What I upgraded with my first bike

My first bike was a 26er mountain bike bought off from a shop along the highway where I usually take my bus for Manila.  It costed my Php5,000 and it was stock chinese bike.  It had an alloy frame, a 3x7 with mechanical disk brakes.  I initially intended it to be an exercise bike.  Simply to go around town maybe biking for 2 kilometers or so.

Our place is not all flats I realized later.  We had a bit of steep hills and some long climbs and it proved to be a bit of difficulty for me to ride my bike. After doing some laps on flat roads, it was becoming quite boring that I had to tackle this daunting climbs eventually.  I still had problems with it until I researched more how to overcome this scenario.  I had to make upgrades and here were the ones I decided upon.

Hollowtech Cranks by Shimano isn't cheap.  The groupset can set you back for a lot of money starting with their Altus, Alivio models all the way to their Deore, SLX, XT and XTR crank models.  I really need to replace my stock cranks which were steel and poorly made, good thing Shimano came up with these non-series types of cranks that use the same Hollowtech technology.  These are MT-200 models and are available in 3x or 2x configurations.  For my upgrade I went for the 2x.  After purchasing the same, Shimano came out with the MT-300 featuring the same affordable prices but the difference? The new model features replaceable or removable chain rings.  You may opt to go 1x with this. 

My first bike came with mechanical disk brakes and I prefer these over the cantilever rim brake sets.  What I found out after going for long rides is that these babies are very hard to squeeze.  After trying out my brother in law's hydraulic brake system, I immediately wanted these.  Good thing Shimano makes non-series models that is affordable to bike enthusiasts like me.  After procuring and installing these hydraulic brakes, squeezing them is a God send.  I am now able to apply brakes evenly and I had much control when I do.  Its pack more grip I reckon and I know I am confident that I can be safe riding my bike with these.

Another thing I upgraded next was my drive train.  Group sets are expensive but to make it affordable and within reach, I had to buy each one separately.  This is not an advisable method as each bought piece will prove much more expensive than a group set.  What I did was to replace some items in that group set with other brands.  I bought an Alivio rear derailleur 9-speed to take care of my gear shifting along with the Alivio Shifters.  During this time, it was all I can afford, and Alivio is the model just below the Deore which I liked (more expensive).  Later I realized that Alivio shifting isn't as reliable as I perceived them to be, as I bought the lower model, Altus for my kid's bike, and I was more happier with its shifting than with this Alivio.

In my spirit of keeping costs low, instead of using the Alivio Cogs, I opted for the Sagmit 11-42 9-speed cogs.  This was cheaper and although heavier in weight,  I have heard of great reviews with this one, but some say, it has shifting issues (which I encountered), but somehow with a good mechanic, proved to be dependable as well.  I bought also an affordable Shimano chain to complete the drive train set for less. 

Since I don't want to ride a bike clueless, I need to have bag with me to carry my tools.  I don't believe that a small saddle bag can allay my fears of the open road so instead of carrying a heavy back on my shoulders, I knew then I need a pannier.  What else to hold a pannier is by having a rear rack installed on my first bike.  The rack I bought was pictured above.  Looked great, sturdy looking and light.  Best of all its the most affordable thing I can find in the market, be it in shops and online.  Lets just say I bought one, installed one and replaced it after almost a month of using it.  What I found out during its use is that the panniers sway during the ride and gets caught in the wheels.  The arms you see above do no protection nor prevent the panniers from going inside and catching the spokes.  Very dangerous if you ask me.  If you plan to use this kind of rear rack, I suggest buying a bungee cord and place your bag on top. Don't ever use a pannier with this rack.

As I have written above, I don't like using backpacks on my shoulders as I get weary on long rides with a heavy burden on my back.  Panniers are the best for carrying heavy loads on my rides and it has proven itself many times over.  I bought a pair of these 15L bags from Decathlon and they are great.  I use these babies when I do our groceries and buying fresh produce from the market.  Very tough, I have packed fish, eggs (carefully of course), pork, beef, vegetables, bread in them.  I think I used it over the weight limit they set for this product and they handled very well.  Remember the panniers getting caught inside the spokes above?  These babies handled it very well, no scratches, nor damage.  Right now this model is being phased out by Decathlon and they are currently being cleared out.  Meaning, they are selling them half price, so get them before its finally gone.

I have made other decisions on this bike since then and that will be a story for another day.  Keep on following our stories here and try to follow us in our facebook page at www.facebook.com/pabeberider.