What upgrades with $500

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    • #258197

      Hi all, so I just got a $500 performance bonus from my job and I’m looking for advice/experience with upgrades in the neighborhood of $500 for my 2016 Rocky Mountain instinct 950 MSL http://www.bikes.com/en/bikes/instinct/2016

      I have already gone tubeless and changed the drivetrain to 1×10 with a 11-42 rear cassette, OneUp Rad cage, and 28 tooth steel raceface front cog.

      I ride the front range of Colorado (Golden) and am not in the best shape I could be, but I’m trying to motivate myself to stay in good shape. The going straight up first part of my rides just knackers me so I never really get to enjoy the downhill parts because my legs and lungslung so tired from the uphill. I’m 6’4″ riding weight of 260 and ride 2-3 times per week.

      The options I’m considering are

      1. Going clipless – I get a prodeal through my work and can get decent pedals (xpedo or crank brothers) and shoes (Pearl Izumi) for around $175

      2. Doing a replacement rear drive train to SRAM GX/NX 1×12 ($275 for the cassette, shifter, derailleur, and chain- I can install myself)

      3. Doing the fox factory tune on the front and rear suspension (because of my weight I run the front and rear at near the max PSI to get the sag right) I never bottom out harshly but I also never feel like the ride is “plush” (I honestly don’t know how much that costs or all that much about tuning suspension)

      Basically what I’m asking is what makes a bike climb better (my primary concern) and feel better (my secondary concern) for around $500. Is there something I’m missing aside from the 3 options above?


    • #258202

      The normal answer is spend your money on wheels first but given your size, I’d say going Eagle would be the way to go. You should really notice the 50t granny on the climbs. Some people scoff at the NX group, but I’ve found it really gives a good value for performance. The only place I’ve really seen a glaring reduction in fit and finish is the cassette as it’s a noticeable step-down from GX, and nowhere near XO1 or XX1. But it’s the only one that doesn’t use an XD hub, which makes it the best in its class…

      I focused on making climbing easier since you alluded to it having the biggest negative impact on your riding.

      Before spending money on a custom tune, I’d recommend making sure it won’t work as is. Have you watched Seth’s video on suspension basics? https://youtu.be/bp0nxWZftdI

      I also have friends who have had luck with using this video to find a good baseline suspension setup. https://youtu.be/xhnKTZu2AKs

      • #258204

        BTW, I have no idea what’s up with that huge break in my reply. I made a quick edit and it just kind of appeared…

    • #258205

      In my experience GX rear derailuer lasts a lot longer than the NX making it well worth the upgrade. I run a e13 9-46 cassette and stay ahead of chain changes and am about to put on my 3rd chain after a full year of a lot of riding. Also well worth the investment and it’s a bigger gear range than Eagle.


      I’d either do that or maybe just look for a 26t chainring to get easier gearing for climbing and spend the money on a sweet rear shock which might improve pedaling and impact climbing depending on what you currently have on there. I agree with previous comments though, hopefully you can do some adjustments on your current.

      If you dont have a dropper post getting one would be the biggest benefit you could get for about $400 in my opinion.

    • #258212

      In your situation, i wouldn’t change the drivetrain.  As you say you’re running a 28t chainring with an 11-42 cassette, which gives you exactly the same easiest gear as a 32t chainring and Sram eagle 10-50 cassette which is how most brand new bikes come.  If you want to try something different, perhaps try an oval chainring. I’ve never tried one myself but I’ve heard a lot of people say they help with power transfer and it makes pedalling easier.

      My recommendation would definitely be to upgrade the wheelset.  Reducing the rotational mass of your bike (wheels and tyres) will make climbing feel so much better.  Perhaps have a look at something like Stan’s No Tubes Arch MK3 or Hunt Wheels Trail Wide.  Experimenting with different tires is good also.

      It looks like your bike already has a dropper post so no need to buy one.

      As for suspension tune, watch some videos on YouTube etc and have a play yourself.  Another option is ask at your local bike shop to see if you can rent a ‘Shockwiz’ for the day.  It’s a device that can help you dial in your suspension settings.

      • #258303

        I didn’t suggest wheels because I couldn’t think of any worth “upgrading” to within his budget. I hadn’t heard of the Hunt Wheels before and I’m liking what I’m reading. I might have to get a pair for my Jeffsy, thanks for the info!

    • #258246

      I always think of tires as the first upgrade anyone should do. Get a set of quality tires with heavy casings due to your weight, but also consider putting the widest tires your frame, fork, and rims will allow. You’re really going to feel a big difference with a set of 2.6-2.8 tires. Even if you don’t have frame clearance for a wider tires, a 2.4-2.5 rear and a 2.5-2.6 front will provide a big improvement. There’s a reason so many bikes are now comming with 2.6 wide tires. If you did get new wheels, go for something with (i=inner width) i30-35mm rims.

      Give yourself a break and put some lower gears on that bike but also get a cassette with more range. I recommend an 11-50 cassette with a 26-28T chainring. Having a good low gear makes climbing fun and leaves you with more energy for the rest of the ride Having a wide range cassette makes it possible to have a good low gear without giving up your top end.

