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MTB drivetrain upgrade for touring

Old 12-09-16, 04:05 PM
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MTB drivetrain upgrade for touring

I've decided that my next tour will involve my old MTB, which is currently setup as more of a hybrid commuter. Nothing on the drivetrain but the chain has been touched since it was new 20 years ago, though, and is in sore need of replacing.

It currently wears an Acera-X rear, the older metal style derailleur, not the newer plastic-y looking ones. Not sure what the front is, it simply says SHIMANO and a seattube angle range. 7spd 13-28 rear cassette, 3spd 44-34-28 crank.

My specific questions:
1) If I am changing things out, is upgrading to an 8/9spd setup worth the extra effort?
2) Do I derive any benefits from new derailleurs, both if I upgrade to more gears (Acera seemingly should go to 8 without issue) or if I don't? Neither is broken, both work fine.
3) For climbing, is there a consensus on whether it is better to have a big back gear, little front gear, or both? Hills aren't my forte, this will be a new experience. Also, again, does that answer change if I go from 7 to 8/9?
4) For any parts I do swap out, what is the level at which parts are of decent quality? I don't mind paying to get out of junk range, but I don't buy into something automatically being better because it costs more.
5) Any recommendations on cranks that have arms that look more old school, plain metal bars, not curved space-agey looking things as seems common these days? I'd like to remain with 3 chainrings, probably keep a similar gearing.
6) What sort of shifters do people prefer with the butterfly/trekking style bars? It currently has SRAM MRX Comp grip shifts, I have no idea if I can change out the cable without destroying them. I'm not particularly in love with, nor do I despise, any style of shifters.
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Old 12-09-16, 04:09 PM
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What is the frame you are working with? Given how inexpensive used mountain bikes are, you might be better off finding a higher end used MTB to turn into a touring bike. One with a good quality crank and derailleurs will save you quite a bit of money over buying new. Then you can focus on putting your money where it will do the most good (perhaps new wheels).

I'd focus on having a sufficiently low gear; high gears are not that big a deal as worst case scenario you just spin out as you sail along at a good speed.

I'd want higher quality derailleurs than acera. 7 on the back with a triple up front is fine for touring. Thumb shifters are still my favorite for flat bars.

Here is a Trek 930 in the Detroit metro area for $129; this is a higher end bike than the one you are working on. You won't have to upgrade the parts:

https://detroit.craigslist.org/okl/bik/5896470038.html

This Nishiki is pretty cool; it's an old MTB and those often make fine tourers with longish wheelbases:

https://detroit.craigslist.org/okl/bik/5884531435.html

I'm a big fan of vintage MTBs as they make great all purpose bikes and great touring bikes. Given how cheap they are, you're just better off starting with a relatively high end bike with high end parts.

I picked up a 1987 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp with a nice tange double butted tubing set and a full deore xt group for $125. I converted it to drops with 3 x 8 gearing and bought new wheels. It's my primary commuter and I'd have no hesitation using it on a tour:


Last edited by bikemig; 12-09-16 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 12-09-16, 04:24 PM
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1) / 2) I have been in the school of; if it ain't broken, why fix it.

3) Better to have big back/ little front. Better to have and not need, than need and not have.

4) Same as 1/2

5) I think your chain ring tooth count needs recounting. Never seen a 28, 34, 44 crank, more like 22, 34, 44 might be fine.

6) for remote touring, tourists like simplistic shifters like thumb or, most people do not know haw simple a grip shifter is (only four parts.
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Old 12-09-16, 04:32 PM
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I am new to touring. After two tours totalling close to 4000kms I've concluded that:

1. I wanted a lower gear inch than what comes stock on most systems
2. I had no use for gear inch over 100
3. Would be great to be able to have narrow ranges.

4. More generally, here and there I read that XT was at the sweet spot in terms of durability. Less expensive groups are good and if money matters there's no justification to go to XT. If money doesn't matter there is no reason to go above XT, however.

So -- we fitted XT trekking drivetrains (48-36-26 x 11-34) I've replaced the smaller chainring (26) with a diminutive 22. Works without a problem. I've assembled a cassette from a mix of Miche's Primato 15-28 and Shimano's XT 11-34 to get a 15-16-17-18-19-21-23-27-30-34. Which gives fine tuned gear inches at cruising speeds. Shifts extremely well. So much that I oftentimes have to look at my computer to verify that I am indeed pushing a different gear inch (speed difference of less than 2km/h at constant cadence)

For a long time I have tried to figure how to get downtube shifters. Thanks god I couldn't find a workable solution -- rapid fire shifters on a butterfly handlebar are nothing short of fantastic, making it perfectly reasonable to shift up/down every few meters when terrain dictates it, rather than trying to absorb the terrain through cadence changes.

