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MTB upgrades for commuting

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MTB upgrades for commuting

Old 01-28-15, 01:01 PM
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MTB upgrades for commuting

Hi all,

I currently commute to school on an older (around 2001?) Gary Fisher Tassajara with disc brakes. It's been a great hardtail mtb to play on trails and get into mountain biking. Due to transferring schools, I now commute on it. There is no way I can justify riding my $1000 ish road bike to class so my mtb makes the most sense. I also do not have room to store another bike, so owning 3 bikes is out of the question for now.

Anyway, I am thinking of spending up to $500 on my mtb to make it a faster commuter to classes, grocery store, college parties, the bars, walmart, or wherever. I won't be taking it on any trails or anything as Madison, WI is extremely bike friendly and has paths everywhere. Plus, any upgrades i make for commuting may translate to a faster bike offroad if/when I convert it back to a dedicated mtb. My idea is to convert to a rigid fork, single chainring up front and remove front derailer, lightweight wheelset/tires, and upgrade rear derailer/shifter (currently a Shimano Deore). I plan on riding this bike the next couple yrs so I'd like to make it a bit nicer, but not so nice as it becomes a thief magnet.

My issue is I'm not sure what my money is best spent on. I am assuming a lighter set of wheels and road tires first, rear derailer/shifter next, then a rigid fork, and lastly converting to a single chainring up front.

I'd also really like some suggestions on spec'ing out some components if possible.

Thanks
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Old 01-28-15, 01:26 PM
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Put some road tyres. Lock the suspension. Everything else is a waste of money.
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Old 01-28-15, 01:36 PM
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I converted my 2002 Trek 4500 hardtail MTB into a hybrid and it works really well as a commuter bike, though the 9.5 miles each way I go on it is a bit too much to be honest and I'll eventually switch over to something a bit nicer. I think you need to post some more details about your commute. Typically, switching to smooth-ish tires and a rigid fork are what people recommend to do first. They definitely helped me the most, though I would suggest not the lightest road tires but something designed for durability to avoid flats. As for everything else, I don't really see the reason and it gets expensive quickly. Just a decent set of tires and a new fork (you'll need to get a special suspension-adjusted fork to compensate for the lack of suspension) will eat up a good chunk of your budget. A decent set of wheels will eat up most of the rest. Sure, upgrading to better and lighter components might increase your speed slightly, but unless you have money to burn, switching out something just for weight reasons is probably not worth it.

Personally, I did end up upgrading a lot of components on my bike, but that was primarily due to parts wearing out. Not because I thought the slight loss in weight would help. It didn't make sense to do it before that and I gained very little from it.
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Old 01-28-15, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
Put some road tyres. Lock the suspension. Everything else is a waste of money.
Not all suspensions can be locked - mine couldn't be for example. It was definitely worth the $150 for fork (Kona) and install.
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Old 01-28-15, 01:39 PM
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Maybe just start with the tires. Decide later if you need a different fork. My wife still has her suspension fork on her bike which she rides strictly on streets. Then again, a rigid fork will save weight which is a nice thing.
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Old 01-28-15, 02:02 PM
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If one intends to ride off road, a lockable suspension fork is the way to go. All the decent suspension forks are lockable anyway for all I know. So for the sake of off road (if I understood the OP correctly), a lockable suspension and road tyres.


Though I off road on a rigid MTB, which I also commute on. I don't like suspension.
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Old 01-28-15, 02:56 PM
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That's a nice bike. 27-speed Shimano Deore shifting, Hayes brakes, Manitou fork. (Bikepedia link). Compared to the average commuter bike, yours is already better.

Get some lights. Slicks are an easy win.

I wouldn't swap the fork. For road use just dial up the damping and preload.

You might find that nicer MTB wheels are now going to bigger axles. What you have is probably fine.

In order to upgrade your shifting you are looking at a complete drivetrain swap. When Shimano went 10-speed with their mountain groups, they changed the rear cable pull, narrowed the chain and cogs, narrowed the cassette spacing, and nothing is compatible any more. Fortunately it's not an insanely expensive upgrade if you get the parts from the British gray market (like this $187 for Deore). And the new stuff is pretty nice.

Between the added efficiency and smaller diameter of the slicks, and the lower bottom cogs on the 10-speed, it's nice to have a higher crankset. I put a 26-36-48 crankset on my bike and it does better on the road than it did with 22-32-42. Same derailleur works for both, you just need to scoot it up.

