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  1. #1
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    How do I upgrade an old steel hard tail to disc brakes

    Been reading alot of these threads and getting the itch to upgrade my old bike, which is an old steel hardtail. I like the bike alot and components still work fine and fit my needs. But I'd like to upgrade the old v-brakes (XT) to something more modern. What would be involved and is it worth it? Do I need to buy new wheels? New fork? Assuming something would need to be welded to frame for the rear calipers.

    Bike is either a '97 or '98. All of the components are XT. Wheelset is 26" Mavic (believe Crossmax). Fork is Marzocchi Z2 Bomber.

  2. #2
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    You don't. You buy a new bike.

  3. #3
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    What Colker said. Ride the bike as it until it's time to buy a new, modern bike.

    A retrofit like this is costly with minimal performance gain.
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  4. #4
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    Yeah, I got that. But back to the question, what needs to be changed out convert from v-brakes to disc brakes?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    Yeah, I got that. But back to the question, what needs to be changed out convert from v-brakes to disc brakes?
    The brakes.

  6. #6
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    Wow, helpful replies

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    Yeah, I got that. But back to the question, what needs to be changed out convert from v-brakes to disc brakes?
    does your frame have a disc brake boss of some kind? You could track down an adapter..Is it a disc brake fork? If not you will buy another one. Other than a new fork and a heavy, hard to find, only on ebay maybe on a lucky day, adapter... you are all set.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    Wow, helpful replies
    we ARE helping you by tellling (in a subtle, silent way) how much of a bad idea it is to convert a non disc bike to discs. on top of it, v bralkes work really well outside of torrential rain and nasty mud conditions.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    What would be involved and is it worth it? Do I need to buy new wheels? New fork? Assuming something would need to be welded to frame for the rear calipers.
    Seems like you already know the answer to your question as to what's needed. The consensus here is that it's not worth it.

  10. #10
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    Thanks. Frame or forks don't have anything to mount the calipers. I wasn't aware that they made adapters. Wheels don't have anything to mount rotors so I figured a new wheel set would be in order as well.

    As far as value, I'd personally rather invest $2,500 and get good components in a frame that I like than buy a new bike with lower grade components than what I currently have. They're old but they work great. A new bike will be in my future but its not in the budget at the moment.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saddle Up View Post
    Seems like you already know the answer to your question as to what's needed. The consensus here is that it's not worth it.

    Actually, I don't know what is needed and am still unsure if I would need a new wheelset or not.

    I do get the whole its not worth it mindset and actually agree with it somewhat. But I'm also trying to evaluate if a given budget would be better spent on a few good components or a mediocre bike that happens to be new.

  12. #12
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    If you frame doesn't have disc tabs on it, you will either need an adapter, AYZ or whatever they are caller, or you will need to have disc tabs welded onto the frame, and probably a brace so it does all flex everywhere, then paining I guess.
    Does you fork have disc tabs...being a Z2 it may...but probably not any tabs that fit modern disc brakes (standards...didn't so much change as come into existence later in time) so you will more than liekly need a new fork.
    Are your shifters integrated - are the shifters part of the brake lever or seperate, if integrated, you will need new shifters. And of course getting new old 8 or 9 speed is gettign a bit rough, so maybe upgrade to 10 speed... new shofters, cassette, cranks, front mech...
    you will need a new set of wheels (ASUMING they are the original and non disc wheels)
    Then you will need the brakes...

    SO...:
    Mounting costs
    new fork
    breakes
    wheels
    possibly new shifters
    plus anything else you need...

    or a new bike...
    All the gear and no idea.

  13. #13
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    Thanks, Mit_git. Yeah, I think everything would need to be replaced.

  14. #14
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    Like colker said, adapter for the rear caliper, wheelset, fork, brakes with rotors. I wouldn't even consider it though. That $2500 would get, or go a long way towards a new bike. I'd use the bike as street-rippin pub transportation, or ride it on trails as it is. Really don't like the look of those adapters and not sure how your older frame's gonna like that stress at the rear of the stays considering it wasn't engineered for it.
    “We bring Saturdays” ~ Josh Homme

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    Actually, I don't know what is needed and am still unsure if I would need a new wheelset or not.

    I do get the whole its not worth it mindset and actually agree with it somewhat. But I'm also trying to evaluate if a given budget would be better spent on a few good components or a mediocre bike that happens to be new.
    BIkes nowadays are good, evolved, geometry is different but very good. You have 29ers, 27.5ers... It won't have the emotional trip attached to your current ride but... a new mid level, even low level bike may ride better than a mid 90s ride.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  16. #16
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    A steel hardtail with decent mechanical disks wouldn't cost too much.
    “We bring Saturdays” ~ Josh Homme

  17. #17
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    A quick Ebay search shows these in the 2000 range. That will buy you a lot of bike.
    men's Steel Mountain Bike Bicycles | eBay
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    650B rims or wheel set. 80's vintage 32 or 36 x 135mm

  18. #18
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    This is what you need to do.

