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  1. #1
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    Pasted from Introductions, questions about commuting.

    Hello from KS.

    I've got some extremely newbish questions to ask, and I'm hoping I can get started in the right direction...

    Type of bike I want: MTB! I grew up on a Trek MTB and have always love those types of bikes.

    What I'm wanting a bike for: Commuting to work (16 miles to and from, 32 total a day) a couple of days a week, and some offroading and occasional trickery. Emphasis on commuting, followed by trails, and finishing with trickery (curb hobbing and what not) in a distant 3rd.

    I went to one of the more reputable stores here in Wichita, and came across a 'knowledgeable' salesman who, after fitting me, determined that they don't make MTB's for shorties (I'm 5'10") like me. My legs (or inseam, or whatever) measured at 77" with bike fit and I found that 26" tires felt good. Forgot the frame size.The salesman then said my 'overlap' was too large (my toes hit the tire) to get any bikes they offer. I understood overlap to be how far away your toes are from the tire when the arch of a foot is on the pedal. More specifically, he stated that commuting was okay, but going to trails was out of the question with my overlap. He said my best bet was to get a Trek Jack, which aren't made anymore. Seriously? Even if what he said had merit, that's the best help I can get? Discouraging.

    So here I am, and I'd like a second opinion. I concede that I remember next to nothing about bikes, but I am adamant about having a MTB. The one bike he recommended pre-measurement was a Specialized Rockhopper.

    Any and all help is appreciated.

    Thanks!

    EDIT: Forgot to mention that I have a budget of $900.

  2. #2
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    Which bike shop did you go to?

  3. #3
    This bike is cat approved monsterpile's Avatar
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    That guy either knows a ton more about bikes than I do or its total BS. The average height for an American is about 5'10" so what he said makes no sense to me. I would think at your height (same as me) you would have enormous amounts of options. Maybe you have enormous feet or something. I am not a mountain biker at all, but at best l think it sounds sounds like over thinking things.

    For $900 you should have options. 29ers are all the rage right now so you could go that direction or even get a cross bike. If you want to stick with the 26 inch wheel (thats ok I like the smaller wheeled bikes myself) I don't know what is out there that would be a good commuter in your price range. Its probably a bit harder to find (26 inch wheels are sort of out fo Fashion now) but other posters will help with suggestions.
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    Andrew: Bicycle Pedaler

    Monster: Thanks for the info.

  5. #5
    Old, but not really wise CptjohnC's Avatar
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    Sounds like the guy in the shop is confused, at least to me -- perhaps he doesn't know as much about using the fit-kit as he thinks he does. Or he's letting his own personal preferences color his salesmanship. Unless your proportions are really strange, you should fit right near the middle of the range for most commercially available MTB frames -- with the question of exactly where being more based on your style and preferences. I have a MTB with a 19? inch frame (I'm not 100% sure - could be an 18") and have no problems with using it for commuting and trail riding -- I'm shorter than you at 5'9" and have ordinary-ish proportions (31 inch inseam, 'normal' length arms, etc...).

    Now, unrelated to the fit issue, I can't really imagine having a MTB as my primary bike for riding 32 miles each day, if you're keeping it set up for off-roading. You'll be pretty slow, and I'd have more wrist pain that I'd know what to do with. I enjoy taking my MTB for commutes on occasion, but I'll stick to my drop bar hybrid for that kind of daily mileage. Others have done a lot of work at setting up MTBs for commuting, but I think it pretty much ruins them as trail riders. having two sets of wheels/tires would help, but that's a lot of work, and possibly near the cost of having a second bike.

  6. #6
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    Cpt - I was afraid of that type of advice. I, for whatever reason, totally want a mountain bike. I realize the resistance from the knobby tires would be relatively great, but you're saying having a second set of road tires would be cost prohibitive? Ugh.

    The road bikes seem so tiny to me. Granted, I am 210 lbs, but I feel as though my weight would be a limiting factor. I don't know; maybe not. Like I said, I'm a total newb with this.

    What exactly IS the difference in feel between commuting on a road bike vs a MTB? Skateboards, for example, have wheels that spin forever (due to better ball bearings and what not) on the nicer ones. The cheaper ones are the exact opposite? Is it something like that? Basically, is the ride smoother and the difference in speed that great?

