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Mountain Bike for Commuting

Old 05-02-19, 09:54 PM
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EGBigelo
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Mountain Bike for Commuting

I've been posting over in the Hybrid forum because I'm in the market for a new bike. I'm a road bike rider primarily and looking for a commuter/all-arounder.

Now that warmer weather is coming, this year I have vowed to use my car as little as possible. So I will be commuting to work, running errands, grocery shopping and stuff like that with this new bike.

I'm still debating the front suspension or not (like a Trek DS), but came across the Giant Talon 3. It's basically a hybrid with a bit more travel in the fork and wider tire, but labeled as a mountain bike.

Does anyone commute on a mountain bike? If so, does it slow you down, or do you have to work harder to get where you're going? I'm thinking it would get a soft ride, be sturdy enough to handle anything, and versatile. My commute is 8 miles one way, some small hills, and paved. Although the roads are in bad shape. For running errands and stuff like that, I'm in a small town so everything is within a mile or two.
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Old 05-03-19, 12:36 AM
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I wanted a modern trail hard tail mountain bike that would still take racks and tow a trailer. I have kids, you see... so I sold my full suspension bike last spring and I picked a Salsa Timberjack NX in 2018. Itís modern geometry and can take racks, droppers, and different kinds of hubs. That model in particular had a QR 141 hub so it can clamp a trailer hitch like normal, but with option parts from Salsa it can take thru axle 142 or 148 hubs. It carries a standard rack but awkwardly, the Salsa racks are better for it. So I barely ever used it with a kid seat like I intended, also because theyíre twins so the trailer works better. Salsa is sold at REI and they ship to store for assembly. Prices went up on Timberjacks this model year due to SRAM Eagle and dropper posts.

I also compared Surly Karate Monkey... it was rigid plus last year, but I just missed the orange color I wanted, only black was in stock. This year it has a suspension fork, a good one. Surly Krampus contended but couldnít take the rack over the huge wheel. Also shopped Trek Roscoe, limited in hubs but takes standard racks, and Marin Pine Mountain. The Roscoe was out of stock nationwide but I confirmed on a nearly same or identical X-Caliber frame the rack and hitch would work normally. I did test ride the X Caliber but it felt sort of old fashioned with its shorter handlebars and longer stem. The Pine Mountain wouldnít take a dropper and carried its rack pretty high.

The common thread here is these are all very versatile frames that can be 29ers or 27.5+ and built for either grinding or shredding, but they are all 100% mountain bikes. The modern take on a 90ís MTB.

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Old 05-03-19, 07:36 AM
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Old 05-03-19, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by EGBigelo View Post
I'm still debating the front suspension or not (like a Trek DS), but came across the Giant Talon 3. It's basically a hybrid with a bit more travel in the fork and wider tire, but labeled as a mountain bike.

Does anyone commute on a mountain bike? If so, does it slow you down, or do you have to work harder to get where you're going? I'm thinking it would get a soft ride, be sturdy enough to handle anything, and versatile. My commute is 8 miles one way, some small hills, and paved. Although the roads are in bad shape. For running errands and stuff like that, I'm in a small town so everything is within a mile or two.
For running errands over a mile or two it won't make a difference if you're on a hybrid or a mountain bike. It's just too short of a distance for the advantages and disadvantages to pile up.

For the 8 mile commute though that's another story.

I'd say you probably won't need the mountain bike. The hybrid would do fine on paved surfaces, even crappy ones. The low quality suspension forks on most hybrids will handle a nasty paved road just fine. You don't really need the high end suspension fork until you are going high speed into tree roots and rocks and stuff. But if you like the mountain bike you've looking at...the higher end fork isn't going to hurt you. Plus it gives you versatility to do a more off trail experience should the mood strike you.

What will hold you back on an 8 mile ride is the tires the mountain bike will come with. They will be knobby tires that just aren't made for pavement. They are made for mud and loose dirt and stuff like that. But tires can be easily swapped out for something less aggressive that will do better on a paved surface. Again if it's paved, you don't need much tread. Even if the pavement is bumpy and nasty, tread isn't helping. Tread helps with 'loose' not bumpy. To help with bumpy what you want is a larger tire like a 40-45mm tire that can absorb a lot of impact to cushion the ride. Those come in low tread pavement versions.

