Looking to Upgrade (recreational biker)

Discussion in 'Bike buying advice' started by BigSharks, Aug 17, 2009.

  1. BigSharks

    BigSharks New Member

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    I bought a low end Mongoose MGX (probably from Target or WalMart) about 6-7 years ago and have used it off and on, although I'm riding quite a bit more lately, and hope to continue to do so. If I continue, I'll definitely need to upgrade.

    Pros of the MGX
    -I like dual suspension (the look of the bike and the functionality of the front shocks). I don't do much trail riding, but would like to give it a shot.
    -The steel pieces pointing upwards at each end of the handlebars. On my bike, the mfg is Kalin, and for the life of me, I can't find out what they are called... they really help me leverage when climbing on a tougher gear.

    Cons of the MGX
    -Made of steel- it is really heavy
    -Just feels off-brand, has a couple of odd squeaks that I can't diagnose (or haven't reached w/the WD40).

    I'm in the market for a mountain bike only (and probably won't pay more than $400 or so). I've been looking quite a bit lately, and have seen a ton of bikes in that range. Dual suspension appears common, but I haven't seen a picture of a bike with those handlebar devices...

    -Are those handlebar extensions (?) out of style now?
    -Is it possible to get a bike made in the USA in my range?
    -In reality, is there any difference in brands of bikes in that range? I imagine they're all made in the same factory in China and given different brand names... I know Pacific owns Mongoose, Schwinn, and a bunch of others... are there any brands in my range I should look into (higher quality, etc.)?
     
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  2. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Probably not ...

    Consider buying some new/better wheels ... you can always use them on a future bike.

    Consider buying a better crankset and derailleurs/shifters -- the 'new' Shimano SLX is well spec'd & well priced.

    If your frame uses a fork with a 1 1/8" steerer, then consider a new fork AFTER you determine whether the limitations of your current fork are keeping you from riding "comfortably" on some of the trails you want to ride on.

    Handlebar "extensions" ... if you use them, don't remove them. If you don't use them, they are dead weight ...

    BTW. WD40 is MORE SOLVENT than lubricant ... you need a lubricant with a little heavier viscosity.
     
  3. BigSharks

    BigSharks New Member

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    Thx for the reply. According to Wikipedia, not even Cannondale makes their bikes here anymore, so I probably knew the answer to that one before I asked it.

    I've not had any noticeable issues with the wheels nor the shifters, so I don't think that I'd buy anything past whatever comes installed on a new bike- I've heard for many years that Shimano shifters are the standard, though.

    Looking on the web, there seem to be a lot of places to buy those handlebar extenders - I always thought they were welded onto my current bike. As I said, I use those quite a bit when climbing, so if I get a bike w/o them installed, I'll need them immediately.

    I'll plead ignorance on the WD-40: its just something I've always sprayed on the chain to keep it moist and rust-free.

    Given that I'm looking $200-$500 (I guess I'll bump it up a bit), any model or brand recommendations I should consider?
     
  4. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Your price target is still not realistic if you want another Full Suspension bike ...

    Maybe $800 will get you a year-end-discounted Full Supension MTB at a bike shop ... maybe, a little less, but I doubt it.

    If you aren't riding off road AND if you haven't already done so, then you should remove the tires & tube which came on the bike AND buy some (road) "slicks" & tubes.

    FYI. Most of Shimano's less expensive components (e.g., derailleurs) are made to be as functional as their more expensive components ... and, if not neglected, they will last as-long-or-longer.

    Steel weighs about 3x as much as an equivalent volume of aluminum; and, that is why I suggested changing components ...

    Shimano's less expensive derailleurs are often mostly steel with a few bits of cosmetic plastic ... and, the weight is easily 2x the weight of the lightest derailleurs which that Shimano makes.

    If you like your frame (except for the creaking!), then you have to look at the components which are made of steel which you can replace with alloy components.

    I think you need to grab a (refrigerator) magnet and check your frame ... it is more-than-likely aluminum.

    However, parts like the crankset are often REALLY HEAVY on the inexpensive bikes ... the chainrings, specifically, are often steel.

    The suspension fork (RST or SunTour) on a less expensive MTB is often really heavy because the lower arms & steerer are often steel. If there are headtube spacers, they are probably steel, too!

    I can only presume that the rear shock has a steel shell, too; so, there are a few more ounces.

    In addition to the handlebar 'bar ends' being made of steel, your handlebars & stem may be steel, too.

