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Commuting - get a new bike or convert an old mountain bike?

Old 03-23-09, 09:28 PM
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Commuting - get a new bike or convert an old mountain bike?

This year i want to optimize my commuting setup since my wife took over my car for good.

This past year I've been switching between 2 mountain bikes I own - hardtail giant iguana and full suspension gary fisher cake 2. I keep hearing from people that its not the most efficient way to commute. A few people recommended I get a proper road bike. I live in Utah and my commute is pretty much all uphill, so it gets to be rather dreadful on a bike with knobbies which probably just add rolling resistance.

What do you think is my best option: buy a road bike to commute on that or convert one of my mountain bikes into a lighter commuter with slicks and non-suspension forks? Does geometry of the road bikes make it easier to go uphill? My biggest worry about road bikes is that all the ones i see look like they are built for racing and will never stand up the abuse of commuting, and the riding position seems kind of funky as well.

any feedback from more experienced commuters would be appreciated!!
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Old 03-23-09, 09:33 PM
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What distance? If you are talking about under 8-10miles then you would probably be fine with just putting slicks on your bikes. Honestly has more to do with what you want and how much money you want to spend. There are plenty of road bikes that are built purely for commuting. It will be easier to move a road bike then a mountain bike given tire size, slicks, riding position.

Really has to do with what you want to spend and how long your commute is. If you are fine with your commute now you could also just spend $40-50bucks on a decent set of road tires and see how it changes your ride.
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Old 03-23-09, 09:34 PM
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How is your commute now? Do you die going up hills, or feel the need for more speed?
Try something simple: Get some Tom Slick 1" tires and try 'em. You'll be faster. Leave the fork alone on the Giant, unless you have money burning a hole in your pocket.

I commute on a fixed gear with a backpack
A mountain bike (Cannondale F500) with fenders, a light, a rack and panniers
Some times I even take my carbon road bike and a light bag backpack.

It all works.
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Old 03-23-09, 09:47 PM
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I commute 15 miles on a giant MTB, I changed to rigid forks, mary on one handle bars, and slicks. I gained a little more speed, but my ride is all flat. I think you have to find what works for you. I know I love my bike.
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Old 03-23-09, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by cccorlew View Post
How is your commute now? Do you die going up hills, or feel the need for more speed?
Try something simple: Get some Tom Slick 1" tires and try 'em. You'll be faster. Leave the fork alone on the Giant, unless you have money burning a hole in your pocket.

I commute on a fixed gear with a backpack
A mountain bike (Cannondale F500) with fenders, a light, a rack and panniers
Some times I even take my carbon road bike and a light bag backpack.

It all works.
At this point I die going up hills, and on commute back which is all downhill, It feels unstable if i go fast enough, so improvements in both would be a plus.
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Old 03-23-09, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by infecto View Post
What distance? If you are talking about under 8-10miles then you would probably be fine with just putting slicks on your bikes. Honestly has more to do with what you want and how much money you want to spend. There are plenty of road bikes that are built purely for commuting. It will be easier to move a road bike then a mountain bike given tire size, slicks, riding position.

Really has to do with what you want to spend and how long your commute is. If you are fine with your commute now you could also just spend $40-50bucks on a decent set of road tires and see how it changes your ride.
its about 8 miles, one way all uphill, the other way all downhill.
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Old 03-24-09, 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by avzay66 View Post
At this point I die going up hills, and on commute back which is all downhill, It feels unstable if i go fast enough, so improvements in both would be a plus.
Try the hardtail MTB with narrower road tires installed first. After all a MTB typically has lower low gears than a road bike so if the climb is that bad on an MTB I would expect it to be worse on most road bikes, except possibly for a true loaded tourer which typically has gearing very similar to what I would expect your MTB to already have.

Lots of older used non suspension MTBs around cheap if you look around some. I just picked up a 1990 Trek 950 MTB for $60 at the local Goodwill store. Originally a $700+ bike per my web search for information.
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Old 03-24-09, 03:15 AM
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Originally Posted by avzay66 View Post
This year i want to optimize my commuting setup since my wife took over my car for good.

