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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 04-23-06, 08:39 AM   #1
babysaph
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Touring on mtn bike-are you crazy

I recently did a 2 day 75 mile/day trip to Washington DC. I visited 3 bike shops and in each shop I got the comment "how do you ride that far on a mtn bike"? That being said I asked them to show me their touring bikes and not one of them had a touring bike in stock. They said they must be ordered. It got me to thinking. should I have a touring bike. Keep in mind I am very new to touring. I took my giant mtn bike and put 1.5" inch tire on it. I can still ride on trails when wanted. I just want to know if I am missing something. Would I be more efficient on 700 tires? What are the pros and cons of each. I don't mind spending the money for the touring bike if it will help me. thanks for the input
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Old 04-23-06, 08:58 AM   #2
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I don't know any better because i've never had a touring bike, but i'm convinced that i'm most definitely missing something riding long distances on a mtb. I'm up to the challenge but there has got to be an easier way.
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Old 04-23-06, 09:28 AM   #3
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I've done it both ways! (O.K., so arrest me.)

I've ridden across the U.S. twice on a touring bike and four times on my Trek 8000 that I converted to touring. And I've been touring on the Trek MTB ever since. I never want to replace it, even though people at bike shops look at it and laugh. It's a 1987.

The handlebars are one thing. I actually have full drop handlebars. I don't think bar ends give you the positions you need for touring, but they'll do. If you use narrow tires there is hardly any difference between MTBs and touring bikes. I use 1.75s - sometimes 1.95s. But the biggest advantage is that I can go anywhere. I bike up into the Northwest Territories, all over the Canadian Rockies on trails, and throught the American West on cow tracks. I would never go back to a touring bike.

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Old 04-23-06, 12:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by jamawani
I don't think bar ends give you the positions you need for touring, but they'll do.

I dunno 'bout dat ;-)
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Old 04-23-06, 01:09 PM   #5
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I've done long distance riding on my 40 lb mtn bike - many centuries and my first 200 km brevet - but unless I were planning to tour through Africa, or South America, or some place where there's a good chance I'd be riding on unpaved roads a lot, I don't think a mtn bike would be my choice for a touring bike.

However, it depends what you're used to and comfortable with ... and what you want to do with it.

What type of touring do you want to do? Where do you want to go? For how long? How often in the year?
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Old 04-23-06, 01:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babysaph
Would I be more efficient on 700 tires?
Some of the expedition touring bikes built for really long trips (around the globe and such) are built with 26 inch tires (e.g. Thorn Nomad). The smaller wheel is somewhat stronger. Width and air pressure of the tire have a much bigger effect on rolling resistance than the difference between 700 and 26 in. wheels.
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Old 04-23-06, 07:23 PM   #7
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There is some consideration of the availability of spare tyres too. 26" is universally available.
Good 700c touring tyres are hard to find outside large cities in the western world, let alone rural Asia and Africa.

You will find that the Thorn touring bikes etc, tend to have an oversized 'farm gate' frame which puts standover secondary to riding efficiency. Although you can get the same results by riding a larger frame than you would otherwise on a MTB and fitting accordingly. Compact frames like the Kona Sutra are increasingly common. Maybe tradition is giving way to the reality of brining a fully loaded rig to standstill and standover is 'in'?

If you are riding on road then drop bars are the way to go, even on a 26" bike. Common enough conversion. Often seen amongst beginner cyclocross racers on a budget. If you use bar end shifters and get a good deal on handlebars, the conversion should be quite cheap.

