New member needing some advice
Hi, I'm new to touring and have spent the last week or two reading up on the advice on the forums, and was hoping you guys could shoot some my way. I was hoping to start doing some 2-3 day mini tours in my area and eventually some week long tours. I was thinking about buying a bike, but a buddy gave me an old Trek 830 MTB he had lying around. The bike is in great condition except the tires are dry rotted, so it seemed a good idea to convert it. I searched the forums and found a few who had done the conversion on an 830 and it has gotten me pretty excited about it.
The problem is I have very little experience with anything other than MTBs and BMX bikes. I know I will need a back and possibly front rack, some fenders, new bars, tires, brakes, shifters, and possibly gearing. I was hoping for opinions on brands for some of these and if the stock gearing is good or should it be replaced. I'll also be using it as a daily rider for going to work, store, and gym. I destroyed two "el cheapo" MTBs in the past year just riding them on the road, because of that I'm not worried about spending money on it as long as it will hold up (learned my lesson about cheap components after packing a not-so-light bike 3 miles). The 2 bike stores I have close at hand specialize in BMX and road bikes, so they are not much help for touring equipment. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Save yourself a headache and get a BOB trailer. As your components fail, replace with components that are appropriate for your intended type of touring. For example, if you plan to stay primarily on asphalt, buy slick tires. Your 28/38/48 crankset / 12 - 28 rear COGS is not as low as a "modern" mountain bike, but it should be OK for touring.
Frankly, if you plan to tour only on anything that is or used to be a road, and you decide that you're serious about bike touring, I would save up for a LHT (or equivalent) with modern componentry rather than try to invest good money to convert a used 830. In the interim, you can enjoy touring and gain lots of experience to figure out for youself what you want by riding the 830.
If the bike works I wouldn't change all of that. The components on there are probably fine unless they don't work right. I would get new tires, probably slicks if your doing mostly on road riding, a rear rack, maybe a front rack, probably some fenders, and some bar ends for more hand positions and just ride it and change stuff as needed.
As you noted many folks use old mountain bikes as tourers because the work well. If the bike is old, I would disassemble and clean it (bottom bracket, hubs, etc.) then add new grease. If you are not familiar with bicycle mechanical aspects, I recommend you disassemble the bike yourself since that will help you learn how to repair the bike when on the road.
That bike should have a triple crank with a low of about 28. Not sure about the rear cassette, but if the largest sprocket in back is equal to or less than your smallest in front, I recommend getting a new cassette (and chain) with a mega-range 34 largest sprocket to make climbing hills easier. I also recommend replacing the derailleur and brake cables/housing, replace the brake pads (Kool-stop makes excellent pads). Remove the seat post and add grease there too to help reduce likelihood of the post freezing in your frame (couple of recent posts here report that problem). For tires, Schwalbe seems to make the most popular touring tires, and get yourself a few spare tubes as well. Also check that the spokes are tight in the rim; loose spokes will break and that is a hassle on tour. If you do remove the bottom bracket, I recommend replacing it with a sealed cartridge type as that type is much easier to install (and maintenance is simply replacing it when needed).
Whether you add racks or go with a trailer is up to you. If you go with racks, inexpensive racks can work fine or better quality is recommended if you are sure this is something you plan to do for some time.