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Help! To convert my MTB or not

Old 09-26-10, 11:07 PM
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Help! To convert my MTB or not

Hi all!

Total newb here, but I love cycling so far and I already have dreams of touring Looking for some advice. First, I'm a poor student, commuting in an urban area. Second, a generous family member has offered $800 for buying any cycling related thing I want (sweet!).

So now, let me introduce the two bikes I currently have.

First is my 1982 Centurion Le Mans. $30 CL find. This is the one that got me into cycling this summer. It's quite fast and I love it. I've been using it as a commuter and on ~40 mile weekend trips. Mine's not in quite the beautiful shape this guy's is, but it's held up pretty well:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mightymoss/4654439604/

Second is a (1988?) Specialized Rockhopper I found for $20. Old CroMo, terrible components (though I kinda like the Sugino Bionic crankset) and at the moment not exactly fun to ride. It is heavy and has big old knobby tires. What's good about it is that it already has a very solid rack on the back and looks to have eyelets on the fork for mounting a front rack, so seems to be ready to be fully loaded. Something like this:

https://gallery.mtbr.com/showphoto.ph...cat//si/T-Bone

In the beginning I'd probably never tour more than a couple days, but I'd be camping so would like two racks. So, thinking along the lines of touring, I was either thinking of A) Pimping out the specialized frame with some drop handlebars, bar end shifters, nice saddle, brakes, 1.5 inch tires, etc., or B) Buying a tour-ready bike. I did kinda fall in love with the Bianchi Volpe today at the bike shop. Just loved that thing. But with option A I feel like there's more room to buy other stuff with the $800 (like, maybe a nice MTB with suspension or a more modern road bike).

Your advice is crucial! Any recommendations on accessories would be cool too, and I will of course be willing to give more detail about the bike (or photos) if necessary. Thanks!!!
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Old 09-27-10, 06:43 AM
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Welcome to Bike Forums!

Do you have all the other touring gear you need (shelter, stove, panniers, possibly sleeping bag & pad)? If not, you'll have to budget something for those too, and in that case I would probably try to save some money by converting the existing bike for touring use. You don't NEED to change everything in the bike, but you may WANT to do that. Skinnier tires (with new rims if necessary) alone would make a big difference.
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Old 09-27-10, 07:05 AM
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That mountain bike looks pretty good for touring, especially since you have a rack on it already. It feels slow because of the knobby tyres - put slicks on it and it'll feel much better. I did the same thing with an old MTB (including drop bars) but I made wheels too.
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Old 09-27-10, 07:28 AM
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I would vote for the mountain bike too. Check out some of the threads about trekking bars (also called butterfly bars) which would give a lot of hand positions and allow you to use the mountain controls (shifters and brakes) that are currently on the bike.

Changing out the tires will make a WORLD of difference in how the bike feels/rides.
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Old 09-27-10, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Juha
Welcome to Bike Forums!

Do you have all the other touring gear you need (shelter, stove, panniers, possibly sleeping bag & pad)? If not, you'll have to budget something for those too, and in that case I would probably try to save some money by converting the existing bike for touring use. You don't NEED to change everything in the bike, but you may WANT to do that. Skinnier tires (with new rims if necessary) alone would make a big difference.
+1 - I'd agree especially since I'm doing this exact thing right now. Just waiting for some final parts. I had the bike but needed all the accessory stuff for touring - converting the old mtb was the logical choice so I could focus money on panniers, racks, lighter weight camping stuff, etc.
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Old 09-27-10, 08:04 AM
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Cool, so it sounds like I wasn't too far off the mark

Sonata- Trekking bars look cool but I did have my mind set on drops + aeros. Any chance to rip the awful components out of this guy would be good, so i.e. keeping the shifters isn't a consideration. But maybe I should give em' a try before I overlook them!

