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  1. #1
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    Smile Mods for my RH commuter

    Well I've been lurking on here for a while. Just got in to biking about 6 months ago. I started off mountain biking and got a 2002 Specialized Rockhopper for a good deal on craigslist. It is mostly stock other than the front fork (Axis?) with a lockout. Here's the specs http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...2&menuItemId=0

    Anyways, I started commuting to work in May 5 days a week. It's about 4.25 miles one way with a good amount of hills. I was planning to get a commuter and then keep this as my mountain bike, but now I'm thinking I'd rather modify this and get a better mountain bike later on. I have some inverse tread tires with a smooth band down the middle that I got from my LBS that are 26x2.25. They're rated as max PSI of 45 I think but I run them anywhere from 65-75 with no problems. They're pretty decent but I don't really have anything to compare them too...seem pretty big and heavy. I also added a better saddle, some bar ends, a rear rack, nashbar waterproof panniers, lights, seat bag, etc.

    I've been wanting to get a rigid fork for a while. Like I said my FS has a lockout but there's still some give and I haven't unlocked it in a couple months now so I guess I don't see the point in the extra weight plus I'd like to get some good permanent fenders. I've looked at nashbar forks and also the Kona P2 front fork. The problem is I can't decide what to get and deffinately don't know what to look for as far as keeping the geometry ok. I think my front fork has 80mm of travel if that helps. If I change my fork I could go with the 700c Kona and get new wheels but I'm not sure if they'll fit in the back. It looks like I have about .75" of clearance from my tires to the frame at the closest point. Would there be much advantage to going with 700c wheels/tires or should I just stick with 26" and get some thinner/lighter/faster tires? Wouldn't my 26x2.25 tires be pretty similar in diameter to 700c with smaller tires? It seems like the larger diameter is better for road riding and going to a 26x1.5 or something would be going down in diameter. Thoughts?

    I've also been thinking i'd like to go to disk brakes at some point as I live in the NW and ride a lot of wet roads. Plus I get frustrated with my front brake as I have to readjust them every time I take my front tire off. The Kona and Nashbar forks have disk mounts available. What else would I need to get some decent mechanical disks? Could I keep my brake levers/shifters I have now? I have no problems with them. My frame has disk mounts in the back as that was an option on one model.

    Another thing I've thought about changing is my crankset and rear cassette to get gearing better suited to my ride. I can do my entire ride on the middle front chainring and the top 4 gears in the back unless I want to pedal downhill (which I do) and have to shift up in the front. I'd like something where I could ride fast and do my hills without having to change gears up front. So I'm thinking a new crankset with only one front ring so I could ditch the front shifter and derailleur. Not sure what I'd need for the rear. Do you guys have ideas on gearing? I'd be good with gearing similar to the middle chainring and top 4 rear gears plus a couple higher ones. Could I keep my 9 speed cassette and just get a single ring crank? What size would I probably need? Right now my middle one is 32 and my big one is 44. The 44 with my rear gears might be ok but I guess I've never tried the lower rear gears while using the big chainring. Thoughts? How much would that change with 700cc wheels if they fit?

    The bike is maybe just a size too big for me too (beggars can't be choosers looking on craigslist) and I feel a bit stretched out. I'm wondering if a short stem that came up a bit higher might fix the problem. If I hold the bars by bending my fingers back so that the pads of my hand just below my fingers are on the grips it puts me at about the right position. So, it makes it feel like it would be better if the bars are maybe an inch closer and a bit higher. Would a shorter stem do this for me? How much can they rise or will I need a higher rise bar?

    Sorry if some of this stuff is kind of noobish! I'm new to this stuff but finally getting an idea of what would make my bike better just not sure how to get there. All thoughts are welcome. Basically, what would you do to this bike to make it a better commuter?

    Thanks all!!!
    Last edited by mtskibum16; 10-18-2009 at 07:37 PM.

  2. #2
    I'm SUCH a square....
    Reputation: bigpedaler's Avatar
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    There are lots of online bike part retailers who can deal you a rigid fork -- yes, make sure it's disc-ready, always -- I'm looking at a rigid SS build over the winter for a frame similar to yours, and my fork will be coming from BikeIsland.com. eBay has some good deals, too.
    A little investigating will tell you your axle-to-crown, or you can measure it yourself.

