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I have had an old specialized stumpjumper, and every 3-4 bike rides I go on something breaks or goes loose. In the past year and a half I have gone through:

  • 2 rear derailleurs (the current one is on its way out after a crash)
  • 1 chain
  • 1 front derailleur
  • 7-8 inner tubes burst/punctures (mainly bursts; I have tried lowering the pressure but it doesn't really help)
  • a set of brake pads
  • bending both steel pedals
  • bending the crank
  • bending the front shocks

My shifter literally fell into 3 pieces during a ride. My rear shock rebound knob doesn't work. Also the weld between the top tube and head tube had a crack, I had a friend weld it back.

I ride my bike hard though, and I really like riding it when its working. I love bombing down rock gardens and doing jump trails. I crash a lot, and I mostly ride black diamond trails. I really love the sport, and I use my bike more as a downhill/enduro, but I can't afford to keep repairing my bike, nor can I afford a proper downhill/enduro bike. I find myself having a broken bike about 80% of the time, so I can't go out riding as often as I would like.

How can I continue riding and enjoying the sport on a budget?

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    Sounds like the problem isn't the bike, but that you're crashing it so frequently. As long as you keep damaging it, it will keep getting damaged. But if that's the sport you want to do, there doesn't seem to be an alternative. Have you considered whether a more careful riding style would still be sufficiently enjoyable? If crashing less would mean more rides, that could still be more fun in total.
    – user52778
    Feb 15, 2022 at 11:40
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    I'd suggest a change of question title to "How can I take part in downhill mountain biking on a budget?"
    – Andy P
    Feb 15, 2022 at 13:54
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    I am reminded of the Henny Youngman joke: Guy says to doctor, "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this." Doctor says "Don't do that."
    – Adam Rice
    Feb 15, 2022 at 15:40
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    Is the bike aluminum? If so, welding a crack is a ticking time bomb — the heat damages the surrounding material. Top tube-head tube weld is a pretty important one.
    – MaplePanda
    Feb 15, 2022 at 16:25
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    Are you posting a related question on surgery.stackexchange.com at the same time? ;-) Like "my tibia was fixed by 2 screws and a metal plate by a friend, my collarbone literally fell into three pieces during a ride, how can I continue to ride on a budget?" The likely answer would be the same as with your bike: As long as continue to torture it it will continue to be damaged. ;-) Feb 16, 2022 at 11:21

7 Answers 7

19

The question indicates that you already know the technical answer to your question: if what you love to do requires an enduro or a downhill bike, the answer is an enduro/downhill bike. As you experienced, a bike that is not designed for this use will break, there's no way around it.

If you would have asked the same question for less extreme forms of biking, I'm sure you would have technical answers, as it is possible to bike "on a budget".

But downhill MTB is an extreme sport, and extreme sports share a common characteristic: the purpose is to push the limits. I'm not sure that the concept of "on a budget" can apply in that context, the limits are a moving target, once you have explored the limits of what a bike can do, you'll need to upgrade something to go to the next level.

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    ‘on a budget’ can absolutely apply here, it’s just that the ‘on a budget’ option is to save up money to get a proper downhill bike. Just like trying to use a BSO for high-frequency regular cycling, you will end up spending more money in the long run by not just getting the better bike in the first place. Feb 15, 2022 at 19:30
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    @AustinHemmelgarn: It will still be an expensive sport, simply because of all the replacement parts and hard wear and tear. Especially if you want reasonably modern technology like 1x groupsets which requires derailleurs with a clutch which are expensive to replace (and not really less likely to break).
    – Michael
    Feb 16, 2022 at 5:53
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    @AustinHemmelgarn of course you can control the budget. But unlike other form of cycling, the limits of the gear matters more in downhill. In road cycling, for instance, you can buy a Sora/Tiagra bike and go pretty far in sport: the limit will be you rather than the bike, but you can always improve your condition and beat your personal records with the same bike — in races you'll be handicapped tough. If you look for adrenaline rushs, once you do something routinely, you'll need to go to the next level, and that might imply upgrading components. It will never be cheap.
    – Rеnаud
    Feb 16, 2022 at 8:06
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Let me go over this step-by-step:

in the past year and a half i have gone through 2 rear derailleur's and the one im on now is on its way out after a crash, 1 chain, 1 front derailer

I think the only way to avoid this is to change your riding style. As long as you have a rear derailleur and an (open) chain it’s going to be vulnerable to impacts, tree branches etc.

