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  1. #1
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    Mountain bike to city bike

    I ride a cheap mountain bike around because if it's the best locked and cheapest bike on the bike rack, no one is gonna steal it. My only problem is that it's a hard bike (no shocks), and the only thing I've added to it are lights, a seat, a cyclocomputer, a patch kit, a minipump, and a horn. I've also tuned it up and roughly fitted it using basic internet knowledge.

    What I'm wondering is what else could I do to this bike to make it a bit better for commuting. i know there's some stuff that I need like fenders, a rear rack, and maybe some slicks, but are there any other modifications I (or any other forum members) might need to know about converting a mountain bike for city riding? modifications for performance or weight conservation are welcome

  2. #2
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Tires are so far out in front for my #1 upgrade choice that there isn't even a second place.

    A set of slicks will be faster and easier to pedal, handle better and are quieter. I'm not a fan of super skinny tires either. I'd get something in the 1.5" to 2.0" range. They'll allow you to use lower air pressures for better ride quality without increasing rolling resistance. You can also save significant weight with tires, but the lighter ones cost more and probably won't last quite as long.

  3. #3
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    +1 Slicks. I put 26 x 1.25 tires on my MTB.

  4. #4
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    +2 on the tire change. As RG noted, no other change will be as dramatic. When I "roadified" my old rigid fork hardtail Trek MTB I first put 26x1.25" slick tires and later changed them to 26x1.5" slicks for a bit more ruggedness and resiliance. Fenders are a worthwhile addition for all-weather riding and a rack makes utility use much easier.

    Beyond that the expense goes up fast and the benefits much more slowly. You could fit lighter components, lighter wheels, change the gearing, etc. all at high cost and you would still have a cheap, heavy MTB. You would also make it a more attractive target for thieves.

    If you really want a lighter, faster commuter consider getting a Cyclocross-type bike. In the long run it would be less expensive and more rewarding than sinking a lot of money into your current MTB

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    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    I agree slicks are your best improvment in performance and handling at this point. IMHO suspension is not a big deal on a commuter unless your in really rough terrain. on a MTB witha x1.5 or x1.75 you should get a comfy ride with a good riding style and technique.

    personally I go for skiny tires when streeterizing my MTB.

    My '93 Project 3 with 700x30 Avocet tires for the rail trail and Dunker runs. the stock tires were knobby 700x45s



    My '88 Grizzly with 26x1.25 Pannaracers, I upgraded this from 6spd FW to 7spd cassette too


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    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rion View Post
    I ride a cheap mountain bike around because if it's the best locked and cheapest bike on the bike rack, no one is gonna steal it. My only problem is that it's a hard bike (no shocks)
    When it comes to cheap bikes, rigid is best because cheap suspension is generally worse than no suspension
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

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    I'll agree with the tires. I ride a not so cheap MTB as a commuter and I put slicks on it. The one time I commuted with knobbies I went online and ordered the slicks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    If you really want a lighter, faster commuter consider getting a Cyclocross-type bike. In the long run it would be less expensive and more rewarding than sinking a lot of money into your current MTB
    I fully intend on keeping the upgrades minimal. not only for theft and cost reasons, but I'm also a 300lbs+ Clydesdale and I'm using the promise of a new bike as incentive to keep pushing forward with my weight loss.

    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    When it comes to cheap bikes, rigid is best because cheap suspension is generally worse than no suspension
    I've been a heavy guy my whole life. Not only that, but when I was younger I LOVED going off ramps. between the age of 15 and 18 I must have spent over $2000 on bike repairs and replacements on Department Store bikes. In total I've probably taco'd 6-8 rims, taco'd a suspension frame, and broke a couple more in half. Just the other day a buddy of mine bought a new toy. A wally world special with full suspension, a suspension seat post, and spring seat. It seemed like it would be a good idea, but you only deal with curbs and deep potholes about 10-15% of the time, the rest is spent bouncing up and down with each pedal stroke like some sort of clown. Not only that, but I'm a couple inches taller than he is and the bike just didn't fit like it should have.

    After lurking a bit, I've heard both sides of the argument that your front wheel should be thinner than the back. the consenus of people screaming at me to switch to slicks is astounding, but would running a 1.5 in the front and a 2 in the back really make a difference? also, as a Clydes, should I even be going that wide in the rear and switch to a slimmer / higher PSI tube and tire set?

    Thanks a lot for the feedback, I'm hoping to go out and get my slicks sometime this week, and maybe go out and buy some trekking bars and a new rack next weekend

  9. #9
    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rion View Post
    After lurking a bit, I've heard both sides of the argument that your front wheel should be thinner than the back. the consenus of people screaming at me to switch to slicks is astounding, but would running a 1.5 in the front and a 2 in the back really make a difference? also, as a Clydes, should I even be going that wide in the rear and switch to a slimmer / higher PSI tube and tire set?
    -The consensus is there because it is good advice. Rigid MTB + slicks = awesome and cheap utility bike.