You might have trouble with racks and fenders due to the disk brakes. You may lack the mounting points that are usually at the brake bridge, you might lack eyelets at the fork ends and dropouts, and even if you have them, the calipers might interfere.
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Old 01-28-15, 02:58 PM
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Get yourself a carbon, rigid fork. That will give you the most weight savings right there. Components, you are talking grams, and Deore XT works just as well as XTR. You also won't notice the weight savings of going to a 1x up front (which can also be a very costly upgrade). Switching your fork will save you pounds. Some slick tires, too. Those will save you a little weight...but more so make the ride a lot smoother. I would do wheels last, as I would choose to do your fork before wheels.
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Old 01-28-15, 03:35 PM
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Buying college textbooks should eat up Most of your Funds ... It did Mine.
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Old 01-28-15, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Buying college textbooks should eat up Most of your Funds ... It did Mine.
That's what student loans are for
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Old 01-29-15, 01:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
That's a nice bike. 27-speed Shimano Deore shifting, Hayes brakes, Manitou fork. (Bikepedia link). Compared to the average commuter bike, yours is already better.

In order to upgrade your shifting you are looking at a complete drivetrain swap. When Shimano went 10-speed with their mountain groups, they changed the rear cable pull, narrowed the chain and cogs, narrowed the cassette spacing, and nothing is compatible any more.

You might have trouble with racks and fenders due to the disk brakes. You may lack the mounting points that are usually at the brake bridge, you might lack eyelets at the fork ends and dropouts, and even if you have them, the calipers might interfere.
I was afraid not everything would be compatible. Thanks for the info. Also, I did get a rack and fenders mounted which have been life savers so far.

Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
If one intends to ride off road, a lockable suspension fork is the way to go. All the decent suspension forks are lockable anyway for all I know. So for the sake of off road (if I understood the OP correctly), a lockable suspension and road tyres.


Though I off road on a rigid MTB, which I also commute on. I don't like suspension.
I currently ride with the suspension locked out which works fine. I mainly want a different fork to lighten up the bike a little bit and make mounting my front fender a bit more professional looking. My large p clamps are working just fine, but I'm not a fan of how they look on the bike.

Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
That's what student loans are for
Ha that or just divert a bit of one's beer funds to the bike fund. I probably shouldn't ride while drinking anyway.


Thanks everybody for the responses. Looks like I will start with tires, and then maybe a fork if I can ebay something super cheap. Component upgrades will wait till after I ride with slicks and determine if I really want to spend money on the bike.
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Old 01-29-15, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by StorkDM View Post
I currently ride with the suspension locked out which works fine. I mainly want a different fork to lighten up the bike a little bit and make mounting my front fender a bit more professional looking. My large p clamps are working just fine, but I'm not a fan of how they look on the bike.
The looks? You're a lucky man. 500$ is an average MONTHLY pay where I live. I believe your bicycle already is better than most commuting bicycles, even in richer countries (like the US). If you feel like improving it further, good: carbon fork, slick tyres. That's about it. Everytihg else will give you a non-detectable improvement, placebo perhaps, but you really will not notice it.
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Old 01-29-15, 02:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
The looks? You're a lucky man. 500$ is an average MONTHLY pay where I live. I believe your bicycle already is better than most commuting bicycles, even in richer countries (like the US). If you feel like improving it further, good: carbon fork, slick tyres. That's about it. Everytihg else will give you a non-detectable improvement, placebo perhaps, but you really will not notice it.
Good to see you around again!

My hipster bike was somewhat cheap and have been durable. I need to change the tube on the rear wheel this morning
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Old 01-29-15, 04:09 AM
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That bike will last for as long as you wish to ride it. Even though Theseus comes to mind (Ship of Theseus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Why change the tube, can't it be patched?
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Old 01-29-15, 04:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
That bike will last for as long as you wish to ride it. Even though Theseus comes to mind (Ship of Theseus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Why change the tube, can't it be patched?
I'm really time-poor right now

Also, I really haven't changed (m)any parts.
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Old 01-29-15, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by StorkDM View Post
Hi all,

I currently commute to school on an older (around 2001?) Gary Fisher Tassajara with disc brakes. It's been a great hardtail mtb to play on trails and get into mountain biking. Due to transferring schools, I now commute on it. There is no way I can justify riding my $1000 ish road bike to class so my mtb makes the most sense. I also do not have room to store another bike, so owning 3 bikes is out of the question for now.

Anyway, I am thinking of spending up to $500 on my mtb to make it a faster commuter to classes, grocery store, college parties, the bars, walmart, or wherever. I won't be taking it on any trails or anything as Madison, WI is extremely bike friendly and has paths everywhere. Plus, any upgrades i make for commuting may translate to a faster bike offroad if/when I convert it back to a dedicated mtb. My idea is to convert to a rigid fork, single chainring up front and remove front derailer, lightweight wheelset/tires, and upgrade rear derailer/shifter (currently a Shimano Deore). I plan on riding this bike the next couple yrs so I'd like to make it a bit nicer, but not so nice as it becomes a thief magnet.

