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  1. #1
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    Total newbie. Planning a tour. Mtb conversion questions!

    Hello! So maybe it's a little premature, but I'm planning on doing a tour next summer. This will be my first-ever tour.I've been reading a lot on this forum, just joined recently but have been reading a lot, and I love all the help and knowledge there is here!

    So my question is, what should I check for on my bike to ensure it's worthwhile doing a conversion?

    One of the biggest hurdles for me in planning this trip is cost. And that is mainly the cost of the bike. I've been researching bikes on ebay and craigslist, and have seen bikes from $500 (even with racks etc.) and way on up as you know. I was given a Trek 930 by a friend who moved. I have read that it's possible to do a tour on a mountain bike, and only recently did I decide that I should start looking into converting this guy.
    (seen it done here, http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ing-conversion, and I've seen other posts of Trek mtb conversions to touring bikes.)

    What sort of things should I look for on the bike to see if certain parts need replacing or to make sure it will hold up for the tour if it doesn't need replacing?


    And how much really is it to convert to drop bars? I'm looking for a range starting from the lowest of the low, if I got ALL used parts, and then on up to ALL new, say if I bought them from REI or a pricey specialty bike shop. There's a great LBS in my neighborhood that sells used parts for $5, I could get handlebars for that. But I'd have to buy (presumably new) shifters, brake levers, cables.....what else??? I think I have seen some people discuss getting butterfly or trekking bars and using the same shifters I have on the bike. Is this possible? (remember be easy on my I'm a newbie!) I REALLY hate the flat handlebars I have, super uncomfortable. I love the drops I have on my old 10-spd. Never used trekking bars. So I'm not sure of how they will feel.


    If you have converted your mtb to a tourer, what did you have to do and what was the cost?

    ~As far as I can tell, all the gears work (recently worked on them at LBS), although the derailleurs could use some fine tuning by a professional.
    ~I have put on new(ish) tires, that are smooth in the middle and have knobbies on the outsides.
    ~The wheels could use truing up (I will have to see how many spokes there are...but they appear to be the Trek wheels that came with the bike).

    I know I will need racks, panniers...etc etc etc...Since it's a first tour, and I'm a huge proponent of thrifting and re-using things I am not going to buy top of the line NEW retail price stuff unless I cannot absolutely find it at LBS, Craigslist, from friends, etc. So these things don't need to factor in. I'm just talking what I need to do about the bike.

    Oh yeah, I'm planning on riding from Maryland to the Outer Banks, NC. About 400 miles.

    Thanks!!!!

  2. #2
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    First off I'm a total touring NOOB also... I have been riding for about 6 years though mountain bike and road bike. I'm getting really close to heading out on my first tour (4 day 3 night). I've converted a 2006 Gary Fisher Disc brake mountain bike to tour with. I got the bike on Craigslist for $200 thinking If I had another bike my friends would go riding with me more, if they had a good bike to ride. Well that worked for a little bit, then they stopped. So I decided to convert it into a touring bike.

    Anyway here is the link to my progress from start.... till now... (the link is in the southeast forum on here). Like I said I'm a total touring noob so i'm sure I made mistakes along the way in building it and getting it ready. I dunno what I'm doing.... but i'm doing it anyway and having fun....

    I went with ergon grips with adjustable bar ends instead of changing handlebars and all of the stuff that entails...

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...irst-bike-tour...

    Jay........
    "If you see me walking, my bike is busted!!"
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    2006 Gary Fisher Tassajara Disc soon to be converted to a touring bike... I think... (Converted)
    2003 Gary Fisher Tassajara Sold, went to a friend who still rides it!!
    Gone but not forgotten 2003 Gary Fisher Sugar 3+

  3. #3
    Senior Member pasopia's Avatar
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    What do you hate about your current bars? What do you like about the drop bars on the other bike? Many times what you like about a certain bar has more to do with how the bike fits overall, than the handlebar itself.

    One thing that can make flat bars much more comfortable for touring would be to add ergons with bar ends:

    http://www.jensonusa.com/store/produ...ipbar+End.aspx

    Trekking bars are a good cheap option, you should be able to keep all your exsiting levers and shifters, but you would have more hand placement options.

    I wouldn't bother putting drops on the bike, it will probably end up costing too much to be worth it.
    My 2010-2011 tour from Argentina to Ecuador:
    http://awesomebiketour.tumblr.com/

  4. #4
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    What kind of touring? On or off road? If it were me...

    First, I'd forget converting to drop bars. You'd have to buy new shifters ($$$$) and a front derailer ($). Price-wise, I think you'd be better off getting a touring bike up front.

    Second, IIRC the 930 is fully rigid, right? No front suspension? If so, check and see if there's eyelets for racks; front and rear if possible. You don't really need mid-fork mounts, but you really do want mounts on the rear drop-outs and the bottom of the front fork. If you've got a suspension fork, you'll have to work with Old Man Mountain racks. You can use P-clamps for the top of any racks.