What also might hold you back depending on the mountain bike is gearing. Mountain bikes are not built for speed on pavement. They are build for ease of pedaling up hills. So they are often geared lower with a single small chain ring up front and a wide range of gears in the back. But there often isn't a gear option for 'Ludicrous Speed'. Hybrids will generally have gearing that is more conducive to speed. Not like a road bike, but better than a mountain bike. Ironically the gearing on the hybrid will be lower quality than the gearing on a decent mountain bike. But it'll go faster.

The hybrids will make a good 'nasty paved road' bike.

Mountain bikes make a good 'this is not a road' bike.

Road bikes turn a nasty paved road into a 'the nurses at the hospital were great' bike.

The Giant Talon 3 you are looking at is somewhere in between the true mountain bike and a hybrid. It's got faster gearing than a mountain bike bu that 42 tooth large chain ring up front won't be as speedy as a 48 tooth more common on hybrids.

The 100mm travel fork is find for even nasty paved roads. You won't bottom that out. Plus it's got a lock out which you will want for any kind of smooth pavement riding. It's got enough compression that you'll absorb a solid whack into a pot hole.

I'm 50/50 on the tires it comes with. They are not built for speed on pavement. But they aren't heavy duty off road trail blazing mudders either. You may be okay with them. You may opt for something speedier.

You will love the hydraulic brakes on it.
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Old 05-03-19, 12:38 PM
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8 miles? doesn't matter what you ride, so ride what you want to be on. I've used a MTB for commuting, they fine, but you don't need a suspension fork, just nice big fat slicks. but try to find a lightweight tire option. for "commuting" I prefer a drop bar road bike, myself
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Old 05-03-19, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post
What will hold you back on an 8 mile ride is the tires the mountain bike will come with. They will be knobby tires that just aren't made for pavement.

What also might hold you back depending on the mountain bike is gearing. Mountain bikes are not built for speed on pavement. They are build for ease of pedaling up hills.

The hybrids will make a good 'nasty paved road' bike.

Mountain bikes make a good 'this is not a road' bike.

Road bikes turn a nasty paved road into a 'the nurses at the hospital were great' bike.
That helps a lot, thanks. I am concerned about the tires and gearing on the mountain bike, and if I swap those out I basically end up with a hybrid anyway.

Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
8 miles? doesn't matter what you ride, so ride what you want to be on. I've used a MTB for commuting, they fine, but you don't need a suspension fork, just nice big fat slicks. but try to find a lightweight tire option. for "commuting" I prefer a drop bar road bike, myself
I have a drop bar road bike that I use for long "fitness" rides, but today I just started looking at drop bar bikes that can take a bigger tire. So something in the gravel or touring category. But you're right, it doesn't matter what I ride for the intended purpose of this bike. This is the first time though that I've really put any thought into the purchase. It's hard to walk into the bike shop and see all the shiny new bikes and forget what you really needed in a bike.
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Old 05-03-19, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by EGBigelo View Post
I have a drop bar road bike that I use for long "fitness" rides, but today I just started looking at drop bar bikes that can take a bigger tire. So something in the gravel or touring category. But you're right, it doesn't matter what I ride for the intended purpose of this bike. This is the first time though that I've really put any thought into the purchase. It's hard to walk into the bike shop and see all the shiny new bikes and forget what you really needed in a bike.
oh the pressure! I agree, it can be overwhelming. you might try test rides in the used market. when I approach car shopping I start w dealers I'm not likely to buy from & which are further from my home. as I gain confidence I work closer to home & start shopping for a dealer as well as a brand & model. once I settle on a brand & model, I start shopping for a particular unit. (I always buy used cars) used bikes too actually. don't rush it. leave your checkbook & credit cards at home when you start shopping. don't shop hungry. lot's of guys & gals here, work at shops & can give you better bike shopping advice than me
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Old 05-03-19, 01:48 PM
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My old school steel framed late 90's early 00's Hardrock has been a great all around bike. Every time I think about upgrading I'm reminded that the engine is still the weakest link and keep riding (and liking) it.
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Old 05-03-19, 01:53 PM
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Iím no longer completely sold on knobby tires being a problem (just like Iím no longer sold on cheap forks being a problem). If you try to ride your commute on soft compound Maxxis Minions that is not going to be great, but there are less aggressive treads and harder compounds that do fine. Any tire marketed for bikepacking will do great.