This past year I've been switching between 2 mountain bikes I own - hardtail giant iguana and full suspension gary fisher cake 2. I keep hearing from people that its not the most efficient way to commute. A few people recommended I get a proper road bike. I live in Utah and my commute is pretty much all uphill, so it gets to be rather dreadful on a bike with knobbies which probably just add rolling resistance.

What do you think is my best option: buy a road bike to commute on that or convert one of my mountain bikes into a lighter commuter with slicks and non-suspension forks? Does geometry of the road bikes make it easier to go uphill? My biggest worry about road bikes is that all the ones i see look like they are built for racing and will never stand up the abuse of commuting, and the riding position seems kind of funky as well.

any feedback from more experienced commuters would be appreciated!!
It seems that you already are aware of the major drawbacks of your current bikes, i.e. knobby tires and suspension. Other factors to evaluate when choosing a commuting rig for your situation are the gearing (as tatfiend pointed out), weight, fenders and racks.

A road bike might be lighter than your MTB, this will ease the climbing a little bit.
Do you need to carry things with you? (a backpack is perhaps not an optimal solution)
Will you be riding in rain or when streets are wet?

Changing to slicks on the Iguana is what I would do to start with, perhaps add fenders and a rack also.
Don't rush into buying a new bike until you have evaluated your needs (and funds) and studied the options (road, MTB, cross, new, used, internal gears etc.).
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Old 03-24-09, 05:04 AM
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Ya hey

My buddy ignored my advice ("put slicks on your old Mongoose HTMTB and try it") and dropped $550 on a Trek hybrid-upright thing.

After about 5 commutes and getting hot and sweaty, he gave it up. Big waste of money and sour grapes.
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Old 03-24-09, 06:00 AM
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I converted my aluminum Giant Ranier MTB in two phases. First, I went with the 1.25 slick tires. Though an improvement, the bike stil felt sluggish. I then had my LBS replace the front suspsension fork with rigid steel fork. For about $160 (tires and fork) the changes to my MTB made a huge difference in my commute time. I am still not setting any land speed records, but for the type of commute I have (sidewwalk strewn with debris, residential streets with speed bumps, poorly maintained roads) the converted MTB suits my needs.

Having said all that, I really want to get a Surly Cross Check as my next bike!

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Old 03-24-09, 07:37 AM
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I'd go over the hardtail, try to identify any mechanical problems, clean up the chain and swap the tires. If I can't figure out how to fix the mechanical troubles, I'd haul it into the shop for repairs.

While I was at the shop I'd pick up a bike computer... a lot of folks have trouble estimating speed, and it's useful to know just how fast you're going when things get scary. It's pretty trivial to hit 35mph on a downhill, and that's fast enough to get badly hurt if something goes wrong. It may not be very macho (good thing I'm a chick), but I'm perfectly happy to brake on a downhill if I think my speed is too high for the conditions.
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Old 03-24-09, 07:48 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by tatfiend View Post
Try the hardtail MTB with narrower road tires installed first. After all a MTB typically has lower low gears than a road bike so if the climb is that bad on an MTB I would expect it to be worse on most road bikes, except possibly for a true loaded tourer which typically has gearing very similar to what I would expect your MTB to already have.
I'm going to take the opposite view. A road bike's gearing is usually adequate to get yourself and your bike up a hill. Touring bikes are geared low so you can spend half the day hauling you, your bike, and a bunch of camping equipment up a mountain. If having an adequate low range is a concern there are plenty of low-end road bikes with triples.

The problem with mountain bike gearing on the street is that it may fall short on the high end, especially if you go with narrow slicks and rigid forks. I still think it's a good idea to try a narrower tire first, but the best bike for climbing on the road is a road bike.
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Old 03-24-09, 07:55 AM
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buy a steel road bike and get it over with. if you're always on the road, thats the only way to go. you'll be quicker and lighter going uphill, and jet downhill. the aero position will help each way.

unless your offroad, leave the mtb at home.
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Old 03-24-09, 11:57 AM
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My advice:
  1. Use the bike you like better, for fit or other subjective reasons
  2. Get narrow, smooth (aka slick) tires
  3. Pump them up hard
  4. clean and oil the chain
  5. Get a comfortable position that is also efficient
  6. Read the threads on accessories

You'll be allocating one bike for commuting, so it will get heavier with rack, fenders, bottles, etc.

