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  1. #1
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    Real Road/Cross bike or "custom" Mountain Bike?

    I'm considering buying or building a commuter bike this winter. I will have about a 20mile commute. I'll also be using this bike for some road riding and would like to use it for gravel road type stuff too. I'm thinking about buying a new or used road or cross bike with disc brakes, don't want rim brakes. My other option is this, I have a Cannondale 29er hardtail frame, and a rigid fork. Would it be a worthwhile bike if built with drop bars and mostly road parts? I'm not sure the mountain frame and 80mm suspension corrected fork (I think) combination will translate into any sort of efficient road rider? Anybody built anything like this and had success with it? Should I stop thinking about it and just buy the right tool for the job?

  2. #2
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    Real Road/Cross bike or "custom" Mountain Bike?

    Either one could be a fun bike. The converted mtb being a sort of "monster cross" build.

    I'm personally changing my commute bike to something more gravel grinder friendly. Planning on a custom build of a Salsa Vaya frame. Strongly considered also going monster cross instead and might still if I can't get the frame I have my eyes on. I have pretty much all the rest of the parts I'd need.

  3. #3
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    if your mountain bike frame fits well with a flat bar, converting it to a drop bar is going to be difficult. ignoring the cost of road shifters, a drop handlebar will increase the reach of the cockpit quite a bit.

    you could get an On-One Pompetamine (?) pretty cheap. Fairdale might have some good stuff too. whatever you do, if you want to go to drop bars, be sure to carefully consider the (effective) length of the top tube if you want drop bars. the ETT of a bike that fits you with a drop bar will be considerably shorter that the frame that fits with a flat bar.

    does the mtb have hydro brakes? what kind of gears does it have?

  4. #4
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    having put 2 seasons of commuting on an MTB I built specifically for commuting I will say a bit on this.

    The MTB (Rigid Soma Groove with BB7s) Rode like a cadillac. it was definitely more maneuverable... but in the long commutes... I felt it in a bad way. I used from 1.25 to 2.25 tires, and when at speed on open roadways it was twitchy, getting to speed with larger slicks is a chore. and while it was maneuverable in ways road bike could not be. it also could not keep up with road bikes.

    I am about to build my next commuter, a Surly Straggler. Because frankly the Soma never felt right as a commuter. but it is a great bike.

  5. #5
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    I'd say cross bike with a top set of rim brakes like Avid Ultimate Shortys or Paul Minimotos. The mech brakes won't feel like your MTB hydro brakes, and noise and adjustment can be a pain. I'm not sure the performance benefit is there yet for road/cross mech disc brakes, and you can get a much better deal used on a cross bike with rim brakes. I commuted a short time on a 29er, comfy etc., but slow compared to a road bike.

  6. #6
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    I've done both... I built up a Nashbar "X" cyclocross frame/carbon fork with disc brakes... clearance for up to a 700x38 or so... and currently I'm on a Surly Ogre with drop bars...clearance for 2.35 Big Apples and fenders. Both had their strong points. I live on a dirt road, and have a trail option for the commute... the 'cross bike was faster on the road, but I prefer the Ogre for comfort and trail friendliness. I'm fine with getting there 1 or 2 minutes later.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  7. #7
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    I've got both a converted MTB with 2.35 big apples and a Surly Cross Check. Both are set up for commuting, both have fenders, both work fine. On the road/dirt road I pick the cross check 95% of the time. And the Cross Check is pretty heavy by most real cross bike standards. I use the other on really bad weather days and in the winter with studs.

    I'd go with a cross bike.

  8. #8
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    I ride an 04 hardrock with mtb slicks and trekking bars. Gets the job done but just feels sluggish. So ima treat myself to a more commuter specific bike soon. The new specialized awol is on my short list. sweet bike that can accept up to 29x2.2 tires. Just waiting for my lbs to get on in for me to test ride it.

    Real Road/Cross bike or "custom" Mountain Bike?-2872005f.jpg

  9. #9
    jrm
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    A pretty descent "adventure" bike can be had for around $1500. Giant offers a couple that are pretty nice.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrm View Post
    A pretty descent "adventure" bike can be had for around $1500. Giant offers a couple that are pretty nice.
    The Anyroad they brought over this year is sick. Great looking bike just couldnt run the bigger tires.

    Anyroad 1 (2014) - Bikes | Giant Bicycles | United States
    Last edited by jhmeathead; 09-07-2013 at 08:14 PM.