What I donít like are inferior bikes copping the style of MTBís but not delivering.
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Old 05-03-19, 10:38 PM
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Old 05-04-19, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post
The Giant Talon 3 you are looking at is somewhere in between the true mountain bike and a hybrid. It's got faster gearing than a mountain bike bu that 42 tooth large chain ring up front won't be as speedy as a 48 tooth more common on hybrids.
While not a dual suspension bike, the Talon 3 is a solid mountain bike that is no where near a ďhybridĒ. The gearing isnít even that high for traditional mountain bikes which generally came with 44 tooth outer rings up until just a few years ago. Iíve been riding mountain bikes for most of 40 years that are exactly like the Talon 3.
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Old 05-04-19, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Iím no longer completely sold on knobby tires being a problem (just like Iím no longer sold on cheap forks being a problem). If you try to ride your commute on soft compound Maxxis Minions that is not going to be great, but there are less aggressive treads and harder compounds that do fine. Any tire marketed for bikepacking will do great.

What I donít like are inferior bikes copping the style of MTBís but not delivering.
I agree with you on the tires (but not on the fork). I commute on moutain bikes often and never have a problem cornering aggressively. The tires I like and use regularly (Panaracer Dart and Smoke) have a much more aggressive and taller tread than the Maxxix Ikons and I can easily corner on pavement at speed without any issues. The tires donít ďfold overĒ or skid out. They are designed to be used on uneven surfaces from soft dirt to decomposed granite to slick rock. All of those are much more difficult to corner on than predictable old pavement.

Originally Posted by EGBigelo View Post
I've been posting over in the Hybrid forum because I'm in the market for a new bike. I'm a road bike rider primarily and looking for a commuter/all-arounder.

Now that warmer weather is coming, this year I have vowed to use my car as little as possible. So I will be commuting to work, running errands, grocery shopping and stuff like that with this new bike.

I'm still debating the front suspension or not (like a Trek DS), but came across the Giant Talon 3. It's basically a hybrid with a bit more travel in the fork and wider tire, but labeled as a mountain bike.

Does anyone commute on a mountain bike? If so, does it slow you down, or do you have to work harder to get where you're going? I'm thinking it would get a soft ride, be sturdy enough to handle anything, and versatile. My commute is 8 miles one way, some small hills, and paved. Although the roads are in bad shape. For running errands and stuff like that, I'm in a small town so everything is within a mile or two.
While the Talon 3 is going to be on the heavy side...lots of steel parts on the bike...it should do fine for commuting. I commute on these two mountain bikes regularly with knobbed tires

DSCN0934 by Stuart Black, on Flickr
IMG_3144 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

The Dean is a hardtail and the Moots is technically a dual suspension bike but the rear suspension is minimal. Both are ridden off-road on trails that parallel a local creek as well as during the winter (the Moots gets studs). I have the choice of two routes that are 9 and 10 miles. The 10 mile route has more trail to ride. Itís hard to say how much slower the mountain bikes are because I donít ride them strictly on pavement too often. My average speed is about 10 mph compared to about 12 mph on my road commuter but a lot of the speed difference could be the dirt riding.

Iíd say to go ahead and buy the Talon then start looking for ways to use it like it was intended. Look for those social trails, short cuts, trails along rivers, etc. where the Talon can shine. Just riding on pavement gets old and itís nice to ride something that provides a different challenge and, perhaps, a little fun to your commute.
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Old 05-04-19, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
.......

Iíd say to go ahead and buy the Talon then start looking for ways to use it like it was intended. Look for those social trails, short cuts, trails along rivers, etc. where the Talon can shine. Just riding on pavement gets old and itís nice to ride something that provides a different challenge and, perhaps, a little fun to your commute.
Agreed....

I have many different bikes and commute on any of them. I prefer the variety and the quiet green spaces provided by trails when available in the areas I am riding. I use our creeks, parks, greenbelts, dirt trails, shortcuts, decomposed granite trails, etc, whenever possible. Great way to cross under highways and busy arterials as well. And sometimes, I just use the streets and enjoy cutting through the clogged auto traffic at good speed on my bike.

Also, I prefer racks on all of my bikes. Allows me to use any combo of backpack, trunk bag, or up to 4 panniers on four of my bikes. Great for grocery shopping, bike camping, touring, etc. I usually only keep fenders on one bike setup for touring and nearly all conditions. It too is an older Trek steel mountain bike from the 90's but rebuilt with modern drivetrain, tubus racks, handbuilt wheels, sks fenders, brooks saddle, etc.
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Old 05-04-19, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by AusTexMurf View Post
Agreed....

