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Old 05-31-09, 09:16 AM   #1
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Which is worse: MTB on a tourer, or touring on an MTB?

Hi all,
Thought I would solicit some advice on gf's impending bike purchase. After much intensive research, she still can't decide what category of bike she needs, given that she wants to do some commuting, some touring, yet be able to do off road (ie, medium grade mtb) when the occasion calls.

So, which would be worse: doing a tour (eg 200km over 3 days) on a mountain bike fitted with touring slicks (eg, marathon supremes), or going mountain biking and trying to keep up with others, on something like a kona sutra (or maybe even a flat bar road bike) with say 32mm knobby tyres. The biggest concern with touring is that she's not the strongest rider already, and most of our friends have recently bought surly lht's or kona sutras...

Totally subjective, I haven't given enough details for an accurate answer, but I'd love to hear your thoughts anyway. Assume the mountain bike has lockout suspension. For bonus points, what about a hybrid?

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Old 05-31-09, 09:37 AM   #2
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Have you noticed that probably a quarter of the people on this forum tour on MTBs? Then again, depending on what kind of trails you`re talking about, the touring bike might not be too bad there either. So, did you mean "Which is worse?" or "Which is better?" : )
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Old 05-31-09, 10:37 AM   #3
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In your/her situation, I'd go for a hardtail MTB.

MTBs are fine for tours, especially short tours like the length you mentioned. Use slicks most of the time, and hang onto the MTB tires when needed. This also gives you the option to do off-road tours, if you are so inclined.

There are lots of hybrids out there, but I'm not sure how good they are for the off-road riding.
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Old 05-31-09, 11:30 AM   #4
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How about this:
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Old 05-31-09, 11:58 AM   #5
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Put 1.25" Kojaks on the bike. Nobody is going fast anyway, and if there's a headwind you can draft.
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Old 05-31-09, 12:11 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by stevage View Post
Hi all,
and most of our friends have recently bought surly lht's or kona sutras...
Another alternative is the New Taiwanese BLT (Basic Loaded Touring) from Bruce Gordon Cycles

Bruce Gordon
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Old 05-31-09, 01:17 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
Or any 29er with a rigid fork, assuming she is not petite.

When I ride my bike I feel free and happy and strong. I'm liberated from the usual nonsense of day to day life. Solid, dependable, silent, my bike is my horse, my fighter jet, my island, my friend. Together we will conquer that hill and thereafter the world.
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Old 05-31-09, 01:40 PM   #8
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Try cyclocross bikes. Relaxed road frame, clearance for bigger tires, geometry very similar to older mtb's in some cases. I have a Surly CC and tour on it as will as ride it off road. Not perfect for either, but works well enough.
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Old 05-31-09, 02:55 PM   #9
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The smaller sizes of the Long Haul Trucker take 26'' wheels. A quick switch to knobbies will give it good mountain biking ability. Even better if you swap out the stock road drops for butterfly bars or something. IMO, this frame can give the best of both worlds.
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Old 05-31-09, 05:57 PM   #10
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I've been mulling this question over in my mind for a year or so now, for virtually the same reasons, only it's for me and not the ol' lady. I'd like to have a pukka touring bike, and I really like the Surly LHT, but when I crunch the numbers and evaluate my choices realistically, I always find the Specialized Rockhopper I already own can do the job better over a wider range of riding conditions for very little more than what I already have in it. Truth is, even if I didn't already have it, the Rockhopper would still come out ahead because I can get it for at least $300 less than the LHT. A Specialized Crosstrail would be a very good alternative; it's the only bike that makes me second-guess my decision to buy the Rockhopper.
I don't do any trail riding, but I do live 5 miles from pavement on Kansas farm roads which can be soft-sandy, rough-rocky, or hard-packed dirt. The Rockhopper handles that stuff well. Another set of wheels with smoother, high-pressure tires would give that bike a LOT of flexibility.
A couple of considerations: I believe, but don't know for sure, that mountain bike shifters and brake levers are more durable and cheaper than comparable road bike components. On the other hand, a rigid front fork requires less maintenance than a mountain bike's hydraulic fork, but we don't have to guess which will ride better, do we?
I asked for thoughts on this on this forum ( and the response helped me make up my mind.

Last edited by hedgeapple; 05-31-09 at 06:20 PM.
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Old 06-06-09, 04:36 AM   #11
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I tried taking my Cannondale T800 off road. The toe overlap makes it dangerous. Also one of the mudguard attachments broke. Also it would be better to be in the drops all the time, which is hard to do if they are in a good position for road riding. Also the chainring clearance is a little low, wouldn't want to bash it on a log or a rock. The tyres are a little thin for soft conditions, but fine for dry trails as long as the pressure is low. No good on sand.

MTB would be better. You can find good touring MTBs.
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Old 06-06-09, 12:21 PM   #12
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I also like to have one bike for both touring and mtn biking, because a lot of my touring is off road. One frame that is intended to do both is the Gunnar Rock Tour. It's basically a mtn bike, but has longer chainstays and beefier stays for carrying a load. It's made to use a 80mm suspension fork, or you could put on a rigid fork as well. I like it.
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Old 06-06-09, 01:42 PM   #13
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You're kind of all over the map regarding criteria as it isn't clear whether you're deciding the bike or deciding a trip and deciding on the bike for the undecided trip.

The comment "she's not the strongest rider already" is more of a concern than the type of bike as it appears you are attempting to have the bike compensate for her relative lack of strength. Whether it's slicks on a mtn. bike or road bike or cross bike in the dirt she WILL be riding alone if no one rides with her. It could be a 20lb bike or a 30lb bike it won't matter. Riding with 32mm tires in the dirt will be a lot more challenging technically to someone who isn't up for it and weight and tires on the road is kind of irrelevant if she doesn't have the hp. to ride at the speeds where that makes a difference. Besides a bit of gear on the bike and she's going nowhere fast up hills. All it takes is .1mph difference and in five minutes you're a couple hundred yards apart. On dirt and up hills the distance will be greater because the strength differences show up even more. So if you're thinking of getting the bike to enable her to keep with the pack don't bother, the pack or someone in it will have to decide if they want to ride with her or if she cares if she rides alone.

It's time to make realistic choices, if she's commuting she'll appreciate a light bike for a lot of basic reasons and she doesn't need the capability for fat tires. If she's not much of a rider I doubt she'll enjoy riding an unshocked bike on trails no matter the tire size.

If the breakdown of road(commute/tour) to dirt(bumpy) was 80/20 or more I'd go for something like a CrossCheck or LHT or Specialized Tricross. If the dirt use crept up to 70/30(road/dirt) then something that can take big tires or a real mtn bike with shock lock out options.

Not knowing her riding experience I think getting a comfortable position will matter a lot more than the type of bike. If you get straight bars get some kinds of add ons for changing hand position.

Last edited by LeeG; 06-06-09 at 01:52 PM.
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