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Mountain Bike as utility bike

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Mountain Bike as utility bike

Old 05-23-13, 08:25 AM
  #1  
garythenuke
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Mountain Bike as utility bike

I have what seems like a straight forward question. My bike is a 2008 or 2009 Giant Trance X1. I am going to convert it over to a street/commute/utility bike. I will likely not be taking it off road again, or if I do, it will be dirt bike paths and an occasional fire road.I may even hook a trailer up to it.

So here is my question regarding the rear shock. Is it better in the long term, for the shock and the frame, to pump the rear shock to maximum and lock it out, to leave it set for my weight and lock it out, or pump it up to maximum and leave it unlocked? I even considered having a machinist friend of mine machine an aluminum billet to take the place of the rear shock.

My priority is making the most efficient road ride while also making it the easiest possible on the shock and frame.
What do you all think?
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Old 05-23-13, 08:34 AM
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I don't know but if you do that billet I'd love to see it. That sounds really interesting.
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Old 05-23-13, 09:39 PM
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You are changing tires, right? Getting rid of anything knobby and something smoother will make the bike roll and roll and roll. Best thing I did to my trek.
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Old 05-23-13, 09:46 PM
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I'd just set the shock for your weight (or maybe +10#) and lock it out. That way it won't stress the air seals and put excess force on the shock. A narrower set of road tires, a rack, some lights and you're set!

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Old 05-23-13, 10:46 PM
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Measure your shock length (extended, non-compressed) and the width and diameter of the eyelets that hold it on each side. Then go find a cheap spring only fake rear shock that is just a spring with no damping that will fit and swap it out and then tighten down the adjustment so it does not move unless you hit a big bump or a pothole or such.

That would be my recommendation and that is how I set up all my "commuterized" on road way mountain bikes. That along with a good set of street tires for them that are about 2" wide maybe down to 1.75" width that have a smooth rolling thread pattern on them, preferably puncture resistant. Add a good set of lights and a cargo rack, panniers, etc . . . and you should be good to go.

Basically for on road use for rear suspension (and to a lesser extent front suspension as well) you want it too be stiff enough not to have any sag and not rob any pedal power at all and you want to be able to feel the road like you were riding a hard tail (especially important in slick road conditions so you can feel if you start to slip out on the rear when rounding a curve at speed and correct in time not to spill, especially if you have rear cargo on a rack or in panniers which makes the rear of the bike top heavy). But at the same time you also want it to give if you have to ride through a pot-hole instead of go around in order to maintain a safe line when riding in traffic otherwise you end up either giving the bike a beating or swerving around pot-holes and having a collision with a car as a result.

If you pump up a good air shock to achieve that kind of setting you put a lot of stress on a good air shock when a simple cheap spring only suspension does exactly this when you tighten it down to just the right amount of tension, at least for the rear shock I prefer that rather then a good expensive air shock that I don't need to abuse in that way. Now for front suspension, yah I like a good damped front shock fork and just run it a little stiffer then I would for off road.

Just a simple compression spring with a rubber bumper on the extension stop end so the frame doesn't get a hard sock upon re-extension after hitting the pot-hole works like a dandy when tightened down to only give when hitting a big bump like riding through a pot-hole. You could even have your machinist friend make one up like that if you can't locate one that fits and has a rubber bumper on the extension stop. (Some cheap fake compression spring only rear shocks do not have a rubber bumper on the extension stop, some do. You want one that does. The thicker the rubber bumper the better.)

Last edited by turbo1889; 05-23-13 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 05-23-13, 11:08 PM
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Hard tail will be a simpler build..
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Old 05-24-13, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Turbo231 View Post
You are changing tires, right? Getting rid of anything knobby and something smoother will make the bike roll and roll and roll. Best thing I did to my trek.
Oh absolutely. I'll be using Schwalbe Marathons in a tubeless configuration. I'll be using 1.35 or 1.5 inch.

