet tires (and the proper pressure!) can make a huge difference in how a bike handles and the confidence it brings. They are super important.

So think about what matters most to you in a tire, ask around in your local area what best fits your criteria, see what ones are recommended multiple times and give a few tires a try.

That’s the best thing you can do for any bike (besides finding a saddle that works for you) and it’s cheaper than most other upgrades.

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I don’t think you can use to the 10-52T cassettes with NX eagle derailleur and shifter but believe the 10-50T cassettes (which is my preference anyway) will work with NX Eagle shifter and derailleur. Haven’t actually done this yet though.

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tl;dr
Short-term, make sure your bike fits you and slap on new tires. Long-term, start saving for a brake upgrade and new suspension components.

Short-term recommendations

  1. Make sure you have nailed your bike fit and that your contact points (handlebars, saddle and pedals) are to your liking.
  2. Upgrade the tires. This is such a huge get for very little money. A lot of it is in the compound, i. e. something you cannot tell with your naked eye. If you are riding more challenging terrain with your fully, I recommend you get a mullet setup with something like Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic in the front and something faster rolling (e. g. a Schwalbe Racing Ralph) in the rear. I personally like Schwalbe tires, but feel free to pick any brand you like and trust: put a meatier all-round tire in the front and an XC tire in the rear.

Smaller, cheaper upgrades that deliver a lot of bang for the buck

  • Get a nice set of alloy wheels. IMHO you have more important things to upgrade first before you get carbon wheels. I got a 9.8 kg hardtail with Stans NoTubes Arch Mark 3 rims mated to XTR hubs. They are very light and feel great, especially since they are mated to stiff, high-quality hubs. Plus, these wheels are quite affordable (the rims cost $130). On the trails they are spot on. Are they the absolute best? Nope. But they are relatively inexpensive and get you 90 % there, they’ll be a huge improvement over the boat anchors that probably came with the bike.
  • Get a GX trigger shifter. This will improve shift quality and shift feel. And it is an upgrade that doesn’t break the bank. There is no need to upgrade the rear derailleur.
  • Get a 10-50 GX cassette, because your new wheels should feature an XD-R hub. (I am not sure whether the 10–52 cassette is supported. If it is, get that. Nobody complained about having more easy gears.)

Long-term upgrades you should definitely aim for

  • Invest in good brakes. Good brakes will keep you safe, and they will give you more confidence. I’m a big fan of overspeccing brakes (I got 180 mm front and rear XTs on my XC hardtail). If they are Shimano Deore SLX, you should be fine. On the SRAM side, I hear people complaining about the bite their XC brakes have. People with experience told me they recommend Code Rs, their downhill brakes.
  • Then look at your suspension. Long term, this is what you should be saving up for. Suspension is huge. HUGE! I bought a used XC hardtail with a top-of-the-line fork (a Fox 32 Factory with Kashima coating, etc. etc.). The difference to my previous fork (a Rockshox Reba RL, so a decent mid-range fork) is embarrassingly large. The small bump sensitivity of this thing is spectacular. I thought I hadn’t inflated my tires properly at first. But nope. Now you don’t need to splurge on a fancy world-cup-level fork like the previous owner of my hardtail did (I bought it used), but this is a huge get that isn’t very visible. Ditto for rear dampers. Just make sure that the fork suits your bike and your riding style. E. g. XC forks and dampers, and their trail-focussed siblings are optimized for different things, the difference isn’t just travel. Modern forks and dampers can be modified with tokens and they need to be set up properly. What properly means depends very much on the terrain you are riding.

TR-specific exception

  • While I think you don’t need a new crank from a performance perspective, you might need a new crank if you want a power meter. I’m a big fan of SRAM’s Quarq power meters. However, for things like pacing, one-sided power should be fine and you might send your crank arm to 4iiii or Stages to have a power meter pod installed. Just make sure you have the clearance for it. If you want a better power meter, you might have to invest in a GX crank and a Quarq power meter. Alternatively, you can also look towards Rotor’s Kapic cranks and one of their power meters.
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I’m sort of going through this with a 2016 Trek Procaliber 9.7SL I bought last year for $1600AUD.

