Bike upgrades

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Bike upgrades

Postposted on Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:24 pm

OK, some background: I used to cycle to work regularly. About a decade ago I started a new job and cycling was a tad inconvenient so I stopped riding. Since then I have gained an average of 10 lbs a year. I'm now working about 6 miles from my house and it would be a straight forward ride; so, to save a little money and lose about a hundred pounds I decided to start cycling to work again.

The other day I saw an old GT mountain bike in a thrift store, and in a moment of nostalgia (I owned a GT in the past) I bought it. I figure the frame alone was worth more than the asking price. It's a hardtail trail bike, looks to be a model from late 90's or early 00's. Should make a decent commuter bike. It appears to have been lightly used but sat for a long time and needed a couple of parts to get it back on the road -- I'm throwing cheap(-est) parts at it just to get it rolling. I have to admit, my wife's somewhat skeptical, so spending a lot of money on a new bike was out of the question for now.

The old GT has an odd mix of Shimano Altus, Acera and Alivio parts on it now. I can afford to throw some decent parts at it slowly. I don't want to spend crazy money -- just replace worn parts with good quality components. It's been about a decade since I've paid attention to the cycling market so I'm a bit out of touch. At the risk of starting the infamous SRAM vs Shimano debate, I thought I'd ask my fellow geeks what they thought.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:19 am

I'm not familiar with the GT itself, but if the frame is in good condition, then it should be fine.

After I made sure that the bike fit me properly, that the brakes were safe and functional (ie brake pads were'nt worn bald and the mech worked OK), the next thing would be a comfortable seat. This may be especially important if the rider is coming from the vantage of carrying a few extra pounds. Replacing the brake and drive train cables on a well-used bike also can go a long way to having a smoothly functioning bike depending on how worn they are.

After that, the drive train. The most important part of the drive train is the rear derailleur. I would look at upgrading to a Deore (Shimano) level rear derailleur. But Alivio is half decent. If you have an Alivio front derailleur, it should be more than adequate if in good condition. Atlus and Acera are sort of bottom of the barrel when it comes to Shimano drive train components. However, if they are in good working order and you are just getting into it, they may be fine for the time being. If you think that you are committed to riding regularly, you may want to upgrade to Alivio for the front derailleur and base Deore for the rear.

Also, as it is a used bike, make sure that the rear cassette (cogs) is not worn to badly and the chain does not need replacing. These parts are relatively inexpensive and you may want to get a spare set. That said, it is pretty hard to give advice on priority for upgrading components on a used bike having not seen the bike in question. Some parts may be in more dire need of attention (IE, are the wheels true? are the tires serviceable - perhaps you want to opt for slicks if you have knobby tires since your are using primarily as a commuter).

After that, I would look into getting a solid 2 ring crank. But the one that came with the bike should be fine to begin with. I personally don't like the 3-ring cranks myself.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:21 am

For commuting on roads the most important aspects of a bike are:

- Cranks and pedals (Just make sure they aren't bent as that can cause knee problems)

- Lightweight road tyres and rims (makes the most difference to the feel of the bike).

- Make sure all the bearings are in good shape. (IE free running but not sloppy)

As to the chain, derailleur, etc... If they aren't worn out leave them alone (though a new chain never hurts). If you don't have any mountains to cross on the way to work I'd even consider getting rid of the gears all together. Most people these days have never ridden a single gear bike and don't realise how nice it is... provided you don't have any big hills.

Not that I'm a cyclist though my dad has done at least 200,000 miles and likes to talk about it a lot :wink:
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:39 am

i wouldn't upgrade anything. get whatever maintenance items it requires (brakes, cables, chain etc). i would however recommend some good, fast-rolling tires (high tpi count and folding bead, such as the panaracer t-serv) as those will have a noticeable affect on energy required to pedal the bike. save for a completely new bike that fits you and your riding style. it's almost always cheaper in the long run to just get a bike with what you want on it rather than piecing it together one thing at a time.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:43 am

I worked in a bike shop, and raced back in the 90's. I have cycled around the same 6mi distance to work for about 7 years now (all seasons) and the one thing I can guarantee you, is that you won't drop weight as fast as you'd imagine for a short commute like that. You need to be regularly doing 45+ minutes at a time for that to happen, so think of the cycling as a way of improving your core fitness enough to make real workouts less dislikeable.

