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Converting an old mountain bike for recreational use, or buy new?

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Converting an old mountain bike for recreational use, or buy new?

Old 03-09-16, 06:12 PM
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Rootus
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Converting an old mountain bike for recreational use, or buy new?

I have an old Gary Fisher Big Sur '98 that I bought back in, well, 1998. Used it for a while in college, but it has been largely idle since I left college. Heck, still has original everything as far as I can remember, right down to the tires. Aside from a few scratches & dings here and there, it seems perfectly serviceable. But I'm starting to get back into biking again, though this time as a parent and so not mountain biking. I've looked at the newer recreational bikes, but I'm not really sure what I should be looking for, and whether or not I should be looking at upgrading my old mountain bike instead. Or even just riding it until it breaks, since it's not a bad bike to begin with.

Can you help point me in the right direction, give me some things to consider? Is it worth upgrading anything meaningful on the bike I've got, or is it just too far out of date? I was thinking of putting on new tires, replacing the squishy rockshox fork with something stiffer, and probably putting on a newer (ahem, wider) seat. What would I be giving up compared to a newer bike?

Thanks for your advice. It's been so long since I was into bikes that I'm back to being a complete newbie on everything. Be gentle
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Old 03-10-16, 12:47 AM
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Cross country MTB's make a great trailer tug. For a baby seat it helps if it's a stepthrough, but you can't really find stepthroughs as good as your bike. The bike is a good one! It cost $900 according to the Internet, that's $1300 today. You can take it to a bike shop for a checkout if you are nervous. They will probably want to rebuild the bearings, replace the cables, and sell you new tires. You can still get compatible components, with the possible exception of the fork. There are places that will service your fork, if you think it deserves it. It was a good one for its time. But suspension has come a long way... and you can also find a good modern fork for a good price, new or used, the bike shop might be able to help. The elastomer forks went obsolete and got replaced by coil springs and oil damping, and later air springs. More expensive ones are lighter with more adjustments. Or, if you don't intend to go off-road much any more, you could replace it with a rigid fork for much cheaper.

If you are interested in something new, the newest crop of mountain bikes have 1x10 or 1x11 drivetrains, bigger diameter rims, sometimes bigger 3" tires, more leaned-back geometry with a shorter stem and wider handlebars. I want one but my poor old Hardrock keeps persisting.
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Old 03-10-16, 12:42 PM
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@darthLefty has good suggestions. The Big Sur was a good bike so it's worthy of some re-investment. New tires (street tires instead of off-road) and a tune-up (cables and bearings) would help make it a more efficient street cruiser.

He's also correct that the fork is the weakest part. You could replace it with a newer suspension fork if you can find one that's comparable (1 1/8" straight steer tube, rim brake posts, similar travel, for 26" wheels).
In new forks, that would limit you to the cheap forks that are put on 26-inch "comfort" hybrids or other bottom-level 26" bikes. (most new MTB forks are for disc brakes and larger-than-26-inch wheels)
You may be able to find an older NOS or lightly-used MTB fork; 26 inch wheels were still popular until the mid-to-late-2000s.

Or, you could replace it with a rigid fork, which should be OK since you're intending to ride it on the road. The Surly Troll fork would fit your bike pretty well. It's heavy (steel), but probably still lighter than your Rock Shox Indy. A carbon fork would be lighter, but finding one with the proper height (suspension-corrected) and rim brake posts may be a challenge.

Regarding a wide seat: wide seats are comfortable for upright riding and short distances. That "bar-stool" position isn't good for riding and will be painful after a couple miles. I'd suggest you find a well-padded but not-too-wide seat, for a semi-upright riding position. Seats are hard to get right; everyone's backside and riding positions are different.
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Old 03-10-16, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Rootus View Post
I have an old Gary Fisher Big Sur '98... Aside from a few scratches & dings here and there, it seems perfectly serviceable.
So ride it! It may not be the latest and greatest for mountain biking, but it'll make an awfully nice "dad bike". I've got a '97 Cannondale mountain bike I've used for that job. I just added a rack so I can slap panniers (bags) on it to carry kid stuff to parks or wherever.

If you're going to be riding a lot on pavement, you may want to ditch knobby tires. I used some cheap Kenda Kross "semi slick" tires that have a smooth center ridge for pavement, but have some knobs on the shoulders for a little grip when my daughters decide to take off down a dirt path.

Based on my own "dad bike" experience, I'll second Tim_Iowa's rigid fork suggestion. Your experience may differ, but I found pretty much zero practical need for suspension while riding with my kids around town. A Surly Troll fork would do the trick, as would a Kona Project 2, which you might be able to find for just a little bit less. Nashbar has a suspension-corrected rigid fork that's even less expensive. (The Surly and Nashbar forks have cantilever and disc brake mounts. The Kona fork is available with either/or, so you won't have a brake bracket you don't need.)

