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Converting a Mountain bike to a Road/commuter bike.

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Converting a Mountain bike to a Road/commuter bike.

Old 04-20-14, 02:00 AM
  #26  
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Hey Nowbie,

Here just my thoughts and opinions (in no particular order):

- How far do you commute? If relatively short, say 5 miles or less, you might not really need to do much of anything. If you have a longer commute, then you might want to start thinking about some changes. The whole short vs. long commute is obviously subjective.

- I agree with changing to more of a road type tire. You will get more contact with the pavement and have better control in most pavement/urban riding conditions. However, another option might be to just switch out your tires for something with a less aggressive mountain tread. Do you actually do much mountain biking and/or dirt trail riding? If not, then I would definitely change tires to something more road oriented. If you do go mountain biking on a regular basis, then a less aggressive mountain tread might be the way to go. Some good road options are WTB Slickasaurus and Continental Sport Contact.

- Another option is to just get yourself a 2nd set of wheels that are more road/urban appropriate. You might be able to find yourself a decent set of wheels for cheap. Depending on what you need, you just switch out the wheels. I have friends who do that. The one thing that you have to be careful of is that your cassette will need to be very similar to the cassette on your current wheels or you will have problems with your chain length. The largest and smallest cogs would need to be identical. So if you are currently running something like a 12-32, then you will need to do the same on a 2nd wheel set.

- You could change out the fork to a rigid fork but that starts to get both technically complicated and expensive. You can't just put any old rigid fork on that bike. It would have to be suspension corrected. You may also need to cut the steering tube to the correct length and it may also require a new headset. So unless you are a pretty good "shade tree" bike mechanic, I would avoid doing this. For the cost of doing this, you could go find yourself a decent used bike that would be suitable for commuting.

- Which brings up the option of getting another bike for your commuting needs. IMO, old school rigid frame mountain bikes make great all purpose bikes and they can be had for cheap. If you are willing to be patient, you can find some great deals on these bikes. I routinely see bikes like this on craigslist for less than $150. I recently snagged a late 80s Panasonic MC 7500 with a complete XT group set for $165.

- Regarding winter commuting...just remember that the midwestern winters can be pretty harsh on your bike due to the sand and salt. Try to keep your drive train clean. When I get home after a winter ride I always take a couple of gallons of tap water and rinse off my drive train. And keep your bike lubricated. This is another reason a cheap commuter is a good option.

- Here is a pic of my MTB-to-commuter conversion

https://www.flickr.com/photos/557996...57633157682161

I went all out on this but this is how I have fun. I added drop bars w/ new brake levers and bar end shifters, 650B wheel set with road tread tires, clipless pedals and a rear rack.

Last edited by fettsvenska; 04-20-14 at 02:03 AM.
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Old 04-20-14, 04:40 AM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by N0WBIE View Post
I live near Chicago Illinois.
Don't forget clothes I'm not sure anyone addressed this. For safety you want to make sure youwear hi vis colors. For really hor days maybe get hi via running shoes. But cooler days and low light conditions make sure you have very bright colors on. You need lights as stated above I think. But don't forget mirrors. Especially if you're new to commuting. I was all over the road the first couple weeks. You want to make sure you know where cars are at all times. I have just a show look me mirror? I can't rememberwhat its call, it attaches to my helmet . . I know riding a mountain bike as a commuter is hard, Iddon't have the strength for it. But safety is always #1 in my book.
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Old 04-20-14, 09:09 AM
  #28  
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Here is my MTB commuter conversion.

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Old 04-20-14, 10:35 AM
  #29  
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To me, a bike really starts to feel like it's YOURS as you start to change stuff. In that sense, I love the idea of changing your bike a bit to match your needs. I'd recommend touring tires, like Schwalbe Marathon. I also recommend a rack. It's so nice getting your stuff off your back! If you plan to ride every day, you'll definitely appreciate fenders. They're cheap, easy to install, and keep water off of you. Even riding on wet streets without rain, if you don't have fenders you can end up soaked and dirty.

To me, there's no particular reason to get rid of the front shock-- it just doesn't help much for commuting. I'd keep it till it wears out, and then consider replacing it with a rigid fork, just because it's cheaper and doesn't require maintenance. That's what I did with mine.

Originally Posted by N0WBIE View Post
So what do I need to change? I do ride in the winter.
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Old 04-20-14, 06:52 PM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by PennyTheDog View Post
To me, there's no particular reason to get rid of the front shock-- it just doesn't help much for commuting. I'd keep it till it wears out, and then consider replacing it with a rigid fork, just because it's cheaper and doesn't require maintenance. That's what I did with mine.
Most suspension forks add 2-3 pounds of useless weight. It is difficult to add a front fender. And unless the fork has a lockout, you waste energy going up and down when climbing out of the saddle. Any decent rider can jump curbs with a rigid fork and land on both wheels at the same time. Save the suspension fork for singletrack. There is little to no benefit to a suspension fork for riding on paved surfaces.
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Old 04-20-14, 06:58 PM
  #31  
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I once slipped on the rain on knobbies so would slicks result the same?
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Old 04-20-14, 07:03 PM
  #32  
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Yes, when it's wet out, anything can happen and you just have to use extra caution.