By far the biggest factor of how much weight I gain/lose is how much soda/beer/takeaway food I eat. Homecooked lean meats and steamed vegetables are may not taste as good as washing down cheese-laden pizza with cold beer, but your internal organs will thank you for it.

Anyway, bikes!
This is the order I would do things, but based on your actual bike and riding experience you wouldn't be wrong to prioritise differently.

1) Safety:
  • Brakes and tyres first. If you can't stop, or you have pathetic grip in the corners, sort this first.
  • After that, replace a rusty chain, you don't want that snapping under stress, which is most likely when you're pedalling hard to get out of the way of traffic etc.
  • If your chainrings or sprockets are worn or slipping, you'd do better to replace these at the same time, Ideally you change the whole drivetrain (rings, chain, sprockets) at once, but this is usually expensive, so just a cheap new chain can smooth out an old drivetrain until you get a chance to replace the whole lot in one go.
2) Comfort
  • Saddle. You sit on your bones, not your assmeat - so those skinny looking saddles with holes cut into them for your prostate are actually better in the long term. Yes, the first week or so is going to be more uncomfortable, but your ass will get used to it and it'll rapidly become much more comfortable than a big, squashy, gel-filled saddle which will just chafe, long-term. Trust me; I've sold 100+ saddles to "big" people, and then talked to them when they come back for their first service.
  • Change the stem/bar height/reach/style to fit your preferences. Everyone's different, and even subtle changes can make the difference between neck/backache and total comfort.
  • Pedals. If you have nasty plastic flats on there, a good metal-cage with a big fabric toe strap (not toe-clips and fiddly little straps) makes a big difference to how much power you can put down without limiting you to the SPD-type shoes.
3) Efficiency
  • Cables. As long as the gears/hubs/brakes aren't actually damaged or seized, new cables can make old stuff feel new. Bad shifting can be anything from a bent ring/mech/sticky cables, but you should replace cables first, and for rear-mech gear cables at least, don't get cheap ones, it's not worth it.
  • Wheels. I'm assuming the original wheels were true to start with, otherwise these are higher priority. At any rate, alloy wheels feel "dead" once they're old, and assuming your bike isn't broken in any other way, these are my favourite way of getting an old bike to feel like new again. It's hard to quantify, but smooth hubs and fresh, springy rims and spokes will just feel nicer. I spent £400 on replacement wheels for a bike that was only £400 new, now it feels like a £1000 bike.
  • Upgrade old mechs and drivetrain parts. Alivio is okay, Deore is better. My rule-of-thumb is actually to ignore the brand/range. Just avoid pig-iron and plastic. If any part of the cranks/mechs is plastic - get the next model up until it's all-metal. Typically you get cheap steel, then alloy and plastic, then just alloy. the "just alloy" is the stuff you want. Sometimes that's Alivio, sometimes that's Deore.

edit: As Cyco says, parts cost more than a whole new bike. Only upgrade anything more than the essentials if you're sure the frame is the right fit for you, and worth keeping. In my opinion, most GT frames are worth keeping though.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 07, 2012 11:48 am

The model name would help. How many cogs (speeds) in the cassette...what type of braking (canti or v)...rim dimensions?

My old roomy from the 90s had the Tequesta and it was heavy for what it was. Of course, that is relative as I was riding a Cannondale SH600 by comparison. In the short term, I would recommend new tires (slicks or metro), new cables (you can keep the housing if they are decent or just get cables with housing if the cost is comparable, new chain. Since it is most likely rim brakes, true the wheels. Grease the bearings and ride it for a while.

I wouldn't put too much money into it as you can get a complete bike for about the same price as the parts necessary to update the frameset. The new bike can also have front shocks and disc brakes for more reliable braking. If you are going to pony for the 'X' grade components from SRAM or Shimano, a complete bike in that price range is basically getting the frame for free.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:42 pm

Cyco-Dude wrote:i wouldn't upgrade anything. get whatever maintenance items it requires (brakes, cables, chain etc).... save for a completely new bike that fits you and your riding style. it's almost always cheaper in the long run to just get a bike with what you want on it rather than piecing it together one thing at a time.

