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Fork or Drivetrain Upgrade?

I’ve been thinking of upgrading my Trek Marlin 5, since I’m going to be stuck with it for a couple years for multiple reasons. I’m wondering what would be best for me, upgrading to a 1x8 drivetrain setup, with 1x9 being the only other option given the wheel setup, or upgrading it’s stock fork (Suntour XCE 28) to a RockShox Judy Silver TK. 
I have a pretty decent lineup of products for the drivetrain conversion in mind that would work, and I know that the RockShox fork would fit my bike, it’s just a question of which one. Any opinions or information would be helpful, thank you!

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Re: Fork or Drivetrain Upgrade?

I would skip the fork unless you're getting some killer deal on it, forks can be rather expensive and I'm not sure it's worth it even if it's for a couple years.

As for going 1x... are you doing it just to simplify shifting? Are you trying to fit a dropper lever in? Because it's not necessarily an upgrade. I recently turned my old 3x8 into a 1x8 just by throwing a narrow-wide chainring onto the middle position and getting rid of the other two (worn) rings, then resizing the chain by removing links. End result is I don't have as low of gearing and steep climbs can be rough. Also don't have as much of a top end for speed. I'd say rough estimate is to say take your two lowest gears and your two highest gears, you're going to lose those going 1x. The real advantage of 1x to me really comes from pairing it with the bigger dinner plate cogs in the rear that you see on 10, 11, or 12 speeds. If it's for a dropper, there are other style levers meant to be compatible with 2x and 3x systems. Or you can mount a shifter style lever above the bars rather than the usual below, I did that for a while too.

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Re: Fork or Drivetrain Upgrade?

The fork is 170$, which in my mind for a decent air fork is an ok deal, although nothing crazy of course. If I were to get the 1x8, it would be to improve shifting, and reduce noise and just general better performance for my terrain. The Shimano Tourney the bike is equipped with right now is alright, but it bangs around a lot plus I get my chain falling off every once in a while. The range isn’t too much of a concern since I don’t pedal very hard, I go at moderate speeds at the second front gear, and rarely find myself going past that gear. And with my trails being rocky and rooty I feel like a stronger setup would help, same reason why I’d want the fork, it seems like the Suntour I’m currently equipped with isn’t as sensitive as I would expect or hope you could say? I may just be undermining what my current suspension does but I think an upgrade to a decent entry level air fork would be beneficial just for more responsiveness and smoother riding (hopefully)

I may just be being completely ignorant, and although I could set aside reserve money from what I earn for a new future bike, I just feel like I’d like to do something more substantial with my current bike that could really boost my rides. 

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Re: Fork or Drivetrain Upgrade?

If the chain is falling off even in the 3x configuration, I'd suspect something isn't set up quite right, probably limit screws. Or maybe the chain is a couple links too long, hard to say, but both are relatively simple adjustments to make. Tourney is a lower end spec, but without major overhaul, I still am not sure going 1x is going to transform your ride experience based on my own conversion to 1x8.

Part of the XCE issues are probably lack of adjustable rebound, so the suspension compresses then just bucks you back after the initial hit, which is typical of budget coil forks.

I guess as long as you're gonna do something, I'd choose the fork over the drivetrain, as long as the Judy has that rebound adjustment (not sure if that's on the $170 one you're looking at, you did say it's air at least). But mostly my main concern is when the bike is new in the ~$600 range, that's a third of the cost of the bike new, probably more like half the worth now. Plus any shop labor to install it if not doing it yourself (cutting the steerer to size, moving the crown race over from the old fork). So if it were me I'd probably just save it for that next bike, but like I said, if you're going to anyway I'd do the fork.

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