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Alivio vs. Deore vs. Sram X7
#1
Alright guys my mtb came with an Alivio Derail and I was wanting to upgrade to the front and rear to Deore M531/530. I was also looking at SRams X7 series. I was looking for some feedback on a few subjects here. First off would these be a significant upgrade to performance or would i be better off just spending my money for something else(like clipless pedals and shoes)
Second, will my shifters from the alivio series be compatible with deore deraillers and if i decided to go with Sram could i still use my shimano shifters? Any help, opinions, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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#2
Unless your current derailleurs are very worn or damaged, I've never found upgrading made a big change in performance. Upgrading the entire gear system (shifters, derail, chainrings, chain) may, but that's a lot of money.
Clipless pedals will have a big impact on your power. But they do change how you ride a bit. Doe you want to be able to jump on your bike to ride to the store in regular shoes, or do you really only ride to ride and so will wear the shoes all the time. There are options to suit both, but it's a very different thing than changing a derailleur.
A lot of people do "upgrades" without any real plan or goal. Buying cool new parts for your bike is fun, and I do it too. But admit that's what you're doing. But if there is something specific about how the bike works you want to improve, then you can make informed decisions that will have real impact.
For better or worse, often it's the less "glamorous" parts that have the biggest impact on how your bike rides. Better tires and brake pads generally affect the ride mroe than a lot of other parts.
Sometimes you can mix shimano shifters with SRAM derails, but often not. I'm not sure about your specific set up.

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#3
I think the main reasons i was thinking about clipless pedals is cause im having a little trouble keeping my feet planted on the plateforms and my shins are tired of getting scraped up. Yes you are right about the just wanting to buy cool stuff, im the worst i know for doing this. I guess its just a matter of wants over needs. Anyways i always appreciate the opinions of someone more experienced then me. Thanks

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#4
I agree with DaveM. Clipless pedals and shoes is a worthy upgrade in my mind, but maybe not glamorous. Plus I'm able to ride the store if need be in regular shoes but it's a little awkward so you have to take that into account.
I have a middle of the road, or maybe low end Deore LX 8 speed derailleur and it's been great and is still working fine after 10 years.

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#5
Check out pedals that offer both possibilities. I have them on my tourer / city whip, so that I can use it to ride to the pool during my lunchbreak. They are "normal" pedals on one side and Shimano MTB-type on the other. The clipless shoes I use with them have recessed cleats, so that I don't make so much noise when walking. My regular road cycling shoes are quite noisy and they are not comfy to walk in...
I'd say, I use the bike half of the time with cycling shoes and the other half with sneakers, running shoes, whatever.
Concerning the derailleurs: I'd say, rather upgrade the shifters than the derailleur. Rear derailleurs do not offer much more performance (read Sheldon Brown's article on that subject http://sheldonbrown.com/derailer-adjustment.html , comment right at the bottom of the article). Especially on road bikes, the low end Shimano STIs feel... weird when breaking or shifting. Everything from the middle segment on upwards is OK and offers only limited performance increment. The weight savings can be substantial and the finish is better. Exception: High end chains are mostly better, They are treated to prevent rust and they are sometimes designed better, the links have different forms to faciliate shifting.
Remark: I do not state that it makes no difference if you buy Dura Ace / XTR vs. Tiagra / SLX, I just don't think that the price difference does not reflect the performance gain linearly.

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