After all the whining and crying that went on about the "Dream build" post, I thought I'd do a post about what *I* would use to put together a bike - intelligent use of money, rather than $2k on a wheelset. Crazy concept, eh?
So without further ado, here's what I'd buy if I was spending my own money on a geared hardtail mountain bike. Note that pedals aren't included because preferences vary so much across the board - I can't really make a recommendation there. Explanations of my choices, too!
Frame Waltworks Custom, JC black
Well, duh. I personally like black, too, so if I were paying, I'd do the Johnny Cash black and save myself $100.
Comes in every conceivable configuration for any application and rider. Made in the USA. Good warranty. What's not to like?
Headset King (any color)
Made in the USA by people who love what they do and ride what they make, 10 year warranty, sweet looks - what's not to like? King isn't just the bling choice - if you amortize the up front cost over those 10+ years (and I've seen plenty that are 15-20 years old and going strong) it's also the economical choice.
Stem Thomson X4
Once again, a USA-made product that is nigh-impossible to break and looks cool. Yes, you can save a few grams with other stem options - but IMO it's not worth it.
Handlebar Easton Monkeylite
The bar that started it all. Light, strong, not too stupidly expensive.
Shifters X-9 gripshift
I think the SRAM shifting system is better than Shimano, and I've always been a gripshift fan. As of now, most SRAM stuff is made in Germany, too, rather than China. I hear that is going to change, but it's still hopefully going to be good stuff.
Front derailleur SLX direct mount
Direct mount derailleurs work much better than clamp-on ones, and they're sleek looking and lighter weight to boot. Why SLX instead of XT? I like the grey color, and that's the only difference between the two models!
Rear derailleur X-9
The X-9 rear derailleur for 2010 weighs 205 grams (yes, I've weighed one). Is it worth spending an extra ~$200 for an XX derailleur that is 25 or 30 grams lighter? Your call, but that's a lot of beer or lift tickets or a day off work to go ride the local dirtjumps. I know what I'd choose...
Bottom Bracket w/cranks
Ride the Shimano BB that's included with the (SLX) cranks until it dies, then buy a King to replace it.
Expensive chains are always a stupid idea - chains are the #1 thing that get screwed up on a mountain bike, and you don't save weight or add function with more expensive chains. The 951 is cheap, strong, and reliable. Keep it lubed and replace it if you need to.
Cassette XT 11-34
A good durable cassette at a decent weight and price.
Crankset SLX triple
Why not XT? Because the SLX is the same BB and crankarms, just slightly cheaper chainrings (which you'll wear out and replace anyway) and steel chainring bolts instead of aluminum. Want to save that 25g? Buy a $10 set of chainring bolts and replace them. Boom! You've got an XT crankset and you saved yourself $60.
Seatpost Thomson Elite
See my earlier Thomson comments.
Brakes Avid Elixir 5
A great brake that is light, functional, and well, a bit ugly. I hate white. But for the price, you can't beat these things. They are easy to set up, powerful, and modulate well. The ONLY adjustment you can make is the lever reach, but I've never been a fan of brakes with a ton of knobs and dials all over them. That's just stuff to break in a crash.
Easy way to save 50-60 grams, and they make your wheels feel a bit stiffer to boot. Yes, you have to have an allen wrench to get your wheel off - but honestly, who goes on a ride without an allen wrench?
Wheelset 240s w/Crest/355/Arch/Flow rims
You could make a case for Kings, but I have always loved my DT 240s. I had a set from 1999 when I rode for Schwinn that must have 20k+ miles on them without any maintenance at all - I sold them a couple of years ago and as far as I know, they are still going strong.
You could make a strong case for King here too, of course. They're a tiny bit (maybe $75) more expensive.
On the rim front, the Stan's/Notubes guys are blowing their competition out of the water these days. They make a rim for just about every mountain bike application that's the best in it's class, whether you're a 125# racer or a 250# hucker.
Tubes 1 qt sealant
Tires Maxxis Aspen/Ignitor/Ardent
All of these tires are great (for a variety of conditions and applications) and will work well tubeless as well. Maxxis rocks.
Grips/tape Ritchey WCS
My favorite grips - super light, comfy, and cheap. Be warned that they don't like to be removed once they're installed. For folks with wrist or hand problems, I like the Ergons.
Saddle WTB Laser V Pro
15g heavier than the ti model, and $40 cheaper. You do the math.
Total price: $3150
For those who are curious, a singlespeed version with a custom rigid fork, Paragon sliders, no shifters/derailleurs, and a King SS cog to replace the cassette is about $200 cheaper.