BiffStroganoffsky wrote:I wouldn't put too much money into it as you can get a complete bike for about the same price as the parts necessary to update the frameset. .... If you are going to pony for the 'X' grade components from SRAM or Shimano, a complete bike in that price range is basically getting the frame for free.


I can get away with buying a $100 part here and there without any problems. Walk into a bike store and drop $800-$1200 on a decent bike, not gonna happen right now if I want to maintain the peace in my household. That's the bottom line. I'm OK with piecing the bike together over a couple of months, even if it end up costing a bit more than just buying the bike outright.

Hey, we (TR's readers) tend to build custom computers and spend money to upgrade components in our computers when we might be served just as well by a cheaper OEM machine from Dell, HP, or the like. Bike falls into the same category.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:05 pm

BiffStroganoffsky wrote:My old roomy from the 90s had the Tequesta and it was heavy for what it was. Of course, that is relative as I was riding a Cannondale

Tequesta was a CroMo steel frame, like the Outpost and the Karakoram. Not surprised you found it heavy. They were indestructable though...
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:03 pm

My Specialized was CroMo too but was still lighter and I attribute it to the wheelset and bottom bracket/crankset. Tanks and '54 Plymouths are 'indestructible' too but I still wouldn't want to commute with one. :D

On the other hand, something like this or this might help the commute.

If you buy parts as you go, what you end up with are boxes of 'spare' parts like me and people asking what the blazes are you going to do with three gripshifts, some old 7&8 speed brifters not to mention the four sets of v-brakes...with pads! :P
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Fri Jun 08, 2012 1:24 pm

cheesyking wrote:- Make sure all the bearings are in good shape. (IE free running but not sloppy)


This is the one thing I overlooked in my post. There is nothing more annoying than riding a creeky bike that groans, rattles or shudders with each pedal stroke. In my experience, these creeks tend to come from the crank or bearings in the bottom bracket (and sometimes if there are structural flaws in the frame between the crank and the back wheel) - and not the drive train like you might first think.

Taking apart the bottom bracket and relubing (or just replacing the bearings as they are generally not too expensive) can go a long way in making a used bike feel more like a new one.

But again, it is hard to give this sort of advice having not seen the shape of the actually components.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:47 am

I want to apologize for taking so long to get back with a more detailed reply...

I appreciate the responses. I'm a fair mechanic and have the bike torn down so I can go through it. I'm replacing tires, brake pads, a couple of cables, and one of the shifters. Everything else is getting torn apart, thoroughly cleaned and re-lubricated. My goal is to throw a couple of cheap parts into it and take if out for a roadtrip to check out the drivetrain, check fit, and prioritize the remaining repairs.

I found a couple other threads discussing saddles. As suggested by Chrispy, I will follow the wisdom found therein. Once I take the bike for a spin I'll decide what to do, if anything, with the stem and handlebar location.

I never did like the behaviour of the Acera front derailler, especially once it has a couple thousand miles of wear, and I'm looking for something better. I also need to replace the rear rim -- it is straight but got dinged. Instead of buying a new rim and lacing it to the old Acera hub, I'll just buy a new wheel, complete. Cynan and Chrispy sort of answered the question I orignally intended to ask by recommneding Shimano Alivio front and Deore rear drivetrain components. So, to ask the specific question and continue the discussion: Should I spec in Shimano Deore, or Shimano SLX, or maybe just stick with Alivio. Is there any benefit to giving SRAM a try. What do you all think?
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:54 am

Hmm, how does one overclock a derailleur?
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:59 pm

Captain Ned wrote:Hmm, how does one overclock a derailleur?

Replace the 42 tooth chainwheel with a 48 tooth (or larger) chainwheel. Maintain a standard cadence. derailleur wheels will spin faster. Unlock the derailleur by removing the stop pins, then adjust the limit screws and the derailleur will travel further. Use caution as this may cause a crash.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:08 am

mnecaise wrote:Should I spec in Shimano Deore, or Shimano SLX, or maybe just stick with Alivio. Is there any benefit to giving SRAM a try. What do you all think?