My issue is I'm not sure what my money is best spent on. I am assuming a lighter set of wheels and road tires first, rear derailer/shifter next, then a rigid fork, and lastly converting to a single chainring up front.

I'd also really like some suggestions on spec'ing out some components if possible.

Thanks
I'm going to take a very different track from everyone else who has commented. First look at the locations of everyone who has commented so far. They don't live in snowy Madison, WI so they have little experience dealing with snow. Slick tires are great for moderate climates...even here in Colorado I can ride a lot in the winter on slicks...but for Madison they make about as much sense as wearing a bikini. If anything, you should buy a set of studded tires and, perhaps, a set of wheels to mount them. That will make the bike a bit harder to ride but more on that a little later.

Yes, you could change over to a rigid fork but be careful what you wish for. Rigid forks are nice and light but they aren't the best choice for roads and paths that can have ruts. I spent many years riding rigid bikes off-road (had to since suspension forks hadn't been invented) and the biggest advantage that suspension forks offered wasn't comfort but control. A rigid fork tends to get trapped in ruts and dig into soft spots. A suspension fork will climb out of ruts and float on soft spots. The wheel isn't knocked off its line as easily and you are less likely to crash. Leave the fork and unlock it when the snow and ice get bad. That, as well as the studs, will make you almost invincible on ice and packed snow.

As for the tires making the ride harder and/or slower, so? If you are riding in snow and cold, you probably aren't going to be all that fast to begin with. Crashing because you have inadequate tires for handling snow and ice really puts a dent in your overall time, not to mention the bits of you that hit the ground. Another way to look at it is that riding mountain bike tires with their higher rolling resistance is strength training. Once you get back on the road bike, you'll be faster.

Additionally, look for places to use the knobbies. Diving off-road on some social trail can put a bit of fun back into an activity that can become boring.

My suggestions, if you really feel the need to spend money, is to purchase lights. You don't need to spend a ton of money, however. This headlight from Amazon is $20. Buy at least 2, one for your bike and one for your head. If you are feeling extravagant, buy 3 (one for your head and two for the bike). Get a couple of Planet Bike Super Flashes for the rear.

For the front fender, ditch the conventional fender. For snow it's not that good anyway because the snow packs into it. Instead get a SKS Shockblade. The coverage may not be as good as a conventional fender but it won't clog with snow. It mounts under the fork. It'll look like this

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Old 01-29-15, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Additionally, look for places to use the knobbies. Diving off-road on some social trail can put a bit of fun back into an activity that can become boring.
I have single track next to my route for about 2/3 of my commute. In theory I could ride out my door and be on the dirt in about 1 block, and only on pavement for the bridges and overpasses. I got some nice tires and logged onto MTBR to see what people had to say about the trails. And it turned out that all the single track is off-limits to bicycles, thanks to the horsey set. Frustrating!
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Old 01-29-15, 04:34 PM
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In a Badger land, which is probably not dissimilar from a big ten university town known for welcoming a certain former NFL coach to its football facility, $500 is probably 2X the money to find and convert a MTB or hybrid into an effective commuter. Then you can keep your GF for it's intended use. I've got about $160-$175 invested in the Miyata below, which I frequently refer to as the poor man's Surly LHT. Since the photo, it has had a rear Blackburn installed.

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Old 01-29-15, 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
I have single track next to my route for about 2/3 of my commute. In theory I could ride out my door and be on the dirt in about 1 block, and only on pavement for the bridges and overpasses. I got some nice tires and logged onto MTBR to see what people had to say about the trails. And it turned out that all the single track is off-limits to bicycles, thanks to the horsey set. Frustrating!
Luckily I don't have too many of the horsey set to deal with. There are some but luckily they aren't that welcome on the routes that I use for commuting.
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Old 01-29-15, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I'm going to take a very different track from everyone else who has commented. First look at the locations of everyone who has commented so far. They don't live in snowy Madison, WI so they have little experience dealing with snow. Slick tires are great for moderate climates...even here in Colorado I can ride a lot in the winter on slicks...but for Madison they make about as much sense as wearing a bikini. If anything, you should buy a set of studded tires and, perhaps, a set of wheels to mount them. That will make the bike a bit harder to ride but more on that a little later.