    1. Swap the fork out to one with disc mounts and change the front brake to a disc.

    2. Understand that most of your braking power is on the front. Swap the front to a disc and get better power and modulation.

    3. Don't worry about the rear.

    4. If you get a good mechanical disc then you can keep the current lever. You're up for the the front wheel, brake and new cables.

    I just reread that, and frankly, it's awesome advice. Good thing you came here.

    Grumps

  19. #19
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    Or if you really like to retain your rims, just replace your hubs to accomodate the rotor mountings.

  20. #20
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    $2500 budget, buy a new bike, and replace the components you like from your old bike.
    or give the $2500 modern bike a try, i bet today's $2500 bike would outperform anything from '97-98.

    IMO, You lose the sentimental value of the old steed once you retro-mod the frame set.

  21. #21
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    Yeah, the problem is the new bike I want is in the $6,500 range and I can't swing it at the moment. I'm not really sentimental about the bike, if I had the funds I'd get a new one in a heartbeat. I just happen to like how it rides and wanted to see if I could spruce it up a bit, LOL... Also, I'm heavy (240# +/-) and feel more comfortable on a steel bike than aluminum which is probably just in my head but it is what it is.

  22. #22
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    Yeah man, steel is nice.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Bromy View Post
    Like colker said, adapter for the rear caliper, wheelset, fork, brakes with rotors. I wouldn't even consider it though. That $2500 would get, or go a long way towards a new bike. I'd use the bike as street-rippin pub transportation, or ride it on trails as it is. Really don't like the look of those adapters and not sure how your older frame's gonna like that stress at the rear of the stays considering it wasn't engineered for it.
    Hadn't even considered stress on stays by fabricating something. Great point, thanks!

  24. #24
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    This years Deore is XT from 2 years ago. Modern Alivio is better than vintage XT. Trickle down technology.

    Used as a mountain bike a new bike in the $1000-$1200 range will be better in every way than your 97-98. A modern $2500 bike will be in a completely different universe than your 97-98 machine.

    I love vintage as much as the next guy but quality and usefulness needs to be put in to perspective here. I made a living selling mountain bikes for a number of years up until recently and it was my experience that no one other than a competitive professional benefits from a $6500 bike. Way past the point of diminishing returns.

  25. #25
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    I just bought my son a new $1000 bike for xmas and we're going to go for a ride today. I'll try it out and see if it is in fact "better in every way" than my old ride. Doubt it but we'll see...

  26. #26
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    You can buy a REALLY nice steel hardtail 650b for $2500. Seriously, you're crazy for wanting to upgrade this bike at that dollar amount.

  27. #27
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    Go to some shops and test ride some bikes ,$2500 could get you something left over 2015 that is really nice. My girl friend got a Giant Trance for around that price.My grandson just got a trek remedy 8 for $1500 was $2860.

  28. #28
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    If you're a bit worried about how heavy you are, please do drop-by at clydesdale subforum. Lots of people there who could give you insights on what particular bikes work for tall people like you. Time to retire that steel bike my friend.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    Thanks. Frame or forks don't have anything to mount the calipers. I wasn't aware that they made adapters. Wheels don't have anything to mount rotors so I figured a new wheel set would be in order as well.

    As far as value, I'd personally rather invest $2,500 and get good components in a frame that I like than buy a new bike with lower grade components than what I currently have. They're old but they work great. A new bike will be in my future but its not in the budget at the moment.
    I say keep the frame as is and enjoy it. Even when you buy a new bike, keep it and enjoy it. My normal rides are a 2011 Turner 5-Spot and a 29" Specialized Crave. Both great bikes. But in the summer, 2-3 times a month, I end up riding my old 1994 Specialized Stumpjumper with an old Judy Fork and LX rim brakes - and it is a blast. Have bikes gotten better? Sure. Stiffer wheels with fatter and much better tires are the biggest thing. And forks have gotten much better as well - but your Z-2 is still a nice fork and miles ahead of my Judy! But you can still have tons of fun on a simple bike in the woods. I often think we have gotten too focused on the Ride and really forgotten about the ride.
    On MTBR, the reputation is infamous.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by bgkz25 View Post
    If you're a bit worried about how heavy you are, please do drop-by at clydesdale subforum. Lots of people there who could give you insights on what particular bikes work for tall people like you. Time to retire that steel bike my friend.
    LOL, who said anything about tall?