I have many different bikes and commute on any of them. I prefer the variety and the quiet green spaces provided by trails when available in the areas I am riding. I use our creeks, parks, greenbelts, dirt trails, shortcuts, decomposed granite trails, etc, whenever possible. Great way to cross under highways and busy arterials as well. And sometimes, I just use the streets and enjoy cutting through the clogged auto traffic at good speed on my bike.

Also, I prefer racks on all of my bikes. Allows me to use any combo of backpack, trunk bag, or up to 4 panniers on four of my bikes. Great for grocery shopping, bike camping, touring, etc. I usually only keep fenders on one bike setup for touring and nearly all conditions. It too is an older Trek steel mountain bike from the 90's but rebuilt with modern drivetrain, tubus racks, handbuilt wheels, sks fenders, brooks saddle, etc.
I too prefer racks. The two bikes above have racks. The Dean had them added after I bought the frame. I live near the Dean shop and adding them to the frame was trivial. It took about 2 weeks because I decided to do it during their busy season and cost about $40 per insert or about $120 total for 4 braze-ons. On the Moots, Iíve used Tubus rack adapters on the top and bottom. They are much stronger than normal p-clamps and easier to use. Hereís what they look like

image by Stuart Black, on Flickr

I may take the bike up to Dean to have them add braze-ons but I will wait until December.
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Old 05-04-19, 10:29 AM
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Stuart,
The Tubus clamps work great. I use them on an 80's vintage road bike and have for a long time.
Both of your mountain bikes are titanium, correct ? Cool that you live near your builders and they are able to add braze-ons to make amazing frames even more versatile. I am in Austin, Tx and find that I don't need suspension on the bikes I use for commuting. For me, old steel rigid mountain bikes from the 90's meet my needs on most trails and make an easy transition to gravel roads, hardpack, and pavement. When riding our trails with big hills, drops, and big rock recreationally, I prefer a more modern suspended mtn bike design with at least shock up front and big floaty tires. I would think the bikes you have would be near perfect if living in Colorado.
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Old 05-04-19, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by AusTexMurf View Post
Stuart,
The Tubus clamps work great. I use them on an 80's vintage road bike and have for a long time.
Both of your mountain bikes are titanium, correct ? Cool that you live near your builders and they are able to add braze-ons to make amazing frames even more versatile. I am in Austin, Tx and find that I don't need suspension on the bikes I use for commuting. For me, old steel rigid mountain bikes from the 90's meet my needs on most trails and make an easy transition to gravel roads, hardpack, and pavement. When riding our trails with big hills, drops, and big rock recreationally, I prefer a more modern suspended mtn bike design with at least shock up front and big floaty tires. I would think the bikes you have would be near perfect if living in Colorado.
Yes, they are both titanium and both made in Colorado. I didnít buy either new...I have a Dean road bike that I bought new...but I consider both to be worth the money I paid for the frames.

The Moots is my bikepacking bike and I consider to be a ďgravel grinderĒ for Colorado. Our mountain ďgravelĒ has some rather large rocks in it, so the front suspension and the modest rear suspension comes in handy. While the guys on road type gravel grinders are picking their painful way through the rocks, Iím over the rocks and on down the road to the next rock pile.
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Dinosaurs in Colorado A mountain bike guide to the Purgatory Canyon dinosaur trackway
Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
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Old 05-04-19, 06:46 PM
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I ended up with the Trek Dual Sport 2, so another Trek to add to my stable. I rode the Marlin and DS back to back, and preferred the DS. I think for what I'm going to use it for it's perfect. The closest Giant dealer with my size in stock was 90 miles away, same with the other bikes I was considering. But I like this Trek dealer and they close so that helps. And I guess sticking with what I'm familiar with isn't all that bad.

Sorry for the bad pic. And thanks everyone for your advice! I appreciate it.

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Old 05-08-19, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
I also compared Surly Karate Monkey... it was rigid plus last year, but I just missed the orange color I wanted, only black was in stock. This year it has a suspension fork, a good one. Surly Krampus contended but couldnít take the rack over the huge wheel.
I've had a longing eye on the 650b Straggler for quite a while; it looks like it could do pretty much anything. I even like the Salmon Candy Red color.
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