Bottom line: For the price of some tires, a fork, and maybe a saddle, you'd have a pretty darn nice bike, tailored to what you need.
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Old 03-10-16, 05:38 PM
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You can put on some rigid fork if your old suspension fork is squishy and bothers you. You're not mtbing. Rubber can rot so tires may be needed but you can ride it until they crumble apart or crack too much. A nice seat, good fork and tires god forbid and rims, you might be getting close to the price of a new bike anyway.

I was going to spruce up my bike with a nice seat, grips and pedals but if I buy nice ones its too much and if not it already has standard ones that work fine.
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Old 03-10-16, 05:52 PM
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FWIW, I have not found the suspension fork on my bike - either the original crappy Suntour or the replacement Rock Shox Duke - to be any trouble at all for me on the road, and it was nice to still have it when I made it back into a MTB.
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Old 03-10-16, 06:08 PM
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my two cents, and worth at least half - Keep it! It's a Gary Fisher. Nice.....
- in addition to the already good advice doled out new tires, replace frayed cables and busted through or rusty housing,
- Surly rigid fork: Forks | Parts and Accessories | Surly Bikes
- SERFAS TGU seat (148mm wide) - This is a personal favorite, and let's face it, seats are VERY personal. This is wide - ish, but not like one of those embarrassing comfort seats. https://www.serfas.com/products/view...rmance-saddles
- raise the bars. Get a new stem, some kind of crazy high riser thing, get the weight off your palms. It'll be the best thing when riding with the kids.
Check out the drop bar conversion thread for more ideas. This is now my touring bike. Was a Specialized RockHopper MTB. I like it. https://goo.gl/photos/jHtaEF8xosqqsuLQ9
it's got a Brooks saddle, not the SERFAS. That's on the cross bike.
Enjoy your kids. You can't spend too much time with them.
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Old 03-11-16, 07:35 AM
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Low cost fork alternative
Nashbar Rigid 26-in. Mountain Bike Fork

WTB saddles are comfortable and good value.

If you're riding on hard surfaces, scrap the knobbies for smooth tread and thinner road tires for the 26" rims.
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Old 03-11-16, 08:49 AM
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Thanks for all the input and ideas, you've got me thinking! And since it sounds like it's still a solid bike, I think going the route of mild upgrades and proper maintenance sounds like the best option. I doubt I could sell it for much, and so the best value is keeping it. But perhaps not getting overly fancy with the upgrades.

Originally Posted by mrv
- raise the bars. Get a new stem, some kind of crazy high riser thing, get the weight off your palms. It'll be the best thing when riding with the kids.
I really like that idea. I do notice that when I'm riding with the kids it comes down to either a sore back or sore palms, because I'm not riding the bike like it's designed. Getting a more upright position would be really helpful I think.

Originally Posted by Darth Lefty
FWIW, I have not found the suspension fork on my bike - either the original crappy Suntour or the replacement Rock Shox Duke - to be any trouble at all for me on the road, and it was nice to still have it when I made it back into a MTB.
It's not a huge problem, it just seems feels like I give up a lot of energy into the front fork unnecessarily since I'm not on the trails. Maybe that's just an illusion. If I could make it firmer I'd keep the shocks, but they don't have a lot of adjustment and the firmest I can make them is still quite soft.

You've all given some really great suggestions, thank you very much! Now I've got a bunch more research to do, and I'm glad for the pointers. I think I'll also take the bike to the local shop for a tune-up. I'm hoping the shifting issues are just gummed up cables and can be fixed easily. It eventually shifts, it just takes 5-10 seconds to do it .
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Old 03-11-16, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Enjoy your kids. You can't spend too much time with them.
The best advice here . The kids grow so fast, I try to enjoy every minute. It's starting to get fun now as they get older. My daughter just turned 5 in October, and for her birthday I bought her a WOOM3. Went all the way, put a bell on it for her, kickstand, and deleted the coaster brake (it comes with front/rear handbrakes standard). She found it intimidating at first, but she's got the hang of it now and I think I've got an avid bicyclist on my hands; she can't get enough of it. Thus the reason why I'm suddenly getting back into biking myself, I have to keep up with her and she's quite fast...
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Old 03-11-16, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Rootus View Post
The best advice here . The kids grow so fast, I try to enjoy every minute. .
hey! that was my quote, not @Darth Lefty (i think the space in his name confuses the HTML or something....)
- none the less it's the truth. My daughter is 20. My son 17. We're (boy & me) bike touring in WV for his spring break, just me & the kid biking and camping. I'm geeked. Last weekend we were hard at work on his Eagle Scout project.
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Old 03-11-16, 11:15 AM
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Old 03-11-16, 01:53 PM
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Bikepedia lists it as MSRP $900 with the following specifications:
Frame & Fork
Frame Construction TIG-welded
Frame Tubing Material Fisher Genesis aluminum w/replaceable derailleur hanger
Fork Brand & Model Rock Shox Indy XC
Fork Material Aluminum/magnesium, triple-clamp crown
Rear Shock Not applicable

