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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 05-24-08, 10:26 AM   #1
oldride
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New guy-questions

I've been hanging out here for a little while and learning alot. Thanks all. Now I have a few questions that I hope aren't too dumb.

I ride a road bike on bike trails and club rides, nothing too long, but I'm getting back into riding shape. I've been giving serious thought to getting into touring. I am a backpacker so I have all the camping equipment. I'm thinking about 2-7 day camping trips and have been researching bikes. I have a 90s era Gary Fischer (no suspension) MTB that I was thinking about setting up and using it for touring/camping. I put on road type tires, 26x1.5 and tuned it up. Mechanically it works great. I have ridden it on some of the routes that I normally ride the road bike on. I'm surprised at how much more effort it takes with the MTB. I expected the MTB to be less efficient but on a 25 mile ride it seems like much more work.

So now I'm thinking of a touring bike. Like so many others I don't want to spend the money if I don't tour very often. I've looked at an REI Randonee and a Trek 520. I think either would work well for me. My question (for now) is will a touring bike be significantly more efficient than the MTB for touring? Maybe it's just a matter of conditioning?

TIA
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Old 05-24-08, 11:34 AM   #2
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The mtb will be noticeably faster with slicks, get something like Schwalbe Marathons or Continental Top Contact in 26 X 1.5" and pumpt them fairly hard.

My other recommendation would be full fenders and a brooks saddle :-)

Use the bike you have for getting around to what you really want/need, say a shorter 2-3 day tour around where you live(if possible) and keep as a commuter/grocery getter when and if you get a touring bike.

(Edit misread the original post) maybe your bike is set up for offroad riding, with the saddle a bit lower and the bars higher or nearer than would be best for road riding, my mtb is set up so i can get behind the saddle to lower my center of gravity or shift it back, and the bar is close to me and wide so i can rally wail on it when i hit sodt mud. I lose a lot of spinning power from this and wouldn't like to ride it very far with the current setup.

Check that your leg is almost fully extended at the bottomn of the pedal stroke and that youre leaning forward far enough to put some, but not too much weight on your hands.

Last edited by Black Shuck; 05-24-08 at 11:39 AM.
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Old 05-24-08, 11:50 AM   #3
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A touring bike will be more efficient insofar as it's lighter overall and has lighter wheels in particular. It also may put you in a more aerodynamic posture than the mountain bike does. Over 25 miles, though, these differences shouldn't add up to feeling like "much more work."

Conditioning is a factor, probably, but I'd be more likely to blame fit and adjustment differences between the two bikes. Something as subtle as the fore-to-aft position of the seat can make one bike feel fast and another feel like a dog. You may be able to iron out a lot of extra effort by experimenting along these lines.

I've toured on a number of different bikes, including mountain bikes. Throwing out a couple that were just the wrong size and/or had crazy gearing, I find that the main reason some were favorites and some weren't is almost entirely a question of comfort. If you can stay on a bike all day without sore wrists or shoulders or saddle sores, that's your touring bike. In the end, the miles turn out to be less a matter of effort than just staying in the saddle all those hours.
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Old 05-24-08, 11:58 AM   #4
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Oh, and I'll add that experienced differences in tire width and tread are largely psychological. Wheel and tire weight are much more significant variables. I'd put tires very far down on the list of things to tinker with here.
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Old 05-24-08, 12:49 PM   #5
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Oh, and I'll add that experienced differences in tire width and tread are largely psychological. Wheel and tire weight are much more significant variables. I'd put tires very far down on the list of things to tinker with here.
Tires affect rolling resistance, which along with wind resistance is where most of the bicycle power output is going. If changing anything will make you faster, it will be tires. Even just pumping your tires to a proper pressure can make a big difference.
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Old 05-24-08, 01:03 PM   #6
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Tires affect rolling resistance, which along with wind resistance is where most of the bicycle power output is going. If changing anything will make you faster, it will be tires. Even just pumping your tires to a proper pressure can make a big difference.
Yes, keep your tires pumped up. However, rolling resistance due to tire tread and width is a small component of overall friction loss, and friction loss is overwhelmed in significance by wind resistance. Finally, both are overwhelmed by the energy cost of moving weight uphill when you're ascending. As far as making Oldride's mountain bike peppier goes, pretty much any old tire will do; the problem(s) are somewhere else.
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Old 05-24-08, 03:37 PM   #7
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I've been touring on a MTB (Miyata circa 1991) for 17 years and have always enjoyed it. I toured on a road bike before that. I like the additional stiffness in the frame - especially the rear triangle - vs some touring bikes I've test ridden. I use Continental TravelContact tires - 26x1.75. They're heavy by most standards but are very durable and I appreciate their reliability on all types of road surfaces.

Improving one's conditioning can always be helpful for speed and endurance. I follow a somewhat formal training program but it isn't necessary for touring. I simply enjoy the additional fitness afforded by the training.

Also, consider that most touring is not a speed contest but rather a time to cruise along and enjoy the people and the places along the way.
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Old 05-24-08, 05:13 PM   #8
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Very good info and suggestions, thanks everyone!

The tires on the MTB are old Panaracer Hi Road 26x1.5 - 85 psi. Not slicks but have a very subtle tread. I have them at 85 psi. I did make some adjustments today, raised the stem and lowered the saddle. I took it out to shop at a LBS. I have not ridden a bike for shopping and errands since I was a kid (so long ago) it was fun. I do plan to use it as a grocery getter/errand bike and will put fenders on it. I also need a new saddle...ouch!

One thing I haven't figured out yet, that is really different, is when I ride the MTB after 10 miles or so the backs of my legs, behind the knees, get numb. I've never had that happen on the road bike even on 50 mile rides. Any thoughts as to the cause or cure? I did move the saddle a little forward and it seemed to help a little but it did not get rid of the problem.

For now I will continue riding both bikes and maybe try a short camping trip with the MTB. Slow and steady. It may be that the MTB just doesn't fit right for a long time in the saddle but it does work well around town.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-24-08, 05:55 PM   #9
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Usually pain behind the knee is caused by a saddle that is too low. Maybe try moving it up bit by bit.
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Old 05-24-08, 06:30 PM   #10
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Heaver tires take a little more effort to get spinning than light weight road tires. Hence, the bike feels slower and takes more effort to get going if you try and ride the same as your road bike. You just need to ease off and allow the bike to progress up to your comfortable speed. Doing this will take much less effort. As others have noted and from your post you put on 1.5" tires. As long as there slicks and not power robbing knobby off road tires you'll be fine. Don't obsess over your speed. Touring is not a race. Just because you can run at 20 MPH on the road bike does not mean you should do the same on your touring bike, or even want to do that! Just check the speed attitude at the door. Just get out and ride that bike and build yourself up for it. You'll learn that your using different muscles and you learn to ride that bike in a different way. You'll understand once you get some miles on it. Oh, load it down! Start riding and as the training progresses add more weight until you your hauling about the same weight as you plan on touring with.
Here is a photo of my "touring" hybrid bike, A Specialized CrossRoads.

Technically it's an MTB and even has an MTB sticker on the seat tube and someone had treated it as one before I found it in a thrift store for $5. The rims had to be replaced as well as the spokes due to off road abuse. I added the trekking bars, racks, and saddle. Unless I tell others it's a converted hybrid/MTB bike they never guess it's not a dedicated touring bike. I've even had comments from knowledgeable people stating they never knew Specialized made touring bikes!

Last edited by n4zou; 05-24-08 at 06:40 PM.
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