    Third, I'd look into full slicks, or as close as you can get, for the tires. Assuming you'll be riding mostly on the roads, those knobs only give you a perineum massage.

    Fourth, I'd see if you could fit some bar ends. I do like being able to move to different hand positions on my drop-bar touring bike; bar ends are a start in that direction for mountain bikes. You might check with your bike shop about trekking or bullhorn bars -- same principal, give you more hand positions while keeping your shifters.

    Have a great ride!

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Trekking Bars offer a variety of hand positions, but the Existing MTB controls
    swap over easily.
    drop bars also offer a variety of hand position changes,
    but you have to change many parts..

    the differences near and far on the same level, versus up and down..

    trekking bar's figure 8 bend, offer a continuous curve,
    bar end like shapes just part of it.

    Ergon GC3 is almost as good as trekking bars, broad flat surface for the grip.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 09-23-11 at 11:46 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    Your first tour will be a great learning experience. Patch together a collection of second hand stuff then go on tour. After the tour decide what you don't like, and think will be more suitable. Make changes. If you find out you don't like touring, you haven't mortgaged the house to get equiped.

    If your plan is to ride across America, or something else grand, make a few test tours of 2 to 4 days close to home to iron out the wrinkles in your kit.
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

  7. #7
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Has was mentioned. The drop bar ends from Origin 8 are pretty good also. But I've also tried the Ergon bar ends with the comfort grips and also give them a thumbs up.

    http://www.amazon.com/Origin-Bicycle...6826309&sr=8-3

    You can either keep the grips on your mountain bike or remove them and take bar tape and wrap around the Origin 8 bar ends and the handlebar. This set up also allows you to keep your brakes where they are now.

  8. #8
    Senior Member mtnbud's Avatar
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    I found some pics of others who used Trek 930's. The big things to check are bike fit and making sure your heels don't hit your rear panniers. The handle bars may be feeling uncomfortable if the top tube is too long, or handle bars too low. A shorter or taller stem could remedy that. Ideally, have someone who knows about bike fit take a look at you on the bike.

    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/image/83946500
    http://bikesncoffee.wordpress.com/bi...1996-trek-930/
    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/192/trek930a.jpg/
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  9. #9
    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    Try out a trekking bar first, a used one could be pretty cheap.

    A cheap way to convert to drop bars is to use stem-mounted shifters, either buy a donor-bike with them for cheap or look on ebay, etc. for a used drop bar with shifters and brake levers already on it. Some people like flat-bar vintage road bikes (not me!) so you could likely slap your MTB stuff on the donor bike and sell it to break even.

    The bars can usually drop right on an MTB with cantilevers... of course I spend some money on SS cables and new housings at this point. I've had good experiences with friction shifters and modern cassettes. If you have 20$ to spare good modern tektro levers are a big upgrade to vintage stuff. Kool-stop pads for the old cantis too.

    Gearing on the bike might be great for touring without making any big changes to it, so there are a couple of thoughts on a bare-bones approach I've had some success with.

  10. #10
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    A few years ago, I bought a Trek 950 frame off ebay and decided to build it up as a tourer with drop bars (pic below). This was not particularly successful despite having a fairly loose budget. The problem is that with quill-stemmed mtb's of this era, headtubes are short and getting a drop bar up high enough limits your stem options to one: a Nitto Dirt Drop. These only come in two sizes and are not likely laying around your LBS for $5.

    I could never get comfortable on the bike (reach too short) and, in the end, bought a 26" LHT frame and moved all the parts over. I'd stick with the bars you have since you have a complete bike. +1 on the bar ends, or Ergons, or trekking bars. Good luck!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  11. #11
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    There are several community bicycle collectives in Colorado. There are a couple in Denver and Boulder. There's one in Golden. My advice to you is to take your bike there so that you will have access to expert advice, first hand. You might also have access to parts or components that you wouldn't ordinarily have the opportunity to witness. Also, before touring, I would make certain that my basic bicycle mechanical skills are up to par. I would also make certain that my physical condition is optimal.

    I would invest in an exercise bicycle and ride it for at least 2 hrs. daily. I would find a steep hill and practice going up and down it every weekend. I would also remember, that the number one issue when touring is comfort. Nothing can end a tour more quickly than pain and discomfort.

    MTN bikes are made for the mountains. Converting them into comfortable touring bikes can be a real challenge.

    There's nothing like preparation...

    Good Luck!

    -Slim

  12. #12
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    maipenrai, The older rigid mountain bikes make excellent touring/all around bikes, IMHO.

    What to check? Depending on your bicycle mechanical skills either gut the bike for a complete inspection and re lube or have the bike shop do this.
    Drop handle bars? Least expensive option: Buy some that you like and use bar end shifters. Ride around to determine what you'll need to get the fit right before you install bar tape. You may need to change stems and an adjustable stem may help. Because drop bars have a different diameter than flat bars you'll also need a set of brake levers, cables and cable housing.