If touring offroad or over unsealed roads then flat bars will give a less strenuous ride, because with wider bars, much less effort is needed to keep it on track. Losing hand positions is, of course the trade off. But with rugged touring you are unlikely to spend huge amounts of time locked into the same position in the saddle. If you find your hands going numb, try finding a tougher route

Last edited by radical_edward; 04-24-06 at 03:40 AM.
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Old 04-23-06, 07:25 PM   #8
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It's possible to run into clearance issues between you rear panniers and your heel without a longer chainstay, but if the bike you have works for you then I wouldn't worry about it. You can certainly approximate the ride with high pressure (65 psi or higher) slicks on a hardtail mtn bike.
The more I peruse the forums the more I'm taken aback by some of the stuff that is told to people at their LBS. I only go into a bike shop to get emergency parts. I do all my own maintenance (except pressing headsets). It seems for every decent Wrench there are a dozen schlubs running shops when they should be mopping floors at the 25 cent theater for a living.
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Old 04-23-06, 08:21 PM   #9
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Well, this is slightly off subject. But it does suggest that there's more than one way to skin a cat: Every time I'm on a hilly century ride or other group event, someone on a mountain bike wearing cut offs and an old tee-shirt goes roaring past peloton of lightweight superbikes. Me for a touring bike, but there are some riders out there that are scary strong. It just doesn't seem to matter what they ride.
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Old 04-23-06, 08:24 PM   #10
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If you are going over rough country with a MTB and standard rims and tires, then getting something that fits is probably no problem. If you are riding an efficient touring specific narrow rim 26" set-up, I'm not sure. The 36 spoke MA2 rim I have is very narrow but was originally designed for fat tire use. I have heard complaints about fitting the large tires to the narrow rims. I think it's easier to carry a folding tire than to expect re-supply, and 26" tires are a bit smaller.

For me a touring bike is not that big a bill to fill. And if I pull into the camp ground five yards behind what I might have if I had the perfect ride, I don't loose anything. So as long as the bike meets your needs you are the winner.

Every part of a bike can be scrutinized and optimized, and I am currently doing that just for the fun of playing with my bike gear. Going down that path for mostly on-road touring, it isn't logical to expect the end result will be an MTB. Maybe for the great devide trail, but not on-road. You may still pass me, smilling, on your mountain bike, and I will smile back.
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Old 04-24-06, 04:24 AM   #11
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In my experience, the biggest difference between MTB and touring bikes are the forks. Touring forks are strong but bendy and have enough spring to absorb a lot of road shock.
MTB ridgid forks are strong but very stiff and have no give. Any shock is transmitted to the bars and if you are riding flat bars with bent wrists, the vibration will be concentrated at your wrists.
The 26" touring bikes from Thorn, Bruce Gordon, Surly etc have touring style forks.
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Old 04-24-06, 06:12 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babysaph
I recently did a 2 day 75 mile/day trip to Washington DC. I visited 3 bike shops and in each shop I got the comment "how do you ride that far on a mtn bike"? That being said I asked them to show me their touring bikes and not one of them had a touring bike in stock. They said they must be ordered. It got me to thinking. should I have a touring bike. Keep in mind I am very new to touring. I took my giant mtn bike and put 1.5" inch tire on it. I can still ride on trails when wanted. I just want to know if I am missing something. Would I be more efficient on 700 tires? What are the pros and cons of each. I don't mind spending the money for the touring bike if it will help me. thanks for the input
Babysaph, I tour on a mountainbike all the time! I get the same comments, by the way, along with the immortal "Aren't you getting a little long in the tooth to be running around the countryside on a bike?" I find some serious advantages to a mountainbike for touring. While I pay a penalty in weight, I get a bike that is nimble even loaded. This paid handsome dividende this spring when I was nearly hit by bales of hay coming off a farmers pickup truch. I dodged them with a full touring load on! I also get a bike that is STRONG! Third, I get gears that are ideal for slow touring like I prefer. If I want to race, I ride a lightweight bike, and if I'm just putting along at 14 mph with a load on, I prefer the mountainbike frame. I do ride with a rigid fork, by the way, as suspension isolated me from the road too much, and trhat isolation causes serious handling issues with me. I can't feel the traction in my front wheel for example. The tires I run are Geax "Evolutions", and while they are a bit heavy at 880 grams, with a Kevlar™ core, they are extremely flat resistand with a very light rolling resistance. Crazy to ride a mountainbike on tour? Yeah, crazy like a fox!
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Old 04-24-06, 06:21 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nateted4
The more I peruse the forums the more I'm taken aback by some of the stuff that is told to people at their LBS. I only go into a bike shop to get emergency parts. I do all my own maintenance (except pressing headsets). It seems for every decent Wrench there are a dozen schlubs running shops when they should be mopping floors at the 25 cent theater for a living.
Slightly OT, but still: we usually get to read about all the negative experiences. Far fewer people report here if they've received adequate or good service at their LBS.

