Upgrading an old Giant MTB...

Nov 16, 2021
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I have a Giant XTC SE4 - from 2003, purchased for just £25 off a friend a couple of years back. Bike similar to the one in the link below.

http://cycle-trails.co.uk/my_giant_xtc4.htm

Having sat for a couple of years, I’m just getting around to start riding again after 20 years or so.

Already I’ve upgraded the disc brakes to Shimano MT400's, adjusted the cockpit set up to suit me (new grips and bars etc.) and a set of new tires to replace the perished originals.

I'm mainly doing trails and off road on Exmoor, which is parts is pretty gnarly, looking to stick to similar and cycle paths and manmade trails, don't think I’m built for much more let alone the bike!

I have noticed that the ride doesn't inspire confidence and I’m not using all gears available and those that are used, it feels I’m often compromising on selection rather than choosing the right one...let’s face it, it’s almost a 20-year-old bike.

So in short - upgrades based on the above and anything else anyone feels beneficial. Not got a bottomless pit of money and happy to look at second hand quality rather than cheaper new stuff, especially as it's on 26" tires and as mentioned, it’s not the latest in design to start with. Nor am I looking to win any competitions, just looking to turn it into a more enjoyable ride.
 
Using the full range of gears is more about fitness than anything else. The drivechain could be either refreshed or upgraded and you could alter the range, but selection is quite dependent on the rider and the terrain so it's hard to give advice.

In terms of alterations, unfortunately there's probably not much more you can do. The frame has dated geometry, with fairly steep angles and is designed around a 80mm travel fork. This limits you to, probably max 100mm travel (and I'm definitely not recommending that increase as it could compromise the frame) forks. Finding a good one in decent condition is going to be difficult for 26" wheels, anything new is unlikely to be better than what's currently on it if it's well maintained and working. It is, at the end of the day, a near 20 year old bike as you say. MTB design has moved on a long way in those 20 years, which means MTB routes have too, and most of it isn't backwards compatible. You could try different tyres, depending on what you have fitted already, but I'm guessing clearance will be an issue on such an old frame too.

To be honest, the best upgrade you can make is to yourself. Get some lessons instead of making changes to the bike that probably won't make a huge difference.
 
Reactions: Black Betsy
Nov 16, 2021
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Thank you for some great feedback.

Never really thought of it in that respect so maybe it would be best to concentrate on upping my skills.

Saying that, I went and checked the forks today and I don't think they've ever had a service in the last 20 years... :rolleyes:
 
Thank you for some great feedback.

Never really thought of it in that respect so maybe it would be best to concentrate on upping my skills.

Saying that, I went and checked the forks today and I don't think they've ever had a service in the last 20 years... :rolleyes:
No problem. On the forks, if you search around you'll probably be able to pick up a decent 26" fork second hand. I'd advise against new because I think most new 26" forks will be being made for entry level hybrids and will be basically worse than a rigid fork, but do have a look as it's not something I've ever needed to look into in the last 5+ years. Personally I'd be ok going to 100mm travel, mainly because the bike you sent a link to has forks that were adjustable from 80mm to 100mm, so I think the frame will be ok. You need to make sure that the dropout is the right size (I'm assuming you have a quick release), the steerer fits (1 1/8th can be adapted to fit a tapered headtube, you can't go the other way). and the brakes you have will fit (you can get IS/Post mount adaptors, just make sure you're not buying a rim brake only fork as they are still out there). You'll also need to make sure there is enough steerer tube left on the forks to fit your bike. I did a quick search on PinkBike and these popped up:


They're probably the best of what's on there now and I'm pretty sure they'd work fine with your set up (you may need some brake caliper adapters). Uncut steerer so unless you're very, very tall it should be fine (and I'd guess you'd need a custom frame for these not to be long enough), straight 1 1/8th steerer so should fit the headtube and post mount brakes (they may have a minimum rotor size, but this would just mean a bigger rotor if your current one is too small).

Obviously I can't vouch for the actual fork, but you'll struggle to fine something better than that I reckon. There's a DT Swiss fork on there too which could work, but it's losing air which may mean that a service and seal replacement sorts it, or it may mean it's junk. Finding the parts to service it might be an issue too. It's a shame, because those DT Swiss forks are brilliant, but I'd probably not take the risk. If I did, I'd speak to the seller and see if they can get it serviced and then either add the price of the service on if it sorts the issue or half it with them, although that'll put the price up to either similar or more than the Fox and I don't think they're that good. Personally, I'd probably get the Fox if it's in budget.


On lessons, it's something lots of people don't think about (after all, riding a bike is just like riding a bike isn't it?!) but it's really very helpful. I had a bike not dis-similar to yours when I first took up MTB. At first I thought I'd never get off the gravel tracks, but I was lucky enough to meet someone who taught me for free and after a few rides I was hitting stuff I'd never have gone near. Proper technique makes a huge difference.
 
I am an old school racer originally starting in the late 80,s and have just returned after 15 years on the road.
I,m still riding my old 26 hardtail, surprised how my technical ability has diminished.
I will get a new bike , but pointless at the moment, I need a solid six months of practice during which my current bike will do me fine,
 
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