Yes, you could change over to a rigid fork but be careful what you wish for. Rigid forks are nice and light but they aren't the best choice for roads and paths that can have ruts. I spent many years riding rigid bikes off-road (had to since suspension forks hadn't been invented) and the biggest advantage that suspension forks offered wasn't comfort but control. A rigid fork tends to get trapped in ruts and dig into soft spots. A suspension fork will climb out of ruts and float on soft spots. The wheel isn't knocked off its line as easily and you are less likely to crash. Leave the fork and unlock it when the snow and ice get bad. That, as well as the studs, will make you almost invincible on ice and packed snow.

As for the tires making the ride harder and/or slower, so? If you are riding in snow and cold, you probably aren't going to be all that fast to begin with. Crashing because you have inadequate tires for handling snow and ice really puts a dent in your overall time, not to mention the bits of you that hit the ground. Another way to look at it is that riding mountain bike tires with their higher rolling resistance is strength training. Once you get back on the road bike, you'll be faster.

Additionally, look for places to use the knobbies. Diving off-road on some social trail can put a bit of fun back into an activity that can become boring.

For the front fender, ditch the conventional fender. For snow it's not that good anyway because the snow packs into it.
I actually have studded tires sitting in my room right now. I ran them while I was doing a co-op in northern WI last semester. Dec/Jan mountain biking is crazy when you can take shortcuts across a lake and create your own trail where a pond normally lies. I took them off as the first week here was so damn nice. mid 30's and no snow on the road. This week wasn't so nice, so I'm probably putting the studded tires back on this weekend. Also, there is an outdoor pump (I think that's what it's called??) track in town that I want to try out. I've never been to one so that should be a nice day of riding there, playing, and then riding home. There's no way I'm riding there without studs either.

Originally Posted by oddjob2 View Post
In a Badger land, which is probably not dissimilar from a big ten university town known for welcoming a certain former NFL coach to its football facility, $500 is probably 2X the money to find and convert a MTB or hybrid into an effective commuter. Then you can keep your GF for it's intended use. I've got about $160-$175 invested in the Miyata below, which I frequently refer to as the poor man's Surly LHT. Since the photo, it has had a rear Blackburn installed.
Yeah, I understand my budget is a lot more than required for a good campus/around town commuter, but I cannot justify selling a nice bike to buy something cheaper. Nor do I have the space for 3 bikes. All my belongings currently fit into my room of my apt. Next year I'll be rocking an efficiency where I may be able to have a 3rd bike. At that point I'll look for an old school rigid mtb for school. This year its just not in the cards even though I'm a firm believer in the "n+1" methodology in regards to things with 2 wheels.
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Old 01-31-15, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by StorkDM View Post
I actually have studded tires sitting in my room right now. I ran them while I was doing a co-op in northern WI last semester. Dec/Jan mountain biking is crazy when you can take shortcuts across a lake and create your own trail where a pond normally lies. I took them off as the first week here was so damn nice. mid 30's and no snow on the road. This week wasn't so nice, so I'm probably putting the studded tires back on this weekend. Also, there is an outdoor pump (I think that's what it's called??) track in town that I want to try out. I've never been to one so that should be a nice day of riding there, playing, and then riding home. There's no way I'm riding there without studs either.
If you are going to go ride a pump track, you really don't want fenders. Especially ones that fit close to the wheel. Bad things happen when a fender folds into a front wheel The Shockblades I pointed you to is far enough away from the tire that it won't catch the wheel if you really feel the need to ride off-road with one. It also can be removed in about 3 seconds. It slides onto a mount under the fork.

Unless you really like changing tires all the time, I'd suggest investing some of your money in a set of wheels. You could get a set of really nice ones for everyday use and use your old ones for the studs. Swapping wheels is far easier than swapping tires.
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Old 02-02-15, 08:14 AM
  #22  
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Tires and fenders should be your first investment. A rack or seat post may help out as well for carrying additional items. I use a Trek 3700 for commuting weekly.
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Old 02-02-15, 09:16 AM
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What are your roads like? People always say to ditch the fork, but if your roads are as bad as they are here then it might be worth keeping. Plus you can then use your MTB on the trails without having to swap forks.
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Old 02-02-15, 09:29 AM
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Why can't you ride the road bike?
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Old 02-02-15, 11:05 AM
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1. nashbar carbon disc fork is $120-150 (depending on sale). ebay is another good option for very light fork...but buy from a seller with excellent reviews.
2. light ~300 gm folders: https://www.biketiresdirect.com/prod...d-prix-26-inch
3. you may be able to find wheels that weigh less than 1700 gm for under $500
Here is one example:
Easton XC One Disc Wheelset - 6 Bolt Int Standard | TotalCycling.com

Another option may be to convert your bike to 29 inch...many mtbs can take road disc wheels with little impact on handling. This would open a whole range of road disc wheel options and would allow for narrower high-pressure tires.

Last edited by spare_wheel; 02-02-15 at 11:13 AM.
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