Last week was big in the world of braking for mountain bikes. SRAM released their new “Trail” series of brakes in their and X.0 lineup. While we have always been a big fan of the Avid brakes, this takes their product to the next level we have been looking for.
At Bike198, there are two brakes that seem to really stand out in the market.
Hope Tech M4‘s for their 4 pot design and incredible modulation.
Shimano XT (or XTR) for their brute force (but have issues with lack of modulation/on/off feel)
The Avids have always been a mix of the two which has allowed the to be great for most riders. They are good on power and modulation but not supreme on either. They are brakes you can trust on rides and that is why we have had great success with them on numerous bikes at Bike198. They have been through several branding changes over the years but they have essentially been the same brakes for quite sometime.
Now…enter the new 4 pots from the X0 lineup dubbed “trail”.
From the looks of it, the new 4 pot brakes from SRAM should be the perfect mix of both the XT power and the M4′s modulation. We will have to get on a set and ride them to be sure, but from the looks of the design, what they have done with the taper bore technology in the lever and the amount of pad contact/force you get with a 4 pot design, these should be an incredible brake for bikes in the 5.5″ and up travel category. It is definitely something we have been looking for from SRAM for awhile.
The Trail features a powerful new 4-piston caliper, claimed weight of 340 grams, and features a lever pivot bearing.
This past weekend was the SE Bike Expo, so I headed up on Saturday to take a look at this first annual event (that also happens to be an hour from where I live).
The SE has needed something like this for a long time. There is a very strong riding community here that never gets to really have hands on experience with what the industry has to offer like the west coast crew gets with Outerbike. So it was great to see this get together and have a successful first year outing with some strong showing from the industry. Several of the big contenders were there with sizable demo fleets including Trek, Specialized, Felt, Niner and others. Components manufactures also showed their support thanks to companies like SRAM, Shimano and Notubes.com bringing in product and techs.
Events like this are a great chance to see products and bikes that may not be carried by your local dealer so you can get a hands on look at new gear and parts. If you have the chance next year, stop by as it satisfies the inner obsession we all seem to carry if you love to get out and ride.
I headed up with a group of my regular riding buddies, so here is the general consensus from the group and myself. Unfortunately, my back was acting up a bit so I didn’t get to ride as many demo’s as I wanted. However, the notable standouts from the crew seemed to be the Niner Jet 9 RDO, Specialized Stumpjumper EVO carbon, Trek Remedy, Yeti ASR5 and the Felt Virtue. Those that seemed to fall short were the Jamis Dakar Sixfty B and the Trek Rumblefish.
The overall showing of component manufacturers were pretty good with some interesting trends and some disturbing ones. The good news is that private, small shop carbon wheel and light manufacturers is on the rise. While I figured these would be purely import companies rebranding what is available from China, this was not the case. There are some great products coming out of Boyd, Belgium, Lumintrek and others that are manufactured here in the US and specifically in the southeast US. They all looked like quality products that we will try to get our hands on really soon.
The disturbing? Origin bikes. I will do a full article on why this week, but the re-branded China idea is going to cause some issues in the bike industry. I really don’t like how China handles manufacturing and presenting it to US based companies (I have personal experience with this one).
Was it worth attending? Absolutely. I really hope this event continues to gain traction and starts to bring in even more riders and industry companies. Be on the lookout for some quick reviews and articles this week on some of our hands on experience from the SE Bike Expo.
Over Facebook this afternoon, SRAM leaked a new rear derailleur they have been working on that bears resemblance to the traditional X.0 unit with a revised front section. While many were wondering if this was hydraulic or just a new design, it appears this new rear derailleur from SRAM is looking to compete with the XTR Shadow Plus from Shimano.
So what do these derailleurs do?
The ideal is to have a clutch mechanism inside the derailleur body that actually increases spring tension to tighten the chainline and prevent noisy chain slap. This would allow for longer rear derailleurs that are required for 3x and large 2x setups to get similar features as short cage derailleurs while drastically decreasing the noise the noise your drivetrain makes while riding. They also keep the chain from jumping gears over really rough terrain due to the increased chainline tension.
On the Shimano XTR unit, there is a switch that takes the derailleur from normal to firm. On this close-up shot, we do not see anything that looks like a switch, so this might be an always on option. However, SRAM has not given any further information about this new rear derailleur other than the linked pictures…so this is all speculation at this point.
