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  1. #1
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    utilitizing (?) an old bike

    I have been wanting to build a grocery getter/bar hopper/picnic carrying/do anything bike for a little while now, but I've been lacking the frame to start from. I just acquired what will now take over as my "good" bike, the light, fast one. So now I have an old lower end motobecane 10 speed just waiting to be made into something. I have a few mtb cranksets and Dr's, so i'm thinking about throwing the triple on there and getting some extra low end grunt since the actual output from my legs cant be changed as easily. My only concern is the frame may be a bit big for this type of thing as its not going to be easy to get on with anything packed on the rear rack higher than the seat as the frame is already a touch too big for me I fear. I have a line on a complete MTB also...is that a better way to go? It would see some light gravel use, mainly paved paths, the occasional dirt road and field...but I'd like it to be versatile. I think I am already answering myself

  2. #2
    Senior Member CliffordK's Avatar
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    It is up to you. I often have too much stuff behind the seat, and manage to get on and off just fine (also with higher than normal top tubes). Once in a while kicking the load getting on, but rarely getting off. Anyway, you should be able to get used to a rack and load of cargo on a road bike.

    The one comment is that when I built a cargo bike out of an old Steyr Clubman, somehow I got a little extra flex in it, which becomes an annoying vibration at times, made worse by not quite getting the frame straight. Perhaps the answer is a bit sturdier OS tubing (MTB).

  3. #3
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    I'm never going to recommend riding a too-big frame, and doing so with frequent start/stops and carrying a load... seems like a particularly bad idea.

    Having said that, as far as mounting a loaded bike, a tandem method is to raise your leg forward over the handlebars instead of the saddle. Takes a bit of practice, but works well enough. Again, it probably won't work on a too-big frame.

    Old rigid MTBs make very versatile platforms, and can be had for cheap. Some even have ample lugs for fenders/racks. Another route, if vintage road bikes are an interest, is a mixte.
    This has to be a tie between re-frozen slushy uneven dirty ice stuff just right of the nicely plowed pavement, and super-glassy ice with a dusting of fresh powder - SalshShark

  4. #4
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    I say too big, but really it's by 2 cm or so and I've been riding it safely and comfortably for months now. I live in a hilly area, with lots of intersections in my immediate vicinity. I think based on what this bike would be used for a more upright riding position would be best, so flat or bars with only a slight rise would work. I would like a rear rack, maybe some panniers to go with my rack top bag, and possibly a rack up front for when I have extra cargo or something I want to keep an eye on.

  5. #5
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    I'm happy with a MTB conversion that performs well and was cheap to build. The Trek was 50.00 with frozen cables and rotten tires. I put on 26 x 2.0 tires off a Electra Townie and added a new rack. I already had a used rear fender and I made a front fender by heating up some scrap sheet plastic with a heat *** and forming it over the tire. My total investment is around 130.00 bucks and it came scratched up so I don't worry about leaning it against a pole to lock it up. The front shocks are nice for occasional curb hopping...

    bikes-8870.jpg

  6. #6
    Senior Member auldgeunquers's Avatar
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    I would go with the MTB for a utility build. My most versatile bike is a Raleigh "hybrid" which is basically an aluminium MTB frame with 26" road tires. Very sturdy bike with lots of gearing options when loaded or trailer pulling.

    I also have a utility build based on a steel Velo Sport Cavalier 12 (early 80's I think?). I have racks and fenders front and back on that bike along with upright bars. The bike has become one of my favourite rides, BUT ... I have also found that with any more than a very light load on the front rack, the whole front end develops an unacceptable flex that I did not notice without a front load. So it needs at least a front wheel upgrade, and maybe a fork swap. It is not up to heavy duty utility use without further work.

    Also it could use more gear range for hills, and while I have bought a mega range Shimano freewheel to go on it, that may also lead to a new derailleur, eh?

    Also - the V-brakes on the Raleigh MTB based utility ride are much stronger than the side pulls in the Velo Sport - another upgrade waiting to happen.

    Bottom line - for heavy duty use the MTB based bike has more going for it from the go. With the Velo Sport road bike utility build, each step in it's build has revealed another weakness that needs attention.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by auldgeunquers View Post
    I would go with the MTB for a utility build. My most versatile bike is a Raleigh "hybrid" which is basically an aluminium MTB frame with 26" road tires. Very sturdy bike with lots of gearing options when loaded or trailer pulling.

