Here’s an interesting topic:
What could you do if you wanted to build a great mountain bike while spending the least amount of money?
What would you do if you wanted to build a great mountain bike without wasting money?
They are two different concepts. One trims everything back to only what you really need. The other gives you room to shave weight and gain performance without just dropping coin on everything that sparkles. In both cases the bikes need to be honest trail bikes. Ones that will be used, crashed, and thrashed. Rims will be crushed and derailleurs will be sheared off.
Some folks have real budgets when they put bikes together. It doesn’t make sense for them to buy cheap parts that, because of maintenance or repair, end up costing more in the long run. On the opposite end, folks without constraints can easily waste thousands of dollars without adding much to a build. Money that could go toward a few road trips, lift tickets, race entries, or donation to your local trails. Both builds need thought and attention.
Given that frame requirements have a great swing in prices and significant differences in where they work well, I decided to make a list of just the parts. I recorded the MSRP of each part so that fancy pricing wouldn’t skew the columns. By using MSRP, we produce consistent and comparable numbers. The real goal here is showing the difference between baller and budget without being a fool in either direction. It also shows choices made when the system is the goal, not just a part.
Obviously, my low end list is a bit nicer than some others might put together. I think that even on a budget part choice needs to have some consideration for future service and upgrades. I selected the SRAM Level TL brake levers and GX shifter because they work with the rest of the SRAM high-end mounts. The brake pads are upgraded to metal for real performance use. The DT 350 hub is low engagement but could be increased later to 54 POE. The end caps and freehub body can be changed for future comparability if price is critical now. A lower priced hub could have been used but I wouldn’t give up centerlock and the XD driver and some level of future-proofing. A 100 mm dropper post keeps the price down considerably but would be the first part I’d trade up. Next I’d be looking at narrowing the cranks.
My high end spec reflects real value for performance based on my experience. Carbon rims are currently too costly for such a consumable. The Industry Nine rear hub and Reverb Stealth B1 are about the best you can use as is the Pike fork. Weight is further saved with the upgraded cassette, bars, and crankset. It’s hard to prove that there is any advantage to using a higher end shifter or derailleur within the SRAM groups. They are all basically the same weight, work as well, and are as durable. Same goes for the chain.
It’s funny how many of the same parts are used on both builds. How, these days, so much value is available in standard parts. Both cranksets allow for direct mounting of rings. Both bikes use the same amazing headset and tires. The grips remain the same. Both wheelsets are built with double butted spokes, aluminum nipples, and aluminum valves as wheel weight is always important.
One shame for both builds is that the 32t ring would need to be swapped out which adds redundant cost for me if I were building a 29er. This may be different for others or if building a smaller wheeled bike. That and the brake pad are the only redundancy.
When it comes to a 1x drivetrain, the SRAM X-Horizions design is so completely superior to Shimano’s slanted parallelogram system that there is not a contest. Given that I’m looking at an ‘aggressive’ mountain bike build here, Shimano can’t be considered. Range becomes a problem with 1x systems and the XD driver is the best way of getting that. SRAM 11 speed long cage derailleurs barely keep tension with 10-42t cassettes. Adding a broader cassette would just cause tension issues. Going to the improved 12 speed system would be a better option but not until premium pricing on those parts drop. Hopefully, a GX 12-speed will show up soon.
For 2x systems, Shimano is the way to go. For longer range pedaling, it’s really hard to beat a Shimano 2x with the 11-40 cassette on a traditional freehub body. I often suggest this setup for long range riders but only a small percentage of folks fit into this realm. I love 2x systems for the ease of pedaling. I push hard to run 1x. Maybe I’ll be back on 2x sooner rather than later.
When we look at longer travel forks, RockShox beats Fox for most folks. The low weight and stiffness of the Pike is wonderful for high performance riders. The Yari is a low price performer that can be run at most length options, up to 170mm for 27.5″. Both have Boost and Torque Cap options. Fox prices go up pretty high in the long travel 36. The reduced prices in the 34 GRIP fork are nice but they only go to 140mm, the bare minimum even for hardtails.
Shimano brakes are awesome. They are the best and low priced. The problem right now with Shimano is that they don’t seem to care about the US market. Finned brake pads have been unavailable to the wholesale market for almost 5 months. Online prices are lower than bike shops can buy parts. This is causing a lot of pain in the retail market. Thus, even a Shimano fanboy, like myself, is looking for options. The SRAM Guide and Level brakes work just about as well and are low in price and integrate with the shift and dropper parts. I put my ego into this one and pushed the SRAM product.
So, I ended up with a high end build at $4,870 and a low end build at $2,950. $1,920 difference between two excellent build kits for mountain bikes at different economies. Interesting.
I’d love input on my choices and to hear your argument for a change. Go visit the discussion on my Facebook page to contribute.
Here’s a list of parts for you to make your own list:
DROPPER POST LEVER
FRONT BRAKE LEVERS
FRONT ROTOR LOCKRING
FRONT CALIPER ADAPTER
REAR ROTOR LOCKRING
REAR CALIPER ADAPTER