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Old 04-24-11, 01:27 AM   #1
armada120
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Mountain Bike vs. Road Bike

In late January I bought a Diamondback Topanga mountain bike. When I got it I was not sure what kind of riding I would be doing so I got a mountain bike to be safe. Since getting my bike I've done only paved trail riding and a ton of it. I feel like my knobby treads and heavy bike may be slowing me down and probably isn't exactly fit for 20-30 mile rides. I was wondering if it would be better to buy a road bike or just get some slick treads. Slick treads would be a lot cheaper but I still have the heavy frame problem. My friend knows of a guy who builds bike for around $400 when you trade in an old bike. I have two bikes to trade in (not my topanga) so it might be closer to $250. This wouldn't be a high end bike but still its a road bike for $300ish. I would obviously prefer the road bike but I'm 13 and I would have to do a lot to try to convince my parents to let me get it. I was wondering if I should stick with what I have now, pay for slick treads, or get a road bike. Any advice is appreciated.
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Old 04-24-11, 01:32 AM   #2
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I think you should get slick tires for now, and when you get around to it (and have the means), you should get a full-on road bicycle.

Edit: I know your tires are 26" in diameter. You may want to get the same treads that I have. They come in 1.5" and 1.75" widths. See what the widths of your current tires are, and replace with the same width (so you don't have to buy new tubes).

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Old 04-24-11, 04:15 AM   #3
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Slick tyres (or some semi-slicks running at maximum pressure) will make a lot of difference when riding on paved surfaces. New tyres, and possibly some full-coverage mudguards will turn your mountain bike into a bike for the road (not a full-on road bike, but pretty good.) I commute on an ex-mountain bike, and like the upright position for riding in traffic. For longer rides you may wish to eventually add some bar ends or switch to a different handlebar style for extra hand positions.
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Old 04-24-11, 06:04 AM   #4
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Many people ride long distance road events on MTBs with thin tyres. 1.5" are god all-rounders. 1.25" are thinner , higher pressure and a bit faster.
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Old 04-24-11, 07:22 AM   #5
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In general the advice about MTBs making good road bikes is valid... but this is a full suspension bike. So it will probably waste quite a lot of pedalling energy. And the aerodynamics are lousy.

Otoh, beware of buying a "road bike" - in cycling terms this usually means a road racing bike, a class full of flaws of their own outside their intended specialist use. If you want a general purpose bike for riding on the road then get a cyclocross bike (drops) or hybird (flat bars.)
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Old 04-24-11, 07:58 AM   #6
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In late January I bought a Diamondback Topanga mountain bike. When I got it I was not sure what kind of riding I would be doing so I got a mountain bike to be safe. Since getting my bike I've done only paved trail riding and a ton of it. I feel like my knobby treads and heavy bike may be slowing me down and probably isn't exactly fit for 20-30 mile rides. I was wondering if it would be better to buy a road bike or just get some slick treads. Slick treads would be a lot cheaper but I still have the heavy frame problem. My friend knows of a guy who builds bike for around $400 when you trade in an old bike. I have two bikes to trade in (not my topanga) so it might be closer to $250. This wouldn't be a high end bike but still its a road bike for $300ish. I would obviously prefer the road bike but I'm 13 and I would have to do a lot to try to convince my parents to let me get it. I was wondering if I should stick with what I have now, pay for slick treads, or get a road bike. Any advice is appreciated.
One of the issues is your age and the fact that you are likely to keep growing. Plus, you are likely to sort out what your intended interests are going to be in the next four or five years. Is your interest in cycling likely to develop into something like road racing? Or are you more interested in just doodling around your neighbourhood and maybe you want to turn that into touring? Or will you get into offroad/MTB/downhill riding as most mid-teens gravitate to?

One way or the other, you are likely to need a new bike as your body grows. I really detest the parents who buy an oversize bike so their kid can "grow into it". The bike is usually too big and virtually unrideable, and the enthusiasm disappears.

You also don't mention what age this particular model of Topanga is. I can only see hardback frames on the searches I've done. Aerodynamics is irrelevant in your case, but fit is really important. Hopefully, it is in the ballpark for you.

