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Aloyzius 08-16-07 09:14 PM

I would LOVE to see photos of your MTB conversion
I did a search, and there are some cool ideas out there. But most of the photos and advice was at least a year old. Are you up for it again?

I have gotten more and more into riding my road bike, and spending less time on the trail. So, I think I will be converting my old Gary Fisher Tessajara into a commuter/tourer. It's an aluminum frame, but it seems comfortable enough. Definitely some new bars (drops?), and a B17. I haven't put any thought into the shifters or wheels yet. But I'd like to see your stuff, and gather some more ideas. There's racks and bags to think about, too. I may not ever get to do that dream tour, but the first step is to do the research and build the bike. If I can swing it, I really want to explore Canada next summer. And this will give me a cool project to work on when the boring winter months come.

I just really started to get into this forum the last few days, and you guys have already answered a lot of questions, and given some real inspiration. also had some excellent suggestions.


Losligato 08-16-07 10:57 PM

We converted two 1980s mountain bikes into tourers...

Here are the photos and details

Nigeyy 08-17-07 06:13 AM

I used a converted mtb, but since then it's bitten the dust (an old Raleigh Technium mtb, which in all honesty though was had excellent touring geometry, I can't recommend based on my experience of alu/steel tube separation issues).

Aside from the obvious of fitting racks, there are some things to contemplate:

1. if possible, I'd say go with at least 8 speeds at the back. And consider what gearing you might want.
2. Consider changing chainrings, or purchase something like a touring specific crankset (e.g. Nashbars or the Shimano LX touring crank) to give you a better range of gears.
3. Depending on how aggressively you have your handlebar position set on the mtb, think about making it higher.
4. Definitely think about adding more hand positions, if only adding bar ends as an option. I did tour Europe with a flat bar and bar ends and was quite happy. Another option is to consider Nashbar's trekking bar -it gives you quite a few hand positions and allows you to user your current shifters and brake levers. You don't necessarily have to go with drops, and by not doing so you may save yourself some money. If you do go to drops, then you'll have to buy new shifters and unless you have 787 brake levers, you'll have to get canti brakes as you won't be able to use the more common v-brakes (assuming you have v-brakes on your bike currently). Some on this board are dead set against STIs for touring because of their complexity and reliability, personally, I think they are just fine and have a distinct comfort advantage over barcons, but some people swear by barcons. It's up to you. Barcons will also be cheaper too. If I had a spare pair of STIs, I'd use them.
5. Consider fitting fenders, though to be honest this is only useful if you anticipate cycling in the rain. Myself, I hate cycling in the rain and though there were times I've had to, I didn't have fenders fitted. Lesson learnt; for the cost/weight penalty, they are on my "new" tourer.
6. Sort out the high pressure tyres for the 26 inch wheels -note that some rims -e.g. Sun Rhynolites -are wide and won't accomodate thinner tyres. I use Specialized Fatboys 1.25" on Sun CR18s and have been happy with them as a budget alternative. I know some people go with wider tyres, but I found they were more than adequate for me.
7. This is iffy and it's dependent on so many other things, but if you think your 32 h rear wheel is weak (and that's hard to say until you've toured loaded) consider going to a 36h. Usually a well built 32h 26" reasonable quality wheel is going to be more than fine, so take this with a huge pinch of salt.

Oh one last thing, I don't know how old your Gary Fisher is, but I recall Gary Fisher had the "genesis" frame configuration thing where chainstays become shorter. It may be the chainstays on your bike are very short. Not that it makes the bike completely unsuitable, but if that is the case, I'd definitely consider looking around craigslist for a late 1980's/early 1990's mtb frames and swap parts over. Losligato's bikes are great examples -I think mtb bikes of this era are perfect touring geometry frames. If you are patient -and at least I know it is the case for me in the Boston US area -you'll come across a great frame for very short money. Case in point: I picked up an excellent condition Specialized Hardrock frame from the late 80s/early 90's for $5 that is very similar to Losligato's RockHopper comp (probably heavier tubing as the Hardrock was a model down). Not that I needed another bike, but for $5 I just couldn't resist! If I didn't have a touring specific frame, I'd definitely look to an older mtb frame to convert again.

supersport 08-17-07 07:56 AM

Here's my project, an early 90's Trek 800 Antelope hardtail. Did a 60 mile ride on it last weekend.