In order I upgraded
-Stock bontrager wheels to BTLOS carbon wheels (www.btlos.com)
-Rockshox reba RL to Fox Factory 32 SC
-Stock seatpost to Carbon(cheap one off Aliexpress, but super light and hasn’t broke yet)
-Stock Alloy bar to Procraft carbon bar
-New foam grips to go with bars

Next is upgrading to XX1 cranks with Sigeyi power meter and swapping to DUB BB in the process. The cranks showed up in the mail today, waiting on the dub BB

After that the plan is XTR brakes and replace the cassette with XX1 once the XG1150 wears out (11 Speed cause I prefer it to 12 Speed)

Probably swap the saddle somewhere along the way too.

It’s expensive but I generally buy 2nd hand to save where I can and sell the old components. I actually enjoy it. I’ve had project cars in the past you never see the money back on and I kind of see this the same.

Of course I could have spent the same amount on a brand new bike but I actually don’t think it’d be as well spec’d for the money.

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Let me chime in here: you can get super great deals used, if you are lucky and smart. I got my current hardtail used from a friend-of-a-friend. The intermediary vouched for both of us, so I bought the bike sight-unseen. (Although they did offer to meet in the middle at a race.)

There is no way I would have bought such a highly specced bike for myself: the carbon frame is older, from 2014, but the previous owner basically stripped the whole bike to the frame and replaced all parts in 2018: a world-cup-level fork, XTR groupset, carbon handlebars, carbon seat post and custom wheels with Stans Arch Mark III rims and XTR hubs. The only thing he did, unfortunately, was take off the XTR brakes and sell them to a buddy. I would have paid extra for those. I paid ¥150,000 for it, about $1,100 at the time! And the bike came with two new tires in the box, which alone were worth $150! Ok, the bike is not pristine, e. g. the crank was so well-used that the fancy coating on the drivetrain side has worn off. But it was clear that the owner took very good care of it. I don’t care. I personally would have never bought this level of componentry.

I had to upgrade the brakes, rotors, saddle, handlebars (I overtorqued them) and stem (the new handlebars didn’t fit the old stem). The bike is amazing, I really love how it rides. Yes, it is a big old school, but still, it is right up my alley.

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Congrats on the new steed! I picked up an Epic Evo Comp in the spring, and love it! I’ve made a few minor mods so far:
-Swapped out the wheels and tires for Roval Controls with Ikons (2.3 in the front, 2.2 in the back)
-Swapped the rear cassette for an XX1 Rainbow 10-52t
-Installed rally pedals for power. Of course they failed during my first race of the season this past weekend, leaving me climbing listlessly at 12k feet without metrics, but that’s the first issue I’ve had with them since March.

I think that might be where I leave it for the rest of this season, but thinking of continuing to advance the groupset slowly over time in the next year or two. I share the “car” mentality noted above by @lildavo87 of slowly upgrading things as I go, grew up with a 69 Mustang my dad and I bought that had sat in someones backyard for a decade and rebuilt over a few years :wink:

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These are great thoughts. I have those stans rims on my old hardtail, and they’ve been great. Maybe a set for my new bike would be a good move at some point. I’m not attached to the idea of carbon.

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Dang, hadn’t heard of BTLOS. Kind of seem too good to be true? So customizable, and such a low price for carbon wheels. Are you happy with yours?

On mountain bikes I feel like there is still a place for a solid set of alloy wheels. For road bikes carbon wheels are a different story: cheap carbon rims squeeze quality alloy offerings out of the market — also because carbon rims usually come with aero benefits. I reckon rim material also has a smaller share in the ride equality equation for mountain bikes: you have suspension, much bigger volume tires and potentially a carbon seat post or a cushy dropper post.

Overall, I was shocked how light the hardtail I bought was, especially since the seller didn’t advertise the bike as light, and the (29”) wheels are noticeably lighter than the 26” wheels I have had on my previous mountain bike.