Juha and Scozim- I do have the camping gear.. guess all I'm missing is a front rack, panniers, and fenders. Can get a lot of it used. Could probably use e.g. some more bike shorts, etc too. The $800 has to go for a bike though, which is why I was thinking maybe a new MTB would be good, just to have one. The thing I most worry about is spending a lot of time and effort on some beast that I'll never want to ride except for tours. Of course I could just keep it as my bad weather commuter also... guess everyone needs those.

Well, either way it seems like the choice is clear. Will post some final results pics!!


p.s. Scozim, the Antelope 800 (1990?) was the only other bike I've owned. As a kid I abused that thing pretty seriously in the mountains and city alike, and I used it for ~15 years afterward. Pretty solid frame!
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Old 09-27-10, 08:13 AM
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poor student commuting in urban area.
I'd go with the other suggestions to spiff up the Hardrock (that's what the photo shows) and use the money to get new 1.5" tires or wheels if needed, labor for overhaul if you don't have the tools/time. The headset or bb. may need replacing but if they don't just have them clean and repack it with lots of grease. Put on a steerer tube adaptor so you can use clamp on stems. Just get "good enough" components. All this assuming the frame is true and fits you. If it's not the right size I'd put the money to getting a new or used bike of the right size.
I like platform front racks for 26" wheeled bikes.
There's enough "stuff" associated with riding it would be good to have a few hundred dollars in reserve for specialized clothing, shoes, lights.
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Old 09-27-10, 04:26 PM
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hi,

I'm not a poor student but a mid life guy with kids but I recently went through the same decision making progress. The group's wisdom is great, isn't it? Just take your own situation into account. Money spent on a bike is money you can't spend on a tour. It would be silly to spend 5 thousand on a bike to do a 2 week, 1 thousand dollar trip around the NC coast though there are people who do it. And it would be equally silly to skimp and buy a 200 dollar craigslist special to take on a 5 thousand dollar, 3 month Europe tour. In other words, the fraction of your resources that you devote to the bike, the camping or touring equipment, panniers and racks, etc should be in proportion to your intended use and overall budget. Personally, I want to spend less on the bike and other hardware so I can afford to eat better on tour.

Having said all this, I recently salvaged a 1993 Jamis Diablo MTB. The group helped me decide to keep it as much as possible as-is, use it up on local tours and save my money for a more appropriate bike I am having built (which won't be ready for another year) rather than try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Of course, Your Mileage May Vary.

Good luck.
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Old 09-27-10, 04:49 PM
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Last spring I couldn't decide whether or not to convert my 18 year old Trek 930 mountain bike to a touring bike or buy a touring bike. I bought a new Novara Randonee, and after some months prefer the Trek 930. I should have converted. LBS told me it would cost $300. New bike cost $850 after dividend. Convert your mountain bike if you like ita lot or buy the new one if you like it more.
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Old 09-27-10, 06:13 PM
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I've been on both sides: as you might suspect, the advice I give is..... it depends....

While I agree that a big factor is how comfortable a bike feels -if for example your mtb feels just right, I'd be inclined to go with it -you also have to consider that you should be able to get a very similar fit with a "proper" touring bike. For $800 that might mean you could buy one new, or you might need to be patient. If you're exceptionally tall or short, that could be an issue.

But let's assume you feel just right with the mtb, the problem here is that it really doesn't take a lot to rack up the expenses. E.g.:

2 tyres = $50
3 inner tubes = $15 (yep you'll need inner tubes and one spare!)

