Looking For Thoughts: Should I Buy New, Used, Or Modify Existing?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by mtbcommuter, Apr 27, 2015.

  1. mtbcommuter

    mtbcommuter New Member

    Apr 27, 2015
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    I just joined this forum to get some help & advice on how to change my bicycle, if at all, or to buy a new one, or to buy a used one. I bought a Trek 950 mountain bike in 1998 and rode it about 5 times prior to July 2014.

    I am looking for advice as to what I might do to it to make it more suitable for commuting and more “modern”. I would think a lot has changed since 1998 and perhaps I might benefit from a newer bike.

    I have been told a new cyclocross bicycle might be better suited for my style and use of riding. However, spending $900 or more for a new bicycle that will be ridden 1 – 3 times per week is causing me some pause as I wonder if I can inexpensively change some things on my bike that will get me close to what buying a new bicycle would get me. In other words, if I spend $1,300 on a new cyclocross, could I instead spend $300 - $400 on new components to my Trek , and get something better than what I have now? It might not be as good as a new $1,300 bike, but could the improvement be close enough that the difference in cost does not gain me much ($1,300 - $400)? Those amounts are just amounts I picked out of the air. I can’t see myself owning multiple bicycles, although if I did buy a new one I would probably not sell the Trek, as what could I get for it? $75? It is still a good bicycle and $75 is not much to get rid of a good bike, IMHO.

    Here is my riding experience:
    Starting in July 2014 I rode the Trek once per week for a 20 mile, 2 to 2.5 hour, easy, group ride, up & down rolling hills, on paved roads in a state park. It took about 5 – 6 weeks for my butt to get used to it, and that was after I bought a new seat for the bicycle. LOL

    In mid-September 2014, in addition to the weekly 20 mile ride, I started to ride to & from work, 5.5 miles one way, in 25 minutes on average, and mostly uphill going to work, on paved bike trails, sidewalks, and the road.

    In January 2015, I stopped the weekly 20 mile ride due to a change in living location. I did start riding to my new employer, 15.5 miles one way. I do not ride home but get picked up in the afternoon and taken home, due to time constraints. The first 1 mile is on dirt and gravel, up & down 5% - 12% grades. The 2nd mile is down a big paved hill, and I guess it is about a 20% grade. It is steep, and I have gone about 30 mph on my Trek going downhill, as per my GPS watch. I like to go no faster than about 20 – 25 mph so I use my brakes a lot. The 3rd mile is where the hill starts to level out and from that point to the office 13.5 miles away the paved road is up & down, hilly, but overall down. Since it is overall downhill I do not ride home. I was told it would take me 1 hour to ride to work, and 2 hours to ride home, because of the hill, and sure enough, it takes me about 1 hour to get to work. Since I was told that and it is correct, I have no doubt it will take me 2 hours to get home. Therefore, I do not ride home …yet. Time is too pressed at the end of the day with activities for the kids. Additionally, I do plan to begin riding 2 – 3 times per month with my wife & kids on a local group ride, plus on a level groomed dirt & paved bicycle trail system.

    I do use saddle bags, a seat bag, and I am looking for a trunk to go on the rack above the saddle bags.

    The only changes to the bike to date have been a seat and new shift levers, although I do not remember what brand they are. The seat cost about $40 and the shift levers were about $12 each side. The tires are original and are finally beginning to show signs of wear.

    So, is there anything I can do to upgrade my Trek, or should I just bite the bullet and spend the money on a new bicycle? I am also not opposed to buying a quality used bicycle that someone is selling because of lack of use or because they are upgrading. I have been told the most I could, or should do, is buy new tires, and perhaps wheels. I was also told the current rear cogs and crankset is best for the road I would have to ride home on, since mountain bikes are usually geared the lowest (I think I remembered that correctly). It was being explained to me a new cyclocross would only have 36 teeth, and perhaps 27 teeth on the rear. Seeing the current # of teeth I have right now then perhaps that is correct, to make it easier to ride uphill, and that tires and wheels is all I need. But, what about disc brakes? New shifters? hydraulic? Here are the current components of my Trek:

