Commuter/MTB bike- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    honez1414
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    Commuter/MTB bike

    I need a new commuter bike. I convinced my wife I would commute by riding her 14.5" trek xcal wsd in to work for 3 months. I'm 5' 11" and didn't want to put the 30 miles of road wear on my full suspension each day. It was almost unbearable but I suffered through it. She's moved on to a full suspension as well so I have a few bikes I can sell or trade to get a solid commuter setup in my size.

    I've been eyeing the pre MDS Surly Karate Monkey and the Kona Unit. I'm looking for a full rigid steel hardtail that can easily switch over to front suspension and be a worthy trail bike. I also like the horizontal dropouts and ease of single speed use.

    What else should I be considering?

  2. #2
    honez1414
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    Also really like the look of the trek sawyer even though I don't care for treks in general.

  3. #3
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    I take it you're looking at completes? If so, you've pretty much nailed it. You might consider the Ogre if you want something more carrying oriented.

    What is your commute like? Mostly road, mixed, bike path, off road? That will impact suggestions much more.

  4. #4
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    I actually have two KMs. One of the "old" and one MDS. The old one is built as a commuter "hybrid" with 40s, fenders, and a rack and I have using it to ride to work and the occasional weekend tour for almost two years now. I hate to say it, cause I have beef with Surly currently, but I love that frigin bike. So much in fact that I bought the second to replace a GT Peace I was using for bikepacking and rigid MTB riding. I was pretty disappointed that Surly dropped the rack mounts (and didn't tell anyone) but other then that it's great. I currently have it set up with a 100mm reba and some Jones Loop 710 bars and it is my go to MTB. I also have a Fargo fork for it and plan to use it for BPing and some gravel races. If Surly hadn't dropped the rack mounts the KM MDS would be the perfect bike IMO. With two forks, and a couple sets of tires it can, or rather could, do so many things.

  5. #5
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    Salsa El Mariachi might also be worth a look.

  6. #6
    honez1414
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    My commute is all road unfortunately. 15 miles of 2 lane highway. Disc brakes are a must. And not really looking for completes unless it was just too good of deal to pass.

  7. #7
    Bedwards Of The West
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    I have the Ogre... Same geo as the Karate Monkey, with more bolt holes and mount options on the frame. I love it. I keep telling myself I'm going to re-invent it as a singlespeed...or a full on hardtail mtb...or this way, or that way... but it's such a sweet commuter that I just want to buy a 2nd one for that other stuff.
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  8. #8
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    I haven't had my Unit for long, so Newfangled or some of the others might have better reviews. I love it, but it doesn't have as many braze- ons for fenders and racks etc as I would like. It does come with braze- ons for cables if you decide to go with more gears.

  9. #9
    since 4/10/2009
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    You have a FS already. Why are you looking for a bike that can also serve as a mtb?

    What you're talking about is a "one bike" scenario that doesn't necessarily fit because you have more than one bike.

    Why not consider a dedicated commuter? Kinda opens your options a bit.

  10. #10
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    Harold has a point. If you are keeping the full suspension, something in gravel grinder or cx type might be faster and more fun on the roads with all the fender and rack braze- ons. The 37mm slicks on my Bosanova don't much like snow, ice, or soft mud, but they roll beautifully on everything else. Couldn't hurt to borrow or demo a few and see what you think. Rove, Fargo, Bosanova, and even Cannondale's Quick 4 and Badboy would do the commute nicely and still let you get out on some single track.

  11. #11
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    Just look for mounts for racks and fenders if you plan to commute. Put a Fargo/Mukluk for on it and you're good to go really.

    Went from this:
    <a href="https://photobucket.com/" target="_blank"><img src="https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v319/mrpink57/Bike/33849227.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo 33849227.jpg"/></a>

    To this:
    <a href="https://photobucket.com/" target="_blank"><img src="https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v319/mrpink57/Bike/E2CE0423-8627-4694-AF9F-F1789718F919_zpsyy3h5egj.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo E2CE0423-8627-4694-AF9F-F1789718F919_zpsyy3h5egj.jpg"/></a>
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    You have a FS already. Why are you looking for a bike that can also serve as a mtb?

    What you're talking about is a "one bike" scenario that doesn't necessarily fit because you have more than one bike.

    Why not consider a dedicated commuter? Kinda opens your options a bit.
    Just for he sake of argument, what defines a "dedicated commuter"?

    My blue KM has never been used for anything else and is roughly the same geo as most hybrids. It can fit fenders and a rack fine (old style) but if at any point down the line I don't want to use it in that fashion I could put on some different tires and shred some trails.

