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  1. #1
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    Configuring a MTB for fast commuting

    OK, so I have a 5 year old hardtail mountain bike. From the beginning, I swapped out the tires for 1.25" slicks and bought much better wheels and hubs. Last year I upgraded the brakes. Because I'd been forever trying to fiddle with the seat, headset and bars to ride less upright, I also went and bought a new, longer stem. It helped, but I still don't feel as comfortable as I'd like.

    What I want to do is replace the standard MTB bar I have with a bullhorn bar or something that will let me cruise in a more aero position. Unfortunately, there is the small problem of doing this while still having room for little conveniences like shifters and brakes. Plus most of the bars I've found use a 26mm stem while my stem is a 25.4mm. I'm assuming this makes them incompatible, or am I wrong?

    Second, my front suspension is just about shot. I get a lot of travel just pedalling. By the end of more than 5 miles, my hands get numb. On longer rides, say 20 miles, they stay numb long after I've gotten home. There is no more dialing in I can do, the fork needs to be replaced (Or refitted? Possible?). There isn't much choice of front suspension forks in the lower price range. If I'm going to spend more than $250, I'm better off just shelling out the major cash for a new bike, which I'd rather not do now. Anyway, the question is, are there non suspension forks that can reliably take the kind of hits that go with city riding? That is, potholes, hopping curbs, speed humps, amd so on.

    Apologies if this seemed off topic (and long winded) but I thought since much of my riding is commuting to and from work within an urban environment, that some users of this board might have considered tweaking their bikes along similar lines.

  2. #2
    ballbuster
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    I'd say...

    Quote Originally Posted by scatteredshadows
    OK, so I have a 5 year old hardtail mountain bike. From the beginning, I swapped out the tires for 1.25" slicks and bought much better wheels and hubs. Last year I upgraded the brakes. Because I'd been forever trying to fiddle with the seat, headset and bars to ride less upright, I also went and bought a new, longer stem. It helped, but I still don't feel as comfortable as I'd like.

    What I want to do is replace the standard MTB bar I have with a bullhorn bar or something that will let me cruise in a more aero position. Unfortunately, there is the small problem of doing this while still having room for little conveniences like shifters and brakes. Plus most of the bars I've found use a 26mm stem while my stem is a 25.4mm. I'm assuming this makes them incompatible, or am I wrong?

    Second, my front suspension is just about shot. I get a lot of travel just pedalling. By the end of more than 5 miles, my hands get numb. On longer rides, say 20 miles, they stay numb long after I've gotten home. There is no more dialing in I can do, the fork needs to be replaced (Or refitted? Possible?). There isn't much choice of front suspension forks in the lower price range. If I'm going to spend more than $250, I'm better off just shelling out the major cash for a new bike, which I'd rather not do now. Anyway, the question is, are there non suspension forks that can reliably take the kind of hits that go with city riding? That is, potholes, hopping curbs, speed humps, amd so on.

    Apologies if this seemed off topic (and long winded) but I thought since much of my riding is commuting to and from work within an urban environment, that some users of this board might have considered tweaking their bikes along similar lines.
    ... bag the suspension and go rigid for street use. IMO, suspension blows for street use. If you want a softer ride, do bigger tires.

    25.4 and 26mm are close enough to make the parts fit, but big enough to crack your stem in the process, or crack a carbon bar. Just get the right stem. There are good cheap stems out there for under $25, so no real reason to risk it.

    If you are getting wrist pain, it sounds like you have your riding position too aero.... as in too long and low.

  3. #3
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    No, if he has wrist pain it is probably front using a flat or riser bar with little sweep. The least ergonomic of all bars. Get an H-bar, Mary bar and wrap it with bar tape to the stem for more hand positions, Midge bar and get bar-con shifters or the plug thingy that lets you put a grip shift in the end, or Soma makes a 25.4 clamp bullhorn bar.
    Get a rigid fork, it's fine. Dodge the ruts, a proper riding position will take the sting out of any of the hits. I don't even use suspension off road.

  4. #4
    viva la v-brakes!
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    Agreed. Suspension is worse then useless for street use. Rigid forks are cheap. If you are suffering from wrist pain then you either have too much weight on your hands or the angle of your wrists is too extreme. I had to raise the bars on my commuter MTB until I got it right. Compare the bar height, and the bar position relative to the saddle position to another bike you are comfortable on.

    As for your aero position, try some full L-bend bar ends on your MTB bars, on the inside of your grips, perhaps even inboard from your shifters/brake. This will give you a narrow central aero position. Or you could just go out and buy some real aero-bars.
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  5. #5
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    I ride a FS on my commute 7 km in the morning and up to 30 km going home cause I ride to some trails and have some fun...

    Any way more Aero on a MTB is easy, get some light carbon fiber bar-ends, mount them inside the levers, where the bars bend...

    Set them up so that when you are out there youur wrists are relaxed and straight...

    This will pull you a little forward on your seat, keep your arms in and out of the wind, and bring your shoulders down...

    Works great....

    I ride out like that on the muts and trails, on roads, I will take one hand and move it out over the brake, for safety....I am still in a pretty good aero postion.

  6. #6
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    Some good feedback, thanks a lot folks!

    Just one clarification though. It's not so much wrist pain as it is really annoying numbness in my hands, to the point where I ride for miles with my fingers extended straight out past my brake levers, like Superman flying. It's basically like a when your leg goes to sleep, only it lingers for a long time after long rides. I can't just shake it out.

    Anyway, after checking some of the bar options mentioned, I'm leaning towards one of the SOMA bars. The Urban Pursuit and Sparrow both look like contenders, though the On One Mary might work too. My big concern with that one though is that it's really wide and I'd been hoping to trim my bar length to get better clearance in traffic.