    -As a heavy guy, get as much air volume between the rims and the pavement as possible. Maybe even consider getting Schwalbe Big Apples, or the like. I am a heavy guy, and I played around with 1.25 slicks on a MTB before I finally decided that I needed more meat to deal with the kind of riding I see around town. And if you are doing anything like jumping curbs, then you really need it.

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  10. #10
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    The narrow slicks is a no brainer for speed and ease of pedalling. But if you are having a bit of fun with jumping off stuff as well then yeah, you're going to want some fat urban jumping tires. The Big Apples is one option. Another is the Kenda K-Rad tires in 26x2.35. Both of these give you downhill like tire casings but just without the knobbies. To go with the fat tires you're going to want a set of wheels with wider rims and a 36 hole spoke count for the best reliability. But this implies some fairly serious jumping and rolling stairs at a good clip. If you're a bit past this silliness then I suspect you'll find that a semi wide slick will do just fine. Tioga makes their City Slicker in 1.5 and 1.95 sizes. And they are nice rolling tires. Just be aware that the wider the tire the heavier it is and it's surprising how a few ounces of extra tire weight can make a bike feel about 10 lbs heavier in how it accelerates away from starts.

    A rack and panniers is nice if you're carrying a lot of heavy stuff so that the load doesn't weigh down on your shoulders. But if you're only carrying up to maybe 10'ish lbs of stuff on a normal basis a backpack is handy and keeping the weight off the bike makes the bike feel more sporty.
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  11. #11
    spathfinder34089 spathfinder3408's Avatar
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    The thinner tires definately help make a mtn bike into a commuter. You will never go quite as fast as a road bike but you will add up to 5mph to your speed. I would pump those tires up some in pressure as well. Check specs on 1.5 or 1.25 inch tires. If you could pump them up to 70 to 80lbs that will make them run faster. Make sure the bearings are greased and adjusted properly. I'm a mechanic and tried my best to get a mtn bike to go as fast as a road bike and there is to much weight and the wheels are not as refined to keep up with the light weights.

  12. #12
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    may want a different handlebar, Ala 3 speed bikes, , and put a big Wald front basket on instead of
    or in addition to rear rack , and yes mudguards.

  13. #13
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    What's the difference between a front rack / handlebar bag and a rear rack / saddle bag? is it just preference? I've been debating getting a front bag just to keep stuff like my keys and cellphone in while I ride. I recently almost lost a phone due to water damage when I was cycling in tornado weather and got so wet that I had water in my ears.

  14. #14
    Senior Member gyozadude's Avatar
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    For me, commuting has been mostly about comfort and control and less about absolute speed. I haven't had a problem parking in a lot with security issues, and in most of my commuting, I've been very fortunate to be able to bring my bike into the office or lab where theft was never a serious issue. For that purpose, I'd have to say that my overall favourite commuter continues to be my old trusty MB-6 with 1.9 inch fat slicks. Probably been this way since 1992, when I modified it with drop bars, barcon shifters, added rear rack and panniers, and put on the slicks. It has a set of fenders which go on in winter, and come off in the spring (it's California). My pump and my tubes and tire levers are cheap so I don't mind putting them into a seat bag or hanging on my frame. My allen wrenches and other repair tools stay with my panniers. I have a slow-to-remove set of rear panniers now because I can park my bike outside my office in the building. But I have a hook-on set that is fast to remove and take with me for other locations in the public. I have QR skewers that have a removable allen-key lever. You may want to get similar ones which will help reduce wheel theft.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    I ran 26x1.75 Marathons for a few years and switched to 2.0 Marathon Supremes this year. The Supremes cost more but weigh a lot less. The bike rides faster with the wider tires and I have the option of a little less air for comfort or a little more pressure for speed. At the highest pressure the contact area of the tread is pretty small.

    I have a set of 1.25 Panaracer Pasela Tgs that I fitted on the same bike and found them too narrow for my taste.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rion View Post
    What's the difference between a front rack / handlebar bag and a rear rack / saddle bag? is it just preference? I've been debating getting a front bag just to keep stuff like my keys and cellphone in while I ride. I recently almost lost a phone due to water damage when I was cycling in tornado weather and got so wet that I had water in my ears.
    Not all of feitsbob's "suggestions' are to be taken seriously.

    A handlebar bag doesn't need a full rack and they have a simple frame or plain straps that hang them from the bars. A handle bar bag should be small and light enough to avoid affecting the bike's handling so they are limited to small light items like the keys and cellphone you mention. (BTW, I always put my cellphone in a ziplock bag to protect it from water damage.) A rear rack and panniers are used for larger, heavier, bulkier cargo like a change of clothes, dress shoes, laptop, groceries, etc. Many commuters use both.

    Full front and rear racks and panniers are the stuff of self-contained tourists who carry both camping and cooking gear. They are overkill for most commuters.

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