I’d pick the cheapest derailleur which does the job. And keep one or two spare derailleur hangers at hand, sometimes it’s hard to get a replacement on short notice.

i have had about 7-8 inner tubes burst/puncture (mainly burst i have tried lowering the pressure but it doesn't really help)

Maybe you’ve had pinch flats (snake bites) due to too low pressure (possibly in combination with hitting something like a tree root or rock)? Are you running fairly low pressure?

i have had to replace the brake pads

That’s just normal maintenance, but shouldn’t be necessary after just 4 rides. Unless you were dragging your brakes for 3000 meters of elevation ;)

i have bent both steel pedals, i have bent the crank

Did you land on your chainrings or something? Maybe a 1x groupset with smaller chainring would make it less likely. But no chainring in the world is going to survive a hit on rocks without at least bending teeth. If you really managed to bend the crankarms a stronger crankset might be an option. Stronger pedals with shorter spindles might be available.

my shifter literally fell into 3 pieces during a ride

No shifter is going to survive a direct, hard impact with a rock or something. But they shouldn’t fall into pieces during normal riding and shifting.

i bent the front shocks my rear shock rebound knob doesn't work also the weld between the top tube and head tube had a crack i had a friend weld it back

This is the only aspect which could definitely be improved with a different, stronger bike.

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    The way OP 'tortures' the bike, no wonder these failures occur.
    – Carel
    Feb 15, 2022 at 20:31
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    re: pedals; learn to keep the inside pedal UP when cornering. Feb 15, 2022 at 21:11
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    @demonkoi don't be embarassed by your financial situation, more people than you think have had bad moments in their life and you're not responsible for the state of the market. I think asking your friends is actually one of the best options you have: you know how they ride, how rigorous they are with maintenance, and it's less likely that they try to fool you to get rid of a bike. Some might even have a bike that they were not thinking about selling, and the fact that you ask the question can remind them that it's an option.
    – Rеnаud
    Feb 16, 2022 at 10:42
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    @demonkoi Never mind "don't be embarrassed by finances". Also don't be embarrassed by your skill level. Unless the other guys in your group are complete dicks, they would rather you ride at a level you're not injuring yourself and damaging equipment every run. It's easier to hold up for a minute and wait for you to catch up, than it is to deal with injuries which mean one or more of them need to drop out completely to help you down. If they don't like waiting for you to catch up, they're dicks, and they're dangerous. In that case find someone else to ride with.
    – Graham
    Feb 16, 2022 at 13:15
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    @demonkoi if you are riding with ex professionals it's possible they have a garage full of old bikes they may be happy to give/sell/rent to you. What is for certain is they will have met someone in a similar position before and be able to offer advice (and probably better advice than we can here)
    – Andy P
    Feb 16, 2022 at 15:38
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Also the weld between the top tube and head tube had a crack. I had a friend weld it back. ... I love bombing down rock gardens and doing jump trails. I crash a lot, and I mostly ride black diamond trails.

I'd be concerned that a crack in the frame like that is in danger of failing, even if it's been patched. If that joint breaks while you're bombing through the rocks, that could be bad. Like face-first over the handlebars broken neck kind of bad. You should probably reconsider how hard you're riding that bike.

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You don't say how old your Stumpjumper is, but the old ones, at least the really old ones, were strictly cross country bikes. Mine is an M2 hardtail circa 1995, which was (and still is) a fantastic XC bike. They were not intended to do the kind of stuff you are doing, as you must recognize by now. The only complaint I had about Stumpjumpers (of that era) is that it was really easy to bend the derailleur hanger.