    Thanks for sticking with me,

    Brian

  7. #7
    This bike is cat approved monsterpile's Avatar
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    210 isn't really that heavy, but if you want something that seems tougher you can go with a cross bike or a touring bike. If you want to stick with the 26 inch wheeled bikes thats fine too. The Surly LHT is a very popular touring bike that comes in both 700cc and 26" wheel versions. Maybe posters here have mountain bikes (some vintage) that are converted to dropbars as well or just flatbat commuters. You can also look at 29er bikes which are really beefy and are all the rage right now. That might be a good dirrection for you to look next.

    The advice of having 2 bikes is pretty good. If you have your commuter all set up with fenders racks lights etc, it might be a drag to have all that on your bike hitting the trails or just bombng around town for fun. If you don't want to mess around with 2 bikes there are great budget wheetsets out there esecially in 26" wheels. The Vuelta Zerolites are about $100 (sometimes cheaper) and I have never read any bad review about them.

    Off the top of my head the only 26" bikes that would be good for commuting are the Surly LHT (probably out of your pricerange) and Marin Muirwoods. I had Muirwoods a few years ago and it was a nice little bike. I am sure there are other things out there like that.

    The difference is bigger wheels are suppose to be faster once up to speed, but smaller wheels get up to speed faster. Another significant consideration in the difference in speed of a wheel is what tire it has on it. A 2 inch mountain bike tire at 40 psi is going to seem pretty slow compared to a 23mm 700cc tires at 120 psi or whatever. I have thrown some 1.25" slicks on a mountain bike and the thing can really move even compared to some fairly smooth 1.5 inch tires I had on there before. There are all sorts of variables on any type of bike in relations to speed comfort functionality.

    I think you should go to a shop thats willing to really help you in your search and go ahead and try out a bunch of different bikes. Maybe you will come back to the mountain bike, but you might find something else you like alot too. In some cases you might find stuff you know you really don't want. Either way you will be making a more informed decisions and likely be more happy with your purchase in the end knowing you got what you wanted.
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  8. #8
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    The size of the wheel is almost meaningless when it comes to riding on the road. The size of the tire is what makes the difference. Mtn bikes are slower than road bikes mostly due to the tires, and putting slicks on them do wonders for speed, but the upright position of many recreational mtn bikes also hurts, as does the gearing and the suspension and the weight they bring.. As to some of the advice....I've run two different wheelsets before...one studded, one not. You have to be careful because you either need to switch over your cassette every time, or be careful to give each wheelset approximately similar wear. Also, if you have rim brakes you will need to make small adjustments with each swap unless you pick a rim with the same width.

    To the next topic...I can't imagine doing 32 miles a day on a mtn bike. You said you are 210 and were worried about limiting selection. I'm 220, have been as high as 250 and I've never had an issue with any of my bikes, including my carbon fiber road bike. The bikes are made for that. I strongly suggest you consider a more road oriented bike for your commute. Yes you can do it on a mtn bike, but it will take you a long time. For bikes, I like cyclocross bikes (CrossCheck, Volpe), and touring bikes (LHT, 520, Aurora). I think all of those are slightly higher than your budget but you can probably find a decent used one.

    Last topic not yet mentioned. Are you in shape to do that much riding? When I first started my 10 mile round-trip per day I had some seriously sore legs for a bit until I worked up to it. I think if I'd tried to start with 32 miles a day I would have washed out by day 2. Many advocate breaking into your ride, and for one this long, I agree with them...look through some of the new commuter threads for suggestions about bus/drive/ride combos to get you into shape for your new route.
    Last edited by DogBoy; 06-02-11 at 12:40 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itrium View Post
    What I'm wanting a bike for: Commuting to work (16 miles to and from, 32 total a day) a couple of days a week, and some offroading and occasional trickery. Emphasis on commuting, followed by trails, and finishing with trickery (curb hobbing and what not) in a distant 3rd.
    When I read this, it screams cyclocross bike. (Don't let the fact that 3 of my 5 bikes are cyclocross bikes color your evaluation of my opinion. )

    Seriously, though. For anything over 10 miles on pavement, I want a road bike (and CX bikes are a sub-type of road bike). CX bikes can handle light to medium trail riding and they can take urban abuse.

    Meet Jake:



    [/thread]

  10. #10
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    I feel like my default response on almost every thread is Cross Check, but there's a good reason for that. Cyclocross bikes make great road bike-ish commuters, while being as tough as most casual mountain bikes for offroading and rough trail riding. So yeah, Surly Cross Check, Kona Jake, Trek Lane, or pretty much any other sub-$1000 CX bike out there should fit what you want personally.