    Sounds like a shorter stem will help a lot, and degrees of rise, well, you can get those in quite a selection -- again, just look around the www. A 1x9 will work for you, you can even get a "short-cage" or medium-cage" derailleur to help the shifting a bit. The tough part is picking what size that one ring will be. Check and see what your most commonly-used gears are, and pick a chainring that will keep you in that range. United Bicycle Institute (bikeschool.com) has a gear calculator that takes the gears you type in and tells you the 'gear-inch' number for those gears. Just find your middle range, and shoot for that with one chainring.

    Hope this helps......
    A bike is the only drug with no bad side effects....

  3. #3
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    Before going disc, consider whether your hubs are disc-ready or not (are they?). And like bigpedaler said, when shopping for a fork, take into account the length of the forks the bike was designed for, and pick a suspension-corrected rigid fork that's not too far off-target.

    If you do go disc, I'd get Avid BB7 mechanical discs, since they'll jive with your existing controls and are fairly easy to adjust.

  4. #4
    weirdo
    Reputation: rodar y rodar's Avatar
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    Hey, Skibum- how`s it going? Welcome to the pedal powered transportation world. Are you going to bike commute all winter?

    I`d guess that your fat mtb tires are a bit smaller in diameter than most 700c tires, but personally I don`t believe that wheel diameter makes much difference (other than placebo effect) on smoothish surfaces. That`s a very much debated topic though, so others have different opinions. Personally, I wouldn`t go through the trouble of changing wheels sizes from what the bike was designed around. Again though, others have done it and like the results. Narrower 26 in tires would be a simpler change and make a pretty big difference. I think 1.5 to 1.9 is a good range for general purpose street riding. It sounds to me like you`re running a LOT of pressure in your fatties- you`d probably be more comfortable and even have better traction with little or no adverse affects if you aired them down. You might want to experiment and see.

    I`ve never had disc brakes, but I`m pretty sure that the cable activated ones use the same levers as V-brakes, so you shouldn`t have to buy new levers. I don`t know about switching forks. I prefer rigid forks for the street, and I think most of the other folks here do too, but whether it`s worth the trouble to swap is probably a close call either way. It might be cheaper and easier to keep your Rockhopper set up for the trail and buy an older rigid mtb for commuting duty.

    If you don`t need a lot of gear range, going to 1 x 9 isn`t hard. You can use the same cranks you already have and either buy short chanring bolts or use spacers in place of the ring that you remove with the same bolts. Or use a bash guard in place of the big ring to keep your pant leg from getting greasy. Several mfgs make 34t (and other tooth counts) chainrings for 104 x 4, so that wouldn`t be a big deal either. If you go with a single ring, save yourself some cash by buying a nonramped model. For a cleaner look, you could get single ring crankarms, but the ones you have will do the job just fine.

    Bike too big- I always seem to end up trying to "shrink" my bikes, too. You`d think I`d learn. Yeah, a shorter stem will help out as long as you don`t already have a very short one. Trying to get higher as well as closer is a little bit tricky because most of the stems that raise your bars also put it more forward. FWIW, if you`re pretty new to spending a lot of time in the saddle, you`l likely get more comfortable with lower bars as you get accustomed. My best advice there is to buy the cheapest stems you can find and keep trying different lengths/ rises until you find the sweet spot. Happy pedaling, stay safe, and have a nice weekend.
    Recalculating....

  5. #5
    Ovaries on the Outside
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    That was too long for me to read.

  6. #6
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    bigpedaler - thanks for the info. That gear calculator is just what I need! My stem is pretty long and 10 degrees so I think I can find one that will get me where I need to be. What's your preference on fork material? Steel, aluminum, carbon?

    mech - so if the bike came with a 80mm travel front fork I'd want to look for a 80mm suspension corrected fork. Correct? Yeah I have been looking at those brakes. I don't think my hubs are disk ready...how do you tell? Would there just be mounting holes for a rotor? So what's the best option for new hubs? I've thought of getting lighter wheels as well.

    Rodar - thanks for all the great info! Wow, didn't know about those other options for the crank. Looks like I have plenty of research to do in that area. I do think I'll keep this as my commuter though. I got it for $200 with everything in good working order. It's done well commuting so far (just under 100 days this year) and I think I'd like a little better of a mountain bike for my trail riding....I think I'd have to modify too much on this one to keep me happy.

