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  1. #1
    ... thelung's Avatar
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    Questions about touring with a mtb

    Hi, I am thinking about getting a steel hardtail mountain bike to use for touring, but I have some questions that maybe someone can help with.

    I have no clue what size frame I should be looking for. I have only ridden road and track frames, and for those I ride a 56cm bike so thats about 22 inches. I have read somewhere that with a mtb frame, you want to look around 10cm smaller than your road frame size. Is this true, or would this still be true with a frame that is going to be used for touring? For reference I am just under 6'1" tall (I dont have a measuring tape for inseam though).

    My next question is about drop bars. These are the only bars I ride, and I would like to stay with them. Would it work alright to put these on a mtb frame? What sort of shifter setup is best for a mountain bike with drops?

    Is there anything else I need to look for besides rackmounts and canti brake mounts on the frame?
    Last edited by thelung; 09-18-06 at 09:34 PM.

  2. #2
    Scott n4zou's Avatar
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    Usual stand over for a mountain bike is no closer than 2 inches between the top tube and the tender parts. Touring allows you to be as close as 1/2". The larger the frame the easier it is to hang racks N bags. It's your tender bits so you decide how close to stand over the top tube. Old school sizing was: If your not squeezing when standing the frame is too small .

    Trekking bars would be better for you when touring. Your speed is drastically reduced when your touring loaded down with all your gear. Trekking bars provide many differing hand positions and is more important when touring then when riding fast on a road bike. Trekking bars will allow you to drop a little to fight a headwind. They also work with your current brake levers and shifters.

    Eyelets on the front fork for front low rider panniers, 48/38/28 chain rings, 14-28 cassette or freewheel, At least 2 water bottle mounts. Frame pump mounts are a plus. A kick stand mount as well.

  3. #3
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    Nothing wrong with direct-pull brakes if that's what the bike already has on it. Also regular mountain bike gearing is not too low.

    If you're going w/road style bars (which is a great idea), you can use bar-end shifters and the brake levers they put on the Trek 520 - Dia Compe 287-V (v is for vbrake). This shifting setup works fine for mtb deraillers.

    I did my first tour on a titanium mtb with flat bars, I hated the bars but otherwise it was fine. I think people with bigger feet might have heel-strike issues with their panniers.

    Make sure your fork has a lock-out - I hated the bounce when I un-lockouted my fork. I would have gotten a solid fork if I hadn't switched to a tour bike.

    Why not a tour bike? Check out bgcycles.com for some 26" touring eye candy.
    ...

  4. #4
    ... thelung's Avatar
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    Thanks for the help you two! As far as trecking bars go, you may be right about the long-haul comfort they provide, but since I would be riding this bike around town un-loaded as well, I still think I would like a drop-bar setup. And I am looking to use a rigid fork so the lockout thing wont be a problem.

  5. #5
    aspiring wannabe hoogie's Avatar
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    modern mtb's have a very aggressive geometry, which is perfect for climbing steep hills and carving through forest tracks etc ...

    try and get an older model steel frame ... these generally have eyelets for racks, relaxed geometery, longer chainstays ... ideal models are mid to late 80's specialised stumpjumpers, giant yukon/sedona, marin bear valley se ... there are probably many others from that era as well ...

    i picked up a used giant yukon for next to nothing, spent a little time and a few dollars and have a great mtb tourer ... it has a sweet riding and handling double butted 4130 frameset, double eyelets front and back, long chainstays, old fashioned quill stem ...
    thought for today: "Does my ass look fast on this bike?"

  6. #6
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    Yeah the common advice for a less tall MTB compared to a roadie is for safety (crashing off the seat onto the toptube), and agility on twisting trail. For touring you need stability under load and comfort (soaking up road bumps like a Lincoln Continental compared to a Ford Falcon). My own starting point is 4" under inseam length for MTB offroad, 2" under for road bike, 1" under for touring bike, or MTB used for touring.

    For MTB used for touring I would look for (in order of importance): lowest gearing, longest wheelbase, smallest head tube angle, largest fork rake, longest chainstay length, and would swap the STI out and put in simple friction shifters, such as Shimano bar end shifters. Now I am using a long wheelbase MTB for touring (not by choice just as a make do, my real money went for a high grade racing bike, forcing me to temporarily use any old cheap thing for touring). But back several years as a poor student I scored a cheap deal on a a Cannondale touring bike to which I added Suntour bar end shifters (man I loved those things!) and that bike was better for touring than an MTB, just as comfortable but more efficient (less energy to ride long stretches).

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    Sizing for mtn. and road bikes is different. In addition, that nobody mentioned, are you going to be using front panniers?? If so, it is almost impossible to fit front panniers on a mtn. bike with front shocks. So keep that in mind.

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    ... thelung's Avatar
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    Yeah, I mean, I am selling two bikes, so I should have around 800 dollars that I could spend on a touring bike without dipping into savings ... It just seems like it might be better to spend a few hundred to convert a mtb and then have the rest of the money left over to pay for a nice long trip. I still haven't made up my mind completely though.

  9. #9
    Daily Rider hairlessbill's Avatar
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    I used a Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo for doing a 14 day tour through MA, CT, and NJ way back when. It was sized as a normal MTB would have been for me so it was a 15.5" frame. I used a mountain bike because I was on a budget and I didn't want a dedicated touring rig. Worked out great for me since I got to use it as an off-road machine when I finished the tour and took all the racks/panniers off. I used lowriders (Blackburn?) that didn't require a fork braze-on. Rear rack/pannier (Madden) clearance wasn't a problem. My handlebars(still are!) were Scott AT-4's - the aero position was nice to rest on in the flats. When I routed with this setup even the bike shop guys couldn't figure out what the bike was because this was in the late 80's and most people didn't put slicks on their mountain bikes.

    The big reason I did this was because I didn't have room in my life for more than one bike. Heck, I used to ride centuries with my MB-2 with slicks on Saturday,race off-road with knobbies on Sunday and then commute, back to slicks, on weekdays. It was pretty funny racing with a rear rack and lights during the day. If I had to have one bike again, I'd keep my mountain bike.

  10. #10
    Scott n4zou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thelung
    Yeah, I mean, I am selling two bikes, so I should have around 800 dollars that I could spend on a touring bike without dipping into savings ... It just seems like it might be better to spend a few hundred to convert a mtb and then have the rest of the money left over to pay for a nice long trip. I still haven't made up my mind completely though.
    Sounds to me like you need one of these!
    http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm

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