Originally Posted by oldskoolwrench View Post
I'd just set the shock for your weight (or maybe +10#) and lock it out. That way it won't stress the air seals and put excess force on the shock. A narrower set of road tires, a rack, some lights and you're set! I called the bike shop and they suggested pumping it up to near max, but I think I like the idea of taking it a bit easier on the shock and keeping the pressure lower.

I think you are on to something. I called the LBS and they suggested pumping the shock to near max and locking it out. I think I like the idea better to keep the pressure lower and take it easier on the internals of the shock. I even have an e-mail in to Fox with this question, but I'm not holding my breath for an answer.
Originally Posted by turbo1889 View Post
Measure your shock length (extended, non-compressed) and the width and diameter of the eyelets that hold it on each side. Then go find a cheap spring only fake rear shock that is just a spring with no damping that will fit and swap it out and then tighten down the adjustment so it does not move unless you hit a big bump or a pothole or such.

That would be my recommendation and that is how I set up all my "commuterized" on road way mountain bikes. That along with a good set of street tires for them that are about 2" wide maybe down to 1.75" width that have a smooth rolling thread pattern on them, preferably puncture resistant. Add a good set of lights and a cargo rack, panniers, etc . . . and you should be good to go.

Basically for on road use for rear suspension (and to a lesser extent front suspension as well) you want it too be stiff enough not to have any sag and not rob any pedal power at all and you want to be able to feel the road like you were riding a hard tail (especially important in slick road conditions so you can feel if you start to slip out on the rear when rounding a curve at speed and correct in time not to spill, especially if you have rear cargo on a rack or in panniers which makes the rear of the bike top heavy). But at the same time you also want it to give if you have to ride through a pot-hole instead of go around in order to maintain a safe line when riding in traffic otherwise you end up either giving the bike a beating or swerving around pot-holes and having a collision with a car as a result.

If you pump up a good air shock to achieve that kind of setting you put a lot of stress on a good air shock when a simple cheap spring only suspension does exactly this when you tighten it down to just the right amount of tension, at least for the rear shock I prefer that rather then a good expensive air shock that I don't need to abuse in that way. Now for front suspension, yah I like a good damped front shock fork and just run it a little stiffer then I would for off road.

Just a simple compression spring with a rubber bumper on the extension stop end so the frame doesn't get a hard sock upon re-extension after hitting the pot-hole works like a dandy when tightened down to only give when hitting a big bump like riding through a pot-hole. You could even have your machinist friend make one up like that if you can't locate one that fits and has a rubber bumper on the extension stop. (Some cheap fake compression spring only rear shocks do not have a rubber bumper on the extension stop, some do. You want one that does. The thicker the rubber bumper the better.)
I really had not thought of that. I don't know much about the internal mechanics of the shocks. What actually happens internally when you have the shock locked out but hit a big hole? What is the blow by mechanism? Is it hard on the shock at all??
Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Hard tail will be a simpler build..
Well, if I had a hardtail that might be the case. As it is, I have this bike and retro-fitting like we are talking about is cheaper and quicker.
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Old 05-25-13, 04:12 PM
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Turbo1889,
I have some questions for you but I am not yet worthy to send PMs.
Thanks,
Gary

Last edited by garythenuke; 05-26-13 at 02:35 PM.
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Old 05-26-13, 05:50 AM
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Giant Trance is entirely the wrong model for a utility bike. It has no threaded eyelets for a rear luggage rack or fenders and is towards the higher end of stealability. It is quite a good all-round MTB so has some market value. I would be tempted to sell it and buy a suitable hardtail or old-school rigid bike, or keep it as a play bike and start afresh with a utility bike project.
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Old 05-26-13, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
Giant Trance is entirely the wrong model for a utility bike. It has no threaded eyelets for a rear luggage rack or fenders and is towards the higher end of stealability. It is quite a good all-round MTB so has some market value. I would be tempted to sell it and buy a suitable hardtail or old-school rigid bike, or keep it as a play bike and start afresh with a utility bike project.
Yeah, I know it's a long way from ideal. I had my sights on a Surly Crosscheck on the local Craig's List. But I gathered my money a week late. It was customized with brake shifters and double levers, front a rear racks and Ortleib paniers... Oh well...

