Author Topic: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?  (Read 6097 times)

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Offline quinnz

Hey all,

First time post here on these forums, and wanted to get some feedback from people that may know. I've decided I want to do an NYC to West Coast cross-country tour come April 1st, bringing my dog with in a trailer (he's about 45 pounds). Kinda thought up this idea out of the blue since my life conditions work for it right here and right now, and hell, carpe diem right? No real experience with long-distance biking or bike tech in general, so trying to wrap my head around it all and it is a lot to learn. Figured I'd ask the pros.

I've read that clearly a dedicated touring bike is the best way to go for this kind of trip, but I already have a 2008 Specialized Rockhopper MTB that I like a lot and am comfortable on, and I wanted to know if it is feasible, in your opinion, to modify it for touring. I'm not minted. At all. Need to try and do this on a budget, so using what I have would be ideal. Here's the bike, the baseline model (no disc brakes):

http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/archive/2008/rockhopper/rockhopper#specs

I'm 6'4" and have the 23" model. Unfortunately, I don't have the bike at this moment, it is at a friend's house and has been for a while, who lives a few hours from here, so I can't take it into a local shop and get their thoughts on what to do with it. Hence posting here. :)

Does a bike like this lend itself toward being converted to touring without spending a boatload? Or would be it better to try and just sell it and buy a used model of the right kind of bike (although given my taller-than-average height and limited time-frame before departure, I'm a bit worried it could take a while to find one)? I know a modified MTB won't be the fastest and weight might make climbs harder (especially with a dog) but I figure if I pace myself and ease into it, I'll get there. I'm OK with not doing things the most comfortable or ideal way - lived in a tent in post-earthquake Haiti for two years and came out the other side of that with a lot more confidence in my ability to rough it. It's more about whether or not it can actually work without a million headaches or tons of costly mods or repairs.

Specific Concerns:

- Does the bike frame support panniers? I've heard that some MTB frames, particularly newer ones, don't without modification. I know another option is a trailer, but I'll already have that by default since my dog is coming with, and with him in it I won't have enough space for my gear.
- Will the frame make it so the panniers, if they do fit, don't clear my feet when I'm pedaling?
- Everyone says steel frame is the best. This is aluminum. That said, most people say MTBs are more durable, so maybe that isn't an issue?

Really, I'd just be curious what modifications you all suggest, both those that are essential, and those that would be nice (cost being an important consideration). I'm just now starting to do my research and the first thing I really need to make a move on is whether I use my current bike with a few affordable tweaks (preferred) or sell it and buy another one.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: February 22, 2016, 10:08:17 pm by quinnz »

Offline John Nelson

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2016, 10:54:16 pm »
You can make any bike work, but with this bike and a dog, it'll be hard work. You can get a trailer that would work for both your dog and gear, but you might want to combine a dog trailer with a small amount of gear with rear panniers. It'll be tougher to use front panniers with this fork, so you may want to skip that. You may need to use small rear panniers to avoid heel strike, but it looks like the chain stays are pretty long, so that may not be necessary.

Your gearing is already low, so that should be okay. The brakes are V-brakes, so that's good too.

I'd get the bike, clean it up, lube the chain, borrow a trailer big enough for the dog, put on a rear rack and a couple of panniers. Fill the panniers with some weight, load the dog and go out for a 50-mile ride over some hills. If that goes okay, then I'd say you're good to go cross country without any other modifications. You probably want to put some slick tires on it.

Offline quinnz

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2016, 11:05:04 pm »
Thanks so much for the quick reply! Many thanks. In terms of a trailer that would be big enough for my dog (again, about 45 pounds - shepherd mutt mix) and my gear could you possibly toss me a link or a few products to check out? Would something like this work?

http://smile.amazon.com/Aosom-Elite-Bike-Carrier-Trailer/dp/B005CRZDQ2/ref=sr_1_5

That seems more designed for casual usage and not long-distance stuff, but I could be wrong. Could something like that work or would you get a dedicated touring trailer converted to also work for a dog?

Good to know front panniers would probably be an issue.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2016, 11:52:09 pm »
A dog.  A big dog.  In a trailer.  A slightly older mountain bike.  A rider with no bike mechanic skills.  A rider with little to no riding experience.

Use the bike you have.  Its more or less worthless.  You could maybe sell it for $100-150 if you were lucky.  Looks like it could fit a rear rack.  Buy one and attach it with P-clamps if need be.  A front rack would require an Old Man Mountain rack and that would be $150-180 for just the front rack alone.  Get a set of low priced rear panniers and you might have enough carrying capacity.  Put some skinny road tires on it.

Personally I would suggest you get a backpack.  Then you and your dog walk up to upper New York starting in April.  Camp and explore all the parks and wilderness in northern New York.  End of summer or fall walk back to New York City.  Your dog will be happier walking each day instead of sitting in a trailer.  You can spend all day with the dog instead of 5 feet in front of him riding all day.  I get the idea the point of this ride is to be with your dog.

What you described sounds miserable.  One your lack of bike ability.  Two the lack of decent equipment and money to finance it.  Three, the dog on a bike ride.