    I'm in shape... round, ha, ha!

    Anyway, took a quick ride with my wife and son. Bike is still AWESOME despite what you guys may think. May be steel but still significantly lighter than my son's new $1,000 bike. Shock is super plush. Shifting is nearly silent.

    I tried to ride my son's bike but frame is way too small. Thing I noticed is its heavier than mine and I nearly bottomed his shock just by getting onto the bike.

    We did a little bit (about 3 miles in total) of flat single track and a few miles on a gravel road. Only thing technical about the ride was some fairly thick mud in spots but other than that it was easy. The only thing I don't like about my bike is the brakes but admittedly it was pretty wet.

  31. #31
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    What are you going to do with a $6500 bike?
    I'm sick of all the Irish stereotypes, as soon as I finish this beer I"m punching someone

  32. #32
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    LOL, fair enough. Have wanted an IBIS Mojo since they were hand built in the USA. Still on the wish list and they're currently in the $6,500 range with mid tier components. Can't help it that I like nice things.

  33. #33
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    No problem in wanting that. Those are the bikes that would definitely put a smile on our face when we ride.
    But "want" and "need" are two different things practicallity wise and by this I mean taking benjamins into consideration.

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    I once was in love with an older bike, but when i took into account the $$ needed to bring it current technology (disc brakes being one), it really didn't make sense. The concensus is that the investment of $$ is not wise, considering whats available today. Ultimately it's your choice.

  35. #35
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    No doubt. If I needed it I would have bought it long ago...

  36. #36
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    I like the look of your voodoo. Still like the old school straight steel tubed bikes.
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  37. #37
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    I'm still smashing around on this. You think your brakes suck, try a rear u-brake!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How do I upgrade an old steel hard tail to disc brakes-image.jpg  

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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    LOL, who said anything about tall?



    I'm in shape... round, ha, ha!

    Anyway, took a quick ride with my wife and son. Bike is still AWESOME despite what you guys may think. May be steel but still significantly lighter than my son's new $1,000 bike. Shock is super plush. Shifting is nearly silent.

    I tried to ride my son's bike but frame is way too small. Thing I noticed is its heavier than mine and I nearly bottomed his shock just by getting onto the bike.

    We did a little bit (about 3 miles in total) of flat single track and a few miles on a gravel road. Only thing technical about the ride was some fairly thick mud in spots but other than that it was easy. The only thing I don't like about my bike is the brakes but admittedly it was pretty wet.
    Try better pads on those V brakes. It's dry enough on that pic for a V brake to grab those rims pretty well.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Bromy View Post
    I like the look of your voodoo. Still like the old school straight steel tubed bikes.
    Thanks!

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by colker1 View Post
    Try better pads on those V brakes. It's dry enough on that pic for a V brake to grab those rims pretty well.
    The bike basically wasn't stopping earlier when we were riding through some thick mud. Pic was taken about an hour later after we were riding on a fairly dry gravel road. Probably could use pads though I'll give it a shot. Thanks.

  41. #41
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    Seeing that Voodoo, now I understand why, still looking good for a 90s bike. I woundn't make any modification on the frame if that was mine. Do dropby at Vintage Subforum if you can.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by bgkz25 View Post
    Seeing that Voodoo, now I understand why, still looking good for a 90s bike. I woundn't make any modification on the frame if that was mine. Do dropby at Vintage Subforum if you can.
    Thanks man! The blue bike in the background is my wife's and is basically the same bike (the steel is a little different in hers but otherwise identical). Isn't this the vintage subforum?

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    Isn't this the vintage subforum?
    Oops mybad 😃. If you have time you could browse through the members' bikes. I once had a 90s nishiki alien acx and a trek y frame which I wish I still have.

  44. #44
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    How do I upgrade an old steel hard tail to disc brakes

    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    LOL, who said anything about tall?



    I'm in shape... round, ha, ha!

    Anyway, took a quick ride with my wife and son. Bike is still AWESOME despite what you guys may think. May be steel but still significantly lighter than my son's new $1,000 bike. Shock is super plush. Shifting is nearly silent.
    To be clear, nobody in vintage think your bike isn't awesome. That's why we were dragging our feet. We love vintage bikes and ride them on the same trails as those with 6500$ bikes. Your voodoo is nice. I wouldn't change it.

    Great picture with your son. Happy new year and keep that voodoo as is and spend the money on a new used bike from Craigslist.

    And change your pads to some kool stops. Old dried out pads don't work well. That will make a huge difference.