I was considering using a seat mount trailer instead of paniers. This is another reason I really want to know how to lock out the rear suspension.
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Old 05-26-13, 12:25 PM
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The rigid frame and fork is the best for utility use. Believe it or not............
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Old 05-26-13, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
The rigid frame and fork is the best for utility use. Believe it or not............
I have no trouble believing it. However I am trying to figure out how to use the bike I have rather than accumulate another or go through the trouble of selling and purchasing another. This bike will also be my travel around bike and some day, if I can find the right job, my commute bike in addition to my go out on the weekend and ride with my wife bike...
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Old 05-26-13, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by garythenuke View Post
. . . I really had not thought of that. I don't know much about the internal mechanics of the shocks. What actually happens internally when you have the shock locked out but hit a big hole? What is the blow by mechanism? Is it hard on the shock at all??
Well, if I had a hardtail that might be the case. As it is, I have this bike and retro-fitting like we are talking about is cheaper and quicker.
Originally Posted by garythenuke View Post
Turbo1889,
I have some questions for you but I am not yet worthy to send PMs. Please write me at *********.
Thanks,
Gary

A whole lot depends on exactly how the shock is set-up. There is an incredible range of what is available and passes for "shocks" on bikes from incredibly simple to incredibly complicated hybrid mechanisms.

I have sent you a short PM as an initial contact and I believe you should be able to reply to the PM since I initiated the contact if you have stuff you want to discuss privately. If not I do have your e-mail you posted and I would suggest you immediately edit that post of yours and remove your e-mail address. Posting your private e-mail address on a public forum board is the same as painting a target on yourself for spammers and the longer it stays up the more likely it is to be used by them.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Okay, I think we should go all the way down to basics. First of all, what exactly is a "shock" and what is it supposed to do, a question which is part of a larger question as to the purpose of having a suspension system on a bike or any other vehicle instead of using a rigid set-up.

"Shock" is short for "shock absorber" which pretty much explains its purpose. That being to absorb shock loads applied to the bikes wheels by riding surface imperfections and reduce their transfer to the bikes frame and the rider. It is only one component in a properly functioning suspension system. The suspension system on any wheeled vehicle including a cycle as three functions:

1 - Keeping the wheels in better sustained contact with the riding surface to improve control and handling.
2 - Reducing shock loads on the frame and other frame mounted components by absorbing some of the shock loads from the wheels before they are transferred to the frame.
3 - Improving ride comfort.

Depending on riding conditions, style, and especially the condition of the surface being ridden on how the suspension system can best accomplish that and which of those three functions are prioritized and to what extent means different kinds of suspension set-ups. This is especially true with a pedal powered cycle because there is a fourth factor in the mix that involves the potential of the suspension system to rob some of the pedaling power of the rider.

Although a bikes "shocks" (shock absorbers) are an important part of the suspension system they are not the entirety of it. Neumatic tires themselves are an important part of the system and for some riding conditions are all that is needed.

Going by strictly the technical definition of a shock there are basically three different type of primary mechanisms reasonably commonly used as rear wheel shock absorbers in bikes and various hybrid configurations of two or all three types. Those three are as follows:

1 - Rubber Bumper
2 - Spring
3 - Compressed Air

The simplest of all of those is a simple rubber bumper all by itself. I have seen a few cruiser type bicycles that use that kind of shock absorbing mechanism in the rear suspension where the two rear seat stays come together into a flat round metal pad with another round flat metal pad on the seat tube with a big round thick chunk of rubber pad in-between them. Very simple, hardly anything to go wrong but it provides very short travel distance for the rear suspension and is a pretty stiff set-up.

