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Old 03-24-06, 05:47 PM   #1
babysaph
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Mtn bike touring-why not"

Why does everyone say it is not wise to tour on a mtn bike? I have been touring on mine and can not see a disadvantage except speed
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Old 03-24-06, 05:52 PM   #2
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I've heard some positive things about MTB touring from people here, I don't think 'everyone' is against it.
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Old 03-24-06, 06:11 PM   #3
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Mountain biking to a local trail camp is fun.
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Old 03-24-06, 07:44 PM   #4
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besides speed, lack of different hand positions can be a little tiring. in a nutshell, that's about it, speed and comfort
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Old 03-24-06, 08:03 PM   #5
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I've got 100,000 miles on Lucy.
I did modify her with drop bars so that solves the "comfort" question.
As for speed - who's in such a hurry? I come close to keeping up with folks on pavements and can turn off on any dirt road that I want to ride.
So the trade-off is a tiny bit of speed for a lot of freedom.
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Old 03-24-06, 08:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by babysaph
Why does everyone say it is not wise to tour on a mtn bike? I have been touring on mine and can not see a disadvantage except speed
Not everybody. There are some long off road tours that would be impossible on a road bike. An alpine hut tour in Colorado, the Kokopelli Trail, and the route that runs Canada to Mexico sticking to the Continental Divide as much as possible.
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Old 03-24-06, 09:42 PM   #7
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Check out the Fully Loaded Touring Bike gallery http://www.fullyloadedtouring.com/. There you'll find that more of the bikes are of the mountain variety than the road style. This is not to say that that is the general breakdown of the whole touring population...just that it is an acceptable and common practice. I believe from pictures I've seen in Adventure Cyclist magazine that tourist extraordinare/author Willie Wier tours on a mountain bike. He's probably logged tens of thousands of miles! That's the great thing about bicycle touring: it's an activity, not a sport. As long as you can get out there and do it, it doesn't matter how fast you do it or what you're riding when you do it. Just enjoy!
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Old 03-24-06, 09:52 PM   #8
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Tradeoffs as with everything.

Shorter chainstays so you might be hitting the back panniers (if you're pulling a trailer that doesn't matter)

And as jamawani says, speed/offroad. Depends on where you're going and whether it is the journey or the distance covered that matters more.

Are you going to be stopping to take photos every ten minutes? Do you want to go down the trail to the lookout? Or do you want to cover 100 miles a day on the road?

Cya
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Old 03-24-06, 09:56 PM   #9
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saph, everyone has some cogent points above, but there really is no reason to not do it if you're happy with how the bike treats you on tour. The efficency, the heel clearance ,the mileage, all valid concerns, so it depends on how you feel about it....

I did my first mountain bike tour 19 or 20 years ago and it was as enjoyable then as it is today.

notice quite a few euro 'tour' bikes are 26" wheels and the like. no biggie.
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Old 03-24-06, 10:45 PM   #10
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Just doing recent homework on this very subject, I would say that "everyone" is not close to being the case. As mentioned above, Europeans like 26-inch fat-tire bicycles for touring just fine, and they often use handlebars without drops. (Take a look at Cycle+, a Brit bike magazine, with special attention to ads placed by St. John Street Cycles, or search on-line for that company.) At my nearest "real" LBS, meaning all the employees are serious riders and very knowledgeable on the subject, one of them built a mountain bike around a 1980's-vintage steel mountain bike, and that plus my homework online prompted me to recently acquire, via eBay, a 1987 Bianchi Grizzly as a probable base for a touring bike. Just as my daily-use motor vehicle is a Jeep Wrangler, I like the idea of a bicycle that does not require pavement, but can behave well enough on pavement. Yes, I would like to get a better road car, and am looking at small fuel-efficient models now, thinking it would be nice to have one vehicle for the dirt, and one for the highway, just as I have road bikes and now a mountain bike.
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Old 03-24-06, 10:59 PM   #11
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It might depend on who you might be riding with. If you're riding by yourself, 1/2 mph or so, one way or another, doesn't mean much, but, if you are riding with other people that have road bikes, will they always be waiting for you because you're riding a mtn bike? But, if you're young enough and they're old enough, you probably could keep up with them even with your rear brake dragging.
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Old 03-24-06, 11:29 PM   #12
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First off, good cheap treking style bars offer more hand positions than any drop bars, so that myth about MTBs being uncomfortable for long rides should be done away with.

As far as speed-- a loaded old MTB isn't any slower than any other loaded tour bike. How many gear inches is anybody pushing with full camping gear anyhow?