    I'm also becoming more and more convinced that getting a rigid fork is the right move. Any suggestions, if not of specific models, then reliable brands that would still allow me to justify not buying a new bike?

  7. #7
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    Try Ourys and gloves first. $7 for the grips, and $10 for gloves. Much less investment to see if it helps your hands!

    FWIW, I'm in love with my Mary bars

  8. #8
    viva la v-brakes!
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    Oury's are only good if you have large hands. I like closed cell foam grips like the Ritchey WCS grips, better for small/medium sized hands, absorbs vibration, grippy when wet. And Jag, please tell me where you can find $10 bike gloves. I wish.
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  9. #9
    Which way? Uphill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scatteredshadows
    Some good feedback, thanks a lot folks!

    Just one clarification though. It's not so much wrist pain as it is really annoying numbness in my hands, to the point where I ride for miles with my fingers extended straight out past my brake levers, like Superman flying. It's basically like a when your leg goes to sleep, only it lingers for a long time after long rides. I can't just shake it out.

    Anyway, after checking some of the bar options mentioned, I'm leaning towards one of the SOMA bars. The Urban Pursuit and Sparrow both look like contenders, though the On One Mary might work too. My big concern with that one though is that it's really wide and I'd been hoping to trim my bar length to get better clearance in traffic.

    I'm also becoming more and more convinced that getting a rigid fork is the right move. Any suggestions, if not of specific models, then reliable brands that would still allow me to justify not buying a new bike?
    Need to know your current fork specs. You want to get a close match on your axle to crown measurement.

    Taking a shot that you have an 80mm forks, you're likely around 445 mm, though 80mm forks tend to have a pretty good amount of variability.

    Surly usually has good forks, and are definitely stiff and strong. The instigator fork is suspension-corrected for 100mm forks, the 1x1 fork is corrected for 80mm forks. Nashbar also has a rigid fork for 80mm applications. All these can be found for $55-$70. Look around, there's more out there.
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  10. #10
    viva la v-brakes!
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    I think the official line is that a fork with a axle to crown length of 410 mm is "suspension corrected" for 80mm forks. However, I found that it made the handling whippy on my SS, off-road anyway, and I eventually ended up with a 425 mm A2C fork which smoothed things out nicely for me. But all that might not matter for road use. Surly 1x1 and Kona Project 2 are among the most common aftermarket rigid forks.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishMan473
    And Jag, please tell me where you can find $10 bike gloves. I wish.
    Bell fingerless gloves with mesh back and leather palm. $5.47 at Walmart They do the job just fine for me. In the bike section. Not exactly fashionable, but functional!

  12. #12
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    perhaps you could help us out with further info on your setup. closed clamp shift/brake levers do not fit over most bent bars. hopes, avid and a few others (mostly bmx and cyclo-x) use a split clamp design. but that leaves you needing to address the issue of shifters. steel forks with a decent rake allow for some flex but i disagree with the idea of suspension being crap for commuting. rock shox has lockout at the top of travel, so it doesnt change your head angle. but allows for a small amount of suspension travel. i use it, and i think its terrific for xc and commuting. anyways, you do not sound like you need 100mm or are doing any off road/path biking. if you get a new fork, you can keep the steerer uncut and add a bunch of spacers to bring them up closer to you too.
    numb hands can also be caused by using a heavy pack while commuting. moving the weight somewhere esle (ie. to a pannier rack) might help too.

    as for bars, the delta ergobar (not that i have used it) but the pic of it shows it with a internal hub shifter mechanism and brake lever right up against the stem, id assume this means it might not have any bends that could make attachments hard to get on. the sweep is relatively gradual. and it uses a 25.4mm diam. clamp

  13. #13
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    cut your flat bars shorter and get some bar-ends.
    lose the suspension fork.
    lose the gears and go 44-16 SS (about 95 pedals/min=20mph)
    see a chiropractor about your numb fingers; could be your neck.
    Slicks rated for high psi and 1.3 to 1.5
    Enjoy
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  14. #14
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    Good job!

    Quote Originally Posted by cazloco
    cut your flat bars shorter and get some bar-ends.
    lose the suspension fork.
    lose the gears and go 44-16 SS (about 95 pedals/min=20mph)
    see a chiropractor about your numb fingers; could be your neck.
    Slicks rated for high psi and 1.3 to 1.5
    Enjoy
    Caz
    narrow flat + barends are my personal setup too, and if a nerve is pinched in a shoulder, this could also cause numbness. as for the 44/16 ss, thats for your own personal taste.

  15. #15
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    1.)If yer hands are going to sleep, they're telling you that you've already got too much weight on 'em. Raise the bar, however you do that. I think going aero is way less important for commuting than seeing what the hell is coming up behind you. More upright is better for that.
    2.)Definitely ditch the sus fork for rigid. The ones already mentioned are fine. Love my 425mm Salsa CroMoto. I've certainly never thought "Gee, I need a suspension fork..." with it, no matter what I've encountered. But then again, I'm running pretty plush 2" tires.
    3.)What the hell's the hurry? You're commuting to work. The sooner you get there, the sooner the ride ends.

  16. #16
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    Its between a compromise of speed and hand numbness. I have yr problem too. But if I did not place much weight on handlebar. My speed will not be that fast especially downslope. I may achieve comfort in reducing weight on bar but then I suffer pedalling fatigue faster. Cos yr weight is not going forward and u need more strength for pedalling.

    If u feel numbness is more irritating. Slow down and relax abit.

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