If you'd like links to parts, let me know
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Old 12-09-16, 04:33 PM
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I think you might want a lower lowest gear. Other than that, I am sure you will get at least a half dozen completely differing ideas on what you should do.

But I will throw out my minimalist ideas on a few tweaks anyway. I am guessing you do not want to put a very expensive set of components on the bike.

I put a Vuelta road crankset on my Rohloff bike, there is nothing wrong with the crankset although I am only using the arms with different rings, it was cheap and perfectly adequate. But I wanted different chainring sizes. I got mine at Amazon. They make a cheap mountain crank too. You could buy it first and go from there, one component at a time until you think you have all the modifications you need. Plus, it might work with your existing shifter and front derailleur.
https://www.vueltausa.com/components...-mountain.html

I see nothing wrong with the seven speed cassette as long as it is not worn out. A 22 front and 28 rear will give you a lowest gear similar to that on my derailleur touring bike, I generally think a gear like that is good for about an 8 percent grade. But, if you decide to keep it, put a new chain on it and try it on some uphills to see if you get any skipping on any sprockets first to make sure the cassette is not worn out.

If you try new shifters on your bike, you might want to try 8 speed. Those might work ok with your 7 speed cassette and derailleur because 7 and 8 speed Shimano systems have a very similar cable pull. A friend of mine uses an 8 speed shifter on his 7 speed cassette. But going with 8 speed means if you upgrade to an 8 speed cassette and derailleur, you already have the shifter you need.
Art's Cyclery Blog Science Behind the Magic | Drivetrain Compatibility
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Old 12-09-16, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
...
I picked up a 1987 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp with a nice tange double butted tubing set and a full deore xt group for $125. I converted it to drops with 3 x 8 gearing and bought new wheels. It's my primary commuter and I'd have no hesitation using it on a tour:

Congratulations on a nice looking bike.
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Old 12-09-16, 05:39 PM
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Me personally- i would look at the wheels and go from thwre. So many of your questions can be decided, or at least narrowed down, based on if you want to keep your current wheelset.

If you want to keep your current wheelset, then no need (or option) for more gears. You could then focus on new 7sp shifters and decide if you want different derailleurs or not.

If you want a new wheelset, then itd make sense to get more gears and components to match. I am building up a 90s mtb right now and have been getting great condition Deore LX and XT components on ebay for cheaper than new Deore or Alivio components.
I have Alivio 9sp trigger shifters, got em again off ebay for something like $18.

Trigger shifters and butterfly bars would be my setup. I had a bike last summer with butterflys and they are very versatile.
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Old 12-09-16, 08:08 PM
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It's pretty personal but if I were in the rebuilding mood it might be:

A smaller front chain ring. Rational being that most gearing in the mid to high range works well for me and I only use the granny gear for hills anyway so why not go as low as I reasonably can without effecting the other gear ranges. It would just give me a lower bottom end which is what I want. Changing the rear cog for a lower gear creates a larger range to jump up and down in.

Given that I might need a different rear derailer to cope with the chain length shift from high high to low low.

I have RF index shifters on my trekking bars, which I like but if I had my druthers I would do indexed on the rear and friction on the front. Rationale being that I like to micro adjust the front derailer and sometimes get chain drop or delayed shifting from going down from mid to low range.

I don't know what groupset is best but the discussion about good but not too good makes sense to me. For loaded touring you just aren't shifting in such a way that high end components will benefit as they might for racing (as an example). For me that also applies to going from 7-11 cogs. I just don't shift that much so that small increments make that much of a difference.

But that's just me. It mainly comes down to how much you want to spend upgrading. The best thing is to have a decent frame. Then probably decent wheels, then probably gears or cockpit (or both).

