Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Gear Talk => Topic started by: mac on June 09, 2008, 11:24:06 pm

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 09, 2008, 11:24:06 pm
Hi all,

I'm 61 years old and a newbie to touring and bicycling in general.  I would like to do light touring such as two to seven day trips, I'm not a light weight and it has been suggested that I should consider a mountain bike frame.  I have acquired two older bikes and need to know which one would be worth the effort of turning into a bike I  can use for touring or maybe neither one being worth it. The bikes in question are an early 1990's Giant Iguana  and a middle 90's TREK 800 sport single trac series, both are in pretty good shape.  Any help anyone can give me will be greatly appreciated.  Thank You  

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: bogiesan on June 10, 2008, 12:42:27 am
Neither. Or either.
If you are serious about the sport of adventure cycling, either of these
bikes will handle your first several thousand miles of touring. Afer that
you will either upgrade, modify, or replace the bike.

The problem with 20-25 year old bikes is the amount of rehab you
may need to do to make it road-worthy and dependable. Take it to a
dependable wrench and get out your Visa. You'll need hubs, rims or
wheels, chainrings, cogs, chain, shifters, mechs, brake pads, and the
dafety check may find cracked welds or bent frame parts. Might be far
easier and cheaper to get a newer bike with more current technologies.

Since you're large and are using a mountain bike as a base, be sure
you like the shock or run a shock seat post.

david boise ID

go, ristretto, FCP/AE
"Read the manual."
Title: MTB for touring
Post by: whittierider on June 10, 2008, 04:23:38 am
Of course you're free to use a mountain bike frame if you want to, but it is a common misconception that road bikes can't handle much weight.  I've read first-hand from plenty of riders on other forums who, on carbon frames, started out at 350 pounds before their riding got their weight down to 240 or less, and the frames held up just fine.  What you do have to make special allowance for is wheels.  The stock wheels most bikes come with will not hold up long at all under a heavy load, so you need to get something stronger.

I can't speak for mountain bikes; but in road bikes, although there were some wonderful lively, responsive frames made 2-3 decades ago, the shifting especially has improved dramatically since then, and it really is worth getting the more modern equipment if you can.  I've updated a couple of bikes, and it turned out to be kind of like peeling an onion-- each layer leads to the next until there's nothing left.  It turned into almost a big enough job in money and my time that I probably should have just replaced them with new bikes.

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: JayH on June 10, 2008, 09:08:24 am
I commute and i do long distance tours on my MTB, a steed butted Marin team hardtail that I bought in '95.  I've done 130 mile days loaded with it. A MTB is a great tourer because in general, it already has low gears, it is rugged, you can get wider tires than road frames, even touring/cyclocross frames, and if you're not that concerned with speed, like I said, I've done 130 mile days in my MTB, it'll take you longer.

if you do look into a new(er) mtb, just be careful with MTBs that are disc only, some bikes that only come with disc brakes lack canti/linear pull brake bosses on the seatstays or front fork and they are very handy to use as upper eyelets for a rear/front rack. Yes, you can get p-clamps, but it's nice to have a sturdy mount to the frame, less hassle and less chance of failure.

...and I always commute tour with MTB clipless pedals, cause their doublesided, unlike SOME road clipless pedals and the shoes are more comfy. I used to commute on a road bike with MTB pedals (TIME ATAC series).


Title: MTB for touring
Post by: tgpelz on June 11, 2008, 08:04:53 pm
I would suggest a mountain bike frame with:

a: front shock easier on the hands, arms, shoulders

b: seat post with shock absorber

c: comfortable seat (Wife and I use the Easy seat)

d: Front Disk Brake.  I don't care about the rear, I only want a disk on the front because it gets really hot on long down hill rides, and you don't want the rim to get overheated.  If you can get both front and rear disks great.

Do not get hydraulic disks.   I use a velcro type of device (looks a lot like a pant wrap to keep your pant leg out the the chain) as a front brake.   It keeps the bike upright when it is parked.  (A hydraulic will leak when used as a perking brake.  That is why your car's parking brake is mechanical)

e: Front chain ring 46/36/26.  Rear gear cluster, 9 speed 11-33.

f: SRAM shifters, derailers.  

g: Bike Planet wireless speedometer with built in theromenter.

h: Old Man mountain rear pannier rack

i: a good low rider front rack

j: large panniers front and rear (I use Arkels)

k: digital Camera

L:  ROAD Tire, not knobbies.   I prefer the Schwalbe brand with slime filled inner tubes.

M:  I insist on good rims, good quality hubs, thick spokes AND loktite on each of the nipples (if the dealer is making the wheels himself.

I could go on and on, but you were asking about the bike.

Now, if you have a good frame, you can add all of that to your old frame, IF you are inclined to be mechanical.