We all already know about the dirt demo at Interbike and the Outer Bike event in Moab (even if you do live on the other side of the pond…you have at least heard of it). These events straddle the Interbike trade show and allow media and then the public to test out the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer in the form of bikes and components. However, most east coast riders can’t make it that way to partake in the demo extravaganza.
Mike Stanley (SE Niner Rep) and Brian Molloy (The Hub Bicycles, Athens, GA) are looking to change that with the first annual Southeast Bike Expo in Conyers, GA on February 25th and 26th. General admission if you pre-register is only $20 and those proceeds will actually go to SORBA/IMBA…so your dollars will go to supporting mountain biking and trail building.
We will be out there throwing a leg over any bike we can get our hands on, and I hope to see you out there as well.
The Southeast Bike Expo will be bringing manufacturers from all over the United States to show and demo their products. Manufacturers like Trek, Niner, Specialized, Shimano, and SRAM will be there to show off their latest and greatest products. Many more have committed. Check our website for updates. Not only will it be open to retailers like most bike expos, but it will be open to the general public as well. Our goal is to put on a fun event in a great location for very low cost to manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.
The Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia provides that. The GIHP is the site of the 1996 Olympic Mountain Bike cross-country course. This gives us the opportunity to use onsite world-class MTB trails. We will also have an area for road bike demos. This unique outdoor demo area has space for over 1000 vendors. This new event gives you the consumer the ability to actually ride the new products and then talk with the manufacturers about the products.
What is the best mountain bike for you? This is a question that every single mountain biker asks as they look to replace a current bike or get into the sport for the first time. With all of the available options in today’s market, you have a wide range of possible suspects which is a good thing…but it can be crippling in your search as well.
Here are some things I would consider while searching out the best mountain bike for your trails and budget.
Do you need the support of a local bike shop?
First off, a good local bike shop should work on any bike that was purchased outside of their shop as well as they do for one that was bought onsite. However, the local bike shop will throw in service and accessory perks when you purchase at their store. In some areas of the country, there are a lot of bike shops and brands to choose from. If you live in an area where there are not many shops, finding your best mountain bike might be narrowed down to just a couple of brands if you want to buy locally.
Your bike shop is going to be your lifeline to keeping your mountain bike running. With offers like free tune-ups for a year or discounts on labor for purchasing within their store, that relationship building part of the buying process can be very beneficial to sanity and the wallet over time.
If you are able to work on your own bikes and the support of your LBS is not as important, you have a wider range of options from buying online to searching out high quality used bikes.
Do you have demo days in your area?
Demo days are a time for local shops to bring out demo fleets and let you ride the new bikes out on your trails. This is a great time to get out and actually try the bikes you see in magazines or think might work well for your riding style.
There is no one best mountain bike for everyone. One of the driving forces behind diversification amongst designs and brands (outside of commercial reasons) is because everyone is different and everyone likes different trails. This allows for a lot of different options that have strengths and weaknesses that either benefit your riding style or hold you back. By getting on these bikes and actually trying them out on trails you know, you are able to find out if that particular bike you had your eye on is actually the best mountain bike for you.
I am a huge fan of riding as many bikes as you can before purchasing to figure out exactly what you like the best. Demo days are a great way to get in this saddle time.
The Ironic Truth In Mountain Bike Purchasing
There is one very important thing you need to understand when purchasing your best mountain bike. Mountain bike manufacturers figured out a long time ago that the rear derailleur was the #1 looked at item in component specs among new buyers. For that reason, they spec out the nicest derailleur they possibly can while cheapening up other components on the bike…specifically wheels.
This is not new and it has been going on for years…for one reason…it works. When potential buyers look in the bike shop for their next new ride, most of them look directly at that rear derailleur to see if it is the latest X.0 or XTR completely forgetting about the rest of the spec. If you even look at the latest Specialized Stumpjumper EVO we have in for review, the rear derailleur is the latest X.0 from SRAM but the front derailleur is X.7 and the rest of the shifting components are X.9.