I used to do a fair bit of light touring with an old Stump Jumper that I retro fitted with a 52/38 road crank. Roughly the same gear inches as a 700c or 27 inch bike outfitted with a MTB crank (the classic '80s touring bike)

And the great thing about MTB/touring rigs is that strong wheels and other parts are way cheaper than 700c touring bike parts.
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Old 03-25-06, 05:09 AM   #13
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I am redoing a MTB into a commuter/light touring bike. As stated the gearing and flat bars can easily be replaced. I use a Jandd Expedition rack with Ortlieb Backroller Classics (large panniers) with 175mm cranks and never have had a problem with heal strike on the panniers. Also, 1.25 inch MTB slicks are the same as 32 mm tires but touring bikes do have a speed advantage with the larger 700cc tires. However, I am very impressed with rigid tail MTB frames. They are very light, very strong, and very affordable.
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Old 03-25-06, 05:57 AM   #14
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If you compare a loaded MTB on knobbly tyres to a race bike then obviously a race bike will be faster but that's stupid. If you fit touring tyres and compare to a loaded touring bike on equivelent touring ruibber, the differences in efficiency and speed are hard to measure. I have ridden on my 700c tourer alongside MTBers and there is no big disadvantage.
The problem with MTBs for touring is that there are very few modern MTBs that are suitable. Old skool bikes such as steel Specialized Stumpjumers were high quality with the full set of eyelets and made excellent expedition tourers.
Modern MTB frames are made for ever more specialised purposes and general purpose frames tend to be mostly entry-level quality.
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Old 03-25-06, 09:38 AM   #15
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The usual state of things is that the riding position on a mtb will be more upright than on a touring bike. Even without head and sidewinds, the energy required to overcome wind resistance at higher road speeds is . . . high!

All things being equal, a tourer will go faster on a road bike, given the same amount of energy. As far as how measurable the effect of wind resistance is, just imagine that--or so I'm told--that the force required to overcome wind resistance increases at a 3-fold rate to the increase in windforce.

Imagine also that you're riding a loaded tour bike against the wind with 50 miles to go before you reach a particular campsite--and that you want to keep up with other riders that are trying to get there before dark--you'd be in the drops of a road bike and peddling in a more efficient riding position than you'd be able to do on a mtb.

Mtbs are optimized for riding and climbing dirt trails--you give up something: efficiency at higher effective wind speeds.

Last edited by wagathon; 03-25-06 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 03-25-06, 10:01 AM   #16
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Flat style bars have nothing to do with the bar position. Many sporty cross-country style MTBs have a bar 4" below the saddle. This is equivelent to the hoods position of a roadbike and is in no way "upright".
Flats limit your choice of alternate positions, not your choice of primary riding position.
Many MTB tourists fit aerobars to their flats which are even more effective than drops when faced with a stiff headwind.
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Old 03-25-06, 10:57 AM   #17
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And believe me, when you're riding uphill, doing 5 kph with a loaded bike, facing a strong headwind, the last part of the bars you get to think to keep the bike under control are the drops.
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Old 03-25-06, 11:10 AM   #18
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MiichaelW brings up a good point. Loaded touring bikes aren't very good in a headwind-- 26 inch wheels, 700c wheels-- a touring bike's somewhat upright riding position and those wind stopping panniers aren't very aero. Touring bikes just tend to be slow overall-- I don't really see why speed should really be a factor in buying one.

In real life, most of the real hardcore tour folks I know who have logged a lot of miles have done it on old MTBs. If a person has, say $2000 US and 2-3 weeks of time off a year to tour-- why not buy an old MTB, fix it up yourself and spend most of your bankroll on airfare/touring exspenses?

I'd rather ride an old MTB on tour in Norway or England than have a new high end touring bike here in Washington State, USA, for the same amount of money. I think it's the ride, not the bike.
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Old 03-25-06, 03:17 PM   #19
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My touring experience is limited, however on my MTB I'm able to handle rough shoulders, jump curbs, roll through pot holes and cracks in the street. I rode in the Tour de Houston last weekend and all of the riders I saw laying on the pavement had one thing in common......they were on road bikes. I'll stick to my Giant NRS3.
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Old 03-25-06, 07:12 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wagathon
The usual state of things is that the riding position on a mtb will be more upright than on a touring bike. Even without head and sidewinds, the energy required to overcome wind resistance at higher road speeds is . . . high!

All things being equal, a tourer will go faster on a road bike, given the same amount of energy. As far as how measurable the effect of wind resistance is, just imagine that--or so I'm told--that the force required to overcome wind resistance increases at a 3-fold rate to the increase in windforce.

