OK, so here's the deal. I bought a GT Avalanche 3.0 because I honestly couldn't afford any better but I still wanted to start biking right away. I don't regret the purchase, because I've been having a blast, however, I do have a few issues with the bike. The rear shifting has never been good, not even the first day I had it. I took it in for adjustments a day or so later and the damn thing still just didn't want to shift properly. It would sometimes skip, and sometimes not want to shift at all. The front shifting was ok, but a little slow sometimes when I really needed it to be quicker. The other issue I have is the size of my front crankset... at 28/38/48 it leaves much to be desired, especially combined with the 14-28 rear cassette. Going up the steep inclines is just too tough, especially compared to Lan's bike, which has a 24 front and 30 rear. So, today I went to REI and bought a Shimano Deore rear derailer to replace the crappy Acera that came with the bike, and I came home and installed it. Ok, two things... first, I found that adjusting the bike is very very easy, and I will never need to go to a shop to have it done... and second, damn that Deore makes a big friggin' difference! I couldn't believe how smoothly I could click through the different speeds after just a simple little replacement that cost me $35 at REI. Next I'm going to buy a 22/32/42 front crankset, I think the Shimano STX. I still can't spend too much money but I need to at least make it a decent ride. Seeing as how my bike's frame is the same as the Avalanche 0.0, which is somewhere around $800 or so, I can just upgrade parts as I see fit and end up with a very respectable setup that I enjoy riding.
While I was at REI I also picked up a spare tube, CO2 tire inflator and Cateye Enduro 8 odometer. I'm getting closer and closer to being completely comfortable when I go out riding. I now just need a decent pair of MTB shorts, a first aid kit, a compass and of course a way to keep my G3 a bit more accessible. I don't think I mentioned it before but the Pearl Izumi Gel-Lite gloves I got made the downhill rides a lot more comfortable... so I'm hoping a good pair of shorts will help me too. I tore up a nice pair of boxers yesterday while swinging my let up over my bike... they practically tore in two. I can't afford to do that too often, those Structure boxers weren't all that cheap.
We rode parts of Fullerton Loop today, but we got off track a few times and then we ended up cutting the ride short. It was still a little over 8 miles, but next time I will try to finish the ride, I'm guessing it will be about 10mi. Of course, I didn't take many pics, but here are a couple out of the very few I did shoot...