If you are given the choice between models, X.0 and XTR are not worth it. Yes…they will look a little bit nicer and they might be a tad lighter…but on the trail you will notice zero difference between the two and the replacement cost is drastically different (when you step down to SRAM X.9 and Shimano XT…it is most times less than half the price). These days…you even step down to SRAM X.7 and Shimano SLX and get an great performing package at a fraction of the price.
You can use that savings to upgrade areas of the bike that have a drastic affect on how it rides…specifically wheels and suspension. Do not fall for the blingy rear derailleur trap.
Some Golden Rules In Finding Your Best Mountain Bike
As you look for your best mountain bike, keep some of these golden rules of mountain biking in consideration.
Money doesn’t buy happiness…but if you try to stay in the $1,000 and up range, you will have a much more trail worthy bike.
The 5.5″ rear travel 26″ trail bike and 4-4.5″ 29er is the most popular full suspension bike for a reason right now. This is a great place to start and move up and down in travel from there when testing different options.
There is no one mountain bike that will be perfect for 100% of your riding. Try to find the bike that covers 75% of it really well and make adjustments for the remaining 25%…or have multiple bikes.
Decreasing weight drastically increases price. It is often easier and cheaper to get into better shape (assuming you are not trying to take a 35+ lbs bike on XC trails). Getting form 28 pounds to 27 pounds could cost you a grand without even being able to feel it on the trail.
Shorter travel bikes are better climbers and longer travel bikes are better descenders. Chose a travel range that fits the needs of where you ride…not what you wish you were riding.
Correct fit is very important. Consult a local bike shop that is credible and knowledgeable to make sure your best mountain bike is the right size.
Just because your friend likes his (or her) shiny new rig, that does not mean it is the best mountain bike for you.
Take reviews with a grain of salt…especially on online forums. Most of those guys spend more time online than they do riding. Only you know if a specific bike will be your perfect ride.
Last years brand new blowouts are a great way to get a better bike for a lower price.
and most importantly…
Ride the wheels off of it. Once you get a new mountain bike, it is very easy to get obsessed about the details. You can get yourself into a tailspin of trying to get every single components and color perfect…or you could be out riding. I am as much of a gear junkie as anyone, but it is still all about the ride.
Shimano’s XTR component group has been long regarded as the best components money can buy for mountain bikes. With industry leading lightweight and design, XTR graces the front pages of industry mags as riders drool over the technology that has been introduced with this line over time.
For 2011, Shimano’s XTR groupo is the first out of the Shimano lineup to get a complete redesign while going to 10 speed with a trail and race spec. The Shimano SLX and Shimano XT component packages have gotten 10 speed treatment, but they look the same as their 9 speed counterparts. The Diamondback Sortie Black came equipped with the complete XTR Trail setup, so let’s take a look at how it performs on the trail.
What’s the difference? Trail vs. Race
New for 2011, Shimano introduced two different component specs for XTR…trail and race. With the trail setup, you basically get a 3×10 setup (over the 2×10 race) with fins added to the brake pads for decreased heat and fade. It also comes packaged with platform clipless pedals (not reviewed) instead of your conventional XTR pedal.
The idea was to give a wider gearing range and more braking power to bike setups that are more geared towards trail riding over racing. The truly weight conscious will look to the race package to save grams by losing these extra add-ons.
Let’s hit it up component by component…
Shimano XTR 3×10 Trail Cranks
As reviewed, the FC-M980 XTR 3×10 trail cranks come with a 42/32/24 tooth gearing setup with a titanium/carbon composite 32T middle ring for increased durability and weight savings (also available in a 38/26 2x setup). With an estimated weight of 755g, the XTR trail cranks make for a lightweight package for riders looking to keep a triple up front while running a 10 speed rear.
The new look for 2011 is clean with a slight twist of the cranks. While the polished looks incredible brand new, you will start to notice scuffing with use that can make the new XTR cranks look pretty worn. The Q factor is ok leaving plenty of room for your foot while spinning, but as you can see by the picture…mountain bike shoes like the Sidi’s that have adjustment tabs can scrape the crank arms and create even more scuff marks.
For 2011, Shimano went back to their conventional attachment design on the non-drive crank arm. This is a HUGE deal and and a welcomed change back from the more complicated design they tried to introduce with the last XTR component group. Now the cranks get the ease of use that SLX and XT kept while XTR changed previously. Shimano has the easiest to install cranks on the market.