No need to spend a lot of money. Try a road bike to see if you like it. I see no reason to change to drop bars if you already like straight handlebars.
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Old 03-24-09, 03:23 PM
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If you do decide to look at another bike, try to find a bike shop that caters to commuters.

Many people when they think of a road bikes the image they have is of a racing bike. There are several types of road bikes and a number of them don't have the ultra aggressive riding position you're concerned about. You're more likely to find these less aggressive bikes in a shop that sells to commuters.
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Old 03-24-09, 03:32 PM
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You should change the tires immediately, preferably the hardtail.

I'm sorry you've spent a year already riding knobby tires.
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Old 03-24-09, 03:34 PM
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tjspiel's advice is excellent. If you live in the suburbs, you may want to go to a shop in the nearest city, because they'll understand your needs better. They should have plenty of cycle-commuting customers.

I worked as a bike mechanic in Boston and New York where cycle-commuting is huge. In fact, in some shops, it's the bulk of the business. It's heartwarming when you think about it. And guess what? Business is UP this year!
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Old 03-24-09, 03:56 PM
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OP: I'll jump in here. First, no one has yet asked: how old is your Iguana (forget the full-suspension for commuting). IF it's the version Giant marketed around 2000 to '04, then second, is it in good shape and third, does it fit you properly? If the answers to the foregoing are yes, then given an 8 mile out/back commute, the simple answer is that it (the Iguana) will work not just adequately, but very well for commuting purposes. I'm also assuming that you're not at present 'dying' to buy a road bike, and just looking for a reason to do so (not that there's anything whatsoever wrong with that).
The single major thing holding you/it back is (as said several times above) TIRES. Bin the knobbies; install good road slicks (I'd go 1.5", but there's many out there) on your Iguana, and give it a shot. That will be the single most significant change you can make; everything else (rigid fork, switching to a road bike, etc etc) will result in incremental improvements relative to that one change, notwithstanding the kinds of hyperbole one reads on forums such as this.
THEN try out/test ride 'cross, touring, or full on road bikes and see if the further differences are worth it to you. You may find they are, in which case you've lost very, very little (price of a pair of tires); OTOH, YOU may find the differences are not worth it FOR YOU and how/where you ride, in which case you've avoided a potentially costly mistake.
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Old 03-24-09, 06:41 PM
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The form factor of a good fast but fun commuter is much like the Specialized Tricross. I have a MTB but I think my road bike gearing is more appropriate because I am covering the greatest distance in the shortest most efficient amount of time.
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Old 03-25-09, 11:33 AM
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My iguana is about 6-7 years old, however it does need to be overhauled at this point (brakes barely work) and chain is in horrid shape. It fits me okay, however its a large frame (21"...probably heavier?). The weather here in utah is always dry, so i am not worried about fenders and other commuting accessories. All i usually have is a small backpack with my laptop inside. For now its not the questions whether i can commute, but how to make it more effiecient and easier...After all i just spent a year riding it every day with those big knobbies. My biggest dilemma is about how to better spend my $$. The iguana is probably going to need some upgrades like disc brakes (hilly here with alot of stop signs, so v-brakes fade rather badly after a bit) and some components to get the weight down. How much does a decent road/commuter designed bike cost nowadays? I dont want to end up spending more $$ upgrading my current bike than a new one would cost me.

I think i will for now get some slicks and see how it goes.
Would these work for what i am trying to accomplish? They seem to be 100psi rated, so i can probably get the to roll pretty fast.

https://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCEqP...=42215&eid=355
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Old 03-25-09, 12:13 PM
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Links to products on the Specialized web site do not work. What is the model tire (and width) you were considering?