Originally Posted by N0WBIE View Post
I once slipped on the rain on knobbies so would slicks result the same?
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Old 04-20-14, 09:31 PM
  #33  
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I converted this 1991 rigid frame mountain bike to a commuter/touring ride. Front and rear racks, fenders, drop bars with barcons and 1.75 slick tires (Panaracer Tservs). The front rack supports a bag that is attached to the bike via a VO decaleur. I'm really happy with it.


P4170270 by galoot_loves_tools, on Flickr

P4170266 by galoot_loves_tools, on Flickr


P4170268 by galoot_loves_tools, on Flickr
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Old 04-20-14, 09:37 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by N0WBIE View Post
I once slipped on the rain on knobbies so would slicks result the same?
It's possible, but less likely. A lot less likely. Someone already posted about this. A slick puts more rubber on the road, so less likely to slip.
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Old 04-20-14, 10:43 PM
  #35  
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You can make changes to make the bicycle more efficient, but honestly, your bike is fine just as it is for commuting.

Must haves: Lighting, you can get flashing blinky for cheap, but 200 lumens of front light will give you functional illumination in front. A Planet Bike Superflash should be available at any bike shop and will keep you very visible from behind. It's a safety issue, I like to be visible at night. Get a bike multi-tool, or put together a kit, always ride with spare tubes, flat kit and a pump. You're going to get a flat. Unless you keep your bike indoors, a good lock is necessary. I learned the hard way once.

If you do want to make changes to your bike, bang for buck, I agree with all who pointed out tires, but I would suggest more of town/commuter tire like Schwalbe Marathon, Conti Gatorskins, Specialized Armadillos, etc. Extra dollars spent on quality tires will reduce your flats and will make a difference.

I commuted with front suspension before, but city streets that I ride are in okay condition and don't really need to smooth out the "bumps". Front suspension will bob up and down in a hard hammer, like trying to catch the next green light. I've never found myself in a situation where suspension made a necessary difference. If you want to go faster on that bike, a rigid fork and 26x1.25 in tires at 85 PSI will make a world of difference on asphalt.

Fenders make a big difference in the rain and full fenders are better than clip-ons. But it's all pointless without rain gear. Front fenders can overlap your shoes, so consider that when mounting the it on the front wheel.

Your mode of carrying stuff is a matter of personal preference. I've tried all and found that my style is backpack. Pick something comfortable.

Good luck to you. I started bike commuting in '96, it was a good decision.
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Old 04-21-14, 01:13 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by jvsabas View Post
You can make changes to make the bicycle more efficient, but honestly, your bike is fine just as it is for commuting.

Must haves: Lighting, you can get flashing blinky for cheap, but 200 lumens of front light will give you functional illumination in front. A Planet Bike Superflash should be available at any bike shop and will keep you very visible from behind. It's a safety issue, I like to be visible at night. Get a bike multi-tool, or put together a kit, always ride with spare tubes, flat kit and a pump. You're going to get a flat. Unless you keep your bike indoors, a good lock is necessary. I learned the hard way once.

If you do want to make changes to your bike, bang for buck, I agree with all who pointed out tires, but I would suggest more of town/commuter tire like Schwalbe Marathon, Conti Gatorskins, Specialized Armadillos, etc. Extra dollars spent on quality tires will reduce your flats and will make a difference.

I commuted with front suspension before, but city streets that I ride are in okay condition and don't really need to smooth out the "bumps". Front suspension will bob up and down in a hard hammer, like trying to catch the next green light. I've never found myself in a situation where suspension made a necessary difference. If you want to go faster on that bike, a rigid fork and 26x1.25 in tires at 85 PSI will make a world of difference on asphalt.

Fenders make a big difference in the rain and full fenders are better than clip-ons. But it's all pointless without rain gear. Front fenders can overlap your shoes, so consider that when mounting the it on the front wheel.

Your mode of carrying stuff is a matter of personal preference. I've tried all and found that my style is backpack. Pick something comfortable.

Good luck to you. I started bike commuting in '96, it was a good decision.
I tried the Gatorskins in 26 x 1 and an 1/8th. I wouldn't recommend them. Flat protection was great for the first few months, but they were cut up and started getting flats in just six months. Ride was super harsh at the pressures you have to run them at, and I couldn't hop off curbs anymore because they would pinch flat. They were very fast and cornered really well, but unless you're never going to hop off a curb and your roads are pristine, I wouldn't run them.