OR, if you are not inclined, go out and by something new with the above already installed.

DO NOT BUY the cheapest.  Get a good bike with above average components.   You do not need the "best" components, only the middle of the line stuff or better.  Honestly the good stuff really works better than the cheap stuff.

Negotiate with the bike dealer.  He/she can work with you to get you what you want.  IF he/she won't, go somewhere else.   When I said, work with the bike dealer, I did not mean dicker for price.  I meant demand quality components, comfortable seat, and a properly fitting bike.


Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 11, 2008, 10:47:45 pm
Hi Dave,

Thanks for all your help and you are right, I plan on only using this bike for a couple of years to see if I like the touring. The shock seat post is a great idea, thanks

Thanks Again
John McTaggart

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 11, 2008, 10:56:24 pm
Hi Whittierider

Thank you for all your help and I agree.  Like you said there are some really nice road touring bikes.  My only concern with this style of bike is that it will not hold up off road.  I plan on doing some off road touring also, not the real aggressive kind but the old man type :0) and I thought the MTB would be better for a novice like me.

Thanks Again

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 11, 2008, 11:24:30 pm
Hi JayH,

Thank you for your help.  I was glad to hear that you are still riding a older MTB I like the feel of my older bike.  You are absolutely right I am really not concerned with speed and like the low gearing for climbing.  At my age I just want to take things easy and enjoy the ride.  :)
I do have a fear of the clip less pedals, how do you get over the feeling of not being able to get your feet off the pedals when you really need to.

Thanks Again for your help
John McTaggart

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 11, 2008, 11:36:28 pm
Hi tgpelz,

Wow!!! thanks for the help.  I have printed the list and have it hanging in the garage by my bikes.  And I agree with you on the quality of components, don't need the top end but do not want the low end.  I have a great bike shop about 2 1/2 miles from the house that seem to have a great staff and mechanics. (Assenmacher's Cycling Center)
Once again thanks for all of your help and the incredible list.

Thanks Again
John Mctaggart

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: biker_james on June 12, 2008, 08:47:21 am
I've met a lot of people touring on mountain bikes, and nobody seemed to mind doing it. I think that so long as its in good mechanical condition, that the only two items that you really should address are 1-putting bar ends on so you have different hand positions, and 2)smooth/semi slick tires for lower resistance (and noise) when riding on the pavement. I would be surprised if there is even much difference in speed from a touring bike. So long as yu can make yourself comfortable on it, it will work fine.

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: JayH on June 12, 2008, 09:29:12 am
Ditto on the bar ends, great thing to have.

As far as the clipless pedals, I use Time ATAC Aliums on my commuter/tourer, you can spend more if you want lighter or perhaps better bearings on them but they work great, easy release and I've never had a problem with entry/exit.  

I have also used Speedplay X series which are road pedals but similar to the Speedplay Frogs. the Frogs have a little more float (which allows you to rotate your foot without releasing) than the TIME and is also a nice clipless pedal. I don't think you'll go wrong with either if you decide to go clipless.  

It's hard to actually *not* clipout in a serious crash, once your foot is pivoted, it releases but the ATACs being spring loaded, if there is enough serious force via tension on the cleat, it'll pull out without pivoting. But having ridden clipless for about 9 years now, it's second nature and you can get comfy with time and experience. Ride around an empty parking lot, practicing unclipping and clipping in like at a stop sign.  Maybe on a sidewalk edge to be a little easier.

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: tgpelz on June 12, 2008, 09:38:02 am
Regarding clipless pedals.

I use SIDI mountain bike shoes and clips, not the road/racing bike shoes.

I would (and have looked for) something more practical than the SIDI, but with size 15 feet, they are the only ones that fit me.

I like to be able to get off the bike and walk about without having to walk weird because of the attachment devices on the shoes.

On my recumbent, I have pedals which permit me to use the clips or regular shoes.

One more thing!    Don't forget to unclip BEFORE you stop.   Not only does it break things on your bike, but your wife gets a good laugh watching you make like Artie Johnson of "Laugh In"


Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 12, 2008, 10:50:49 pm
Hi Biker James,

Thanks for the words of encouragement and I'll take your advise on the bar ends and tires, do you recomend a certain brand?  Tgpelz has recomended a Schwalbe brand with slime filled inner tubes.  
Thanks again for all your help


Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 12, 2008, 11:00:08 pm
Hi JayH,

Thanks for the advise, I guess I won't get past this fear until I actually get some and try them.  What do you think of the toe clip?  Would these be a waste of money.

Thanks Again

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 12, 2008, 11:24:39 pm
Hi tgpelz,

Thanks, I have a size 12 AA foot am I going to have trouble finding something?  What do you think of the toe clips?