    I have this conversation with a co-worker a lot. He keeps trying to talk me into getting a bike with drops but I have had a few and don't care for them. I'm not racing or trying to fit an image, and am mostly unconcerned about a few extra pounds, and really like the capability and versatility, so a converted MTB works better for me. I actually just built a "cross" bike, with Jones bars, so I could have a light and "fast" option and on the first ride I just kept thinking "what was the point of this?" The weight loss is negligible considering how much you loose in gear range, tire clearance, strength, capability, and versatility.

  13. #13
    since 4/10/2009
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    OP is asking for a bike (for pavement commutes) that can be ridden as a mtb. Nothing wrong with that at all. You can do quite well commuting on a mtb.

    By "dedicated commuter" I mean (and should have said) a bike designed for such use. Max tire size around 40c. Fender and rack mounts. Geometries ranging from fast and aggressive to more laid back and upright. Disc brakes are common.

    Optimal gearing will depend on where you live and ride. My commuter is geared a good bit higher than my mtbs and I have no need for the low gearing I have on those bikes. The bike is only for riding around town and maybe a light touring ride and nothing else, so it does those things very well. I did not make compromises on a frame designed for other purposes. I did not make compromises for those uses by building it with overly versatile components.

  14. #14
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    I have a karate Monkey hardtail with 100mm SID and nobbies primarily set up for bikepacking, I commute once or twice a week on it as I can take in about 25Km of Single track after work on the way back. My most direct route (13Km each way) is very well maintained 2 lane highway I much prefer riding my road bike for road commuting (Soma Double Cross). I find stopping and starting mountain bikes at the numerous traffic lights much more effort + the road bike makes for a faster commute. If you already have a FS mtb a CX bike like a straggler or double cross disc that can be run as a full on roadie or with 40mm tires and ok on not too techy single track is worth looking at

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    OP is asking for a bike (for pavement commutes) that can be ridden as a mtb. Nothing wrong with that at all. You can do quite well commuting on a mtb.

    By "dedicated commuter" I mean (and should have said) a bike designed for such use. Max tire size around 40c. Fender and rack mounts. Geometries ranging from fast and aggressive to more laid back and upright. Disc brakes are common.

    Optimal gearing will depend on where you live and ride. My commuter is geared a good bit higher than my mtbs and I have no need for the low gearing I have on those bikes. The bike is only for riding around town and maybe a light touring ride and nothing else, so it does those things very well. I did not make compromises on a frame designed for other purposes. I did not make compromises for those uses by building it with overly versatile components.
    Rereading his first post it appears to me that he is asking for a rigid or hardtail mtb that has rack mounts. I seem to think that is a wise course of action as the same bike can serve multiple functions depending on need/desire. In all fairness, you basically stepped in and told him his plan was a bit silly. Your take seems to be specialization, which is fine if you have the space and budget. I actually have nine bikes currently, so I can see where your coming from.

    Indisputably you can be faster on a lighter, more aero ride but a MTB will get you where you need to go and more, with little compromise if done correctly.

  16. #16
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    If it's primarily for commuting and a little single track I think a Salsa Fargo would be on my list. The alternator dropouts would let you go SS if you want.

    I have the pre-MDS Karate Monkey as my primary MTB and I love it. It would make a solid commuter as well.

  17. #17
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_papa_nuts View Post
    Indisputably you can be faster on a lighter, more aero ride but a MTB will get you where you need to go and more, with little compromise if done correctly.
    Guy asked what ELSE he should be considering. I gave a recommendation based on additional information he provided later about the nature of the commute. If the commute had an opportunity for dirt, then I'd be 100% game for a mtb/commuter mashup bike. But 100% pavement commute warrants a serious look at a bike built 100% for pavement.

    I never said OP was silly for looking at the bikes he was considering. Don't put words into my mouth. I asked a question seeking an honest answer. If OP has reasons for looking at commuters based on mtb's, then no harm no foul. But if he's only thinking of those types of bikes because he is only familiar with mtb's and thinking of hypothetical situations with a suspension fork, then it's worthwhile to step back and look at how the bike is ACTUALLY going to be used the vast majority of the time.

    Sure, sometimes I'll pick the mtb for a pavement ride or a commute. But more often than not, I pick the Vaya because that's what the bike is built to do. It does the job faster, with less effort and more comfortably. And it has full fenders to keep me clean, and permanently mounted racks for hauling stuff. I don't want that stuff bolted onto my mtbs, and I don't want to keep attaching and reattaching that stuff depending on whether I'm going to be commuting or going for a trail ride.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by honez1414 View Post
    I'm looking for a full rigid steel hardtail that can easily switch over to front suspension and be a worthy trail bike. I also like the horizontal dropouts and ease of single speed use.