Here's trekking bars with twist shifters

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Old 12-10-16, 12:28 AM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk
1) If I am changing things out, is upgrading to an 8/9spd setup worth the extra effort?
2) Do I derive any benefits from new derailleurs, both if I upgrade to more gears (Acera seemingly should go to 8 without issue) or if I don't? Neither is broken, both work fine.
3) For climbing, is there a consensus on whether it is better to have a big back gear, little front gear, or both? Hills aren't my forte, this will be a new experience. Also, again, does that answer change if I go from 7 to 8/9?
4) For any parts I do swap out, what is the level at which parts are of decent quality? I don't mind paying to get out of junk range, but I don't buy into something automatically being better because it costs more.
5) Any recommendations on cranks that have arms that look more old school, plain metal bars, not curved space-agey looking things as seems common these days? I'd like to remain with 3 chainrings, probably keep a similar gearing.
6) What sort of shifters do people prefer with the butterfly/trekking style bars? It currently has SRAM MRX Comp grip shifts, I have no idea if I can change out the cable without destroying them. I'm not particularly in love with, nor do I despise, any style of shifters.
1- What condition are the wheels in? You could probably get a newer (and lighter) set of wheels pretty cheap and upgrade everything else.
2- The only thing you really get is maybe smoother shifting and some weight savings.
3- No idea what works for you. Lower gearing is great but after a certain point you might as well just walk the bike.
4- What to get really depends on what happens to be on sale IMHO. I think my current SRAM X9 setup works fine.
5- Can't think of anything off the top of my head. Ebay probably has some nice stuff though.
6- Grip shift is bad and you should feel bad.

Last edited by manapua_man; 12-10-16 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 12-10-16, 12:57 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
What is the frame you are working with? Given how inexpensive used mountain bikes are, you might be better off finding a higher end used MTB to turn into a touring bike. One with a good quality crank and derailleurs will save you quite a bit of money over buying new. Then you can focus on putting your money where it will do the most good (perhaps new wheels).
Old Scott Peak. I'm sure it was nowhere near high end, but I've had it forever, it has sentimental value, and perhaps more importantly I already own and ride it regularly, it was already slated for an overhaul this offseason, and I am out of room to buy other projects, even if they are ones that will actually get done.



Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
But I will throw out my minimalist ideas on a few tweaks anyway. I am guessing you do not want to put a very expensive set of components on the bike.

I put a Vuelta road crankset on my Rohloff bike, there is nothing wrong with the crankset although I am only using the arms with different rings, it was cheap and perfectly adequate. But I wanted different chainring sizes. I got mine at Amazon. They make a cheap mountain crank too. You could buy it first and go from there, one component at a time until you think you have all the modifications you need. Plus, it might work with your existing shifter and front derailleur.
You're right. If I were out to spend cash, I'd buy something new. While I am not taking the complete budget route, and have no issue spending to get what I want and see value in, I'm also not doing things like buying Dura Ace (or whatever its MTB equivalent is) just because Dura Ace.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Me personally- i would look at the wheels and go from thwre. So many of your questions can be decided, or at least narrowed down, based on if you want to keep your current wheelset.
Hadn't even considered wheels. They are (again) Acera hubs on Araya rims. Never had an issue, the though of changing them wasn't in my mind.

Originally Posted by Happy Feet
I have RF index shifters on my trekking bars, which I like but if I had my druthers I would do indexed on the rear and friction on the front. Rationale being that I like to micro adjust the front derailer and sometimes get chain drop or delayed shifting from going down from mid to low range.
I currently have friction front and indexed back. Love the friction front, never was able to get the indexed back working perfectly on 3 and 5, just a hint of a rattle, always an annoyance to me, as the rest of my bikes are friction front and rear and work flawlessly. I'd really have no issue with a friction rear, if such things exist for MTB.

Last edited by jefnvk; 12-10-16 at 01:01 AM.
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Old 12-10-16, 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk
Old Scott Peak. I'm sure it was nowhere near high end, but I've had it forever, it has sentimental value, and perhaps more importantly I already own and ride it regularly, and I am out of room to buy other projects, even if they are ones that will actually get done.



snip . . .
I'm all for fixing up old bikes. My point is that if you're considering changing out a lot of parts, you'll find it cheaper to buy an mtb with higher end components that you would not need to change out.
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Old 12-10-16, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by manapua_man
3- No idea what works for you. Lower gearing is great but after a certain point you might as well just walk the bike.
...
6- Grip shift is bad and you should feel bad.
I don't either. My current riding is mostly flat. This upcoming tour, not so much

And I know I am a heathen, but grip shifting doesn't bother me one bit! I've used triggers, barends, downtubes, nothing really screams a preference to me.
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Old 12-10-16, 01:17 AM
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Friction front and rear is what most older 80s mtbs came with. You can buy basic generic sets dirt cheap. The mechanism is so basic. I carry one as a spare in my toolkit as it can replace a broken index shifter on the fly or the cable can be used to replace either a broken shifter or brake cable.
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Old 12-10-16, 04:46 AM
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Jef,

I have done a few 90's MTB conversions to a more "touring" configuration.

