A reader of Mountain Biking by 198 sent me an email over the weekend that had a very simple question that plagues the minds of many riders out there as they put together their first high end mountain bike build.
I had a random question… i was in the market for a new bike. I have a Trek 8000. I wanted to go for FS and I was checking out the FS Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon. Do you think XTR is worth the money or is XT the way to go?
The simple answer…NO! Yes, the latest and greatest from the top of the line components from SRAM and Shimano look incredible on the bike and gain you trail cred from riders who really don’t know what they are talking about, but in all reality…the comparable models from the XT and X.9 groupos perform just as well at a fraction of the price…even if they weigh just a few grams more.
In my opinion, it is much more beneficial to resist the urge to throw on that carbon caged rear derailleur and take that dollar savings (around 150 bones) and put it towards a higher quality wheelset build. Transferring this money in your bike build budget to your wheel build will have much more benefit riding than a cool carbon cage. I notice very little difference on the trail between X.0 and X.9 or XTR and XT, but I notice a HUGE difference on the trail between a budget wheel build and a medium to high end wheel build.
It amazes me all the time when I see fully kitted out riders sporting their high in rear derailleurs and really cheep wheels…sorry in advance if you are one of those riders…
When you have a budget that you are trying to keep during the build process, it is important to see the cost vs. benefit of each component you are planning on installing on your new ride. In some cases, you might not have a real choice as the bigger bike companies tend to pick the build for you. Even in that case, it might be better to step down one notch in the lineup and use that savings for wheels, gear, shoes, suspension upgrades, etc.
XTR and X.0 provide SRAM and Shimano with the necessary marketing push as they race to see who can produce the coolest new component. For the average rider, you are not going to notice the difference on the trail and the replacement cost is far too high. I have found that properly adjusting and maintaining your drivetrain will far out perform high end components.
So next time you are picking out your brand new bike build, think about where your money will be best spent and try to ignore the temptation to create trailside drool on your rear derailleur.