    Thanks for input umarth

    Keep it coming guys! Thanks!

  7. #7
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    Yeah, for an '02 Rockhopper you'd probably want something like this: http://aebike.com/product/salsa-crom...k0502-qc30.htm I have the older version of this on my Gary Fisher Ziggurat.

    Disc-compatible hubs would have either a six-bolt mounting area, or a splined one for Shimano Centerlock rotors.

  8. #8
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    Fine, guilt me....

    First off, fork. You will want something with an a-c length between 410 and 445. Closer to 410 is probably better, as I assume you will be almost completely on the road, so it might make the Rockhopper feel a bit sharper. There are some carbon forks in the cheaper price range, but for the money, I'd go steel. The P2 is probably a decent choice, as will be the Surly 1x1. In the same generic price range, there is the Gusset Jury, Salsa Cromoto and Dimension's fork. I have a dimension disc only on my monocog, and it is fine, minus the shorter a-c length because I like a slacker HA offroad.

    Brakes. Disc brakes are wonderful. But you don't need them. I have an 89 Rockhopper and the rim brakes are great, even in NW weather and I've been commuting up here for a couple years. Not only are BB7s (the only mech discs I can recommend- BB5s aren't as good and I haven't tried any others) more expensive than Avid SD7 set from Pricepoint, but they won't throw you into a bad situation. See, you might need new wheels for disc brakes, if your hubs aren't disc brake compatible, and honestly, levers make a huge difference on the feel of the brake- crappy levers will make everything feel like wood. The SD7 kit has great levers and great brakes. They will stop you and are easy to adjust.

    What you need to look at, after burning through the pads on the SD7s are better pads. If you buy something that has a full metal cartridge and then replace the pads as they wear. I like the Kool stops that are salmon colored (for severe weather- you and me!) and they work well in wet mountain biking, so they perfect for year round NW commuting.

    Gears? Well, it sounds like you are crossing yours up. You should not be running from the outside chainring and then back across to the big gears on the cassette. It is at the very edge of the chain's tolerances. You could consider doing SS- somewhere about 70 gear inches usually works well. Again, my only geared bike is my Rockhopper and it is a 34x13/16/18/21. I usually do everything on 34x13 and the other gears are there for carrying crap or doing tours or going offroad.

    Consider flipping your stem over.

    For commuting I either prefer ~1.5 or 2.3+ with no tread. I think the smaller tires are faster on hills, the fat tires a lot smoother. Rock and roll.

    Hope this makes you warm and fuzzy.

  9. #9
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    Thanks! I was also looking at this http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...1_10000_201514 What do you think? Or http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...7_10000_201500 or http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...1_10000_201514 Question, what would be the difference between a carbon "cyclocross" fork in the "road fork" section vs a carbon fork in the "mountain bike" section if the steerer tube is the right size and the axle to crown is similar? Thanks.

    Edit: Just saw your post umarth....after reading it I guess I have a better idea of axle to crown size. Thank you! Maybe I'll stick will steel too then. I'm not too concerned with weight since I'll be dropping weight going rigid anyways

  10. #10
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    Great info umarth! I'm not crossing my gears. I was saying that if i could utilize all my rear gears with the largest chainring then I'd probably be good. But I don't/can't so I'd like to change it so I don't need a front derailleur. As it is now, I use my middle chainring and my top 4 gears (as in smallest size gears) in the back but then have to shift up in the front if I really want to get after it.

    I'll look into those brakes too.

    Not looking for warm and fuzzy...just good info which you provided!

    Good stuff guys! Really appreciate it.

  11. #11
    weirdo
    Reputation: rodar y rodar's Avatar
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    Good point about crosschaning.

    Wow, those forks cost a lot less than I thought they wouod. Maybe not a bad idea after all. I can think of two differences between X-Cross forks and mtb forks. For one, the rake will likely be more on a fork for bigger diameter wheels, though I`m not sure how much and I kind of doubt the little difference will affect the handling much. For some reason Nashbar doesn`t list the rake on their forks. Second, if you want rim brakes, the studs will have your brakes too high on a fork for 700 wheels. For disc only, I don`t think there`s any brake issue.

