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Target: weekend rider, cross country, enjoying technical sections, approx. 3hrs rides. Would like to improve MTB skills and spend more time on the trails.

Current setup: Grand Canyon 4.0 2018, 13,3 kg, Alluminium. Shimano Deore 2x10 crankset, 11-42 10s cassette.

Situation: Having difficulty in steep climbs, bike feels really heavy when I lift it. Considering investing in a carbon model (Focus Raven 8.7). PROS: approx. 2kg less weight, 30t chainring (as aftermarket upgrade) and a 10-51 cassette, more responsive CONS: price, less comfortable to ride (?)

Guess some of you could have been / are in the same situation. The author of this article rules against the upgrade decision.

Taking into account technical considerations, is the investment worth it? Thoughts? Experience?

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    Why less comfortable to ride? I would expect more comfortable to ride unless there is some special quirk in your selected model. Even otherwise alloy road and gravel bikes use carbon forks for better riding. – Vladimir F May 13 at 17:00
  • Investment, "the action or process of investing money for profit." The profit may not be money but what will your investment bring? Is it an investment or not? I think the answers coming in are good for thinking around this idea and tailoring it to yourself. – Swifty May 13 at 20:35
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    Not an answer - IMO it largely depends on your disposable income and how much you personally will love it. The more expensive the bike, the less "extra" you get for every dollar spent. I'm not rich by any means, but I'm well off enough that I could afford the upgrade to carbon without too much hassle. I was changing the whole bike, so the frame wasn't the only upgrade, but the difference was massive and I would wholeheartedly recommend it. But it's anectodal: I have no idea how much you'll value the difference! – user622505 May 14 at 8:03
  • user622505 came very close to what I perceive as the heart of the question: is the technical upgrade I can obtain (the tech step up) such to justify the needed financial investment? From what I read in your answers it. – knuckle_sandwich May 14 at 18:52
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If you just need lower gears, you can switch to 24t inner ring. 24/42 is roughly the same as 30/51. I've played around a bit with really low gears and that's about the lowest gear that is rideable for me. Lower than than that and you have to spin like crazy just to keep the bike upright, walking tends to be faster at that point.

Getting a really light hardtail does make a difference on the hills, but it's not a magic bullet. You have to take into account weight of you plus bike. If you're already at 80 kgs, 2.2kg is only about 2%. My experience is that bang for the buck with bike weight tends to have a cut-off point. Getting your bike below X helps, but anything lower doesn't make much of a difference. Unfortunately, X is different for every rider and can change over time as you get fitter.

As far as upgrades on your current bike, tubeless tires and nice wheels make sense and you can keep those if you decide to upgrade to a completely new bike. Make sure to get future-proof hubs if you go that route. These will have removeable endcaps that allow you to change the hub to various axle widths.

There is a point at which upgrading an older frame design doesn't make sense. 1x gearing and a dropper post make a huge difference IMHO, but neither of those really helps with climbing. They make descending and all-round riding more fun. Given that the reviews of your bike suggest that it has an old-school geometry, I'd wouldn't invest in anything that couldn't be transferred to a new bike.

I recently invested in a carbon hardtail and went from a roughly 12kg full suspended alumimum bike to a 9kg hardtail. I like the new bike a lot more, but I can't climb hills that I couldn't climb before. I just don't have to work quite as hard to climb the hills I can climb. I really like my new toy, but it's very hard to justify what I spent as a rational performance benefit.

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  • +1 just for the last sentence. Explains exactly what is wrong with my answer – mattnz May 13 at 20:20
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You can drop 2.2kg easily with upgrades to your current bike that would probably be less expensive than purchasing a new bike. Much of that weight could be dropped where it matters the most and where you will notice it first; the wheels and tires.

Find a lighter weight wheelset with tubeless tires and sealant and I would almost guarantee you will drop over 1kg from the bike. Upgrading the components where your body makes contact to the bike will also drop some weight and make the ride more comfortable. Carbon fiber handlebars designed to flex slightly, dropper seatpost to get it out of the way when moving the bike around, and good grips go a long way to aid in comfort and confidence. The other place where you can lose some weight is by swapping out the stock fork for a lighter and better performing one that has a more secure lockout feature.

FWIW; my steel singlespeed 29er is an XC racer, weighs in at 11kg, and has secured numerous podium spots in regional races.

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  • Dropper post will add some weight but is well worth it - you are almost riding two different bikes with instant switch between them. – Pavel May 14 at 15:09
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    Wheel upgrades on an entry level bike are generally not advisable. The Grand Canyon 4.0 has non-boost QR fork and QR rear hub. Same with the fork, I’m not sure anyone makes a non-OEM straight steerer fork. – DWGKNZ May 14 at 16:42
  • As Fred the Magic Wonder Dog put it, I believe that my actual bike is not worth upgrading: to shave off 2 kgs from it would probably cost me more than 1k €. At that point it's worth going for the carbon frame, I recon. – knuckle_sandwich May 14 at 18:57
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Countering the excellent answer by @jc alan....

Carbon will not make you fitter or stronger. It will not make you ride smoother, choosing better lines though the corners and over the rock gardens. Carbon (any new bike) is an easy and expensive upgrade that gives a single step improvement and stops. It sounds like you are after more.

What you need to look at is the package - the bike, the rider and the riders fit on the bike.

What other things have you done? Could you loose weight? Could you get fitter, go to the gym and get stronger? Have you received coaching on riding techniques? Have you had a professional bike fit done?

If more time is what you are after, have you considered an E-Bike? For the cost of a light weight carbon bike you can have a reasonable quality E-Bike.

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    The cheapest way to get a lighter bike is to make the rider lose weight. That's what is the saying in cycling clubs around here. – Carel May 13 at 20:14
  • I'd say it's more complementing JC Allen than countering, lots of good considerations all round. +1s for everybody! – Swifty May 13 at 20:33
  • If you have the money a new, better bike can be great fun and a good investment. Or should we all ride steel bikes from 1910 until we’ve reached peak fitness? – Michael May 14 at 5:43
  • @Micheal - OP listed price as a con, indicating he has the money, but might not be wanting to spent it on a bike. All I am suggesting is to go further, faster and have more fun, there are options other than throwing money at a bike. – mattnz May 14 at 6:42
  • s/loose/lose/. As for the e-bike suggestion, that's true, but it's worth pointing out that the e-bike goes the wrong direction weight-wise. The first level(s) of boost are generally needed just to offset the extra weight. After that, you go faster for the same effort, or use less effort for the same speed. Those are nice benefits, but the weight trade-off as well as odd-ball frame geometries found on many e-bikes will affect the ability to transport the bike easily. If you're always riding to your play area, that's not an issue, but if you're driving there, it's important to keep in mind. – Peter Duniho May 14 at 20:53
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No

If you need a lower gear ratio, swap out the cassette or chain rings on your existing bike.

Always remember this quote by Greg Lemond: "It never gets easier, you just go faster."

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    Fully aware of that. My initial motivation wasn't that I was going too slow, but that I needed to get on my feet on some meaner climbs. But I fully agree, in my situation, the most effort/money efficient modification would be a smaller chainring on my existing alloy bike. – knuckle_sandwich May 15 at 5:22

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