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  1. #1
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    Suggestions for converting my hybrid for touring:

    I decided to get a bicycle about 2 years ago for commuting/short rides. I figured I was going to be getting a mountain bike because that's all I ever had (crappy Wal-Mart ones) and didn't think I'd be comfortable on a road bike. The salesperson thought a hybrid would be something I would like considering what I would be using it for. I never knew anything like hybrids existed and it was perfect for me... since then I have been riding all the time and have slowly been learning more about bikes.

    Recently I've started to want to take longer trips on my bike and was introduced to the world of touring. From what I have read and my (very) limited knowledge I think my bike could make a decent touring bike. It is a Specialized Crosstrail Sport and I haven't modded it at all since I got it.

    This is pretty much what it looks like now:


    I'm a somewhat poor college student so I plan on doing the upgrades bit by bit over the next year or so. I would rather save for better quality gear than skimp on inferior stuff that may not hold up, though.

    Where should I start? I think changing the handlebars and adding front and back racks will be the first thing I do. What do y'all recommend? Would this bike work for long trips if maintained? Any major changes necessary for the bike besides picking out panniers, new seat, things like that? I have noticed it appears to have slots for adding a rack on the back, but haven't noticed anything on the front wheel. Is it possible/expensive/bad for the bike to put a front rack on this bike?

    I'm sure y'all are flooded with questions like this... but, I couldn't find much on converting a hybrid... mainly just on bikes specifically built for touring. Thanks for the help!
    Last edited by Skjellyfetti; 05-15-09 at 01:33 PM.

  2. #2
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    There have been many threads on hybrid conversions but sometimes the search function isn't all it can be.

    Drop bars require drop levers and you will need a v brake compatible model, travel adjusters, or a swap to cantis.

    Bar end shifters or Brifters can handle the shifting duties with Brifters being far more expensive and more susceptible to being damaged and when that happens you can lose your brake and shifter in one fell swoop.

    Bar end shifters are far more robust.

    Obligatory pic of my converted Trek 7500...



    I went the route of using cantis and bar end shifters with regular drop levers as all these parts are pretty easily serviced and spares can be obtained rather easily. With cantis you also need the proper hangars or in my case, I modified some existing hangers.

    The Trek is comfortable, fast, and has been totally bombproof and I figure it has logged more than 8000 km since the initial build and it has seen some pretty severe use.

  3. #3
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    Hi,

    The main downside of converting your bike into a touring bike is the front suspension. You probably won't be able to add a rack to carry a second pair of panniers on the fork, so you'll be limited in how much you can carry. Replacing the suspension with a rigid fork is possible, but might be a bit expensive, and it might mess up the geometry of your bike, since it was designed for a suspension. Then again, ask around - your LBS might be able to obtain generic chromoly forks for $20-25 if you're lucky.

    If I wanted to use that bike for touring, I'd add a rear rack, a pair of full fenders, a front basket (like a Wald 933) or a handlebar bag, and a pair of good lights rear and front. A big spendy item is of course the panniers.

    I'm not a fan of flat handlebars, and the cost of a drop-bar conversion is quite high ($150-200) - I'd suggest trekking bars, which are inexpensive ($20-25) and compatible with your existing shifters and brake levers.


    I find them quite comfortable for long distances. You might need a new stem with a 25.4mm clamp area if your current handlebars have an oversize 31.8mm clamp area. You'll also need some handlebar tape to wrap the trekking bars with.

    I myself did such a touring conversion on my hybrid, which used to look like this:


    It served me well on tour once modified with a rigid fork



    Or, here it is with another stem and no touring load, on the morning I rode back home 252km in 12 hours. The angle of the handlebars is a bit radical on that picture, I tilted it backwards (more level) a few km into the ride.


    The conversion was somewhat expensive, very labor intensive, and in the end the rear wheel was too weak for reliable touring with such a high load. I had to repair many spokes.

    But I still toured thousands of kms with a heavy load, on a converted hybrid. My main gripe is that the LBS didn't bother to fit me on the bike, and sold me a model that was too small. Their lack of professionalism bothers me to this day. The stock seatpost wasn't even tall enough to let me reach a proper leg extension while riding.

    My advice would be to make sure that the bike fits you well enough that you can get comfortable on it for long periods. Go on a few long rides before considering converting the bike for touring.

  4. #4
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I always forget about trekking bars.. they are a great option.

    The suspension fork is also a liability but you can get suspension corrected rigid forks.

  5. #5
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    I tour on a hybrid.

    Get bar end extensions or trekking bars (my preference) to give yourself more hand positions. Nashbar sells trekking bars for about $20 but I can't seem to find the item on their website.

    Does your fork have lockout? Mine doesn't, but I never had any trouble using the cheap Nashbar front rack ($20). A rigid fork would save you some weight and complexity. Good rear racks can be had for around $40. If you get big enough rear panniers you may not even need stuff on the front.

    If you're running the stock chainring and cassette you should have a low gear of about 22". That should be adequate unless you're touring in very mountainous or hilly areas.

    You may want to consider a beefier rear wheel. Or at least carry some spare spokes and know how to change them. If you're still running the stock 42mm tires you can go to something thinner and more suited to road use. I prefer 37mm Continental Travel Contacts but they are expensive.

    Saddle is a personal choice. Fenders would be nice. Good panniers are expensive. You may want to pick up a cheap set and see if this is something you really want to do before committing.

    It looks like the bike has room for 3 water bottle mounts and a long chainstay length to prevent heel strike. The bike designers have already considered this as a bike for touring. It's certainly better than what I'm using.

  6. #6
    Senior Member RepWI's Avatar
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    You can always pick up a Bob trailer and try that as an option to fully loading your hybred.

    You then would not need a front rack and the issue of broken spokes caused by over loading the back wheel may be a benefit.
    1974 Mizutani Super Seraph Road Bike
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skjellyfetti View Post

    I'm a somewhat poor college student so I plan on doing the upgrades bit by bit over the next year or so. I would rather save for better quality gear than skimp on inferior stuff that may not hold up, though.
    With that philosophy, a good one in fact, minimize your spending on the hybrid and start saving for dedicated touring machine. A rear rack and large rear panniers are really all you need to get started with the hybrid. Buy the best you can afford and transfer both to the tourer when you can afford one. Don't invest much at all in modifying the hybrid. The cost will quickly add up and it'll never be as satisfactory as say a Long Haul Trucker or Trek 520.

    Acquire some basic maintenance skills. How to patch/change tubes, adjust brakes, clean and oil chain, adjust deralleurs, install a temporary Fiber Fix spoke. Then get on the bike and head out.

  8. #8
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Old Man Mountain makes front racks that will fit on a suspension fork.

    I would try a long ride on the hybrid, see how it feels after 50-60 miles. If it feels comfortable and you keep it in good shape, it would be fine as a touring bike.

    I concur that trekking bars will be a more convenient upgrade than drop bars.

  9. #9
    Slowpoach
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    Rear rack and long Profile barends. Touring conversion for 40 bucks.

    Forget about making big changes especially if money is tight. The bike is fine for touring. Get some barends and a rack, travel light, if you find something is a problem you'll know what to change next time.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    Just keep the current bike as a fun bike. Find a decent condition, older steel framed, rigid fork MTB in Craigslist (they can be had for <$100 depending on your luck), add a Trekking bar, racks, fenders and you're done.
    Here's mine

    I still have to rig up some bottle cages and buy a new pair of pedals, but so far I have spent $200, including the bike. Add-on parts are mostly bought from ebay and LBS.

    If you must use the current one, I say, just buy a Trekking bar and racks.

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