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Old 05-23-07, 08:06 AM   #1
lev
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touring mountain bike vs touring bike

hi all!!

just out of curiosity, what are some major disadvantages of touring with a mountain bike compared to touring specific bikes..
unfortunately i got the touring bug after i had purchased my mountain bike and have had to do with a mountain bike. since i've already spent money on the bike and racks etc, i'm just curious if i am so disadvantaged by my bike when touring.
i know some disadvantages like speed, built and comfort, but how much difference are we talking about?..especially speed?
btw, i have a specialized rockhopper comp disk, and although i am pretty happy with it, if i had to buy a bike again i definitely would buy a touring bike since that is my major interest. really love touring and i wish i had stumbled upon this site before....
i will try to post a picture of my bike. if you have any suggestions as to how to make it more touring specific please let me know!! thanks in advance!!!
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Old 05-23-07, 08:53 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lev
hi all!!

just out of curiosity, what are some major disadvantages of touring with a mountain bike compared to touring specific bikes..
unfortunately i got the touring bug after i had purchased my mountain bike and have had to do with a mountain bike. since i've already spent money on the bike and racks etc, i'm just curious if i am so disadvantaged by my bike when touring.
i know some disadvantages like speed, built and comfort, but how much difference are we talking about?..especially speed?
btw, i have a specialized rockhopper comp disk, and although i am pretty happy with it, if i had to buy a bike again i definitely would buy a touring bike since that is my major interest. really love touring and i wish i had stumbled upon this site before....
i will try to post a picture of my bike. if you have any suggestions as to how to make it more touring specific please let me know!! thanks in advance!!!
I'd say the biggest disadvantage is hand position...or lack thereof. Long ago I did a tour in central Colorado on a mountain bike that was off-road. It was a wonderful tour and a road touring bike could not have done it (Advantage: mountain bike). I was out for only 5 days but this was before the days of barends and my hands went numb on about the 3rd day. They stayed numb for about 6 weeks. I could feel nothing but pins and needles in the outer 3 fingers on each hand for about 4 weeks and didn't have full feeling in all fingers until about 6 weeks later. It's kinda scary Modern barends or trekking bars might help now but I prefer drops for road riding. If I were to do the trip again on a mountain bike, I'd do it with riser bars and barends (I don't really like trekking bars).

Another disadvantage would be the front shock. Unless you have a shock with a lockout, you will waste some energy bobbing down the road. With a lockout, you don't lose that energy but you are carrying the extra weight of the shock. Now if you were to choose routes that involve dirt roads, 4wd roads, etc., the shock would be an advantage over a rigid fork...I'd still want a lock out but...

A huge avantage that mountain bikes have over road bikes for touring is the wheels. 26" wheels are nearly indestructible compared to 700C. The shorter spokes and smaller rim diameter make for a very strong structure.

Finally speed. Speed is relative when touring. A loaded touring bike doing 12 mph is hauling butt! A loaded mountain bike doing 11mph is still hauling butt but it takes a few minutes longer to get to where you are going. What's it matter? You're on vacation. You're on tour. Leave the 'de France' at home
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Old 05-23-07, 09:47 AM   #3
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Every time I see a picture in the paper of some European passing through the area on a 7 continent bike trip, they're on a flatbar mtn bike. I think the biggest thing is slick tires if you're sticking to pavement. (thick, durable) slicks can probably work for some offroading too, schwalbe big apples are way tough (though I do seem to have created an achilles heel in one of the 4 I am running on 2 bikes...), and pretty good at floating across loose substrate too.
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Old 05-23-07, 10:05 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg
Every time I see a picture in the paper of some European passing through the area on a 7 continent bike trip, they're on a flatbar mtn bike. I think the biggest thing is slick tires if you're sticking to pavement. (thick, durable) slicks can probably work for some offroading too, schwalbe big apples are way tough (though I do seem to have created an achilles heel in one of the 4 I am running on 2 bikes...), and pretty good at floating across loose substrate too.
I've converted my Trek 3900 to a touring bike. Took the dirt tires off and went to Bontraeger Hardcase. Great tire and no flats! I've got a Brooks B17 Champion Special saddle and bar ends to change hand positions. I also added fenders and I do have a shock but may change it out later.
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Old 05-23-07, 10:10 AM   #5
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For road touring from hard pack trails to good ashphalt. I think the major issue is whether you are comfortable. CC has mentioned one important area, with the hands, and another is whether the frame on an MTB fits you. My old school hard tail was designed for trail riding, and the wheel base is short for single track and the bars also don't stretch me out in a comfortable position. For an afternoon it's fine but it basically sucks in comparison to mu touring bike. With the proper tires the rolling resistance should be OK. 26" wheels are a pretty good choice as already pointed out.