I switched to slicks (Innova Swifter) on my MTB and I also added drop style bar ends but it would be better with a drop bar replacement.
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Old 03-25-09, 12:25 PM
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specialized fatboy Black / 26x1.25 / 390g

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Old 03-25-09, 12:31 PM
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Looks great! Mine are 2.0" and I like the way they look and ride but I imagine 1.25s would be fine. You might consider going a little wider.
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Old 03-25-09, 02:19 PM
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[QUOTE=avzay66;8596890]My iguana is about 6-7 years old, however it does need to be overhauled at this point (brakes barely work) and chain is in horrid shape. It fits me okay, however its a large frame (21"...probably heavier?). The weather here in utah is always dry, so i am not worried about fenders and other commuting accessories. All i usually have is a small backpack with my laptop inside. For now its not the questions whether i can commute, but how to make it more effiecient and easier...After all i just spent a year riding it every day with those big knobbies. My biggest dilemma is about how to better spend my $$. The iguana is probably going to need some upgrades like disc brakes (hilly here with alot of stop signs, so v-brakes fade rather badly after a bit) and some components to get the weight down. How much does a decent road/commuter designed bike cost nowadays? I dont want to end up spending more $$ upgrading my current bike than a new one would cost me.

I think i will for now get some slicks and see how it goes.
Would these work for what i am trying to accomplish? They seem to be 100psi rated, so i can probably get the to roll pretty fast.

Hmmmm -- well, as I suggested above, you really have to work out what you want! Fact: if your Iguana is an '02 or 03 model, you have an excellent frame around which to build (over time) a first-rate mtb-based commuter, if that's what you'd want. That's why the strong suggestion to try a good set of slicks. Personally, I'd go 1.5 or so in width, but that's just me, for the best combination of cush and speed. By the way, rolling resistance in a tire isn't as simple as 'narrower the tire/higher the pressure/lower the rolling resistance (again, notwithstanding what one often reads on these forums). As to brakes -- a good clean/new pads (Kool Stops) and cables should see you right -- cheap fix. Ditto the drivetrain. Do you really need discs (I have them/love them, but don't 'need' them)? At this experimental stage, I certainly wouldn't spend money on them.
Anyway, I would think that putting a couple hundred into your Iguana (tires, brake/drivetrain overhaul) will give you a very serviceable bike which will give you a pretty good idea whether a slicked mtb would work for you -- and even if you did get another bike, it'll always be a good back-up.
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Old 03-25-09, 02:32 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by avzay66 View Post
At this point I die going up hills, and on commute back which is all downhill, It feels unstable if i go fast enough, so improvements in both would be a plus.
Though I typically recommend putting replacing knobbies with slicks, if your current bike is that difficult I'd buy a new bike.

The first thing to do would be to make sure you get the right bike - my local bike shop will do a basic bike size fitting for $35, and credit that towards your purchase price if you buy a bike from them.

There are good options between your mountain bike and a full road bike, to - like a Specialized Sirrus:
https://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCBkM...=39273&eid=121



Skinny tires, relatively lightweight, but still has upright handlebars. I'd prefer the model with the carbon fiber front fork for a comfortable ride, but I don't know if spending $880 on a bike is completely reasonable, or to much for you.

And obviously buying a used bike can be a much better deal than buying a new one. There's a lot of stuff on both craigslist (local) and ebay, ebay even lets you set up a search that will list only the bikes that are within so many miles of you so you can see it before you actually pay (and avoid $100 in shipping and assembly).

I seem to see a number of base level Specialized Allez road bikes for $300-$400 on ebay, to. Specialized makes a more "comfort, endurance" bikes that a little less racy, to. And as someone else mentioned, steel bikes are reputed to have nice ride quality at a lower price.

Decent quality rim brakes usually provide plenty of stopping power. I guess I don't run them on 8 miles of constant downhill, though. Hmm. The only road bike that I know of offhand that has disc brakes is the Trek Portland, but it's really pricey:
https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...land/portland/

There used to be a Specialized Sirrus that had disc brakes, but they don't make it any more. Hmm.

P.S. I take that back, here's another one but I don't see a price:
https://www.redlinebicycles.com/adult...st-disc-r.html


I will say that riding straight uphill is the one place where bike weight really does start to make a difference.

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