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  1. #1
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    List of ideal mountain bike frames for touring

    I'm hoping to compile a list of 80s and 90s mountain bike frames that would make ideal touring conversions.

    Lots of soon-to-be tourers are looking for cheap mountain bike frames to turn into touring bikes. From everything I have learned, mountain bikes seem to be a great alternative to a ~$1000 + touring specific bike. While lots of people have asked this question on different forums, I haven't been able to find a consolidated list of good candidate frames.

    For those of us scouring craigslist and ebay for a good find, it would be very helpful to have a list to go to so we would know what to look for.

    Some of the specs that seem to be important include:

    - 26 " wheels (for those touring outside of the first world) - preferably 36 spoke wheels and double walled
    - long chainstays (17.25" or longer) - necessary for those with big feet and rear panniers. Some say you can get away with shorter chainstays with smaller rear panniers and some other fancy tricks)
    - long top tubes (not necessary, depends on your body and bike gemometry)
    - Cantilever or v-brakes (preferably not U-brakes, hard to replace in third world - excludes '88 and '89 specialized ; many in this thread have said their U-brakes work just fine -make your own choice)
    - Front and back braze ons (the more the merrier)
    - steel (or thick aluminum)
    - rigid front and back
    - Nice components are obviously a plus (well known names: specialized, kona, Trek, Marin, etc.)

    Please list mountain bike with models and years that you believe make a good touring candidates either from personal experience or from what you know about the specs. It's difficult to find chainstay lengths for lots of these older models.

    I'll update the list on this first post as people add them.

    THANKS!



    List of mountain bike frames that are ideal for touring purposes

    80s and early 90s Bridgestone MB-1, MB-2, MB-3, MB-4, or MB-5, CB-0 (chainstays begin to shorten up a bit in late 80s)
    1999 Specialized Hardrock Comp
    1995, 1998 Specialized Hardrock Sport
    Early 90s and 80s Trek 850s, 900s, 970s, 980s, 990s (88s and 89s will have chainstay ubrakes)
    80's-early 90s Specialized Stumpjumpers
    80's-early 90s Specialized Rockhoppers
    Pre 1993 GT Timberline, Tequesta, and Avalanche
    1985 Peugeot Canyon Express - 18.5 " Chainstays
    80s KHS montana
    1986 Schwinn Cimarron
    1985 Schwinn High Sierra
    1992 Raleigh Technium mtb
    Ross 1000 (early 90s)
    1992 Klien Pinnacle
    1983-1993 Jamis Dakota (I ended up with an '83 - nearly identical geometry to a modern Surly LHT w/18 inch chainstays)

    Cheap non-MTB option:

    Nashbar touring frame - can be bought for around $100 and makes a highly functional tourer on the cheap.
    Last edited by steltz02; 01-21-13 at 11:08 AM.

  2. #2
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    Surly Troll if you want to stick with 26'' wheels, or Ogre if don't mind 700c

  3. #3
    MJH
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    I really don't know if mine qualifies or not, but planning on fixing it up soon. A late 80's, I think, GT Avalanche. It's white with black splotches all over it. Haven't measured everything, but the chainstays are over 17. At least I think they are. It does have a U brake on the rear. Why is that a problem?
    So, should it be on the list or not? Any info on the bike itself would be much appreciated.
    Mark

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I have a Koga Miyata WTR, was a world tour bike out of the box.
    you can pick one up, new, using Koga's signature program's built-to-order from menu plan.

    My Ice-winter bike was developed from an old 'stumpjumper sport' frame..
    acquired with a broken dropout, and no fork..

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ze_zaskar View Post
    Surly Troll if you want to stick with 26'' wheels, or Ogre if don't mind 700c
    Amazing bike for sure. I'm hoping for frames that can be picked up on ebay or craigslist for the $50-$250 range.

    Quote Originally Posted by MJH View Post
    I really don't know if mine qualifies or not, but planning on fixing it up soon. A late 80's, I think, GT Avalanche. It's white with black splotches all over it. Haven't measured everything, but the chainstays are over 17. At least I think they are. It does have a U brake on the rear. Why is that a problem?
    So, should it be on the list or not? Any info on the bike itself would be much appreciated.
    If you don't mind take some measurements and post them.