Overall shifting performance between rings was solid. The chain grabs easily and quickly moving between rings…even under load…is effortless. I did find that with a 10 speed rear, 3 rings up front is a bit much. The 11×36 rear cassette provides a really wide range of options, so having a triple leaves you with a bit of overkill. Simplifying that process and dropping to a 2 rings setup up front makes more sense to me with the increased gearing in the rear. While there is a 2x setup available, for the trail setup I would have really liked to see a 2 ring with light bash guard setup to protect that very expensive outer ring.
As you can see by the picture, the light big ring is wearing pretty easily. After being worn by chain friction and being beat up by logs and rocks, the teeth are starting to show shark toothing on almost all of the points. At over 120 bucks each, that is not a ring I am going to want to replace on a regular basis. That wear would be slowed down in trail situations by protecting it with a light weight bash guard.
The titanium/carbon composite 32T middle ring seems to be holding up a lot better against wear even though it is the most used ring on the cranks.
Shimano XTR Shadow Rear Derailleur and Cassette
Shimano’s XTR rear derailleur and cassette carry the Dyna-Sys branding indicating the 10 speed setup. With two options available in cage length (med and long), you have options when running 2 or 3 ring front setups. The rear derailleur in this review is a long cage to match the 3×10. Shimano’s XTR rear derailleur features a carbon outer cage match with an alloy inner. This gives you the lighter weight (and carbon look) while supporting it in the rear with the stronger alloy to make the cage less likely to rip apart on the trail.
Even after taking multiple hits against rocks and trees, the cage of the new XTR derailleur performed very well. It is showing the signs of wear with scratches on the carbon, but it is still rolling straight and shifting consistently. It does help the the XTR RD gets the Shadow design that keeps the derailleur pulled under the chainstay and out of the way of foreign trail objects.
The new XTR derailleur does have a lighter touch under shifting as designed. The 11-36T cassette and rear derailleur performed very well together and provided quick, light shifts between gears. I did find that the Shimano 2:1 actuation ratio was little bit more prone to mis-adjustment when hit or during break-in, but a quick turn of a barrel adjuster and everything was back to normal.
Shimano XTR Shifters
The 2011 Shimano XTR shifters got several improvements in the redesign. They now feature a unified mount when combined with the XTR brake levers, micro-adjust positioning and the ability to change the front shifter from 2 ring to 3 ring setups.
As mentioned with the rear derailleur, the new 2011 XTR shifter have a very light touch. Even when fully compressing the rear to move up the cassette, you do not have to slam the paddle down as you get a more linear action feel. While Shimano’s 2:1 actuation ratio does get out of wack a little bit easier, it does allow Shimano to run a two click setup on the front paddle, rear shifter to move down two cogs at a time in the rear with one motion. In fast up and down trail conditions, this as a great addition.
The front paddle is also bi-directional so riders that are used to Shimano shifting can use it in typical rapid fire motion or riders that have SRAM setups can also push it in the same direction as the larger one. In some cases, the front paddle can be a little bit long for riders with wider hands, so you will want to use the micro-adjust to move the shifter inboard and out of the way of your knuckles. There were times that my hands would hit the shifter while riding.
Shimano XTR Front Derailleur
What can really be said about a front derailleur? It is light, easy to setup and matches the rest of the component group. Other than that…there really isn’t too much to say about the XTR front derailleur. The XT and SLX counterparts perform just as well, but if you are going to kit out the entire group…you might as well have everything match.
Shimano XTR Trail Brakes and Levers
The new 2011 Shimano XTR trail brakes are claiming 125% of the power of the previous XTR brakes stemming from a host of improvements. With full ceramic caliper pistons, radiator-fin brake pads and ice-tech aluminum core rotors, Shimano set out to create the coolest running, most powerful brakes they have ever introduced.
Personally, I was really stoked to get to try these out as I am a bit of a brake whore. Unfortunately, the Diamondback review bike came in with glazed rotors and completely trashed pads. After numerous attempts to fix the situation (including setting the brake pads on fire), I could not get the brakes to get to full power. I can tell you that based off of my previous experience with Shimano brake calipers, these should actually perform as claimed. Whether or not the radiator fins actually shed heat as claimed would take a bench test with and without the fins…but it is no secret in the automotive and motocycle world that the concept does work in practice.