Next is the spring all by itself, which is commonly found for the rear suspension "shock" on cheap departments store mountain bikes. Yah, it works and gives a longer travel arm then just a simple rubber bumper. The main problem with this being the lack of damping in just a spring (a simple rubber bumper as discussed above is self damping internally) and getting a Pogo-Stick action that makes it feel like your bouncing your rear on a bed mattress as you pedal if the suspension isn't tightened down and is being run with some "sag" in it (more on that later in this post, it mainly concerns off road riding). The secondary problem is that springs alone bottom out too easily and can transfer a hard shock load that overwhelms the spring and bottoms it out.

Last on the short list is compressed air. Compressed air in a rigid piston assembly unlike a spring will never bottom out unless their is either a safety release or some part of the system gives or blows out. This is its main advantage and also its main weakness. Air is also slightly self damping, not so much as a simple rubber bumper but better then a metal spring. In addition all you need is an air pump to adjust the system. The reason a compressed air shock will never bottom out without a safety release kicking in or failure or blow out in the system is due to the exponential nature of compressing a gas. For example with a simple spring shock that is spring only with 4" of travel it might have a spring force of 200 pounds when fully extended and 400 pounds when fully compressed and "bottomed out". On the other hand a compressed air shock that is only air and nothing else that also has 4" of travel and an extended force of 200 pounds will have 400 pounds at 2" compression ~ 800 pounds at 3" compression ~ 1,600 pounds at 3-1/2" compression ~ 3,200 pounds at 3-3/4" compression ~ and that pattern of exponential growth in the force continues such that the shock will never compress its full 4" without either a safety valve releasing the pressure or something giving or blowing out.

For spring and compressed air shocks damping is often desirable and the most common effective manner of providing this is hydraulic with an oil filled cylinder with a floating piston assembly with a small hole or holes with or without one way valves such that movement of the shock is slowed down to remove that “bouncy” action that not only makes it feel like bounding your rear on an old bed mattress while pedaling but also is detrimental towards the suspension doing its job of maximizing contact of the wheels with the riding surface. Depending on how the suspension is adjusted, however, damping may not be needed, this is especially the case if the suspension is set-up stiff with a heavy pre-load so as only to give and absorb the big bumps only (what I suggest for an on-road utility bike).

Hybrid set-ups:

In order to mitigate the short comings of each of the three main types of normally used shock types for bikes more often then not in anything more then a bottom of the barrel component usually a hybrid system is used for the shock. These hybrids can include the following combinations:

----- Spring with Rubber Bumper(s)
----- Spring Air Combo
----- Rubber Air Bladder
----- Spring Air Combo with Rubber Bumper(s)

All of these combinations except for the Rubber air Bladder can also include a hydraulic damper mechanism or not as well. The most common rubber air bladder is known as a pneumatic bike tire but they can also be used sometimes in in-frame sock absorbers as well to provide adjustability and greater travel and once again this unusual arrangement can be seen built into some cruiser bike frames as a step up from the simple rubber bumper pad arrangement I touched on earlier.

Rubber bumpers can be installed on either or both travel ends of a spring or air shock. They are used on the extension end in the absence of hydraulic damping to prevent the shock itself from being the source of a hard shock to the frame by suddenly springing back to being fully extended once compressed by a load. They are used on the compressed end of the travel of a shock to prevent the shock for bottoming out with a hard jolt on a spring shock and can be used as the safety device that prevents an air shock from being compressed down so far that the compressed gas pressures become high enough to damage the shock and “blow it out”.

Then there is the lock out mechanism that some shocks are equipped with. Some lock outs have a safety feature that will allow a very hard shock to be absorbed by the shock and the shock to compress under that load without damaging the lock out mechanism. Other lock out mechanisms will hold until they are broken.