Components
Component Group Mountain Mix
Brakeset Avid 1D-10 brakes, Avid AD-1.0 L levers Shift Levers Shimano STX-RC RapidFire SL
Front Derailleur Shimano STX top-swing, top-pull Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore LX SGS
Crankset Sugino Impel 300, 20/32/42 teeth Pedals ICON clipless
Bottom Bracket Shimano BB-UN52, 113mm spindle BB Shell Width 73mm English
Rear Cogs 8-speed, 11 - 30 teeth Chain Sachs PC-41, 1/2 x 3/32"
Seatpost Aluminum micro-adjust, 27.2mm diameter Saddle WTB SSTX, chromoly rails
Handlebar Aluminum, butted Handlebar Extensions Fisher Fish Sticks
Handlebar Stem Aluminum Headset 1 1/8" threadless Aheadset Kontak ST-2

These don't look like bad components. They are good mil-level so unless they are worn out, I would not replace them. I rebuild a lot of old bikes for Boy Scouts who do cycling merit badge. Any bike this good would be a prize catch for refurbishing. They are so far better than any entry level bike the kids can afford. A lot of times all it takes is giving the bike a good going through to re-lubricate bearings, replace rubber parts like tires and brake pads, and make sure the gears and brakes work properly.

You can buy a rebuilding kit for the forks for under $20 and there are tutorials online for rebuilding it http://www.ebay.com/itm/Rock-Shox-Se...UAAOSwFNZWzdAQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhgYlqR-fLY

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Old 03-15-16, 01:30 PM
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Rootus wrote:
I do notice that when I'm riding with the kids it comes down to either a sore back or sore palms, because I'm not riding the bike like it's designed. Getting a more upright position would be really helpful I think.
And here is the crux of the problem. You are getting older and want to be more comfortable on a bike. But you have time and money invested in your old MTB. What to do? Well I can tell you that I went thru the same conundrum. I had an old Giant Iguana and tried various handlebars, riser stems and hundreds of dollars in different seats. None of that worked. It's all about the bike's geometry. MTB's and road bikes force you to sit hunched over the bars putting strain on your hands, wrists, neck and butt. I bought a LWB recumbent (Sun Easy Sport AX) and then an Electra Townie. Love'em both.

Is it possible to have just one do-it-all bike? Maybe when you are younger. Once we get older it's time to diversify the bike portfolio. Keep your Gary Fisher around for trail rides. Get a comfort bike for paved bike paths. Get a road bike for the hardcore training/I need to be accepted by the Lance Armstrong crowd. Do what works best for you. If cost is a big hurdle, remember that Craigslist is your friend.

But ultimately you have to keep this in mind: If you are more worried about how you look to other people while riding any given bike as opposed to how you feel riding any given bike, then you are living to make others happy. The end result will be, as The Stones put it "No Satisfaction."
Good luck with your quest for comfort!

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Old 08-20-16, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Rootus View Post
I have an old Gary Fisher Big Sur '98 that I bought back in, well, 1998. Used it for a while in college, but it has been largely idle since I left college. Heck, still has original everything as far as I can remember, right down to the tires. Aside from a few scratches & dings here and there, it seems perfectly serviceable. But I'm starting to get back into biking again, though this time as a parent and so not mountain biking. I've looked at the newer recreational bikes, but I'm not really sure what I should be looking for, and whether or not I should be looking at upgrading my old mountain bike instead. Or even just riding it until it breaks, since it's not a bad bike to begin with.

Can you help point me in the right direction, give me some things to consider? Is it worth upgrading anything meaningful on the bike I've got, or is it just too far out of date? I was thinking of putting on new tires, replacing the squishy rockshox fork with something stiffer, and probably putting on a newer (ahem, wider) seat. What would I be giving up compared to a newer bike?

Thanks for your advice. It's been so long since I was into bikes that I'm back to being a complete newbie on everything. Be gentle
So... how did you make out?
Just for reference, I present my old bike as it sits now:
Untitled by Ken Veader, on Flickr
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Old 09-23-16, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mr,grumpy View Post
So... how did you make out?

I'm curious as well. I recently went thru the same decision process regarding my 97 Gary Fisher Wahoo, and ultimately decided to remove/replace just about everything and convert it to single speed. The only parts remaining from the original bike are the frame (obviously), wheels (rear needs replacing, though), seatpost, and bottom bracket.
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Old 02-08-17, 09:25 PM
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I dusted off an old 2000 Kona that I used for dirt jumping in my younger (and braver) days...

I just put slicks and some cheap mechanical disks from eBay on it and now it's found new life as the 'family truckster'.

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