    What else should I be considering?
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Guy asked what ELSE he should be considering. I gave a recommendation based on additional information he provided later about the nature of the commute. If the commute had an opportunity for dirt, then I'd be 100% game for a mtb/commuter mashup bike. But 100% pavement commute warrants a serious look at a bike built 100% for pavement.

    I never said OP was silly for looking at the bikes he was considering. Don't put words into my mouth. I asked a question seeking an honest answer. If OP has reasons for looking at commuters based on mtb's, then no harm no foul. But if he's only thinking of those types of bikes because he is only familiar with mtb's and thinking of hypothetical situations with a suspension fork, then it's worthwhile to step back and look at how the bike is ACTUALLY going to be used the vast majority of the time.

    Sure, sometimes I'll pick the mtb for a pavement ride or a commute. But more often than not, I pick the Vaya because that's what the bike is built to do. It does the job faster, with less effort and more comfortably. And it has full fenders to keep me clean, and permanently mounted racks for hauling stuff. I don't want that stuff bolted onto my mtbs, and I don't want to keep attaching and reattaching that stuff depending on whether I'm going to be commuting or going for a trail ride.
    Given the context I would suspect he was asking what other MTBs he should be considering, but he can clear that up for us.

    But for arguments sake lets say you sell cars. One day someone comes in and says they want to look at SUVs. They plan to use this vehicle to drive on the highway to work, and they already have a lifted Jeep, but want something that they can do off road in if the mood strikes. I don't think you would be wrong in telling them they could get better gas mileage in a coupe but saying they don't need the SUV because they have the Jeep is, IMO, silly.

    I, like I mentioned above, ride a KM to work (about 8 miles one way) everyday. It has always had a rack and fenders on it, and will for the foreseeable future, but if I wanted I could swap the tires and use it as a MTB. Admittedly I would have to pull the fenders but that's easy , and could actually be negated by using different fenders. I also prefer the way the KM handles, like the fact I don't have to be careful with it, and can ride it anywhere my skills will take me.

    I also don't think I would be wrong in saying that a 29er is much more versatile then a cross bike at a minor weight penalty. My Double Cross is only ~4lbs lighter then my KM and it only has half the capabilities. And with Jones bars I get most of the advantages of drops.

  19. #19
    honez1414
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    Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll keep the Mariachi in mind for sure. Trail oriented bikes are my main passion including introducing newcomers to trails.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by honez1414 View Post
    Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll keep the Mariachi in mind for sure. Trail oriented bikes are my main passion including introducing newcomers to trails.
    Will you be using this bike as a spare/loaner for new riders you're showing around?

    Because if the only reason you're looking at mtb's is because you're passionate about them, I'd recommend trying out some drop bar bikes that also serve commuter duty well.

    I am also passionate about mountain bikes and riding trails and getting "out there" into the woods. And I also commuted on a mtb for a number of years because it's what I had. But when it came time to build a bike SPECIFICALLY for commuting, I found that some drop-bar bikes suited my needs quite well. I ended up with a Salsa Vaya. I love this bike, and to be honest, I had a really hard time deciding between it and a Salsa Fargo. Both would have served my needs extremely well. I decided FOR the Vaya and against the Fargo because I had a mtb already, and even though the Fargo was quite different from what I already had, I wanted a bike optimized for pavement commuting, which the Fargo wasn't quite. To optimize it for pavement (which is possible), it would not have been quite so good off-road.

    If you try out some pavement-optimized bikes and don't like them, then that's cool. At least you looked and opened your mind a bit. Maybe it will give you some ideas about how to build your commuter mtb.

  21. #21
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    I second Harold's argument for trying out a few other options.

    If you are dead- set on a hard tail/ rigid MTB for this, Snailspace recently put up a thread with some clever fender mounting options for bikes without all the braze- ons and there is at least one thread about mounting racks without braze- ons. It might be worth a few minutes to peruse these before you decide for or against a bike with braze- ons.

    My limited experience shows that once a rack and fenders are on a bike you love to ride, tires and tire pressure make a bigger difference than anything else. For a long commute/ beer run, drop bars or bull horns have some advantages in a headwind, and gears can be a blessing. Trying out a few road or CX bikes might inspire some build options on a 29er frame. If nothing else, you'll have endless tire options on the 29er.

    Has anyone heard from David C. on his Troll commuter?

  22. #22
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    I have a Troll built up as a commuter and I like it better than the old Karate Monkey that it replaced. I commute in a stop and go urban environment and have to carry the bike up and down staircases. For those reasons, the little wheels work better. If I had a mellower street environment and did a lot more off road, then the Ogre would probably be the ideal choice.

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