Given the possible scenarios, you might be better to keep the bike you have for now, put on the "slick" tyres and wait to see where that takes you. Read up what you can on the forums here about bike fit, decide on what sort of biking you want to do, and then make a case to put to your parents on what sort of bike you need to do that.
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Old 04-24-11, 08:05 AM   #7
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+1 to Rowans post.
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Old 04-24-11, 09:50 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the advice so far. My Topanga is a hardtail. It does have a lockable suspension which I really haven't tested out yet. Will it make a big difference? Right now the bike fits great. The clearance over the bar is very minimal, but is enough that I can get on and off with out hurting myself. I'm not very adventurous so I'm pretty sure I'll stick to trail riding. I'm always afraid of getting hurt and didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 10. One reason I want the road bike is for the drop bars. Right now the wind has been horrible while riding and being a little more aerodynamic may help. Also my hands really start hurting on long rides. I can probably help this by getting biking gloves but having other hand positions would be nice.
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Old 04-24-11, 10:26 AM   #9
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If you enjoy riding go for a road bike. But because you are 13, your height will increase and your bike will become too small for you in the next few years. I am 15 and I got a road bike that was one size bigger so I would be able to ride the bike even if I grow a little.

Make sure that you like cycling and will continue riding before you buy a $600+ bike.
Minimum you should expect to spend on a beginner level road bike is $600-$900.
Below that price range most bikes are bad quality(in my experience).
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Old 04-24-11, 01:55 PM   #10
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One reason I want the road bike is for the drop bars. Right now the wind has been horrible while riding and being a little more aerodynamic may help. Also my hands really start hurting on long rides. I can probably help this by getting biking gloves but having other hand positions would be nice.
One thing you might like to try, if your bike has riser handlebars (as opposed to completely flat ones) is to install the handlebars upside down. This will give you a lower primary hand position, and give you a second one close to the middle of the bar where it curves down. With the saddle at the right height, you should be able to set the handlebars about level with the saddle. In any case, there's not a great deal you can do about wind, short of riding a completely prone bike (head first) or a recumbent (feet first).
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Old 04-24-11, 04:46 PM   #11
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Yes, wind does come and go.

armada, you haven't mentioned anything about bar-end extensions on the bike. Do you have them already? If not, think about getting a pair and fitting them. Keep them relatively flat, and you will have two benefits -- the additional reach which will help with your aerodynamics, and the extra hand positions. This is a cheap and easy solution for both issues.

Again, I am not all that familiar with the Topanga, but you might also need to look at gearing options as your riding fitness and strength increase.

But at the moment, just keep doing what you are doing (with the bar extensions), learn a bit about bicycle mechanics BEFORE you go doing ANYTHING on the bike*, and ask more questions here as you go along.

* The exception is learning how to change out a punctured tube, and to inflate the tyres to the correct pressure. Do you take along at least a puncture repair kit or spare tube of the right size, and a pump?
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Old 04-24-11, 05:03 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the advice so far. My Topanga is a hardtail. It does have a lockable suspension which I really haven't tested out yet. Will it make a big difference? Right now the bike fits great. The clearance over the bar is very minimal, but is enough that I can get on and off with out hurting myself. I'm not very adventurous so I'm pretty sure I'll stick to trail riding. I'm always afraid of getting hurt and didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 10. One reason I want the road bike is for the drop bars. Right now the wind has been horrible while riding and being a little more aerodynamic may help. Also my hands really start hurting on long rides. I can probably help this by getting biking gloves but having other hand positions would be nice.
Depending on how hard your suspension is set, locking it out may make a significant difference. If you cycle up a hill you may notice the fork bouncing - if so it means some of the effort you're putting into turning the pedals is bouncing the fork rather than moving the bike forward. I've set my suspension to be fairly hard so it's not too much of an issue (I really should soften it up and use the lockout more)

If you put ergonomic grips on your handlebar you should find your hands don't hurt so much. Add bar ends as well and you'll have a few different hand positions you can use. Personally I find bar ends are also helpful when climbing and give me a slightly more aerodynamic position. It's possibly also worth checking out your saddle position - when my saddle was too far back I had the option of sitting right back (in which case my hands went numb) or sitting forward (which meant other more sensitive parts went numb). Since I slid the saddle forward both problems have all but disappeared.