    [SIZE=medium]1998 Trek 950 [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Bicycle Type Mountain bike, front suspension [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]MSRP (new) $749.99 [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Weight Unspecified [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Sizes 13", 16.5", 18", 19.5", 21", 22.5" [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Colors Ice Blue [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Item ID 76228 [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=medium]Frame & Fork[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Frame Construction: TIG-welded[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Frame Tubing Material: True Temper chromoly, triple-butted[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Fork Brand & Model: Answer Manitou Spyder[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Fork Material: Aluminum/chromoly, triple-clamp crown[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Rear Shock: Not applicable[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=medium]Component Group: Mountain Mix[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Brakeset: Shimano Deore LX V-Brake brakes, Avid SD-1.9 L levers[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Shift Levers: Shimano STX-RC RapidFire SL[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Front Derailleur: Shimano STX top-swing, top-pull[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore LX SGS[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Crankset: Sugino Impel 300, 20/32/42 teeth[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Pedals: Aluminum[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Bottom Bracket: Shimano BB-UN52, 113mm spindle[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]BB Shell Width: 73mm English[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Rear Cogs: 8-speed, 11 - 30 teeth[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]ChainSachs: PC-41, 1/2 x 3/32"[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Seatpost: Aluminum micro-adjust, 27.2mm diameter[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Saddle: Velo Crossbow[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Handlebar: System 1[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Handlebar Extensions: System 1[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Handlebar Stem: System 2[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Headset: 1 1/8" threadless Aheadset Kontak ST-2[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=medium]Hubs: Front: System 1 suspension, Rear: Shimano STX-RC[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Rims: Matrix Guru, 32-hole[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Tires: 26 x 2.10" IRC Mythos XC[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Spoke Brand: DT stainless steel, 2.0mm straight gauge[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Spoke Nipples: Brass nipples[/SIZE]

  2. dabac

    dabac Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Usually, it's nice when people provide plenty of info, but this is a bit rambling.

    So, what's the bottom line?

    You have an old MTB in decent condition - nothing specific wrong with it.

    Your commute is 15 mile daily, one mile gravel, the rest tarmac, in hilly terrain.
    On top of the commute, you want to do occasional casual, social rides.
    You need to carry stuff.

    The big changes in bikes between -98 and today would IMO be:
    - disc brakes are everywhere
    - carbon fiber has become cheaper
    - hydroformed metal frames have become common
    - Shimano has thrown some serious development money on electronic shifting

    Apart from discs, one of the more visible changes is the number of speeds at the rear.
    Don't worry about that.
    For most riders, the most obvious impact of more rear sprockets is that drive trains don't last as long, and need more careful adjustment.
    The main advantage is that you can get the same range and ratios with one less chainring.
    Or more ratios in the same number of rings.
    Unless you're seriously allergic to front shifting, or want to cover an extreme range of riding conditions, it's really not much of an improvement.

    A current equivalent of the mtb you have would be lighter, have a slightly different geometry/ride position and probably a better suspension fork.
    Possibly another wheel size.
    I'm gonna ignore the pros and cons of that at the moment.

    As the saying goes - " if it an't broke, don't fix it". What are you hoping to gain from buying a new bike, or improve on the one you have?

    Buying a CX will give you a drop bar, with a few more hand positions while riding.
    Maybe disc brakes.
    The bigger wheels and narrower tires will reduce the rolling resistance a little.
    A CX with a single ring front will have a seriously smaller gearing range than your current triple.
    Expect to struggle during climbs.
    Basically, if you use the smallest ring today, then you will need a triple on your new bike too, to get the same range.

    A touring bike would be a more sensible choice. Wide-range gearing, geometry well suited for loaded riding.

    If you test ride new bikes, remember that you're not only comparing old vs new tech, you're comparing old-and-used vs new-and-pristine.
    It'll be a fairly small amount of any perceived improvement coming from actual technological advances.
    The perceived DIFFERENCE can be huge, but don't expect much in the way of actual, measurable improvement.

    Unless you WANT to buy a new bike, for which a single-ring CX seems like a fairly poor choice, consider swapping your sus fork for a suspension-corrected rigid fork, thinner, low-tread tires (say 32-35 mm), maybe a new front wheel and a front disc brake.

    Since your frame isn't prepped for it, adding a rear disc brake would require the use of an adapter.
    Opinions about the usefulness of those vary.
    On tarmac, you have most of your braking power from the front anyhow, so a half conversion will get you 3/4 of the result at almost no hassle.

    Want more hand positions? Get a Butterfly/Trekking bar. It'll bolt straight on.
  3. mtbcommuter

    mtbcommuter New Member

    Apr 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    I am looking for advice as to what I might do to it to make it more suitable for commuting and more “modern”. I would think a lot has changed since 1998 and perhaps I might benefit from a newer bike.

    The above is what I am looking for..
    That is the bottom line. Too often I summarize like you did and get in this back & forth, 20 questions routine that takes forever to get to the possible solution.