    Oh, and as for fit: I have Cross Check. I'm 5'9" with an inseam juuuust under 30". There is just a bit of toe-overlap on my 52cm Cross Check (I have 11.5 feet), but only on extreme turns, like when I'm just pushing off and turning into the road, and can't coast to avoid it. It's really nothing to worry about unless it's WAY more severe than I have it. It's just a buzzing of the tire against my toes, and it's gone in 2 seconds. I can pretty much avoid it all together by just pedaling with my foot a little further back in the pedal for the first couple rotations when pushing off.

  11. #11
    Intrepid Bicycle Commuter AlmostGreenGuy's Avatar
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    I've done lots of commutes, of that same length, on a mountain bike. It's not as easy as a road bike or hybrid, but totally doable if you're in good shape, and you're not a wimp.

    Here's my advice. Get a decent medium sized hardtail mountain bike for around $550.00. I'm 5'10" with a 33" inseam, and ride an 18" Trek 4300 hardtail. The size is absolutely perfect for me. I could go with a larger frame for onroad use, but wouldn't want anything bigger for offroad. You have to worry about the family jewels. Know what I mean?

    Make sure that you get a bike with a lockout suspension fork. Lock the fork for onroad use, and unlock it for trail use.

    Spend the extra money on an spare set of wheels and onroad tires (think Serfas Drifters or Kenda K-Rads). Put the new wheels on for onroad commuting, and switch back to the stock wheels and nobbies when you want to go offroad. If you try to commute 32 miles with nobby tires, you'll kill yourself.

    Last edited by AlmostGreenGuy; 06-02-11 at 01:27 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    The Surly Troll fits your needs, but as it's a custom build, you'll spend a bit more than a complete bike. The two wheelset concept works great for road and trail riding. Here is a link to my build http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ht=surly+troll

  13. #13
    Senior Member exile's Avatar
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    If you really want a MTB Itrium then get one. However, MTB's (hardtails & full suspension) do not make ideal commuters for the distances you are talking about (although doable). Like others mentioned, hand positions, tires, & gearing are not really ideal for long rides.

    You could add bar ends or get butterfly bars for more hand positions. You can get slicks for road riding. However to change your gearing can really add on to the cost.

    If you really want a MTB get a rigid one. Mid 80's to 90's offer beefy frames, stable geometry, and ability to fit a wide range of tires. Cross bikes are also a good idea, but will probably exceed your $900 limit.
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  14. #14
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    (1) Is it the "mountain bike" you're in love with, or the handlebars? There are cross and road bikes available with upright bars, although you might have to look a bit. Check out "urban" bikes as well.

    (2) Tires, schmires. Get a pair of slicks for $50 (OK, order them from PerfBar), and you'll roll much better on your mountain bike.

    (3) Light touring bikes are the answer to all reasonable "what should I buy?" questions. Rolls like a road bike, takes the rough stuff like a cross bike, and you can carry a bit of a load.

  15. #15
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    1. Find a different bike shop or at least a different salesman
    2. Borrow or rent a MTB and try a test commute
    3. Do the same with a road bike or smooth tired hybrid/flat bar road bike
    4. decide

    An unmodified MTB is not my first choice for a 16 mile commute (on streets) but in my opinion it's very doable as long as you're not in a huge hurry. It sounds like it's only going to be a couple of times a week anyway. There are some tires designed for both street and offroad use. They're not ideal for either but might be a good compromise and less hassle and expense than two wheelsets.

    I've gone on a 60 mile ride with a MTB sporting studded tires. Yeah, the last 30 pretty much killed me for the rest of the day but the first 30 were no problem.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 06-02-11 at 04:38 PM.

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    Ha. What a manic forum. A few replies, then bam! Where to start..

    Monster: Ah, thanks for the explanation. 29" sounds more up my alley.

    Dogboy: I admit that having two wheelsets doesn't excite me very much simply because I'm not sure what I'd encounter from switching out wheels. With anything, a certain amount of calibration is required, and I assume it's the same with switching wheels. While I consider myself mechanically inclined, I've NEVER worked on a bike before. As far as shape, I'm someone who is in decent shape. About four years ago I was in amazing shape (I'm 28), but I've been running everyday for about a month now. 185 is where I feel the best, so I'm thinking you might be right in that I might be less than enthused for what my legs might feel like the next day. Now, while my knowledge of bicycles was never that vast to begin with, I was a hardcore rider when I was younger and I recall what a ton of riding does to legs. I'm a masochist (not really), and I was thinking I might be able to handle it. However, you raise a good point, and I wonder what exactly I'll feel like. I'm thinking I might rent a bike for a day to see what's up.