It was a gift from some nice folks in our apartment building when they moved out. I'm planning on doing some long tours on it in a few years. Still in low-budget mode at the moment. Note the cobbled-together $5 fenders and the original rear wheel with rusty galvanized spokes.

The frame is Cro-Moly, probably straight-gauge since it doesnt say butted anywhere. Size if 56cm. I'm 6'0", with about a 36" inseam. We replaced the front wheel with one off an old Diamondback we had. Also replaced the crankset and rear cluster with parts we had. Almost all our parts came from EBay. The front tire is a 26x1.5 Michelin folder we've had laying around for about 12 years. It's a good tire. Seems light, but haven't had problems with flats. The rear is a 26x1.95 Kenda we found in the parking garage about two years ago. Slick in the center, knobby on the side, heavy, but ride's nice. The rear rack is an aluminium Ascent, got on sale for $10. Says capacity is 20kg. We'll see how it holds up. Haven't had any weight on it yet.

We replaced the front rapid-fire shifter with a thumb shifter. Looking for a rear shifter. The old rapid fire rear shifter is about to fail I'm sure. Gearing is 26-36-46 Biopace on the front and 11-28 cogs. 175mm cranks. Time Atac mountain pedals.

Since these pictures were taken I've added foam and padded tape to the bar ends and grips. Also got a clamp-on bottle cage for under the downtube. Will probably wait till next year for a front rack and panniers. Rebuild the rear wheel maybe this winter. The stock Shimano low-profile cantilevers are very hard to adjust and have less power than I'd like. I replaced the rear with a Avid Shorty 4 off of my cross bike. Will probably move the front one to this bike too.

I like the bike a lot, It's heavy, but comfortable and a lot of fun. My wife rides an early 80's custom-built (but not for her) Salsa.

Aloyzius 08-18-07 09:31 AM

Thanks, guys. Some comfy looking rides you have there.

Losligato, it's cool you replied because just last week I was reading all about your adventures touring Asia. I thought the bikes looked familiar, and then when I saw the guy welding that rack mount, I was totally floored.

countrydirt 08-18-07 01:27 PM
I don't know if this counts as a conversion or not. 2005 Trek 4300 MTB - changed out wheelset to get 36 spokes, added rear rack, Delta Shock Treatment front rack, B-17, Crankbrother Candy pedals, trekking bar and sacrificed a cheap lunchbox for a handlebar bag. Nashbar Compact Euro panniers on the rear, LonePeak on the front. This bike is intended for paved roads, gravel roads and non-technical single track travel, so I left on a low profile knobby tire.
I will say that if I had larger rear panniers or bigger feet, I might have problems with heel strike, but this is turning out to be a pretty fun bike and it really handles better loaded than bare. I can no hand it for miles loaded, but will fall within about 10 feet without a load.

I will say that I envied this set-up after about 70 miles under my own power.

kipibenkipod 08-18-07 03:09 PM

Nicely done!

wahoonc 08-18-07 03:42 PM

My build up is just starting, but pictures will be forth coming...(gimmee a break I got 2 restos, 2 overhauls and 2 build ups going on at once...:rolleyes:)

My "expedition" bike is getting built up on my old 1992 Giant Iguana. It has Suntour XCM components for a base. I am adding a Nashbar Trekking bar, Yellow Planet Bike Freddy Fenders, Jandd Front and Rear racks, and plan on using the Arkel Mountain Series Panniers. The bike has been around the block...just a few times. It was the first MTB I ever bought. I also added fenders and racks to use it as a commuter for several years in the mid to late '90s. It was stolen from me, I recovered it 3 months later, minus most of the add-ons:mad: Sold it year later to a buddy of mine. It was stolen from him in Memphis. He recovered it a couple of days later. It then went to his BIL, also a friend of mine. He brought it back to me a couple of months ago. It has been sitting in my work stand getting an overhaul while I decided what to do with it. When this thread popped up it became a no brainer:D I do have another bike set up for road touring, but I like to hit the dirt roads and fire trails, so this will be better suited. Besides one can never have too many least I don't think you can;)


Aloyzius 08-19-07 12:34 AM

Awesome. And it looks like an aluminum frame. That's encouraging, because that's what i've got, and I don't think I'll be buying anything else for a while.