For the drivetrain, I would stick with 7-speed. It is inexpensive, rugged, and widely available.

I shoot for a 42-32-22 front and 14-32 or 13-34 rear. I like really low gears.

If you go that low in the rear, you would need a new rear derailleur as the Acera-X tops out at 28 teeth max.

I would stick with acera level parts for a 90's conversion.

I like trekking bars and vintage friction thumb shifters for the cockpit and shifting.

Then add smooth touring tires.

That is how I would play it.
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Old 12-10-16, 07:48 AM
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jefnvk, Before buying anything other than consumables I'd overhaul the bike stem to stern. Replace the shifter/brake cables and their housing, brake pads, and chain. A new chain will skip if any of the chain rings or cassette/free wheel cogs are worn.

Inspect the rims for any cracks around the spoke holes and to judge the wear of the brake tracks. True the wheels as part of the overhaul if no faults are found.

Once all of that is completed, test tour with a weekend over night'r or even use water in milk jugs to simulate a weight you think you'll tour with to find items that need further initial attention.

I and other members in my family have had SRAM twist grip shifters and while I don't prefer them for mountain biking, they do offer a bit more hand room near the grips, which may make them more comfortable in the long run.

As far as using lower end Shimano mountain bike drive train parts are concerned? Both of my 20+ year old touring bikes are so equipped and are drop dead reliable. While it goes against my upgrade gene, I am not changing anything unless it's needed.

While I have a light duty Blackburn rack on my mountain bike, good money can be spent on heavy duty touring racks now. I have exceeded the 20 lb. rating on that rack a time or two, but it wouldn't be a good idea to do so on a routine basis. Fenders are another item you might want to look at now also.

Brad
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Old 12-10-16, 08:27 AM
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Good advice so far in this thread. What the heck?

Ditto about the rack. While I use them myself that style of rack without pannier stays always bugs me because there is the risk of the pannier tucking into the rear wheel. Even if it doesn't happen part of me is always thinking it might. Even if you don't go all "Tubus" on it you can buy some strong Al racks in the $50 range.

And.. what about the pedals: Just me again but I dislike nylon, even though it works ok(ish). Personally I would go wide platforms or dual purpose clip/clipless.

That, plus the bars/shifters/tires puts you in the good general touring range with a bike that will do nice week longish road tours (rear panniers, HB bag). From there you might start to want to specialize in a particular mode of tour and that's when the more substantial upgrades start: Fast and light, expedition style, off road... and where you have to make harder choices about the bike.
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Old 12-10-16, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk
Hadn't even considered wheels. They are (again) Acera hubs on Araya rims. Never had an issue, the though of changing them wasn't in my mind.
.
You originally spoke of more cogs in back. You would need a new wheelset to do change to 9sp.

If you intend to keep the current wheels, awesome. That helps narrow the options in a good way.
You can keep of change your shifters. By the sounds of it, you could use some updates since there is skipping or rattling in a couple gears. A new cassette (freewheel?), chain, rear derailleur, and shifters wouldn't be very expensive for 7 speed.

Neat project
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Old 12-10-16, 11:19 AM
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Rohloff Hub.. the gear range is like a mountain bike drivetrain. that was their design intention.


6) What sort of shifters do (...I...) prefer with the butterfly/trekking style bars?
the Grip Shifter they came with.. [ The new one is easier to re cable than the original One]

Retrofit kit includes a Chain-tensioner and a QR chainstay clip and torque arm ..

External shift is housed cable all the Way. EZ wheel removal..

Chain ring , now with larger hub cogs, You can keep your triple crank & use the large 26T outer chainring

[Mine I use a 16:38 combo on my 26" wheel bike..1:2.375]





....

Last edited by fietsbob; 12-10-16 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 12-10-16, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
Rohloff Hub.. the gear range is like a mountain bike drivetrain. that was their design inten


the Grip Shifter they came with.. [ The new one is easier to re cable than the original One]

Retrofit kit includes a Chain-tensioner and a QR chainstay clip and torque arm ..

External shift is housed cable all the Way. EZ wheel removal..