  45. #45
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    No worries. Thanks and Happy New Year!

  46. #46
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    Definately try some new pads, if the ones on it have been there for a while, may have gone off.
    my last road bike had abismal brakes, didn't stop in the dry, the wet was really really scary, put some swiss stop pads on, and it was much better.
    All the gear and no idea.

  47. #47
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    I paid a builder $75 to weld a brake tab and a tube between the stays for stability. Found some Hydro disc brakes for $75 on Craigslist and bought a disc wheelset for about $250 or so. This steel hardtail takes me wherever I want to go and the disc brakes are an excellent upgrade that is simpler than people might have you believe.
    Tequila tonight, tomorrow we ride!

  48. #48
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    Will do. Thanks.

    So are vintage v-brake pads all the same as far as size or do I need to order something specific for my year/make? I actually still have "new" pads that are as old as the bike but I'm better off buying new ones, right?

  49. #49
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    I'm with M-Train, had an old Yo Eddy modified for disc - makes a world of difference.


    How do I upgrade an old steel hard tail to disc brakes-disc-tab2small.jpgHow do I upgrade an old steel hard tail to disc brakes-yoml2072-12-copy.jpg
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  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Dude View Post
    I'm with M-Train, had an old Yo Eddy modified for disc - makes a world of difference.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks! Is that tab custom made or a kit? Looks great.

  51. #51
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    I had a local builder add it, I think it's a paragon machine works.

  52. #52
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    Just ordered two sets of SwissStop RX Plus GHP2 v-brake pads for my and my wife's bikes and will let you guys know how it works out. Had to order from Germany as I couldn't find them in stock anywhere else. Dollar must have strengthened against Euro which was good news, LOL.

  53. #53
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    Shades of Kyle
    Technology dragass

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    I did what you are talking about here. I had an old Hard Rock with a rigid fork. I put a Judy on it that I got on eBay. I had some avid hydraulic brakes kicking around. My shop guy advised against converting the rear to discs so I went with discs up front and xtr rears. I had a wheelset that was compatible for both brakes. I put a 60mm stem and 780mm bars on it. It was a blast. I put more into it than I should have, but the only thing I would have done differently would be to put a better fork on it. I didn't have the dough at the time. Get the stuff on you need for your upgrade on eBay or Pinkbike and you won't spend that whole $2500.

    Oh, and now I have a $6500 bike and I'm not giving it back no matter what people say about $6500 bikes. I've ridden entry level bikes and top end bikes and there's no comparison. The bottom line is my bike makes me happy. It is worth every penny to me.

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  55. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgrutt View Post
    I just bought my son a new $1000 bike for xmas and we're going to go for a ride today. I'll try it out and see if it is in fact "better in every way" than my old ride. Doubt it but we'll see...
    so what is the verdict. I may have missed it earlier but what type of bike was your old one? And what year?
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  56. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by blkangel View Post
    so what is the verdict. I may have missed it earlier but what type of bike was your old one? And what year?
    Frame was too small for me to ride but two things that were readily apparent (1) my old steel bike is significantly lighter than his new aluminum hardtail and (2) I bottomed out his shock just getting onto the bike. Old bike is a '98 Voodoo Bizango New one is 2015 (or 16?) Bulls King Boa.

  57. #57
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    I wanted to update my '97 bike and did something similar to what you want to do. I picked up a used fork with disk tabs ('05 Fox RL100) for $75, a used AVID BB-7 mechanical disk brake (because it works with my existing V-brake lever) on craigslist for $25, and a MAVIC disk front wheel from Performance bike for $70. Stopping power increased and the ride quality was not lost, and I spent less than $175. I continued to use the AVID v-brakes on the rear with stock pads.
    How do I upgrade an old steel hard tail to disc brakes-trailmarkerkokopelli.jpg

    Later, I decided to add disk brakes to the rear. A local frame builder installed a rear brake tab for $100, I found another BB-7 for $25, and another inexpensive disk wheel for under $100. There are a ton of deals on 26" wheels now that everyone is going to other wheel sizes.
    How do I upgrade an old steel hard tail to disc brakes-mootsrefresh.jpg

    Total investment was less than $400 and I still ride this bike a ton. I have put over 15,000 miles on this bike since I bought it used in 2004.

  58. #58
    Phobia of petting zoos.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefmiguel View Post
    Shades of Kyle
    I think that was a song by Simon and Garfunkel.