Thanks Again

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: whittierider on June 13, 2008, 01:54:26 am
I do have a fear of the clip less pedals.  How do you get over the feeling of not being able to get your feet off the pedals when you really need to?

When you begin using them you'll have to be careful to unclip before stopping; but soon it will become second-nature, and then you'll be able to get out instantly without thinking about it.

As for toe clips:  They don't let you pull the pedal back through the bottom of the turn much at all; so fewer muscles are available to share the load, meaning less power, earlier fatigue, more soreness, etc..

As for road-bike toughness:  The pros ride this road in the Paris-Roubaix road race at 25-30mph on their road bikes:

My family and I have come down a 4,000-foot descent at 30+ mph on a dirt road in terrible condition on our road bikes.  It was like riding a jack hammer, but no damage.  We didn't know when we chose our route that that road on the map was unpaved, but we were running out of daylight and had to hurry.  That was in Santa Barbara County, CA, where the farm roads are in terrible condition but it's still a popular place for road cycling.

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: biker_james on June 13, 2008, 08:02:19 am
I can't really say that one tire is better than the other,but I like Continentals-my MTB that I use for commuting has Conti Town & Country tires that work well, and seem to never wear out. They have a reverse or inverted tread, so they are some use on gravel, but definitely not an offroad tire. I wouldn't go too cheap, but there are lots of options.
I think you will find clipless pedals better than using toe clips. Toe clips work OK so long as you do the straps up tight enough, but you're a lot more likely to fall with them than with clipless. I use SPD pedals, because the shoes are walkable with the cleats. The Shimano sandals work well for touring too.

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: tgpelz on June 13, 2008, 09:22:20 am

With size 12, you will not be limited.   I ordered five pairs of shoes from Bike Nashbar, with the understanding that I would be able to send back what I did not like.

I wanted something with regular soles that fit well.  The SIDI were the only ones that fit well.

So, I keep a pair of walking shoes readily available in my panniers, so when I am forced to walk up long hills, it is more comfortable.  Note, my vanity dose not force me to push me beyond my limits.  Each year, after I start riding, the better I am able to climb.   Still, when I am biking up a hill at 2.8 MPH and know that I can walk the bike up the same hill at 3.3 MPH, it makes more sense to push.

Regarding toe clips. I have tried them and did not like them.  My wife love them.   Try riding with toe clips and see.    

The biggest reason for the clips is the extra help you get by lifting up with your feet when you peddle.


Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 17, 2008, 11:40:11 pm
Hi JayH,

Thanks for the information, I received numerous responses and I think I will give the clip less a try.  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all my questions.

thanks Again

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 18, 2008, 12:04:03 am
Hi Tgpelz,

Thanks for the info on Nashbar about their return policy.  Thats a great idea, my local bike store does not carry my size.  I'm with you, not so vain to walk along side my bike on tough hills I just want to get to the top. I think I have been convinced to use my MTB and even get some clip less pedals.  At least give them a try.

Thanks Again

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 18, 2008, 12:11:57 am
Hi Biker-James,

Thank you for all the information, I have started looking at tires that can be use for road and what I call light off road, mainly hard packed dirt roads or crushed stone bike paths.  I didn't realize there are so many options.
All of the answers I have received has told me to use clip less and I won't be disappointed.  I think I'll give them a try.

Thanks Again

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: mac on June 18, 2008, 12:17:08 am
Hi whittierider,

thanks for the information, everyone else I have heard from has agreed with you so I have decided to at least try the clip less.  I want to thank you for taking the time to answer me and my silly questions.
Thanks Again

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: dicanip03 on August 12, 2008, 02:13:56 am
Hi. I'd like to respond to this topic as I have just built up on of each ( 700c and 26 inch)tourers over winter.
 The are distinct benitits of a 26 inch wheeled tourer. Firstly the smaller wheels keep the weight lower. I toured last summer on a 26 inch wheeled tourer and found it great when a vehical forced you off the shoulder on to the gravel. Much better than a 700c bike in the same situation.
Secondly the range of mtb tyres broadens your touring terrain, deserts and  mountain tracks you wouldn't do on a 700c tourer.
All things being equal though, on good roads a 700c tourer is going to be faster and cover more distance quicker.

Title: MTB for touring
Post by: rcrampton on August 19, 2008, 10:36:31 pm
If you can get one of the bikes on the road and do some touring you'll get a much better idea of what you want than you have today. Maybe you'll be perfectly happy with your MTB for years. If not they'll be specific things you care about and you can do a good job of picking the next bike.

I toured on a MTB, a 700c bike, and the 26" Novara Safari. I ended up learning that I liked 26" wheels because of the selection of tires. I can go on-road and off-road on the same tour just fine.