Of course you may not want to keep those handlebars as you indicated, read on:

drop handlebars: $30
tape: $15
stem: $20 (highly probable you need a new stem with a different kind of handlebar)

oops, but now with drop handlebars, guess what? You need new brake levers, and you said bar end shifters, right?

levers = $30
bar end shifters = $60
cables = $20 ('cos you'll need new cables)

Assuming the brakes on the bike are v-brakes, that means you'll probably want new brakes (as you said, and assuming you don't get long pull brake levers) :

brakes = $50

But there are some more things to keep in mind: (i) I think I quoted really pretty good prices not including shipping, (ii) this all assumes you have the know how and tools to take stuff off and put stuff on and (iii) if your mtb drivechain is worn, it's very easy to add an extra $100 for a chain, bb, cassette, etc. If you want fenders (that usually come stock on most touring bikes), add another $20 too. Point is, to get that mtb to touring status, you might be surprized to spend anywhere from $300-$500. The costs really do add up. I think anytime you approach close to half the cost of a new bike, you have to start thinking about buying a used touring bike. By the way, it gets even more expensive if you start using upper end componentry.

I'm not saying you can't convert an mtb very cheaply (if I had little money, and could get a good mtb cheaply with a good drivechain, for touring I'd be inclined to spend $60 on new tyres and tubes, $25 on bar ends -for a maximum of $85!). However, just keep a realistic total of what you'll need -spec out the components and costs -including installation. It's very tempting to think "oh yeah, new tyres, that's it".

So.... if you have all your camping equipment, know you'll go touring again and have enough spending money for your tour already, I'd recommend going the new bike or used touring bike route. If you are short of money, I'd recommend the mtb conversion IF you can keep costs under control.
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Old 09-27-10, 07:35 PM
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If the mountain controls are in good working order, for about $25 you can set things up with trekking bars and give the bike a good try out. Tires and tubes are consumables, so I would not really count that toward the cost of the bike build.
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Old 09-27-10, 09:19 PM
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If you have a bicycle co-op/community shop in your area, you can likely do a lot of the wrenching at said shop with little cost and you can learn a lot too. You might even score some sweet used parts, especially since the busy season is winding down.
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Old 09-28-10, 09:18 AM
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I'm moving in this direction with my '90 Rockhopper as well, but I'm fortunate in that I've acquired most of the parts I'll need over the last year or so. If I decide that I like the end result, I may spring for a low-key powder coat (the paint on this frame is trashed.)

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Old 09-28-10, 11:53 AM
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So I just spent about $150 on parts and did the work myself, and it seems like I'm pretty much there. New pedals with straps, 7-gear cassette and chain, tires/tubes (26x1.5 all terrain), fenders, bar ends, all new cables, and a couple water bottle cages. I was convinced by the guy at the LBS to stay away from drop handlebars, because as Nigeyy said it would get expensive quickly, it's too bad because I do love drop handlebars. I considered trekking bars, but I think the bar ends were a good compromise for another hand position. And I kept my friction shifters, which I kinda prefer for serviceability reasons. Next thing to buy is the rear pannier set and a seat bag, was thinking of the cheap Nashbars for a couple-year solution until I start making actual money. Not sure I can't afford the front rack/pannier set just yet, but this setup should suffice for weekend treks, right? p.s. Leeg was right, it's an 88 Hardrock, not a Rockhopper....
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Old 09-28-10, 05:48 PM
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My secondary tourer is a converted mtb (oh, it wasn't cheap after everything, don't ask! And it was also a Hard Rock funnily enough see https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ized+Hard+Rock), and I put the trekking bars on it -I love them. However, some people like them, some people don't. I've toured with drops, straights (with bar ends) and trekking bars, and I have to be honest the straights with bar end were my least favourite, but you know what? They still worked. If you ever do decide to go with trekking bars, it's about 100% certain you will need another stem (stems for straight bars and trekking just don't seem to work usually). Just another little added expense.

It sounds like you make an excellent start. Concerning panniers, I'll put in a vote for Axiom Typhoons/Monsoons. I got mine for about $60 on Ebay and have been very happy with them (I like the fact they are waterproof and a single storage section, but that's just me). FYI, my first panniers were cheap $35 Giant branded panniers -not ideal, but again, they worked. The one thing I do think is nice to have is a good quality front handlebar bag right from the start.

Bottom line is to get out there and enjoy yourself!