    The seatpost on your bike is probably steel.

    Et cetera.

    The weight of all the steel parts on the bike really adds up ...

    So, based on your budget, if you want a lighter bike you are better off changing the parts that can be changed.

    It may seem extravagant to spend more money for a few parts than you paid for your Mongoose, but the parts you buy can be removed & put on a future frame ...

    Just put the parts you replace into a box so that you can put them back on the Mongoose if you ever decide to sell it OR if you buy another frame & want to use the "replacement" parts on whatever frame that you may decide to buy.

    So, my recommendation is that the first $25 you spend on upgrading your bike should be spent on ZINN AND THE ART OF MOUNTAIN BIKE MAINTENANCE ... or, see if your local library has a copy that you can look at. If you are buying the book, get the latest edition possible ... you can get it from AMAZON.COM/eBay/etc. The book should have information you can use to eliminate the creaking sounds.

    AFTER you read/skim through the book, then you should consider buying one of the $50 toolkits (supposedly, a $100 retail) from a place like Nashbar, Jenson's, PricePoint, etc. ...

    And then, proceed according to your inclination and/or budget.

    BTW. The Marzocchi Bomber suspension fork that I have on my Hardtail isn't anywhere near the most expensive fork one can buy, and it cost more than your Mongoose & almost as much as your current, amended budget -- some MTB "stuff" can just be that expensive once you move past the entry level "stuff" that is on your Mongoose.
     
  5. BigSharks

    BigSharks New Member

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    Thank you very much for the back-and-forth: I think I'm just starting to wrap my brain around how little I actually know.

    I'm hesitant to remove the thicker tires (the rims are labeled aluminum)- I don't exactly ride on-road, I'm on paved paths (often with a lot of debris- sticks, stones, and dirt/mud), and I pass a few trails that I'd like to try eventually.

    The frame is the issue- I did the magnet test, and confirmed that it is steel. None of the parts on the bike are Shimano (grip shifts, but again, no issue with them). Did some net research, and a later aluminum alloy model of the bike was released. It does appear that the extenders have clamps that I didn't see before. I'm used to them, and may transfer them to a new model when I get around to figuring all that out.

    Wednesday was my last time out, and the squeaking was less pronounced (but still there). I think I'll stop into a few local shops and see what is what, and maybe have a mechanic/knowledgeable person check the bike out to determine if something is loose, rusted, or something else. The boots on the fork are starting to crack, so they will definitely need to be replaced...

    For whatever it's worth, here is the only picture of the model I could find:
    24" MONGOOSE MGX DXR 21 Speed Mountain Bike Used - eBay (item 380142398933 end time Aug-23-09 01:47:58 PDT)
     
  6. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Don't worry about the boots on the front fork ...

    If you look at almost ALL other front suspension forks that are currently on bikes, they do not have the rubber boots.

    You should use the eBay listing as a price point for any repair work done on your bike ...

    I don't think that you should have the shop do any work on your bike since I doubt you would get away with spending less than $50 ...

    BUT, do have them show you the differences between your bike & some of the bikes they have for sale.

    IMO, you are much better off putting the money toward tools and/or the ZINN book & learning to do the work yourself.

    Because you like your bike's frame, if the shipping were lower on the bike in the eBay auction, I would definitely recommend that you consider buying it ... then, you could learn how to work on your old bike and/or the new bike (you'll need to do minimal work to reassemble it) ... when you are done, you could (re-)sell whatever remains ...

    So, while $121 may seem like a lot to spend, if your bike's frame (or, its weight) is the main issue, then it should be worth considering until you are ready to move up to the "next level."

    Maybe some of the other parts on the "eBay" bike are aluminum instead of steel (which is what I am still presuming is the case on your bike). The SRAM components may be better than the drivetrain components that are currently on your bike.

    Even if you can sell whatever is left over for only $50+, then you will have only paid about $71 for a frame and/or component upgrade.

    If you only get $25 for your current bike (would you sell it for that little? Probably, not), then you will have upgraded your bike for less than $100 ... the upgrade would be minor, but that sounds like a pretty good deal.

    BTW. If the front wheel that is on the eBay bike is in 'better' condition than the front wheel on your bike, then you could certainly practice removing the tire from your bike's front wheel and installing it on the front wheel which doesn't have a tire.

