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  1. #1
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    Advice needed for my wife's bike

    There are any number of forums this question could be asked in, but since both my wife and I are in our mid-50s, and there is much common sense and wisdom in this group, here goes.

    We live in a hilly area with gravel and paved roads. My wife likes to walk and cross country ski for exercise. I really think she's like cycling if she had the right bike. Like the huge majority of bike owners around here, she has a mountain bike. She bought this on her own from a reputable bike shop a few years ago, and it is a pretty decent bike - a Gary Fischer, aluminum frame with front suspension. I think the seat is OK because it is a woman's seat and the LBS went through options with her.

    She's never liked riding this bike. It is a fairly aggressive MTB - low handlebars, particularly. I would like some advice or words of wisdom on what to do to get her at least comfortable on a bike. Her use is very typical for a hybrid or even a comfort bike: rolling hills and flats, pavement and gravel, with the occasional non-technical, smooth trail. She is OK fitness-wise, but not strong, so she (we) will be planning rides for moderate hills and avoiding the tough stuff. I am considering two options:

    Option 1: modify this MTB. I already have a long adjustable stem off another bike I have in the garage that I can swap for the low (threadless) stem now on the bike. This stem will easily get the handlebars even or a couple inches above the seat. My second step would be to replace the knobby MTB tires with a slick/road type tire. Beleve me, she will never be riding this bike on a trail that requires serious tire tread. Other than the tires, the only other change I might consider is some more "curved" handle bars to replace the flat bars now on the bike. I don't know if that change would help, except psychologically I think she thinks those flat bars are uncomfortable and too "racy". I don't know, what do you think.

    The other option is to buy a new hybrid type bike. What I'm talking about here is a non-suspension bike with 700 wheels, but nice fat, mildly treaded tires. As far as I can tell, the gearing is similar to MTB. I am not thinking of spending a lot of money for the bike, on the magnitude of $300-$500.

    So, does anyone have experience "converting" a MTB for more "hybrid" type use by changing the stem and tires? Obviously, the cost of this would be less, just the cost of the tires pretty much. On the other hand, I really have no problem with spending $500 if it would get her rolling. Is there any reason to think either frame is inherently more comfortable... Assuming I can make the necessary adjustments in the stem, bars and seat of the MTB?

    Would a cheap(ish) (read kind of heavy) 700 wheel'd hybrid serve any real advantage to a MTB frame with suitable tires? The MTB will have a suspension, but won't be a huge amount heavier since it is a pretty decent, light frame to begin with.

    Thanks for any advice and insight you can give.

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camilo
    Option 1: modify this MTB. I already have a long adjustable stem off another bike I have in the garage that I can swap for the low (threadless) stem now on the bike. This stem will easily get the handlebars even or a couple inches above the seat. My second step would be to replace the knobby MTB tires with a slick/road type tire. Beleve me, she will never be riding this bike on a trail that requires serious tire tread. Other than the tires, the only other change I might consider is some more "curved" handle bars to replace the flat bars now on the bike. I don't know if that change would help, except psychologically I think she thinks those flat bars are uncomfortable and too "racy". I don't know, what do you think.



    Thanks for any advice and insight you can give.
    That option 1 of yours is worth a try and is almost exactly what I have done to my MTB over the years. Only difference is that I would go for Semi-Slick tyres. Even dusty trails can require some treaded grip occasionally but they are a wider Slick tyre with just the Knobbles on the edge of the tyre. They look like a worn out Knobbly but they will still do offroad on dry days or tackle the muddy bits on firm or gravel tracks

    I have set it up for comfort but this bike will still go offroad afggressively.
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  3. #3
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    The adjustable stem will bring up the bars.
    If this is not enough then riser bars with a little sweep back may feel even better.
    A semi-slick tire with minimal tread will bring the bike right up to hybred standards. (my own preference here is Kenda Kosmic Light II in the 1.95 by 26 size but there are many others available)
    Possibly a suspension seatpost.

    Not much else is necessary and its a lot cheaper than buying another bike which for the price may not be as capable.

  4. #4
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    I think the tires I was looking at are similar to what you guys are talking about - 26X1.95 or so.

    Is it true that there is not much circumferance difference between a wheel/tire of that size and a 700c wheel and tire?

    Thanks for reminding me of the suspension seat post. I think I might just try the stem and tires and see if she thinks we're getting close to usable for her. Then the handlebars and seat post would be reasonable (actually, one of my daughter's MTB has more upright/curved handlebars, and I think I could just swap them - the daughter doesn't care, she's flexible!).

    Keep the ideas and words of wisdom coming, and thanks so far!

  5. #5
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    I'd sure give your option 1 a try first too, when you're done with that, VOILA! Hybrid comfort bike! FWIW I had some 1.4x26's on a Navigator, they roll pretty good and are still big enough for what your uses are.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  6. #6
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    The 700c wheels and tires are still a little larger in diameter.

    New MTB tire technology favors a slightly larger casing that has more compliance so that it gets up on top of the dirt and is more comfortable due to the larger air volumn. I was surprised to find my MTB faster on limestone and gravel trails than a cyclocross bike due to this tire style. It was as if the 30mm cyclocross tire was getting down into the surface and causing more drag.

    That was however based on a sample of 1 as I gave up on cyclocross frames after that.

    My impression of cyclocross bikes is that they are the ultimate performance hybrid.