You might consider riding your bike to a local store and taking a test drive on a touring bike if you can find one. That should settle any issues for you.

I used to do most of my touring on an mtb, I just made the best of it by choosing off-road trails.
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Old 05-23-07, 10:22 AM   #6
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"Every time I see a picture in the paper of some European passing through the area on a 7 continent bike trip, they're on a flatbar mtn bike."

I've noticed the same thing. A couple of these people are low-tech in orientation and not pushing large daily mileages. It also does make for stuff that can be easily replaced on the road , and eliminates the brake problem. But to some extent I don't get it. European touring bikes don't always follow the model of the classic bikes that originated in England and France. Dual suspension, etc... can be quite popular. Then there is the Koga Miyata.
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Old 05-23-07, 10:46 AM   #7
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I have done tours on both kinds of bikes. I even put drop bars on the MTB to help out. I never liked the extra weight of the MTB. I use my touring bike for everything now, adding fatter tires for off-roading.
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Old 05-23-07, 10:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peterpan1
I used to do most of my touring on an mtb, I just made the best of it by choosing off-road trails.
That's the one place that a mountain bike truly shines. For example, we have lots of places here in Colorado that are old railbeds, old mining trails, 4wd trails, etc that go to some really spectacular areas. I wouldn't take a road touring bike up them for love ner money! It'd just be too painful! I have done them on mountain bikes and had a wonderful time. I'd pull a trailer however...and I hate trailers
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Old 05-23-07, 12:16 PM   #9
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I have had trekking bars on my commuter and now on my Safari. For a MTB it is a good, easy, cheap fix. They give at least 3 more hand positions, are only about $12 from Nashbar, and easy to install - slide everything off of the straight bar and onto the trekking bars. I have had bar extenders too and I think the trekking bars are far better. I went through the extra effort to line my trekking bars with pipe insullation before I wrapped them in tape, which makes them super comfy.
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Old 05-23-07, 06:14 PM   #10
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The big difference between a dedicated MTB and dedicated touring bike is

a. 25-45mm longer chainstays provided on touring bikes to move panniers further back so your heels won't strike bags as you pedal, and

b. a lack of attachment points on MTBs for fenders and racks.

You can easily work around other differences by changing parts (fork, saddle, tires, crank for example).

A. and B. above can be worked-around as well but the solutions are expensive and/or not pretty. A trailer is an easy fix to a lack of rack mounting points, and is often less expensive than a good set of racks and panniers. Fenders can be mounted with tube-gripping clamps and plastic zip-ties (aka tie straps). Fenders may be unneccesary if touring in arid locations; however even in dry areas fenders help by keeping dirt out of chain and drivetrain, and off the rest of bike and clothing. Fenders are considered a necessity to many riders for all these reasons.

As far as speed, you're going to travel around 10 mph average, which makes the type of bike you choose, and its equipment, not so critical. Main requirements for a "touring" bike are the capability to carry desired gear, and comfort of the rider.

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Old 05-24-07, 09:16 AM   #11
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Please, what is a "trekking bar"

I searched nashbar and no result
Thank You.
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Old 05-24-07, 10:08 AM   #12
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I searched nashbar and no result
Thank You.
Nashbar trekking bars:

http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...B%20Handlebars
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Old 05-24-07, 11:18 AM   #13
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I have worked up a 2003 or 4 Trek 4300 into an offroad/gravel road touring steed. See the fully loaded sticky for a picture. Heel strike not an issue with me, but I have small feet (9 US). Was able to find a shockable front rack and so far with about 80 fully loaded shakedown miles, I am satisfied. The bike actually rides better loaded than unloaded. If the engine were up to it, I wouldn't hesitate taking a multi-day tour with this bike.
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Old 05-24-07, 12:59 PM   #14
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It's looking awfully green out there on the sun baked plains, countrydirt.
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Old 05-24-07, 09:00 PM   #15
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thanks for the info everyone...
i will check into the trek bar soon before my next touring in august...
i guess more than speed i was wondering how much difference there is in energy wasted/saved compared with a touring bike..

I am pretty happy with the bike i have and the racks and panniers are serving me well. also upgraded to a brooks saddle recently (although some problems with that..see my other post "brooks B17 help!").
i have been thinking about fenders but dont know if i can fit MTB fenders with the racks on. will ask LBS to see if we can do anything about it..
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Old 05-24-07, 10:08 PM   #16
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Not a darn thing wrong with a mountain bike modified for touring. I happen to use trekking bars which give me more hand positions than my previous drop bars and the chain stays are more than long enough for no heel strike. The lock out on the shock is very nice option. They can handle very well under a full load and I like my longer wheel base. There are many great slick tires or semi-slick tires in the 1.25-1.75" range. The MTB can be made to be very comfortable if the fit is right. See lots of them in Europe.