    Grumps

  59. #59
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    I did the same as ST here. I think I even used the same frame builder for the tab. Ebay ridged disc fork, ebay used disc wheels and BB7's I had in the used bin. Total investment less than $350. I love the bike and felt it worth the investment and still do.
    Quote Originally Posted by sgltrak View Post
    I wanted to update my '97 bike and did something similar to what you want to do. I picked up a used fork with disk tabs ('05 Fox RL100) for $75, a used AVID BB-7 mechanical disk brake (because it works with my existing V-brake lever) on craigslist for $25, and a MAVIC disk front wheel from Performance bike for $70. Stopping power increased and the ride quality was not lost, and I spent less than $175. I continued to use the AVID v-brakes on the rear with stock pads.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Later, I decided to add disk brakes to the rear. A local frame builder installed a rear brake tab for $100, I found another BB-7 for $25, and another inexpensive disk wheel for under $100. There are a ton of deals on 26" wheels now that everyone is going to other wheel sizes.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Total investment was less than $400 and I still ride this bike a ton. I have put over 15,000 miles on this bike since I bought it used in 2004.
    Zip ties? Not on my bike!

    Want:
    650B rims or wheel set. 80's vintage 32 or 36 x 135mm

  60. #60
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    For what it's worth, the last two custom steel frames I had built were for V brakes. The set up is with ceramic rims on both bikes with ceramic pads. They stop better than cable discs and even a set of Magura Martas I have. And, in the middle of BFE, I don't have to worry about bleeding.
    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  61. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    For what it's worth, the last two custom steel frames I had built were for V brakes. The set up is with ceramic rims on both bikes with ceramic pads. They stop better than cable discs and even a set of Magura Martas I have. And, in the middle of BFE, I don't have to worry about bleeding.
    Interesting, thanks! So maybe ceramic rim upgrade will improve braking and satisfy my itch to buy something for the bike, ha, ha...

  62. #62
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    Ceramic and/or hydraulics and/or good pads will improve your braking a lot...

  63. #63
    Sneaker man
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    does anyone still make ceramic rims? My new road wheels have "exalith 2" stuff, which seems to work really well, just wish they made a mtb rim with it.
    All the gear and no idea.

  64. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    And, in the middle of BFE, I don't have to worry about bleeding.
    This is the exact reason I have converted all of my bikes from hydraulic brakes to BB-7 disk brakes. Easy to carry a spare cable or two on long back country adventures.

  65. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgltrak View Post
    This is the exact reason I have converted all of my bikes from hydraulic brakes to BB-7 disk brakes. Easy to carry a spare cable or two on long back country adventures.
    One of my bikes was set up with simple repairs for travel in mind. Singlespeed, cable brakes, ect. I took it to Iceland where not a single bike shop in Reykjavik was set up to bleed brakes. They were all road bike shops anyway without a single knobby tire to be seen.
    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  66. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    One of my bikes was set up with simple repairs for travel in mind. Singlespeed, cable brakes, ect. I took it to Iceland where not a single bike shop in Reykjavik was set up to bleed brakes. They were all road bike shops anyway without a single knobby tire to be seen.
    I didn't get to take my bike the last trip to Iceland. I don't remember seeing any bikes, knobby or road.

  67. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgltrak View Post
    I didn't get to take my bike the last trip to Iceland. I don't remember seeing any bikes, knobby or road.
    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    One of my bikes was set up with simple repairs for travel in mind. Singlespeed, cable brakes, ect. I took it to Iceland where not a single bike shop in Reykjavik was set up to bleed brakes. They were all road bike shops anyway without a single knobby tire to be seen.
    Are all the cool kids going to Iceland now? From pictures and movies, that's stunning but I doubt I will ever go there... maybe we should have a landscape thread here. Very impressive you two!

  68. #68
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    so.. conclusion: if you go to iceland, don't change your brakes. If you don't go to iceland, install cable discs.. Did i miss something else?
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  69. #69
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    Drive for uber. And change your brakes.

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk

  70. #70
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    The Swissstop GHB II pads finally arrived from Germany ... took a while to get here. Installed them on my wife's bike today. Also bought a Swissstop rim cleaning block, which seems like a very hard rubber eraser. Bit of elbow grease cleaned the rims up pretty nicely. The brake pads seem to work great based on quick ride down the block and are a big improvement over the XT pads.

    Made the mistake of showing my wife the little pin that retains the brake pads in the calipers ha, ha...

  71. #71
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    I'm in Denver area...

    Can you guys from around Denver who had a local frame builder add a rear tab, give me his/her contact info? I want to add a caliper tab to my rear triangle on a vintage hardtail. I already have a disc on the fork, which came with post mounts. This bike is used as a cruiser/espresso crawl bike. Stress on the rear triangle from disc braking will be small. Discs on this bike are purely for bling/style.

    -Peter

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