    Although it is difficult to be certain from looking at the little picture of the bike, I reckon the extra wheel has a Freehub & Cassette instead of a "old style" hub which uses a Freewheel ...

    Rear wheels built on 'Freehubs' are better than the older style of rear hub which use Freewheels; so, the particular rear wheel may be a good thing to have for use in the future.

    I guess that's my way of saying you should buy the bike in the eBay listing while the seller has the price discounted to $51 ... if you live somewhere in California, he may be willing to ship the bike/etc. for a little less than $70.
     
  7. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    BTW. Stand next to your bike, and press down on the saddle ...

    Can you replicate the squeaking noise?

    Is it coming from the rear of the bike? If so, then it is probably the rear shock which needs some lube ... initially, put some 3-in-1/("household") oil on the pivots ...

    Also, put a little Vaseline (Petroleum Jelly) on the plunger (use a popsicle stick, or equivalent) near where it enters the shock.

    You actually want to mix a dab of Vaseline with a few drops of motor oil to create a thinner mixture which has the consistency of Bee's Honey ... but, a little STRAIGHT Vaseline on the plunger to see if that is what is squeaking will be fine. The mixture is also used for lubing the sliders on the fork.
     
  8. BigSharks

    BigSharks New Member

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    I might be leading you down the wrong path- my bike is serviceable, but I am really looking hard at going with something that isn’t so bargain basement. My biggest gripe is the steel frame- the bike is just too heavy. I included the eBay auction because that is literally the only picture I could find of ‘my bike’, in the event that seeing it would jog anybody’s memory of the model- Mongoose MGX DXR.
    As far as the squeak goes, the suspension was the first place I checked- I actually think it’s in the vicinity of the front braking mechanism/fork. I guess it may be something as simple as a brake pad could be catching the rim… The reason I was thinking about having someone look at it is that I cannot get the thing to make a sound when I’m not on it- it’s only when riding. I’m going to pay a lot more attention tomorrow morning…

    You're right about the lack of boots on models I've seen online. That's good, because I don't want to disassemble if I don't have to.

    At the end of the day, I think I may have to stretch the money more than I planned, I’ve seen a couple dual suspension bikes that are north of $500 and south of a grand that look pretty workable. I’ll likely wait a few months (to be completely sure that I’m committed to riding- even in the cold NE Ohio weather of October and November). That way, I have time to check out the local shops, and hopefully locate something at an end of the season clearance. That said, I’ll definitely check out the Zinn book because I’ll obviously have to maintain a more expensive bike better than I have done with the MGX.
     
  9. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    You're missing my point ...

    Since the only thing you don't like about your bike (other than the "squeak") is the fact that the frame is made of steel, then how much is an alloy frame worth to you?

    Would you pay $20? $40? $60? $80? etc.?

    Not only would you be "upgrading" the frame, you might be eliminating the squeak ... so, even though you are currently perceiving buying a "duplicate" of your bike to be a lateral purchase decision, it would not be as extravagant as you seem to think it would be.

    AND, even if you only sold YOUR current bike for $40 (as a low example price), you then would only have had to pay $80 to take care of your two current complaints about your bike. As I said, a shop will probably charge you close to $50 to do ANY work "tuning" up your bike.

    The extra rear wheel is probably worth $30-to-$60 ... maybe, more.

    If the SRAM components were "upgrades" that the previous owner made, THEN you are way ahead of the game.

    BTW. Regardless, you also need to know that the MGX is probably NOT designed for anything other than negotiating curbs & washboarded, rough grade roads ... nothing wrong with that. If the trails you are gazing down are not "technical" then buying an $800-to-$8000 MTB is probably a waste of money.

    Believe it or not, $800 really won't buy you a very good full suspension bike.
     
  10. BigSharks

    BigSharks New Member

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    Now we're on the same page...

    You're right, the frame is the big issue right now. The squeak (which I didn't hear much of today, I knocked the brake around a little in the front) is more an annoyance than anything else.

    I'm looking forward though. Hopefully, I'll keep riding. The weather will get worse, and I keep gazing longingly at some of the dirt paths near where I ride. I'm sure I'll want disc brakes (or better health insurance), I know nothing about my drivetrain components, but I have a feeling I'll learn quickly if I try to take my MGX offroad.

    Went into a bike shop and had a good conversation with a salesman. He echoed you- can't really get a dual in my price range, but he's of the opinion that a hardtail will be more than enough when factoring the topography around here.
     
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