    Andy: I'm not gonna lie, that thing is sexy, and probably well beyond my 900 dollar budget.

    Jake: I'll look into those suggestions, thanks. I also wear 11.5, although my overlap was more than a rub, it seem to hit the tire quite a bit.

    AlmostGreen: Not in great shape, but definitely not a wimp. Again I wonder how hard it is to switch out tires without worrying about whether or not I messed something up.

    Exile: You seem to sum up the general consensus. Argh. Still, 1,000 ABSOLUTE max. No more.

    PBLamb: I've always loved straight handlebars. I wonder how much reality will kick nostalgia's ass when it comes down to it.. I really do love mountain bikes as it's all I've EVER known. Well, I started off on a BMX, but it was all Trek MTB's after that (Bike-Tek in Salina). Slicks?

    TJ: Already found a new shop. Maybe Andrew McComb can chime in. Anyway, I will look into the renting option, as well as checking out some of the other suggestions.

    Sheesh, sounds like I have more homework to do. Thanks again!

  17. #17
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itrium View Post
    Andy: I'm not gonna lie, that thing is sexy, and probably well beyond my 900 dollar budget.
    Actually MSRP is $1049, but it's well worth the extra money. If you can find a shop with a 2010 Jake, you can probably get it for under $800. It's aluminum, but I think it rides better than my steel Cross Check.

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    Seriously, look into that Jake. Most bike shops will probably hook you up a little under MSRP anyway. It's a great bike, and with a long commute, drop bars will be great for you to vary your hand positions. Same deal with the Cross Check. You should find a place that'll do it for you for right around $1000. Either one would suit you really well. Again, I can vouch, based on our similar sizing, that the toe overlap issue is very minor on the Cross Check, and probably the Kona Jake as well.

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    Man, not a fan of those drop bars though. Still like the straight bars. Can they be swapped out without affecting the bike?

    I'm getting the feeling that I'm eventually going to be forced to stop being a picky bastard and give in to what's good for me vs what I want. That sound about right?..

  20. #20
    Intrepid Bicycle Commuter AlmostGreenGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itrium View Post
    I'm getting the feeling that I'm eventually going to be forced to stop being a picky bastard and give in to what's good for me vs what I want. That sound about right?..

    Not at all. I'm 44 years old and have a 30 mile round trip commute. I use a flat bar bike with bar ends, and it is often a hardtail mountain bike. Ride what you love. If I can do it at 44, you should be able to do it just fine.

  21. #21
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    Well, the advice is certainly appreciated. I have a lot of useful info to go on.

    Last bump.

  22. #22
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Personally, I think you should give drop bars a try. Maybe rent a bike and do your commute on it one day. To me, flats bars would defeat the purpose of getting a CX bike for a long commute as opposed to, say, a fully rigid 29er with skinny tires.

    That said, it is obviously a personal choice, and I've seen people set Cross Checks up with flat bars.

  23. #23
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    Quote Originally Posted by jakevance View Post
    Seriously, look into that Jake. Most bike shops will probably hook you up a little under MSRP anyway. It's a great bike, and with a long commute, drop bars will be great for you to vary your hand positions. Same deal with the Cross Check. You should find a place that'll do it for you for right around $1000. Either one would suit you really well. Again, I can vouch, based on our similar sizing, that the toe overlap issue is very minor on the Cross Check, and probably the Kona Jake as well.
    I put 13,000 miles on a Jake the Snake that is essentially the same bike. It was a very quick ride when unloaded, and didn't get squirrly with my basic commuting stuff. One piece of advice.....the frame is not designed to be dropped from the ceiling of your garage....RIP.

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    I commute on MTB bike, I just put road tires on it (700cc35's). Bar ends are a must if you ask me. But 30 miles is no joke, unless it is mostly flat. It happens that my commute is 50% uphill and 30% downhill lol so I do take a beating and many times wished for my bike to be a road bike . Keep in mind that for commuting you will eventually want rack and other accessories at that point that bike will become a stricket commuter. My sugestion is start with a cross or road bike, get a cheap MTB when you have more money.

  25. #25
    Senior Member exile's Avatar
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    Depending on your area Itrium you can usually pick up a rigid mid 80's to 90's MTB for about $150. I have a 93 Giant Rincon that was a great commuter for many years. There are so many choices for bar ends that multiple hand positions are easy to find. Mine has eyelets both front and rear for racks and fenders and with 26" tires, there are a lot of choices as well.

    Plus you can always save for the dream bike while still enjoying something now.
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