  11. #11
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    I had the same dilemma when choosing my commuting bike. In the end, I went with a cross bike.
    The cake is a lie.

  12. #12
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    My .02 cents ~ I do a good amount of what you describe, including gravel and find myself in utility mode, running task's, on a bike increasingly over a van simply because I enjoy it.

    * Aired up (80ish psi) 38mm tires do everything better, faster on pavement and concrete. On extended gravel/dirt I always air down but, in a commute to urban shortcut non extended it's o.k. With a suspension fork.

    * A utility rear rack, panniers and saddle bag.

    * A heads up position (MTB 1" riser bar) is a big plus

    * A modest suspension fork, preferably with a lock out can be substantial ++ for urban assault.

    * An expensive bike is a liability waiting to happen - the more you leave your bike chained or unchained the more you realize this.

  13. #13
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    I just sold my Kona Dew Drop which was great for commuting, but not for running errands or riding with my wife. It wanted to go fast but my wife didn't so I sold that and bought a Giant Seek 1. it's got the big apple tires and the internal gear hub so for the paths and errands, it will be nice. I had a hard tail dragon that I converted to a commuter but it was hard putting the racks needed on it. It's always a roll of the dice making something do other than what it was designed for. Dew Drops can still be found around and maybe even in the kona warehouse for around $630 or so. Good Luck.

    Millman
    "Boldly they rode & well, into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell, rode the 600"

  14. #14
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    20 miles one way or round trip?

    If we are talking one way your gonna want all the efficiency you can get and thus a cross/"all road" bike might be a better idea. There are tons of options out there, although discs may limit your choices substantially.

    But if we are talking round trip I wouldn't rule out the mtb. I have been committing by bike for almost a decade now and in that time I have used many different bikes; my bmx, a 26" hardtail, a cross bike, ridged ss 29er, ss road bike, geared road bike, and various hybrids made from everything you could imagine and far and away the best bike I have had to date is my current Surly Karate Monkey. I built it up with some Jones bars, gears, 700x40 tires, and a rear rack with trunk bag and can get anywhere, carrying whatever I need, and do it in comfort at a reasonable speed.

  15. #15
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    What sort of bikes do you have now?

    I think a mountain bike is the way to go. With a mountain bike you can ride anything you want and have a huge amount of flexibility in terms of how you setup the bike. With a 29er you can put on 23mm road slicks or 2.3" dirt road rubber. In terms of the "one bike" a 29er style hardtail can be twisted to fit just about any roll.

    Rim brakes suck in winter and IMHO the BB7s are not much better.

    Personally I don't like dropped bars and prefer the flat bar for road riding, gravel grinding, and commuting. The selection of hydro brakes is also better (and cheaper) with flat bar.

    My own personal commuting, gravel grinding, and road bike is a 29er single speed running 48/20 gearing. I could see using 1x9 if I did more road but frankly given the cell phone culture I simply avoid road at all costs. Often this means jumping up over curbs, riding down sidewalks, taking illegal cut throughs, and doing other things are my commute that would not work very well with skinny road tires.
    Mark Farnsworth, Raleigh, NC
    http://farnsworthbikes.com

  16. #16
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    I have two identical mtb frames with one converted by aero bars and skinny tires. Just my opinion but on the roads around here where there are a lot of variables such as gravel, potholes and other emergencies, a little extra tire is a good thing. Same things that have caused me to endo-out on my full road bike. The bar height is certainly higher than it would be on a full-roadie but still quite a bit lower and more aero than the mtb. On the course of the route the mtb is faster and handier in the city due to control position but the mod is better in a straight line and capable of pushing higher gears(with the same tires, tested).

    I went cheap with mine, hitting up the used parts store for an old bar and some Suntour bar-cons. The difference may be even more significant if there was enough budget to drive it farther, but as a city commuter the desire was not so much to indulge that aspect. I keep the XTR and such for the mtb since that one resides in safer realms.
    '93 Giant Sedona ATX custom
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  17. #17
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    It would be 20 miles one way. I'm sort of considering a Cannondale CAADX 105 Disc or a Synapse 105 Disc. I feel like either would work well, I do like the bigger tire handling abilities of the CAADX. However, I'd still kind of like to build something. My frame is an XL with around a 25inch top tube and 21inch seat tube. How do I translate that into a drop bar set up, seems drop bar bikes have much shorter top tubes.

  18. #18
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    The idea is that you will be riding a drop bar bike primarily on the hoods, which would put your hands about four inches farther forward.

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