Originally Posted by granto
So I just spent about $150 on parts and did the work myself, and it seems like I'm pretty much there. New pedals with straps, 7-gear cassette and chain, tires/tubes (26x1.5 all terrain), fenders, bar ends, all new cables, and a couple water bottle cages. I was convinced by the guy at the LBS to stay away from drop handlebars, because as Nigeyy said it would get expensive quickly, it's too bad because I do love drop handlebars. I considered trekking bars, but I think the bar ends were a good compromise for another hand position. And I kept my friction shifters, which I kinda prefer for serviceability reasons. Next thing to buy is the rear pannier set and a seat bag, was thinking of the cheap Nashbars for a couple-year solution until I start making actual money. Not sure I can't afford the front rack/pannier set just yet, but this setup should suffice for weekend treks, right? p.s. Leeg was right, it's an 88 Hardrock, not a Rockhopper....
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Old 09-28-10, 06:23 PM
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Granto, sounds great, just keep your eyes open for killer deals and you'll eventually get drop bars on there. Blackburn front rack is $40, when this one comes back it's $13 for light loads.
https://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...1_10000_200411
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Old 09-28-10, 06:35 PM
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Seconded too (you'll notice I use one). Great cheap solution to put a lightweight tent on or sleeping bag etc. to just balance the bike nicely. not for big loads mind you, but 5lbs from the back to the front can make a nice difference.

Originally Posted by LeeG
Granto, sounds great, just keep your eyes open for killer deals and you'll eventually get drop bars on there. Blackburn front rack is $40, when this one comes back it's $13 for light loads.
https://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...1_10000_200411
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Old 09-28-10, 07:28 PM
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I will speak from experience, and bar ends are not nearly as nice as trekking bars. Glad you got the bike together for not too much cash -- now go out and ride and have some fun.
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Old 09-28-10, 07:51 PM
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Which tires did you go with - I have to get some 26 X 1.5's.
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Old 09-28-10, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Nigeyy
but 5lbs from the back to the front can make a nice difference.
it does make a difference, I'll ride home by the grocery store and get some groceries in the panniers then ride another mile to get a six pack. The few lbs of weight from the six pack make the front end steadier.
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Old 09-28-10, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Juha
Do you have all the other touring gear you need (shelter, stove, panniers, possibly sleeping bag & pad)?.
I just recently went out to purchase most of that stuff and it isn't cheap, so definitely look around at pricing before spending all your money. Obviously there are cheaper ways to take care of some of these things (like using a tarp and hammock instead of a buying a tent), but those decisions are personal.

Have fun getting all this stuff together! Like I said, I just went through it and started training for my first bike touring adventure (gonna ride the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway from DC-Asheville, NC). I'm choosing to fix up my Marin, Rocky Ridge mountain bike rather than buying a touring bike so that I could spend more money on the equipment side.
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Old 09-28-10, 10:05 PM
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This is mine
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Old 09-28-10, 10:13 PM
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^^^ This is very badass
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Old 09-28-10, 10:17 PM
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Definitely look at the ultralight camping websites. There are many ways to camp for not much money. As the poster above mentioned, a tarp or hammock solution, a bivy sack, etc. And keep an eye out for used boy scout stuff. It works great. For example, the older Eureka Timberline 2 tents are sturdy, comfy and cost only 120 new, half that used. Very good solution. Make yourself a homemade Pepsi can alcohol stove and a thermos cooker, etc. Shop Goodwill or thrift stores for polar fleece and a rain jacket and cookware. Look at yard sales for good cookware, etc. Over the next year or 2 you can have a full kit for not much money. And never skimp on safety gear - something for your noggin and something to be seen by motorists. A cheap rear triangle reflector that you can take on and off when you go on the road is worth its weight in platinum as is a blinky light that clips to your rear rack.
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Old 09-28-10, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by duckforcover
^^^ This is very badass
Yeah it is!

Awesome picture of it too.
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