Question: At a budget of RM4,000, what should I look out for?
Drivetrain (gears/cranks/cassette), shifters, brakes, finishing kit (bars/grips/stem/post) and saddle
- The difference in performance between low-end groupsets (Deore/X7) and the mid/upper/top groupsets (SLX/XT/X9 or X0/XTR) is NOT significantly noticeable for the average rider.
- Each upgrade will see the weight decreases marginally and price increases considerably. A mid-range groupset offers a good performance-weight-price ratio. Replace them only when you need to.
(If you’re determined to buy new parts, keep your old ones and one day, you’ll have enough stashed away to build a second bike – or more likely, that emergency Sunday repair when the bike shop’s closed and you’ve planned a ride with your friends.)
Good brakes mean you can go faster and have more control so discs are a great choice (especially hydraulic). If you can’t afford them, make sure the frame is disc compatible – and the wheels too!
- If your wheels don’t have disc hubs (remember, this is where the product guys save cash) you’ll need to upgrade your wheelset before you can run discs at all. V-brakes save weight but don’t offer the performance of discs.
- If your bike comes with V-brakes, take a look at the brake levers: if they’re integrated with the shifters you’ll need to upgrade both if you change to discs.
- Carbon bars will give you some vibration damping offering comfort over longer rides and rougher terrain. They’re worth it but not cheap.
- Just a tip here – If you want your bike to look co-ordinated, keep the brands of the stem and post the same!
- Saddles are a personal choice and another area where a good bike may be compromised (and where a hunk of weight may be hiding).
- Get something that feels good: change your bar grips when they wear out.
- Finally, don’t be alarmed by clipless pedals: sure you’ll need a pair of cycling shoes but you’ll pedal a whole lot more efficiently (saving energy and engaging more muscles) and you’ll get used to them fast.
So in summary, spend your money on the best frame, fork and wheels you can get and if at all possible consider spending 10-15% beyond your budget.
From experience, almost every buyer will spend at least 30% on upgrades in the first year so do it at the time of purchase. Compare bikes across a range and between brands looking at where the savings have been made and consider how much upgrades are going to cost over time. You may even be able to negotiate with your local bike shop and replace/upgrade parts before you walk out the shop so don’t be afraid to ask.
So, reviewing the options above and considering our RM4K budget, Option 1 will generally give you a good value all-round bicycle which will serve you well and may be worth ugrading in some areas (don’t go crazy!) while Option 2 will give you a great foundation for future upgrades and will allow you spend your money on the parts you want so you will have a truly custom built. Either way, don’t rush your decision and check out a number of brands.