The lunch box as a handlebar bag is really clever. I will definitely remember that.

Wahoonc, I don't think you can either. Now if we can persuade my girlfriend to adopt that policy, I'll be OK.

Aloyzius 08-19-07 12:37 AM

Oh, Countrydirt,

Were those shocks compatible with that front rack, or did you have to get something special? I've seen a lot of stuff about Old Man Mountain, or some damn thing like that, making racks that fit shocks. But I guess they're quite expensive.

countrydirt 08-19-07 05:30 AM

The front rack is a Delta Shock Treatment rack. I purchased it from Nashbar for around $45. It attaches to the arms of the fork with a clamp and then attaches to the brake bosses. So it stays in the same position relative to the wheel and tire, regardless of what your shock does. I have no complaints about it. The rear rack is an Ascent or something like that and I paid about $20 for it.

Yes it is an aluminum frame. I don't notice a lot of "harshness" in the ride anymore, I give credit to a broken in B-17 for that.

Thasiet 08-19-07 09:57 AM

I've put about 1000 miles on my Trek 930 conversion since building it earlier this year, and I've mostly been loving it. Built it for about $600, including all new "wear" components: wheels (built by me), bottom bracket, headset, brake pads, cables and housings, and bar wrap (Performance brand gel wrap, sucks, need to replace it with cork), and also including fenders, lights, Blackburn Expedition rear rack, Bruce Gordon front rack, four gallon bucket panniers in back and REI panniers up front. Thus proving that if you are patient and shop around for deals it can be very cost competitive to build up a bike from parts, because I consider this bike to be better suited to me than any of the available options around $1000, such as the Safari, the Randonee, the 520, or the LHT Complete. It helps that I was set on 26" wheels at any price, both for durability and for availability. The Mavic rims are even Schraeder drilled so I can get tires and tubes just about anywhere. Frequent dumpster diving at the local bike nonprofit also helped with a steady stream of quality components at throwaway prices.

The handlebars are 46cm Salsa Bell Laps and they are fabulous! Great control from all positions, and due to being splayed outwards 12 degrees, the only drops I've used where I feel more comfortable climbing, and sprinting out of the saddle, from the drop position. The power ratchet bar ends, with teflon-lined cables and housings shift wonderfully. I'm not against integrated shifting, and might just put some 8-speed Ergopower shifters I've got on this bike, but that could be expensive, because they need to be rebuilt, and I'd need a Jtek Shiftmate to work with the Shimano derailleur and freehub. Bar ends are cheap, work fine. Exage levers look really nice but suck, the hoods shift around, the levers make clicking noises, and the little plastic trim above the quick release always falls out of place. If I don't move to ergo, I need to do something about this and I might just stick on some broken STI levers with the internals removed, because I like the larger size of their grips.

I've only done one overnight tour so far, which was a 130 mile two-day ride out to the Oregon Coast, and except for losing one of my bucket lids, everything worked great. I'm slowly planning a weeklong ride through the Olympic Peninsula. Two weeks ago I rode the MS 150 on this bike, and on the first day of that I rode my first century. I switched the usual 1.6 Geax Street Runners out for some 1.25 Performance slicks, which gave me plenty of speed. I actually passed several roadies coasting on some of the fast downhills, and I am not remotely aware of what advantage this bike had in that, but oh it was there.

tacomee 08-19-07 11:51 AM


It wasn't your bike kicking assand taking was you. Really. You're bike is heavy and is without STI shifters, so racing bikes should be faster, but then again, it's 95% the rider and not the bike. Good job on your first century!

Thasiet 08-19-07 02:20 PM

tacomee, appreciate your bolstering my ego there, but I had a solidly mediocre performance overall, though I suppose not at all bad for someone who is, by definition, obese. Combine that with the extra-wide drops I use and I cheat wind about as well as a parachute, which only adds to the bizarreness of how fast this bike was downhill. Everyone was coasting already, so shifters had nothing to do with it. I've read that smaller wheels are said to be more aerodynamic, and that is my best guess as to why it happened. If so, it's certainly one more argument in favor of converting an MTB versus buying an American style 700c tourer, if it lets you shave away some of that wind resistance you pick up when you hang a couple of barn doors on each side of the bike.

wahoonc 08-19-07 04:53 PM

On a down hill wind resistance, and rolling resistance are only part of the equation. Mass also comes into play. When I raced I was a skinny climber, I almost always got passed on the downhills by the larger riders that I had passed on the way up.


kipibenkipod 08-19-07 11:55 PM


Originally Posted by wahoonc (Post 5102791)
On a down hill wind resistance, and rolling resistance are only part of the equation. Mass also comes into play. When I raced I was a skinny climber, I almost always got passed on the downhills by the larger riders that I had passed on the way up.