    The rear U-brake isn't really a 'problem' it's just not ideal (only from what I've read, not experienced) for touring for several reasons. 1.) U-brakes are hard to find at bike shops in the US and even more difficult in the third world making replacing them difficult. You need to bring an extra one with you and if that one goes down, you're out of luck. (obviously not likely, but you want to have the ability to replace all parts) 2.) Due to the U-brake geometry as the pads start to wear, they move closer and closer to the tire and must be repositioned or replaced or they will bite into the tire and ruin it. (easily alleviated with proper maintenance). 3.) Due to their placement they get filled with mud in messy riding situations and drastically lose stopping power.

    Once again, this is not from personal experience, only from what I have read.

  6. #6
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    I considered a Vintage MTB 2 years ago, but went 29er for about the same money.

    These bikes had rigid frames and forks during the first 3-5 years or production.

    Trek 930 (AKA: Singletrack) see http://www.bikepedia.com/quickbike/B...e#.UNc4lY7FU00

    Specialized Rockhopper see http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...e#.UNc5aI7FU00

    Also see: Show Your Vintage MTB Drop Bar Conversions http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...light=mountain
    Last edited by Barrettscv; 12-23-12 at 10:16 AM.
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    I have a '93 Giant ATX 760 that I've toured on. It has no front fork braze-ons for a low-rider type rack, but I use a Blackburn low rider rack which came with "U" bolts - no problem.

  8. #8
    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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  9. #9
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Last edited by Barrettscv; 12-23-12 at 11:05 AM.
    2014 Trek DS.1: "Viaggiatore" A do-it-all bike that is waiting in Italy
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  10. #10
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    steltz02, Your third item, a long top tube, isn't always what's desired for a drop bar conversion. Generally any of the late '80s and much through the '90s rigid mountain bikes make excellent candidates for a touring conversion...I don't think listing all of the manufacturers and the different models would be an easy task to complete so good luck. After that period there are many hybrids that could be candidates as a tourer.

    Brad

  11. #11
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    Great replies so far. I will get the list going soon.

    I know most of your bikepedia links include the year, but if you can also list that in the post for specifics, it would be great.

  12. #12
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steltz02 View Post
    The rear U-brake isn't really a 'problem' it's just not ideal (only from what I've read, not experienced) for touring for several reasons. 1.) U-brakes are hard to find at bike shops in the US and even more difficult in the third world making replacing them difficult. You need to bring an extra one with you and if that one goes down, you're out of luck. (obviously not likely, but you want to have the ability to replace all parts) 2.) Due to the U-brake geometry as the pads start to wear, they move closer and closer to the tire and must be repositioned or replaced or they will bite into the tire and ruin it. (easily alleviated with proper maintenance). 3.) Due to their placement they get filled with mud in messy riding situations and drastically lose stopping power.

    Once again, this is not from personal experience, only from what I have read.
    I've had a couple of bikes with chainstay U-brakes and a couple with seatstay U-brakes. As noted above the chainstay ones are a big problem in the mud.

    However, I've not found availability in the US to be a problem. Any shop that caters to BMXers to any extent will likely have a brake that would fit (not all U-brakes will work under-chainstay).
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  13. #13
    Senior Member fettsvenska's Avatar
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    Does anybody have experience with Nashbar frames? You can get a brand new frame and fork for $150. These frames are aluminum and not steel but at that price maybe it is a reasonable concession.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by fettsvenska View Post
    Does anybody have experience with Nashbar frames? You can get a brand new frame and fork for $150. These frames are aluminum and not steel but at that price maybe it is a reasonable concession.
    OT, but here: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ing-bike-build .

    Brad

  15. #15
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    I considered a Vintage MTB 2 years ago, but went 29er for about the same money.
    How did that work. Vintage MTBs can usually be picked up for $50 here. Put $50 worth of tires on and Bam!

    $100 niner probably stolen or not very nice
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  16. #16
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    How did that work. Vintage MTBs can usually be picked up for $50 here. Put $50 worth of tires on and Bam!

    $100 niner probably stolen or not very nice
    My niner is not stolen or even vintage. It's all-new for about $800.00. Frameset: $250, Crankset: $70, Wheelset: $120...