    BTW, I measured two wheels when I got home. 700c with 32mm Pasela mounted has 27 1/4 in Dia. My Panaracer Fire XC 2.1 measures out at an even 26 inches (hmmm...), so considerably smaller. And just for perspective, 26 x 1.25 Pasela runs 24 3/4 - the same difference as from fat 26 to medium 700.
    Recalculating....

  12. #12
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    Huh...interesting with the wheel/tire diameters. Just eyeballing with a tape measure my 26x2.25 seem to be closer to 26.25" in diameter. So about an inch smaller in dia than your 700c's. I guess I don't really know how much that would change the gearing....I could figure it out but I'm too lazy. I think the 700c with 32mm tires would fit on the back of my bike with about .25" of clearance. Not sure it's worth the trouble though.

    I'm thinking I'll look more into steel rigid forks. For 50-100 I think that'd be a good way to go.

  13. #13
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    So looking at my gearing from bikeschool.com (awesome link) I really think the 44t chainring would work well with my current cassette for the gearing I need. The lowest combo I normal use is 32-18 which is which is 46.2 gear inch. I could get similar gearing from 44-24 and still have 2 lower gears. So I haven't looked too closely at how the chainrings are assembled but can I just remove my 32t chainring and put the 44t one there if I get shorter bolts or spacers/guard? Then remove the smaller one and my derailleur (or leave the smaller one and I could always change it manually for whatever reason I might need to)?

    umarth - those brakes look nice. My only problem is my brake levers and shifters are a single unit so I'd need new shifters as well. Might just stick with what I have for now. I haven't had any real issues wit my brakes yet other than having to adjust them every time I take the wheel off.

    Thanks guys

    ......22.....32.....44
    11: 52.0 75.6 104.0
    12: 47.7 69.3 95.3
    14: 40.9 59.4 81.7
    16: 35.8 52.0 71.5
    18: 31.8 46.2 63.6
    21: 27.2 39.6 54.5
    24: 23.8 34.7 47.7
    28: 20.4 29.7 40.9
    32: 17.9 26.0 35.8

  14. #14
    Ovaries on the Outside
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtskibum16
    umarth - those brakes look nice. My only problem is my brake levers and shifters are a single unit so I'd need new shifters as well. Might just stick with what I have for now. I haven't had any real issues wit my brakes yet other than having to adjust them every time I take the wheel off.
    Best reason I've heard to go SS...

  15. #15
    weirdo
    Reputation: rodar y rodar's Avatar
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    Umarth might have a point about going SS, but it sounds to me like you`re getting into the project and enjoying it !

    If your 44 gives you two gears lower than what you normally use, it ought to be just about perfect. The only catch would be if the 44t hits your chainstay in the middle positon. You can take off both the outer rings without disturbing anything else and check it out to see- if it clears, get short bolts from your LBS and give it a shot. For some reason, I wasn`t thinking about that big a ring- not sure if you can get a guard that big or not. Your idea of hand shifting to the little ring as a backup sounds good, too. Or ditch it if you want to clean up the look- you`ll probably have to pull the crank arm to do that, but no big deal.

    Why do you have to adjust your brakes whenever you take off your wheels?
    Recalculating....

  16. #16
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    I really don't think I could do my ride on a SS. I have a couple hills that are big enough I have to drop a few gears and then I have downhill sections both ways that I also like to pedal down. I could get a good flat road SS but I'd have to stand to climb a couple hills each way and even then I'm not sure. Actually, I don't have many (if any) flat spots on my route. It's mainly up a hill then down a hill the whole way both directions (obviously).

    I am enjoying it. I recently sold my car (which was a large source of enjoyment due to modifying it) and the bike is kind of taking over my "mod addiction". It sure is a lot cheaper modifying bikes!

    I'm not sure why I have to adjust the brakes everytime...I'm guessing the springs aren't keeping the brake centered or something. It's very anoying...maybe it is time for a brake upgrade. I as looking at the BB7s though and they're not too bad. Maybe I'd just do that on the front and leave the back alone. More reasearch to do. Thanks for all the help everyone!

  17. #17
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    So looking at stems, when they list the size (ie: 60mm, 100mm, etc) what length is that? I'm trying to figure out what size mine is to get a better idea of what I need. Is it the measurement from centerline of the steerer to centerline of the handlebars? Mine is pretty long and 10 degree rise.

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