    Thank you for your answer and time:
    Why fix it if it is not broke?
    Change suspension fork to a rigid fork because: don't need suspension travel so more power is put to forward motion
    Change tires to thinner, less resistance 32-35 mm tires because: easier to pedal
    Change only front wheel to a front wheel with disc brake because: more stopping power
    Get a butterfly/trekking handlebar because: allows for more hand positions

    It appears to me doing the above would improve my riding for far less than $1,300, or even the cost of a quality used bicycle, and the difference I would gain by buying a different bicycle over making your suggested changes would be minimal., and not worth the extra cost.

    Thanks for the help. I had no idea I could put just one disc brake on, and change out just one wheel..good ideas.
  4. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2010
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    There is nothing wrong with what you currently ride. For commuting, I may consider adding fenders to keep your clothing clean. Street slicks will make the ride a bit easier. How are your brakes? It sounds as if the terrain calls for some significant braking power (though I doubt you are on 20% grades). Racks and packs are also important.

    A newer bike will get you a few more gears, a lighter frame and probably more powerful brakes. The demands for commuting and leisurely group rides are pretty low, however. Your barely broken in current bike will do just fine.

    If you are looking for more sporting riding then a newer and different style of bicycle will suit you well.
  5. dabac

    dabac Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    Likes Received:
    A fork like this would probably fit:http://www.ebay.com/itm/mr-ride-MOSSO-26-MTB-Aluminium-7005-Straight-Fork-Disc-Brake-Black-/231124137423?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item35d01275cf

    Pick up a wheel like any of these:

    Here's a decent mechanical brake:http://www.cambriabike.com/Avid-Bb7-Disc-Brake-Calipers-160mm.asp

    Then all you'd need to add is a new brake wire w/ sheath. Say $200 incl the butterfly bar.
    Maybe $300 incl new tires/tubes.
    I wouldn't really count those as part of the upgrade, as they're wear items anyhow.

    If you have separate shifters/brakes, you could go hydraulic as well. But the BB7 should be a nice upgrade from rim brakes.
  6. gavinfree

    gavinfree Member

    Feb 19, 2015
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    I'd say that buying a more recent new or used bike would be a good idea, although you should keep your existing bike as a backup in case anything happens to the new one. Used could save you a nice penny upfront and long-term, if it's in good mechanical shape. You have plenty of options!
  7. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

    Jul 23, 2005
    Likes Received:
    FWIW. Beyond more Cogs on the rear Cassette, a BIG change has been ramping the teeth ...

    A $30 +/- (depending on how/where you source it -- via eBay you can buy a new Cassette + the Lockring tool for what your LBS will probably charge you for just the Cassette) replacement 8-speed Shimano-or-SRAM Cassette may make a bigger difference than you think (unless you rarely shift).

    While a suspension fork on a commuter is probably dead weight, it probably isn't worth the effort even though a threadless fork is generally pretty painless to install.

    The rationale for Disc Brakes on bicycles has morphed from when they were first adopted (well, the second coming, so to speak, since a porky version of disc brakes were on some bikes in the 70s-and-possibly-earlier, too) ... for manufacturers, it is the what's new-and-different on the shelf ... the colored toilet paper of the 21st Century, if you understand marketing. Nothing wrong with that. Someone has to buy it and keep the current manufacturers from going the way of the French brands of bicycle makers.

    If you aren't riding in wet & grimey conditions, then don't worry about it ... just get new brake pads on an as-needed basis.

    Definitely get fenders if you are commuting in conditions.

    Consider dabac's suggestion of "Butterfly/Trekking" handlebars OR Moustache handlebars if you want an alternative riding postion ...

    OR even "Beach Cruiser" handlebars.

    BTW. If you are moderately handy, then YOU can retrofit your current bike with 700c wheels with-or-without Drop handlebars with-or-without changing your fork ...

    This is what I did to a more-or-less similar vintage MONGOOSE Hardtail frame about ten (?) years ago:


    The only "original" parts which made the transition were the front derailleur + seat post & clamp. As pictured with the carbon fiber Road fork the bike weighs just under 20 lbs. (while not porky at the time, it was not overly light ... and, it would certainly be considered to be porky by today's standard for Road bikes).

    With some better components, it would weight a little less ...

    With some slightly fatter tires, it would weigh more, accordingly.

    YOU don't have to change the handlebars & shifters unless you eventually feel a need.

    I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy a new bike ... but, you'll know when you REALLY need something different from what you have.