Chain ring , now with larger hub cogs, You can keep your triple crank & use the large 26T outer chainring

[Mine I use a 16:38 combo on my 26" wheel bike..1:2.375]





....
Or he could just buy a brand new touring bike for the price of that rohloff!
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Old 12-10-16, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Arvadaman
For the drivetrain, I would stick with 7-speed. It is inexpensive, rugged, and widely available.
Originally Posted by mstateglfr
You originally spoke of more cogs in back. You would need a new wheelset to do change to 9sp.
Thanks, that is the type of info I was looking for. I have seen plenty of 7 to 8 spd conversions using the same wheels, hadn't seen much to 9spd. I think the consensus is sounding like it is just smarter to stick with 7spd

Originally Posted by bradtx
jefnvk, Before buying anything other than consumables I'd overhaul the bike stem to stern. Replace the shifter/brake cables and their housing, brake pads, and chain. A new chain will skip if any of the chain rings or cassette/free wheel cogs are worn.

...

As far as using lower end Shimano mountain bike drive train parts are concerned? Both of my 20+ year old touring bikes are so equipped and are drop dead reliable. While it goes against my upgrade gene, I am not changing anything unless it's needed.
Absolutely no concern with using old derailleurs. The rest of my bikes are all older than I am, and still wearing their original equipment. It was more a wondering if I would derive any benefit from something newer, if I am changing out a number of other things as well, or realizing points like it won't handle bigger than 28t.

Consumables are fine, it probably had around 400 miles as seen this spring/summer, it gets regularly maintained alongside the rest of my bikes. Just ridden as my crappy conditions rail trail bike right now, including occasionally with bags, part of this is getting it built up in a condition I'll actually prefer to ride more.
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Old 12-10-16, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet
Good advice so far in this thread. What the heck?

Ditto about the rack.

And.. what about the pedals: Just me again but I dislike nylon, even though it works ok(ish). Personally I would go wide platforms or dual purpose clip/clipless.
I appreciate the good advice!

There are plenty of other things getting changed out, I was just looking to ask about the drivetrain first, the rest can more easily be tweaked later. I've used bags on that rack, but no, it isn't really ideal, and it'll likely get a front rack too (there is an eyelet up there). Fenders are a definite. New computer and lights will go on, the duct taped computer and removable elastic banded "be seen" lights are not what I want for a tour. I've still got to pick exactly what bars I want, and as there is rust between the current bars and the stem, I have to see if I need a new stem too.

Those pedals are actually quite trashed, non drive side one actually cracked, and creak like heck, they've been on the list to change for a while. I'm not into clipless at all, I'll probably try some nice big platform pedals this time, something like these: https://www.rei.com/product/821528/c...-5050-2-pedals.

Tires will be another big choice. This is for an Iceland trip, I'll mostly be on paved roads on my tentative route, but I want the ability to get into sand if an enticing side road appears. But again, that sort of thing is easy to tweak at a later time.

Originally Posted by fietsbob
Rohloff Hub.. the gear range is like a mountain bike drivetrain. that was their design intention.
I'd love one someday, but putting a thousand dollar hub on a bike worth in the neighborhood of $50 is not my preferred allocation of money at this point!

Last edited by jefnvk; 12-10-16 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 12-10-16, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian25
5) I think your chain ring tooth count needs recounting. Never seen a 28, 34, 44 crank, more like 22, 34, 44 might be fine.
You're right, I was going off a couple year old memories. It is actually a 42-34-24, with a 13-28 rear.
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Old 12-10-16, 03:47 PM
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Making your lowest gear, 21.60 gear inches (using 26 x 1.5). Quit acceptable in my books.

Hope this helps,

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Old 12-10-16, 06:57 PM
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jefnvk, Your 7S rear gearing leads me to suspect that you have a freewheel hub.(?) This configuration is known for bending and even breaking axles. I do suggest using a freehub design. If upon tear down the axle is good, there's probably little urgency to replace. I would replace the freewheel hub prior to Iceland's tour, however.

I have nearly the same gearing on my beater/touring bike (24-34-42/11-28) and it works well for touring, well enough for you to decide if you want something different.

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Old 12-10-16, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Arvadaman
Jef,

I have done a few 90's MTB conversions to a more "touring" configuration.

For the drivetrain, I would stick with 7-speed. It is inexpensive, rugged, and widely available.

I shoot for a 42-32-22 front and 14-32 or 13-34 rear. I like really low gears.

If you go that low in the rear, you would need a new rear derailleur as the Acera-X tops out at 28 teeth max.

I would stick with acera level parts for a 90's conversion.

I like trekking bars and vintage friction thumb shifters for the cockpit and shifting.

Then add smooth touring tires.

That is how I would play it.
This should be the canned response for every old school mountain bike conversion thread.
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