My recommendations would be for Vittoria Randonneur Pros (1.5"), Panaracer T-Serv Pro-Tex's (nominally 1.75", but they run a little small, closer to 1.5) and Schwalbe Big Bens (2.15"). The 1.5" tires are plenty fast, you don't need to go all the way down to 1.25". I run the Panaracers at 75 PSI (for a front tire) and the Vittoria's at 90 PSI. I ran a plain Schwalbe Marathon (1.5") for a while too, and that was a 100 PSI tire, although heavy. There are lighter Schwalbe Marathon offerings (Dureme, Supreme, etc), but they are even pricier. I think the Vittorias are just as good and less expensive.

I don't think you have to worry about toe overlap with fenders on a mountain bike. I could be wrong, but I think that is a road bike issue.

Totally agree about rigid fork vs suspension.

Last edited by Medic Zero; 04-21-14 at 01:20 AM.
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Old 04-21-14, 03:03 PM
  #37  
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Would a Kenda Kwick be a good slick tire?
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Old 04-21-14, 03:39 PM
  #38  
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I've got the Geax Street Runners in 1.6" on a couple of bikes and they have been very good.

Geax Street Runner Tire at BikeTiresDirect
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Old 04-21-14, 04:54 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by N0WBIE View Post
I once slipped on the rain on knobbies so would slicks result the same?
Depends. Was there any gravel/sand? Were you on a painted line? How fast were you going/how far were you leaned over? There's a whole lot of variables.

FYI,I've twice had to panic brake going down a steep hill at speed in the rain on my bike with Marathon Supremes. Both times I braked hard enough to get air under the rear tire,both times I stopped without sliding. So good tires do make a big difference.
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Old 04-21-14, 05:12 PM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by N0WBIE View Post
Would a Kenda Kwick be a good slick tire?
I've had good luck with Kenda tires. The only Kenda Kwiks I've ever ridden were 700c cyclocross version. IIRC, pretty good traction on gravel, lousy in mud and adequately grippy on asphalt. But I rode it on asphalt most of the time and it wore out quickly.

But I'm guessing you are looking at the 26x1.75 semi-slick version. Haven't tried it, but the specs sound promising.

Given a choice, I would probably choose one of Medic Zero's recommendation above.
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Old 04-21-14, 05:41 PM
  #41  
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I have done it and have been commuting for a few months now, I am very pleased. I don't know why one would say it doesn't make sense. Seems very practical to me. So many parts and accessories are compatible, plenty of gears, and they are strong. I suppose if you had nice full suspension bike meant for hard MTB riding then yeah it would be somewhat of a waste to throw a set of slicks on it and commute it.
But on a rigid frame, I don't see why not...

Before:


After:
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Old 04-22-14, 10:29 AM
  #42  
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Slick tires are great for MTBs on the road. I use ITS DJ Mk2's because they're cheap, have a cool micro tread, and ride nice. Other folks recommend Schwalbe Kojaks. I prefer >2" slicks to the 1.75" and smaller 26"/mtb road tires, for the extra cush over curbs and crappy pavement. And fat slicks look better on a MTB that had 2" knobbies to start.

The ITS tires:


I use Suomi W160 Mount & Ground studded tires for winters in Iowa. They're even slower than knobbies, but grip great on the icy slush. They have a moderately knobby tread, plus spikes.

I use SKS P65 fenders to keep the rain, snow, mud, etc off me.

My bike has a rigid fork to begin with (pre-suspension MTB), which makes it a natural commuter. Yours would be lighter and handle a bit bitter when converted to a rigid fork, but the cost may not be worth it.

Here's my bike this winter. It's an '88 Schwinn KOM-10.


My bike has no rear rack mounts, so I'm experimenting with a couple options to carry stuff. Right now I have the removable front basket (Wald 3133 QR) and a medium saddlebag hanging off a Brooks B17.
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Old 04-22-14, 10:57 AM
  #43  
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A slightly different take on it, as I've also added "touring" to the list, but here's my mountain bike turned road/commuter:



New tires (still large but smoother than full off-road tires), trekking bars, seat, front & rear racks, fenders, pedals. The trekking bar made swapping much easier, as brake levers and shifters transferred without change.
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Old 04-22-14, 01:24 PM
  #44  
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This all depends on your budget and your commitment to riding. I'm going to assume a very limited budget. If your budget were unlimited you'd be asking about which bike to buy, not how to change one you have. I'm also assuming you have a lock, basic tools to maintain your bike and a chain lube of your choice. Lastly, I am assuming that you will be starting to make changes now, and can save up to make more changes before winter.

Assuming all that, here's how I would prioritize my spend if I were you:

1. Be able to comfortably carry your stuff. This could be a good backpack, messenger bag or a rack/panniers. I prefer this rack (~$45) & Panniers (~$70) for easy on/off the bike.