    I also have a utility build based on a steel Velo Sport Cavalier 12 (early 80's I think?). I have racks and fenders front and back on that bike along with upright bars. The bike has become one of my favourite rides, BUT ... I have also found that with any more than a very light load on the front rack, the whole front end develops an unacceptable flex that I did not notice without a front load. So it needs at least a front wheel upgrade, and maybe a fork swap. It is not up to heavy duty utility use without further work.

    Also it could use more gear range for hills, and while I have bought a mega range Shimano freewheel to go on it, that may also lead to a new derailleur, eh?

    Also - the V-brakes on the Raleigh MTB based utility ride are much stronger than the side pulls in the Velo Sport - another upgrade waiting to happen.

    Bottom line - for heavy duty use the MTB based bike has more going for it from the go. With the Velo Sport road bike utility build, each step in it's build has revealed another weakness that needs attention.
    thats the way I've been heading mentally the more I think about it. A MTB as a base would have more advantages to start in my mind. Gearing for one, already a wider range than a 10 speed. The flex in the front end is probably also more relevant than I thought, especially with my one option an older french bike with a fairly flexible fork already. A hybrid might be the way to go if there's a screaming deal, would save me the tire purchase and would most likely live a much easier cleaner life before i get it

  8. #8
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    just for some inspiration here is my go to utility bike....

    Started life as a Nishki 12 speed circa 82

    it carries as much as i care to.

    I would suggest that a simple way to add hill ranges is put a wide range freewheel/cassette on and a rear derailler that can handle the range.

    I use cheap thumb shifters and they work great




    '82 Nishiski commuter/utility
    '83 Torpado Super Strada ... cafe commuter
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    Soma rush Fixie
    '78 Univega gran turismo (son's Fixie/SS)
    06 Haro x3 (son's bmx)
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    looking for: De Rosa 58cm ELOS frame and fork internal cable routing

  9. #9
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    That looks great! I am actually waiting to pick up a wheel set with a wide range 9 speed cassette and some 700x35's. That and one of the old MTB triples I have stashed should work great

  10. #10
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottrich411 View Post
    thats the way I've been heading mentally the more I think about it. A MTB as a base would have more advantages to start in my mind. Gearing for one, already a wider range than a 10 speed. The flex in the front end is probably also more relevant than I thought, especially with my one option an older french bike with a fairly flexible fork already. A hybrid might be the way to go if there's a screaming deal, would save me the tire purchase and would most likely live a much easier cleaner life before i get it
    Another advantage of MTBs is the easy availability of different tires. I use studded tires in the winter, knobbies in dry summer weather when I get off the pavement more, and higher-pressure slicks for most of the year because they're a little faster and safer on dry pavement.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  11. #11
    Senior Cyclist forresterace's Avatar
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    I've posted pictures of my Town/Shopping bike build before. It's a twenty year old no suspension mountain bike that's 7 speed and has a completely new drivetrain.

    Doug
    2008 Specialized Sirrus Comp (dropbar touring bike), 1988 Fiori Italia, 1990 Norco Bushpilot shopping bike, 1971 Claud Butler Tipo Stada (under resto)

  12. #12
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    The key to making an old bike work as a utility bike is tire/fender clearance. Ideally you want clearance for a reasonably fat tire and fenders. That way you can keep yourself clean (fenders) and go over most road surfaces without worrying too much about your line (that can be problematic sometimes in traffic).

    Used vintage mtbs work great because they have clearance for tires/fenders, eyelets, etc. and they're typically pretty cheap.

    I found a bridgestone BB-1 frame on CL when looking for a utility bike and I've been really happy with it as a commuter:


  13. #13
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    @bikemig, I never get tired of seeing that.

    Here is my 1995-ish Bianchi Volpe. It now has 37-mm-rated tires, Vittoria Voyager Hypers. They look and feel heavy but they are fast. The fenders do a good job of keeping me dry on most rainy days. I've installed a dynamo-powered lighting system by building a new front wheel. I run the lights day and night, just because I can, and because I don't feel the drag that the dynamo hub creates.

    I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter. --Blaise Pascal

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
    Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

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