Thats exactly what I have noticed!
I have Trek 1200 bike pretty old and when was with the triathlon team, everybody was fitter then me, and had very light bike ;)
In every downhill I just passed everybody with my crappy bike ;) At the end I understood that because I'm 210lbs I'm going faster then them.
So yes, its mass issue ;)

jibi 08-20-07 04:41 AM

6 Attachment(s)
A tourer made with MTB geometry
Thorn Raven Catalyst, with Brooks Saddle, Shimano M647 pedals, Marathon XR Evolution Tyres

Just need to chop the bar-ends!!!


Al Downie 08-20-07 07:08 AM

Hi Jibi,

I'm wondering why you chose to use a seat-post rack, when the Catalyst has bosses/sockets for a 'normal' rack? And what are the black strips on the chainstays for?

Just being nosey - I'm thinking about a Catalyst myself, and wondering if you've found any faults you'd like to share...

jibi 08-20-07 07:53 AM


Originally Posted by Al Downie (Post 5104477)
Hi Jibi,

I'm wondering why you chose to use a seat-post rack, when the Catalyst has bosses/sockets for a 'normal' rack? And what are the black strips on the chainstays for?

Just being nosey - I'm thinking about a Catalyst myself, and wondering if you've found any faults you'd like to share...

I use a BOB Ibex trailer for touring and have a rackbag on the rack with all my spare parts and tools, If I go off for a ride without the trailer everything I need is still in the rackbag.Oh yes and I had the seat-post rack already so decided to use it.

The black strips?? to cover the logos, when I tour most of them are covered to make the bike look like a piece of trash. and hopefully not worth stealing. this is the reason the bike is matt black too

Problems...none the bike has performed perfectly, and I would not hesitate to recommend it.


ps the bar ends are chopped now too

truman 08-20-07 01:46 PM

Thasiet - before you 'tourified it', that 930 was identical to my first-ever mountain bike - stolen in 1998.

If I still owned it, it'd be rigged-out much the way you have yours. Great bike.

McDave 08-20-07 03:11 PM

Here's one I built last month, an '84 Schwinn High Sierra...

ScruffyChimp 08-21-07 05:55 AM

Here's mine. An old ('92?) Shogun Trailbreaker II, frame courtesy of Hoogie. So far, I don't have much distance on it because it's Winter here.

Cave 08-21-07 06:09 AM


Originally Posted by jibi (Post 5104024)
A tourer made with MTB geometry
Thorn Raven Catalyst, with Brooks Saddle, Shimano M647 pedals, Marathon XR Evolution Tyres

Just need to chop the bar-ends!!!


I am so going to steal your bike when you get to Melbourne.

bikebuddha 08-21-07 09:33 AM

Mine is basically identical to losligato's. Early 90's rigid steel (as in real) Gary Fisher frame, trekking bars, racks and fenders. In fact I'm pretty sure I got the idea from his bike.

Thasiet 08-21-07 02:12 PM

Hey Truman, sorry to hear your bike got ripped off. I really dig the metallic color fade on my bike, just wish I could see what it looked like brand new You're probably not concerned about replacing it after a decade, but it might be of interest to anyone else reading this thread that despite being a minor cult item for their durability, these old Trek 900 series bikes can nowadays be had for beans on craigslist and ebay, from where I got my frame delivered. The really lusted over ones are the earlier, lugged versions, but they all build strong touring bikes. I'm glad to see a Thorn on this thread, because I more or less built up my bike thinking of it as a poor man's Thorn that I could take to South America if I ever build up the gumption to drag all this wonderful gear I've assembled. I'm curious Jibi, how does the maintenance work out on those suspension forks over the kind of expedition tour for which Thorns are designed? Can you overhaul the fork in the middle of nowhere or do you just hope everything holds together until you finish?

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