      I’m not a fan of clipless peadls. I tried it and I didn’t like it. I fell a lot using clipless, usually in low speed situations. I’m also not a fan of modern flat pedals either. When the going gets bumpy my feet come off the pedals and my foot isn’t always in the right position on the pedal. I’ve had the best luck with flat pedals with cages and straps. Leave the straps loose so your feet come out easily. Wear stiff sole hiking shoes. No special shoes required. You stay connected to the bike but your feet come out easily, your foot is always in the right position, and you don’t get knee pain from mis-adjusted clips.

    • #258282

      Sounds like you’ve already got a pretty sweet bike. I’d recommend using that $500 to pay for a long weekend in Moab instead! After gas, food and lodging you should still have enough leftover to replace the tires and brake pads Moab will inevitably destroy 🙂

    • #258286

      I’d buy reward beer and ride to earn them. But seriously leave the drivetrain alone.

    • #258310

      I’ve gotta go with clipless.  I’ve been riding since ’93 and transitioned to clipless pedals pretty early and currently ride on a pair of time ATACs which are inexpensive and allow good float and ingress/egress.  The learning period can be a little rough, but the improvement in efficiency is massive.  I recently had the experience of switching from clipless to platform and back again because of a bad toe, and riding on those platforms was like riding a completely different trail.  I thought I had somehow lost all my fitness until I switched back to clipless and realized that the extra efficiency is physics, not legend.  There are added benefits like not having your feet slide off or get bounced around and into less than ideal positions as they are locked into the perfect spot every time.  The major downside?  your not nearly as fit as anyone keeping up with you on platform pedals….

    • #258311

      Agree with others on wheels.  If going drive train, I’m also looking at the e thirteen 11 speed 9-46.  Gear range rivals eagle and there is a definite weight savings over 12 speed cassettes.

      You will get varying opinions on clipless.  I just switched to platforms after 20 years on clipless and don’t plan on switching back.  There is some efficiency loss but comfort and confidence are worth it for me.   I would think drive train would go farther for you than clipless.

      But in the end, just keep throwing yourself at the mountains.  I ride the front range and trust me, normal riders are wiped out after these crazy long rocky climbs.  It can take a long duration of riding to feel somewhat fresh at the top.  Problem with Colorado is we have a bunch of biking super freaks that make us mortals feel like we are doing something wrong.  Dude, you just rode up a mountain!  Keep at it and don’t give up.

    • #258312

      Spending the money on a trip sounds like a great idea …. but I just noticed the Pro’s Closet up in Boulder just listed some pretty nice DT Swiss wheelsets.  If the 350/XM 421 wheels fit your bike, that would be a pretty sweet upgrade for under $400.

      I also agree with guggino, most of our rides are tough.  If you’re hitting it 2 to 3 times a week, you will be amazed at the endurance you will have by the end of the season.

      A skills class may also be a good investment.  I watched a little of one of Lee McCormack’s classes last fall while my son was riding at Valmont Bike Park and I think something like that is definitely worth signing up for.

    • #258313

      to anyone doing upgrades i would recommend contact points grips tires seat pedals


    • #258492

      @BigToe, the specs on your bike are pretty solid.  You’ve already gone to 1x and, whereas you could upgrade further to eagle I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem.  I agree with @guggino88 and @dlawson that you’re spent because you just climbed a mountain! Dude, at 6’4″ 260lbs you’re doing a helluva job just getting to the top (I know riders that weigh a lot less that struggle just as much on such climbs). You need to give your body a chance to adapt… and maybe rest a bit longer before heading down.  The more you do it the fitter you will become and the “less hard” it will feel.

      As for climbing here are some things to consider:

      • Make sure you don’t have tires with overly aggressive treads (unless you really need it for the descent).  If you need to upgrade the Maxxis DHF and DHR provide a nice balance.
      • Although I am in the process of converting back to flat pedals after several years of clipless it’s been my experience that clipless does help with climbing.
      • Whereas you can tune your suspension as others have suggested, have you tried locking out your suspension on those non-technical climbs where it’s not necessary?  (Just be sure to open it up when you point the bike downhill 😉
      • As for wheels, I don’t know that the weight difference between your stock wheels and a non carbon upgrade is going to be significant enough for you to really feel the difference.

      But overall just keep at it.  The more you climb the stronger you get at climbing – and the fitter you become!

    • #258502

      Seems everyone has missed the elephant in the room.  You weigh 260# and yer running a 32 fork??!!

      Spend the $500 and get a real fork.  You’ll have a LOT more fun and gain more confidence.

      Also, the rear shock as you mentioned.

    • #258507

      Recently I’ve asked a similar question. But my budget was slightly higher) I was looking for a good rubber (important, better pay you 500$ for this) and every little thing like special clothing for cycling.


      A good site, it seems to me, there are a lot of reviews on bicycles, parts for bicycles, helmets, clothes, etc. Maybe it will simplify your search too.

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