  7. #7
    Streetfire HopedaleHills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camilo
    there is much common sense and wisdom in this group, here goes.
    What group has he been reading
    Tim
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  8. #8
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    I think your option 1 plan is right on the mark. The right stem, handlebar and tire changes should make the bike much more comfortable for her. A little more rearward sweep in the handlebar can make a big difference in comfort. 700c wheels might roll a little easier, but the difference is small for the kind of riding you are talking about. 26" semi-slick tires should work very well. Opinions vary, but I would consider a sprung saddle a better option than a suspension post for this kind of bike. I use a Brooks Flyer on my hybridized MTB.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  9. #9
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    I went through sort of the same thing with my wife and a mountain bike. Then one day she saw a lavender colored Giant Cypress DX. It has a suspension front fork, 8 speed twist shifters, and 700 x 37 tires. That's her ride and its comfortable and fun. With a computer on it she has even started to keep track of miles, speed, etc.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    I have a new suspension seat post I took off a Coda. You can have it for the price of shipping if you would like it, PM me and it is yours.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  11. #11
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    If you raise the stem, install a riser bar of say 2"-3", replace the tires with slicks, and then maybe put on a wider, more comfortable seat, what you have now is a bike that is sold as a hybrid. Many hybrids are nothing more than mountain bikes with some comfort touches.

  12. #12
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terrierman
    I have a new suspension seat post I took off a Coda. You can have it for the price of shipping if you would like it, PM me and it is yours.
    It would have to be the right diameter.

    You took off one of the things I like about the Coda!

    I'm trying to find a suspension seat post that fits my Bridgestone CB-1. I think I have a 26mm post, but am attempting to confirm that. Because there are 26.2mm posts and my measurement could be off by that much. Nashbar has theirs for $20 in all sizes, so I've got them as an option, once I lock in my size.
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  13. #13
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    I did about what you are considering as option 1 for a friend, and she likes it.

    In my case I needed a new fork on a Raleigh MT-500 so I got a rigid fork and left the steerer uncut, added a stem with a rise, and added riser bars. It now provides the upright riding posture she was looking for.

    The riser bars also sweep back a little and provides a more comfortable hand position.

    If you are going to be going on long rides, then I would suggest considering bar ends for additional hand positions as well.
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  14. #14
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
    It would have to be the right diameter.

    You took off one of the things I like about the Coda!

    I'm trying to find a suspension seat post that fits my Bridgestone CB-1. I think I have a 26mm post, but am attempting to confirm that. Because there are 26.2mm posts and my measurement could be off by that much. Nashbar has theirs for $20 in all sizes, so I've got them as an option, once I lock in my size.
    A lot of suspension posts are only made in a couple of sizes. To get over this, they make a shim to take up the surplus so you buy a seat post smaller than your post size and a shim to space it out to the right size.

    The other thing to note is that quality pays. I had a cheap unit on the Tandem and it went down by 2" and bottomed out. It hurt as much as a nonsuspended post when it bottomed out.
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  15. #15
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Yes, I am aware of the shims, but am trying to avoid them. Plus with mine being on the small side anyway, I think there is only one size smaller (25.4mm ?). So I don't have much of a shim option.

    As to the bottoming out, I doubt that will be a problem on a rail trail. I'm looking for something that has about 1/4" of give to it. Anything more than that will never be used. So if a cheap post only has 1/2" to 3/4" of travel, that will be more than enough.

    If I were buying for some serious trail riding, I'd be looking at those good quality $100+ units.
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  16. #16
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
    If I were buying for some serious trail riding, I'd be looking at those good quality $100+ units.
    Cane Creek Thud Buster.$$$$$$'s
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  17. #17
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    I have a Thudbuster post on my hardtail MTB and it is great for taking the edge off of the slams and jolts of serious offroad riding and racing. It would be extreme overkill for path riding.
    Here is one of my solutions for a MTB variant for road, path and dirt road rides. It has drop bars, but you get the idea.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    I did similar to my old RockHopper.
    I need an upright position because of my back, so I put on bars like this-
    http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...B%20Handlebars
    I also raised the stem to its' max, which was about 1" more.
    You MIGHT need longer cables. I was BARELY able to make my cables work by relocating the brake wire "clamps" down by the calipers.
    I found a tire similar to the one below at my local Krogers type store for <$10. I use on my front, mainly because of all the leaves in the bike lanes in the Fall.
    http://www.amazon.com/Cheng-Shin-C72.../dp/B000C125MS

  19. #19
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam
    Cane Creek Thud Buster.$$$$$$'s
    Using that for a rail trail would be like using a bazooka to hunt squirrels.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

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  20. #20
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camilo
    I really think she's like cycling if she had the right bike.
    Thanks for any advice and insight you can give.
    I think that you are asking the wrong individuals. If you are planning a project bike for your wife, you need to get your wife's input. Then follow through with what she says even if you think it's wrong.

    Don't ask how I've come to know this.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    I think that you are asking the wrong individuals. If you are planning a project bike for your wife, you need to get your wife's input. Then follow through with what she says even if you think it's wrong.

    Don't ask how I've come to know this.
    Yes, I have come to the same conclusion. See, this is one of the sources of wisdom and common sense I knew I'd find on this forum.

    Anyway, I have discussed it with her, and while she won't come out and say it, she'd rather try to make this bike work, being kind of tight with money. I think I've figured out enough of what is bothering her (low, racing type position, rough, ineffficient ride of the knobby tires, maybe the seat) so that I can at least try these low cost modifications. If it doesn't fly, we'll go hand in hand to the bike shop. The new thing is that one of her friends and slow skiing buddies bought a similar hybrid bike and likes it - and I believe that when I'm done, her bike will "look" like the friend's bike (handle bars, tires) and that might be enough to break the ice. At least she'll have another same-speed partner, which we all know makes a huge difference.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg
    I have a Thudbuster post on my hardtail MTB and it is great for taking the edge off of the slams and jolts of serious offroad riding and racing. It would be extreme overkill for path riding.
    Here is one of my solutions for a MTB variant for road, path and dirt road rides. It has drop bars, but you get the idea.
    Dawg, that is a seriously nice looking bike, high utility factor there.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

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