Stumpjumper Q&A: Should I Upgrade an Old Mountain Bike?

I recently got an email through from a reader who’d had a bit of luck and inherited an old Stumpjumper. I thought it was interesting enough to share with you all, so here goes:

Question

Colin,

Love the website-great mix of stuff. Great articles. I was wondering if I could draw on your experience. I’ve got a 2002 specialized stumpjumper far xc, barely ridden, off a mate who is moving overseas. It needs some work from having sat a while, and I’m wondering if it would still serve as a decent xc mountain bike. If so, is it worth putting some money into updating the front shock or the groupo? I have an even older mountain bike that is due for retirement, so I was trying to figure out whether to stick with the stumpjumper + the cost of upgrades or invest in new kit.

Any thoughts greatly appreciated!

specialized stumpjumper upgradesShould I Upgrade an Old Mountain Bike or Buy a New One?

This comes down to upgrade or replace. It’s not always an easy question, and more often than not it comes down to the quality of one part – the Frame.

On that front, the Stumpy is a great piece of kit. It’s one of the best quality cross country frames on the market and to inherit one for free is a pretty huge bonus! You’re right to think about whether it’s worth the upgrade though – let’s look at the options.

The only thing to consider is that, at that age, it’ll be the old Stumpjumper spec. The main thing on this is the material it’s made from. The frame will have have a code for the type of material and what model the frame is on it, so it’s worth a little look.

I don’t know the full range off the top of my head, but old Stumpjumpers, I believe, were M4 alloy. Specialized made a bit of a tech leap and upgraded their frame material, and the new Stumpjumper frames are M5. The upshot of that is lighter, more durable material that makes for a better ride. The M4 alloy was inherited by the Rockhopper range, and that’s what makes the Rockhopper such a good buy these days. It’s running on the frame material that used to be used by Specialised’s top spec bike.

Now, the one addendum to that is that I’ve just discovered that Specialized seem to have downgraded their new Rockhoppers, so the 2012/13 models are on A1 alloy, which is a bit heavier and less durable. There are plenty of old 2011 or 2010 models still for sale out there though, so you can pick up the top quality M4 frame if you look around.

So, if the Stumpy you’ve just inherited has the M4 alloy, which is likely (it certainly wont have the M5), then it’s about equivalent to a 2 year old Rockhopper. So you’re better comparing prices to those Rockhoppers when thinking about whether to buy new components or buy a new rig altogether. Saying that, that depends on you being able to find the old models.

What Should I Upgrade on my Mountain Bike?

In terms of what to upgrade, you’ve hit the nail on the head there. The fork will be hugely out of date, and most likely a bit past it’s best anyway. You’ll pay a few hundred at least for a decent spec one of them – the X-Fusion Slant RL2 is getting a lot of good reports just now.

Almost certainly you’ll want to overhaul the groupset too. Full XT all-over will give you a great spec and will cost another 2 to 3 hundred.

Hopefully things like the seatpost, the bars, the stem, etc are all still in decent nick – they don’t wear much – so that’ll save you a bit of money at least.

So, you’re not looking at a cheap upgrade here, but you will end up with a really good bike at the end of it. On the other hand, you’d get a decent wee payment on eBay for your old frame, which would go well towards a totally new bike and save you the maintenance work.

Anyway, hope that helps, and let me know how you get on with it!

Image Credit: Steve Wilke on Flickr

Colin

Colin started mountain biking in the early 2000s and has haphazardly, and with barely increasing skill, dragged his bike around the majority of Scotland's trail centres since then. Colin has oodles of hard earned experience in how NOT to do things - listen, be warned and don't repeat his mistakes...   More about Colin... Google+ Colin

1 Response

  1. Will says:

    This made interesting reading, as I have just completely overhauled my Stumpy 01 M4 with new kit.

    It now sports Mavic Crossrides, a mix of new (9 speed though) XT and XTR. I found some cheap and decent Raceface cranks, and have liberally applied ti bolts. I have more plans (new seat, seatpost, bars etc).

    Granted, I’ve spent nearly a grand in pound sterling on it. I could’ve gotten a new Rockhopper for sure with the money I spent. But in the case of the Stumpy, it wasn’t about what spec it was, it was the ride quality. It’s stiff as a board, but livelier than any carbon frame I’ve ridden. It climbs like a mule. It’s fun.

    Now I wouldn’t have upgraded any old frame, and I admit it’s partly sentiment involved. My Stumpy was still in very good condition, and I bought it with some cash left by a close relative. It was in too good a condition, and too sentimental to dispose of. I hadn’t used it enough by far too, and I felt it owed me a few good years yet.

    Also, retro frames are now very cool in the bike world, and to update a good looking, good riding frame to modern spec is considered a good move in the retro world.

    And as I stand and look at my Stumpy glistening with new parts, I feel a sense of pride that I bucked the disposable trend of modern life and hung onto a bit of classic, good old fashioned fun 🙂

    I say go for it!

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