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Old 05-25-07, 05:29 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
It's looking awfully green out there on the sun baked plains, countrydirt.
Must have something to do with 6 feet of snow that lasted for 3 months and quite a bit of spring rains. I am certain that it will get back to "normal" soon.

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Old 05-25-07, 08:39 AM   #18
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i have been thinking about fenders but dont know if i can fit MTB fenders with the racks on. will ask LBS to see if we can do anything about it..[/QUOTE]

I have Trek 3900 with front shock and racks and I installed the Planet Bike Freddy Fenders. Very nice looking and easy to install. I'll post a picture later if you'd like.
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Old 05-25-07, 09:39 AM   #19
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It seems to me that tour bikes of any vintage are pretty much the same except for a few details, while MTB's vary widely over the years. An old school rigid frame MTB really seems like a tour bike on steroids. They had all the attachment points, plenty of fender clearance, 41"-42" wheelbase, quality built strong frames, long chainstays, etc.

My 520 has a wheelbase of 41" while my 1988 Trek 830 had (deceased) 42+. My current roadified MTB, a '92 Trek 930, has a 42" spread. The 520 has nearly 18" in the chainstays, but the MTB's have 17-3/4".

I'm not sure speed is an issue on a tour, especially when the dif will be minimal.

One thing I feel should be mentioned is the apparent higher torque I seem to get with the longer cranks on the MTB, BioPace notwhithstanding.

Handlebars are a personal choice, like saddles, so I won't speak to those points. The percieved advantage of 26" wheels is also kind of a given, especially if you have to replace a tire in some place that doesn't have 700's. Typically, 26" tires are much easier to lever off and on, too. Wrestling with a tight 700 in the dark and rain can be a test.
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Old 05-25-07, 06:37 PM   #20
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Have those who use MTB frames used a larger sized frame than you would for a dedicated mountain bike? I have a Trek 750 hybrid frame I may use, since I can't seem to find a reasonably priced used frame in my size. I would ride about a 60 cm (c-c) traditional road frame, but this Trek 750 is only about 53.5 cm (c-c), though it does have a slight slope (about a 1" rise from seatpost to headtube.)

I have found an adjustable stem that will allow me to raise the bars to a comfortable position. But for the purposes of keeping with the theme of this thread, and to repeat a question lev has already posed, is there a great loss of efficiency with a smaller frame like this? I've read there is, but not seen much in the way of explanation.
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Old 05-25-07, 07:29 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcm
My 520 has a wheelbase of 41" while my 1988 Trek 830 had (deceased) 42+. My current roadified MTB, a '92 Trek 930, has a 42" spread. The 520 has nearly 18" in the chainstays, but the MTB's have 17-3/4".
You may want to grab a tape measure, because unless you have a modified frame I believe you're mistaken on a small point - Trek mtbs have had standard chainstay lengths for a long time. My 1990 950 measures 16 7/8" on the chainstay. Trek brochures of the period stated 16.9". This is pretty much universal chainstay length for mtbs, 42-43 cm. As you know, Trek has made touring bikes for many years also with longer chainstays more appropriate for touring (models 520,620 and 720).

I mention this only because I wouldn't want someone to pay a bunch for an old trek mtb frame off ebay, expecting it to be a steal in a lugged touring bike, then find their size 11 heels smacking their XL rear panniers on every other crank rotation.

http://www.vintage-trek.com/Trekpromoa.htm

The only mtbs I'm aware of with touring-bike-long chainstays were the some of the very first mtbs made back in 1982-84. These are somewhat collectable and you probably wouldn't want to relegate one to touring duty. The '82 Specialized Stumpjumper had 18 3/8" (46.7cm) chainstays.

http://www.eandsweb.com/cgi-bin/bike...zedStumpjumper

Other than chainstay length being a little shorter than ideal for mounting rear panniers, I agree that older Trek steel mtbs can make a good touring bike. Lots of needed braze-ons, and the lugs look nice.

The real issue with shorter chainstays on mtbs (used for touring), other than the fairly obvious heel-strike-on-panniers, is the subsequent problem which occurs from the work-around solution. When you mount panniers further back to prevent heel strike, you have moved the load further back along the axis of a virtual lever formed by the rack and frame tubes, with the seat tube somewhat anchored by your body weight and forming a fulcrum point. As the rear load tends to sway side-to-side slightly when pedaling, it induces a shimmy aka "speed wobble" in the front end of the bike. Increasing the rear load and/or moving it further back increases the leverage on the front end of the bike and likelihood of shimmy. Ideally you'd want the load right at the BB for maximum stability.

Anyone who's ever experienced shimmy knows how scary and potentially dangerous this is - you don't forget it soon.