2. Fenders. This will greatly improve your ride in wet conditions. You WILL want this before winter to keep the wet salty water off your drivetrain parts. I like Planet Bike ATB (~$30) fenders. Some creativity will be needed to mount them.

3. Lighting. If this were winter, I'd put this first since it would be dark when you were riding, but since we are going into summer this can be delayed a bit. Find some nice lights in the front to help you see (a USB example ~$60), and a nice light in the rear to help you be seen (My favorite ~$30).

4. Tires. In Chicago I'd go with studded tires for winter riding. Mount & Ground (~$110 for a pair) is what I use and they work well on frozen streets and unplowed bike paths. Rather than buying slicks now, I'd focus on saving for the studded tires you'll need this winter. If budget is not a concern, I really like Continental Sport Contact Road slicks (~$84 for the pair). They are 1.6" and have a reflective stripe to help side visibility.

5. Bar ends/saddle/other comfort items. If the bike is comfortable as is, then nevermind.

...

99. Rigid fork or Suspension fork with lockout. Chicago is flat. I really only notice a big loss on suspension forks when climbing or when out of the saddle. A Surly Troll fork will run you $110. You will need to move the crown race off the current fork or have a shop do it for you. It looks like you have a threadless system now, so you are probably okay with the headset. If you don't want the uncut fork, you'll need to have it cut, otherwise you'll need some spacer stems. Figure $200 for a fork swap if you don't do any of it yourself. For me, it wouldn't be worth it.

100. New bike.

As others have said, there is nothing wrong with your bike that you can't use it as is, but if you want to start making things more commuter specific, this is how I would do it. Keep in mind, everyone is different, so I put this not as a recommendation of what to do, but an example of what someone else might do in your situation. Good luck and enjoy the ride!
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Old 04-22-14, 04:03 PM
  #45  
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Perhaps dedicated commuter is the better option. Older rigid MTBs can be had for less than half the cost of a good replacement rigid fork alone.
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Old 04-22-14, 05:30 PM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by polishmadman View Post
It's possible, but less likely. A lot less likely. Someone already posted about this. A slick puts more rubber on the road, so less likely to slip.
Yeah, it's never impossible, but a fat slick on pavement is less likely to slip than a fat knobby. (On dirt of course it's completely the opposite, knobbies are better for dirt.)
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Old 04-22-14, 05:36 PM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Most suspension forks add 2-3 pounds of useless weight. It is difficult to add a front fender. And unless the fork has a lockout, you waste energy going up and down when climbing out of the saddle. Any decent rider can jump curbs with a rigid fork and land on both wheels at the same time. Save the suspension fork for singletrack. There is little to no benefit to a suspension fork for riding on paved surfaces.
It has the benefit of the OP not wasting a lot of time and money changing forks. Changing tires, adding a rack, buying lighting - all these things makes sense to do with his current bike.

But changing the front fork? OP would most likely be better served searching for a new bike that already has a rigid front fork, if they were going to invest that kind of time and money.
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Old 04-22-14, 06:19 PM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
It has the benefit of the OP not wasting a lot of time and money changing forks. Changing tires, adding a rack, buying lighting - all these things makes sense to do with his current bike.

But changing the front fork? OP would most likely be better served searching for a new bike that already has a rigid front fork, if they were going to invest that kind of time and money.
Well, it's not my time and money. I've seen forks on Nashbar for $30-40, add a star nut, maybe a new headset, and head over to your local coop. It's a good investment, and not too expensive. I did it to a bike many years ago and it was a tremendous improvement. Also, much easier to fit a front fender with a rigid fork.
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Old 04-23-14, 04:51 AM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Well, it's not my time and money. I've seen forks on Nashbar for $30-40, add a star nut, maybe a new headset, and head over to your local coop. It's a good investment, and not too expensive. I did it to a bike many years ago and it was a tremendous improvement. Also, much easier to fit a front fender with a rigid fork.
+1
I spent close to $100 on my fork swap. But I spent $95 on a Surly 1+1 fork. That's just what I wanted. Headset was $15 and starnut was $2. Now, I did do the swap because my forks were shot.
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Old 04-23-14, 08:55 AM
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mconlonx 
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If all you do is ride that bike as it now stands to work, you have successfully converted your mountain bike to a commuter.

To make your commute more enjoyable, slick tires would be first upgrade, and I'd suggest 1.5" slicks with some kind of flat protection.

After that:
1. Lights. Chicago gets dark in the Winter half of the year, either AM, PM, or both.
2. Fenders. First sunny day you ride where it rained the night before and you'll understand why, nevermind actually riding in the rain.
3. Rack. But only if you have something additional to make carrying stuff plausible, like panniers, top trunk, milk crate w/ zip ties, etc.
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