If you're 13 the best bet is almost certainly going to be to add a few mods to your existing bike to see what you get on with. Then when you've outgrown this bike you can either get another mountain bike (in which case I'd hope your bar ends, ergo grips etc will simply transfer across to the new bike) or get a road bike then. It's easy to spend a lot of money chasing perfection when a much cheaper solution lets you try things out before you commit the big bucks.
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Old 04-24-11, 09:20 PM   #13
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Depending on how hard your suspension is set, locking it out may make a significant difference. If you cycle up a hill you may notice the fork bouncing - if so it means some of the effort you're putting into turning the pedals is bouncing the fork rather than moving the bike forward. I've set my suspension to be fairly hard so it's not too much of an issue (I really should soften it up and use the lockout more)

If you put ergonomic grips on your handlebar you should find your hands don't hurt so much. Add bar ends as well and you'll have a few different hand positions you can use. Personally I find bar ends are also helpful when climbing and give me a slightly more aerodynamic position. It's possibly also worth checking out your saddle position - when my saddle was too far back I had the option of sitting right back (in which case my hands went numb) or sitting forward (which meant other more sensitive parts went numb). Since I slid the saddle forward both problems have all but disappeared.

If you're 13 the best bet is almost certainly going to be to add a few mods to your existing bike to see what you get on with. Then when you've outgrown this bike you can either get another mountain bike (in which case I'd hope your bar ends, ergo grips etc will simply transfer across to the new bike) or get a road bike then. It's easy to spend a lot of money chasing perfection when a much cheaper solution lets you try things out before you commit the big bucks.
I ride almost every day with armada (in fact I showed him this forum! ). He seems really tired at the end of 20 mile bike rides, while I am full of energy (I have a hybrid with bar ends and ergo grips). I can maintain a higher speed than him, as there is less rolling friction with my road tires.

Thread hijack: Can you put drop bars on a hybrid? Could you even put drop bars on a mtb?
Nevermind the drop bars on a hybrid question. I will just start a new thread. But the mtb question will help armada.
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Old 04-24-11, 10:16 PM   #14
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Figure 8 bend trekking bars on your Mountain bike + slick tires
would be a modest change
the advantage Trekking bars have is they have a near and far grip,
when you reach for the far grip, the tuck you achieve with your
torso lowers it to tackle those headwinds.

and the multiple grip options can keep your hands from going numb.
you move your hands around, so the variety helps.
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Old 04-25-11, 01:34 AM   #15
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I ride almost every day with armada (in fact I showed him this forum! ). He seems really tired at the end of 20 mile bike rides, while I am full of energy (I have a hybrid with bar ends and ergo grips). I can maintain a higher speed than him, as there is less rolling friction with my road tires.

Thread hijack: Can you put drop bars on a hybrid? Could you even put drop bars on a mtb?
Nevermind the drop bars on a hybrid question. I will just start a new thread. But the mtb question will help armada.
Yes, it is possible to put drop bars on and MTB. He would have to figure out how he wants to go with the shifters and brake levers. And the easy solution to that is to just put them on the straight part of the bar near the stem. In that case, he probably would need to go for quite wide bars (say 420mm or 440mm) to give enoughroom for them. armada would then need to be careful about riding the drops but having to move back up to emergency brake, for example.

Changing to drops with STI-style shifters would not be feasible cost wise and without changes also to the front derailleur.

Another alternative is to fit bullhorn bars, which although they don't have the drops, help extend out his arms and torso and are easier to fit the brake and shifter levers.

Getting non-treaded 26" tyres isn't that difficult, and try for 1.25". Pumpo them up to the maximum specified on the sidewall. I used to run tyres like that on an MTB that I converted to a touring bike.

The issue for me when riding with others was the gearing -- the 44T chainring and 12T cog on the back didn't give me enough speed at a quite high cadence. And therein might be an issue with his tiredness, too... maintaining a high cadence is a burden on the cardio system until the fitness is gained to cope with it.
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Old 04-25-11, 01:55 AM   #16
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I ride almost every day with armada (in fact I showed him this forum! ). He seems really tired at the end of 20 mile bike rides, while I am full of energy (I have a hybrid with bar ends and ergo grips). I can maintain a higher speed than him, as there is less rolling friction with my road tires.

Thread hijack: Can you put drop bars on a hybrid? Could you even put drop bars on a mtb?
Nevermind the drop bars on a hybrid question. I will just start a new thread. But the mtb question will help armada.
Before he goes putting drop bars on the bike look at the tyres as well. If he's riding on knobbly tyres and you're riding on slicker tyres I'd suspect that will make more difference than putting a different bar on the bike. Of course this assumes that you have roughly similar levels of strength and fitness. In theory I imagine you can put any bars on a bike that the stem will adequately hold. In practise I'd have to ask if it's really the best way forward - as someone already said you end up with hand positions with no access to the brakes or shifters. With bar ends you can position them and the brakes so you've got better access. The way my bike is set up it's very easy for me to move my hands from the grips to the ends, and with my hands on the ends I can still access the brakes with my thumbs. Probably not enough to perform a full emergency stop but certainly enough to get some stopping power.