Offline quinnz

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2016, 12:19:47 am »
Yea, I know the setup isn't ideal, but the question is can it actually be done with what I have. I considered a walking adventure as well, but my pooch is in his golden years and despite how much of a badass he THINKS he is, I know for a fact that if I were to try and do any real kind of trekking with him, he'd gas out and be miserable. No way he could keep up with me on 10+ mile days. He can't even keep up with me on short runs around the city. Short of rocking a roadtrip in a car, being able to try and get him comfortable in a bike trailer seems like the best way to do it. Plus I like the idea of doing it by bike.

Also, the point is it is supposed to be a challenge as well as a pleasure. In that, I want it to reflect the greater act of living itself - the highs and the lows. I'm not looking at it as a vacation. I find the times I've been most proud of my accomplishments were when they were downright miserable in moments and you just grit it out and make it happen anyway. It's been a while since last I experienced that, and I know the value inherent in it. I expect that would be something I'd be looking at dead in the face many, many times on a trip like this. It's half the reason I want to do it to begin with. Everyone has their reasons for doing big things. One of mine, in this instance, it to prove it to myself that I can. Sometimes that is needed in a life.

As to not having a lot of experience and technical skills, obviously those can be picked up. I sure as hell wouldn't leave before taking some bike maintenance and repair classes offered here, and using my actual bike to practice until I was comfortable with the most common repairs and issues I'd be looking at on the road. For at least a couple weeks before heading out I'd load up the bike as if I was actually going and cruise maybe out to Long Island or around some of the bigger parks to see about pushing 40+ miles eventually.

Appreciate your gear advice. I'm thinking trailer + rear panniers + handlebar bag would be the setup, ideally rigging up the trailer in a way that it could carry both the mutt and some of the gear to make up for no front panniers.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2016, 11:09:42 am »
I'll second Russ' suggestion to change the tires.  Maybe not to "skinny" tires, but get rid of the knobbies and get slick tires instead.  A decent bike shop should have no problem setting you up with slick tires at least 1.5" wide.  That'll get rid of the annoying buzz, and effectively speed you up a bit.

Edited to add: I hope you have some effective way to restrain your dog.  You don't want it to hop out to play (or fight, or run from) some of the other dogs you're likely to encounter, and you may pass some people who would regard a 45 pound dog as a threat.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2016, 11:12:04 am by Pat Lamb »

Offline quinnz

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2016, 06:29:25 pm »
Thanks for the tip, yea I've been talking to a cool LBS here in Brooklyn (718 Cyclery) and they're more than happy to help me rig out the bike for touring as best they can, although I just found after some research two much more affordable touring bikes than I thought were out there, via Bike Direct. Seems the Windsor Tourist is pretty well regarded and can be had for $700. Also the Motobecane GT, for $630. That's roughly half of what I thought I'd have to spend, so it makes considering sell the MTB and going for a dedicated touring bike more feasible. If I do go that route I'm thinking the Windsor Tourist - seems to be well regarded and tested on the TAT. I'd take that into the LBS after putting it together and have them check it all out. They also offer a bunch of free classes, including classes specifically on touring, so I'll definitely take advantage of that as well.

Yea, for the mutt, I want him to be comfortable and safe so I'm gonna just shell out for what most people seem to think is the best dog carrier, the Burley Tail Wagon. That has a leash hook and can zip up. It's also big enough that I could stash some of my own stuff in it too. The $100 pet carriers on Amazon might work, but I can't imagine they are designed for long-distance touring like the Tail Wagon is.

My dog is really mellow in his older age. I don't see him jumping out or getting too crazy. I'd be more worried about other dogs wanting to get aggressive with him than vice versa.

Offline DaveB

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2016, 06:44:36 pm »
Yea, I know the setup isn't ideal, but the question is can it actually be done with what I have.
Can it be done?  Yes, after a fashion, but I expect you will very quickly find it more of a chore than a pleasant adventure.  Russ' response was a bit harsh but i agree with him completely.

Offline quinnz

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2016, 07:20:11 pm »
Yea, that's starting to become clear. I expect the first stretch is going to be rough no matter what, especially since going East to West you hit the Appalachians pretty quickly (although I'll be starting in NYC so I have some lead time). I'm OK letting myself take it slow and steady until I get used to it, but as I mentioned in my latest post, now that I've found some much-cheaper-than-expected touring bike options, and a great LBS to help with some guidance, I may switch up the plan.

Offline RonK

2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2016, 10:00:24 pm »
Many others have toured with pets. There are 74 journals on crazyguyonabike.
No doubt you'll learn plenty reading through them.
F'instance, the Boyah Dog Trailer was mentioned in one of the first I saw.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2016, 10:06:43 pm by RonK »
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline quinnz

Re: 2008 23" Specialized Rockhopper - OK for cross-country w/ my dog?
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2016, 11:31:11 pm »
Nice, many thanks. Yea, saw that trailer when I was browsing through Amazon options, just a bit worried about the build quality for such a long tour. Then again, can't imagine anything would break so badly as to not be fixable. The TransAm is long, but I think it lends itself quite nicely to novice tourists - never too far from humanity, and people that can help.