Overall the brakes look great on the bike. The polished calipers match the rest of the component group and everywhere you go people ask about the pads. I just wish we could have gotten some descent trail time on a set that were performing at their best.
The new XTR brake levers are a unique setup. Mounting them up is a pretty easy process with the one bolt, flip over attachment design and the tool free reach adjust is easy to use even with gloves on. For 2011, Shimano shortened up the XTR brake lever and positioned it for one figure braking. With a defined hook at the end of the lever and dimples in the design, your finger really attaches on and stays slip free while riding.
On this particular set, we did find that there was a lot of resistance at the beginning of the lever stroke. It almost felt as if the lever was extended past its tolerance so it was having to make it around before getting to its linear pull. The result was a stiff lever feel initially and then then it opened up. I am not sure whether this particular set had an issue or this is just how the new levers operated, but both sides did it…and it created uneven braking due to the reaction.
Shimano XTR Wheelset
At a claimed 1,700 grams, the new XTR wheelset is a light option for trail riders. The new XTR wheels feature straight-pull spokes, 21mm wide scandium UST rim and titanium free hub body.
Since Shimano (in combination with Fox) pioneered the 15mm TA standard, the Trail package is only available with that axle configuration. While you can get the QR version through the race setup, if you have a 20mm TA…you are out of luck.
The XTR wheels held up well under aggressive riding. The 21mm rim width was wide enough for bigger tires and the UST capability will make the tubeless nuts happy…especially since they brought in in at a 400g rim weight. The lightweight design made for a fast rolling set, but the “fast engaging” drive felt closer to the 36 point of a DT Swiss than the 72 and higher drives of premium aftermarket hubs. At $1,500 for the set, I really expect more out of the drive as there are less expensive options that do a lot better job at getting the power from your legs to the ground.
Overall: 2011 Shimano XTR Trail 3×10 Component Group
If you are looking for a crazy light, high performing component group…the 2011 XTR setup is worth a look. In this price range, the XTR components are really geared towards racers or riders with an unlimited budget. For a fraction of the cost (and a little bit more weight), you can be rocking the XT component group and get really similar performance.
The improvements made in the shifting and braking (assuming they performed as advertised) is a nice upgrade and hopefully we will see some trickle down effect as Shimano starts redesigning the other lines. For the trail setup, I would have liked to see a component group that could withstand a little bit more abuse (example: 2x setup with a bash guard), but it is pretty cool to see Shimano step up and provide a premium component set that is not just geared towards hardcore racers.
Positive: 2011 Shimano XTR Trail
Light, linear shifting with dual direction front paddle and 2 step, front paddle rear shifter setup
Alloy backing on rear derailleur with Shadow design withstands trail abuse
Very attractive looking package
New brakes should perform as advertised given Shimano’s proven record with brakes
Very light overall weight
Negative: 2011 Shimano XTR Trail
Would have preferred a 2 ring with bash front setup to protect very expensive chainrings
Extremely expensive component group (to be expected out of Shimano’s best of the best)
Initial lever feel very stiff
Polished look can look worn with use
The best of the best in mountain biking just got better…but you have to pay to play.
Hot on the heals from an impressive 2010 racing season, Specialized released the new 2011 Specialized Tarmac road bike. The Pro SL3 is in for review and it sits right below the S-Works lineup in the series of Tarmac’s. With two colors depending on build kit, you can get your Tarmac Pro SL3 kitted out with SRAM Red in white, carbon/blue with the Dura Ace kit (on review) or as frame only.
With the word “Pro” in its name, the Tarmac SL3 Pro boldly sets its performance standard with FACT 10r frame, Dura-Ace components, and Specialized Pro FACT carbon cranks.