Depends on your weather, maintenance and riding style:
  • Alivio can last for a long time if it's clean, not aggressively-shifted and not left to rust.
  • Deore is probably the first in the range that's not compromised by cost-savings in any way, but it's not engineered for racing or weight-saving.
  • SLX is beginning to get into the 'overengineered for heavy use' bracket, but you pay the price for it.

SRAM is pretty decent. It used to require more cable for the same amount of derailleur movement, meaning faster wear but better shifting in muck and filth. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend switching to SRAM unless you plan to change the whole cog system in one go (a shifter/mech/ring on the front, or shifter/mech/sprocket cluster on the back). I'm not actually sure if that's still the case, but I would expect better performance from SRAM/SRAM and SHIMANO/SHIMANO than a mixture of the two.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:00 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
mnecaise wrote:Should I spec in Shimano Deore, or Shimano SLX, or maybe just stick with Alivio. Is there any benefit to giving SRAM a try. What do you all think?


Depends on your weather, maintenance and riding style:
  • Alivio can last for a long time if it's clean, not aggressively-shifted and not left to rust.
  • Deore is probably the first in the range that's not compromised by cost-savings in any way, but it's not engineered for racing or weight-saving.
  • SLX is beginning to get into the 'overengineered for heavy use' bracket, but you pay the price for it.

SRAM is pretty decent. It used to require more cable for the same amount of derailleur movement, meaning faster wear but better shifting in muck and filth. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend switching to SRAM unless you plan to change the whole cog system in one go (a shifter/mech/ring on the front, or shifter/mech/sprocket cluster on the back). I'm not actually sure if that's still the case, but I would expect better performance from SRAM/SRAM and SHIMANO/SHIMANO than a mixture of the two.


That's good information. Since I keep my bikes clean but plan to ride everyday, I'll move to Deore. I'll keep the components Shimano for now to prevent mixing.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:05 pm

Hey, I thought you were trying not to get into the whole Shimano-v-SRAM debate. :P

Anyhoo, you only have to worry about mixing problems if you go with the SRAM 'X' component and then only with the rear derailleur and controls since they use the 1:1 ratio exclusively. Everything else from SRAM will work with Shimano.

The SRAM parts have a few thing going for them like price, smaller and less breakage prone gear readouts and the 1:1 ratio on the rear. Actually, there is a plus and a minus, IMO, regarding the SRAM rear and it depends a lot on who you are and how you use your bike. The SRAM maintains a more vertical alignment and action in the derailleur whereas Shimano's action is more horizontal by comparison. This makes the SRAM X series less prone to jump to a different gear as the live rear of your bikes suspension pogos over rough terrain. However, the horizontal movement of the Shimano makes it easier to R&R a rear wheel once you have it on the smallest cog. With SRAM, I would recommend having it on the largest cog to create enough room to get the wheel past the derailleur. With the SRAM controls, I like the narrower mounting on the bar but wish I could use my index finger to shift down to the smaller cog instead of having to use the thumb for both up and down. Shimano lets you use either digit to shift to the smaller cog so why can't you do that SRAM? Choices, I want choices dammit! :evil:
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:15 pm

BiffStroganoffsky wrote:Hey, I thought you were trying not to get into the whole Shimano-v-SRAM debate. :P

Shimano vs SRAM debate is all over the bike forums, hashed to death. My intent was to find out what you guys use. Shimano is clearly the 800 lb gorilla in the room. One of my two local bike shops makes a big deal about their Shimano expertise. The other only admits to carrying Shimano but might order SRAM components if you ask nicely. There's a lot of positive said about SRAM on the web...

BiffStroganoffsky wrote:depends a lot on who you are and how you use your bike.

An overweight (290lb) guy who's going to refurbish and use an old hardtail mountain bike to ride on the road back and forth to work.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:16 am

I like this thread, it's devoid of fanboy bias so far.

I see Shimano vs SRAM as the cycling equivalent of Intel vs AMD - basically a duopoly with a clear winner and an underdog.
The underdogs (AMD or SRAM) are still in the game because their products are priced competetively; You really don't gain or lose much by spending your benjamin with one firm instead of the other.