If you put tyres with a lower rolling resistance on the bike and then decide you want to cycle through lots of mud you can put the old tyres back on. If you trade the bike for a road bike and then decide you want to hit the mud you're out of luck. If you've got the cash and the storage for both and you'll use both, get one of each and enjoy them both... My bike has a Schwalbe Marathon Plus at the front and a Marathon Extreme at the back. They're good for a reasonable amount of mud but aren't really up to dealing with several inches of it or with really wet mud. The upside is that they are still good on the road - it's not all that uncommon for me to cruise at 15-20mph on tarmac. The front tyre is the one I had put on when I bought the bike - the one at the back wore out so I put the Extreme on. When the front one packs up I'll probably replace it with another Extreme or similar.

Your LBS might have an old pair of bar ends they can lend you - when I was looking at them and struggling to see just how they would help my LBS dug a pair out of the workshop and said I could use them for a few days to see how I got on with them. They looked truly awful - badly scuffed aluminium against a black bike - but within barely an hour of putting them on I'd decided to buy a pair.
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Old 04-25-11, 02:09 AM   #17
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It's entirely possible to do a (relatively) cheap drop bar conversion for MTB.
but you'll need a lot of bike mechanical know how to get it working.
a set of ultrashift campy levers with a J-tek shiftmate is the bare minimum needed. For brakes, the choice is either BB7 road disc or problem solver's travelmate.

This is my MTB. I really, really hated the flat bars.
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Old 04-25-11, 07:06 AM   #18
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I switched from full knobbies on my MTB to 1.5" slicks to make it a better commuter, and the difference was incredible. Cheap bull horn bar ends allowed me to get a little more aero. Try the skinniest slicks you can find as a starting point. That may be all you need to buy. Lock out the front suspension too.
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Old 04-25-11, 01:39 PM   #19
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Minimum you should expect to spend on a beginner level road bike is $600-$900. Below that price range most bikes are bad quality(in my experience).
Not necessarily. *new*? yes. But there are plenty of quality used bike on CL every day at a much lower price point.

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I ride almost every day with armada (in fact I showed him this forum! ). He seems really tired at the end of 20 mile bike rides, while I am full of energy (I have a hybrid with bar ends and ergo grips). I can maintain a higher speed than him, as there is less rolling friction with my road tires.
The performance gap can also be explained by the two years of physical development that separate the two of you.
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Old 04-25-11, 04:18 PM   #20
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Until Rowan pointed it out I missed your age. I did see that it seems you are mainly riding paved trails.

To me that makes it a pretty clear choice. Go with slicks. Not much cost. When I started I started with a Mountian Bike and went with slicks. It worked out that I then ran out of gears at top speed. But on paved paths that top end is usually faster than is safe (usually, I can thing of some paths where as fast as yuo can go is safe as long as there is no one else there, which is often enough, but not for more than a mile or 2 at best).

If yuo find that with slicks you run out of gears at the high end then think about getting a true road bike the next time you need a larger bike.

EDIT: It may have already been suggested, but just running dirt tires at their maximum preasure instead of the best preasure for off road riding can give a significant increase in speed and reduced effort riding on pavement.
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Old 04-25-11, 04:53 PM   #21
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I just looked at alphadogg's link on the innova tyres, and they are the same as I used on my rough-road commuter. Well worth the money in my opinion.
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Old 04-25-11, 07:50 PM   #22
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Considering your age, I completely agree that you should keep what you have, as long as it fits.

If you're riding on paved trails and no rip-rap, then you can put some pretty light semi-slicks on your bike. My favorite for road use is Primo Comets. They are light, fast, and inexpensive, and give fairly good wear. The trade-offs are, the good wear comes at the expense of some traction in wet, and since they are racing tires, they are not as durable as, say, a Specialized FatBoy. Still, I've used them for years and only gotten one p*nct*re flat with them. And besides, if you want durable, keep your knobbies. Comets come in various sizes, from 26x1.0 to 26x1.75.

http://www.amazon.com/Primo-Comet-Re.../dp/B001F6ZFKI

But any bike shop can get them.
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