New SL3 FACT IS 10r carbon frame is now even stiffer and lighter for pure, unbridled speed and power
The FACT carbon fork with a tapered steerer is light, stiff and compliant
Roval Fusee SL wheelset combines our lightest alloy rims with aero features for a durable and compliant ride for everyday training
Specialized Pro FACT carbon crankset with oversized BB and removable spider has outstanding strength to weight ratio for superior efficiency and power transfer
Campy-style 1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″ headset with steel bearings ensures precision, low maintenance and lighter weight
Pro FACT carbon seatpost is super light and stiff for optimal power transfer
Initial Impressions: Specialized Tarmac Pro SL3 DA
The first thing I noticed straight out of the box is that there is a lot more white and blue on the frame than I had anticipated. Up until this point, all of the pictures I had seen online only showed the side view, and this frame has blue and white inlays on the tops and bottoms of every tube. Additionally, the inside of the fork legs and chainstays have the Tarmac logo set in for an extra kick. This graphics treatment creates traffic stopping good looks not normally found on raw carbon road bikes.
The Shimano Dura-Ace kit found on the Tarmac Pro SL3 is mostly Dura-Ace with a couple of Ultegra parts thrown in the mix. You get the Dura-Ace hoods, rear derailleur and front derailleur, but the brakes, chain and cassette (11-28 for the mountain stages) are from the Ultegra line. The crankset is out of Specialized own stable (FACT 53/39) and is an incredibly light, stiff option that works perfectly with the BB30 bottom bracket design. The rest of the components also come from Specialized as the build rounds out and matches the frame perfectly including the Roval Fusee SL wheelset that uses DT Swiss internals and has four white spokes in series to match the frame.
Overall build weight out of the box for this $5,000 road bike came in at 15.36 pounds on the 58 which makes it a very light overall build for that size.
Stay tuned for more on the Specialized Tarmac Pro SL3 DA as we get rubber to road and start putting the miles in on this new rig from the Big S. For more information visit your local Specialized dealer or Specialized.com.
Finding the best discount bike parts and mountain bikes is going to become even more crucial as years roll on. It is painfully obvious that the prices of new mountain bike frames and components are not decreasing anytime soon (seems like the price of mountain bikes and components keep going up! Check out the new SRAM and Shimano components), so by keeping an eye out and looking in the right places, you can find the best mountain bike deals and find discount bike parts that will stretch your dollar a lot farther down the trail. Here are some of my best resources for finding discount bike parts.
What Should I Be Upgrading?
When I have some extra cash to spend on mountain bikes and components, I try to look at my budget and where that money will get the most return on the dollar. For many mountain bikers, they take that several hundred bucks or less and jump out to buy the top of the line X.0 or XTR rear derailleur (Related: Is X.0 or XTR Really Worth It?) and that…in my opinion…is the wrong move. In the mountain bike component market, unless you are a racer extremely worried about weight, components from the XT or X9 component group from Shimano and SRAM perform just as well as their flagship lines.
Also, your money might be better spent on wheels or suspension components where you will see a lot better improvement in your mountain bikes ride for the dollar. It is just something to think about as you look for discount bike parts or look to find the best mountain bike deal to replace your entire sled.
Where? Find Discount Bike Parts and Mountain Bike Deals
So now that you know which component, frame or complete bike you want, it is time to go out and find it for the lowest possible price you can.
eBay: New and Used Mountain Bike and Discount Bike Parts
eBay is the typical, “go-to” source to find new and used parts at a lower price. With thousands of mountain bike components, frames and complete bikes, eBay can be your #1 source for finding new and used discount bike parts, but you need to make sure you buy from a reputable seller.
Only buy parts that have detailed description and pictures.
Only buy from sellers with a good reputation.
Always pay with PayPal to insure resolution if the part is not as advertised.
Forum Classifieds: Slightly Used Mountain Bikes and Components
Forum classifieds are a great way to find slightly used mountain bikes and parts. I have found some of my best mountain bike deals and discount bike parts on forum classifieds as many riders try something 3 times, throw it in their garage and then sell it when the latest and greatest hits the market. While there are huge, worldwide forums (like MTBR.com) that have the best selection, sometimes it is better to hit up your local forum so you can see the mountain or part before purchase.
Online Blowout Deals: New Bikes and Parts for the Price of Used
If you watch the trends, when mountain bike and component manufacturers release a new lineup, the online retailers need to blow out the old models to get rid of the inventory quickly. By watching out for these deals, you can get the best mountain bike deals you can find on complete bikes and frames. You can also find discount bike parts at a steal as it costs the retailer more money to keep old parts in stock than it does to sell them to you at near cost.
Just about every month, online retailers like JensonUSA, Huck N Roll and others will run a great sale on inventory they need to get rid of quickly.