From 2000 to about 2008, I would probably have chosen SRAM for bikes I knew I was going to abuse. With the exception of Shimano DX and Saint ranges, their stuff always felt engineered for precsion and accuracy whilst SRAM was engineered to survive and still work when hit by rocks and mud. Now that I'm a superlight singlespeed addict (sub-8KG, or 17lbs in yankee-units) my SRAM/Shimano knowledge is getting outdated and I'd definitely defer to others with more recent experience.

Right or wrong, there's definitely room for both companies in the mountain bike scene, and it's much rosier picture than Shimano vs Campag for road bikes ;)
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:56 am

Hey, what about SRAM Red! :P
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:57 am

SRAM Red >>>>> Llano.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:59 pm

BiffStroganoffsky wrote:Hey, what about SRAM Red! :P

SRAM Red's the racing quality stuff, no? Putting SRAM Red on a 15 year old MTB frame, just to ride to work and back, seems like a bit of overkill. Kind of like building a Core i7-3930k based system to surf the web. :wink:
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:05 pm

You're not trollbaiting it right, real flame/troll wars need no accuracy, consistency or relevance to the topic at hand ;)

OMG SATSUMA IS BETTAR THAN BANANA;
MORE UNIFORM SHAPE AND IS AGP-8X COMPATIBLE UNLIKE SATSUMA WHICH ONLY 9-SPEED.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:08 pm

mnecaise wrote:SRAM Red's the racing quality stuff, no? Putting SRAM Red on a 15 year old MTB frame, just to ride to work and back, seems like a bit of overkill. Kind of like building a Core i7-3930k based system to surf the web. :wink:

At least the i7 could surf the web. The Red components are road parts and it might be a tad difficult to put them on a flat bar. :-?
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:41 am

Sturmey-Archer FTW!

(Is that like rooting for the VIA QuadCore? But seriously, my recumbent trike has a SA 8-speed internal hub. Love it. Now I just need to start actually waking up early enough to commute by trike and wake up on time.)
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:20 pm

I dont mean to hijack this thread, so if the mods deem it be split ,thats fine. I just bought a used Gary Fisher Tassajara Genesis mountain bike today. Can anyone give me some info on it? I see that Trek bought them out. Anyways I'd like to find out what model year I have, I have the serial number, but havent been able to find a place to put it in to get some info. I think it's a 21" frame but not sure if I'm measuring correctly. It's on 26" tires. I took it for a quick ride and everything works fine on it. I paid $200 for it , the bike is in excellent condition from my eye, but I'm not a bike guy. I bought it to lose some weight from quitting smoking.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:26 pm

No idea about whether you can still ID a bike through the serial number without contacting Trek directly, but assuming it's not had too much replaced, you can usually judge age by rear-mech and display section on the shifters.

Both SRAM and Shimano like to freshen their designs frequently so you can get a rough age by looking at those. Post a pic of the rear mech and I'll ID it for you, can probably get the age down to a year or two from that alone.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:55 pm

I think Chrispy_'s got the right idea. My GT Tempest... well it turns out the serial number is pretty damn useless in finding out it's manufacture date. I ID'd the rough year by going through old catalogs, and comparing the spec sheet to the components on the bike. That way I found my bike is likely a '96 or '97.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:04 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:No idea about whether you can still ID a bike through the serial number without contacting Trek directly, but assuming it's not had too much replaced, you can usually judge age by rear-mech and display section on the shifters.

Both SRAM and Shimano like to freshen their designs frequently so you can get a rough age by looking at those. Post a pic of the rear mech and I'll ID it for you, can probably get the age down to a year or two from that alone.


No idea if the pics I took is what your looking for but here they are
[imghttp://i162.photobucket.com/albums/t246/rogue426/246.jpg][/img]
[imghttp://i162.photobucket.com/albums/t246/rogue426/249.jpg][/img]
[imghttp://i162.photobucket.com/albums/t246/rogue426/245.jpg][/img]
Image
The front suspension cycling on bumps was disconcerting until I realized it has a front suspension and it's supposed to cycle up and down.
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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:05 pm

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Re: Bike upgrades

Postposted on Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:10 pm

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