Wife says I need a new mtb, I'm not sure (long)
I've been riding the same MTB for close to 15 years, and my 6' tall self seems to have outgrown its 18.5" frame. This isn't the biggest deal, but some days I feel very cramped while riding it, and others I don't notice.
We've never been into highly technical singletrack or anything like that. There's a nature conservation area not far from home that allows bikes on its gravelled trails, many of which connect to US Park Service trails that also allow bikes. Also, there's a city park close to home that allows bikes on its measured gravelled MUP. We've not been to either in a while due to my MTB feeling cramped sometimes.
My wife really likes riding those places, and says I need to get a new bike of some kind so we can go more often. My skinny tire bike doesn't like the gravelled MUP much, and the nature trails would tear its wheels up. Usually when SWMBO gives permission to buy something like this, it's reason to rejoice. But this is causing me a great deal of tension and anxiety.
Since I've started using my bike as a commuter much more often, I'm feeling drawn to some of the commuter bikes out there. I looked at the Jamis Commuter and Jamis Aragon today, and both look nice. I also rode a Bianchi Milano, which is very nice but quite pricey. The LBS that sells those bikes is supposed to be getting a shipment of KHS bikes in the next couple of weeks, and the Urban-X looks like a good choice from them. I'd like to be able to ride to school and back on days when I didn't feel like riding the bus. Hills have been a challenge due to tall gears on my current bike that have stopped that for now.
Now, would any of those bikes be able to handle a gravel MUP, at least in theory? How about the nature trails? In addition to not wanting to buy a relatively specialized, limited use bike, I starting to dislike the looks of most of the MTBs out there. They seem garish and overdone, with lots of extra parts like front suspensions that can go wrong. Even the relatively plain Raleigh Mojave 2.0 is front suspension equipped. No one makes a hard MTB anymore.
Any advice would be appreciated.
It sounds like what you really need is a hybrid. Trek offers the FX and 7000 series, the Specialized Crosstrail Expert also looks nice. In addition, Cannondale and Gary Fisher have some nice options.
I only have three warnings:
- Since it is a hybrid it will of course be a compromise between a road bike and a mountain bike
- Stay away from the lower end models since they seem to be targeted at the "occasional use" category
- Everyone has a different interpretation of a hybrid, so choose carefully. Some are road biased, some are trail biased, some are comfort biased, some are commuter biased, etc...
I just bought the 2008 Trek 7500 because I seeked exactly the kind of flexibility you mentioned.
I am a little confused. I am pretty sure you said you had two bikes, a cramped MTB and a skinny tire commuter. Your cramped complaint is about the MTB, but I did not read any complaints about the commuter. Are you thinking about replacing both? Is the commuter something that you would like to keep?
For a single all around bike you could consider a cross (cyclocross, cx) bike. They will basically look like a road bike but will be stouter. Drop bars, 700c, canti, V or disc brakes, heavier duty rims than road bikes. You can easily do trails and off road riding on them. They will not be as comfortable in the rough stuff as a traditional MTB (rigid or suspended).
Another variation of this theme is what Trek calls the Fitness bike. They typically have disc brakes I believe. No suspension, 700c.
You can still get rigid MTB's but you have to know where to look. There are some great vintage rigid MTB's out there, but you may not be into that.
The cramped bike is the MTB. The skinny tire one is fine. Its low gear isn't too low, so hills are harder than they should be. Even if I get a new bike, I'll be keeping it in part due to sentimentality, but also cause its faults are few and I like it.
I went to the nearby lbs that sells bikes by Giant, Haro, and Fuji, among others. I asked one of the sales staff what I was looking for, and they said, in all honesty, that such a bike as that might not exist. So, I decided to get a closer look at what they did have. They had a decent number of Fuji and Giant commuter bikes, as well as some of the Electra line. Some of them look like great bikes. But they're not quite what I'm looking for.
One of the co-owners saw us checking out the commuters and asked if we were finding what we were looking for. I repeated my earlier conversation, and he said that an exact bike might not exist, but we could come close by making changes to existing bikes. He remembered that I had once looked at a Haro Flightline Sport. He said we could take the bike hardware as-is, put skinny tires on its existing rims, change the stem and handlebars, and we'd have a durable disc brake commuter bike with a lockout front suspension. For the price of tubes and tires, I could swap tires to knobbies if I wanted to ride trails. He said he has a bike like that at home, and took it on a long ride from Chattanooga to Panama City, FL with very good results. He'd be willing to swap the parts at no extra charge, and both colors of bike would be available next week.
Like many solutions, it's a compromise. But it doesn't seem like a bad one. Sticker price on the bike is around $440, so I have to decide if I can spend the money, and also if I really want to. It is an exciting thought, though.
I was just looking around, but this Giant Transport might meet your criteria:
I will second the opinion for a cyclocross frame. They are less common, but would allow you to put on fat tires. The geometry can be more roadish if that's what you want, but you could get the gearing a bit lower. Any lbs should be willing to swap a cassette if the bike you choose has something slightly different than what you really want.
A side note on the "swapping tires & tubes" thought: If you go this route, take it a small step further if the funds allow & get an extra entry level wheelset. A lot less time & frustration spent swapping them for the road or trail. Maybe the lbs has a used, but in good shape set you could get even cheaper.
The biggest gain would be not having to patch or replace a $4.00 tube if/when you put a hole in it when trying to swap the tires in a hurry!
Even look on Craigslist for a cheap set.
Just a thought.
I'm sure they might even sell me another set of Haro rims. Both times I looked at the bike, they talked about the advantages of the double-wall rims, especially for Clydes like me. Just depends on price and availabilty. It's a good idea.
Originally Posted by green814
Your welcome, but almost forgot, get an extra cassette as well! It makes swapping so easy! I have 2 sets for my mtb, one set for the road, & another set for the trail. I did this due to the fact I have a set of Mavic 217 annodized rims, & don't want to bend one up since they are VERY hard to find.
Just check ebay for the cassette if the LBS wants to much.
Keep us posted,