Side Note: There is now a specific “deals” site for bikes at Chainlove where you can find some extremely good deals. Everything is one part at a time until it runs out, so you have to be on your toes and checking back regularly for discount bike parts and apparel.
Your Local Bike Shop: The Home Away From Home
The reality of local bike shop ownership is that it can be difficult to have discount bike parts, bikes and frames. Your best bike deals are not usually found at your LBS, but there are distinct advantages from buying from a LBS including service, atmosphere and supporting local businesses. Just like online retailers, local bike shops need to watch their inventory and make sure that bikes and components do not sit on the floor for too long.
If you already have a relationship with a local bike shop, sometimes the simple question, “hey…what do you guys really need to get rid of? I could use a new wheelset.” will get you a long way in finding discount bike parts locally. You might not get exactly the brand and model you want, but you will get the service and experience of a LBS to back it up.
Discount Bike Parts: The Search That Requires Patience
Discount bike parts are an easy thing to find if you do not have to have it today. With a little patience and the willingness to check out multiple sources online and off, you can get higher quality mountain bikes and components for a cheaper price. After all, don’t we all want to find the best mountain bike deals so we can continue to upgrade our rigs?
Honestly…I can’t say I am too surprised. These two heavyweights of the mountain bike component market have been going at it for awhile now. Ever since SRAM stepped up its game with the X series and 1:1 actuation ratio, Shimano had lost its lack of competition in the world of dirt. With two different component makers competing for the same riders, each has their own series of positives and negatives associated with their contrasting products. Let’s take a look at the results.
Results: The SRAM vs. Shimano Debate
It was a close race…a painfully close one. It actually got to the point that a reader emailed me saying the poll was broken…it must be giving a vote to both at the same time on every vote. Well…I assure you the poll ran correctly, it was just that close throughout the entire voting process. SRAM and Shimano were each on the top spot about a dozen times before this was all over.
Now…the poll is great but what is the interpretation of this test in preferences amongst mountain bikers on Bike198?
Bike198′s Impressions Of The Poll Results
Ask This Question 5 Years Ago – If you would have asked this question 5 years ago (or even just 3 years ago), I think the outcome would have been different. With increasing press around the XX system from SRAM and their ability to get spec’ed on more OEM rides, we are seeing more SRAM components on the trail every year. Shimano’s stronghold on the mountain biking world is starting to loosen as a real competitor is providing components at the level Shimano has for years. The dance has begun on the new 2×10 products and SRAM is poised to make it a full out war with their new products and branding strategy. It is going to be interesting to see how this one plays out.
It Is Always Going To Be Close – If you hold the quality of the products as a constant and look a the long run, this is going to be a close race for awhile now. There are those that will not run anything but Shimano, there are those that will not run anything but SRAM and then there is that last crowd that just rides anything that comes spec’ed on the bike. With the quality of our complaints in the component industry for mountain bikes (in other words…we don’t have much to complain about with these two), there is going to be a constant dance for the top spot.
We Are Stuck – We are looking at the two component manufacturers for mountain bikes for a long time. The amount of progression it has taken to get to this point and the high up-front cost it would take to even try to compete in this market is going to prevent anyone from entering in and shaking up the boat for awhile. Time to pick your camp…you are not going to have another option for quite sometime.
There Isn’t A Bad Option – We might shoot our mouths off at the trailhead about which set is the best, but in all reality…there is not a bad option in the mountain bike component industry right now. After putting in some serious time on Shimano’s SLX groupo, I can honestly say that everything right now is performing at a level that was unheard of several years ago. We are extremely spoiled from SLX and X7 to XX and XTR. It is a great time to be a mountain biker as technology and dependability are racing forward faster than we can keep up. Remember the days of STX-RC and old school grip shifters on Shimano derailleurs? Those days are gone and now we have real performance.
Shimano Should Be Scared – This poll in the mountain biking world is a sign of the times for the road biking community. As SRAM continues to pick up momentum in the skinny tire’d side of things, they are going to eventually end up with the same poll results. That means that Shimano has to lose market share for that to happen.
There are our thoughts on the SRAM vs. Shimano debate. Congratulations goes out to SRAM for pulling out the win in this tight race for component supremacy.