    ....The brifters were about $110... The spirit is the same: Fully rigid and larger tires. By the time you bring a vintage bike road-worthy for a longer tour, the cost rises to this level IMO.

    Last edited by Barrettscv; 12-23-12 at 01:22 PM.
    2014 Trek DS.1: "Viaggiatore" A do-it-all bike that is waiting in Italy
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  17. #17
    MJH
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    Ok. Top tube on the Avalanche is 22-23". Not exactly sure where to measure. The chainstays are 16.5". I guess that could be too short for me & panniers. I do wear a size 12 shoe. I still think I'm going to do a drop bar conversion. Pretty sure I have the parts I need & I think it'll be a fun bike.
    Mark

  18. #18
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MJH View Post
    I really don't know if mine qualifies or not, but planning on fixing it up soon. A late 80's, I think, GT Avalanche. It's white with black splotches all over it. Haven't measured everything, but the chainstays are over 17. At least I think they are. It does have a U brake on the rear. Why is that a problem?
    So, should it be on the list or not? Any info on the bike itself would be much appreciated.
    My touring bike is an 88 or 89 GT Timberline. It originally came with the U-brake underneath. Together with a friend, in his shop, I sliced off the mounts for it and welded on canti posts in the usual place. Since then I've heard some folks say those U-brakes are quite powerful if set up right. If you aren't using it for mountain biking and can get it set up right you should just keep the u-brake. I can see why they went away from the design for mountain biking, you are likely to smack it on logs and rocks as you go over them.

    I love my GT Timberline for touring. It's got quite long chainstays and is very stable loaded.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

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    Older GT mountain bikes would be very good. Tequestra would be one in addition to the Timberline and Avalanche.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steltz02 View Post
    Great replies so far. I will get the list going soon.

    I know most of your bikepedia links include the year, but if you can also list that in the post for specifics, it would be great.
    Bikepedia doesn't go far enough back to cover my '88 GT Timberline. I suspect that a lot of the bikes that fall under the parameters you are looking for are too old for Bikepedia.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  21. #21
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    I had a Trek 830 from about the same time that worked out great. I'd probably still have it if I hadn't loaned it to a neighbor boy who promptly had it stolen

  22. #22
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    The U-brake at bottom bracket was done in 1988 and I think 1987. By 1989, the move was to a higher placement or to cantilever brakes.

    A lot of the bikes from the early 1990s and before are great candidates for touring as they had incredibly durable frames. Get one into good running condition and it will take you far.

    There is one potential problem with the older mountain bikes. Some of the sizes which were standard at the time they were built are no longer common. I once needed a piece for the headset of a bike of that vintage, but most bike shops in my area did not have anything which would fit. Later, when I needed to replace an aging bottom bracket unit, I had to special order the part as the shops did not carry the size I needed. The good news is that these things do not tend to fail on tour, so if the bike is maintained before you leave, it should not cause any grief.
    Life is good.

  23. #23
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    old schwinn steel frame mtb's.

    i got a schwinn high plains (previous posts i incorrectly called it a sierra, but it's been in a
    box in the attic for six years ) NOS on ebay. built it up with all XT components, except
    for the old-fangled suntour thumb shifters. wheels custom built with phil hubs and sun
    rhynolites.

    not sure of the year (late 80's?). frame size would be 20/21" with 23-1/2" top tube , and
    16-3/4" chain stays. they're long enough for my size 12's and panniers.

    as long as the frame is solid and fits well, i'd rather put my money into the components.
    Last edited by saddlesores; 12-23-12 at 10:40 PM. Reason: i have a lovely bunch of coconuts

  24. #24
    fks
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    1999 Specialized Hardrock Comp. I just replaced all the components including a new wheelset.
    http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...Comp&Type=bike115_1509.jpg

    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/image/89575859
    Last edited by fks; 12-24-12 at 02:36 PM. Reason: Adding Image link

  25. #25
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    1985 Peugeot Canyon Express. 18.5" chainstays, 3 water bottles, dual eyelets front and rear, even a full size pump peg behind the seat tube. I bought my first for 40 bix out of a thrift store, then looked for a few years (6) before I found my 2nd, which I paid 200 for from a local online listing service. Pics are in order:







    Ishiwata MTB double butted 4130 Cro-Mo frame, and they both ride like an absolute dream!

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