Imagine also that you're riding a loaded tour bike against the wind with 50 miles to go before you reach a particular campsite--and that you want to keep up with other riders that are trying to get there before dark--you'd be in the drops of a road bike and peddling in a more efficient riding position than you'd be able to do on a mtb.

Mtbs are optimized for riding and climbing dirt trails--you give up something: efficiency at higher effective wind speeds.
I have aerobars for my MTB.
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Old 03-25-06, 09:09 PM   #21
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Thanks guys. You make me feel better. I just didn't want to drop a lot of money on a touring bike at this time. I fixed up my old Giant Mtn bike with 1.5 inch tires and some new handle bars. It works just fine but I am so new to this touring that I don't know the difference. Kind of like the guy that drives the VW beetle all of his life and then gets in a Cadillac. He doesn't know how good the caddy rides because he has never been in one.
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Old 03-25-06, 09:46 PM   #22
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Seems to me that most folks tour on mtb's. Maybe they're not the same folks who write on these bike forums. I've met people touring on old three speeds. One three-speed guy had leather-covered panniers with silver studs, like on a Harley, and he'd made it half-way across the US. I read about a guy who toured on a unicycle. (I suspect that was a credit card tour.) Everything works.

I used to tour on a heavy mtb with huge knobbies. I was very happy with it because it was my first "real" bike back in the day. Never flatted, ever! It was nice to be able to bike right off road into a patch of woods or whatever with that monster.

I have a Trek 520 now, which is a great road tourer, but I would prefer a 26" tired bike and one that would allow fatter tires (and fenders). I can only run 28-32's on the 520 (a little bigger in the back)--OK width for firm gravel but not enough (imho) for less sure surfaces. I want to stay with steel but steel bikes have mostly become pricey boutique machines. I'm thinking of having my lbs build up a tourer from a Soma Groove frame or maybe a Salsa Ala Carte. Anyone have experience with these frames as tourers, with rigid front forks or shocks? Or maybe build from a used frame (unfortunately I gave away my old mtb!) The LHT in my size has 700 wheels, though with more clearance in the forks.

So...you're actually where I want to be with your mtb. I've toured with a BOB trailer and panniers and both have advantages and disadvantages. There's all kinds of handlbars, don't feel stuck with a straight bar. I put cruiser bars on my 520 with bar end shifters, heh. I'm done with drops, I like to look at the countryside, not the asphalt.

Efficiency tends to be overrated a bit in the biking crowd.

Fix up your bike and save your money for calorie-rich foods.

Last edited by Krink; 03-25-06 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 03-25-06, 10:41 PM   #23
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I have not yet toured. But, I am constantly training by piling up lots of miles per week and hauling anywhere from 25 to 40 pounds of dummy weight on board. I've finally, after eight months, worked up to a loaded century. That was last week-end on my Trek 520. Nice bike, nice ride.

Today, I just got in from my 2nd century - on my 1988 Trek 830 MTB, morphed for more comfort ( skinnier tires, different bars and a good saddle).

This bike is an old 18 ringer with Ovaltech chainrings by Sakae. Back then, the better Trek MTB's came with Shimano BioPace and better shifters, but I didn't have the scratch. It is a Taiwan Trek which generally is considered to have 'no pedigree.' Still, it has a very good triple-butted Chro-Moly frame and chainstays that are 18" long. Lots of 'old school' attachment points and double eyelets both front and rear. Bombproof. I love this bike.

Truth be told, I have some trouble seeing the quality difference between the frames (520 vs 830). In fact, there appear to be more similarities. The 520 is a 1998 and is hand assembled and welded here in the USA. Both are flawless as far as I can see. The 520 is about 4 lbs lighter stripped. It definitely has better grade components, for sure. But, no way would I pay $1,100 for a new 520 after knowing what I know now because of this comparison. I payed $550 and was glad to do it. The 830 was also $550 back in the day!

Bottom line, I'd tour with either one and I will. Thumbs up for Mountain Bikes. They're like Jeeps - at home on or off road.
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Old 03-25-06, 10:46 PM   #24
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Krink said:
"I put cruiser bars on my 520 with bar end shifters, heh. I'm done with drops, I like to look at the countryside, not the asphalt."

I also got rid of the drops. I have North Road (3-speed type) bars on both the 520 and 830. The original Shimano bar-ends on the 520 with Avid SD-7 MTB levers. The old Deore stuff on the MTB. Perfection.
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Old 03-25-06, 10:51 PM   #25
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I recall there was a BikeForums member who did a tour from Alaska to the southern tip of South America and back on a Cannondale MTB.
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