As with any great battle amongst the top two competitors, there is a decided split amongst the masses as they choose sides and defend their choice. In the mountain biking world, there is no greater rivalry in the component market than SRAM and Shimano. Each with their loyal followers that scream their greatness from the mountain tops, SRAM and Shimano each offer something a little bit different from the guy down the street in the pursuit of component part supremacy. So it begs the question…which camp do you reside on and why? Are you a bulletproof 1:1 actuation ratio freak or do you prefer the crisp action of Shimano’s 2:1? With the component parts innovation race on…which side are you on?
We have seen a lot of changes in the mountain bike industry over the past year or two with the introduction of new standards in components and frames. Technology seems to moving forward at a rapid pace as companies within the mountain bike industry are all looking for the next new and exciting gear that is going to light the world on fire and bring in new sales.
Just recently, we have seen several new parts hit the board that are unlike anything in recent memory.
The wide adoption of thru axle suspension forks on everything from XC to AM (new 15mm TA standard now also adopted by RockShox).
Sub 30 pound 6.4″ travel all mountain rigs.
10 speed component groups from Shimano and SRAM (recently announced X7 and XT is 10 speed for 2011).
As we move forward into 2011 product lines and beyond, where do you think the industry is headed? Select your choice and let us know what you think in the comments section below.
I’m sure you have already seen the spy pictures and specs. Shimano and SRAM are both making a push on the new 10 speed platform for 2011. So…it begs the question…do we really need 10 speed mountain bike drivetrains?
First off, I completely agree with a 2x setup on the front. I have been running this setup on my 9 speed stuff for a long time with the aid of a bashguard. There are a lot of benefits to running this setup when you go with a slightly larger middle ring unless you are riding a lot of forest service road where you need the big ring to keep momentum. So…simpler is better up front and I am completely on board. Bring on the two rings up front for production component groups…I am ready for it!
My Thoughts On 10 Speed Mountain Bike Drivetrains
Well…we are introducing another standard in mountain biking. With the industry moving towards the tapered headtube, we are now tackling the idea of all of our high end component groups making the switch to 2×10. My issues with the move are really several fold, but here are the highlights.
10 Speed Mean Tighter Tolerances
We are asking for adjustment issues on the trail with tighter tolerances between gears. Some would argue that 9 speed is actually too many, so why the move to 10? With tighter spacing between gears (remember, frame widths and cassette bodies didn’t change), any bump on the rear derailleur or gunk in the shifting cable can have more of a dramatic affect on your shifting performance on the trail. This is not a road bike. We are going to hit things along the way and we are going to run into dirty as hell trail conditions. It is just part of mountain biking.
With many riders still fiddling with 9 speed drivetrains, I believe that making the jump to 10 is asking a little bit much of the average rider. Do I think it will shift like a dream and perfect every time when setup correctly? Sure! Every drivetrain setup on a mountain bike works great on the stand and with the absence of debris and cable stretch. How is it going to do after I throw it into a tree or two in not so satisfactory conditions?
Price Is Through The Roof
The X.0 10 speed cassette is over 200 dollars and that is a wear item! All of these components from the chainrings to the chain and finally the cassette are all wear items that we are used to replacing for a reasonable cost over time.
With the introduction of the 10 speed drivetrain, we also see a drastic increase in price on parts that we are going to have to eventually replace. I don’t know about you…but I do not want to drop over 200 dollars to replace a cassette. That seems a little extreme…even for top of the line mountain bike components.
Once Again…Not Backwards Compatible
The industry is introducing more parts that are not compatible with each other. While we are pretty used to brands not being compatible (SRAM’s 1:1 vs. Shimano’s 2:1), now we have a whole host of new components that are not compatible with our current systems. Hopefully, both SRAM and Shimano will release 9 speed versions of their new components so you can go purchase a new x.0 derailleur if you want to without having to replace everything you own.
I am all for progression in the sport. I am even a parts whore who will justify even the smallest purchase because I just hope and pray for the UPS guy to show up early to my house. I am just starting to get confused on the thought process of going with 10 speed drivetrains on mountain bikes. Of course, we could probably rewind time and listen to everyone say the same thing about the switch to 9 speed. I might be eating my words several years down the road, but there are going to be growing pains in the process.
What do you think of the new 10 speed drivetrains for mountain bikes?