Long story short, in terms of covering all possible conditions irrelative of complexity or serviceability the very best shock one could have would be a hydraulically damped spring air shock with rubber bumpers on both ends of the travel with a lock out mechanism with a safety release on it so a really hard jolt wouldn’t break the lock out mechanism and a similar safety bleed valve on the air chamber. Such a shock would be highly complex, expensive, and possibly have service issues. It would also most likely weigh more and be more bulky then a simpler mechanism.

That isn’t even considering that you can have multiple stages on every different part of that mechanism. You can have multiple spring stages, air stages, hydraulic damping stages, and even rubber bumper stages that engage progressively adding even more complexity to the system.

-----------------

For serious aggressive riding on some very bad riding surfaces that kind of extra expense and complexity may make sense but for an on-road bike for a rear shock you just basically need something that only works to take out the really big bumps like when you ride through a big pothole that is 4+ inches deep with a sharp edge. A simple spring with enough pre-load to keep it fully extended and stiff unless you hit a big bump is sufficient to cover that. Obviously rubber bumpers, preferably on both ends of the travel, would be highly desirable beyond just a spring only. Hydraulic damping really isn’t needed for a stiff on-road suspension set-up intended to only take the big bumps, especially if you have rubber bumpers on the travel ends.

Basically, what I’m suggesting is using just what is needed with minimal complexity. This is especially true if the air shock you currently have does not have safety mechanisms to prevent damage on both the lock out and the air cylinder itself. It would be a pity to shear the lock out mechanism or blow out the seals on a good expensive air shock hitting a giant pot-hole on the road (usually you hit the big ones when they are filled with water and you can’t see how big or how deep they are) that is better saved for the off road riding it was made for. If your going to blow it out at least do it off road jumping some crazy jump so you have bragging rights. Hitting a foot deep pot-hole at speed on the bottom of a down hill run just doesn't have any bragging rights to it to compensate for having to fix or replace damaged components.
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Old 05-26-13, 02:18 PM
  #14  
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Forgot to discuss "sag" in how you set up your shock. For off road use setting up with a little sag helps keep better more constant contact of the wheels with the riding surface for better control and handling. Sag simply means less pre-load then what is necessary to compensate for the weight of the rider. For example for my off road bike with 4" of travel in the rear suspension I set it for about an inch even of "sag" or in other words setting the pre-load so that when I get on the bike just my weight alone takes up the first inch of travel in the rear suspension. This makes it much harder for the rear wheel to become airborne and not be in contact with the riding surface but it also robs some of my pedal power but for that kind of riding it is worth it.

For on-road riding you don't need no sag and you don't want no robbing of your pedal power.
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Old 08-16-13, 07:51 AM
  #15  
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Update. I put gears and slicks on it and was loving it. However the pro-pedal on my RP2 blew. I know that repair has to be sent to either Push or Foxx.


So now I NEED that spring shock.
Turbo are you still watching this?
I've been trying to fnd a cheap spring shock to put in there while my good one is in the shop. I cannot find one that seems to fit. I measure my RP2 and it is 7.5 inches eye to eye with no sag. When I set the sage the effective length is about 7" eye to eye. All the cheap spring shocks I can find are 6" or less eye to eye. Can anyone recommend a shock that will work? I do not want to spend a ton of money on this spring shock. Thanks for any advice.
GTN
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Old 08-16-13, 07:55 AM
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Update. I put gears and slicks on it and was loving it. However the pro-pedal on my RP2 blew. I know that repair has to be sent to either Push or Foxx.


So now I NEED that spring shock.
Turbo are you still watching this?
I've been trying to fnd a cheap spring shock to put in there while my good one is in the shop. I cannot find one that seems to fit. I measure my RP2 and it is 7.5 inches eye to eye with no sag. When I set the sage the effective length is about 7" eye to eye. All the cheap spring shocks I can find are 6" or less eye to eye. Can anyone recommend a shock that will work? I do not want to spend a ton of money on this spring shock. Thanks for any advice.
GTN

Also, I tried to answer Turbo's PM, but I cannot even respond before 50 posts. Sorry folks.
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