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Old 04-24-06, 06:31 PM   #14
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a lock out cannondale head shock system seems to be good if you use a mtn bike.
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Old 04-25-06, 02:42 AM   #15
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As a person who has not yet toured, I'd like to comment none-the-less, if I may. My experience has been mostly on an old 1988 Trek 830. Its been set up for road travel and distance comfort as I expected it to be my only bike and I planned to tour on it next year. I still will, I think.

I routinely ride 80 mile day trips on the week-ends and have added 3 centuries starting the last three weeks. I now average about 190 miles/week. So, I'm laying on the miles.

I'd like to offer a comparison between the old Trek mtb and a 1998 Trek 520 which I recently bought. The following are the reasons I think that a mtb, properly sized, fitted out and in good shape, is not just a reasonable stand-in as a tourer, but a superb tourer.

Trek 830 - mid priced at $500 in '88, from Taiwan Probably worth $100 now.
1) Decent Cro-Moly triple butted frame. TIG welded. Proven to be bombproof.
2) 17.5" chainstays (1/2" longer than the 520)
3) Thicker fork and chainstays. Stiffer, yes, but stronger too.
4) 26" wheels (so common and somewhat stronger).
5) Double eyelets in front. All other hardpoints identical to the 520 which has singles in front.
6) 18 speed with the Biopace/OvalTech chainrings. Many have been led to believe that this was a 'gimmick' foisted upon the market by Shimano. It wasn't. Trust me, I will smoke your tour bike on hills and I will usually stay up with 20lb roadies when I'm not packing 30lbs of training weight. The drivetrain really digs in. I suspect they no longer make the system primarily because it must surely be more expensive to produce than round chainrings. I wouldn't mind hearing some feedback on that.
7) Rough route capability with 1.5" tires. This thing is a Jeep, even without the knobbies.
8) Wheel base is 42.75" The 520 is 41.5" Ride is as good or better than the 520.
9) Frame angles appear to be very closely matched. Both bikes give a remarkably comfortable ride over many hours with few breaks.

Summary:
I paid $550 for the '98 520. I was glad to do it but after having both bikes to compare, I know I would never pay the $1200 they want for a new one. If I had never made the purchase, I feel I would be no worse off for a very good, all purpose bike. The 520 is, in my opinion, simply a more modern and refined version of the 830. Certainly faster in the flats and easier to pedal, but I can't honestly point to a value that would justify the retail price of the 520 for the purpose of touring. I'd take the 830 across the country with no reservations at all.
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Old 04-25-06, 03:10 PM   #16
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I rode 84miles last saturday on a mountain bike, across the nebrodi mountains in sicily, including 6562ft of climbing, and I can't complain...
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Old 04-26-06, 02:09 AM   #17
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I rode 84miles last saturday on a mountain bike, across the nebrodi mountains in sicily, including 6562ft of climbing, and I can't complain...
I'm jealous. I am so damned jealous.
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Old 04-29-06, 10:07 PM   #18
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I used to do some long rides on my trek 930. An older steel bike that doubled for a short time as my actual mountain bike (took off the fenders/rack and swapped wheels). great old steel trek, with an early archaic suspension fork (Rock Shox Indy XC) with pre-load maxed out. Worked very well until I decided I needed a front rack.
I love my new 520, but had i not needed that front rack I would ahve kept on the 930.
Still its nice to have a newish bike, the paint is still mint!
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