Stop bashing and crashing your Stumpjumper, so you can stop paying to fix it. Save the money instead for a bike that will meet your needs.

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  • Hardtails like the Stumpjumper certainly were used in downhill racing in the 1980s, because hardtails were all there were, and downhill has been going on since the 1970s at least. See e.g. Repack.
    – shoover
    Feb 17, 2022 at 5:35
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    @shoover I’d take my gravel bike down some of those trails. The modern definition of “downhill” involves far more extreme terrain.
    – MaplePanda
    Feb 17, 2022 at 17:12
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    I agree with saving for a more serious bike. There are plenty of very decent trail or AM/EN hardtails these days and they are plenty of fun and a good way how to ride something more serious without very large budget. Full suspension downhill/freeride/enduro bikes are nice, but cost a lot to buy and maintain in the long run. And on top of that, hardtails are perfect to improve your technique.
    – Sherwood
    Feb 17, 2022 at 19:24
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    @shoover certainly in the 1980s they were doing downhill racing on what they called clunker bikes at the time - and .. they did wreck them as well. it's not like the bikes at the time were designed for DH racing punishment.
    – Apfelsaft
    Feb 17, 2022 at 20:59
  • @shoover Check out John Tomac at the 1993 Downhill World Championships: youtu.be/e5J0-E1XpOY. I'm not sure what this course would be called in today's terminology, but it hardly qualifies as "downhill" today. It is also nowhere near what the OP is describing. A Stumpjumper would thrive on the 1993 course.
    – Mohair
    Feb 18, 2022 at 16:36
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Most of what you wrote can happen even with a proper downhill/enduro bike. It's an expensive sport but I know a lot of people who have done it even on a lower budget.

I don't know if you are already working or still a student. If you are a student try to get a job during holidays. Don't spend your money for something else.

Save some money to eventually get a used enduro or downhill bike.

As long as you are stuck with your Stump Jumper try to ride trails which are more suitable for the bike. Work on your technique! Learn how to corner. Jump only jumps which do not stress the bike. If you become better you can go for bigger jumps even without stressing your bike too much. A badly executed jump can stress a bike a lot - even if it's not that big. Learn how to read the trails and choose lines which are safe for the bike.

The stress on the bike also depends on your weight. If you are heavy you cannot do much about it. But a big factor is also the riding style and how good you are at riding. I know people who rode their Stump Jumper or other all mountain bikes as fast as I did on the enduro bike. Maybe not on really hard trails with a lot of rocks but still.

Regarding your punctures: It's usually not the tube but the tire. Get decent ones. Maybe some Maxxis EXO(+) or even Double Down on the rear (or similar tires from other manufacturer). Nowadays I would also suggest going tubeless. But this might not work with old abused rims.

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You could simplify your bike and remove parts that are prone to breaking and use buy a bulk of cheap parts that you know will break. Such as:

  • Get rid of the front derailer and put up 1x chainring
  • Buy a pack of derailer hangers and replace them as you go. Hangers are designed to give in and save the rest of the mech.
  • Install derailer guard
  • Buy more sturdy tires and go tubeless

In addition, keep your bike clean, well maintained, and look after it.

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    Although derailleur guards are counter-productive. They may well protect a derailleur but they impede the function of the hanger that is meant to act as a kind of fuse that bends or breaks to protect the derailleur. Instead it will directly transmit the impact into the rear triangle with the risk of damage.
    – Carel
    Feb 16, 2022 at 8:09
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    OP needs to see what is the exact cause for problems with the rear derailer. Is it blunt force or weeds/branches getting stuck and tearing everything apart? Feb 16, 2022 at 8:32
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I have had a old specialized stumpjumper and every 3-4 bike rides i go on something brakes or goes loose.

You're not alone. I tend to cause bike components to break, fail or wear away prematurely. Also sometimes I have to apply thread glue into threads to prevent them from loosening. For example, my kickstand bolts unscrew unless I apply thread glue. My front fender bolt also has loosened, if it repeats I'll have to apply thread glue there as well.