    I used tires similar to what you describe on my first mini tour using my mountain bike and they worked better than I expected. There are also racks that can be used on a fork that lacks a mid mount.

    Have fun.

    Brad

  13. #13
    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pexio View Post
    The problem is that with quill-stemmed mtb's of this era, headtubes are short and getting a drop bar up high enough limits your stem options to one: a Nitto Dirt Drop. These only come in two sizes and are not likely laying around your LBS for $5.
    There are a few lower end options out there, sunlite cheapo stem is tall and short reach. There are other ones for sale on amazon as well and likely any LBS could order something similar to it. Sakae made stems with reach like a dirt-drop too, my 1980s norco sasquatch came with one which is something to look out for if you're buying an mtb with the intent to convert it.

  14. #14
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    for converting a mtn bike with quill stem to drop bars I'd get a converter so clamp-on stems can be used. There's a greater variety and they're usually more rigid than a big piece of aluminum quill stem.

  15. #15
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Rigid mtb's make great touring bikes. My Specialized Hard Rock is very similar to that 930, and it works well as a touring bike. The first tour I did was just 225 miles, so I rode it (actually one just like it) as is - flat bars, platform pedals, off-road tires, the whole bit. Didn't want to invest a bunch of money in it if I didn't really enjoy it, and figured I could ride anything that far. It got me where I wanted to go and did it without a single hiccup.

    I lost that bike but replaced it with an identical one, just a few years newer. It's fully converted now, but really that didn't happen overnight. I added trekking bars, front/rear racks, SPD pedals, Brooks saddle, touring tires, fenders, V-brakes, and lights. But I did several tours and took several years during that process. Change the things you absolutely know you don't like (the handlebars) and just go ride. Four hundred miles is not a long tour, and you will learn from that what else you might want to change, if anything.
    Last edited by simplygib; 09-25-11 at 08:07 PM.

  16. #16
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    You can tour on pretty much anything with wheels. Just see if you can mount decent racks on your bike, and get some gear holding contraptions and you're pretty much set.

    I tour with a paratrooper, rear rack and panniers, and a backpack... I've seen people with wal mart bikes and frame packs, and I once saw a guy on a unicycle in Oregon. I wouldn't worry too much about your equipment outside of how safe it is to use.

  17. #17
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    You don't say were your neighborhood in Colorado is but if you are in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver (or in Denver in general), I know that there are several sets of barend shifters at the Bike Depot that could be used for your conversion. I have no idea how many speeds they have. You could even use the shop on Saturday and Sunday for fixing your bike. Or you could sign up for their classes. I think the Master Mechanics class is full (check on line) but I believe there are openings for the wheel building class.
    Last edited by cyccommute; 09-27-11 at 09:31 AM.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    You can tour on just about anything, and you can probably tour very well on a 930. I better preface my comments with a disclaimer: I have not converted a mountain bike for touring. However, I have quite a bit of touring experience, have a Trek 820, and have taken a special interest in what the people I meet are riding. I did this primarily based on curiosity and the opinions experessed in this forum. I wanted something to either support or corrrect my perceptions.

    I just returned from a 3 month ride trough Europe, and about 90% of loaded touring bikes I encountered were mountain bikes (based on 100 bike sample). Only about 3% of the bikes had drop bars. Several cyclist I met were getting 80 mile days in hilly terrain on their mountain bikes. I met a guy with his son in Germany who was touring on a 1945 vintage bike! So touring specific bikes don't seem to be as popular or necessary in other parts of the world. During that period I only saw about a dozen bikes that resemble the ones most often discussed on this forum, LHT, 520 etc.

    My Trek 820 is my "utility" bike, and while I have not toured on it, feel that it would make a decent touring bike. I have pulled our fully loaded grocery trailer, and panniers loaded with groceries uphill from the store, which gave me a feel for how it might feel on a tour. The gearing is a little high, but it rolls along well with 1.25 slick tires. A tire like the Schwabe Marathon with a non-agressive tread would probably work well. It has decent components, eyelets for racks and fenders, and is sturdy. I picked this 1993 model up last year still in its original packing box. I couldn't pass it up. If this was the only bike that I had, I would not hesitate to use it for touring. I think your 930 is even a better bike than my 820.

    I think the recommendation by one of the other posters on this thread to ride it for a few short tours before changing anything is a good one. Or as cyclocommute said,
    Change the things you absolutely know you don't like (the handlebars) and just go ride. Four hundred miles is not a long tour, and you will learn from that what else you might want to change, if anything.
    Good luck in what whatever route you decide to follow.

    Sometimes it might even be an advantage to be riding a mountain bike
    Last edited by Doug64; 09-26-11 at 11:04 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member
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    There is a description with pics at the bottom of the following link...
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...oc_id=6090&v=e
    of my mtn bike touring setup. I now have a Brooks saddle which has made the bike a lot more comfortable on longer days on the bike.

    I think the most important things to look for on a mtn bike are the attachments for the panniers. Lugs on the rear are important, but not so on the front as my setup shows.

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