A similar situation can occur with BOB YAK trailers, with their fork hinge point located behind the bike, which can send the whole rear end of a bike into a shimmy. You don't hear the same complaint about the burley nomad trailer - it has no fork or hinge point, as it connects by a rigid arm to either the rear axle or rear triangle slightly in front of rear axle.

Last edited by seeker333; 05-25-07 at 08:46 PM.
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Old 05-25-07, 09:30 PM   #22
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seeker333:
You're right. I must have fat-fingered the key. The stays are 16-7/8" (about an inch shorter than the 520). I was also holding the tape wrong, so I saw "XX-3/4". One thing I have never had a problem with is heel strike, tho I wear size 13 shoes, and also use the 930 to commute with Orliebs while wearing large work boots. Maybe the platform side of the pedal just gives me room to scoot my foot a little forward.

The shimmy thing is something I experienced while coming down a fast hill on my loaded 3-speed once, but never on my roadified MTB - yet.
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Old 05-26-07, 12:55 AM   #23
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In my experience, shimmies occur in bikes with a combination of shorter chainstays and short wheelbase. I've got two bikes with 42.5 CS length: a road bike (100 wheelbase) and a Kona MTB (108 wheelbase). I used the road bike as a tourer in the mid 80's and I had to put up with a lot of handling problems when the bike was loaded. Eventually I bought a Specialized Hardrock in 1990 to use as a tourer since it has a long wheelbase and 44 chainstays. The Kona, on the other hand, has always been solid no matter how heavy the load is or if it's loaded with front and rear panniers. No heel strike either, but I use platform pedals sans toeclips and size 9 shoes.

However, the chains of bikes with shorter chainstays work within greater angle differences and seem to suffer more.
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Old 05-26-07, 07:35 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JunkYardBike
Have those who use MTB frames used a larger sized frame than you would for a dedicated mountain bike? I have a Trek 750 hybrid frame I may use, since I can't seem to find a reasonably priced used frame in my size. I would ride about a 60 cm (c-c) traditional road frame, but this Trek 750 is only about 53.5 cm (c-c), though it does have a slight slope (about a 1" rise from seatpost to headtube.)
I quite enjoyed the feel of my "too-big" hybrid (although the T800 is much better). I think a larger size MTB is potentially a very good option.

I'm not sure why but there seems to be a bias against MTB-style tourers in the US - perhaps there's a much sharper division between touring on tarmac vs. mixed-surface touring on dirt/gravel/formed roads; perhaps the bike styles are more distinct and tailored for a particular use; perhaps there is a trend towards buying a bike for each cycling activity, rather than doing everything on one bike.

Anyway -

Load carrying
Load carrying may be an issue, I think most people who are camping carry a lot more than robow in his photo below - his panniers are out beyond his rear axle. Of course, if you travel light, this is a non-issue. I agree that the better MTB tourers seem to be built on older frames, the geometry and construction is much less MTB specific - "traditional" frame and longer stays are very helpful if you have to carry lots of gear.

Geometry
Old road geometry and old MTB geometry are both more relaxed than current race bikes. New "comfort" bikes are really uncomfortable over even moderate distances. So, you're stuck either way, with the best new options generally being touring-specific (road) bikes and touring-style hybrids (as opposed to flat bar road bikes, or "comfort" bikes) like some of the Jamis and Kona models.

Comfort
Bar ends or trekking bars help with hand positions. MTBs otherwise tend to be more comfortable than road bikes.

Gearing
Current touring bikes generally use MTB rear mechs, eg. Shimano XT on the Cannondales.

Brakes
I think V-brakes (linear pull) are the best touring brakes by far. However, they work best with flat bars because of the levers required.

Servicability
Difficult. Most MTBs use indexed shifters; however, they are much more rugged and reliable than STIs on road bikes (always seem to need adjusting after travelling with the bike; 1st thing to go if you crash). Shocks need maintenance, may be an issue on a long trip. Choose your parts carefully.

Speed
Commuting, my speed went from 24-25km/h on the hybrid to 26km/h on the road tourer. There might be a bigger difference between going from a 26" wheel bike to a road tourer. In any case, the speed you will get on a road tourer is closer to MTB speed than it is to group rides on a road bike.

Have a look at the Thorn and Koga-Miyata website for some great, European-style, MTB-style tourers - they are the Rolls-Royce (or perhaps Mercedes G-class) version of what most people tour on in Europe, Asia and Australia (and apparently Africa and South America, although I haven't been there).
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Old 05-26-07, 08:35 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cave
I quite enjoyed the feel of my "too-big" hybrid (although the T800 is much better). I think a larger size MTB is potentially a very good option.
Thanks for that analysis, Cave!
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