Bicycles are not like cars. Bicycles are vehicles that are made as light as possible. If it doesn't fail, it's too heavy. Make it lighter! In contrast to cars whose brake pads last for ages, I need to change my brake pads after 2000 km.

in the past year and a half i have gone through 2 rear derailleur's and the one im on now is on its way out after a crash

You didn't specify why you had to change the two rear derailleurs, but if you crash, you are expected to break components such as rear derailleurs.

What's more worrying that in today's high tech aluminum and carbon fiber components, it's possible that a component weakens invisibly due to a crash and subsequently fails. For example in road bikes where handlebars are wrapped with bar tape, you can't inspect an aluminum handlebar for beginning cracks after a crash reasonably unless you re-wrap the bars. For carbon fiber, the inspection would reveal nothing: it could be broken invisibly, and subsequently fail just riding along with no warning.

1 chain

Bike chains don't last, especially MTB chains as they tend to become dirty. If you look after your chain well and ride on roads, 4000 km max is what you can get out of today's chains. For MTB, even 1000 km would be lucky. If you don't replace it in that 1000 km, it'll first wear away your sprockets, destroying them, maybe destroy your chainrings, and finally break in half.

1 front derailer

What is the failure mode? These usually don't fail, but then again if something doesn't fail, it's too heavy and needs to be made lighterweight. So I wouldn't be surprised if the derailleur manufacturing was experimenting with lighter-than-usual materials and constructions. Or maybe you shifter forcefully, thinking it would be a good idea to do a front shift forcefully?

Fortunately, today MTBs without front derailleur are available easily. Even so easily it might be hard to find a quality product with a front derailleur.

i have had about 7-8 inner tubes burst/puncture

I have to say I win. My puncture count probably exceeds 10.

i have had to replace the brake pads

On my road bike, brake pads wear after 2000 km of road riding. For MTB, where you need to brake practically all the time, I would assume 500 km max.

i have bent both steel pedals

Maybe considering a more expensive pedal made of better quality steel would help.

i have bent the crank

Cranks fail. Often.

my shifter literally fell into 3 pieces during a ride

Today it's trendy to use plastic trigger / STI shifters. Maybe an old-fashioned thumb / bar-end / downtube shifter would be more durable.

also the weld between the top tube and head tube had a crack

That's usual. Frames fail. If it doesn't fail, it's too heavy.

So my question is how can i continue riding and enjoying the sport on a budget?

You can't fully and easily. Durable components like steel handlebars are rare. However, choosing every component of your bike individually and selecting the best durability component for that application might help. You don't even need to do it all at once. For example, if an aluminum or carbon fiber handlebar fails, you can try to find if you still can find steel handlebars. Butted chromoly steel frames fortunately can still be found from many manufacturers. If your frame breaks again, don't weld, throw it away and buy a steel frame to replace it.

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    I'd like to read more detail about how one installs downtube shifter on an Stumpjumper from undetermined year.
    – ojs
    Feb 15, 2022 at 21:06
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    Downvoted, because as already observed on MTB topics with juhist, some suggestions are totally inappropriate. Suggesting 'downtube shifters' in downhill application is suicidal. Also presenting the failure exposed here as "usual" shows a lack of research: downhill bikes are overbuilt to sustain heavy abuses, because other bikes can't. The OP is using another bike.
    – Rеnаud
    Feb 15, 2022 at 21:10
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    ...and it doesn't even need to be a downhill bike; modern enduro bikes are almost as sturdy as downhill ones, and the better models still pedal uphill quite agilely. (Which is in part thanks to the fact that carbon and aluminium are amazing and safe materials, provided the design takes account for their characteristic properties.) To be sure, they're not cheap. Feb 16, 2022 at 0:56
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    @leftaroundabout I think "modern enduro" is outside the scope of this question -- doesn't sound like OP is going to be able to just drop $4k on a new bike or whatever.
    – MaplePanda
    Feb 16, 2022 at 5:09
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    Stumpjumpers aren't exactly cheap either. Unless it was really old or already broken when OP bought it.
    – ojs
    Feb 16, 2022 at 9:28

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